Welcome to the first in my series on looking at Disney from a different angle than the official one. Like many of you, I love Disney. Every time a new animated feature is released, you’ll find me in the theater opening week. If a new attraction opens up, I will be there as soon as possible to experience it firsthand. However, as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with how different people interpret Disney’s movies, parks and culture. There is something fascinating about taking a product that is so squeaky clean and adding a unique twist that adds a little touch of naughty to it and you end up with a different animal entirely.
Over the years, I have met literally hundreds of Disney fans and most seem to fall under two basic columns. Those in Column A look at Disney as an escape from the real world that can be filled with sex, violence, hatred and injustice. To them, Disney is a form of perfection due to its absolute purity. Villains always get what’s coming to them, good guys always win and sexuality doesn’t even exist. This bubble that the mouse creates seems to give people a sense of calm and peace from the outside world. I often equate a Disney experience as a comfort blanket like Linus from Peanuts uses; it’s a sense of security in a weary world.
I fall into a Column B, if you will. I love visiting the parks and watching the movies, but I am a lot more fascinated with how it all ticks. I love hearing backstage stories and learning little tidbits that aren’t published in official guidebooks. I also love how different people interpret Disney that don’t “need” the Disney bubble/security blanket. Thanks to technology and social media, there seems to be a growing surge in fan-created Disney projects over the past few years, some of which I will highlight in future articles. Today, we take a look at Disney inspired pin-up modeling.
Recently, Ricky Brigante, owner of InsideTheMagic.net, decided to do a spin-off version of his site called Outside the Magic where he covers “pop culture fun… without the pixie dust.” Essentially, he designed it as a space where he could talk about more “adult” topics that aren’t as squeaky clean as most of his postings about Disney and Universal.
“I was getting negative feedback from Inside the Magic readers and followers when I would post family-friendly Disney content one minute, then post something from a Halloween event depicting graphic violence or scantily clad bodies,” Ricky explained to me in a recent interview. “I could justify this when writing about theme park Halloween events, but in the interest of expanding my coverage for outside events without further offending the Disney audience, Outside the Magic was born.”
As part of his new spin-off venture, Ricky decided to try his hand pin-up model photographer. His first shoot was inspired by a piece of fan art created DJ Clulow, owner of Crabby Squid artwork. DJ was selling this print of a Haunted Mansion maid as a pin-up model at Orlando’s Megacon convention this past year and Ricky was so impressed that he decided to recreate it as an actual photograph with a live model. Ricky’s plan is to sell the print as well as create a calendar for 2015 using the same model still using the Haunted Mansion sexy maid theme.
The reaction on Outside the Magic’s Facebook Page was fairly positive. However, on another fan site called The Art of The Haunted Mansion, most of the reaction was extremely negative. Someone commented with “three cheers for implying that prostitution happens in my favorite Disney attraction! (saaarcasm) bleh.” Another person added “This is disgusting, thoroughly disgusting. There’s nothing remotely ARTistic about this in the least.” And yet another threw in “Too slutty for pinup.”
Ricky was also taken by surprise at the reaction, “… [some fans] were simply against the idea of seeing a “Cast Member” without her pants on. I think there’s something about artwork that allows the mind to go down those paths safely while an actual photo hits too close to home for some, I guess. I have many more shots from the series that I will be releasing, but in an entirely different style – more whimsical. It’ll be interesting to see the reactions to those.”
Not only did Ricky respond to some of the comments made about his first venture into pin-up, the model in the shot, “Autumn Holiday”, also weighed in “…I just wanted to say that the Haunted Mansion is my favorite attraction. I’ve had the idea of doing HM pinup photos for quite a long time, although recreating this original artwork was Ricky’s idea. There are many pinup photographers out there who regularly do Disney themes for their shoots, and I personally think they’re adorable – from sexy Maleficents to Cinderellas in corsets.”
She’s right. Many photographers do pin up with Disney themes and typically speaking, it’s the female models who request those themes, not the guys. Take for example, my friend Al Abbazia, owner of Martini Avenue. Al has been shooting pin-up photography for years. His themes range from classic pin-up styles to Disney to Star Wars shots. The man is obsessed with Star Wars, probably more than any other person I know. Much of his artwork is scattered throughout this article, but how does he get away with it? Doesn’t Disney and George Lucas want to sue him for all he’s got?
In order to understand why these works are legal, you need to understand Fair Use/Copyright laws. A court determines if something is in “fair use” by the following four factors: Purpose and character of the work, the nature of the work, amount and substantiality used in the new work and the potential effect on the value of the copyrighted work. In other words, will knock offs of copyrighted material be perceived as coming from the person who created the original work, are they copying the entire of the majority of the work, is the intent to damage the original and will it potentially decrease its value? In the case of Disney pin-up, it’s easiest to compare this to a parody.
Weird Al Yankovic based his early career on creating song parodies of popular artists by borrowing the basic melody of the song, rearranging it a touch and then creating new ridiculous lyrics. Al often asks for permission before releasing a song, but by no means is he required to.
Probably the most famous parody/fair use case was when 2 Live Crew was sued after their remake of the Roy Orbison classic, “Oh, Pretty Woman.” After reaching the United States Supreme Court, the judges found 2 Live Crew’s version that part of the content, along with the original rap lyrics, parodied the Orbison song. The court reached a unanimous decision that parodies fell under the fair use defense.
As we move forward in this new Unofficial Disney series, we are going to discuss other fair use cases (some involving Disney), as well as look at some other ways the Mouse has been portrayed by various fans around the world.
Until then, what are your thoughts? Do you like these unofficial art works or can only Disney create content that you enjoy? Is pin-up too “naughty” to be associated with the mouse? Do you think some of these images go too far… or not far enough?