Entertainment / History & Culture / Politics

Disney’s World Was Always Much Bigger Than the Woke

AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel 


Woke historians have now have now consigned post-World War II America to the dustbin of cancellation, but the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World provides us a moment to reflect on how Americans thought of the dark spots in our history with honesty and maturity, long before the age of the woke. Americans have always been a sunny people not because we deny the evil in our past, but because we also remember working to overcome so many aspects of it.  

Political historian Bethanee Bemis, in an article on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, celebrates Disney’s great Awokening in the theme park. Good-bye “boys and girls”; Disney now nods to the left’st vision of infinite “genders” and addresses children as “friends.” Hello displays dedicated to gay bakers! Yet there is much work to do, according to Ms. Bemis. Good-bye to rides and displays that did not hew to the most up-to-date notions of political correctness in matters of race, sex, and gender. Gone is the “bride auction” scene from Pirates of the Caribbean for fear one might think Disney was promoting sex-trafficking. Gone is the Aunt Jemima Pancake House—despite the fact that Aunt Jemima was a real person whose story is quite amazing.  

Bemis’s article is the predictable sort of thing we see every day now. What was wrong with Disney World and Disney movies in the bad old days? The woke left’s answer is that they were simply “reassuring” middle-class white people that nothing was wrong in America and that they did not have to deal with “diversity” or any bad parts of our history. And yet, the evidence to refute this notion is found in Disney heritage itself. It’s there in the post-war phenomenon of “Davy Crockett mania,” created largely by Walt Disney himself, providing a perfect example of the way in which Americans understood the difficulties of native peoples in America.  

Walt Disney created a five-part black-and-white television series that aired in 1954 and 1955 called Davy Crockett that starred actor Fess Parker, usually attired in coonskin hat and Buddy Ebsen (later of Beverly Hillbillies fame as Jed Clampett) as Crockett’s friend George Russell. It featured “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the incredibly catchy song with music by George Bruns and lyrics by Thomas W. Blackburn that was recorded by Bill Hayes and sold over eleven million records. Disney later used the color film of the series to create two movies, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955) and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956). Every kid in America wanted a Davy Crockett lunch box and a coonskin cap like Davy’s. 

And well they ought to have. The real-life Crockett (1786-1836) was a frontiersman, soldier, and politician who represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives and fought in the Texas Revolution, dying at the Alamo. His own record as a legislator was one of unfailing honesty and integrity, part of which got him knocked out of politics and inspired one of the greatest scenes in the Disney series.  

Crockett’s national legislative career, begun in 1827, was noteworthy for his fight for the American settlers and his attacks on institutions he felt were not of benefit to ordinary people. He promoted legislation helping settlers get titles to their land more easily and he introduced legislation to abolish the U. S. Military Academy at West Point due to his belief that it was only providing positions for the rich—and thus was not actually a public use of money. But it was his opposition to the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized President Andrew Jackson to negotiate the removal of native tribes west of the Mississippi in order for white settlers to take over their lands, which marks a high moral point in his career and was marvelously portrayed by Parker in Disney’s series.  

That scene had what was likely the first political speech many kids ever heard. Crockett returns to Congress to convince the body to vote against it. After punching out an aide to Jackson who tells him not to “commit political suicide,” Crockett dramatically enters the chambers and tells his fellow Congressmen that though he is for expansion as much as anybody, he wants the country “to grow up into the nation the good Lord meant it to be.” Expansion should indeed happen, but “not at the expense of the things this country was meant to protect.” Crockett goes on: “The government’s promises set out in the Indian treaties is as sacred as your own word. Expansion ain’t no excuse for persecuting a whole part of our people because their skin is red and they’re uneducated to our ways. And expansion ain’t no excuse for takin’ Indian lands that was guaranteed to them.”  

The speech is stirring. Crockett does, however, suffer a temporal defeat. In real life, as in the movie, he was the only Tennessee Congressman to vote against the bill, which did pass and was signed into law by Andrew Jackson. Though he earned the thanks of the Cherokee chief in a letter, because of his vote, which was unpopular in his home state, Crockett lost in the next electoral cycle in 1831.   

Yet the episode is depicted in the series as a triumph of sorts for America. Even if a wrong was done, Crockett’s recognition of the wrong and resolute defense of the right was a moral victory for himself and the country. The show didn’t teach Americans to hate their country, but instead to cherish the good that was in it that would eventually overcome the abuse of the Indians. These problems—like those with the slavery that contradicted the promise of the Declaration that all men are created equal—might have brought other countries to their knees, but Americans fought through them to better ways of life. The depictions of Disney and other artists reflected this mature, sober, and yet optimistic vision that would motivate a generation to act to make America worthy of her original promise. 

Post-war America knew that we had done wrong as a country by the Indians. John Ford’s 1956 film The Searchers similarly depicted the wrongs done by white settlers as well as their racial hostility in ways that shocked people. Ford spoke to the complex and sometimes ugly reality of his depiction in a 1964 interview: “If [the Indian] has been treated unfairly by whites in films, that, unfortunately, was often the case in real life. There was much racial prejudice in the West.” 

There is no doubt that not every film or story handled things in a perfectly honest way. There is also no doubt that Hollywood executives did not always treat Native American actors fairly. Hollywood has long been a place of tremendous rhetoric about the good that does not match its own patterns of behavior—just take a look at the #MeToo movement, designed to take out Trump and Republicans, but mostly hitting Hollywood figures and their left-liberal allies. But the story of Native Americans is one of many aspects of our country’s history that was indeed handled by many in our post-war world with honesty.  

Woke historians such as Bemis lack any nuance when they look at older views of America. They do not see how the Davy Crockett series or the films of John Ford and others presented a thrilling view of America that thrilled precisely because it did not pretend there were no dark spots on the part of Americans or their government. They instead see only darkness before the age of Woke (ca. 2010). Alas, they do not understand the dynamics of this process themselves. What they consider cutting edge will soon be on the cutting floor as ever new shibboleths are devised to separate those on “the right side of history” from those who are deplorable. Better instead to hew to the vision of the Founders that emphasized the natural law and natural rights by which any country can be judged. 

America is a country that is not immaculate in its history. Several original sins mar our history. But the reason we love our country is not because we imagine it free of sin. It was never so then or now. The last fifty years have seen us lamenting the scourge of a laissez-faire approach to abortion that has seen over 50 million children in the womb taken away. We love America because of the many evils that have been remedied and the desire that the ones with which we are still burdened will similarly be taken away. This is expressed in the marvelous second stanza of “America the Beautiful,” which concludes: 

America! America! 
God mend thine ev’ry flaw, 
Confirm thy soul in self-control, 
Thy liberty in law. 

David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast. 

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9 months ago

People want to come here for a reason.
America is good.
Yes, we stumble, make mistakes, fall on our faces sometimes. But we always SEE those mistakes and work to do better. That is what defines true “Good”. Aiming for the better behavior, even if not the ‘best’.
Until the Communist indoctrination stifled so many minds, America was a place of optimism, hope, and greatness. We haven’t forgotten.

Eddie Van Halen
9 months ago

We have seen the gradual liberal control take place at DW over the last 20 years. Prices are insane for eats, parking ( ($30 ), control of your itinerary, and all this to feed a lib loon CEO
( ready for THIS ? ) $1.3MILLION a WEEK ! ! ! Had he allows “The View” to be aired on ABC. Think about that. $1.3 a week.

Eddie Van Halen
9 months ago

We had been Disney “goers” for nearly 20 years ( retired young ). With the gradual ‘changes’ we saw that had taken place, Disney is now off our list. Sad to say, always will be.

9 months ago

Disney was a genius who gave us great entertainment the entire family could enjoy and remember. However, let’s remember he was a virulent ANTI SEMITE WHO WOULDN’T HIRE JEWS. There needs to be balanced admiration not just blind adoration. Woke people are dictators and knee jerks,

John S.
9 months ago
Reply to  Lynn

Indeed, that’s about as far from “woke” as you can get!

9 months ago

The ones in charge of the Disney corporation are only concerned with their bottom line profit. They will present a public face totally removing any past works they have produced rather than using technology to upgrade the presentation of past successful works like the Davy Crocket because someone decided to “woke” cancel the story because they were nitpicking it. History can not be changed, we can only go forward no matter how believable their shows on CW show time travel events that change history. Life is already chaotic, trying to create a one-sided view will never work.

9 months ago

I have volunteered many times at Disney parks to plant my foot up some wokes behind who are ashamed to be Americans . Do America a favor and let the millions trying to get in your spot !

Eddie Van Halen
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve


9 months ago

Great Article! We must Show Up, Stand Up and Speak Up against the Woke culture before it’s too late.

Teresa Fisher
9 months ago

Thank you for this excellent article! So many people which just listen to “sound bites” and don’t know the full story. People using their critical thought processes are few and far between.

Stephen Russell
9 months ago

Apply to Disneyland too.
Darn & I wanted to see Avengers Campus area.

Matt Knighton, Sr.
9 months ago

Excellent article! Wonderfully straight forward, happily honest, and, in this current chaotic culture of nonsense having become the new “common sense,” it is satisfyingly rational!

When our history is destroyed to fit a short-sighted and nationally suicidal narrative, it’s only a matter of time before the foundation of sand is washed away by the storms of reality, and the newly-constructed edifice is thoroughly demolished. Such is the scene of our predictable national future unless wokeness is eradicated by a new and powerful vaccine — and soon!

9 months ago

There is a great deal of difference between the Walt Disney organization founded by its namesake and that of the modern era multi-national corporation that kowtows to both the CCP of China and various grievance groups espousing woke cultural norms both in the United States and abroad. While I understand the author’s focus, it would have been beneficial to also touch on the real issues driving Disney’s transformation towards what t is today.

The article would have been much more powerful and inciteful, if it had instead focused on the specifics of how the modern day version of the Disney corporation came to be. True it wouldn’t have been so much about a trip down memory lane, but it would have been much more educational to the readers in helping to explain why Disney is what it is today. The same path towards globalism, centered around deference to socialistic values that the Disney corporation has chosen to adopt, is mirrored by so many other American corporations as well.

9 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Disney corporation is just another avenue for the Woke agenda. Walt is rolling in his grave.

9 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Maybe you should write one since you dislike this one.

9 months ago

This is a well written summary of what America was meant to be and the damage being done today. Sadly that Walt Disney is gone..it would have both ered him to know what his “children’s world” has become…as well as the country he loved.

Jim Jolly
9 months ago

Say goodbye to Disney Parks, Disney Cruises, Disney Entertaient and anything else associated with Disney. Walt Disney would not have allowed this. Hope others will take the same stance because the only way to combat this is through the pocketbook.

Eddie Van Halen
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Jolly

EXACTLY ! ! We wrote the Disney “mafia” off just B-4 the chinese fungus was released on us. Liberal control of your itinerary, crazy pkg fees, insane ticket prices, Restaurant prices ? 2 people at Cape May ? $100 w/o tip ! ! ! Just so the lib loon CEO can get his $1.3M a “WEEK” paycheck ? Uh, no.

9 months ago

Well written, and highlights our native son of Tennessee. Who selflessly gave his life for the republic of Texas with 36 other boys from the “greenest state in the land of the free”.

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