|by Sean O'Neill||Disney||42|
You can already hear the carping below deck. Disney's made a propaganda video for the U.S. government? Groan. It'll be shown to foreign visitors stuck in airport customs lines? Double groan. And with a title like "Welcome: Portraits of America," it sounds as if the film is going to while away its seven-minutes showing Norman Rockwell images and playing the soundtrack that accompanies the nightly Epcot fireworks display.
And yes, it's all true: Disney has donated a seven-minute video to the federal government. Customs and Border Protection officials will begin playing the film on screens in the visitor processing halls at the Houston and Washington, D.C., (Dulles) airports. If the video proves popular, it will be broadcast at about 20 other major airports.
The video is an effort to boost the number of visitors, which has dropped 17 percent in the past six years. The tourism drop is all the more noteworthy because it happened while our country became a more attractive place to visit for holders of many other currencies, such as the euro, the pound, and the yen. During that time, our dollar's value has weakened roughly by half against the euro, for example, putting our country on sale.
The video lasts seven minutes, but the line for fingerprinting visitors is usually longer than half-an-hour. The video shows smiling cowboys, a stern Indian, a happy barista, Vegas showgirls, Seattle's Pike's Place market, artistic dancers, farms, a tanker truck, cotton candy, basketball players, a handicapped athlete, a dogwalker, an Asian American scientist, the Grand Canyon, and the Statue of Liberty.
UPDATE 11/02/07: This video has been removed from YouTube since we wrote this blog post. But you can still see the video for yourself at DiscoverAmerica.com.