However, as powerful as that nostalgia was, it was not the only element in the impact ofFantasmic, at least on me. Another factor was the sheer power of the effects on the senses. Wonderful music pumped through an awesome sound system just does something cool to us, especially when combined with such vivid visual imagery. But I also believe there was one other element of emotional power in the show. That had to do with its message. The production doesn’t tell a straight, coherent story, but it does have a story and definitely has a message that weaves its way through the presentation. The star of the show is, of course, Mickey Mouse. The show is about a dream he has, a dream that as it progresses encounters assaults by evil. The evil is personified by a dragon named Maleficent, but is at points represented many of the villains from Disney movies. In the end Mickey Mouse wins out over evil to the great joy and celebration of all.
As I reflected on that experience I realized that the Disney folks have some good and some bad in that production. The good is that it says something that is true, gloriously and joyously true. Why does it seem to us that good should defeat evil, that anything else is just wrong? Is it just wishful thinking? The Bible tells us that at the core of all of history is a story of hope. Because our God is good and is all powerful, good will win. That’s why it seems to us that’s how it should be. Day after day we are trapped on the battlefield between good versus evil. We see it played out in the events both large and small of daily life. In our personal lives we experience the slings and arrows of evil in a myriad of ways, but we can see the battle painted on the larger canvas of the entire human race as well. Ephesians 6:12 says our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. It is a combat that is gritty and violent. At times the fight seems hopeless. The forces of evil are so powerful, so relentless, seemingly irresistible. The good seems as hopeless and small as little Mickey Mouse opposed by a flame-breathing massive dragon. Yet the message of the Bible is that in the end good will win, just as it does in Fantasmic. What a hopeful thing it is to know that when all is said and done Jesus will hand over the kingdom to God the Father “after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (verse 25). At the heart of all of creation is hope. Romans 8:21 says that at the end of the day “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” All of creation, including human beings, will rejoice in the joy of that great and final victory.
But what is the bad in Fantasmic? It’s just my opinion, but it appears to me that Mickey Mouse stands in for God in that story. Perhaps that would be all right if the ubiquitous mouse merely represented good, thus the manifestation of the character of God. But in the Disney formulation Mickey represents human imagination. So it is human imagination that will win the day against evil. Human imagination will bring about the progress that will defeat the evil that has always threatened to engulf us. This is where Walt Disney and I part company, big time. Human imagination is an amazing thing. At times I am astounded by what human beings are able to dream up and create. In fact, some of the things done by the Disney company these days are just jaw-dropping in their creativity. Human imagination has been employed to improve our lives in spectacular ways. But we must ask, has it made humans any better? Certainly it has improved our circumstances, but has it improved the human race? Has it changed the human heart? The answer appears to me to be no. Despite the many great advances brought about by human imagination in recent centuries, the human condition is little changed. In fact, sadly it is not uncommon for human imagination to be employed for evil purposes as well as good ones. The late Osama bin Laden and his colleagues used a great deal of imagination in crafting the 9/11 attacks. That was far from the triumph of good over evil. Imaginative, yes. But good? Definitely not. I fear that the insistence that human ingenuity, imagination, creativity and progress will cause us to triumph over evil leads away from the true answer. That answer is that only God can win over the evil that dogs us all. Surely we should apply all the imagination we can muster in the effort to improve circumstances on earth, but true transformation of the human heart only can be wrought by looking to our God. Victory over evil in the spiritual realm will only be won by God.