The Expo Blog is a space for posts on the history, themes, legacies and experience of Expos. It includes articles from the BIE and external contributors.
When writing parts 1 and 2 about the connections between Walt Disney, the company he founded, and world's fairs, I hadn't planned on writing a part 3, but apparently, the story won't end just yet.
Every world's fair since 1984 has had a mascot, a character designed to anthropomorphize the ideals of the expo and appeal to younger guests. As you might imagine, it's a challenging and rewarding task and the most successful mascots go on to embody the expo and its ideals long after the event's closing day.
Walt Disney's greatest contribution to the world of world's fairs was at an event that wasn't officially recognized by the BIE, but nonetheless has gone on to become an important celebration and beloved memory for many in the United States: the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.
Because the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair wasn't officially recognized by the BIE, participation by foreign countries was greatly reduced. To remedy that gap in content, the organizers chose to rely on corporations and US states more than would typically be done. At the same time, Walt Disney was looking for opportunities to connect with American corporations and let them "foot the bill" for his own artistic and technological experimentation.
I’ve written before about how many Americans are unaware that expos (or “world’s fairs,” as we tend to call them here) still happen. Similarly, the millions of people who live in countries that have hosted expos in the last couple of decades are sometimes unaware of America’s contributions to the medium throughout history. Walt Disney’s story is emblematic about how 20th Century United States history and world’s fair history are intertwined.
I see it as part of my mission to keep world’s fairs and the United States from drifting apart. Fortunately, working at the Walt Disney Family Museum, I have the privilege of interacting regularly with other folks who are also passionate about the power of places.
I've mentioned in this blog before that groups in Houston, San Francisco, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have looked at finding ways to get the United States back into the BIE so that cities can bid for Expo 2022, Expo 2023, or Expo 2025, but parallel efforts are also under way in Canada.
After Edmonton's bid efforts for 2017 were killed off by Canada's federal government, interests in Toronto, headed by City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, started looking at Expo 2025. Last year, those efforts seemed to have been killed by the Canadian federal government's decision to discontinue its membership in the BIE, but this month, it looks like there's a renewed push for Expo 2025 and an effort to keep Canada in the BIE.