The Disneyization of Society

Public Relations Office        March 21, 2013

Kensuke Suzuki, Associate Professor, School of Sociology

Kensuke Suzuki, Associate Professor

Kensuke Suzuki, Associate Professor

Some discussions deal with “Disneyization” in a wide variety of industries in today’s society. A typical example of such discussions is The Disneyization of Society by Alan Bryman, a U.S. sociologist. The term “Disneyization” might remind one of increased products for children, but that is not what the term means. Operating a restaurant based on a theme like the “settlement of the American West,” merchandizing an image character, creating a working environment in which employees can enjoy their work as if playing, and conducting thorough management to ensure that these things are realized. These elements, according to the author, have been sophisticated by Disney and widely adopted in other industries.

At the same time, the author insists that the method has already passed its peak. While there are still some facilities based on themes like the “period from 1955 to 1965,” many theme parks developed during the Japanese economic bubble period are now facing financial difficulties. Quite a number of facility complexes established as centerpieces of resort development projects are now finding it difficult to sustain themselves without support from administrative organizations.

Commercial facilities with discounted products as their selling point, such as outlet malls, have become prevalent in recent years against the backdrop of the decrease in consumers’ income, largely due to the ongoing recession. This prevalence might make one think that Disneyization is a thing of the past. Actually, however, Disneyization is also found at outlet malls. Many outlet malls feature entertainment facilities, such as a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, and consumers visit the malls not only for shopping but also for relaxing themselves at such facilities.

For merchandizing, many local organizations create unique yuru-chara, mascot characters with a “yuru” (loose or slackened) image, to enhance the profile of their regions. Focusing on the increase in rekijo, girls with a strong interest in Japanese history, some local groups created mascot characters of military commanders during Japan’s Warring States period. Also, even universities, including Kwansei Gakuin University, have begun selling items related to entrance examinations and T-shirts with the school’s logo.

As a concept, Disneyization provides food for thought in modern society. In societies with a flood of products, even for products that are needed, selection is mainly based on value provided, such as pleasure or joy. For more than 100 years, research in the field of sociology has been conducted on values and attitudes of people in contemporary societies of each period. When society faces big changes, the wisdom to examine such values is needed by everyone.

Profile of Kensuke Suzuki

Born in Fukuoka in 1976. Specializes in theoretical sociology. Has developed unique sociological theories by linking his research on the latest phenomena in our information-technology society, such as the Internet and mobile phones, with theoretical research mainly on political philosophies. Since 2006 has participated in “Cultural Talk Radio Life,” a radio program broadcast by TBS Radio. This program received the 45th Galaxy Grand Prix as best radio program. Since 2009, has also appeared on “Seishun Real,” a TV program broadcast by NHK Educational TV.