I’m one of the Film Threat’s resident Disney fans. I went to Disney films starting as a very small child. My annual trip of my youth to Disneyland became weekly trips with the advent of the $99 annual pass. My fandom continued to grow as a former member of the Disneyana Fan Club, my numerous trips to tour the Disney studios, and did I mention I live in a city adjacent to Anaheim, CA. All this to say is I’m clearly biased, especially when it comes to the documentary Pardon Our Pixie Dust from director Matthew Serrano. My hope is to be as fair as possible. I hope.
My main criticism of Pardon Our Pixie Dust is its attempt to address a complex issue in a simple way while assigning blame to a mega-corporation, The Walt Disney Company. Serrano’s documentary looks in depth at the issues of the homelessness amongst Disneyland employees, cast member struggles to earn a living wage from the park’s long hours, low pay, and unpopular benefits structure, and the stranglehold The Walt Disney Company has on Anaheim politics.
Serrano hits Disney hard. He brings local Anaheim activists Wes Jones, Mike Robbins, and William Camargo to shine a light on the low-wage cast members’ struggle to survive on the meager pay from a multi-billion dollar Themepark. He also interviews two employees with obscured identities to validate the low wage issue.
“…cast member struggles to earn a living wage from the park’s long hours, low pay, and unpopular benefits structure…”
I like my politics to be based on facts versus mere optics alone. It’s easy, in our divisive culture, to say that Disney is the problem while demanding that it should be a leader in the solution. This picture is easy to paint. Imagine the pristine spires of Sleeping Beauty Castle and cut to the homeless camps a mile away along the Santa Ana River. But did Disney cause this problem? No, but could Disney do more? It’s hard not to notice the park’s rising prices and it’s box office take every week.
Living in Orange County, I know first hand how bad things got in Anaheim and the surrounding communities. From 2008 to 2012, the housing market crash devastated much of the county accounting for its significant rise in homelessness. It’s easy to see the contrast of the situation with the billions flowing into the park. I know enough about the wage and benefits of Disneyland Cast Members to know that you don’t go in with long-term career plans.
The two unidentified cast members talk about the high cost of living in Anaheim. That’s not just Anaheim. That’s the entire state. You would have thought a housing crash would lower home prices and rents, but instead, rents and home prices have skyrocketed since 2012. Bernie Sanders recently visited Anaheim demanding Disney pay its Cast Members $15 an hour. The reality is California families need to make a $120,000 a year to live in this state…minimum. $15 an hour is a start, but it’s a band-aid to a bigger problem that arguably is not Disney’s sole responsibility.
“…makes that case that Disney’s non-existent tax burden has been passed on to the residents of Anaheim.”
Activist Mike Robbins is brought in to address this issues of Disney’s influence in Anaheim politics–the film’s most convincing argument. It’s amazing/scary to uncover the incredible tax benefits Disney receives from the city and its elected officials. Disney’s footprint is huge and the city’s economic benefit is even larger. Robbins makes that case that Disney’s non-existent tax burden has been passed on to the residents of Anaheim. The lesson from Seattle’s losing battle with Amazon and Starbucks is “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” A lesson taught with a large corporate foot placed squarely on the neck of the city.
Agree or disagree. Left or right. Rich or poor. Social justice documentaries are an important part of the cultural discourse. These films should exist to challenge our social/political beliefs, provided we are open-minded enough for our convictions to be challenged. As a social justice film, Pardon Our Pixie Dust is an interest, but incomplete argument. It skims over the issues and feels like a college research paper. It’s more informative than persuasive; invoking rage rather than seeking solutions. Pardon Our Pixie Dust will provide enough sustenance to feed your rage for another day.
Pardon Our Pixie Dust (2018) Directed by Matthew Serrano. Featuring Dave Sheegog, Wes Jones, William Camargo, and Mike Robbins. Pardon Our Pixie Dust made its World Premiere at the 2018 Dances With Films
6 out of 10 stars