A Cultural History of the Disneyland Theme Parks (Book)

Middle Class Kingdoms

The first comparative historical study of the six Disneyland theme parks around the world in five distinct cultures: the USA, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Setting the parks in the historic contexts at their opening, discusses cross- and trans-cultural understandings of the parks and the part that class plays in their success or failure.

Category: Cultural Studies

Edition

When the first Disneyland opened its doors in 1955, it reinvented the American amusement park and transformed the travel, tourism and entertainment industries forever. Now a global vacation empire, the original park in Anaheim, California, has been joined by massive complexes in Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Spanning six decades, three continents and five distinct cultures, Sabrina Mittermeier presents an interdisciplinary examination of the parks, situating them in their proper historical context and exploring the distinct cultural, social and economic landscapes that defined each one at the time of its construction. She then spotlights the central role of class in the subsequent success or failure of each venture.

The first comparative study of the Disney theme parks, this book closes a significant gap in existing research and is an important new contribution to the field, providing the first discussion of the Disney parks and what they reveal about the cultures they are set in.  There has been a lack of focus on cross- and trans-cultural analyses of theme parks generally and Disney theme parks specifically, until now. 

It is also particularly interesting – and will be welcomed for it – for the non-United States context of the study. This is a thorough examination of all of the existing Disney Parks and how they function within their respective cultures. While Disney themes and characters attempt to be universal, the author does a good job of arguing for where this is not possible and how glocalization is crucial to the parks’ successes. 

The writing is academic, but it is not inaccessible. It will have wide disciplinary appeal within academia, as tourism studies cross into a variety of fields including history, American studies, fandom studies, performance studies and cultural studies.

It will be invaluable to those working in the field of theme park scholarship and the study of Disney theme parks, theme parks in general and related areas like world’s expositions and spaces of the consumer and lifestyle worlds.

It will also be of interest to Disney fans, those who have visited any of the parks or are interested to know more about the parks and their cultural situation and context.

Sabrina Mittermeier holds a doctorate in American cultural history from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. She has been a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Augsburg in Germany and worked as a research assistant in the DFG-funded (Deutsche Forschsungsgemeinschaft) “Time and Temporality in Theme Parks” at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

Introduction: The Cultural Relevance of Disneyland

Part I: The American Disney Theme Parks

An Orange Grove in Anaheim: The Original Disneyland (1955)

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (1971) and the Age of Fracture

Part II: The International Disney Theme Parks

‘Is There Really a Disneyland in America?’ – The Unique Case of Tokyo Disneyland (1983)

A ‘Cultural Chernobyl?’ – EuroDisney (1992) and the Theme Park Public

Hong Kong Disneyland (2005): A Site of Local Pride and Conflict

‘Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese’ – Shanghai Disneyland (2016)

Middle Class Kingdoms: Then, Now, and Forever?

Bibliography

When the first Disneyland opened its doors in 1955, it reinvented the American amusement park and transformed the travel, tourism and entertainment industries forever. Now part of a global vacation empire, the original Disney park in Anaheim, California, has been joined by massive complexes in Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Spanning six decades, three continents and five distinct cultures, Sabrina Mittermeier presents an interdisciplinary examination of the parks, situating them in their proper historical context and exploring the distinct cultural, social and economic landscapes that defined each one at the time of its construction. She then spotlights the central role of class in the subsequent success or failure of each venture.

The first comparative study of the Disney theme parks, A Cultural History of the Disneyland Theme Parks closes a significant gap in existing research and is an important new contribution to the field.

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