Culture > Books

Books: The mouse is just a rat

Books | An exposé of the Disney empire gives ammunition for boycotters

Issue: "Midterm elections 1998," Nov. 14, 1998

The battle of the Disney boycott is losing in the public relations arena because Christians have done a poor job of showing that the Mouse has become a rat. And that's where Disney: The Mouse Betrayed will prove to be invaluable. This new book, by journalists Peter and Rochelle Schweizer, is an excellent piece of investigative work. Because of their reliance on first-hand information, internal company memoranda, police reports, and on-the-record interviews with former and current employees, the pair have built an unassailable case against Disney's image as a provider of family entertainment. The book has been in the news in recent weeks because of reports that Disney-owned ABC News spiked a story about the allegations and the evidence it contains. Disney: The Mouse Betrayed opens with the 1984 coronation of Michael Eisner as the new regent of the Magic Kingdom. "Eisner was known for movies that were glossy urban fairy tales," the authors write. "He had operated at Paramount with one inviolable rule: no sappy family pictures. As he told associates, 'no snow, no rural.' He was the consummate Hollywood insider." One of the first changes Mr. Eisner made, according to Disney manager Spencer Craig, was to remove a certain motto from business cards. That motto was, "We create the finest in family entertainment." Under Mr. Eisner, the company began branching out into entertainment of other sorts; Hollywood Records, for example, could boast of artists such as Ricky Vodka (of the punk band Humble Gods), the Insane Clown Posse, and most notably, The Lifers Group, a rap band made up entirely of convicted felons at New Jersey's Rahway Prison. Another profitable venture was the blossoming pay-per-view cable television industry. Disney bought into Viewer's Choice, the market leader. But Viewer's Choice with its Hot Choice service is now one of the nation's leading purveyors of pornography. Some of the charges leveled by Disney: The Mouse Betrayed are even more disturbing. The safety record at the parks has plummeted, according to documents the authors collected. A 1997 survey of park employees in Orlando showed that 85 percent disagreed with the statement, "My work location/ department does not compromise on quality." Even worse, the authors show a pattern within Disney to hamper investigations of crimes (in an effort to maintain the otherworldly atmosphere of the Magic Kingdom)-including crimes involving pedophiles. "The fact is, Disney seems more interested in protecting itself than its young victims," they write. And there is the story of Victor Salva, the convicted child molester who directed the movie Powder for Disney's Hollywood Pictures. When one of his former victims began a high-profile protest of the movie, Disney came to the defense of its director, not his victims. There are dozens of other specific examples of rottenness in the book: the gay characters on screen (Timon and Pumba), the transvestites in the Minnie Mouse costumes, the politically correct version of history that is seeping into Disney World's Hall of Presidents. Taken together, these provide the block of evidence Christian boycotters need in order to make their case.

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