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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Florida Writer Unleashes Tirade on Evils of Disney

Disney reached deep into peoples' lives through film and publishing, Hiaasen wrote.

MIAMI -- Forget wishing upon a star and whistling while you work -- Mickey Mouse and his Disney cohorts are devouring the world, a popular Florida author said in a new book.

Along the way Walt Disney Corp. is reshaping nature into a tame and squeaky-clean facade, writer Carl Hiaasen said. And while trying to impose its values on the United States and the world, it is wooing politicians to its side and behaving like a secretive government, he charged.

Disney spokesman John Dryer called the piece "nothing new" from previous anti-Disney tirades.

"I've got to admire a guy who can get $100,000 for a rehash of newspaper articles other people have written," Dryer was reported as saying.

Hiaasen, a best-selling satirical novelist and Miami Herald columnist, said, "Disney is well on the way to devouring the world in the same way it devoured this country, starting first with the youth."

Hiaasen let loose his broadside in a new paperback called "Team Rodent," due to be released next Tuesday.

The essay was part of a series launched by Ballantine Publishing under the banner "Library of Contemporary Thought" in which authors and other public figures sound off in long articles published each month in book form.

In his novels such as "Skin Tight" and "Stormy Weather," Hiaasen, a Florida native, poked fun at the sleaze and loose morals that have become accepted behavior in the state.

In "Team Rodent" he accused Disney of contributing to the decline when it began buying tracts of land around Orlando for its theme parks.

"Merely by showing up Disney had dignified blind greed in a state pioneered by undignified greedheads," he said.

Florida legislators let Disney set up as virtually a state within a state, and its security teams behave like a police force -- in one little-publicized incident a man was killed in a high-speed chase with a member of the force, Hiaasen said.

Despite having municipal powers, Disney remained exempt from public record laws, a useful shield in litigation.

"As a corporation Disney is incredibly tough, tenacious, intractable and secretive -- not quite the image we have of Mickey Mouse ambling down the road whistling a happy tune," Hiaasen said in a press release accompanying the book.

Disney reached deep into people's lives through its empire of film and television, publishing, merchandising, hotels and housing developments, Hiaasen wrote.

"The message, never stated but avuncularly implied, is that America's values ought to reflect those of the Walt Disney Company and not the other way around."

News organizations were also targeted by Hiaasen, who said they were willing accomplices to Disney, happily accepting all-expenses paid junkets to theme parks, resulting in reams of favorable publicity masquerading as news.

To create an idealized landscape, Disney remodeled the central Florida marshlands and groves and drove wildlife away, he said. Decrying "the rape of Orlando," Hiaasen said the area became "a sprawling mass of motels, tacky tourist shops and businesses catering to the Disney tourist."

But Dryer said the transformation of Florida into a tourist destination began long before Disney arrived.

"The factors behind Florida's development have been beaches, sunshine, air-conditioning, interstate highways, jet travel and bug spray," Dryer said.