Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chicanonautica: Report From Disney Barrio

I have a strange relationship with Disney. My parents took me to the grand opening of Disneyland while I was still in the womb. During the Great Depression, Walt offered my grandfather a job that Grandpa turned down because it didn’t pay enough to support his family. I fell in love with cartooning early, but Mad Magazine, CARtoons, and underground comix put me on a different path.

So I wasn’t surprised when Disney announced that it wanted to trademark Día de los Muertos and that Latinos reacted like rebellious cartoonists. Mexican cartoonist Palo Jasso had his character El Certoado suggest that Latinos fight back by pirating the image of Mickey. Simultaneously, Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the comic strip La Cucaracha drew a giant skeletal Mickey monster attacking a city like Godzilla. And a wonderful image of Mickey as an Aztec sacrifice appeared on Facebook.

I dutifully reposted. After all, I was in on this too. My novel Smoking Mirror Blues takes place during a futuristic Día de los Muertos. Would my publicizing it be a violation of the trademark?

It was fun. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. Disney keeps buying up the culture of the world. People keep forgetting that Snow White was German and Cinderella was French. Popular culture keeps getting appropriated by corporate culture. There seems to be no stopping it.

Then, within twenty-four hours of the news breaking, Disney announced that it was withdrawing the request and changing the title of the proposed Día de los Muertos movie. Apparently the social media ruckus was the reason.

By the sacred blood from Quetzalcoatl’s penis, it worked!

The reason seems to be that in this here 21st century we're living in a different world. I remember back when “popular” culture was more like folk culture, coming from places other than New York and Hollywood. The communications technology revolution has changed that. Corporate culture is lusting after global markets these days. This means looking beyond traditional borders.

Which is funny, because at the same time people want their borders reenforced, even militarized.  This is because once you cross your own border you become a minority and an alien. And that is scary.

With their Día de los Muertos project, Disney was reaching out to Latinos. It like the Republicans reaching out to us while wanting to seal the borders: “Let’s see -- you want sealed borders, but hold the police state?”

Good luck, amigos.

Meanwhile, it's the Latino Hemisphere vs. Disney Barrio. Can funky folk culture survive? Can we show them how?

We can try. And every now and then, the magic works.

Ernest Hogan is a cartoonist disguised a writer. His novels and stories are surrealistic and cartoony.

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