REVIEW: The Liberty Story
Since it's the Fourth of July, I thought it would be apropos to review The Liberty Story which recently started streaming on Disney+. The Liberty Story is an episode of Disneyland from 1957 which basically compiles a truncated version of Johnny Tremaine and Ben and Me.
The episode opens, as always, with Walt Disney. He's listening to a record of "The Liberty Tree." He tells us that we'll be looking at two "books" - Johnny Tremaine by Esther Forbes and Ben and Me by Robert Lawson - during the course of the evening. In the Johnny Tremaine package, we see young Johnny involved in various aspects of the American revolution, including the Boston Tea Party, the ride of Paul Revere and the Battle of Concord in which we heard the "shot heard 'round the world." In the Ben an Me package, we see the animated short featuring Amos Mouse forming a friendship with Ben Franklin. In the end, Amos inadvertently provides the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.
It's interesting watching this after having watched Hamilton which was also about the American revolution. In Hamilton's version, the revolution is far from perfect. It's messy and violent and fraught with politics. In The Liberty Story's version, it is an idealized version of what the time was like told through the eyes of Johnny Tremaine and Amos Mouse. It's definitely a cleaner version of history told through Disney's ideals. And, there's nothing wrong with that. The Disney+ page does warn, though, for "outdated cultural depictions," which includes a bunch of rebels who disguised themselves as Native Americans during the Boston Tea Party.
The real treat was getting to see conceptual art and blue prints for Liberty Street which was originally planned to go behind Main Street at Disneyland. For some reason, the plans never went through. I wished we got an even closer look at the plans. It was all too brief. Yet, a treat nonetheless. Fortunately, they built a version of it at the Magic Kingdom in the form of Liberty Square, complete with its own Liberty Tree.
It's a shame that neither Johnny Tremaine or Ben and Me in their full form are not available on Disney+. I think this would have been a perfect way to introduce people to those films.
If you are a Disney fan, this will be worth your while just to see good old Uncle Walt waxing on about patriotism and the American revolution as well as seeing the plans for Liberty Street.
No matter how you spend your Independence Day, have a good one!