How to Capitalize on Culture, Part II
About a year and a half ago I observed that Día de los muertos was starting to become more and more commercialized, particularly in Santa Ana, where the event has grown into enormity. This is an event where streets are closed down, a stage is setup and newer, non-traditional vendors are setting up shop.
Guess who has come knocking? Disney. The Disney corporation now wants to trademark Día de los muertos for a movie that they want to make. But it gets worse. They want to apply this trademark for merchandise, “educational purposes” and more.
Now that el Día de los muertos has been amplified and Disney sees a market for it, who is to blame? Who is to blame for packaging the product and projecting it on such a large scale that Disney wants to cash in, and potentially take your rights to use that name??
Any vendor should ask him or herself what the meaning of Día de los muertos is. Is it truly an excuse to bank on the memory of deceased ones? That’s downright insulting to the memory of lost ones in my book.
On one hand, an animated movie using Día de los muertos iconography makes sense. It’s a very colorful cultural practice that adapts naturally to animation, at least in concept. It’s a subject that’s been fused into movies, for better or worse, like in The Crow: City of Angels. In concept, fusing the cult of death with a goth figure like The Crow, fits naturally but the end result was poor.
Characters based on calacas, or entire scenes influenced by Día de los muertos are nothing new in movie making. There’s El muerto, a movie who’s main character is painted in calaca throughout, and there’s a scene in Once Upon a Time in Mexico where skulls abound, and people paint themselves in calaca in a shootout with Mexican troops.
But Disney trying to co-opt the name goes too far, and it is the fault of those that began capitalizing on the event with pseudo art, fashion and artifacts.
The Mexican government should demand a stop to this because el día de los muertos is Mexican Cultural Patrimony. The Mexican government should have protected this name not only from Disney, but from those marketers cashing in on the subject, especially on this side of the border. They should have protected it like they protect tequila, which can’t be reproduced outside of a specific Mexican region.
To those of you who do, who have capitalized on the name, pat yourselves on the back for sweetening the package for Disney.