No my good people, that is not an image Photoshopped by a lonely fan of both Disney and Steampunk – that is an image from the DisneyParks.com’s blog – the post is entitled “The Mechanical Kingdom” and at risk of sounding “decidedly un-cool”, I think such things are actually quite fantastic.
“But how can Disney going Steampunk be any good for anything?” You ask. Well, do let me explain.
I don’t view Steampunk as an underground movement to be savored by a few. I am a proponent of pushing it’s ideology of DIY re-purposing and Neo-Victorian aesthetics to the masses – the wantonly unwashed, uneducated masses. Yes… them.
But I digress. Disney is genuinely doing this. To quote from the blog.
“I can still vividly recall the day that Disney Design Group Artist Mike Sullivan visited us holding the image pictured above. My mind was reeling – was I actually seeing Steampunk Disney Characters? I even remember yelling “Steampunk!!” while getting strange glances from everyone around me.”
That’s a quote from Steven Miller, a Project Manager for Disney. It seems they have crafted, and are slated to release, a journal about the Mechanical Kingdom – A Disney-esque Steampunk universe – as well as a series of pins to be sold at Disney Parks and resorts. I find the prospect exciting. Granted, it is not much more than a Disney story with a Steampunk veneer, but should a seven, ten or perhaps thirteen year old pick it up, read it and become enchanted – who can imagine what their next steps could be. Before their parents know it – they could be “steampunking” the family cat… or, er… perhaps vacuum cleaner.
Beyond that, the fact that Disney Project Managers are pursuing Steampunk not just for the monetary value, but also because they have a passion for the aesthetics shows that the movement is truly growing on the world. The one we live in today was founded on principals, aesthetics and designs created by such “underground” movements as Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School, Le Corbousier’s International Style, Bauhaus and the Dada-ists – to name a few. All these went from unknown, underground strange artistic ideas to the full scale basis by which we have built the contemporary world.
Now, perhaps, we can appreciate a fine plane or or angular building – but perhaps we can also re-capture that which we’ve lost through modernistic industrial design, fashion and architecture. That is where I see Steampunk’s influence, in showing that progress can look Victorian, Edwardian, Art Art Nouveau and Art Deco – and still be modern and new.
But back to Disney – should you find yourself in one of their high end resorts or parks, and should you have enough money left over after the entry, food and air tax – do keep a look out for The Mechanical Kingdom – it’s set to be released this April.
Pretty, isn’t it?
-The Lord Baron
Post Script: To take a look at Disney’s earlier flirtations with Steampunk, do watch the 2002 animated motion picture “Treasure Planet“. While not spectacular filmmaking, it has fantastic art and character direction. The “steampunk in space” visions are seldom seen mainstream.