Jack Ohman

Stop commercializing the Capitol

A Mickey Mouse hot air balloon is inflated on the west steps of the Capitol in June during “Disneyland Day.”
A Mickey Mouse hot air balloon is inflated on the west steps of the Capitol in June during “Disneyland Day.” hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Walt Disney Co. (you may have heard of it) displayed a massive, inflatable Mickey Mouse head adjacent to the Capitol last week, accompanied by a person wearing a Mickey Mouse costume.

Now, I’m not anti-Disney. It’s a major entertainment company that provides jobs, even for cartoonists.

But having Disney’s commercial product placement at the Capitol is jarring. And, of course, many media outlets, including this one, ran photographs of Mickey Mouse.

My colleague, Jeremy B. White, wrote that Disney is only one example in which the center of California government is given over to commercial interests. Yum! Brands and SeaWorld have had similar events recently.

We live in a product-placement world, and aesthetics sometimes take a back seat to making a buck. Sports venues used to be named things like “Candlestick Park,” “The Polo Grounds” and “Brendan Byrne Arena,” and there wasn’t some awkward corporate name welded on, such as “KFC Yum! Center” in Louisville, Ky.

What’s next? “Chevron Presents The Philip Morris Capitol on the Pacific Gas & Electric Grounds?”

Let’s hope not.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police, which supervises demonstrations, rallies and marches at our nation’s Capitol, said a massive, inflatable Mickey Mouse head would not be allowed.

No form of commercial advertisement such as the spectacle in Sacramento is permitted, though signage related to public policy matters is acceptable, the Capitol Police spokesperson said.

Evidently, Mickey Mouse legislation is perfectly acceptable.

The point of the visit last week was not particularly clear, except perhaps to install the inflatable Mickey Mouse and note the 60th anniversary of Disneyland. I am sure the inflatable Mickey Mouse head was accompanied by normal-size, noninflatable Disney lobbyists and staffers.

Unless, of course, there was a bill tightly regulating the size of inflatable heads and working conditions for people wearing stifling Mickey Mouse costumes that I somehow missed in the coverage.

Disney people did meet with Gov. Jerry Brown and received resolutions from the Legislature. Perhaps Disney thanked lawmakers for the sweet film tax credit they granted the movie industry last year.

I know it’s a small world, after all, and that we live in the happiest place on earth. I’d be happier if we kept the massive, inflatable Mickey Mouse heads off the Capitol grounds. We should only allow the massive, inflatable legislators and lobbyists.

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