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Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen (Book Review)

January 29, 2008 By Brad A Schenck in  | 1 Comment


From Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen:

“Revulsion is good. Revulsion is healthy. Each of us has limits, unarticulated boundaries of taste and tolerance, and sometimes we forget where they are. Peep Land is here to remind us; a fixed compass point by which we can govern our private behavior. Because being grossed out is essential to the human experience; without a perceived depravity, we’d have nothing against which to gauge the advance or decline of culture; our art, our music, our cinema, our books. Without sleaze, the yardstick shrinks at both ends.”

Team Rodent:  How Disney Devours the World - a 1998 nonfiction expose of how the world’s beloved mouse and company is not plotting but completing their transformation of the world. The author, Carl Hiaasen, now dreams of being banned forever from Disney World.

What does Mickey Mouse, Michael Eisner, Insane Clown Posse and an endangered black rhino have in common? No this is no bizarre joke it is the complex facade that is The Walt Disney Company. Carl tries to peal away that glittery charm we are all caught doe eyed with when inside the glittery gates of the Magic Kingdom. In the book he touches again and again on the not-so-happy-transformation Disney has had on Florida.

Fear And Loathing In The Happiest Place on Earth!

How could Carl come to despise a company that has brought joy to the world and jobs to his home state? A magical world even he had visited. The quiet unknown ways Walt Disney bought up the land in central Florida may have been the beginning. Then came the formation of the local government of Reedy Creek by the new land owners the Walt Disney Corporation. Creating it’s own municipality, a kingdom of it’s own with its own security, fire and the rights to build a nuclear reactor if it so needs.

The greed Disney has created in Florida runs far and wide. “It’s our exalted mother teat and you can hear the sucking from Tallahassee all the way to Key West” Carl comments. The company gets what it wants and is free to gobble up land as it pleases.

Disney even strikes down mother-nature when she gets in its path. They drained lakes and removed the native birch trees that gave it natural tea colored water. Then comes the disposal of unwanted protected specious of buzzard. As Carl notes, “Not all birds sing sweetly. Not all lakes are blue. Not all islands have sandy beaches. But that can be fixed, and that is Disney’s fiendish specialty.” Later they drain over 200 acres of wetland for the Wild World of Sports. What could have been more Floridian than wetlands?

Walt Disney’s Master Plan: World Domination

The wild land that was once outside a small American city of Orlando is now grid locked with cars most days and the roads are all plastered with kitschy souvenir shops. When the book was written, Orlando was receiving over 40 million tourists a year. The combined total of Disney visitors, not including the cruise line or water parks or Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, tops 45 million a year. That is a lot of extra sewage, traffic and trash that Florida must take on. 

Beach resort, yes Disney has now claimed a slice of the unpredictable. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is one of their latest Florida adventures. But here is where Carl may be happy because it is not all scripted and yes the sharks are real. A phone call to the resort confirmed that they are lurking in the water all year round. Maybe, just maybe waiting for a visit by supple little toes of Eisner or any of his fiendish world dominating henchmen.

“Under the Eisner reign, nothing in the real world cannot be copied and refined in the name of entertainment, no place is safe.”

Times Square 1997 was the fall of the peep show. At that point in history, Disney was rebuilding Times Square as it had Florida and Anaheim. The Disney store sat as a pinnacle of wholesome Americana in the midst of sleazy stench, but has Carl Hiaasen reminds us, “revulsion is good.”

Carl would be happy to know that Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping first preached his anti-Disney anti-consumerism sermons in that very store. Later to be arrested on Main Street USA in Disneyland while preaching, there is a man Hiaasen would praise.

So if you, like I, are curious in what may lurk behind the facade of Disney this book offers glimpses. Wonderfully written a jaded Floridian who has every right to be. Carl Hiaasen did an excellent job creating a fun and insightful exposé about the under belly of toon-town in his backyard swamps. 

Related Video

ABOVE: The Church of Stop Shopping is an activist performance group, led by Reverend Billy, the stage name of Bill Talen. In this conversation with Harold Channer, Reverend Billy discusses how the Times Square transformation from a seedy but lively center, to a more tourist-friendly venue for large companies like Disney.

Reverend Billy’s sermons focus on the evils of consumerism and advertising—represented especially by The Walt Disney Company and Mickey Mouse

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See more articles by Brad A Schenck

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1 Comments on

"Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen (Book Review)"

Tractor says:

As someone who witnessed, firsthand, the attempts by Disney to force feed their American history theme park down the throats of the good people of Northern Virginia, I can say that every word, comma, period and exclamation point in Carl Hiaasen’s polemic rings clear and true. Also, sad but true, I have witnessed what Disney has done to Florida, as Hiaasen’s so eloquently details in Team Rodent.

Posted on 03/02/2010 at 2:02 PM

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