Masako Notoji, "Disneyland, the Holy Land" - A highly recommended book with an exciting perspective on Disney as a sacred place of faith and pilgrimage!

The Holy Land of Disneyland Dreamland Disneyland Research

Summary and Comments on Masako Notoji's "Disneyland, the Holy Land" - A highly recommended book with an exciting perspective on Disney as a sacred place of faith and pilgrimage!

This time we would like to introduce "Disneyland, the Holy Land" by Masako Notoji, published by Iwanami Shoten in 1990.

Let's take a quick look at the book.

What exactly is Disneyland, California's "magical kingdom"? The author, who has been deeply involved with the "Land of Disney" and knows its front and back sides, examines the secret of its immense popularity and sharply dissects the American past and future, fantasy and ultra-realism that fill the land. This fresh look at American culture also explores the expansion of the "Land of Disney" into Tokyo and Paris.

AmazonProducts Page.
Disneyland in California, U.S.A. in 1963Wikipedia.

This book is a work that examines "What is Disney?" focusing on Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, USA, in 1955.

And as the title of this book suggests, this work is unique in that it looks at Disney from the aspects of "sacred places," "faith," and "culture. As a Buddhist monk, this is a very interesting theme for me.

The author, Masako Notoji, is a scholar of American culture and a specialist in the Disney field, having worked on the Tokyo Disneyland project as a contractor for Walt Disney Productions and Oriental Land Company from 1980-83.

The author states the following about this book in his "Introduction".

Realizing that the world I had casually seen and heard about was extremely important for my research, I read as much literature on Disney as I could get my hands on, starting with Hollywood cultural history and gradually expanding into the realms of symbolism and mythology. The deeper I delved into the subject of Disneyland, the more mysterious and monstrous it became, and the more deeply it was connected to the American mind and worldview. What interests me most is not so much Disneyland as a place of amusement and leisure, but the special, almost religious feelings that many Americans have for this place, and the phenomenon of such a strongly nationalistic cultural heritage spreading around the world.

Much has already been said about this place from many different perspectives. Particularly in the United States over the past 10 years, there has been an active discussion of Disneyland by social critics, architects, cultural anthropologists, and American studies scholars. In Japan, a number of books have been published on Tokyo Disneyland. In this book, I, as a Japanese citizen, will try to explain the cultural significance of the theme park created by Disneyland, going back to the early days of the park.

Iwanami Shoten, Masako Notoji, "Disneyland, the Holy Land," p. 14-15

What interests me less is not so much what Disneyland looks like as a play and leisure space, but the particular, almost religious feelings that many Americans have for the place, and the phenomenon of such a strongly ethnic cultural heritage spreading around the world at the same time."

This book will delve deeply into the cultural anthropological and sociological aspects of this very thing. Let's be clear.This book is extremely interesting...!"

Here are a few excerpts from the book that impressed me. It may be a little difficult to understand because I cannot give you the context before and after here, but I think you can get a feel for the book by reading the following quotes.

Disneyland as a three-dimensional theatrical space

Who and for what purpose was Disneyland created - and for whom? It was not originally an amusement park designed for children. Walt Disney had in mind, first of all, the "childishness" that is latent in all human beings. In American popular culture, there is a tradition of viewing children as universal beings that transcend age. For example, in the famous "Christmas Song," the phrase "children from one to ninety-two years old" often appears, and in the shows of the Ring-Ring Circus, the great American circus troupe, the words "Ladies and gentlemen. Children of all ages," begins the welcoming cliché.

If Disney had what one might call a "philosophy," it was rooted in an extremely naive view of humanity, in which people never lose the innocence and curiosity of children, no matter how old they get.

Iwanami Shoten, Masako Notoji, "Disneyland, the Holy Land," p. 30-31

In understanding the nature of Disneyland itself, it is important to remember that its creator, Walt Disney, was a film producer by profession. Disneyland was a "work" based on and developed from all the techniques he had learned in his 30 years of filmmaking. Disneyland was a three-dimensional screen, and his idea was to lure people into the world of the story he was telling, moving them from one scene to the next.

American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury points out that Disneyland is a new form of entertainment that combines the worlds of film and theater. [omitted].

Disneyland is not a two-dimensional screen, but a three-dimensional stage, and the fact that live people play a variety of roles is similar to the world of theater. The fact that the part of the park that guests can see is called "on-stage" and the rest of the park is called "backstage" is another indication of Disneyland's theatricality. However, the accidental nature of theater was a serious risk for Walt Disney, a perfectionist, to avoid, and he turned his attention to how to get his performers to deliver the same flawless performance every time. The fact that the planned jungle wildlife was replaced by mechanical animals, and the park's attractions were gradually transformed into electronic spaces starring robots, reflects Disney's inclination toward perfection and precise repetition. Disneyland, therefore, can be considered a major experiment in the application of the controlling power of the cinematic medium to a three-dimensional space.

Iwanami Shoten, Masako Notoji, "Disneyland, the Holy Land," p. 33-34

Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer who came out here, is thatFahrenheit 451 Degrees.I am the author of

It is very interesting that Bradbury, the very person who pointed out the dangers of popular culture in this book, professed to be a big fan of Disney and even made the above analysis.

Also,Disneyland is not a two-dimensional screen, but a three-dimensional stage, and it is similar to the world of theater in that live people play a variety of roles."It is also important to point out that I read this commentary and thought of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

The Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica is the headquarters of Roman Catholicism, a temple of beauty that is well known to everyone, but in fact, its architecture was also designed with a theatrical space to accommodate pilgrims in mind. The architect who conceived of this three-dimensional space was Bernini, an architect active in the 17th century.

Bernini (1598-1680)Wikipedia.

Like Walt Disney, he was not just an architect, but a producer in his own right. He was a sculptor of Michelangelo's caliber from an early age, a top-notch sketcher, a playwright who wrote and acted in his own plays, and a man of Walt's talents who directed a large number of people to carry out projects of unprecedented scale.

It is no exaggeration to say that without him, St. Peter's Basilica and the landscape of Rome would not exist today. He truly transformed Rome into a theatrical space.

I was so impressed with these Bernini religious space creations that I actually traveled to Rome in 2022. The following article is a reflection on this in conjunction with Dostoevsky, whom I have been researching for several years.

I can't say much more here because it would be off topic, but I feel that Walt's Disneyland overlaps with Bernini's St. Peter's Basilica. In that sense, this book, "Disneyland, the Holy Land," is a very thought-provoking work.

Disneyland's view of nature

Let's continue reading this book. It is a bit long, but we will read it carefully because it makes some very interesting points about Disney's view of nature.

The unique attitudes and feelings that have been cultivated over generations toward nature will continue to hold considerable inertia, even if nature itself and human life change. (It is important to note that when Walt Disney was a boy on the Great Plains of the Midwest, people actually had to contend with sandstorms and mud. Walt's older brother Roy, by the way, was born in 1893, the same year as the aforementioned Menninger.

It is not difficult to imagine that people living in a truly terrifying living environment in the middle of the vast American continent would have had an intense yearning for a safe, clean, and comfortable world where the threats of nature did not exist. As has often been pointed out, it is highly symbolic that the protagonist of the cartoon that brought Walt Disney his first success was a clean and optimistic mouse.

As we all know, Mickey Mouse is not a mouse-like rat. He wears red short pants, yellow shoes, and bright white gloves on his four-fingered hands, unlike the dirty, real-life mouse people. Many Mickey Mouse movies, especially the early ones, are set on farms or in the countryside, and without exception they are lush, peaceful pastoral scenes. The animal characters are also beautifully colored, shiny and polished, and always make a hilarious ruckus. They speak human language and retain little of their animal nature. The differences between males and females are reduced to symbols such as pants and skirts, long false eyelashes and ribbons, and once these costumes are stripped away, they are all asexual. The main characteristics of Disney's world are the complete denial of nature and the fanatical idea of hygiene.

The fact that the "Land of Disney" has been praised as "a world of cleanliness itself, without a speck of dust" is one result of this spirit. It reflects the persistence of Midwestern farmers who fought against mud and dust. Frontierland, located to the left of the Disneyland entrance, is themed on the pioneer days of the Mississippi River Valley region, but instead of dusty reddish-brown soil, the ground is reddish-brown asphalt, leaving no room for sand or dust. The park's rivers, oceans, and lakes are all concrete-lined, so the water is not contaminated with mud.

Not only these examples, but the entire Disneyland, including the ground, mountains, and rivers, is covered with concrete and asphalt, creating an anti-natural world. It is significant that this was once a 160-acre orange grove, and that the first step in the development work was to uproot all the tens of thousands of orange trees. The spirit of the project is fundamentally different from that of traditional Japanese landscaping, which more than adequately incorporates the natural topography and vegetation. At first glance, the artificial nature of Disneyland in California, which has been open for 35 years, is not so apparent because of the large number of trees planted in place of oranges, which have grown considerably. However, this can be clearly seen in the newer Walt Disney World in Florida or in Tokyo Disneyland.

Trees, plants, and flowers are an important element of the beauty of Disneyland, but they are not allowed to grow without nature's permission. They are shaped and sized according to the theme and purpose of the place where they are placed, and are given an important role as props for Disney shows. This is no different for natural or artificial trees. (omitted).

Dead leaves and wilting flowers are taboo in Disneyland, where all elements are always kept in top condition. Almost all the trees are evergreens that never fall off the trees, and flowers are replaced daily with those in full bloom. The fate of the plants in Disneyland is summed up in the huge flower bed at the front gate, which is shaped like Mickey Mouse's smiling face.

The animal kingdom is even more distant from nature than the plant kingdom. In Disneyland, rats, elephants, lions, and dinosaurs are all safe and happy human allies. The beasts of prey that people encounter on the Jungle Cruise, the most adventurous ride in Adventureland, are harmless mechanical puppets, and there are no flies or mosquitoes in the jungle. And the toilets at the back of the jungle are flushed and clean. Dangerous animals, germs, and foul odors are thoroughly tamed, sterile, and odorless for the comfort and entertainment of civilized people here.

This world is an extension of what Walt Disney has been pursuing for 30 years in his animated films, but if we trace its origins further back, we can find it in the lifestyles of the American pioneers who opened up the Great Plains. From their view of the world, in which nature was feared and viewed as the enemy, Disneyland, where the natural state does not exist, must have seemed like heaven. The eeriness of the Disney character lies in the fact that he invested huge amounts of capital to create a place that could never exist in reality, and never doubted that it was the happiest country on earth.

Iwanami Shoten, Masako Notoji, "Disneyland, the Holy Land," p. 77-81

A major feature of Disney's world is his utter denial of nature and his fanatical, even hygienic, philosophy."

This is interesting. We Japanese have a culture of coexisting with nature, but this is just the opposite. And as was pointed out immediately after this quote, Japan is now also becoming Disney-ized in this anti-nature way. It is true, isn't it? I feel that we want to be sterile too much now. Disneyland has an image of a clean space without a single piece of trash, but the charm of this book is that you can learn what lies behind this belief in cleanliness.

Disney as folk belief. The dream of eternal childhood. A worldview that denies aging and death.

And one last thing. This is another important point that should not be overlooked.

Most of the attractions in Fantasyland are based on these good versus evil folktales and fairy tales, with the basic plot of good escaping the pursuit of evil and returning to the safety of the world. Here, evil is represented by ugly adults with magic, power, and evil intentions, such as witches, card queens, one-legged captains of pirate ships, and circus performers, while good is represented by beautiful, innocent children. The guests of these attractions, young and old, are transformed by Disney's carefully contrived magic into "children of all ages," and together they all play the role of a child being chased by an evil adult. In each story, the children's allies are imaginary little creatures such as fairies, dwarfs, small forest animals, and insects, with the help of which the children ultimately triumph. The repetitive experience of such attractions, which can be described as homologous, unwittingly conveys several fascinating messages to visitors.

No matter how terrible it is, it will not destroy us."
Our bodies are forever young and beautiful, beyond old age, infirmity, and death."

As we have already seen, Disneyland is an ideal man-made world in which the forces of nature, which are not at the will of man, have been driven out of the property. The same is true for human beings. In other words, this is a supernatural world that rejects the biological laws of dirt, aging, ugliness, and death that real people come to know as they grow up. It is no wonder that people are captivated by the world in which such a serious theme as longevity and the miracle of death and rebirth, which human beings have been pursuing since time immemorial, are told in such an innocent and simple manner with the help of merry dwarfs and fairies.

The reason audiences have applauded Disney's films, both movies and theme parks, as "fun beyond reason," and many critics have taken their hats off to Disney, is that Disney has tapped into a great vein in the world of fairy tales that is beyond the reach of ordinary critical ability, and has continued to refine its own alchemy. Disney's ability to criticize is beyond the reach of ordinary critics. (The reason for this is that Disney has continued to hone his own alchemy.)

Disney's alchemy has thus melted both the public mind and the analytical skills of intellectuals into a veritable melting pot.

Nami Shoten, Masako Notoji, The Sacred Land of Disneyland, p. 115-118.

This is a supernatural world that rejects out of hand the biological laws of dirt, aging, ugliness, and death that real people know as they grow up.

I also think that this is exactly what Disneyland is all about.

And the reason why this is important is that this "denial of aging and death and eternal life" is the ultimate desire that humanity has been seeking, the cause of suffering, and the basis of religious doctrine.

This is the ultimate appeal of Disneyland, which is why it has "melted the hearts of the masses and the analytical faculties of intellectuals alike. The ultimate example of this is Yukio Mishima.

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), speech on the balcony at Ichigaya Garrison, November 25, 1970.Wikipedia.

He was one of the people who visited Disneyland in California in 1960 and was melted by the melody. Mishima himself strongly disliked old age and decline, and praised youth. At the age of 45, he ended his life by committing suicide. It was precisely to learn about the relationship between Yukio Mishima and Disney that I began reading Disney-related books. I will write about this in a future article, but this book was a great inspiration for me to learn more about Mishima.

There are many other parts of the book that I would like to introduce, but the volume of the article does not allow me to do so. If you are interested, please pick up a copy of this book. It is quite a miracle that so much has been compiled in a new book. It is very rare to find a book of this caliber. I highly recommend this book not only to Disney fans, but also to anyone interested in culture and religion.

This is "Masako Notoji's "Disneyland, the Holy Land" - A recommended book with an exciting perspective on Disney as a sacred place of faith and pilgrimage! This was "Disneyland, the Sacred Land" by Masako Notoji.

Next Article.

Click here to read the previous article.

Related Articles

HOME