So I took a vacation. Packed up the wife and kids and mother in law in the family truckster and drove everybody to Wally World, represented in this case by Walt Disney World.
It was suitably great, relaxing and tiring and fun and magical.
I expected all that though, the walking and the lines and the rampant consumerism, the heartstopping awesomeness of seeing your kid's faces as they see something with their child's eyes that you could never hope to see with your cynical and jaded adult's. They still believe in magic; they don't care about tired feet and diminishing savings accounts, they think a pencil with Donald Duck on it is totally worth five dollars, and look hurt and confused when you can't see it too. It was incredible.
I have never been to Disney before. It was promised me a couple of times and never seemed to materialize. I thought that my chance to experience it as a child was lost forever, and it was, in a very real sense, but I never knew that you get to re-experience things through your kids. It was magic. Safe, sanitized, focus grouped, and polished magic.
We walked into the Magic Kingdom, and I swear to you, I welled up. I was overwhelmed and awe stricken with the pure honor and privilege it was to be able to provide this experience for my kids, for us together, a family of four, a mom and a dad and a brother and a brother.
My wife worked so hard to make it happen; she set it up, packed our stuff, saved our money, she worked and put cash in envelopes and remembered to pack our toothbrushes and made snacks for the ride, all of it selflessly and quietly done so it seemed to us like magic, that things were just already done, the rooms booked, the tickets bought, all of it happened to me like a gift, which is what it was, I suppose, her whole life as a giver, making all of our lives easier and events happening smoother. The woman is a gift herself, a blessing for me and my children. Magic, I tell you.
I met Chewbacca, and that is my life complete.
What I didn't expect was to walk away inspired. You expect the fun and the laughter, the wonder, the sore feet, the impatience.
I don't know what Walt Disney would think of what his park has become, the avarice so readily evident in the gift shops and food courts and aggressive marketing campaigns, the corporate monstrosity that his company has become, I really don't. What I loved was the old kitschy attractions, where you can hear the servos whining, and the animatronic parts clacking together, the half-creepy robot people in the Carousel of Progress. It was there that if you looked carefully you could see the vision that the man had for the future, the belief that things were getting better, that technology will solve problems. It came across as an egalitarian vision, that all of mankind would benefit from the new and wondrous future.
I want to live in that future.
I know there is a lot of propaganda there too; you cannot create and manage a company as large and unwieldy as Disney without being a complete hardass. I got the same feeling when I toured the Ford plant, this hero worship, this attempt to whitewash the man as a benevolent visionary, rather than a driven and unforgiving taskmaster. And that's okay too, I suppose. Both men are long dead, and both have created a lasting legacy for better and sometimes certainly for worse. It's okay to sanctify them some, make them something that they couldn't possibly have been. You get a pass some after you die, right? Even a complete and utter shithead gets a passing "oh he wasn't all THAT bad was he," as he goes into the ground, right?
I don't know.
I did learn some things, whether it was there or whether it came from me.
One of the themes of Antiartists is that art is not the object, the painting or song or statue or whatever, but the experience you get when you see it, when you hear it. The art is what you take with you when you leave, what stays with you as you live.
Here are the lessons I took away:
1. Commit. Disney said in an interview that he mortgaged his company, his house, and his own finances to get Snow White made. There were several times that if things went differently it would have ruined him completely. Do you trust your product the same way, to go all in, to risk everything that you have built to get it done?
2. Persevere. He got crushed several times, wiped out completely, but he built it all again, kept moving forward, kept believing. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was his first commercial success, and because of some legal loophole, he lost all the rights to it. Fucked over by the lawyers and robbed by the contract holders, he then went on to draw and animate Mickey Mouse. If you got screwed like that, would you still create, or would you turn inside, bitter and angry?
3. Quality Will Out. Make good stuff first and foremost. It doesn't matter if you get people in the door, if they want to immediately turn around and leave. If you build it well, they will come in, and they will stay, and when they leave, they will tell their friends to go, and they will themselves return. There is no marketing scheme that can overcome trash content. Even pop garbage music has a good beat that you can dance to. Make the best product that you can. period.
4. Work your ass off. Disney literally worked himself into a "significant breakdown." He drove himself a bit crazy working, expected his animators and staff to do the same. The guy was driven. He kept pushing kept moving forward, kept sacrificing, kept thinking big. For those of us who work full time and have a family its damn hard to want to sit down and work some more for little to no reward. Do it anyway. Drive. Sacrifice. Work hard.
4. Don't listen to people that want to tell you that you cant. Disney spoke about when came home and told his father, a Missouri farmer, that he wanted to be an artist. He gives a long pause before he says, "... he was... less than receptive." Imagine that conversation. People love to tell you what you can't do, what isn't practical, what isn't realistic. Don't listen to them.
6. Dream big. Listen. It's all well and good to set modest goals, to manage your expectations, I understand that. But I want more than that. I want the breakout, I want the movie people to come knocking on my door, I want to be interviewed by Steven Colbert, to be on the panels, to get paid to speak about my stuff at conferences, I want to win awards and to sell a bazillion copies of my books. I want all of that. I dream big, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Look, I don't care about the reality of the man, OK? I'm not going to do any research and find out that he was an anti-Semite, or ate his boogers, or liked to kick puppies in his spare time. I am not going to do this because the point of this entire rambling piece here is that is DOESN'T MATTER. I took my boys to Disney World and they really loved it. They loved Jedi Training, they loved meeting Mr and Mrs Incredible and Chewbacca and they loved the gift shops and the rides and the shows. It was magic. I came away inspired and ready to kick some creative and writing career ass. I'm probably not brave enough to mortgage the house for it; I will still keep my day job, but I will believe in myself and my ability, I will continue to dream big and to move forward.
Thank you Dedra and Jim Clark. You are generous and kind and just all around lovely.
Really. More than I can put into words. Much of our experience, our magic memories, can be directly attributed to you.
Thank you Sheri. For working so hard, for being my gift, for putting up with, and encouraging, my dreaming. You are my best friend.
Thanks to all who read this. Like my Antiartists page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @RDPullins, look out for a cover reveal in a week or two. My publisher, Pen Name Publishing, is comprised of awesome, passionate people. Go to the website, check ME out, obviously, but also look at our other authors and their projects. Cool stuff. Peace.