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Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, The Project on Disney Paperback – April 14, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; First Edition edition (April 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822316242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822316244
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What makes Disney tick? This theoretical cultural analysis is an alternative ride through "the happiest place on earth" that asks "What makes this forty-three-square-mile theme park the quintessential embodiment of American leisure?" Considering the park as both private corporate enterprise and public urban environment, the authors focus on questions concerning the production and consumption of leisure. Featuring more than fifty photographs and interviews with workers, this captivating exploration illustrates the high-pressure dynamics of the typical family vacation while taking the reader on a tour that looks well beyond Disney World's controlled facade.

From Publishers Weekly

If you're not an unquestioning Disney fan, this peek into "the happiest place on earth" is alternately illuminating, disturbing and, aptly, even a little goofy. Punctuated by Karen Klugman's photographs (decidedly not the stuff of Kodak Picture Spots), the Project on Disney (Klugman, of the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Conn., and Jane Kuenz, Shelton Waldrep and Susan Willis of Duke's English department) offer anecdotes from their trips to Disney World before riffing on such trendy cultural-studies topics as Foucaultian surveillance, mall culture, tourism, postmodern architecture and the carnivalesque. In the chapter on "Working at the Rat," past and present employees dish Disney. We learn that the percentage of gay and lesbian Disney World workers is high (estimates range from 25% to 75% of the park's work force), that employees sneak in after hours to have sex and that many workers use amphetamines to accrue overtime (surprisingly, Disney does not test the majority of its park employees for drugs). The management structure, day-to-day operations and Disney ethos are detailed, as are the appalling, even stomach-turning, working conditions endured by the "head-wearers," which'll make you pause before posing for a grip-and-grin with Mickey.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Some things just aren't as deep as one would like to make them.
Bruno
Perhaps this breadth - or lack of focus - is one of the reasons the book failed to really engage me.
GV
A definite waste of trees this book was, don't waste your money.
Maurice Fitzgerald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By GV on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book falls somewhere between David Koenig's "Mouse Tales" and Stephen Fjellman's "Vinyl Leaves". It leans a bit more toward the former and seems to have been intended as a critical assessment of Disney, Disney World, popular culture, consumerism and more. It is written in the form of a vacation memoir that tries to weave together the perspectives of academics, parents (some of the authors ARE parents who took their children to Disney World), photo essayists (there are 50 photographs in the book and a handful are noteworthy), Marxists, and feminists. Perhaps this breadth - or lack of focus - is one of the reasons the book failed to really engage me. There are some insights but I struggled to get at them since the writing was a bit verbose and the authors did not provide footnotes on several references. My overall impression of the book was that of a well-intentioned but poorly-written thesis. I did not come away with the impression that the authors disliked Disney or Disney World. As someone who has visited the parks, I can easily agree with some of the criticisms and frustrations noted in the text. Unfortunately for me, most of the messages that the authors where trying to convey to me got lost in the style. For academic insight, try Fjellman's book which, for all its deep thought and length, was actually much easier for me to follow. For an easier read about backstage goings-on at the mouse-house, try Koenig's book which I found most enjoyable and reasonably well-documented.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Paul@GOL.COM on May 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
The researchers mar their efforts in two ways. First of all, they started with an obvious anti-Disney bias and throughout the book, the reader is forced to endure their efforts to validate their prejudices.
Secondly, as another reviewer has noted, the language is more than slightly problemmatical. Of course, there is nothing wrong with academic writing, but these people never eschewed the chance to use 100 words when 15 would have sufficed. The style is clearly meant to impress; it only clouds the issue. Writing clearly is an art; these reseachers don't have a clue.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
The authors started their project with the agenda of being critical of Disney. They refused to participate in the experience of "The Mouse" before rejecting it. One author was absolutely horrified when she found herself shopping in the park, and immediately returned to her distanced observer position. The authors treat Disney and those who enjoy it, snobbishly. Yet they frequently fall prey to their own criticisms (the most amusing parts of the book). This book was not "entertaining," nor was it "playful". It seeks to ask why Disney is "the quintessential embodiment of American Leisure" yet it spends more time discussing the parks hiring practices than it does asking or answering this question.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Fugate on April 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I happened across this 1995 book at my local library, and I was looking forward to reading some inside scoop. Yikes. I sincerely hope the authors didn't make a lot of money on this mess, because anyone who bought this book was robbed. It is a bizarre combination of dry, snooze-inducing academic prose and a perpetuation of every urban myth ever created about the Disney organization. It is riddled with BS referred to as foaf (friend of a friend) stories by scholars who study urban legends. These myths include grisly on-property deaths that never happened, a totally laughable claim that Disney and the local hospitals are in cahoots to make sure that all park-related deaths are tampered with to declare time of death as happening just after the ambulance leaves Disney property (thereby making sure that no one ever dies at Disney World), and a made-up story about Walt Disney making a series of videos to be played to Disney executives after his death, so that he would still be able to run the company from beyond the grave. Why not throw in a couple of alien abductions while they were at it? Please do not waste your time on this hack job. If you must read it, be sure to look up all of their claims on Snopes. Someone deserved a lawsuit for this book!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By gjross@poynerspruill.com on February 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
I'm a big Disney fan, and found myself vehemently disagreeing with many of the essays in this book (academics just don't "get it"); however, it did force me to think about just why these critics are dead wrong. Most enjoyable to me were the "behind the scenes" interviews with (mostly) former employees and the architectural commentary.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruno on July 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I got this book admittedly hoping to maybe read a little dirt on how Disney isn't what it's cracked up to be all the time. Instead I got page after page of almost pointless pontification by at least one self-described Marxist and a lot of other eggheads trying to use big words to impress readers. Some things just aren't as deep as one would like to make them. You can't analyze everything and break it down the way these authors are attempting to. They just come off sounding idiotic. They're over thinking it. They also managed to work in some unattributed gossip about what goes on (rapes, murders, etc)in a fashion that left the reader wondering what was the author's imagination and what was stories they were relating to the reader from interviewees. So much for academic integrity. If you get someone like me who enjoys Disney but knows the corporation isn't always great to actually work and wants to get the scoop from employees, but who hates this book, imagine what true disneyphiles would think of it. This sort of pretentiousness and isolation from reality is why kids today are exiting college knowing almost nothing worth knowing.
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More About the Author

Shelton Waldrep is an academic, writer, and cultural critic whose major works have often been at the forefront of cultural studies and led the way for other academic and non-scholarly work on several topics. While a graduate student at Duke University he co-authored Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World (part of the series Post-Contemporary Interventions, edited by Fredric Jameson and Stanley Fish), which was an analysis of the Walt Disney World theme park near Orlando, Florida. This publication, and the excerpts of it that appeared in the journal South Atlantic Quarterly, garnered a great deal of attention in The Chronicle of Education and elsewhere and was reviewed widely. The book was reprinted in Great Britain by Rivers Oram Press. While an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Southern Maine he published The Seventies: The Age of Glitter in Popular Culture (Routledge) with legendary editor Bill Germano. Bringing together a number of young academics (Cindy Patton, Anne-Lise Francois, Chris Castiglia, Jennifer Devere Brody) and non-academics (KC of the Sunshine Band, Greil Marcus, Vince Aletti) all writing on the seventies as an undertheorized period (especially in regard to US culture), the volume was mentioned in the New Yorker. Material in the book has been used frequently in courses on aspects of seventies culture (seventies music and film, for example) and has paved the way for other historical and cultural work on the 1970s. Waldrep followed this publication with another edited volume, a special issue of SLI (Studies in the Literary Imagination) on the Victorian period. Entitled Inauthentic Pleasures: Victorian Fakery and the Limitations of Form, it brought together high-profile Victorianists to work on the intersection between the notion of authenticity and simulacra in Victorian culture. Contributors included C.D. Blanton, Natalie M. Houston, Carolyn Lesjak, Jonathan Loesberg, Peter Melville Logan, and Andrew H. Miller. Waldrep's next book, The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie (University of Minnesota Press), discussed Wilde as the type of a late-twentieth century performative paradigm. The first half of the book deals with Wilde and his career, while the second half takes up Wilde's influence on an array of exemplary postmodern figures, including Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, and especially, David Bowie. The work on Bowie has been influential and often cited (in Wikipedia, for example) as serious work on Bowie as an artistic influence has appeared. Waldrep's contributions to the Disney book have continued to grow in influence as well as more and more critics have written on theme parks, especially in regard to architecture and the built environment. Waldrep has now completed a book that is to some extent an outgrowth of this work and is entitled The Dissolution of Place: Architecture, Identity, and the Body (part of the series Ashgate Studies in Architecture). This work takes up issues on the margins of architecture, such as architecture and the temporal (theme parks, Las Vegas, film), architecture and gender/sexuality (Philip Johnson), and architecture and racial identity (Native-American casinos). This book, like all of his others, is marked by interdisciplinarity and an interrogation of the methods and content of cultural studies.

Waldrep has published poetry, criticism, and reviews on a number of other topics in journals and edited collections in the US, UK, and Canada. He was assistant editor for The Cultures of Globalization edited by Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi (Duke) and of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Newsletter for the MLA. He has frequently been interviewed on a variety of subjects and is associated with a generation of public intellectuals who came out of Duke University in the 1990s. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he attended the University of Alabama for his undergraduate and first graduate degree, an MFA in creative writing. He continued his education at Duke University where he studied with Fredric Jameson and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and earned his MA and PhD. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Southern Maine.

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Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, The Project on Disney
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