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Celebration, Florida, home to over 7,000 people, was built 15 years ago in the vision of Walt Disney to create a utopian, self-sufficient community. Lured by the Disney endorsement, hundreds of people flocked there in the mid-nineties paying hugely inflated prices for homes to be part of this new Disney experiment. Residents quickly found out that Disney's expertise in running theme parks does not apply to the complexities of town governance. A skyrocketing divorce rate, housing market crash, and foreclosures have led to the first violent crimes in the community residents refer to as "The Bubble". This documentary seeks to tell the story of Celebration through the eyes of the residents whose challenges help us understand American life, culture and consumerism.
Why do I want to make this film? Well, I wasn’t really raised with religion, but my mom did have a season pass to Walt Disney World. Although we lived in Ohio, we went every year for as long as I would let her. You might say that I was raised in the church of Disney.
On one of these trips, my mom found out about Celebration and wanted to check it out. We drove through undeveloped swamp land that most tourists ignore as they speed through those roads connecting the amusement parks, eventually coming to the place where dreams of living a full fledged Disney life were becoming a reality. My mom was in awe of the houses being built, the glorious fantasy of the amusement parks now somewhere a family could actually inhabit. And that was it. We drove though and I never really thought of the place again.
During the Thanksgiving holiday of 2010 I started seeing news stories about the first murder in Celebration. A week later a man held his family at gunpoint for 14 hours before being killed by the police. Upon further investigating, I found an article about the rise in crime in this planned utopia and one quote in particular stood out to me, “I never met so many swingers until I moved to Celebration”. What was going on in this place built to be a return to small town American values? That question kept me up at night and eventually I started emailing people.
By March, 2011 I had set up interviews with the Celebration Chamber of Commerce, the Principal and Drama teacher of the Celebration High School, local business owners, realtors, a travel writer that had been on 83 Disney Cruises, the guitarist from the band LFO, and several others. I didn’t know what I was going to find but I knew I wanted to talk to these people.
I wasn’t the first person to become interested in Celebration and that became abundantly clear as soon as I stepped foot in that town. Over the years, Celebration has had the media spotlight shone on it and often through a negative lens. This led the residents of the community to be suspicious of my desire to interview them, and led to my realization as to why I was truly there. The residents of Celebration had never truly been able to speak for themselves, it’s always the point of view of a New York Times reporter or Professor of Humanities writing a book, but never really the residents themselves. It’s about time they got to tell their story, tell the world what happened from the beginning. How does a community built on the principles of Walt Disney, the architect of “The Happiest Place on Earth”, end up with spouse swapping and murder? I can’t tell you that, but the people that live there most certainly can.
The history of Celebration from Walt Disney’s final onscreen appearance in 1966 showcasing his plans for a “Community of Tomorrow” to the foreclosure ridden streets that line the community today, “The Bubble” intends to tell the story of this unique place from the perspective of those who inhabit it. With over 30 hours of interviews and b-roll already shot and the intention to return for the 15th anniversary Founder’s Day celebration in November, those sleepless nights continue as the town that Disney built haunts my mind.
With your support we can make this film. Funding is needed to get back to Celebration in November to obtain more interviews and capture the Founder's Day event. I will be going back with a professional Cinematographer for two weeks and already have interviews scheduled, but we can't get there without you. Please pledge whatever you can and be sure to take note of the unique rewards that we are offering with your investment. One lucky individual might end up in a hot air balloon with me as we float over Celebration, and maybe it will be you. Thank you.
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