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Documentary review: “One Day at Disney”

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
2stars
Narrator: Sterling K. Brown
Director: Fritz Mitchell
Release Date: Dec. 3, 2019

If nothing else, “One Day at Disney” is a savvy public relations move for a company often accused of being an unfeeling corporate behemoth.

Yes, Disney, the company known for swallowing up beloved franchises – and entire movie studios- into its corporate maw, would like to remind you that it’s really very human and caring. Like any company, it’s really just made of people – people working to do their best every day who are buoyed by their constant creativity, imagination and hope.

That’s fairly sweet as it goes, and one could imagine “One Day at Disney” working if director Fritz Mitchell actually committed to this approach. But the personality profiles in “One Day” are so shallow and short that the humanity rarely shows, and it becomes painfully evident that the film exists not as a tribute to Disney’s employees but as corporate propaganda.

In barely over an hour, Mitchell breezes through profiles of ten disparate Disney employees. Animation is represented, naturally (in the form of veteran Disney animator Eric Goldberg and Pixar sculptor Jerome Ranft) as are a couple of Disney Parks Imagineers. The rest of those profiled run the gamut from a performer in an off-Broadway production of “The Lion King” to an illustrator for Disney’s publishing arm.

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

I imagine everybody will have their favorite segments (mine were the Goldberg and Ranft bits), but whether you love a segment or hate it, you won’t have to wait around too long. With the film’s truncated runtime, each of the folks being profiled pop in for five minutes or less- long enough to explain their job but not enough to build any kind of emotional connection.

This proves problematic because “One Day at Disney” seems mercilessly intent on wrenching tears from viewers – whether by discussing Ranft’s relationship with his brother (and fellow Pixar legend) Joe, who died in a car crash in 2005 or revisiting “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts’ battle with a rare blood disease.

Honestly, any one of the 10 folks profiled in “One Day” may have made an interesting documentary subject, but being squeezed together in an hour-long package doesn’t give them any room to breathe.

The employees who are the doc’s ostensible focuses also end up with considerably less screentime than Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spends minutes on end waxing eloquently about how “what this company is, aside from the legacy of Walt Disney, is a collection of many talented people doing the same thing, which is trying to touch people’s hearts.”

If that’s the case, why not actually take time to, you know, actually showcase the people, Bob?

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

“One Day at Disney” (rated TV-PG for language and violence) has its sweet feel-good moments, but its very existence as a half-hearted piece of public relations for the company counters those moments time and again.

“One Day at Disney,” like most anything out of the company these days, is a product – one designed to show the company at its best with little regard for nuance or artistic value. It’s a pumpkin that wants to be a princess carriage, but no amount of magic will save the day this time around.

About the author

Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves.  He can be reached at staticandscreen@gmail.com.

 

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Disney+

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