. ゚​✧​˚ 𝗗ark 𝗗rone 𝕯isneyland ˚✧ ゚.



Liam Murphy

June 11, 2023

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Industrial media machine, innately evil force and purveyor of joy coalesce on this strange dreamtone release

If there was some sort of hostile takeover of the creative industry as a whole, in which film studios, record labels, theatres and any other businesses of artistic endeavour were either bought out or forced to succumb to the might and capital of one media company, there’s no prizes for guessing which company that would be. The Walt Disney Company are inescapable, their intellectual property lurking round corners, pumping through screens, their mascots printed onto shirts, hats and other merchandise worn and bought by children and grown-ups alike.

Currently, a minority of Americans believe that the Disney’s evil lies in its (fairly pedestrian) representation of diversity and gender rights. One example of this movement is the decrying of the overhaul of Splash Mountain – a ride directly linked to an overtly racist Disney film called Song of the South – protesting that the idea of changing the ride is a covert plan to implement a new ‘woke’ agenda in the country’s youth. Less of a secret evil plan, this example serves as evidence that Disney would rather have it both ways and pander to both crowds, not coming out and condemning that particular film’s revisionist depiction of slavery (in fact parts of the film have been recycled throughout Disney life and the film itself enjoyed rerelease a number of times) but trying to signal to the wider marketplace that they don’t celebrate the movie and that people who are aware of how despicable the film is should still give the corporation money. 

In another corner of the internet, YouTube countdowns and TikTok viral videos explore something referred to commonly as “Dark Disney”, this is a mish-mash depiction of the corporation including explorations of darker and usually older films, creepypasta-esque stories or rumours surrounding the parks or strange happenings in the productions of films and a feed of edited pictures or art to suggest that there is some sort of extraordinary evil lurking in the corporation. This sort of ‘content’ can range from honest analysis of moments in a film like Pinocchio (the storyline of which would be incredibly hard to soften or brighten up when you read about its various iterations) to dubious stories about deaths on rides or Disney park secrets. Of course, the story of s*icide mouse also springs to mind and fits nicely into this category. 

The reality is surprisingly neither of these, but does include aspects of each. Disney is a global corporation in a capitalist marketplace. Therefore business decisions are made purely based on the financial value that those decisions have. This means that cruel business practices occur and problematic ideological choices made, not because of some evil being wishes harm on people through some satanic means, but purely because being cruel and performing virtue has probably been proven to be good for business. 

. ゚ ✧ ˚ 𝗗ark 𝗗rone 𝕯isneyland ˚✧ ゚. explores Disney imagined as something devoid of its warm veneer. Its album cover tells us as much, depicting a girl with the trademark circular ears of Disney’s mascot, he himself lurking just to the right of the frame. There is an AI uncanniness about the image, the unfocused stare of the main character, the crumpled hand of Mickey Mouse raised, looking somewhat threatening. The symbols that decorate the sides of the frame speak to a coded communication as well. Signifiers we recognise – and have our own connections with – paired with symbols and a tone that is purposely elusive. 

The music itself takes the form of dreamtone, an ambient genre lacking clear form or foundation and instead succumbing to waves of euphoric sound and dreamy washes of instrumentation. Through this subgenre, the corporation, and more specifically its theme parks, are imagined as some hyper-industrial hellscape. With the Disney we know not clearly revealing itself at any point, . ゚ ✧ ˚ 𝗗ark 𝗗rone 𝕯isneyland ˚✧ ゚.. feels like more of a surreal peak behind a curtain than a piece of work that critiques anything directly, feeding off of the theory that there is some innate, preternatural villainy at the heart of the brand. 

Our setting is some dark, expansive space. The first explicit sound is the hiss of some industrial pipe or crevice inbetween ancient machinery, a screech of mechanics emerging in the gloom. The hum of pads playing out meaningful chords illuminate this space from which Disney’s saccharine product is churned out. The princesses, feelgood narratives and merchandise all emanating from this dark trench in an undisclosed location. Shirking an obvious and dramatic reflection of Disney’s magical castle and bold colours, this park is eerie and desolate, the industrial might that went into its creation on full display. Pipes spew into the air of the soundscape, metal groans and shrieks. The industrial monster that churns out Disney’s products in real life is turned inside out.

We do catch blurred glimpses of the corporation we know, at the end of the first track, what sounds like a much more cinematic melodic refrain calls out, its majesty brimming over the edge, only partly visible, as if we are ensconced under the setting, in the sewers of the location or looking out from steel grates below the park itself. And a few moments after, even voices and sampled music make their way towards the listener – though muffled and echoed into uninterpretable euphoria. But, for the most part, the DREAMTONE CATALOGUE CARTEL the artist or alias who is credited as creator presents us with the hum of darkness, the almost visible corners and alleyways of the dark theme park. 

Further into the release, emotive weight begins to make itself more apparent, at first fringed by the sharp, searing sounds of screeching machinery. The third track showcases a moment in which the creation overwhelms the machinery it is being spewed from. Warm notes flooding the soundscape with a sense of deep emotional catharsis. The listener can see beams of light and manufactured joy spewing from The Magic Kingdom that surrounds them, its radiance spreading wider and wider, phasers indicating the magnitude of the event as the air vibrates around them. So much of the Disney theme parks draw relies on this sense of invisible magic permeating the air. We see it represented in adverts as stardust racing above the heads of excited guests, in clips of people looking epiphanic while entering their favourite place. This fabricated sense of wonder is often the push customers need to surrender themselves to the rampant profiteering that lines the corporations pockets. Here, this sensation is twisted into something different and unnerving in contrast to Disney’s usual sickly majesty, the overwhelming waves of sound representing a complete transcendence, a earth-shaking catharsis as lower pads pull away the last remnants of the material world.

This glowing drone pushes on into our conclusion, with pad sounds blessing the dark location like glimmering sun rays, reaching up and crossing over each other like golden spotlights. Still no structure or stabilising reference to the park or corporation we know reveals itself, but there is an apparent shift from murky and intimidating instrumentation to an overwhelming sense of acceptance. This seems to represent our ascent from the location as the dramatic notes that were reaching and swirling over one another settle into a peaceful drone and the scene fades from view. 

Disney’s story is one of the most interesting of our time. Dark secrets, rampant profiteering and capitalist cruelty all coalesce to form the multi-billion dollar media brand that looms large over much of the world of creative media. This is not what we experience on . ゚ ✧ ˚ 𝗗ark 𝗗rone 𝕯isneyland ˚✧ ゚.. Through the atmospheric style of dreamtone, the listener is surrounded by darkness and industrial gloom, the antithesis of the facade Disney presents itself with. In this gothic representation, genuine emotional catharsis emerges through the dark pulling us away from material reality.