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Dan Jones: Indian history interpreted through Disney's fantasy

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: dan jones

"I first went to work at Disney in Imagineering. The Disney America project was to be a giant theme park in Virginia located near the old Manassas battlefield. The new theme park was to tell American History as only Disney could. We hardly got started before an outcry began from scholars, historians and academics. They argued that Disney, given its history with American and world history, had no damn business in the American history business!

This project started in the early 1990s and was canceled in 1994. At first, we were free to use any research or source and as many books by as many authors on American Indian history as we wanted. We could bring in consultants, so we started with Indians like Scott Momaday (Kiowa); Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek); and many others. Michael Cywink (Anishinabe) and Dr. John Pohl, were on staff. Dr Pohl is one of the leading authorities on Mesoamerican culture. When we had finished the storyboards to show the concepts we were working on, we brought in Michael Haney (Muscogee Creek) of the American Indian Movement for his opinion, we wanted this to be something special, something all American Indians would be proud of.

Even though the critics had never seen our designs, our historically correct works were cast into the lot with the rest and shut down. Our project was caught in Disney’s well deserved reputation as a purveyor of culturally inadequate and historically misaligned interpretations."

Get the Story:
Dan Jones: Disney: Fantasy American History (Indian Country Today 11/26)

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