Written by Alexandra Muntean
Since 1955, when Walt Disney opened the first Disneyland to the general public in California, this extraordinary idea has taken over the world. On almost every teenage bucket list having a Disneyland theme park experience occupies the top spots. Why is that, you may ask? Well, sociologists asked themselves the same question. After endless research, they named this phenomenon “Disneyization”.
We live in a consumer society and the Disneyzation lies at the heart of it. The fake worlds of the Disney parks, which in fact do not exist, become real and are seen as ideal models for the everyday society. Alan Bryman, an English Sociologist identified four aspects to Disneyzation to which the parks owe their success to.
The first aspect is theming. Theming means using widely known cultural and social sources to create a popular environment. For instance, the theme for Hard Rock Café is rock music. For Disneyland it’s the fairytale, fictional world. The associations and the links between real life and the magical one is what makes Disneyland worldwide appreciated theme park.
Hybrid consumption also plays an important role in the existence of Disneyization. It refers to areas where different kind of consumption is interlinked, as an example, when airports are also shopping malls. Disneyland is a mixture of everything : shopping, entertainment, action, cultural acivities, restaurants and even hotels. That is why Disney is so attractive for vacation spots: because it can offer its visitors an ultimate consumption experience.
Merchandizing is the key to making something famous. It involves the promotion and sales of goods with the logo or images of your brand. We all know the literature or film series that generated a multitude of products from T-Shirts to Video Games: Harry Potter is the best example that comes to my mind. But Disney isn’t far behind. I would even dare to say it is far more successful in this area and above all, has the biggest variety of goods: Clothes, Video games, household items, toys and many more.
Disneyland wouldn’t work if it weren’t for its emotional effect on us. The term used to describe the state in which the disneyization brings its participants is emotional labour. This term was used by Arlie Hochschild in “The Managed Heart” to describe a person changing his behavior to conform to an ideal. This is why a job at Disneyland doesn’t really feel like a real job. It appears to be more like a performance, a show with scripted interaction, dressing up and the impression of having endless fun. The effect of this way of acting can transform everyday activities like eating and shopping into spectacular and sensational events. The same trick is used for other places around the world. This fashion of influencing the view a person has on a location by creating a fake environment. Further examples are Nottinghamshire as Robin Hoods County or Lapland as Santa Claus Land.
Bryman proposes Disneyization as a parallel notion to the McDonald’s craze, a process by which the fast food restaurant come to dominate more and more sectors of society. Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas while being there all of the areas surrounding us no longer seem real, but belong to the order of simulation. We find ourselves in a parallel universe and we do not want to get out of it. Through its genious theming, strong merchandising and advertising, the skills to play with human emotions and its diversity, Disneyization has become an integral part of modern life and our society. Don’t we all dream of going to Disneyland?
This article was featured in our 8th issue.