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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 32-41

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Does Art Education Dream of Disneyland?



What image can we present when challenged to illustrate art education in the form of a scheme? The word "illustration" literally means to build understanding through an explanatory diagram. In art education or anything [End Page 32] else, the use of a visual image to understand a certain system can be interpreted as a question of human sensitivity and recognition. Translating minute nuances or peculiarities of information into a vibrant image is, however, a confusing and difficult exercise. In this essay, I attempt to portray those elements crucial to the teaching and learning process of art education using Disneyland as a structural as well as a functional metaphor.

The Happiest Place on Earth?

Disneyland is depicted as "a dream world" and "the happiest place on earth." As described in various incisive essays, Disneyland is a symbol of modern American culture, an ultimate form of the consumer society or the hegemony of entertainment. 1 To start with, the structural elements of this epitome of Walt Disney's vision are outlined.

Walt Disney created Main Street USA (the World Bazaar) to make all visitors feel as if they are the leading character in a Disney film, walking through the main street of life. He attempted to remove the ugliness of everyday life from his dream space by eradicating the back streets of the real world. The design of the buildings along Main Street originates from Walt Disney's hometown. The sense of distance within the Disney complex is enhanced by using a smaller scale for the upper stories of buildings and a progressively narrowing street.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle (or Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland) lies beyond Main Street and is modeled on Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen,South Bayern, Germany. The road leading to the castle ascends slightly which amplifies the anticipation factor for visitors. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is the centerpiece of Disneyland and functions as the hub to guide visitors to various lands. Several attractive spaces radiate from this hub, forming a total of six areas.

On the extension line from the Entrance via Sleeping Beauty's Castle lies Fantasyland where Walt Disney has reproduced the world of animation based on European legends and fables. Toontown lies beyond Fantasyland. This is a world of familiar characters, such as Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. Traveling clockwise, Tomorrowland is next where all kinds of imaginary worlds await visitors. Adventureland, on the opposite side of Main Street, offers worlds of different cultures and spaces for adventure. Beyond Adventureland lies Westernland, designed to invite visitors to return to the Wild West.

It is possible to form a hypothesis that there are three axes connecting the six lands. Those axes run through Sleeping Beauty's Castle that acts as the hub and two opposing areas on the same axis with the Castle being the point of symmetry.

The first axis could be the axis of "reality." If Main Street is considered to be the "crawling approachway" from the everyday sphere to dreamland,Fantasyland, offering playful space of extraordinary imagination, is set [End Page 33] against the ordinary space for everyday life. The second axis is the axis of "relationship" which connects individual persons to society. Toontown presents a world of fraternity and is a place where people bonded by kinship or friendship can trust each other and feel at ease. Frontierland, located on the opposite side of this axis creates a solitary space where people leave family and friends for the adventure of traveling to unknown lands. The third and final axis is that of "time" from the past to the future. Tomorrowland is a future world based on fantasy and imagination where prophecies becomereality. On the opposite side of this axis lies Westernland embodying the history and traditions of the American past.

It is possible to regard each area of Disneyland, structured by these different worlds, as a metaphor to reflect the basic content and structure of art education in the context of the general curriculum. In fact...


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