Is Guy Laliberté the Walt Disney of our times?

There’s a Youtube movement afoot to use Disney short animated films mashed up with modern soundtracks to create fantastical animated shorts that have psychedelic feelings- as the blog I found them from ( Broke Hoedown, via The Disney Blog)– “it’s like Cirque du Soleil but with Disney cartoons.” Right on! The Pink Floyd one is particularly trippy and really great.

Guy Laliberte
Guy LaLiberte
Walt Disney
Walt Disney

That quote started me thinking– is Guy Lalibert√© the Walt Disney of our times? (For those of you who don’t know, Guy is the CEO and basically founder/dictator of Cirque du Soleil. He had other partners, but he bought them out, risked everything he owned, and voila, he’s now a billionaire with a circus and entertainment empire. You can read more about him in this article from Forbes.

I think one could argue that Cirque du Soleil and Disney are in the same business– immersive entertainments for the whole family. They approach it from different aesthetics and different ends and with (perhaps) different goals in mind.
And they both certainly have the idea of legacy, empire, and creating something that is all of one cloth.

I think that one could certainly say that Cirque du Soleil is standing on the shoulders of Disney– ie, they didn’t have to reinvent a lot of that wheel. And although right now, Cirque du Soleil is primarily circus oriented entertainment– I think the time is not far off for cirque resorts, theme parks, and other properties (they already have had television programs)

Walt had a sweetness and an innocence about him that LaLiberte doesn’t seem to have– although Walt has been nearly canonized, so perhaps that sweetness is more of a manufactured after-taste that LaLiberte will have when he’s in the ground and nothing but his empire remains.

All of this makes me think of a great song by T-Bone Burnett called Hefner and Disney

The lyrics are below:

Somewhere between Never Neverland and Wonderland
In a land called Never Wonderland
There lived a beautiful wealthy young divorcee
With a checkered past and a bad memory
Who should probably remain nameless
And men travelled from far and wide and try to win her hand
And she took in stragglers from all over the known world

Her newest guests were (as her mother called them)
“The latest Russians to defect”
One’s name was Hefner
The other’s name was Disney
Disney smoked a pipe and was very philosophical
He was constantly surrounded by go-go girls
And he used to take pictures of them without any clothes on
And sell them to the neighborhood children

Hefner on the other hand was not so introspective
He loved a good story just like anybody else
In fact he loved the myths of Never Wonderland so much
That he made elaborate moulded plastic sculptures
Of the characters in the myths
Then … he would put them out in the garden
Until …. he had built a whole nother land in Never Wonderland
Which he called Hefnerland

And the neighborhood children loved them
They had lots of fun playing in Hefnerland
And looking at all Disney’s go-go pictures
Because they didn’t know any better
And they didn’t know any worse
But the beautiful wealthy young divorcee thought
That they were only after her money
Sometimes she even wished they would go back to Russia

(But between you and me they were really dupes of the Wicked King
Who wanted to rob the children of their dreams)