Friday, August 03, 2007

Details: star-spangled banner flags

Maybe only a few will notice, especially if you live in the United States and are mainly used to Disneyland's and Magic Kingdom's Main Street's, but these pictures capture one of those little details, those kinetic props, somenthing that has been missing for more than a decade: star-spangled banner flags are back.

In 1992, in order to reinforce the sense of displacement while helping guests from all over Europe to fully understand what Main Street U.S.A. was about, imagineers decided to take advantage of the huge constant winds blowing over Marne-la-Vallée and put on top of most of the buildings of Main Street the famous star-spangled banners flags: that way, just looking around and above, even the most sidetrackable guest would have understood that Main Street was about the United States somewhen in the past: dont't forget that European Audiences don't have the same knowledge and emotional bound to american victorian turn-of-the-century architecture that American audiences have, so imagineers had to remember that when designing the formerly called Euro Disneyland.

Then, the so-called cultural Chernobyl. In a desperate (and quite late in my opinion) effort to soften the critics, most of the signs and props candidly stating their proud americaness, were swiftly put away and forgotten in an oubliette of Sleeping Beauty Castle waiting for the dust to settle and for better times to come.


Dr Bitz said...

I know the flags flew on opening day, as I helped hang them. they were 42 stars as in 1890 and not 50 so they qualified as pennants not true national flags. I stayed a month after opening and endured much of the cultural chernobyl comments in the yers prior. but in the design we tried to be culturally american and not politically so. Even the portraits of the inventors in the emporium dome are immigrants as are the patent model submissions. the statue of liberty story is about people contributing to its construction, not governments. So the Americanism is cultural in Coke, Baseball, San Francisco, the Trains, Atlantic City, and to me hard to hide in any meaningful way. In fact the design team was proud of being able to make a cultural statement to Europe with all of the American design in MS. The wallpapers from San Francisco, Trolley cars, and more. No one in the WDI team was intimidated at all by the pre opening critique. Perhaps later things were moved, but never before the opening. We had to work harder for the reasons you state, in that the land does not read as America on first glance at all. That's why there are billboards in English and a Baseball player on it.

Massimo said...

Dear dr bitz,

first, let me say I am truly honored to have one of the people who worked on disneyland paris among the readers of my blog. I think your comment really helps to understand all the attention and respect WDI had in addressing the European audiences. Unfortunately, somepeople can't see the difference betweeen cultural and political identity. That is so clear to me everytime I walk down Main Street U.S.A. but other just see american flags and think Bush (and the action he supported).

Thanks again for the interesting comment.