For decades, Disneyland has been a place where families can gather to enjoy a land of fantasy, sensational rides and state-of-the-art entertainment. Now, underground artist Banksy is unveiling “Dismaland,” a “bemusement park” filled with mushroom clouds, ambulance-chasing paparazzi and sobbing parents.
Of course, this being Banksy (famously portrayed in the mind-bending documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”), he’s never seen in the 2:06 clip, and it was posted on an unverified YouTube channel. However, Dismaland is indeed an English art installation that will be open for the next five weeks and was constructed on the site of an old swimming pool complex in Weston-super-Mare, close to Banksy’s hometown of Bristol.
“Is there something missing in your life?” asks the ad’s British narrator, who sounds suspiciously like Geoffrey Rush. “Then stop what you’re doing, and come to the happiest place on Earth.”
The images are anything but happy in the clip. Welded-together trucks snake into the sky like a giant monster; an abandoned police SWAT vehicle has been dropped into the middle of a pond; the grim reaper, laughing, does donuts in a bumper car. As a cardboard R2-D2 watches books being burned, the voiceover asks: “So, what are you waiting for?”
Since most ads are supposed to make you want to purchase their product, Dismaland’s final image of a sleeping father crashing the family car is as jarring as it darkly humorous. So is Dismaland’s website, which says that “The following are strictly prohibited in the Park — spray paint, marker pens, knives and legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Banksy has trained his crosshairs on a media conglomerate. As “Simpsons” fans recall, the artist raised eyebrows in 2010 with a twisted take on the show’s signature couch gag that playfully condemned 20th Century Fox.
With that in mind, if you happen to find yourself in southwest England in the next few weeks, here are a few of the “Dismaland” attractions you won’t need a FastPass to glimpse: Sketch-artists who draw your portrait showing only the back of your head, a “Punch and Judy” puppet show that references “Fifty Shades of Grey,” workshops on how to hack billboards and of course, lots of demented art. And if you’re brave enough to get on that giant Ferris Wheel, who knows? Maybe Banksy himself will be operating the ride.