Disney comment on Victoria: “you would swear you were in England”

by Yule Heibel on October 3, 2007

It seems the Canadian Pavilion at the Epcot Center (in Orlando, Fla.’s Disney World) has a new version of “O Canada,” the promotional film for this country. According to an article in today’s paper (Ottawa feeling underexposed in Disney’s new Epcot film), Ottawa is ticked off that it rates barely a mention.

But how would you like to be Victoria, narrated along the lines of “you would swear you were in England”?

There are two YouTube clips available to view the “First Official Screening” of the new & improved version of “O Canada”:

Part One (nearly 10 minutes, with the first 5 1/2 minutes taken up by an intro; at around 6 minutes the actual film starts, with Martin Short): this link to view
Part Two (another 10 minutes, this time all film, except for a few seconds at the end): this link to view

What I find interesting is that Martin Short starts by explaining the origin of the name, Canada, as deriving from the native word for “village” or “settlement,” but then the film spends at least 5 minutes going on about how Canadians practically live outdoors, in the wilder wilds of nature. Did you know, for example, that ice skating is apparently our national mode of winter transportation…? No? It was news to me, too.

Aha, but then, after many views of bear & caribou & so on, Short adds this: “Most Canadians live in cities.”

What follows is a quick cross-country city tour, with each locale highlighted for something or other. Victoria is cited for its architecture — incidentally the only city to be distinguished for that aspect. Yet only our relatively slim pickings of wow! buildings (the Empress and the Legislature, both designed by Francis Rattenbury) are part of that highlight. We are not commended for anything new and recent.

And I say “relatively slim” not to disparage the magnificence of the buildings exposed in the film, but to point out that once you’re in the downtown neighbourhoods of Rock Bay or Harris Green or North Park, those buildings will mean little to you, because what you’re dealing with instead are the rather uninspired uglinesses on either side of the street…

So, in context, the “you would swear you were in England” remark is actually part of this statement: “The architecture of this charming city is so inspired by its British heritage that you would swear you were in England.”

I guess the question might then be, “How long can we continue to live off inspiration alone?” Even Disney gives it up to innovation, often and repeatedly…

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