The Importance of Being Goofy – 2012 UG Intro

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[Every Unofficial Guide edition opens with a silly story which purports to tell some behind-the-scenes thing at Disney corporate headquarters. This is my entry for the 2012 book. Hope you enjoy it. - Len]

The Importance of Being Goofy
Disney’s hotel honchos are hunched down over a small architecture model of the Pop Century Resort. The smell of stale pizza and flat soda hangs in the air. The first rays of daylight begin to filter into the room, turning a cloud of all-night cigarette smoke into blue haze. A heated discussion is taking place, one that will choose the themes for the unfinished half of the resort’s buildings covering the years 1900-1949.

Eloise P. Cheesemonger, Disney’s Magical Head of Marketing Magic, stands up from the table. “Okay,” she says, “Tell me again what these decades had going for them.”

“Well, ma’am,” said Wally the intern, “It’s pretty bleak. The first half of the twentieth century is a litany of war, disease and financial catastrophe.”

“That’s not Disney thinking!” shouts Cheesemonger. “It’s all a matter of perspective. What were the headlines from the 1910’s?”

“An influenza epidemic and World War One” says Ian Roundbottom, an outside consultant brought in to tune Disney’s message to the masses. “We’ll hang princess-themed gas masks in the room and have the Seven Dwarfs digging trenches between the buildings.” He adds a sarcastic “It’ll be faaaabulous.”

“The trenches would fill with water during rainy season,” says Wally, “and mosquitoes would spread malaria. That’s more 1940’s Egypt.”

Cheesemonger throws a pizza box at young Wally. “How about the ‘20s?” she asks, “You know, the Charleston, Babe Ruth?”

“Prohibition? The rise of organized crime? The stock market crash?” says Roundbottom. “Most people ended the decade worse off than when it began. Tough message.”

“Nonsense” says Eloise, “We’ll put up words like ‘flapper’ on the outside of the buildings, and … and … someone help me here!”

“How about ‘bathtub gin’? With moonshine stills in the rooms that serve soda pop?” says Wally, his voice fading faster than his career prospects.

Cheesemonger sighs, looking for a glimmer of hope. “The 1930’s? Anyone?”

“The Great Depression. The Hindenburg. Hitler.” says Roundbottom. Hope was not forthcoming.

“The 40’s?” asks Cheesemonger, before answering her own question with “For the love of … Can’t anyone here find a bright side to World War Two?”

Roundbottom, clearly tired from the session, rubs his eyes and says “Why not just bag the idea entirely, throw some oversized characters on the buildings and call it done? If anyone thinks it’s not inventive enough, tell them it’s our tribute to Walt’s cartoon legacy. It’s our history. It’s … it’s …”

“It’s the Art of Animation” said Cheesemonger, coming up with the name of Disney’s newest resort.

And so it goes.

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Posted on May 2, 2011

29 Responses to “The Importance of Being Goofy – 2012 UG Intro”

  • not only did I chuckle… I read this to my brother and HE chuckled as well… great job Len!

  • Yuck. Where’s the humor?

    • It’s gallows humor – how people within a large corporation such as Disney addresses the difficult task of trying to put a positive spin on the first half of the century. I think by any objective measure, the last 50 years of the 20th century are much easier to make positive. (That and tourism demographics are almost certainly why the first buildings to open at Pop were from the 50′s on.) So imagine you’re working for Disney and the next year of your life depends on you finding the bright spots from 1900-1949.

  • Might be a tad bit cynical. Too inside baseball for the first time visitor reading the guide. Just my opinion.

    • Cynical probably isn’t the right word. Dark? Maybe. But again, you’re Disney and you’re trying to make stuff that happened 60 to 100 years ago fun and relevant. There’s just not as much material to work with as compared to the second half of the century. It’s a difficult job.

  • Agree with Aaron.

  • by John E. Levis on May 3, 2011, at 5:08 am EDT

    Very unDisney.

  • I like it. My sense of humor is as dark as Len’s.

  • I liked it. “Very unDisney”–that’s why it’s funny! There’s a humorous/cynical juxtaposition between the happiest vacation destination Disney and the corporate, “squeeze every profit you can out of them” Disney. Sadly, I’d almost be willing to bet the discussions about opening the Art of Animation resort went very close to this.

  • Hilarious and very clever – I love to imagine conversations like this one. Can you imagine the discussions that led to the creation of Maelstrom? “How can we squeeze all of Norway’s history, people, and culture into a five minute boat cruise? With trolls, Vikings, and oil rigs of course!”

    • This is exactly what I said for the Small World review in the Color Companion! Given the time crunch they were surely under, you just know that every country got like fifteen seconds of consideration. What’s the first thing that comes to mind with Peru? Llamas. Llamas it is.

  • I loved it — very funny (in a dark way, which is great).

  • So hilarious! Thanks for the laugh this morning Len!

  • by Isabelle Boivin on May 3, 2011, at 10:07 am EDT

    I buy the UG each year for that “importance” article… I guess I don’t need to by it this year :P

  • Love it, you made me smile!

  • I laughed especially ““We’ll hang princess-themed gas masks in the room and have the Seven Dwarfs digging trenches between the buildings.” He adds a sarcastic “It’ll be faaaabulous.”

    I teach history for a living so it cracked me up haha

  • I liked it….very funny.

    As far as Aaron’s comment goes, maybe footnote about the unfinished Pop Century early years for those that don’t know about it.

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Poor Wally.

  • I thought it was very funny.

    But of course, if anyone actually tried to find fun stuff from 1900 to 1950, it wouldn’t be hard. Automobiles. Airplanes. Ragtime, jazz, and swing. Major league baseball and college football. Gibson girls and flappers. Zoot suits and bobbed hair. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops. Silent movies to talking pictures to Technicolor. Shirley Temple. Sea Biscuit. And of course, Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Cinderella, etc. And that’s just from memory sitting at my keyboard.

    Likewise, it would be easy to paint 1950 to 2000 as dark and dreary. The McCarthy era. Segregation and violence against African-Americans seeking equality. Bomb shelters. Cuban missile crisis. Assassinations. Vietnam. Rampant drug abuse. Watergate. Gas crises. Double-digit inflation. Iran hostages and Iran-Contra. Terrorism. Kuwait and the first Gulf war. The first WTC bombing and Oklahoma City. Monica Lewinsky. And again, that’s just from memory sitting at my keyboard.

    • Your lists Len’s scene together inspire a new scene:

      Disney Dudes return to the boardroom to discuss how to theme the Generation Gap Bridge appropriately. After much sifting through news headlines and pop culture, people start brainstorming. Eventually, all names and terms begin to lose meaning as they’re bantered around the room without description, context, or argument.

      …until one magical moment, an Imagineer fresh off a Hall of Presidents refurb shouts, “Harry Truman!”

      A Disney movie buff meant to retort with Julie Andrews, but missed and said, “Doris Day!”

      Someone who’d been painting the roses red – or buildings, anyway – all day in Epcot, muscled in with “Red China!”

      At which point the rest of the room, without quite realizing why yet, chorused, “Johnnie Ray!”

      …and suddenly, everyone was singing “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

  • I thought this was the funniest “Importance of Being Goofy” intro yet! I can just picture it. And ditto Gloria’s, Mark’s, and Betsy’s comments…..

  • Very nice. I would say that those folk not digging it probably do not get the context of the “Importance of Being Goofy” section. It is all about showing the juxtapostion of the magic we get with Disney and the reality of the suits behind the scenes who take things (too) seriously.

    On another note, what is the deal with the site logging me out when I go to post comments? I was signed in, but then clicked on the comments and now I am signed out. When I sign back in, it kicks me back to the main page. Get Henry cracking on that. ;-)

  • So when is the 2012 edition set to come out?

  • Loved it. I love Disney but get that it’s fantasy. It reminds me of Jimmy Buffett’s story about a script meeting with Disney to discuss turning his Jolly Mon story into a project. Way too serious!

  • Good job Len! I’d also add Michael E. Moneybags to the mix. Michael would have presented the results from his sophisticated NPV model, which revealed the far superior ROI that the Art of Animation resort would generate over the “doom and gloom 1st half of the century” concept.
    Joking aside, as a father of two young girls, I’ll bet the Art of Animation quickly becomes one of the most sought after resorts on property. My daughers are already arguing over whether we should stay with Ariel or Nemo!

  • I loved it Len!
    I’m an art student and this whole conceptual nightmare thing is something we laugh about and have conversations very similar to this (though on a much smaller scale obviously!!!) on dark nights in our studios!
    I already have my UG on pre-order and cannot wait to read it! (have read every edition since I think 1999 when I was eight!)
    Katie

  • If you drink the evening a few drinks, vodka, or you have a hangover today … It is better to try moonshine head does not hurt and do not have a hangover…