Following the events of Hurricane Katrina, the Walt Disney Company took on New Orleans as a special philanthropic project. For many citizens of New Orleans, Disney's active role and its consequent partnership with the city is highly problematic, as evidenced by a spate of newspaper articles after Katrina that expressed fears about the rebuilding leading to the potential "Disneyfication" of the city. Citizens fear Disney will turn the city into something like Times Square-a space emptied of its former meanings and histories and rearticulated to Disney's sanitized family brand, marked by racial, class, and sexual exclusions. Thus, in New Orleans, critics fear Disney's potential to render the city, which already relies primarily on tourism as its main economic generator, into a whitewashed image of a Disney theme park . At a time when the images from Hurricane Katrina of floating dead bodies, mostly those of the city's black and poor, is still burned fresh on the brain, Disneyfying the city appears as a particularly problematic and disturbing possibility.
But down in New Orleans, Disney has not bought any real estate designed to imprint its Mickey Mouse value system on those who enter. It hasn't moved into Canal Street or the French Quarter, nor has it offered to take over the now-defunct Jazzland theme park. Instead, Disney presented itself as a "good neighbor," offering the city a kind of corporate social welfare to help bring the city back.In what follows, I consider Disney's two most visible charitable acts in New Orleans, what the company characterized as "gifts" to the city to help them recover : the film, The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Disney's "Dreams Come True" exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).
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Published by Mediascape, UCLA's Journal of Cinema and Media Studies
Morgan Parmett, Helen, "Disneyomatics: Media, Branding, and Urban Space in Post-Katrina New Orleans" (2012). Communication Studies. Paper 1.
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