Would you watch a mockumentary about Disney World?
Let me start by saying I'm not some huge Disney nut. I've been a few times and had tons of fun but I'm by no means a fanatic. I am, however, a fanatic about good stories, and I can't help but feel that a mockumentary--documenting the lives of all the different people that make up the Disney parks and resorts--would make for damn good television.
Shows like The Office and Parks and Rec have become staples in popular culture. They've achieved such success partly because of their settings and the unique circumstances they provide, but more so because of the interactions between the characters existing within those settings, the life-altering relationships that develop even in the mundanity, and the emotions--both good and bad--that imbue the workplace with a meaning that goes far beyond its day-to-day purpose.
I can't think of a better backdrop for a new mockumentary series than Disney World and its surrounding resort. The possibilities are almost endless. You can have arcs for vacationing families, for character actors, for ride operators and custodians, hotel staff and park management, all of which complement, contrast and intersect with each other in ways that highlight what it means to be human: what it means to live a life in which you work forty hour weeks every week just to finally spend seven days in paradise with the people you love.
The parks, too, would provide the opportunity for some astonishing cinematography, specifically night shots, contrasting the crowds of the day, framing the famed Cinderella's Castle itself in an eerie stillness--a desolation, even--perhaps to match the loneliness in the security guard's heart as her footsteps echo in the night.
The show, of course, would have to strike a perfect balance. Obviously, any series whose setting is a real world attraction--especially the preeminent theme park in the world, owned by multibillion dollar multimedia conglomerate--would quickly draw the ire of critics, and rightfully so. If written poorly, the series could easily come across as a gigantic advertisement: look how much fun our visitors have, look how beautiful the parks are, look how much this young actress loves playing Snow White.
And that's why Disney would need to take a risk. The parks have always striven to create the illusion of magic, of a universe in which nothing can go wrong. Its products are thrills and fantasy and adventure but--above all else--escape. Disneyland itself is billed as "The Happiest Place on Earth." The only way such a television series would be able to avoid being condemned as one enormous publicity campaign would be to acknowledge the very thing its entire brand pretends to not exist: sadness. By subverting the company's public face, the show would become meaningful.
You take the stories of real people: couples on the brink of divorce vacationing with their starry-eyed kids, a customer service agent who was supposed to be a writer being berated by a parent over some triviality, the guy in the Woody suit who's in love with the guy in the Buzz suit. These people are in the Happiest Place on Earth, but they're unhappy. Why?
I know Disney would probably never want to put out a product that in any way would suggest discontent, whether from its employees or its customers. But the reality is that only children are completely buying into the magic, and that for adults, their troubles don't vanish the moment they step onto Main Street.
The show would be the first original series on Disney+ for mature audiences, at times hysterical and at times heart-wrenching. For parents, it would provide a respite from the illusions of princesses and superheroes, a world that would allow them to sit back and think, to process their own emotions and experiences by laughing and crying with characters whose struggles and triumphs mirror their own.
I'm sure there are a million legal and logistical and PR reasons why this would never happen. I'm just saying, the shooting locations and professions and intellectual property are all there--all that's needed is a story. If you're a Disney exec and you're reading this (lol) and you like the idea, drop me a line. I'll write the pilot. I'll write a bible if you need it. I just might need to be put up in the Grand Floridian for a couple of months to really get to know my subject matter. Tentative title: The Happiest Place on Earth.