As the House of Mouse launches its new master-planned residential project, we weigh up life in Howl’s Moving Castle, Sunnydale, Middle Earth, and more
The real world is grim, there’s no denying it. So why not simply leave, let it go, break the circle of life and head out for a whole new world? At least, that’s what Disney is proposing with its new master-planned community, Storyliving by Disney. Reject modernity, embrace a fibreglass world where cute woodland animals help you do the washing up (probably – the exact details are TBC).
Aimed at the unnerving adult superfans who can’t tear themselves away from its extravagant theme parks, Disney’s new residential living project will reportedly launch with a community of 1,900 housing units in Rancho Mirage, a city in California’s Coachella Valley that Walt Disney himself once called home. Led by the same division of the company that oversees its theme parks, the community is designed by the studio’s “Imagineers”, with day-to-day operations handled by the relentlessly-chirpy employees that populate its parks.
“Picture an energetic community with the warmth and charm of a small town and the beauty of a resort,” says senior Disney executive Helen Pak, in a recently-released promotional video. Only, in this small town you’ll have to join a private club to go to the ‘beach’ (a strip of sand that surrounds the central “grand oasis”) and, by the sounds of it, be an “active participant” in the story-led communities.
So what are you getting in return for the risk of having to roleplay with Goofy when you’re out doing your weekly shop? Well, amenities will go way beyond the bare necessities, including live entertainment, wellness programming, and seminars, with public components such as a hotel and shopping (don’t worry, there’s bound to be strict security protocols to keep The Outsiders at bay). Bizarrely, some sections will also be tailor-made for baby boomers, who want to sink their whole retirement fund into the Disney brand.
Sound appealing? If so, you’re insane, but also out of luck. Unfortunately, deposits are not currently being accepted, and pricing is yet to be revealed (though current details suggest that renting won’t be part of the equation). There’s also the ever-present fear that Storyliving could devolve into the chaos that plagued Disney’s previous residential effort, dubbed Celebration. Welcoming its first family in 1996, the Florida community lost its paradisiacal sheen in a big way over the following decade, falling prey to the recession, followed by news about a brutal murder and suicide that occurred just two days apart. (Sure it will be fine this time around, though!)
But even if it was possible, you also need to ask: do you want to be One of the Disney People? Yes, Storyliving may sound like an idyllic escape from reality, but is the reputational hit worth it?
In case the answer is no, Dazed’s finest have taken the liberty to compile a list of different fictional worlds to escape to, mouse ears not compulsory.
J.R.R. TOLKIEN’S MIDDLE EARTH
If someone offered me a one-way ticket to Middle Earth, I’d take it, no questions asked. I’d go home, pack some stuff – a toothbrush, some toothpaste, maybe some eczema cream – drop a message in my family WhatsApp group (they’d understand), and leave without another thought.
Depending on where I was dropped off in Middle Earth, I’d make my way to Rivendell and then just proceed to live my life. I just honestly feel like I belong there. I’d brush up on my riding, learn how to use a bow and arrow, and spend time reading, and in nature. Hopefully I’d meet a nice elf and fall in love (forget Aragorn and Éowyn, we’d be the hottest interracial couple in Middle Earth) and explore the Misty Mountains together, go and visit our friends in Lorien, and sleep in the open air, under the light of the Star of Eärendil.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’d partake in any of the battles in the War of the Ring – not that I support Sauron or anything, it’s just that I was crap at rugby at school and can’t imagine that warcraft is any easier. I’d probably just hang out with the elves – and my lovely elven life partner – in Rivendell until the end of the Third Age when we’d passed over the sea to the Grey Havens. Honestly, why is this not my life, I’m so depressed. (Ted Stansfield)
Sunnydale might not immediately strike you as a dream holiday or long term living destination. It’s on a Hellmouth. For a number of years there was no high school in town after it was blown up during an incident that involved the mayor transforming into a 60 foot demon snake while giving a commencement speech. On any given day, you might wake up to find you’ve lost your voice, your worst nightmares are coming true, you’ve become invisible, your teacher is a praying mantis, or you're obsessively in love with Xander Harris.
So why do I want to live there? Easy. The slayer. Because it's not just the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness that inhabit the town, pop. 38,500. There’s good magic, too, and there’s the mystical powers of the slayer. And since this is a fantasy town, I get to be the slayer. I get her superhuman senses, strength, agility, resilience, speed and quips. I can walk the streets after dark without fear, can rely on myself in a fight, can always save the day. Plus, everyone is incredibly witty, has great clothes and hair no matter what disasters are going on around them, can hold their own in a fight, and is at least somewhat gay.
Most importantly, my dream girl Faith Lehane lives there. What more could you want? (Alex Peters)
THE HOUSE FROM PRACTICAL MAGIC
This is the only choice. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (at her sultry redheaded best) are witches living in a rambling, gothic house overlooking the pacific ocean. They have long silky hair. They cast spells. They have a wild, overgrown greenhouse and an AGA stove. They love men. They kill men! There are some small black kittens. It’s also set in the 90s – possibly the last time the future would have felt truly bright or hopeful. Lol! Anyway it's a lovely film x (Dominique Sisley)
A GATED COMMUNITY INSPIRED BY EDMUND WHITE
I would like to live in a luxury gated community modelled after seventies New York, and specifically the autobiographical novels of Edmund White. There'd be grafitti on the subways, rats, rubbish everywhere, good quality cocaine, disco nights; an opera house, regularly scheduled dinner parties with a Susan Sontag impersonator; a recreation of the Christopher Street pier, where you could suck people off; a Times Square porn cinema, where you could suck people off, and finally, a full-scale replica of iconic BDSM club Mineshaft, where could you could suck people off, while wearing leather. (James Greig)
THE STUDIO GHIBLI UNIVERSE
Have you always wanted to bathe among giant ducks? Move to a new house occupied by a spirit in the form of a giant rabbit? Ride in the cockpit of a war hero-turned-pig? Well, you sort of can: a Studio Ghibli theme park is currently in the works in Japan. But I’m imagining a more true-to-life version of Hayao Miyazaki’s watercolour worlds: you could live in a flying castle and ride around inside the hollowed-out carcass of a cat. The food would also be next-level: think the steaming ramen from Ponyo, the My Neighbour Totoro bento boxes, and bacon and eggs cooked by a fire demon á la Howl’s Moving Castle. I’d avoid the food stalls, though: you might find yourself (literally) turned into a pig. (Felicity Martin)
I’d love to live in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland purely because of the White Rabbit. A talking rabbit? I’m sold. Plus as I’m only five foot two I would love to eat a cake which makes me taller. Also a tea party that never ends sounds dreamy! Of course there’s the possibility that the despotic Queen of Hearts would brutally behead me but frankly that’s a risk I would be willing to take if it meant escaping life under the Tories x (Serena Smith)
THE WICKER MAN’S SUMMERISLE
Part of me has always wanted to join a cult. Yes, there’s the ritual blood sacrifice and the occasional folksy singalong, but I think I could tolerate that in exchange for a sense of unwavering belief and a charismatic figurehead to tell me what to do all day. (Please, tell me what to do!) Another part of me wants to retreat to a little cottage with a sea view and no internet connection for miles around, so Summerisle – AKA the remote Scottish island of 1973 cult horror The Wicker Man – seems pretty perfect. Add to that some insane animal masks, naked pagan rituals, and a staunch ACAB outlook among the locals, and I’m already looking for my passport and buttercup-yellow turtleneck. Oh, and if they’re not taking new arrivals, then there’s always the Midsommar commune, they seem to have it pretty good. (Thom Waite)
PRADA’S MYTHICAL ITALIAN OUTLET
My memories of Disneyland are tied to a school trip circa my v early teen years, when we sat aboard an overnight coach from Hull to Paris for ten hours and one boy drank so many cans of Red Bull he shit himself. So beyond the fact this new proposed Disney living situ sounds truly dystopian, I’m in no hurry to return to Mickey and co’s magical kingdom any time soon. Far more appealing would be setting up shop in the mythical, much whispered-about Prada outlet on the outskirts of Florence, where I’d lay down my weary head on AW14 shearling coats while wearing SS08’s dreamy PJs, drape myself in SS11’s berserk banana prints, and wedge my feet into my sartorial holy grail: the Cinderella-like, gem-dripping, perspex chandelier heels from SS10. As for sustenance, like Carrie Bradshaw once proclaimed re: Vogue, the fashions would surely be enough to keep me satiated. Just no energy drinks, thanks. (Emma Davidson)