Bob Iger, then the CEO of Walt Disney Company, received an email from Abigail E. Disney. Abigail was the granddaughter and great-grandniece Walt Disney. Abigail was upset by the fact that Iger had earned $66 million in the previous year, while Disneyland employees were living below the poverty line. Iger responded that he understood her concern, but that it was the government’s fault, and referred Abigail to the human resource department which protected its treatment of Disney employees.
Recenty, she also sent Bob Chapek (Iger’s successor) an additional email. “Dear Bob,”It was as follows: “You didn’t seem to understand my email, so I made this movie.”
“This movie”Is “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,”The film premiered at the virtual 2022 Sundance Film Festival on Monday. And if it seems strange to have a documentary about problems with the Walt Disney Company and with income disparity in America directed by a woman with the last name Disney, don’t worry: It seems strange to Abigail Disney, too. The filmmaker takes issue with her famous family’s company in “The American Dream,”Her voiceover reminds us, in no uncertain terms, that she has the resources to make critical films about Disney. It isA Disney.
It’s a self-conscious film, to be sure, driven by a combination of passion And guilt. It’s also a scattershot one that could have viewers wondering if it’s a film about the Walt Disney Company or a film about American capitalism. The answer, of course, is that it’s a film about the Walt Disney Company and it’s a film about American capitalism, because it finds the same things wrong with both of those entities.
But at first, “The American Dream”The film is centered entirely on Disney and its first amusement park, Disneyland. Before Abigail Disney even introduces herself, she brings in a woman who worked at Disneyland for 45 years, and the first half hour of the film is devoted to a number of park workers: A couple who both work there but live with her mother because they can’t afford a house or apartment, others who need to work two jobs but still can’t make ends meet, many who are forced to frequent food banks set up specifically for Disney employees.
In Anaheim, Orange County, the council gives Disney massive breaks. This includes building a huge parking structure, renting it to Disney for $1 a year, and Disney taking 100% of the revenues. The company still pays $15 an hour for park workers, despite MIT research showing that Anaheim’s average living wage is over $24.
“The Disney Company is ground zero of the widening disparity in America,”The film claims that it is a study of one company, but it does not seem to say much. As Abigail Disney displays her public crusade against excessive CEO pay and income inequality it slowly expands beyond Disney while still keeping the company as an indicator of what is wrong in American business.
Using archival footage, interviews and vaguely Terry Gilliam-esque animation, she paints America (and Disneyland) as a place where a worker could make a modest living in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, before corporate decisions were driven by Wall Street. One interview subject points out the Harvard Business School motto used to be “Making a decent profit decently,”This seems so sunny and naive in 2022.
The film explores systemic racism, trickle down economics, and dog-whistle politics. It also discusses the COVID era worker cutsbacks and record profits. Abigail summarizes what stock-driven is. “greed is good,”Rampant-disparity philosophy is best described succinctly, vividly and in one sentence: “I think of it as the assholification of America.”
These points are as potent as any other point in her book. “The American Dream” veers all over the map and at times feels as if it’s losing focus by including so much. However, the film keeps returning to Disney as a case of corporate heartlessness. This allows Abigail, who is not employed by the company, to reflect more deeply. “unfair and libelous”) but who admits, “everything I have in my life came from inheriting Disney stock.”
This is how you make it possible “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales”Abigail is a classic example in the old way of eating what you feed. But she tries to make it a strength and not a problem.
“The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales”The 2022 Sundance Film Festival will host its world premiere.