Pictorial Souvenir Discourse Analysis

It’s amazing to me when I meet another Los Angeleno who has never been to Disneyland. Are the communists? Did they grow up with abusive and cruel parents who built a Carrie closet? Do they hate the idea of fun? Of course, they typically tell me “It’s not my kind of thing.” Or, “I don’t understand the attraction of contemporary mass market spectacle.” Boring, boring people.

When I was a kid, I had a copy of “Disneyland, a pictorial souvenir”. I know every detail of every image. The images paint such a nice story of a lazy day with family, rock and roll fun with teens, and exciting (but not overly exciting) adventures. When I looked through this recently, I began to decode the images. Yes, OCD, yes geeky, yes, too much emphasis on deconstruction in art school. I found several running themes.

1. Old people and People with hats.

Hats signify an exciting time. There are many matching hats on old people and kids. Old people let us know that Disneyland can be enjoyed by everyone. I know this is true. I've been there with my grandparents. Although they preferred that we visit each land in a counter-clockwise direction and never jump between sides of the park.

2. Nuns

There are nuns all over the place in the Disneyland visual landscape. They show up on preliminary sketches, and in souvenir books. I don't think there is any hidden religious subtext. This has more to do with the supposed cruelty of nuns who slam rulers on Catholic school children. Nuns are not thought of as carefree, anything goes, kinds of women.

 

3. Blurry motion

These say “speed.” Disneyland can be a crazed, fast paced, and thrilling place. Everything is fast: a hip dance scene in Tomorrowland, Rocket Jets, America the Beautiful Circlevision, the Peoplemover, and the Mad Tea Party Teacups. The Teacups are, and Rocket Jets (now the Astro Orbitor) were, indeed, too fast for me. All that spinning. But the Peoplemover and Circlevision were fairly slow paced. This was good. The Peoplemover had a hard fiberglass interior. I would not want to be in a Peoplemover whipping around the bend that fast, slammed against the hard seat, or in a Circlevision theater with guests throwing up.

 

4. Leg details

From a child’s point of view this must be what Disneyland looks like. These tell us that cast members are cleaning, the costume characters will interact with children, and there are horses. We also don't need to involve ourselves with details such as individual people.

 

5. Lingering

Many images show people meandering and lingering. They stare into a shop window on Main Street (why, I don’t know. The door is two feet away). Others look at unique items in the One of a Kind Shop, or watch the The Royal Street Bachelors in New Orleans Square. This tells us that there is time to relax, saunter, and discover stuff to buy. Unlike most of the stores I visit, here I can and linger and not be asked to leave. The downside of these images is the message that it's okay to walk really slowly down Main Street, 8 abreast. It's not. Some of us need lunch.

6. Darkness

Whether it’s real night outside, or simulated night in the Blue Bayou, these images are indicators that Disneyland is not just for kids. You can have dinner with your middle-aged friends or neighbors. You can take your spouse on a special dinner date while the kids hang out in Fantasyland. Or you can throw caution to the wind and get groovy with the young adults.

The Danger of Beauty

I’ve been working on a lecture for the AIGA Pivot Conference in Phoenix this week. I’m scheduled to talk about the history of AIGA, which is kind of like a lecture about the history of the United Auto Workers. So I’m working doubly hard to find great images. And now I have them. Charles Dana Gibson was one of the founders in 1914. Charles Dana Gibson is know for creating the “Gibson” girl. He based this illustration on my grandmother’s great-cousin Irene, who was his wife.

This led me to think about all the amazing stories I’ve heard about the women in my family. For instance, one of the earliest distant grandmothers to come to America was Cicely Reynolds, who arrived in 1610 abroad the Swan when she was 14. She was married five times and is credited as bringing “flirting” to the new world. There seems to be a very strong gene that runs along the maternal line. The women all look alike, going back generations. They all seem to be rather intelligent and witty, and dangerously beautiful. Since this is my blog, I can indulge myself and talk about this.

The latest addition is my niece Izabelle. She’s only thirteen, but 5’9” and beautiful. I’ve recommended that my brother and sister-in-law build a closet model on the closet in Carrie, but they are too nice. Like generations before, she will likely break many hearts.

Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!

I’m at an age where you find yourself convinced that the current generation of teenagers is just plain lazy and shiftless. Friends who are parents complain about the bad attitude and refusal to do homework, or chores. “I certainly wasn’t like that when I was that age,” I hear. Or, “I knew the meaning of hard work, and consequences.” Of course, this generation is like every generation of teenagers, yes, lazy, shiftless, and sloppy. I was not without fault as a teenager. My parents complained about my attitude daily, “You’re never home. You’re too involved with school activities. You’re simply trying to avoid facing your emotions.” My response was, “And…”

One thing that my generation had that the unfortunate teens of today do not was the plethora of message television movies. There were the ABC Afterschool Specials, and other films that gave us clear moral lessons. Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway with Jan Brady, Eve Plumb, made it clear to me that running away to Hollywood would result in forced prostitution and trips to the VD clinic. Sarah T. Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic made it plain that riding your horse on Pacific Coast Highway drunk is a bad idea. Nobody over 40 will dismiss the emotional impact of The Loneliest Runner. This was a true story based on Michael Landon’s bedwetting issues. As a fourteen year old he ran home from school every day to retrieve the wet sheet his mother hung from his bedroom window to punish him. Like Carrie covered in blood, we all share the seminal image of the wet sheets hanging out of the house window to dry, humiliating the young Michael Landon.