Orlando - "Turnabout is fair play", says head mouseketeer Michael Eisner, when asked why the Walt Disney Company would simply reject any and all Southern Baptist dollars at theme parks and movie theaters. And so marks the beginning of a new era in the annals of the "greatest place on earth (now with 30% less Baptist)".
The skirmish between the two organizations goes back decades when Disney founder, Walt Disney and his long time friend Jimmy Dean, sausage king and leading Southern Baptist, parted ways over a dispute. Walt accused Jimmy of using mice in his then locally famous sausage recipe.
Dean was a proud man and wouldn't stand for anyone mocking his spicy ground animal bits. The feud turned even uglier when Disney incorporated animations of Dean in compromising positions into the first cut of Snow White. While both men have long since passed on to greener pastures, Disney in a cryogenically frozen lab in Southern California and Dean stuffed to the gills with preservatives and put on display in Little Rock, their blood battle has been handed down through the generations.
The faces for the two organizations have changed, and so have the issues. In the late 80's Walt Disney World's "It's a gay, gay summer" ad campaign fanned the flames between the two rivals. Long-time park worker Eddie Fandel remembers that summer like it was yesterday. "We really just meant gay as in ‘fun'. I guess in hindsight, we shouldn't have let Sandy Duncan have that kind of editorial power in our promotions department."
Fandel recalls the horror of the first skirmishes in May of ‘88. "They firebombed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. People were slathering on five-dollar Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches to quell the burning." He added that he still gets the willies every time he hears the haunting "Yo Ho! Yo Ho!" emanating from the bowels of the Pirate's cave.
SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) Chairman Gary Smith retaliated in a written statement on the sbc.net website. "Two wrongs don't make a right, and as far back as I can remember, we got to boycotting first. Boycotting the boycotters is like double daring a double dare, it just doesn't make any sense."
Southern Baptist Margaret Applebee of Pratt, KS called the fight with Disney "morally just." Applebee reasoned, "Plus we've got to be mad about something and there's just something that is so ‘neo-con' about those ‘Boycott Disney' bumper stickers. It really does offset the ‘W' on my Suburban's rear window."
Lost in all of the mudslinging are the children. Instead of basking in the shade of the likeness of their favorite cartoon characters, their Southern Baptist children must settle for second best. Their parents now head to Orlando's other theme park - Universal Studios. And honestly, who gets excited about Universal?
One tweleve-year-old from Dallas, TX recently remarked "Universal is for chumps", and that it was extra cruel seeing as how the Spiderman ride was broken, again, while he heard "Space Mountain is never closed."
Perhaps there will be a day when you don't have to change your denominational affiliation to wear mouse ears, perhaps.