Q: What is the definition of "sucker"?
A: Me, in 1978, watching the opening credits of The Wonderful World of Disney.
Like every parent in history, I sometimes wonder: Will my children become emotionally stunted; having pretty much everything they want, whenever they want it? Perhaps. But they will never have to endure anything as heartbreaking as Disney's weekly proof that there is one born every minute.
As I remember, WWoD was sandwiched between Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (nothing says 'exotic fauna' like 'Omaha'), and The Beachcombers.
Those Disney guys were master puppeteers, and they knew how to hook kids with gorgeous imagery. Peter Pan? Herbie? Lady and the Tramp? Holy moly! This is going to rock! No pie for me, Grandma. I'll be in the living room!
Except, they never, ever... aired the good stuff. Jungle Book? Nope. Fantasia? Negatory. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? More like 20,000 Frames of Wasted TV. Up until The Phantom Menace, WWoD was THE greatest source of unfulfilled hype in the history of media.
And I fell for it. Every. Single. Week.
Much like The Six Million Dollar Man, WWoD's opening was 500 times better than the show itself. Tinkerbell would wave her magic wand, and you'd glimpse technicolor marvels that were never once delivered. To make it worse, anyone in the room older than 25 would wistfully reminisce about seeing Cinderella at the Bijou for five cents (throw in a popcorn, and it was free!)
Then, once millions of North American tots were properly stoked, Tink would shoo it all away, and you'd get... a sixty minute documentary on goose migration. Thanks, Walt. That whole Donald Duck thing looked kind of distracting anyway.
Now, to be perfectly fair, there's three things I should clarify.
- Bippidy... Walt Disney was long dead—or frozen, if that's your bag—and certainly had no control over TV programming in 1978.
- Boppidy... If you used your brain, it was obvious that no animated feature could be aired during a one hour slot.
- Boo... Even a five-year-old should catch on to a bait-and-switch after the 176th duck-tease. Still, it was like being taken on a tour of Willy Wonka's factory and being served raw turnips in the commissary.
You know why?
Because in all the photos I've ever seen of him, Walt Disney has struck me as a meany. Like Monty Hall and Uncle Bobby, Walt Disney never looked all that likable, no matter how much he smiled. And even if you dismiss that whole anti-semite rumour, Disney apparently had no problem throwing some of his Hollywood buds under the career-ending bus that was HUAC .
So Walt, wherever you are, I hope that you're adrift on the sea of children's tears you created; floating on a pallet of pirated Snow White Blu-Rays.
If it makes you feel any better, my daughter loves every single thing you've ever created.