ABSTRACT

Disney's "It's a Small World" was composed for an exhibit in the 1964 New York World's Fair, and was sponsored by the Pepsi-Cola Company, which recognized an expansive market when it saw one. "It's a Small World," of course, wasn't an anthem to global tolerance so much as it was an anthem

to the global marketing of u.s. goods-and U.S. foreign and economic policy. It was the domestic version of a global Disney vision with a history of a quarter of a century. Disney was sent by Nelson Rockefeller to Latin America as a Goodwill Ambassador in 1941, as part of the "Good Neighbor" policy. Neighborliness, however, turned out to be little more than caricature. As Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart have argued, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck's rolicksome adventures in "Kookoo Coco," "Inca-Blinca," and "Outer Congolia" dehistoricized the true role of the United States in the political manipulation and economic exploitation of tropical nations. 1

In fact, today, Disney finds itself embroiled in controversy surrounding its own economically exploitative practices south of the border. As the company continues to break ground in "multicultural" market expansion, it has also attracted attention for its international labor abuses. In 1996, the director of the National Labor Committee, Charles Kernaghan, documented dangerous, oppressive conditions at a Disney manufacturing plant in Haiti. "Prior to leaving for Haiti," he later wrote to Disney CEO Michael Eisner:

I went to a Wal-Mart store on Long Island and purchased several Disney garments which had been made in Haiti. I showed these to the crowd of workers, who immediately recognized the clothing they had made. Everyone pointed to the parts of the shirt that they had sewed while explaining what the quota was for those operations. I asked the ... workers if they had any idea what these shirts-the ones they had made-sell for in the U.S. I held up a size 4 Pocahontas t-shirt. I showed them the Wal-Mart price tag indicating $10.97. But it was only when I translated the $10.97 into the local currency ... that, all at once, in unison, the workers screamed with shock, disbelief, anger and a mixture of pain and sadness, as their eyes remained fixed on the Pocahontas shirt. People kept yelling, excited. They simply could not believe what they had heard. In a single day, they worked on hundreds of Disney shirts. Yet the sales price of just one shirt in the U.S. amounted to nearly 5 days of their wages! 2

If Pocahontas represented the multicultural face of global capitalism, Haitian workers had a hard time recognizing themselves in her image-even if they could recognize the seams they had stitched which held her together.