OFFICIAL SELECTION - Sundance Film Festival | OFFICIAL SELECTION - Hot DocsWorkers Rights • Disney • Economic Inequality • Unionization • Living Wage • Corporate Accountability & Responsibility • Labor Studies
Date of Completion: 2022 | Run Time: 87 minutes | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Directors: Abigail E. Disney & Kathleen Hughes | Producers: Abigail E. Disney, Kathleen Hughes & Aideen Kane | Co-Producers: Lauren Winbush, Kat Vecchio & Alexander Hyde | Editor: David Cohen | Executive Producers: Susan Disney Lord, Tim Disney, Bill Haney, Paula Froehle & Steve Cohen | Music: Blake Leyh | Director of Photography: Jeff Hutches & James Mills | Animation: Awesome & Modest
In this feature-length, personal essay documentary, filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney grapples with America’s profound inequality crisis. The story begins in 2018, after Abigail encounters workers at the company that bears her name struggling to put food on the table. Could she, a descendent, with no role in the multinational conglomerate, use her famous last name to help pressure Disney and other American corporations to treat low-wage workers more humanely? Believing her conservative grandfather, Roy Disney, (Walt’s brother and company co-founder) would never have tolerated employee hunger at “The Happiest Place On Earth”, Abigail reexamines the story of modern American capitalism from the middle of the last century, when wealth was shared more equitably, to today, when CEO’s earn upwards of 800 times more than their average employees. What happened? What Abigail learns-about racism, corporate power, and the American Dream, is eye-opening, unexpected, and inspiring in that it begins to imagine a path to a fairer future for everyone.
Filmed over a two-year period, THE AMERICAN DREAM AND OTHER FAIRY TALES expertly weaves together Abigail’s family story and the stories of Disneyland workers; with commentary from historians, authors, and academics. The film artfully employs archive, animation, and never-before-seen Disney family movies. From the boardroom to the union hall, the film will no doubt jump-start urgently needed conversations, about how to make American capitalism work for everyone. As Abigail concludes, “it won’t be easy, but with imagination and courage it can be changed."
“You must see The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales! It explains how top executives got richer as workers got poorer. Personally, I'm not seeing another Disney anything until fairness to all its workers is not just a fantasy. I salute Abby Disney for expressing this suffering imposed in her family name."
Variety | Peter Debruge
“[It] makes a powerful statement when a member of one of America’s most respected families steps forward and demands change, not unlike the way Mary L. Trump speaks out against her uncle Donald…One of great-uncle Walt’s greatest strengths was his ability to take the complexity of the real world and simplify it so even children could understand. Here, Abigail does the same.”
The Hollywood Reporter | Frank Scheck
“Still, the film makes an extremely powerful, timely and important statement, especially coming from someone whose name carries such symbolic weight. Disney deserves tremendous credit for standing up for what’s right, even if it means biting the family hand that feeds her.”
Los Angeles Times | Josh Rottenberg
“Through the stories of Disneyland workers living on the edge of poverty and the perspective of labor experts and academics, the film strips away the cheery veneer of the "Happiest Place on Earth" to expose what Disney sees as the immoral culture of corporate greed at not only its heart but that of American capitalism as a whole."
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO | Sara Nelson, International President
"Every person in America (and around the world) needs to see this movie. Thanks, Abigail Disney for this film - that's not just about Disney, but an entire system that we have to get out of the cruel grip of unchecked capitalism and into the hands of the people."
Film Threat | Norman Gidney
“The film is an essential look at the realities facing the American workforce.”
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH KATHLEEN HUGHES, SAM MILLER, ARTEMIS BELL, AND RALPH & TRINA BLAIR
Speakers of THE AMERICAN DREAM AND OTHER FAIRY TALES
Director, producer, and writer Kathleen Hughes has spent 30 years putting a human face on some of the most critical issues of our time. She recently directed and produced, with Abigail Disney, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales. She is also the executive producer of Abigail’s weekly podcast, “All Ears With Abigail Disney.” In Season 4 of All Ears, Abigail uses the film as a jumping-off point to ask big-thinking business leaders, union organizers, economists, and others how they would fix our broken economy. She first teamed up with Disney as co-director and producer of the Emmy Awarding-winning feature, The Armor of Light, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Over the years, Kathleen has produced, directed, and/or written many Bill Moyers documentaries, as well as for PBS, PBS’s “Frontline,” Retro Report, and ABC News. She received numerous awards, including three Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Gold Baton, the Gracie Award, the Sidney Hillman Prize, the Dateline Club’s Society of Professional Journalists First Amendment, the Harry Chapin Media Award, and the Christopher Award.
Sam Miller began working at Disneyland in 1970 as a cashier at a Fantasyland food stand. She recalls it was an unexpected thrill when Roy Disney, Abigail’s grandfather, welcomed all the new hires during their orientation. Sam remembers that when she addressed him as Mr. Disney, he told her she would call him Roy and hoped she could make a career at the company. Unexpectedly, she did exactly that. Over the years, her skills with problematic guests and the ability to keep a sense of humor found her transferred into Talent Administration at the company’s studios in Burbank. Working daily with actors, directors, and every phase of TV and film productions, she became familiar with how the studio functioned, valued its workers, and changed towards its Cast Members over the years. She retired in 2015 but returns to Disneyland regularly to visit friends and enjoy the magic.
Artemis Bell was an overnight custodian at the Disneyland Resort for 10 years. She was active in her union and fought for her fellow cast members. Since leaving Disney, Artemis has been working on finishing her education. She recently worked on an independent short film and says she's working on finding the best version of herself.
Ralph and Trina Blair met and fell in love while working the night shift as custodians at Disney. They married and are raising their three daughters and Trina’s son from her first marriage. Housing is so expensive in the region that even working full time, the couple cannot afford to buy or rent a home, so they live with Trina’s mother in crowded conditions. In 2019, with Trina’s help, Ralph spearheaded the creation of the SEIU food pantry for Disney workers. Hundreds of people have come to rely on the support. Ralph’s vision was that the people who went to the pantry would receive not only food but information on government services that could help with health care and housing. He also found a way to provide diapers and baby formula to families with infants. After the pandemic, Ralph left his job at Disney, deciding it was more important to stay home and care for the kids full-time. Trina has moved to the day shift. She is now working in Fantasyland on the attractions. Her favorite is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.