I love Disney. I’ve been pretty outspoken about this. I love the parks, I love the movies, I love their pirates, I love – yes – their princesses (especially Emilia’s interpretations of them, because, really, wouldn’t Snow White been more awesome – and had a better run through the dark woods – if she’d worn skate shoes?) I love that whole wishing on a star thing. I love the animated short, Destino, that Walt Disney created with Salvador Dali. I love Maleficent, and all the glorious female villains of the Disney canon. I also love Pixar, and Marvel Comics, and the Muppets, and Modern Family, and Lost – none of which come immediately to mind when you think ‘Disney’, but all of which are part of the Disney storytelling matrix.
I loved Disney when I was a child, of course; the Disney Sunday night movie was mainstay of my upbringing, and I knew all the words to the theme song of the Mickey Mouse Club off by heart. But as I grew older I grew away from the Disney stories of my childhood and developed other cultural interests. Music. Boys. Postmodern feminist theory. These things left little room for princesses and pirates and Mad Hatters’ tea parties.
Once I became a mother, of course, things changed. You know the story: you watch your child fall in love with Buzz Lightyear and Nemo and Belle and you fall in love a little bit yourself. You visit the parks and are enchanted by Cinderella’s castle, you take a dozen rides on Pirates Of The Caribbean and rediscover your love for swashbuckling, you realize that it really is difficult to distinguish between Johnny Depp and Captain Jack and so you might as well give in and crush on them both. Etc, etc. You know the story.
That story, however, is not the full story of how and why I fell back in love with Disney. It’s part of it – I might not have been as ready to fall back in love if I hadn’t been sucked in a little by repeat viewings of Mulan with my daughter – but not all of it. The full story is that it was the stories that pulled me back in – and not just the stories themselves, but the spirit of story and story-telling that animates (no pun intended) pretty much everything that Disney does. Disney is all about telling stories. The movies tell stories, obviously. The parks tell stories – the individual rides tell stories. The Imagineers that innovate for Disney are telling stories. It’s an entire universe built upon the principle of empowering imagination.
And now Disney – who, as you may have heard, has acquired Babble – is doing something that I think is really kind of awesomely radical: they’re embracing Babble, and Babble’s culture of parent-facing storytelling. They’re embracing Babble’s mission of pushing forward honest, authentic stories driven by and told by parents, about parenthood and about the vast and diverse range of things that parents are interested in and making it part of their own narrative mission. Which is maybe not so radical, from a certain perspective – Disney, as I said above, has, after all, given us Modern Family – but from the conventional point of view that holds Disney as the ultimate source and driver of child-centric stories and storytelling, it’s kind of wild. Because in embracing Babble Disney is taking a stand in support of the idea that the most interesting stories about the family – and the most interesting discussions about any and all things related to family – are grown-up stories. They’re stories by and for and about parents; they’re stories by and for and about the women and men who are parents, and who are fascinated by and driven to tell and share stories – true stories, honest stories, funny stories, scary stories, smart stories – about life after parenthood. Disney is saying that these stories matter, and that they want to empower the tellers of those stories to tell more of those stories, in louder voices, and to larger audiences. They want to be an engine for expanding that storytelling universe, for making those stories as much a part of the cultural discourse as the stories about princesses and pirates and talking mice.
That’s exciting. That’s huge. I’m kind of awed that I’m a part of that, because I think that this is an important cultural moment. This is a moment of recognition – recognition that our stories, all the tales and fables and confessions that we’ve been sharing around kitchen tables and on front porches and in the occasional memoir and (of course) on blogs, are a critically important and profoundly rich contribution to North American culture. We knew this already, of course. But now the biggest storytelling company in the world is loudly and actively proclaiming that they know it, and that they want the world to know it.
And I am so, so proud. Both as Babble’s Director of Community, and as a mom blogger. SO PROUD.
Also I’m hoping that they will introduce me to Johnny Depp, but that’s another story.
(Read more about it at the Babble Bugle, where Rufus and Alisa, co-founders give their side of the story, and Brooke Chaffin of Disney shares the Disney side.)