SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! In the investigative documentary The American Dream and Other Fairytales, philanthropist Abigail Disney and co-director Kathleen Hughes use the Disney Company as a means of exposing the economic disparity between high-level executives and the workers that make the profits possible. Disney compares the wages of full-time Cast Members (Disney employees) against the exorbitant salaries, and bonuses executives enjoy as a springboard into the discussion of the increasing financial gap in America that has increased since the early 1970s.
The American Dream and Other Fairytales isn’t so much a takedown of The Walt Disney Company as it is of corporate American greed and culture. The film is an essential look at the realities facing the American workforce while attempting to champion a solution. Disney comes right out at the beginning, wagging a finger at her own naivete and privilege. It wasn’t until a full-time cast member at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, reached out to her that she had a clear understanding of what was going on.
“…Disney asks the group if they ever had to choose between medication or food.”
She then shoots casual friend and acting CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, a friendly email asking him to enter a discussion on ways to solve the issue. Heading out to California for a visit, Abigail Disney meets the cast member that reached out to her along with a handful of others from their worker’s union. In a sobering moment, Disney asks the group of about 15 how many of them have had to sleep in their car over the past year because they didn’t make enough money. Over half raise their hands. It doesn’t get any better when Disney asks the group if they ever had to choose between medication or food.
There is a stretch of the movie in which Abigail Disney compares the past executives to the present, and the difference is stark. She recalls visiting “The Park” that her grandfather Roy and great uncle Walt built. Disney talks about the integrity of her grandfather, along with his work ethic. This is intercut with vintage interviews of cast members admiring him for his warm demeanor. No one was ever allowed to call him Mr. Disney, as all called him Roy. We hear from experts and historians about when things changed and why. Then we examine the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, and his wage that is 800 times of a lower employee.
This is all to say that there is, indeed, a problem in the way things have developed. Using one of the most quintessential American success stories of our time, Disney and Hughes point out a major problem in America. Mixing first-hand and personal accounts, archival footage, and history, The American Dream and Other Fairytales does a phenomenal job explaining the situation and demanding a solution. Yet we are left wanting as the solution seems far from achievable. Instead, Disney closes the doc with another email. This time it’s to the two Bob’s, Iger and Chapek, who are now running the company. You didn’t respond to my email, so I made a movie. Talk about a cliffhanger.
The American Dream and Other Fairytales screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
"…does a phenomenal job..."