The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

Saturday, May 25th, 2002


Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World

by Carl Hiaasen

A review by Chris Bolton

I despise corporations. All of them. And despite a rare humanistic turn in granting health benefits to the companions of gay employees, the Walt Disney corporation is among the most soulless of them all. At least Enron didn't try to get at its victims' wallets through their children.

Carl Hiaasen, the acclaimed author of such comic thrillers as Strip Tease, Lucky You, and Basket Case, hits Disney where it hurts in Team Rodent, a collection of essays in which Hiaasen eviscerates the suckhole of commerce and tourism known as Walt Disney World. A lifelong Florida resident, he calls Disney World "the rape of Orlando" and bemoans the subsequent urban sprawl. But he has larger concerns about this ever-expanding empire:

Every youngster who loves a Disney theme park...represents a potential lifetime consumer of all things Disney, from stuffed animals to sitcoms, from Broadway musicals to three-bedroom tract homes. With this strategy Disney will someday tap into the fortunes of every person on the planet, as it now does to every American whether we know it or not.

A laundry list of Disney's holdings reveals that Hiaasen isn't simply suffering from acute paranoia. The corporation has its paws in every facet of American culture and business; you can't turn on a TV, walk into a restaurant, go to a movie theater, read a book, switch on your computer, or buy a CD without encountering Team Rodent.

How insidious is the Mouse? Hiaasen provides harrowing anecdotes of Disney's corruption and publicity disasters in Florida, from a fatal car chase involving Disney security to an escaped lioness, as well as its sanitizing of Times Square, attempted rape of American history in Virginia, and even the exploitation of a small Bahamian island. He also presents the occasional glimmer of hope; despite its astonishing size, wealth, and influence, the Disney Fortress is not impregnable. The company's planned America Project was rejected by Virginians, for instance, suggesting there are some communities that will not roll over and allow the Mouse to molest them with those puffy white gloves for the sake of the Almighty Dollar.

As summer looms and families plot their vacation destinations, Team Rodent serves as a timely warning to canny parents. The book is fascinating and darkly hilarious. Hiaasen chronicles Disney World's foibles with equal parts malicious glee and wincing lament. My sole complaint is that it's a tad too short; I could have devoured twice as many essays without feeling even half full. I had to pace myself toward the end, lest I finish too quickly. To stall for time, I indulged in violent fantasies of joining Carl Hiaasen and a handful of others in a midnight raid on the Magic Kingdom. Ah, the delicious smell of all that burning money...

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