In my research paper, I plan on discussing the town of Celebration, Florida, which was an intentional community proposed by Walt Disney himself. Intentional communities have been attempted a variety of different times over the past hundred years, but despite the good intentions they are created with, failure has proven to be much more prominent than success. Celebration was founded less than fifteen years ago, so unlike other communities where one can blatantly identify achievement (or more often, lack of,) it is still developing and thus has much room for improvement. I plan to divide my paper into the following three sections to address the three basic aspects that will hopefully aid me in making a final judgment as to whether Celebration has been successful or not.
The first section will outline the mantra and goals of Celebration, in order to lay a foundation for the rest of the paper. One cannot begin to analyze a town without taking into account why, by whom, and under what premises it was founded. Were certain rules established from the start to make it as ideal as possible? Was it created in the name of perfection, or did the founders recognize early on that trying to make everything perfect would be impossible? These are important questions I plan on proposing in my paper. Branching off of that, the second section will dive into how the members of Celebration plan on executing and living by the ideals under which the town was created. This thought will lead into additional questions revolving around how Celebration is maintained. Is there a local branch of government? Are there events within the town to bring the community together, and thus create a friendly, almost Utopian environment? Questions like these will help generate information that will help me formulate an opinion in regard to the success of the town, which will take place in the third section. This third section will take all of the information from the previous two sections and use them as evidence to help establish exactly how successful the town has been thus far. There has been murder, homicide within Celebration- but do those controversies lessen the quality of life, or are they simply just a bump in the road? Controversial findings like this- and more- will be evaluated and will ideally help me come to a conclusion about the town.
I think the “so what” aspect of my paper will be some of the previously mentioned questions. Disney is often associated with being “the happiest place on earth,” so I think people will be interested to see how a town not only founded by Disney, but located ten minutes away from Disney World, will function. Will it be just like the theme park, where everything is highly functional and there is no room for corruption and imperfection? Will it be so ideal that it compares to Thomas More’s idea of a Utopia? In the novel Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town, the author mentions the town being criticized for the lack of diversity, claiming that it is “elitist: gingerbread glosses over social inequity” (Frantz.) Can Celebration be successful in acting on its cornerstones of “health, education, technology, sense of community, and sense of place” when such comments are being made about it? Additionally, intentional communities are really dying down in the world, so I believe that people might take interest in how one functions in the first place.
Unfortunately, not much work has been done on Celebration prior to my essay. As previously mentioned, it was founded pretty recently, and thus has not been under the public eye as much as one might have expected. The majority of the sources I found were articles that were either written for a newspaper and put online afterwards, or were written with the sole intention of being published on the Internet. However, the Celebration official website was very helpful in providing me with information about the foundation and intentions of the town, while Frantz’s novel about living in Celebration gave me the unbiased perspective of a resident. Additionally, I was able to discover information about Walt Disney’s original vision for the Celebration community when I discovered author Kathleen Hogan on the Virginia University database. For example, I learned that the town was originally going to be called EPCOT (short for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), but that EPCOT was too much like a futuristic Utopia, and was instead turned into a Disney World theme attraction. I struggled with finding print sources, but I do believe that I was able to unveil a variety of different sources online that will help me learn more about Celebration.
“Official Website of the Community of Celebration| Located next to Walt Disney World | Celebration, FL.” Official Website of the Community of Celebration, 2011. Accessed September 25, 2012. http://www.celebration.fl.us/
– This is the Celebration, Florida official website, and is very informative when it comes to the basics of the town. A variety of information tidbits are present here, such as the mantra, goals, and cornerstones that Celebration prides itself in having. It is a very tourist friendly site, so not only does it apply to native Celebration members when it outlines community events and such, but it also talks about restaurants and other attractions that visitors might be interested in. This source is probably a bit biased because it was made by an official of the town, but it is informative just the same.
Booth, William. “Planet Mouse: At Disney’s Tomorrowland, The Future Is a Timid Creature.” The Washington Post, June 24, 1998. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-653879.html
Frantz, Douglas, and Collins, Catherine. Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2000.
– Though I have yet to read the entire novel, by reading a few different summaries and the first chapter, I can tell that this book is a valuable source. Journalists Frantz and Collins moved from Westport, Connecticut to Celebration, Florida in 1997. The novel tells of what it was like to live there from the nonbiased, open-minded perspective of this family new to the town. From what I can tell, there is insight on everything from real estate to the education system, so the breadth really allows for one to gain insight into the town through the eyes of actual citizens.
Pollan, Michael. “Town-Building Is No Mickey Mouse Operation”. New York Times Magazine, December 14, 1997. Accessed September 25, 2012.
Severson, Kim. “Celebration, Florida, Has Its First Killing.” The New York Times Online, December 2, 2010. Accessed September 25, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/us/03celebration.html.
Quinn, Judy. “Disney Town Sparks (at least) Two Books.” Publisher’s Weekly, March 10, 1997. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/19970310/33312-disney-town-sparks-at-least-two-books-.html
Wisch, Robyn. “How Far Are We From Disney’s Utopia?” KVNO News Online, April 6, 2011. Accessed September 25, 2012.
Hogan, Kathleen. “Walt’s Vision.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. Accessed September 27, 2012. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma98/hogan/celebration/epcot.htm
– I found this source to be extremely useful, because it went into the history of Walt Disney’s intentions and what he had planned Celebration to be. Unlike many of the other websites I encountered, that told of people living in Celebration, this one was very factual and provided me with great historical context. For example, had I not found this source I would not have known details like what kind of land Walt was looking for when he rented a private plane to fly over Florida, or the fact that theme park of EPCOT had been originally intended to be this intentional community.
Hogan, Kathleen. “Celebration, Florida.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. Accessed September 27, 2012. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma98/hogan/celebration/main.html