Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Between Books – Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual 2023

Cover for 2023 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual showing the contents and images of subjects in the collection like Woolie Reitherman in a military pilot's uniform and Pete Seanoa in Polynesian clothing.

New year, same review?

I feel like I restate the same thoughts whenever I read the latest Hyperion Historical Alliance annual.

Maybe it’s because I feel “excluded” and I don’t like that. I’d like to think I’m pretty serious when it comes to history.

The “2023 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual” consists of five articles that span decades of Disney history from the early days of animation to the 1900’s in Disney parks. The five articles are:
  • “Oswald the Laemmle Rabbit” by Tom Klein

  • “Walt Disney and The Life of Hans Christian Anderson” by Didier Ghez

  • “Woolie Reitherman Needs to Fly” A Disney Artist Goes to War” by Lucas O. Seastrom

  • “1945-1946: Edgar Bergan and Disney’s Story Department” by Didier Ghez

  • “Direct from the Islands: The Polynesian Magic of Pete Seanoa” by Nathan Eick

The articles are all written with an academic slant. And they have extensive footnotes with bibliographies showing source material. They definitely as a group are attempting to show the seriousness of Disney history.

For me, the most engaging topics were Oswald and Woolie Reitherman. Klein’s article demonstrated that the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was not fully in the mind of Walt Disney. In many ways, Oswald was a corporate creation, which reminded me of the modern studio and network system where executives, producers, and writers all have claim to pieces of the character. Disney’s additions were critical, providing Oswald with much of his character development and growth. But Klein makes it clearer that the Lucky Rabbit was a corporate rabbit not a Disney one. We might even call Oswald work-for-hire. The Reitherman article dives deep into the artist’s non-animation career as a military and civilian pilot. The article helps remind us of how the Greatest Generation was often more than one thing and career, which should inspire us! But it is also a history that includes World War II, transportation over The Hump into China, and the growth of commercial air travel.

The “2023 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual” to me has an audience, Disney fans who want serious historical research. They want their passion to be validated as a serious academic pursuit. I also think these fans, like me, would love to support the Hyperion Historical Alliance in their mission. In fact, my proof is the purchase, reading, and review of now four Annuals. I just think that they need to grow the mission. I am someone who has a master’s degree in history. I’d like to think I am taking my history seriously. I am also not currently mining archives for serious historical additions to the knowledge base. But I would like to support those that are doing so. As someone who’s been a member of the Society of Baseball Research, who has a model I think can be used here, I don’t get why this isn’t being democratized. I’ve also been a member of the Society for Military History and American Historical Association, founded in 1884 and very serious, which both have options for non-working historians.

The “2023 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual” is a collection of five historical articles that span the varying topics in Disney history. Most Disney fans, like I did, will likely find a topic of interest and comparisons to trends today in media. Again, I wish they would open membership up to a more scalable and likely-lasting membership model.

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