1st Edition

Disney Theme Parks and America’s National Narratives Mirror, Mirror, for Us All

By Bethanee Bemis Copyright 2023
    136 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    136 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Disney Theme Parks and America’s National Narratives takes a public history approach to situating the physical spaces of the Disney brand within memory and identity studies.

    For over 65 years, Disney’s theme parks have been important locations for the formation and negotiation of the collective memory of the American narrative. Disney’s success as one of America’s most prolific storytellers, its rise as a symbol of America itself, and its creation of theme parks that immerse visitors in three-dimensional versions of certain "American" values and historic myths have both echoed and shaped the way the American people see themselves. Like all versions of the American narrative, Disney’s vision serves to reassure us, affirm our shared values, and unite a diverse group of people under a distinctly American identity—or at least, it did. The book shows how the status Disney obtained led the public to use them both as touchstones of identity and as spaces to influence the American identity writ large. This volume also examines the following:

    • how Disney’s original cartoons and live-action entertainment offerings drew from American folk history and ideals

    • how their work during World War II cemented them as an American symbol at home and abroad

    • how the materialization of the American themes already espoused by the brand at their theme parks created a place where collective memory lives

    • how legitimization by presidents and other national figures gave the theme parks standing no other entertainment space has

    • how Disney has changed alongside the American people and continues to do so today.

    This book will be of interest to students and scholars of history, media, cultural studies, American studies and tourism.

    Part 1: Establishing Disney Parks as Sites of American Identity 1. Disney and American Folklore: Disney tells American History 2. Disney Diplomacy and Morale: Disney Symbolizes America 3. Disneyland and Walt Disney World: Experiencing "History" and "Identity" at Disney Parks 4. Mickey Mouse/White House: Celebrating American Identity at Disney Parks Part 2: Negotiating American Identity at the Disney Parks 5. Protest at the Parks: Changing America Via Disney 6. Retheming: Visualizing a Changing America at Disney Parks 6. Conclusion: A New Understanding of "Disneyfication"


    Bethanee Bemis is a museum specialist in the Division of Political and Military History at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, where she most recently curated an exhibition on the Disney Parks, "Mirror, Mirror: Reflections of America in Disney Parks."