Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World

Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World

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by Carl Hiaasen

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"Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil; so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness. . . . Disney isn't in the business of exploiting Nature so much as striving to improve upon it, constantly fine-tuning God's


"Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil; so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness. . . . Disney isn't in the business of exploiting Nature so much as striving to improve upon it, constantly fine-tuning God's work."

How Disney Devours America

"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 doesn't believe in sleaze, however, nor in old-fashioned revulsion. Square in the middle is where it wants us all to be, dependable consumers with predictable attitudes. The message, never stated but avuncularly implied, is that America's values ought to reflect those of the Walt Disney Company, and not the other way around."

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
Comic novelist and investigative reporter Hiaasen combines his talents to dis Disney....Hiaasen urges resistance to the conglomerate's hijacking of American culture, leaving it to inspired readers to build a better mousetrap.
Frank Rich
Who is more powerful -- Disney or God? It's a tough call, but no one...has grappled with this spiritual question more hilariously than Carl Hiaasen. -- New York Times
Charles Taylor
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of hearing my best friend's mom express relief that Walt Disney had finally kicked the bucket. When I asked her what he'd done to be such a bastard in her estimation, she told me, "He wanted to rule the world." That may seem like a strange opinion to any kid who was raised to equate Disney with Mickey and Goofy and those silly Kurt Russell comedies we'd go to see every year. And the opinion expressed by Carl Hiaasen in his hilarious and venomous pamphlet Team Rodent -- that his empire has succeeded in ruling small pockets of the world, and can do so because it exerts a pervasive mind control on much of the rest of the planet -- may seem strange to the 46 million people who annually descend on Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., or the millions more who flock to Disney movies, or perhaps the ones distributed by Touchstone, Miramax or Hollywood Films (all Disney subsidiaries). It may seem strange to the people who buy books published by Hyperion or CDs released by Hollywood Records, maybe even the combined billions who tune in to programming on ABC, ESPN, Lifetime, A&E, the History Channel. Getting the picture?

Who could have known, when Uncle Walt left us for that Magic Kingdom in the sky, that his minions would join ranks, mousestepping in his name across the literal and figurative American landscape to establish an empire that will last a thousand years, all the while trading on the trusted Disney name, and the visions of sweetness and light it conjures, to consolidate their holdings? Strength through joy, indeed. Certainly the farmers in central Florida whose land, beginning in the mid-'60s, was being snapped up at $200 an acre by buyers careful to keep the Disney name hush-hush (lest real estate prices shoot up) couldn't have foreseen Disney's master plan. Not true of the Florida legislators who, after Disney revealed itself and its intentions, went to outrageous lengths to secure the money Mickey could pour into their state. Hiaasen, in addition to being one of our best popular novelists, is a longtime investigative reporter with the Miami Herald, and he details goings on that would do the con men and sleazebags in his mysteries proud.

To ensure it landed Disney, Florida created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a geographical district that comprises Disney World and its surrounding lands. The effect is to allow Disney to operate as an autonomous district. The supervisory board is elected by landowners (the Disney corporation), and since there is no voting population to speak of, the corporation is free to call the shots, to establish its own zoning laws, to pressure the state Assembly to allocate money for its sewage treatment rather than allot the dough to another county's proposed low-income housing. And it's free to refuse to obey state law -- it refused, for instance, to hand over the manual of Disney's security force after a member of that force engaged in a high-speed chase that ended in the death of 18-year-old Robb Sipkema, whose only apparent transgression had been horsing around at night on company property. Though the security force works for Reedy Creek, a public entity, Disney's lawyers succeeded in convincing a worm by the name of Judge Belvin Perry Jr. that relevant files were private property.

Hiaasen details Disney's talent for asserting its presence to gain the trust of officials or the public and then absenting itself at the first whiff of trouble. When a housing development promoted by Disney was found, after Hurricane Andrew blew it off the map in 1992, to have had incredibly shoddy workmanship, Disney succeeded in persuading the court to leave its name out of the class-action suit that followed, the reasoning being that a jury could assume the pockets on Mickey's shorts went awfully deep.

If you've ever read one of Hiaasen's mysteries, you know he can be killingly funny (if you haven't read one, for God's sake, stop wasting time with this). Team Rodent is a swift, hilarious read. At one point, Hiaasen fantasizes about breaking into Disney World to populate its lake with a truckload of hungry bull gators. His conscience precludes this -- he's afraid a gator might get hurt.

But the laughs shouldn't disguise that there is a serious and complex subject here, the same one addressed in the early "X-Files" episodes and "The Truman Show": the ability of power to create its own reality. And since power does everything it can to convince us that the reality it creates is benevolent, people who insist on the facts -- no matter how outlandish those facts seem -- can easily be dismissed as cranks. "Disney is so good at being good," Hiaasen writes, "that it manifests an evil; so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness. Imagine promoting a universe in which raw Nature doesn't fit because it doesn't measure up." People do not want to believe that, because it's selling Mickey and Donald, an obscenely large conglomerate actually behaves like one. But has any company that has set its sights on transforming the way the world looks, and going about that master plan with autonomy, ever summed up its philosophy any more honestly than "It's a Small World After All"? And isn't it about time to change the name of that tune to "Mickey Über Alles"? Salon Aug. 5, 1998

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Library of Contemporary Thought Series
Edition description:
1st Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

Three decades after it began bulldozing the cow patures and draining the marshes of rural Orlando, Disney stands as by far the most powerful private entity in Florida; it goes where it wants, does what it wants,
gets what it wants. It's our exalted mother teat, and you can hear the sucking from Tallahassee all the way to Key West.

The worst damage isn't from the Walt Disney World Resort itself (which is undeniably clean, well operated, and relatively safe) or even from the tourists (although an annual stampede of forty million Griswolds cannot help but cut an untidy swath). The absolute worst thing Disney did was to change how people in Florida thought about money; nobody had ever dreamed there could be so much. Bankers, laywers, real-estate salesmen,
hoteliers, restauranteurs, farmers, citrus growers—everyone in Mickey's orb had to drastically recalibrate the concepts of growth, prosperity, and what was possible. Suddenly there were no limits. Merely by showing up,
Disney had dignified blind greed in a state pioneered by undignified greedheads. Everything the company touched turned to gold, so everyone in
Florida craved to touch or be touched by Disney. The gates opened, and in galloped fresh hordes. The cattle ranches, orange groves, and cypress stands of old Orlando rapidly gave way to an execrable panorama of suburuban blight.

One of the great ironies upon visiting Disney World is the wave of relief that overwhelms you upon entering the place—relief to be free of the nerve-shattering traffic and the endless ugly sprawl. By contrast the
Disney resort seems like a verdant sanctuary. That was the plan, of course—Team Rodent left the park buffered with thousands of unspoiled acres, to keep the charmless roadside schlock at bay.

As Orlando exploded, business leaders (and therefore politicians)
throughout the rest of Florida watched and plotted with envy. Everyone conspired for a cut of the Disney action, meaning overflow. The trick was to catch the tourists after they departed the Magic Kingdom: induce them to rent a car and drive someplace else and spend what was left of their vacation money. This mad obsession for sloppy seconds has paid off big-time. By the year 2000, the number of tourists visiting the Orlando area is expected to reach forty-six million annually. That's more than the combined populations of California and Pennsylvania storming into
Florida every year, an onslaught few places on earth could withstand.
Many Disney pilgrims do make time to search for auxiliary amusement in other parts of the state. High on the list are the southernmost chain of islands known as the Keys, where I live, and where only one road runs the length of the archipelago. Maybe you can appreciate my concern.

Meet the Author

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in South Florida and presently lives in Tavernier, smack in the middle of the Florida Keys. He is currently Metro columnist for the Miami Herald, where his award-winning columns on rapacious development, egregious business practices, and corrupt politicians have helped clarify issues for the Florida citizenry. Hiaasen turned his hand to fiction in the early eighties. His first novel, Tourist Season, was published in 1986 and named "one of the ten best destination reads of all time  by GQ magazine. He is the author of six other bestselling novels, Double Whammy, Skin Tight, Native Tongue, Strip Tease, Stormy Weather, and Lucky You.

Brief Biography

Tavernier, Florida
Place of Birth:
South Florida
Emory University; B.A., University of Florida, 1974

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Team Rodent 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
JBSofRAL More than 1 year ago
First of all, i just have to say WOW! This book really opened my eyes. The Author, Carl Hiaasen, explains how dirty Disney really is. Disney is too trusted by too many people. They don't even realize what really happens behind the curtains, sometimes even literally. Disney has such an influence on people that they go to extreme measures to not lose the trust of their customers and consumers. In other words, Disney will do anything to make money and keep making money. After having read this book, you will not look at Disney the same anymore.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book includes many personal observations from the author. I found it to be very intriguing and insightful. Many Disney enthusiasts might be offended, however everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'd recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a witty rendition of corporate hegemony. Five stars for a sarcastic kick in the pants to the 'mouse'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hiaasen writes well - and in a style which is serious in content, yet not so serious as to be dogmatic. I found myself laughing at his wit - while at the same time becoming more aware than ever of Disney's compulsion for absolute control. I highly recommend 'Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World' - it is indeed a 'fun read'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVED IT! It's a scary read however. Mr. Hiaasen is an excellent writer in his day job so I figured this would be good and it is. I'm not one of the few who hasn't been touched by the mouse machine.
KOMcIntyre4 More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very interesting. It was nothing like I have ever read before. I went to Disneyland over christmas break and all I could think about was this book. I have always loved Disney but I couldn't help but think how corupt it is. I kept telling my parents stories i read from this book but they didn't want to hear it. I'm sure like most people, my parents didn't want their happy thoughts about Disney tarnished. -KO in McIntyre 4
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great! Carl Hiaasen said what all Florida natives wanted to say. A great read.
ingratie More than 1 year ago
This book is a long rant from someone who hates disney. I kept waiting for a valid reason, but one did not emerge. This 65 page rant was very boring. I wish i hadn't read it. -i should add i am also a native floridian and usually like hiaasen novels. Too bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And that's just the sample. I wouldn't waste my money on this..I'd rather give it to Disney! Zero stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When perfecting is the whole of a business, it can get out of hand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was awsome you should try this book out it is an awsome book I am telling it was good
HaLLinMA More than 1 year ago
While I appreciate that there must be many Disney haters like Carl across Florida, and agree that this book makes many insightful observations, Mr. Hiaasen  misses the mark on balance entirely. This book seems more like the work of a disgruntled neighbor complaining to the zoning board than an actual objective analysis of the Disney power and influence. Yes some parts were witty but for the most part it's just another rant by a curmudgeon that clearly doesn't feel the magic.Not to mention some inaccuracies for effect, so not keeping it real. I feel badly for him.
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