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A Cultural History of the Disneyland Theme Parks

Middle Class Kingdoms

When the first Disneyland opened its doors in 1955, it reinvented the American amusement park and transformed the travel, tourism, and entertainment industries forever. Now a global vacation empire, the original park in Anaheim, California, has been joined by massive complexes in Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Spanning six decades, three continents, and five distinct cultures, Sabrina Mittermeier presents an interdisciplinary examination of the parks, situating them in their proper historical context and exploring the distinct cultural, social, and economic landscapes that defined each one at the time of its construction. Mittermeier then spotlights the central role of class in the subsequent success or failure of each venture. The first comparative study of the Disney theme parks, the book closes a significant gap in existing research and is an important new contribution to the field.

288 pages | 6 3/4 x 9 1/2

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"A detailed and engaging cultural history of Disneyland’s theme parks to tell the story of this now global phenomenon. . . . The book will be essential reading across humanities and social science, and for anyone interested in contemporary culture. . . . This is a great book in so many ways, not least of which is the academic analysis on a really crucial and vitally important part of popular culture. . . . I strongly urge people to read it both in terms of how interesting the analysis is, and because it's a great and fascinating story, and particularly poignant now."

Dave O'Brien | New Books in Critical Theory

"One of the strongest works of Disney scholarship in recent years, serving as a history of the parks themselves and an exploration of the consumers that visit those spaces. Mittermeier's work represents the first scholarly history of the six parks, keenly observing the cultural adaptations and interplays that occur in the creation and eventual financial success of the parks. The emphasis on the consumers . . . is a masterstroke, evading the more internecine ivory tower debates around Disney and offering a sense of why the parks have proven successful in a wide array of circumstances. The Disney parks have survived all manner of economic downturns, culture wars, and even a pandemic of late, and this book makes a case that they are worth considering from a scholarly perspective. Even if you have never attended a single Disney park, you will find value in this, and this text speaks to a bright future for the study of Disney."

Peter Cullen Bryan | Response: The Journal of Popular and American Culture

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Cultural Relevance of Disneyland

Part I: The American Disney Theme Parks

An Orange Grove in Anaheim: The Original Disneyland (1955)

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (1971) and the Age of Fracture

Part II: The International Disney Theme Parks

‘Is There Really a Disneyland in America?’ – The Unique Case of Tokyo Disneyland (1983)

A ‘Cultural Chernobyl?’ – EuroDisney (1992) and the Theme Park Public

Hong Kong Disneyland (2005): A Site of Local Pride and Conflict

‘Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese’ – Shanghai Disneyland (2016)

Middle Class Kingdoms: Then, Now, and Forever?


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