Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hidden Mickeyisms 12: The De-Atheizing of Disney (Bye Bye, Bill Nye!)

“Atheizing” is the process of inserting an atheistic worldview into a culture.  “De-atheizing” would, therefore, mean the process of removing an atheistic worldview from a culture.  Just in case you did not already know:  The Universe of Energy exhibit (aka, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye [the science guy]) closed in 2017.  The Universe of Energy originally opened, along with EPCOT Center in 1982, and was then modified to Ellen’s Energy Adventure in 1996.  In my book Disneology:  Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World (Say Press, 2010, p.3), I write:

The religion that most strongly influenced Walt Disney was Christianity.  But, Disney was also influenced by Science, and science has historically had some major rhetorical conflicts with religion, in general.  Many, if not most, of the religious issues lurking in WDW are disagreements between Christianity and an approach to science that tends to eliminate theological considerations from its messages.  Although not all scientists who refrain from discussing theological issues are atheists, some are.  Atheist rhetorical issues will, therefore, be found in WDW.”

The premier example of the atheist perspective in Walt Disney World has been the Universe of Energy/Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  In Disneology, I encourage readers to:

Visit the attraction “Universe of Energy” at EPCOT.  Starting with the ‘Big Bang,’ in a very short span of time, you will view a sequence of events that many scientists believe occurred over a period of 13 to 14 billion years.  What you are viewing is Disney’s visual interpretation of the origins of the universe, according to accepted views in physics.”

In the Worksheet for Studying the book, I pose the following question to readers: “What would change, if God were inserted into the ‘Universe of Energy’ exhibit?”  Despite multiple references to creation, creator, and God in Walt Disney World, there has been, for many years, a counter-statement:  the assertion that the universe came into existence without any contribution from or reference to God.  On pages 4-5 of Disneology, I comment: 

“WDW is unafraid to present religious rhetoric in favor of Christian Realism.  Born in the 19th century, Walt Disney was a huge fan of President Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln is the president who receives the greatest attention in the ‘Hall of Presidents’ at the Magic Kingdom [MK].  Disney could have chosen to highlight purely secular comments from Lincoln.  Nevertheless, Disney highlights quite religious philosophy, as expressed by Lincoln.  His belief in ‘divine providence’ is mentioned in his debates.  Lincoln quotes Jesus from Mark 3:25: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’  Lincoln asserts that all men are ‘created’ equal.  He identifies the Declaration of Independence as the ‘truth.’  He states his faith in God: ‘I know there is a God and that he hates injustice and slavery.  I see a storm coming; I know his hand is in it.’  Mention of the ‘creator’ in the Declaration of Independence is reiterated in the ‘American Adventure’ in EPCOT.  Just outside the ‘American Adventure,’ between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, annually, multiple daily presentations of the Candlelight Processional proclaim strong Christian rhetoric concerning the divine birth of Jesus.  Year-round, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, in the MK, celebrates the Christmas holiday.  Indiana Jones is featured prominently in Disney’s Hollywood Studios [HS].  His most famous quest, the search for lost Ark of the Covenant, presents viewers with theological concepts of a God who communicates with humans, yet is invisible.  [Although, the physical depiction of the lost Ark that was prominent in the Great Movie Ride vanished in 2017 with the closing of the Great Movie Ride.  So far, the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, based on the Lost Ark remains.  Perhaps, in the future, HS will include the Ark as a visual somewhere in that attraction.]  Walt also once remarked, ‘I know drinking and smoking are sins because you aren't taking care of the body God gave you.’

On the other hand, WDW is also unafraid to present nonreligious rhetoric in favor of Scientific Realism.  The ‘Universe of Energy’ attraction at EPCOT present[ed] the origins of the universe from a wholly god-less perspective.  The perspective of physics inform[ed] riders that originally, there was a ‘big bang’ in which a great amount of energy was converted into huge supplies of mass.  Among the pieces of mass that were generated by the big bang was a small piece that became the planet Earth.  The perspective of Geology (the study of the Earth) then [took] over.  This originally very hot planet was a fiery, molten, and gaseous mixture.  The gasses surrounded the planet until the planet cooled; then, water condensed onto the surface of the earth and became the seas.  (Not too many years ago--before they replaced it with ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’ ride—WDW had corroborated these views of physics and geology in a preshow to ‘The Living Seas’ exhibit.  Again, no mention of a creator was to be found.)  The perspective of Evolutionary Biology . . . was presented in both the Energy and Seas shows, as plant life is followed by water life, then amphibian life, etc.”

You may still find online amateur videos of both the Universe of Energy and The Living Seas movies.  The following script of “The Living Seas” preshow movie supplies the dialogue (

“Cast Member: Good (morning/afternoon/evening), everyone. My name is _________ and welcome to The Living Seas. Ocean exploration has come a long way. We now have a better understanding of our involvement with the sea. How did it form, when did it form, and what possibilities lie ahead? Possible answers to these and many other questions are about to surface in a dramatic film simply entitled "The Sea." Please remain seated and refrain from smoking and flash photography during the show. And now, the beauty and splendor of "The Sea."
The lights dim and on the screen a galaxy of stars appears. This is followed by a closer look at planet Earth.
Female Narrator: Try to imagine, just for a moment, that somewhere in the endless reaches of the universe ... on the outer edge of a galaxy of a hundred thousand million suns ... deep within a cluster of slowly forming planets, a small sphere of just the right size lies just the right distance from its mother star ... cooling in the coldness of space. Try to imagine.
A volcano loudly erupts and the lava quickly flows down its sides.
Female Narrator: Now that sphere's creation continues as countless volcanoes spew clouds of gas and steam into the sky of melted mineral formations.
Steam rises from the hardened lava on the ground.
Female Narrator: And then that cloud covered planet waits ... and waits .... and waits ... until finally those clouds of gas and steam condense and rain upon that planet.
Lightning strikes, thunder roars, and the rain pours. It hits the hot ground and more steam rises.
Female Narrator: Rain upon that planet Earth. And they rain ... and rain ... and rain. The deluge.
Rain continues to pour and then we see large amounts of water falling off a large waterfall (most likely Niagara Falls).
Female Narrator: A deluge of such magnitude that the world's greatest waterfalls flowing together for more than a million years would only just begin to approach its results. For when it finally stopped, ... the seas had been born.
The water stops, a few drips fall into a puddle, and then the camera pans up to see the ocean with the sun setting in the background.
Female Narrator: Seas that would make this planet unlike any other within the realm of our knowledge. For it was there, sheltered from cosmic radiation that the means to support life on Earth was able to emerge. Tiny single celled plants – [phyto]plankton [pictures of the organisms appear on-screen]. They capture the energy of the sun and convert it into the most basic of life sustaining elements, oxygen, creating more than half the Earth's supply. But more than that, those same seas interact with that same solar energy and the Earth's rotation to serve as the engine that drives all the world's weather.
We see a blue sky and a palm tree followed by a beachfront. Then, using time-lapse photography, dark clouds quickly move into the beach area and then disappear.
Female Narrator: Yet these phenomen[a] occur at only the first few hundred feet of seas that average greater than two miles in depth [shot of choppy water]. And it is there in those depths in an endless night, darker than the darkest light on land, that we are just now beginning to explore an amazing world. There, amid raging underwater storms and [fiery] underwater volcanoes, mountain ranges that dwarf the Himalayas and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. There two miles deep in that darkness - an amazing world.
At this point, the screen goes completely black and every few seconds it lights up showing a new shot of the deep ocean floor. Each time it lights up, a sound similar to that heard on a submarine is heard. We see strange organisms and plants, rocky formations, and vents that erupt gas and steam.
Female Narrator: A world where the cold sea pours deep into the mountains' warm core through immense cracks in its surface and then rises back to the ocean floor as a super-heated, mineral-laden fluid emitting what to us would be lethal concentrations of poisonous chemicals. Yet, incredibly, around these strange vents, exotic life forms flourish.
Life forms that have astonished biologists by finding the needs for their survival, ... not in photosynthesis and the sun, but in the chemicals of the earth itself. Chemosynthesis. An ecosystem like none other on earth. Until now, scientifically inconceivable. Yet there, nevertheless, deep beneath the sea waiting for our discovery. Waiting in a world where we've spent less time than on the surface of the moon. A world we've only just begun to explore with tools we've only just begun to imagine.”

The Living Seas preshow ceased operations in 1999.  And it, now, appears that Walt Disney World has ELIMINATED BOTH of the exhibits that presented “the origins of the universe from a wholly god-less perspective,” as the Universe of Energy/Ellen’s Energy Adventure closed in 2017.  These two shows that presented a “god-less perspective” of the beginnings of the universe were/are being replaced by much less controversial exhibits.  The Living Seas was replaced by ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’ ride.  The Universe of Energy will, apparently, be replaced by an attraction based on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie/s. 

One might infer that the Living Seas and the Universe of Energy were replaced because the attractions were “dated.”  Certainly, there is little dispute that events occurring at the dawn of the universe are “dated.”  [It’s a joke!]  But, it is also true that some of the commentary by Ellen and Bill Nye regarding energy sources (at the end of the attraction) are clearly out of date, given the massive discoveries of natural gas and petroleum in the United States in recent years.  Nevertheless, since both Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye are still living, one would presume that such inaccuracies could be quickly corrected with some movie editing.  Finally, the technologically-dated “radio” broadcast portion of the ride could be eliminated or shortened.

Perhaps, the Universe of Energy simply took too long to experience.  Counting the preshow, the audience had to invest 45 minutes.  However, the queue lines alone at other attractions will often dwarf that amount of time investment, and much of the final “radio” broadcast could be shortened.  Throughout my many years of visiting Disney, I often found the 45 minute ride in the dark to be a great way to rest, or even take a nap!

Whether intentional or not, the elimination of the two major “god-less perspectives” of the origins of the universe in Walt Disney World amounts to a de-atheizing of Walt Disney World.  Along with the elimination of the “Wishes” fireworks display in the Magic Kingdom in 2017, which offered various forms of secularized prayer and the incredible doctrine that simply “wishing” for something would make it come true, Walt Disney World has made major strides to de-secularize, as well as, de-atheize the parks.

In an ironic twist, the year before Walt Disney World closed the Universe of Energy attraction, featuring popularist atheist Bill Nye, a creationist Christian who has publicly debated Bill Nye on issues of world origins—Ken Ham—opened his (Noah’s) Ark Encounter in Kentucky, to go along with his Creation Museum.  (Bill Nye has already visited the Ark—and argued with Ham about its message.)  My wife and I visited the Ark Encounter during the same month in which the Universe of Energy closed.  Very interesting argumentation, there!  An abundance of scientific data and reasoning to support his positions, as well as a unique experience in encountering a full-scale model of the Ark, as described in Genesis.  I highly recommend it!

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