This is America’s vision of utopia.
Generations of Americans have grown up with Walt Disney shaping our imaginations. In 1955, Disney mixed up some fairy tales, a few historical facts, and a dream of the future to create an alternate universe. Not just a place for fun, but a scale model of a perfect world. “Everything that you could imagine is there,” says one young visitor. “It's like living in a fantasy book.” And not just for kids: one-third of Walt Disney World’s visitors are adults who go without children. Visiting the parks, according to actor Tom Hanks, is like a pilgrimage — the pursuit of happiness turned into a religion.
Futurist Cory Doctorow explains the genius of Disney World, while novelist Carl Hiassen even hates the water there. Kurt tours Disneyland with a second-generation “imagineer” whose dead mother haunts the Haunted Mansion. We’ll meet a former Snow White and the man who married Prince Charming — Disney, he says, is “the gayest place on Earth. It’s where happy lives.”
(Originally aired October 18, 2013)
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Special thanks to Julia Lowrie Henderson, Shannon Geis, Alex Gallafent, Nic Sammond, Steve Watts, Angela Bliss, Todd Heiden, Shannon Swanson, Katie Cooper, Nick White, Marie Fabian, Posey Gruener, Chris DeAngelis, Jenelle Pifer, Debi Ghose, Maneesh Agrawala, and Tony DeRose.
Bonus Track: Cory Doctorow on the Disney theme parks
Hear Kurt's full conversation with Doctorow about his life-long obsession with Disney in general, and the Haunted Mansion specifically.
Alan Turing broke the Nazis’ Enigma code and helped win World War II for the Allies — and also invented modern computing; we’ll compare the legend of Turing to the reality. Mexico’s violent narcocorrido songs became a form of state propaganda. And the famous jazz musician Charles Mingus had a little-known sideline: cat trainer. Who knew?
Boots became the internet’s favorite mystery late in 2013 when he was credited as a songwriter and producer on Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album alongside super-producers like Timbaland, Pharrell, and Frank Ocean. But it was some guy named Boots who was credited with writing some of the album’s most personal songs: “Heaven”, about a miscarriage; “Blue” about Beyoncé’s daughter; and “Haunted," which maligns the music industry.
In no time, BuzzFeed, Pitchfork, Vogue, and just about everyone else took cracks at answering the question, “Who is Boots?” Reporters were calling his parents’ house in Florida, someone tried to sell photos of him, and Beyoncé fans started following him around Brooklyn. “To go from none of that to a lot of that, I didn’t take it well,” he says. Still, the 27-year-old has nothing but positive things to say about her. “The only reason she and I worked so well together is because something I had to say resonated very deeply with her,” he says. “It’s amazing that it happened.”
Jordy Asher started in Miami. He was in a string of rock bands before he and a girlfriend took a hard left turn towards indie-pop as Blonds. They broke up; Jordy moved to New York, became Boots. How he got from there to Beyoncé (and Jay Z’s label, Roc Nation) is still unknown, and Boots won’t be the first to discuss the matter. He’d prefer to talk about the future, beginning with the lead single from his upcoming album, “Mercy.”
Watch Boots play an acoustic version of “Mercy” on piano here.
Boots is sticking with his idiosyncratic indie methods. He replaces all the songs on his SoundCloud on a whim. He almost exclusively releases music without warning – no marketing or social media campaigns. And when he tours the country, as he is doing now with FKA Twigs, he prefers to get a rental and drive himself. The mystery of Boots has been solved, but he remains an enigma.
Watch Boots cover St. Vincent:
Watch Boots perform "Only" (new):
Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with the movie Rosewater. It’s no comedy — the movie is based on the experience of a journalist who appeared on The Daily Show, and then was arrested and tortured for it in Iran. Also, the man behind the band Bahamas may hail from the great white north, but he plays sunny folk-rock. And a look back to how Buck Owens stormed Carnegie Hall with the boot-stomping Bakersfield sound.