‘One Day at Disney’ reminds us of the magical monopoly
The Walt Disney Company’s new streaming platform, Disney+, gives the company a new way to distribute original content. While this further contributes to the foothold that the multimedia conglomerate has in controlling what is being produced, “One Day at Disney” aims to craft a different narrative of the company. This documentary series will air over the course of next year with over fifty short-form videos that will each focus on the daily lives of different employees — excuse me, cast members — of the company. To kick off this monumental project, a feature-length documentary was released earlier this week that introduces us to Imagineers, animators, a Disneyland Railroad conductor, an illustrator, an Animal Kingdom veterinarian and even to “Good Morning America” host Robin Robert, all spliced together with an interview with Disney CEO Bob Iger. In setting out to make Disney seem like a close and tight knit company, however, it only ends up reinforcing the sense of the suffocating power they hold over all of us in their modern media kingdom.
It’s easy to dismiss “One Day at Disney” as nothing more than a promotional — borderline propagandist — video for the company. If you were hoping to watch a documentary about how the company has taken over the entertainment industry or how the people inside the character costumes hate their job, that is not what this is about. The producers are obviously going to pick and choose the best stories their company has to offer. But that doesn’t mean there is no value in the video, especially if it’s viewed through the lense of an introduction rather than an hour-long documentary.
Newly released “The Imagineering Story” gives viewers insight into how theme parks and other Disney ventures have been brought to life. Similarly, “One Day at Disney” aims to explain how other aspects of the company operate, and why these people feel like being employed at Disney signals the peak of their various careers. The audience is equally captivated by the Disneyland train conductor as they are by Robin Roberts’ health struggles. Paired together, though, this brings us from the magic of Disneyland to the sounds of New York in a matter of minutes. The constant changing of settings can absolutely be pulled off in stand-alone shorts as there is a clear start and end point. In the feature-film, however, what results is a set of captivating stories that unfortunately lack a cohesive thread that connects them together.
Based on what I’ve seen, I would expect the docuseries to be fascinating and successful. The name itself, “One Day at Disney”, means different things to the different cast members of the company. Does it mean working for ABC, at ESPN, at a theme park, as a veterinarian or an illustrator? Broken down into ten minute shorts, the interviews are informative and paint an extremely personal profile of the people that help make Disney work. These are a series of shorts that can function as a fun little distraction when exploring the content on Disney+. As a feature-length film, however, the “Disney magic” wears off pretty fast.