“That moment really encapsulates what you would never do nowadays”
March 9, 2021 4:24 PM   Subscribe

'So inappropriate': This Calif. man is calling out some of Disney's politically incorrect videos
Like many Disney fans who have an emotional attachment to his work, Jack Plotnick also acknowledges the questionable parts of the man’s history. The difference is, he’s doing something about it, in a way that both makes him feel connected to Disneyland during its closure and moves the needle on attitudes towards some of those often-overlooked problems. He’s editing himself into old Disney videos from the 1960s and adding commentary, akin to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, providing a progressive perspective to footage that could easily be canceled into the “we can’t do that anymore” annals of history.
He does everything himself, from costuming to makeup to filming. Plotnick then cuts in his footage to create scenes that feel as though he’s right there with Walt as Walt describes the new rides in the works at Disneyland, like Pirates of the Caribbean, the first video Plotnick chose to remake.

“I was very intrigued by the video,” he says, in which Walt escorts Julie Reihm, Miss Disneyland Tencennial, through a preview of the ride. Walt treats her like eye candy, and then rewards her in a pandering way for knowing words like “audio-animatronic.”

“She’s sharp,” Walt says when she uses that term. The camera cuts to Plotnick’s character, Imagineer Blaine Gibson.

“For a woman,” he replies, articulating what Disney doesn’t say but clearly implies.
posted by Lexica (21 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Jack’s youtube channel here : https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCrLiisASO_lmXBeKKeyWgKw
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:44 PM on March 9 [6 favorites]

providing a progressive perspective to footage that could easily be canceled into the “we can’t do that anymore” annals of history.

I wish we could cancel this term. Acknowledging racist tropes and removing them from general consumption is not cancelling. It's being responsible for the content that you control.
posted by Splunge at 4:49 PM on March 9 [67 favorites]

"... the things pirates do." Oh my. These are good.
posted by queensissy at 5:26 PM on March 9 [6 favorites]

His subtle expressions are so good. The Disney Made a Plaza Restaurant one is next-level. He low-key draws your attention to the sexist dynamics of the video (the difference in Walt's treatment of the female and male worker) while still making a super funny video with an elaborate dream sequence. I think the article's title is a little clickbaity and doesn't capture the weird whimsy of these edits, there is social commentary present but they're not what I expected.
posted by Emily's Fist at 5:39 PM on March 9 [10 favorites]

I would argue that the way he's doing it isn't exactly akin to MST3K, but the idea of compositing characters directly into a bad movie in order to make fun of that movie could be really funny.

Actually, I suppose this is kind of what Steve Oedekerk did in Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, a movie I remember as being quite funny and one I really, really don't want to revisit to discover how poorly it's aged.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:41 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Kung Pow is likely to be riddled with problematic elements. Accents alone.
posted by LD Feral at 6:18 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

One aspect this take completely ignores is the long tradition of queer camp, of which this is a loud and clear descendant. (See also: Charles Busch, Punchy Players, Ryan Landry, the list goes on.) Grossly satirizing the mores of a (not-so-)"bygone" era, particularly in drag form, has been a thing for generations. As a gay dude of a certain age, I cackled at the well-played tropes of Plotnick's work, but I think it bears stating this lineage out loud. To me, it feels more relevant than any overt editorial comment about "cancellation" or progressive politics per se. Sure, it's sticking a shiv into the old-timey regressive aspects of Disney culture, but it's also just silly.
posted by mykescipark at 6:38 PM on March 9 [29 favorites]

Plotnick did a great job playing the character Xandir P. Whifflebottom in the brilliant animated series Drawn Together.
posted by Umami Dearest at 7:00 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

These are great! Is Julie dressed for horse riding? What did I miss there? Does it have to do with her Miss Tencennial status?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:33 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Oh I see - it’s at the beginning of the haunted ride video. Jockey uniform for tour guides? Ummmm. Did jockeys used to wear skirts?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:39 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Plotnick is a gem. His Evie Harris character is the most reliable trigger for me to end up laughing so hard I get dizzy. Girls Will Be Girls is a modern classic.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:45 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Jockey uniform for tour guides?

Yeah, Walt called her a “Guest Jockey”.
posted by waving at 2:57 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Plotnick's videos are hilarious and very well done - I feel the SFGate reporter Julie Tremaine softpedalled the description of the creative satirical & comedic talent in Plotnick's work. I do agree with Tremaine that adding critical (not necessarily satirical like Plotnick's, could be more educational) commentary to old films with problematic content is a better alternative to just outright cancellation (for example, what if rather than Disney just cancelling the 1946 movie Song of the South after 1986 from theatrical release, and then cancelling it from any distribution worldwide in 2001, Disney released a version with commentary from independent academics and activists criticizing and analyzing its racist content. The current situation is that people can just go watch Song of the South online where it's been uploaded by anonymous users (until Disney's lawyers get it taken down) and there's typically no context or criticism given ).
posted by Bwithh at 3:28 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

These videos are great. In other videos from Jack’s YouTube channel he’s doing acting classes, which were great therapy in how to release and destroy your inner critic. I’ll be watching more of those.
posted by waving at 4:01 AM on March 10

These are great! Is Julie dressed for horse riding? What did I miss there? Does it have to do with her Miss Tencennial status?

I don't know the Disney-specific history of that outfit in particular but it looks like a weird ahistorical US take on an appropriated, cartoonish vaguely Caledonian look with the high collared blouse and tartan skirt.

And I haven't been to Disneyland since about the mid 2000s but even that recently a lot of the women's Castmember uniforms in the are weirdly historical, retro and modest and outright stuffy. In the Main Street area they were like quasi-Victorian or Edwardian 1910s era floor length skirts with blouses or blazers. In the Frontierland areas they were vaguely Pioneer looking. In Fantasyland they were vaguely renaissance or something. I remember a lot of high necked blouses and frock coats and such.

It was/is pretty clear that Walt had some kind of weird retro uniform fetish as well as some deeply fucked up and patriachal ideas about women and what they should wear, and this is clearly visible in a lot of Disney films from Mary Poppins to all of the princesses in the animated films.

As a kid I remember how jarring and out of place this was for California. It would be like 90 F out and blazing California sun and the guests would be wearing shorts and tank tops and then there would be cast members wearing ankle length skirts in what looked like the stuffiest, most plasticky looking polyester while they were working endlessly sweeping litter under that blazing sun.

I do remember knowing some castmembers in my age range growing up and hearing complaints about the dress code from women in particular, how they couldn't get tattoos, piercings or modern-ish haircuts, and how at one point I think in the late 80s or early 90s women were finally allowed to wear pants as a uniform option.

Like it was a known and accepted thing among my peers that Disneyland controlled their personal lives at home away from the park and it was the price you paid to be an employee, since most of the Castmembers were also Disney parks superfans, and because of this fandom Disnyland had a ready made labor pool that was all too willing to accept the incredibly low wages and intense dress code rules to work there.

When I was young I never remember hearing anyone say something like "Oh, I can't get my ears pierced again, get tattoos or dye my hair a fun color because I want to work at Magic Mountain" but I certainly heard people say that kind of thing about Disneyland.

In hindsight this was super weird because a lot of the superfans turned castmembers were often the alternative, artsy, quirky and/or queer theater kids that wanted to work there, and getting hired or even making it to tryouts was a big huge deal because the number and ratio of available applicants versus available jobs at Disneyland was always unduly large compared to almost any other large business in the area.

Based on news, videos and blogs I've seen about Disneyland culture in recent years that still seems to mostly hold true today. When you see street level, front of house castmembers at Disneyland they're almost always younger people who willingly drink a ton of the Disney corporate Kool Aid and take lower than market wages to be there and be part of the "magic" and the show.

This is why it's really rare to see any front line castmembers that are any older than about 25-30 and not mostly conventionally attractive and slim - Disney parks have an oversized labor pool to choose from and a huge part of the criteria for employment is how potential employees look.

If you see front line employees that are over 30-ish they're likely managers, security and the odd lifetimers.

And the people I knew that worked at Disneyland as young adults almost invariably lived either at home with parents or in the cheapest shared houses or apartments they could find where there were way too many people splitting the rent, and castmembers often lived together.
posted by loquacious at 7:41 AM on March 10 [8 favorites]

To me, it feels more relevant than any overt editorial comment about "cancellation" or progressive politics per se. Sure, it's sticking a shiv into the old-timey regressive aspects of Disney culture, but it's also just silly.

You’re doing a much better job selling it - the headline makes it sound like “this California man is shooting fish in a barrel!”
posted by atoxyl at 7:57 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

A little more info about Julie Reihm. She's a Disney Legend!
posted by JanetLand at 9:06 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

When I was young I never remember hearing anyone say something like "Oh, I can't get my ears pierced again, get tattoos or dye my hair a fun color because I want to work at Magic Mountain" but I certainly heard people say that kind of thing about Disneyland.

Then you weren’t listening hard enough, because they definitely had all the same kind of rules and terrible uniforms, and people in Santa Clarita and the surrounding environs also needed jobs.

I wore wool back plants and a button up shirt in the summer, and it gets a lot warmer in Valencia than it does in Anaheim.
posted by sideshow at 9:46 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Thank you Lexica, for now I can see itʻs overtly a post-Randy Rainbow world. Deepest thanks to these art lords for continuing the satire, and for their wonderful misfit heroism.
posted by Droll Lord at 1:20 PM on March 10

Then you weren’t listening hard enough,

Point taken. I also didn't know that many people who lived in that area, but I could compare it to Knott's Berry Farm, and perhaps I should have picked that example.

I'm honestly not trying to gatekeep, and it is not really a contest in the pain and bullshit Olympics. I bet in many ways Magic Mountain was worse for many young workers because of less options and because of how infamously low budget Magic Mountain was and is as a company.

I am familiar with shitty retail and customer service jobs and I was just trying to describe how extra shitty Disneyland could be because it wasn't just corporate but more than a little cultish.

The important part of my comment is about how their labor pool and ability to be picky was or is essentially larger than any other given minimum wage theme park or entertainment industry job because of the cultishness and superfans that would put up with a lot more weird crap just to work there.

Another way to put it is that something I never heard people say about other similar jobs was - paraphrased - "Well, they treat me like shit and I can't get enough hours but I get to work at Disneyland!" and they'd say it with a little too much willing eagerness and enthusiasm like it wasn't shitty labor practices and was just part of their bargain with the devils of Disney Co.

And we're basically talking about vulnerable de facto kids or very young adults between like 16-22 who don't really know how much they were being exploited by these factors.

It's relevant we're talking about a job market where young adults probably didn't need it as much as Santa Clarita, where people had a lot of options to choose from but because they were superfans and into the Disney cult they'd put up with a lot more shit to toe the corporate line, but also the subtext that they believed in the cult so much that it had effects on their mental health if they weren't model citizens because they took it that personally.

And Disney Parks knows this and has known it for decades and has exploited it in a lot of really subtle ways that are living examples of the problems about Disney Co outlined in this post, and the weird as fuck cosplay uniforms they put a lot of cast members in, or that they call their employees "cast members" in the first place.

I remember queer youth getting fired for being queer, LGTBQ or GSM and utterly shattered by having their dreams of working at Disney - however misplaced or cultish they may have been - taken away from them, or BIPOC folks not getting called back and hired at all.

Disneyland in particular seemed to want to hire straight, white and squeeky clean Mormon or religiously inclined kids the most, at least in the era that was relevant to me from the 80s through the 90s.

I know a lot of people that worked at Disneyland that totally burnt out in time periods like hours, days, weeks and months and quit to take any given corporate job at a mall, theater or fast food joint because it was just that much less corporate cult weirdness, bullshit and scrutiny.

Most of the young adults I knew back then that did stints of more than a few years were drinking the Disney Co Kool Aid super hard and it was visibly toxic to me even back then before I even had words for it.

I know that Disney has made some improvements and grown as a workplace and social awareness lately, but for much of this I'm speaking historically and trying to share some local history and experience about the topic at hand about how Disney is deeply problematic.
posted by loquacious at 5:52 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Dude, found this for you.
posted by clavdivs at 7:35 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

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