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During the last century, numerous changes have occurred with regard to the material folk culture of civilization. The largest proportion of these changes center around objects designed and created for nothing more than our entertainment. Toys, games, radio, compact discs, television, and motion pictures are utilized for amusement. Along with the development of these materials has been the creation of a new type of iconic figures which are non-religious in nature but evoke an almost religious devotion. The innocent, animated world created by Walt Disney is such an example. “Uncle Walt” created a multi-billion dollar corporation based on a ubiquitous love for the products offered by his organization. Disney is perhaps the greatest and best known iconic figure to exist in the twentieth century.
Walt Disney became a symbol of Americana by promoting the ideal of small-town, close-knit family life with what would today be considered as old-fashioned values. These images coupled with adorable, appealing cartoon characters drew families to motion pictures, television programs, and Walt Disney world Resort. Thus, Disney appealed not only to children but also to their parents who were attempting to provide the American dream for their family members. Some might say that he also appealed to the child in each of us.
Oddly enough, these images were highly fabricated and never a part of Walt’s actual background. During Walt’s childhood, his impoverished family drifted around the country as his father looked for work . His father offered little more than regular beatings. Disney became a ruthless, self-serving businessman with almost no affection for children. In fact, asked late in life what he was proudest of, he did not mention smiling children or the promulgation of family values. “The whole damn thing,” he snapped, “the fact that I was able to build an organization and hold it.” These were not the sentiments of anyone’s uncles – except perhaps Scrooge McDuck.
Disney’s knowledge and understanding of the potential monetary value of traditional family life and mores was one of his greatest assets. “Entertainment for the whole family” was a theme that appealed, especially to parents of the baby boomers who were born in the late forties and fifties. Ultimately, it became almost a parental responsibility or duty to accompany his or her child to the most recent Disney movie.
The Disney empire began with Walt’s artistic ability and love for technology. Despite the fact that his first creation with any potential for success, Oswald the Rabbit, was stolen from him, he persisted at his craft, eventually creating a character named “Mickey Mouse.” Disney added music to his cartoons and sound effects, and they became an instant success. His animation was equally inventive. When Technicolor became available, Disney utilized this process to produce movies such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pocahontas.”