How to you feel about Disney's use of anthropological research, to drive tourism?


Since I was a pup, I’ve always loved Disney World’s Epcot, especially its “World Showcase.” Since college, where I discovered business anthropology, Disney’s World Showcase has only taken on deeper significance. Heck, Disney grabs eleven different nations by the ear, and crams their cultural heritage into one-half of a single theme park. Sheer commercial arrogance? Perhaps. But hey, at least they have some cool museums. Though sometimes criticized by anthropologists, museums remain tried-and-true educational tools.


Take, for example, Disney’s Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China exhibit (“Tomb Warriors“.) Tomb Warriors showcases Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s burial, which consists of 7000 life-sized clay warriors, charged to escort Emperor Huang through the afterlife. Check it out for free at,


My question for OAC is, "how do you feel about Disney's use of archaeological and anthropological research, to drive tourism?" Of course, any other comments are welcome, too! Even short and silly ones.


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How do I "feel" about it? Largely indifferent. I grew up with Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens and the Yorktown Battlefield Monument practically in my back yard. I read Eco on hyperrealism and Baudrillard on simulacra a long, long time ago. So what's new?

More importantly,I've come round to the view that asking people how they feel is good for therapy and bar conversation. Not so much for anthropological theorizing, since the question takes our eye off the ball. Why is Disney doing this? How does the public respond? What. If anything, does this tell us about American culture in this the twenty-first century? Those are interesting questions. How I feel about it? Except in a reflexive, how could this be biasing my views sort of way, not very interesting at all.

Allow me to recommend a marvelous book, even though it's by a sociologist, Vinyl Leaves, by Stephen Fjellman. Best thing I've ever read on Disney.
I see a lot of confusion here.

1. First, you are approaching a Chinese "religious" artifact with preconceptions from Judaeo-Christianity.
2. Chinese temples and curio stores are filled with these kinds of images, which are sometimes "worshipped" but also treated as, depending on the situation, art or tourist knicknacks. Only an infinitesimal fraction are protected as cultural treasures.
3. Statues per se are not particularly sacred until the ceremony that "opens the eyes" and invites the deity to inhabit them is performed. Even then, how they are treated depends on how efficacious the god, in this particular manifestation, appears to be.
4.The basic attitude of Chinese popular religion, of which popular Buddhism is only one flavor (think syncretic stir fry), is highly pragmatic. Why does one worship gods? In hope of wealth, long life and many descendants–also because it is prudent to stay on the good side of powerful beings that may turn demonic if they feel ignored or you do something to annoy them. Like other powerful personages, they may be noble, helpful, benevolent...or not.

Rethink your notion of religion starting from the premise that the gods are like city hall instead of the One God Almighty who demands holy awe and total commitment. What are your conclusions then?

I can't help but be reminded of a short trip we had when I was an undergrad to Sarawak's Cultural Village where they mixed and matched several ethnic groups including the Penan. I do agree that they serve as a good educational tool and not to mention quite fun if you're a kid, this also reminds me that I had a professor who said that he was inspired by The Golden Bough and that was what propelled him towards anthropology. In one sense sure, we 'exoticize' the other (and perhaps eroticize it too! ala The Sleeping Dictionary!) but once we get into the thick of the discussion and the corpus of knowledge that has been compiled in anthropology and sociology surely our opinions change at some point. Looking at the pics now I wanna go to Disney!

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