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Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World

Three decades after it began bulldozing the cow pastures and
draining the marshes of rural Orlando, Disney stands as by far the
most powerful private entity in Florida; it goes where it wants,
does what it wants, gets what it wants. It's our exalted mother
teat, and you can hear the sucking from Tallahassee all the way to
Key West.

The worst damage isn't from the Walt Disney World Resort itself
(which is undeniably clean, well operated, and relatively safe) or
even from the tourists (although an annual stampede of forty
million Griswolds cannot help but cut an untidy swath). The
absolute worst thing Disney did was to change how people in Florida
thought about money; nobody had ever dreamed there could be so
much. Bankers, laywers, real-estate salesmen, hoteliers,
restauranteurs, farmers, citrus growers--everyone in Mickey's orb
had to drastically recalibrate the concepts of growth, prosperity,
and what was possible. Suddenly there were no limits. Merely by
showing up, Disney had dignified blind greed in a state pioneered
by undignified greedheads. Everything the company touched turned to
gold, so everyone in Florida craved to touch or be touched by
Disney. The gates opened, and in galloped fresh hordes. The cattle
ranches, orange groves, and cypress stands of old Orlando rapidly
gave way to an execrable panorama of suburuban blight.

One of the great ironies upon visiting Disney World is the wave of
relief that overwhelms you upon entering the place--relief to be
free of the nerve-shattering traffic and the endless ugly sprawl.
By contrast the Disney resort seems like a verdant sanctuary. That
was the plan, of course--Team Rodent left the park buffered with
thousands of unspoiled acres, to keep the charmless roadside
schlock at bay.

As Orlando exploded, business leaders (and therefore politicians)
throughout the rest of Florida watched and plotted with envy.
Everyone conspired for a cut of the Disney action, meaning
overflow. The trick was to catch the tourists after they departed
the Magic Kingdom: induce them to rent a car and drive someplace
else and spend what was left of their vacation money. This mad
obsession for sloppy seconds has paid off big-time. By the year
2000, the number of tourists visiting the Orlando area is expected
to reach forty-six million annually. That's more than the combined
populations of California and Pennsylvania storming into Florida
every year, an onslaught few places on earth could withstand. Many
Disney pilgrims do make time to search for auxiliary amusement in
other parts of the state. High on the list are the southernmost
chain of islands known as the Keys, where I live, and where only
one road runs the length of the archipelago. Maybe you can
appreciate my concern.

Excerpted from TEAM RODENT: How Disney Devours the World ©
Copyright 2011 by Carl Hiaasen. Reprinted with permission by
Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, Inc. All rights

Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
by by Carl Hiaasen

  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345422805
  • ISBN-13: 9780345422804