“The Traveling Loner Who Helps Locals Fight off Bad Guys”

(p. A9) The Mandalorian is an inscrutable masked mercenary who wears a blaster on his hip, rides speeder bikes and giant lizards across desert landscapes, and has a bit of mysterious theme music, like the trill that once announced Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name” gunslinger on screen. All this helped endear the spacefarer to viewers who grew up with a lot of characters from the same template.

“I enjoy the hell out of it,” says 72-year-old Dennis Burdick of Las Vegas, who has deep-seated memories of watching shows like “Have Gun Will Travel” during the peak of the genre, when 31 prime-time Westerns aired in the 1958-’59 TV season alone. “They weren’t really great guys, they were just great with their guns. Same with the Mandalorian. He’s not looking to save anybody, but he’s there, and he can and he will,” Mr. Burdick adds.

Among TV tropes, the traveling loner who helps locals fight off bad guys has been a sturdy one.

. . .

Finally: Baby Yoda. That, of course, is the nickname the internet immediately bestowed on the breakout star of “The Mandalorian” after it appeared in the first episode’s final moments. The Child, as characters in the show refer to it, is a half-century-old toddler because of the slow aging process of its species. The bounty hunter was initially paid to capture or kill it, but something beneath his chest armor melted at the sight of the wrinkly green creature in a floating baby pram. Mando broke the code of his profession and became Baby Yoda’s protector.

For the full review, see:

John Jurgensen. “Old-School TV Tactics Propel ‘The Mandalorian’.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, December 26, 2019): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 25, 2019, and has the title “The Old-School TV Tactics That Make ‘The Mandalorian’ Tick.” The last sentence quoted above appears as in the print version, and not as in the slightly longer online version, of the article.)

“The Churning, Extravagant, Perfectionist Imagination of” Walt Disney

(p. A15) As understatements go, this one’s a doozy. Its source was Roy Disney, the less heralded, less handsome and—as gleaned from Richard Snow’s richly engaging “Disney’s Land”—less headstrong brother of Walt Disney. Since 1923, Roy had been the business brains of the Disney company was no stranger to his kid brother’s “screwy ideas.” But when he was informed after the war that his sibling had been, over his objections, slyly seeking funds to develop his own amusement park, Roy’s response was: “Junior’s got his hand in the cookie jar again.”

. . .

. . . when Roy first happened upon his brother’s maneuvering, amusement parks were passé at best, crime-ridden at worst and financial sinkholes at their core. Walt, having hired the Stanford Research Institute for a feasibility study, was told that he would fail if his park didn’t include such proven winners as a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and games of chance—none of which Walt wanted cluttering his dreamscape.

Joining the chorus of dissent was Walt’s wife, Lillian. She had tolerated her hobbyist-husband taking over her backyard rose garden with his steam locomotive, but she “raised the dickens” (Walt’s words) when her perennially boyish 52-year-old spouse told her that he had sold their desert vacation home and borrowed $250,000 against his life insurance so that he could seed his plans for the sort of enterprise that looked to be, as she put it, “not fun at all for grown-ups.”

. . .

Roy, Mr. Snow acknowledges, “never lost his calm understanding that the company’s prosperity rested not on the rock of conventional business practices, but on the churning, extravagant, perfectionist imagination of his younger brother.” For Walt’s part, he is quoted saying in 1957, just as Disneyland was making him rich, that “if it hadn’t been for my big brother, I swear I’d’ve been in jail several times for checks bouncing.”

For the full review, see:

Stephen M. Silverman. “BOOKSHELF; A Day in the Park With Walt.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, December 13, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 12, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Disney’s Land’ Review: A Day in the Park With Walt.”)

The book under review, is:

Snow, Richard. Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World. New York: Scribner, 2019.

YouTube Archives Can Reduce the Pain from Missing What Has Been Creatively Destroyed

(p. 10) When Robb Alvey, an amusement park fanatic, heard that Universal Studios Orlando was shuttering its beloved “Jaws”-themed ride in 2012, he made sure to grab a front-row seat for the closing day.

Using a hand-held digital camera, he filmed the six-minute boat ride: from the skipper Jacob welcoming passengers; to the “mayday” distress call; to the first sighting of the prosthetic shark; to the grenade launchers and exploding fireballs; and, finally, to the “high-voltage” cable that fries the animatronic beast.

Mr. Alvey, 49, who lives in Orlando, Fla., and runs a website called Theme Park Review, uploaded the footage to YouTube. Seven years later, the video has been viewed more than 160 million times.

. . .

That longing for expired rides is certain to increase in coming years, as America’s theme parks are renovated: In August, Disney announced that Epcot will undergo yet another major overhaul, while Universal Orlando recently revealed plans for a massive new park called Epic Universe.

And when parks make big changes, the charmingly antiquated rides are often first to go. In 2014, Walt Disney World shuttered its Studio Backlot Tour, a behind-the-scenes look at movie production, to make room for “Star Wars”: Galaxy’s Edge, a blockbuster attraction that opened this year.

“The backlot tour was over two hours long, and took up a big part of your day, but it showed you every aspect of filmmaking,” said Alicia Stella, 37, a journalist who covers theme parks on her website Orlando ParkStop. “I miss those kinds of attractions. A lot of the new ones are fast-paced thrill rides.”

Such expansions are a reminder that the parks are in a constant state of evolution, which makes the archivists’ efforts all the more crucial: You never know when your favorite ride could close for good.

For the full story, see:

Brian Raftery. “The Ride Has Ended, but It Still Goes On.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, November 3, 2019): 10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 2, 2019, and has the title “Where ‘Jaws,’ the Ride, Lives Forever.”)

Newsboys “Were American Icons–Symbols of Unflagging Industry”

(p. A17) Thomas Edison was one. So were Harry Houdini, Herbert Hoover, W.C. Fields, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin, Jackie Robinson, Walter Winchell, Thomas Wolfe, Jack London, Knute Rockne, Harry Truman, John Wayne, Warren Buffett and many more familiar names. Besides being illustrious Americans, these men shared a calling—growing up, they were newsboys, delivering newspapers to subscribers or, more colorfully, hawking them on the streets for a couple of pennies, real money in those days.

In their time, newsboys (girls were rare) were American icons—symbols of unflagging industry and tattered, barefoot, shivering objects of pity. They had their own argot and better news judgment than many editors, because they had to size up the appeal of every edition to determine how many copies to buy from the publisher.

For the full review, see:

Edward Kosner. “BOOKSHELF; Street-Corner Capitalists.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 7, 2019): A17.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 6, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Crying the News’ Review: Street-Corner Capitalists.”)

The book under review is:

DiGirolamo, Vincent. Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

If Steve “Jobs Had Lived, Disney and Apple Might Have Merged”

(p. B7) Mr. Iger believes that, if Mr. Jobs had lived, Disney and Apple might have merged.

. . .

He thinks that Mr. Jobs also could have helped steer Silicon Valley in a better direction. “Steve had quite a conscience.” Mr. Iger says. “It didn’t always manifest itself in his interpersonal relationships, but he had quite a conscience. Silicon Valley needs leaders.” The two men became so close that Mr. Jobs pulled Mr. Iger aside right before the announcement of the $7 billion Disney-Pixar deal to confide that his pancreatic cancer had come back and was now in his liver. Only his wife, Laurene, knew. Mr. Iger had to think fast; he rejected Mr. Jobs’s offer to back out of the deal.

For the full interview, see:

Maureen Dowd, interviewer. “The Slow-Burning Success of a Hollywood Nice Guy.” The New York Times (Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019): D1 & D6-D7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the same date as the print version, and has the title “The Slow-Burning Success of Disney’s Bob Iger.”)

The book discussed in the interview is:

Iger, Robert. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. New York: Random House, 2019.

“A Disney Story for Young Socialists” Op-Ed in Wall Street Journal

My op-ed touches on a couple of the themes of my book Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. The URL for the online version of my op-ed piece is: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-disney-story-for-young-socialists-11570661652

“Can We Stay Forever?”

(p. A8) “Anyone who knew my mom knew Disney was her happy place,” said Jodie Jackson Wells, a business coach in Boca Raton, Fla., who in 2009 smuggled a pill bottle containing her mother’s ashes into Walt Disney World.

Once inside, Ms. Wells helped spread ashes on the platform of It’s a Small World near a head-spinning bird, a moment in the ride that always made her mother laugh. Later in the day, overcome with grief, Ms. Wells hopped over the barricade surrounding the lawn outside Cinderella’s castle and ran across the grass, flinging them as she crossed.

“I had two fistfuls of the ashes and I literally leapt like I was a dancer,” she said.

. . .

Caryn Reker of Jacksonville, Fla., remembers her father growing emotional while watching the Wishes fireworks show outside the ice-cream parlor on Disney World’s Main Street. When time came for her to spread his ashes, in 2006, she opted to do it in numerous spots around the area.

“It’s a sweet way to giggle and remember—he’s here. . . and there. . . and a little over there. . . yep, there, too,” she wrote in an email. She returned to Disney World last week to spread the ashes of her brother, an Epcot enthusiast who died this year.

. . .

Shanon Himebrook, a 41-year-old state-government employee from Kansas City, Mo., grew up making summer trips to Disney World with her father, a worker at a plastic factory in Indiana.

At Disney, “he wasn’t my tired, graveyard-shift Dad,” she said. “He was, ‘Let’s get you the Mouse ears! Let’s get your name stitched in it!’ It’s like, ‘I love this dad! Can we stay forever?’”

Ms. Himebrook spread his ashes earlier this year near the park gates.

. . .

Kym Pessolano DeBarth, a 47-year-old optometrist-office worker from Northfield, N.J., dumped a small amount of her mother’s ashes in the water underneath It’s a Small World. “I didn’t want to clog the filter,” she said.

In December [2018], she’ll return to the park to commemorate the 15th anniversary of her mother’s death.

“Instead of going to a grave,” she said, “I go to Disney World.”

For the full story, see:

Erich Schwartzel. “Disney World Has a Secret: Family Ashes.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018): A1 & A8.

(Note: bracketed year, and ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipses internal to a sentence, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 24, 2018, and has the title “Disney World’s Big Secret: It’s a Favorite Spot to Scatter Family Ashes.”)