Cartoon Buff: Wanna See Pohocantas Nekkid?
Harlan Ellison said it best: At Disney, nobody fucks with the Mouse. The Happiest Multinational Conglomerate on Earth has long been legendary for the ferocity with which it defends its trademarks. There was the 1989 case in Florida in which Disney forced three daycare centers to remove murals featuring Disney characters from their walls; Hanna-Barbera and Universal Studios, seeing a public-relations opportunity, immediately gave the centers permission to replace them with murals featuring Scooby-Doo, the Jetsons and Yogi Bear. Then there was an obscure case in Florida (which seems to be a hotbed of trademark infringing) involving a man with Mickey Mouse tattooed on his ass.But Disney's hard-ass attitude hasn't stopped legions of dedicated fans from daring its corporate wrath and putting up unofficial Disney Web pages, albeit nervously. Disclaimers abound on virtually every Disney fan page; one 14-year-old girl posted a "letter" she claimed the Disney legal department sent her, which said, among other things: "Upon further perusing your Web page, we also noticed that you have pets named Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Snow White, Dopey, Doc [and] Prince Charming. We must insist that you re-name your pets as all of these names are registered trademarks of the Walt Disney Co. . . . If you do not cease your activities, we will be forced to take legal action. We will most certainly demand a cash settlement. We will also be suing for custody of your pets, who will be stuffed and sold as souvenirs."Most of the fan pages are simply put up by people who love the films, the theme parks or the cartoons. But there are bizarre sites like Disney Nasties (www.ccnet.com/~dpedley/ disney.html) and Ryland's Porno Disney Pictures (www.io.com/~ryland/disney) devoted to pornographic pictures of Disney's animated heroines. (Alas, Disney Nasties was recently savaged by a group of Midwestern bluenoses called Oklahomans for Children and Families, but Ryland is holding firm against their attacks. Besides, given the anarchic nature of the Net, the Okies are fighting a monsoon with a bucket here.) If you've ever wanted to know what Pocahontas looks like in the buff, or what Aladdin and Jasmine could have done on that flying carpet with a little imagination, this is the site for you. And while the drawings are most definitely pornographic-of the softcore, late-night Cinemax variety-they're still done in the classic Disney style of crisp lines and vivid colors. It's sort of sweetly innocent in a dirty-old-man kind of way.In addition to pictures, a number of would-be fiction writers have tried their hands at producing Disney porn. (I can hear the plaintive cry: "But why would Jasmine want to do that with Abu, Mommy?") Then there's a couple of newsgroups -- alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.disney and alt.sex.disney -- which unfortunately have been all but taken over by junk e-mail advertising 900-number services. The folks at Disney refused to comment on this mass of aspiring online Hefners.Perhaps it's a measure of Disney's firm grip on our cultural imagination that looking at these images and reading these stories is fairly squirm-inducing, even for a professional iconoclast like me. It seems just horribly wrong, producing a free-floating anxiety that's hard to put your finger on. But it's also a good thing because it can be seen as a declaration of ownership, a way of appropriating for ourselves the cultural icons that Disney tries so hard to keep a stranglehold on.If our fragmented society can be said to have a common mythology -- a set of images and moral teachings that constitute our cultural unconscious -- it comes from Disney. Its careful marketing of its movies and other products is designed to create a sense of need, a desire for an experience we know we can share with millions of others. Disney movies aren't just entertainment anymore; they're events. Disney labels them as "classics" and "masterpieces" before they even hit the theaters. Right now, Disney is running an endless series of commercials plugging its video release of Bambi. In them, children and grizzled adults alike speak nostalgically of their memories of seeing the film; their wistful manner is calculated to invoke feelings of belonging to a shared cultural experience, a set of visual images and moral lessons we can all relate to. The ads even made me feel a bit warm and fuzzy, and I've never seen the damn movie.And what are those cultural icons, those values Disney has drilled into us? They're simplistic, of course, and so designed to appeal to a mass market that they've been virtually blanded out of existence. Selflessness always wins. Someday your prince will come. Lying is evil. Everyone who gets married lives happily ever after. Powerful women wear too much purple eye shadow. And always chew your poisoned apples 100 times.It's not exactly a comprehensive mythos, one that can meet all our shared cultural needs, but it's certainly inescapable. Catholic Church leaders are supposed to have said at one time, "Give us your children until they are 10, and they are ours forever." That's equally true of Disney -- if not more. And, like the church, Disney is determined to keep the doctrine pure by controlling its distribution. Traditionally, the only way for Catholics to reach God is through intermediaries -- the priests. Likewise, Disney wants to make sure that no one can get to Bambi without going through them.But Disney has created a paradox. It's made billions and billions of dollars (as Carl Sagan might have said) by creating a cultural mythology that people want to be a part of. But it's virtually impossible to do that without also creating a sense of ownership for the set of images and messages that creates our cultural gestalt.So, in a way, the fans braving Disney's wrath are simply asserting their right to own a piece of our shared experience. They're Protestants to Disney's papacy -- refusing to go through the approved channels and instead communing directly with our collective unconscious. They're announcing that Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and the others are no longer the property of the corporation that foisted them on us -- they belong to us all.And the online pornmeisters are, in a way, the Larry Flynts of Disney's hothouse society -- striking at our cultural myths by pointing out the needs they don't meet. Like Flynt's habit of pasting politicians' and other celebrities' heads on porn stars' bodies, seeing Jasmine's tits forces us to re-evaluate the beliefs and calculated emotional reactions that have been drummed into us since birth.Ellison, the country's most determined iconoclast, ran up against the Mouse in the late '60s; the corporation was not amused by his lunchroom suggestion that Disney produce an animated porn flick. He was fired after working for Disney for a total of four hours. It's nice to see that others carry on the struggle to reclaim our mythology for our own purposes.Viva la revolution!