The Mall as Disneyland
Almost all Americans have heard the name Walt Disney. He created Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. Walt Disney plays a large role in American society than just providing entertainment; many developers turned to part of his park, Main Street USA, for ideas when they started to design modern day American shopping malls. In “The Mall as Disneyland” Richard Francaviglia argues that Walt Disney played a key role. His romanticized “Main Street USA,” a re-creation of a small town America’s shopping district for his new theme park, Disneyland, set the standard for carefully designed and managed shopping environments. Malls in America today have been influenced by Disneyland in past years to create an appealing look for visitors all over. The Disney parks’ enormous success is based on the way they operate as a “national trust” of mainstream cultural values. For this reason alone they must be considered a category completely distinct from amusement or thrill parks, whose value is in the immediate gratification of successfully challenging physical and mental limits. The power of the themed environment lies in embodying critical shared cultural values as embedded in history, innovation, adventure, and fantasy. This is “entertainment” in its original meaning: that which engages the attention.
Most buildings at Disneyland look and function like shopping malls. Indeed, the layout and structure of Disney is similar to the mall with its external parking lots, kiosks, food courts, and invisible infrastructure such as power lines and other utilities. The mall, of course, is familiar enough that its presence in a recreation location is no question. The Disney experience seems incomplete without purchasing meals in Disney restaurants, adorning one’s friends and family in Disney paraphenalia, and, perhaps, sleeping at a Disney hotel. Being caught up in the whole experience, embracing the norm of consumption, the visitor is less likely to show restraint in spending money on non-essential items. Everything is targeted towards the visitor as a customer, a consumer. According to Richard Francaviglia “Main Street USA sounds familiar, and it should indeed, that is because it has in fact become the model of the typical American shopping mall, where the visitor or shopper leaves the car in the parking lot and enters an environment that is climatically controlled, and where the real world is left outside” (447). Disney aims to construct a world apart. They ask of the visitor to suspend belief and enter into a land far away from the reality of the world outside its gates. It is as though Disney wants us to see only the world how it should be. This is the better, brighter side of life where people and place seem naturally and harmoniously co-existent. Such observations reflect the theoretical position that all reality is “socially constructed,” that what the guests experience and understand is a product of decoding signs and symbols, with cognitive tools which are themselves cultural constructs. Thus by, experiencing and understanding its various motives and functions and its complex role in society. One primary need is for more audience research, particularly qualitative research, in which the participants themselves articulate their expectations and their sense of what it is they have experienced in order to develop a much better understanding of how people move through, appreciate, and patronize a retail environment.
Within this cleanliness lies a sanitized and unrealistic view of the world. In Disney there is no sign of decay, crime, confusion, discontent, pain, poverty, or struggle. There is no sign of blood, sweat and sacrifice that was required to construct the world. Not only is evidence of work hidden, employees are coached to appear as though their work is play. As part of the moral sanitizing at Disney, visitors are encouraged to feel safe. The...
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