‘Anthem’ Book Review: Walt Disney and his ‘Epcot Center’ Dedication to Ayn Rand

There is no doubt in my mind that if Uncle Walt Disney were alive today and away from friends and family who carefully guard his past, that he would not deny that it was Ayn Rand’s book Anthem that set in his mind the first lingering necessity to build a theme park dedicated to mankind’s future called Epcot Center. Ayn Rand and Walt Disney along with many other professionals working in the creative industry had shared a genuine fight against communism in the period of The Red Decade to the 1960’s. The Red Decade is a term coined by journalist and historian Eugene Lyons to describe a period in American history during the 1930s characterized by a widespread infatuation with communism in general and Stalinism in particular. Lyons believed this idolization of Joseph Stalin and exultation of Bolshevik achievements to have reached its high point in 1938, running deepest amongst liberals, intellectuals, and journalists and even some government and federal officials, saturated American life during this period. Rand, Disney, Reagan, Cooper and many others took a harsh stand against this communist spread and were deeply concerned about what it would do in The United States. CLICK HERE FOR A REVIEW. Few know that Ayn Rand corresponded with Walt Disney about making her novel Anthem into an animated feature. The story appears to have resonated strongly with Disney the rest of his life, so much so that the large plaque shown to the right can be seen at the American Heritage Pavilion at the Epcot Center which opened 6 months after Rand died and Disney had passed away with a drawing of the conceptual amusement park taped to the ceiling of his hospital room so it was the last thing he saw while he died.

I have said it before; Epcot Center is my favorite place on planet earth. I am most happy, most comfortable, most excited about the future of mankind when I visit the Epcot Center. I fully believe that Disney desired to build the theme park to prevent the future that is at the beginning of Ayn Rand’s Anthem. It is becoming increasingly evident that the human race has had to reinvent itself not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but many, many, many times over millions of years and Ayn Rand was aware of this tragic trend. People who hate Ayn Rand’s work are the kind of people Rand as an author was trying to warn society about. And for those who want an easy way to understand Ayn Rand, and are mystified as to why her book Atlas Shrugged is so beloved, and why to this day The Fountainhead is quietly cherished, it is her book Anthem that grabs hold of the themes that would become her legacy, for it is aptly named. The last two chapters of Anthem are two of the most declarative, and profound statements in human literature by an author of any kind or time.

In 2012 communism has already corrupted much of society and the entire globe is marching backwards on a predictable path that was clear to Disney and Rand many years ago. Rand sets Anthem approximately 200 years into the future of the present and in that society the word “I” has been eradicated from all human knowledge. The time we presently live in was called The Unmentionable Times and the entire society assumes that communism has taken full hold, and is the governing world power. The result is that innovation has been eliminated and society has regressed back into a primitive form. In Anthem, there is much celebration when their future society has spent 50 years developing and gaining permits from the World Council to invent a candle. When the hero named Equality 7-2521 discovers evidence of our present civilization in a box of unused light bulbs he takes it to his masters thinking they will be very happy. They of course are not. In fact, they are furious, and desire to burn him in a public execution. While reading about these events I couldn’t help but think of all the executions done during The Dark Ages, and clearly this was what Rand was concerned with in her plot device. The theme is that collectivism socially by its very nature regresses backwards and to such an extent that the people in Equality 7-2521’s time are not even allowed to contemplate the events of “The Unmentionable Time.”

Modern readers may wish to snicker at Ayn Rand’s premise in Anthem. They may find it hard to believe that such a thing could ever happen which is understandable in a world of smart phones, air planes, and the Internet. But Rand had watched the process happen first hand before she fled the Soviet Union which was chronicled in her book We The Living. She watched the backwards social advancement of collectivism and she hated it. When she came to The United States she wrote about life in Russia under communism in We The Living that the publisher Cassell put in print. But they turned down Anthem saying that “the author does not understand socialism.” Rand was trying to publish Anthem during The Red Decade and few people today understand how powerful the communist influence was in America, because after the Cold War, our grandparents didn’t talk about it. Even Ronald Reagan gave communism a chance until he made a film and witness firsthand the destruction by socialism in the small tenements around Elstree Studios, in England. People today laugh at Ayn Rand and her anger at collectivism because they do not have the context of history in their understanding. Few people know today what life was like before FDR’s New Deal, which was a direct response to The Red Decade. They assume that labor unions always existed, that there was always Medicare, always Social Security, always a time when money wasn’t backed by gold, and that public education was always the center of every community. In reality, most of those things happened after Anthem’s publication because Rand saw it coming, and tried to warn Americans to not follow the demise of the country she had just ran from.

But Uncle Walt listened, and he corresponded with Rand, specifically about Anthem. And his answer to the crises exhibited in the novel that humanity might not forget the achievements it had so far gained was a new amusement park dedicated to the cause. It would appear that Disney wanted to fight collectivism through creating a place that would not allow technology to fall under the rule of proletariat dictatorships. Epcot Center was intended to stop the constant periods of invention, then regression that has impeded the human race for many beginnings over time. That is why even with all the controversy surrounding Ayn Rand, even with all the modern progressive types who run Disney World and the many youthful employees who have been raised under philosophies of collectivism, that Rand’s quote is prominently displayed at the American Heritage Pavilion. Disney was very concerned about making good family entertainment which they still are great at today, but Uncle Walt—the man behind the billions and billions of dollars generated by the Walt Disney Company is one of Ayn Rand’s “men of the mind” from Atlas Shrugged, and he knew it. A world without people like Walt Disney, or the modern day equivalent in George Lucas would be a desolate world already well on its way toward the beginning of Anthem.

I was pleasantly surprised that Rand didn’t stop in the dystopian arena that surrounded stories of the period like Soylent Green and Brave New World. Anthem goes beyond those grim visions and actually earns its title in a bold way that would later become The Fountainhead. Anthem is a bold declaration to the world of the human right to be an independent man. The book is awesome and if you’ve ever visited the Epcot Center and find that you love the place you will love Anthem. If you are the type of person who finds Epcot Center boring, you will probably hate Anthem, and Disney had people like you in mind, that’s why there is a Downtown Disney. Go shopping and eat some ice cream if you are that kind of person. But for the thinkers, the lovers of life, the energetic minds striving to see what is next for the human race fighting against collectivism to achieve those next steps against the tide of communism that is attempting to place us all in shackles, Anthem a book that you must read.

For the advocates of collectivism who are perplexed as to why John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow spent small fortunes against conventional Hollywood logic to make Atlas Shrugged Part 2, as fans show up to see the film in spite of the bad reviews and why Ayn Rand books are flying off of book shelves in perplexing quantities, all you need to do is read that plague from Ayn Rand displayed proudly at the Epcot Center to understand that Anthem is more than a warning on the direction of mankind. It also exhibits perfectly the two different directions of two different types of people functioning in America today and the battle that is presently being waged. The fight of our day is to avoid for the first time that human beings have breathed air into their lungs to revert into collectivism after having small tastes of freedom. If we ever did, the Epcot Center would be available to remind mankind of what it’s giving up in order to have a world of the inclusive “WE.” (collectivism)

The heart and drive of Anthem is to rediscover a very simple concept that we all take for granted, the meaning and understanding of the world “I.” Anthem is in a fashion a treasure hunt not for gold or unlimited riches or political power. Anthem is a treasure hunt for the value of a human being—which is defined with the noun—“I.”

Rich Hoffman

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