THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY

Some time shortly after The Sword In The Stone, Disney lost the plot - quite literally. Until The Little Mermaid in 1989, the corporation produced a steady stream of clunkers which included the godawful likes of Oliver And Company, The Fox And The Hound, The Rescuers and Basil The Great Mouse Detective. As a result of this banal output, all of which eschewed the classical scope of the earlier Disney movies in favour of bland stories akin to those paintings of a kitten in a brandy glass, Disney was faced with financial crisis. Itís little wonder that the BBCís long-running Bank Holiday advertorial, Disney Time (usually sandwiched between a Jimíll Fix It Special and re-run of Dadís Army), relied so heavily on clips of past glories such as Pinnochio (the wooden boy, who grew up into a wooden gigolo - his speciality getting lady customers to squat above his face while he told them lies), and the empire-building Snow White And The Seven Dwarves (Stumpy, Shorty, Squatty, Tiny, Littleton, Half-Pint and Marcello). 

Itís only now that the Disney empire - following a string of heavily-merchandised hits - is getting back on its feet. We visited Disneyland for a second time five years ago, and the place was akin to a slum, its attractions in desperate need of updating (a Transport Of The Future ride boasted miniature petrol-fuelled cars which belched hideous plumes of acrid smoke). The Runaway Train ride was no more terrifying than the average trip to the off licence in a Maestro, while the Star Wars-themed Star Tours was a showcase of cutting-edge technology circa 1985. Our first visit to Disneyland had been in 1983, and the rides had seemed so much more exciting back then, and so much newer. Perhaps part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that the average London Borough adventure playground now has its own council tax-funded corkscrew rollercoaster.

Of course, Disney movies today merely serve to generate revenue in other areas, be it the theme parks, video sales, or Disney Shops. For the most part theyíre recycling much of what has gone before, rather than risk deviating from a winning formula. The Lion King and Tarzan regurgitate the animal characters of Jungle Book, and the emotional manipulation of Bambi, while the likes of Mulan and Pocahontas (both of which seemed to be concessions to political correctness) have struggled to shoe-horn marketable comedy cartoon animals into formats which didnít really allow for them. Nevertheless, itís a formula that makes zillions for its parent corporation every year - a corporation that, in recent years, has been torn asunder by internal politics.

Had Uncle Walt himself still be at the helm, and not stuck in a fridge beneath the foundations of Disneyland, itís unlikely heíd have ever allowed such management bickering. An extreme right-wing, womanising racist, Walt Disney - rather like Coca-Colaís brushed-under-the-carpet origins as a cocaine-laced medicinal tonic - is simultaneously the figurehead, and the dark secret, at the heart of the Disney corporate legend. Disney quite literally ruled with a rod of iron, which he would smash down onto the face of any insubordinate who disagreed with his fascistic doctrine. Prior to his death in 1966, he was said to be working on cartoon entitled Mickey Mouse And His Battle Against The Red Menace, which was to introduce new characters to the Disney canon, including McCarthy Cat, Capitalist Crow, Pinko Commie Bastard and Evil Stalin The Dog. Actually, we just made all that up, but we think you understand where weíre coming from.

Also, whatís the score with Pluto and Goofy? Theyíre both dogs, right? So why does Pluto have to live naked in a kennel? Whatís going on in the Disney universe? Is Pluto a slave? Is he of a lower caste than Goofy? Is he a sub-mental? We ought to be told.

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY

1.  What was Mickey Mouse originally known as?

2. Who starred in the recent live action remake of 101 Dalmations?

3. Baloo is a what?

4. In The Lion King, what was the name of Simbaís father?

5. Who has written the songs for this yearís Disney epic Tarzan?

  

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