As part of ACT Spring 2023 events, Abigail Disney’s award-winning documentary The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales will be screened in Bartos Theater, followed by Q&A with co-directors Abigail E. Disney, Kathleen Hughes, and former Disney cast member Artemis Bell, moderated by the Dean of SA+P, Hashim A. Sarkis.
Abigail Disney looks at America’s dysfunctional and unequal economy and asks why the American Dream has worked for the wealthy, yet is a nightmare for people born with less. Using her family’s story, Disney explores how this systemic injustice took hold and imagines a way toward a more equitable future.
In this feature-length, personal essay documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney grapples with America’s profound inequality crisis. The story begins in 2018, after Abigail encounters workers at the company that bears her name struggling to put food on the table. Could she, a descendent, with no role in the multinational conglomerate, use her famous last name to help pressure Disney and other American corporations to treat low-wage workers more humanely? Believing her conservative grandfather, Roy Disney, (Walt’s brother and company co-founder) would never have tolerated employee hunger at “The Happiest Place On Earth”, Abigail reexamines the story of modern American capitalism from the middle of the last century, when wealth was shared more equitably, to today, when CEO’s earn upwards of 800 times more than their average employees. What happened? What Abigail learns – about racism, corporate power and the American Dream, is eye-opening, unexpected, and inspiring in that it begins to imagine a path to a fairer future for everyone.
Filmed over a two year period, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales expertly weaves together Abigail’s family story and the stories of Disneyland workers with commentary from historians, authors, and academics. The film artfully employs archive, animation, and never-before seen Disney family movies. From the boardroom to the union hall, the film will no doubt jump start urgently needed conversations, about how to make American capitalism work for everyone. As Abigail concludes, it won’t be easy, “but with imagination and courage it can be changed.”
This event is free and open to the public. Please register HERE for building access
ABIGAIL E. DISNEY
Abigail E. Disney advocates for real changes to the way capitalism operates in today’s world. As a philanthropist and social activist, she has worked with organizations supporting peacebuilding, gender justice, and systemic cultural change. She is an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and Co-Founder of Fork Films, a nonfiction media production company, which produces original documentaries and the podcast “All Ears.” Her latest film, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” which she co-directed with Kathleen Hughes, made its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be available in select theaters and on-demand in September 2022.
Abigail is also Chair and Co-Founder of Level Forward, an ecosystem of storytellers, entrepreneurs, and social change-makers dedicated to balancing artistic vision, social impact, and stakeholder return. She also created the nonprofit Peace is Loud, which uses storytelling to advance social movements, and the Daphne Foundation, which supports organizations working for a more equitable, fair, and peaceful New York City.
She is an internationally sought-after speaker & panelist who has graced the stage at The Women’s Economic Summit-Paris, Financial Times Women at The Top Summit, Fast Company’s Impact Council, and DealBook DC Strategy Forum. And, her 2020 TED Talk entitled, “Dignity isn’t a privilege. It’s a worker’s right,” has garnered nearly 2 million views. As a progressive activist who speaks out against corporate greed and the need to tax the top 1% more, Disney has testified before the US House Committee on Financial Services, the Senate Finance Subcommittee, and the Senate Budget Committee.
An award-winning producer, director, and writer, Kathleen first teamed up with Abigail E. Disney as the co-director and producer of The Armor of Light, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. It won an Emmy and was shortlisted for a 2017 Peabody Award. On the subject of inequality, she spent more than 21 years as a director, producer, and writer on the award-winning series of Bill Moyers/PBS Frontline films tracking two families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as they struggled to hold on in an economy that no longer rewards hard work. The final installation was called Two American Families. From 2008-11 she served as the Executive Producer of WNET’s multi-platform series Blueprint America. At Blueprint, she oversaw the creation of reports about America’s crumbling infrastructure for a wide range of public media outlets including PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio, Bill Moyers’ Journal, Now on PBS, and Need To Know. Her Emmy Award-winning, 90-minute PBS/Bill Moyers investigation into the media’s coverage of the Bush Administration’s case for invading Iraq, “Buying The War” was called “one of the most gripping and important pieces of broadcast journalism this year” by the Washington Post. She has produced, directed, and/or written many Moyers documentaries, as well as films for PBS Frontline and ABC News Turning Point.
Her awards include three national Emmys, a New York Emmy, the duPont- Columbia Gold Baton, the Gracie Award, the Sidney Hillman Prize, the Dateline Club’s Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award, the Harry Chapin Media Award, the Christopher Award, and honorable mention for the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.
Artemis Bell worked as a night custodian at Disney in Anaheim for nearly 10 years. She had hoped the job would give her enough economic security to go back to school for theater studies and to pursue her other creative interests. But financial insecurity meant spending her free time grappling with housing and transportation issues and Artemis’ life goals got put on hold. She found that working with the Disney chapter of the SEIU was sometimes rewarding, but also time-consuming. Last year Artemis decided to leave Disney and is now working as a barista. She is also managing rental properties for a friend. Most importantly she’s working on a low-budget feature film.