The Mouse and the Myth: Sacred Art and Secular Ritual at Disneyland

The Mouse and the Myth: Sacred Art and Secular Ritual at Disneyland

The Mouse and the Myth: Sacred Art and Secular Ritual at Disneyland

The Mouse and the Myth: Sacred Art and Secular Ritual at Disneyland


Rituals mark significant moments in our lives--perhaps none more significant than moments of lightheartedness, joy, and play. The rituals that bond humanity create our most transcendent experiences and meaningful memories. Rituals of play are among the most sacred of any of the rites in which humanity may engage. Although we may fail to recognize rituals of play, they are always present in culture, providing a kind of psychological release for their participants, child and adult alike. Ritual is central to storytelling. Story and practice are symbiotic. Their relationship reflects the vitality of the soul. Disneyland is an example of the kind of container necessary for the construction of rituals of play. This work explores the original Disney theme park in Anaheim as a temple cult. It challenges the disciplines of mythological studies, religious studies, film studies, and depth psychology to broaden traditional definitions of the kind of cultural apparatus that constitute temple culture and ritual. It does so by suggesting that Hollywood's entertainment industry has developed a platform for mythic ritual. After setting the ritualized "stage", this book turns to the practices in Disneyland proper, analyzing the patron's traditions within the framework of the park and beyond. It explores Disneyland's spectacles, through selected shows and parades, and concludes with an exploration of the park's participation in ritual renewal.


All Disneyland really is, you see, is a projection outward of the phenomenology of the
imagination. And, if they can’t go into their own imaginations, they might just as well go into
Walt Disney’s and he’ll help them. and that’s what religions have done all the time. –

The test of psychology is not, does it work? the test of psychology is: Is it fun? Does it amuse
you? Does it delight you? Does it wake you up? Does it talk to your soul? Does it say anything
to your soul that makes you see further or feel deeper or are inspired more … or that the world
around you is more animated or that you are more animated or that there is some beauty, or
some love or some tragedy; some real things happening […]. –
James Hillman

In the academic discourse between myth studies and archetypal theory, many are quick to accept a conventional attitude that contemporary popular culture is antithetical to the development of a psychologically fulfilling relationship with the imagination. These critics seem convinced that this is especially true of American popular culture. and frankly, they’re not entirely wrong. the frenetic pace of contemporary life can keep humanity disconnected from each other, a state that leads to both alienation from and negligence of the imagination. Lack of attention to the imagination is psychologically hazardous, because through it – specifically through its relationship to ritual – one cultivates an authentic connection with what Rudolf Otto refers to as the numinous: the

1 Pathways to Bliss, 17.

2 Surfing L.A.

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