By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Well, things are kind of slow out there.
But it looks like things are picking up around Manassas, Virginia, just 40 miles outside Washington, D.C. The Disney World builders say they'll put a phantasmagoric, truer-than-life "American history" theme park out there -- a region already soaked in real American history. I guess their slogan will be: "The only place in Virginia that's not history."
Our nation's capital is surrounded by the American drama: Mount Vernon, Annapolis, Harper's Ferry, Manassas Battlefield, Montecello and much more. But the Disney schemers seem to believe that ersatz will become more compelling than the real thing, especially when they toss in Mickey, Donald and Pluto to perk up those old musty history lessons.
hey plan a virtual-reality kind of thing, including a roomful of "audioanimatronic presidents." Is this fun, or what? These will be computer-driven mannequins of our former presidents, gesturing and pontificating as though alive. (Apparently they got the idea from watching Ronald Reagan.)
It's still undecided whether they'll have a special "Crook Wing" featuring presidents Ulysses Grant, Warren Harding and, of course, Dick Nixon giving his ever-popular "I am not a crook" speech.
here's also to be a "real" factory town of the late 1800s that Disney is calling "Enterprise," featuring a roller coaster that'll take you under spilling vats of pretend molten steel. Of course, to be truly authentic, the town would be called "Exploitation." They could let us chat with child laborers who helped make the robber barons rich; maybe we could spend the night in the shanties where workers lived. But, hey, that's downbeat. We're talking Disney history -- remember Davy Crockett?
Okay, so there's nothing wrong with a little animation and amusement. But there's already enough hokum in our history books without Disney Inc. using cartoon figures and happy-face heros that trivialize the American people's long, often painful and proud struggle for real democracy.