I received this email from Tim Halbur last week and I think it has some excellent thoughts in it - and I think it's very relevant to what we’ve been blogging about here. Here it is:
Love the Re-Imagineering blog. I've got an idea for a post for you guys, if you're interested. I'm writing a project about Disneyland right now, and I've been thinking a lot about Disney's opening speech:
"To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past...and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America...with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."
We've been hearing it a lot lately, but I don't think people have been really hearing it all. It's not just about escapism, or the power of myth. He wanted it to be about joy AND inspiration. By starting with Lincoln and Main St. America and moving into Frontierland, he was illustrating the ideals of America, the best ideas of progress at the time (think about the unbuilt Edison Square, the cutting edge of the day).
And then into Tomorrowland, where the idea wasn't to show aliens and lightsabers and fantasy in the stars. Walt was showing the bright future that wasn't too far away with the Carousel of Progress, Progress City, and Monsanto's House of the Future. Tomorrowland was supposed to inspire the world to be better, use innovative public transportation, really get people interested in building "a great big beautiful tomorrow"!
So the BIG, BIG step back to Disney's ideas would be to start rebuilding that idealism. Reopen the Carousel of Progress with TODAY'S big ideas for the future. I'm in school for urban planning right now, and there are exciting ideas happening that could radically change the way we live. People need a warm, guiding hand like Walt's to usher them into that phase and make it exciting.
Yes, Walt relied a lot on the corporate world and technology to save the day. Imagineers don't have to do that all over again. We know now that technology won't save us, it has to be used in innovative ways. Back when the Imagineers were developing Tomorrowland they visited NASA and Bell Labs and talked to the thinkers of the time about what the future would look like. They should do that again, although this time include people like William McDonough, the green innovator of construction, or Andres Duany, the persuasive New Urbanist.
I'll stop now, but I'd be curious to hear what everyone would think of this. I know it would be a push, because today people want escapism, not ideas. But I was listening to the Progress City track on A Musical History of Disneyland and thinking, what if?
Best, Tim Halbur
Tim Halbur cried on the Pirates of the Caribbean when he was 2. He has spent the majority of his professional career writing and producing audio tours for museums and historic sites, including Johnson Space Center and Madame Tussaud's in Las Vegas. Currently he is finishing a masters degree in urban planning and has the distinct pleasure to be writing the audio tour for the Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Art.