Our six-year-old son fell in love with the film and wanted me to buy a video at a garage to take back home, so with a heavy heart I took him on my knee and gave him a talk on the facts of life.
'Son,' I said, 'before you are very much older, you must learn that just because Mr Disney has released a video in America, it doesn't mean it is of any earthly use to us. The Americans have devised a system of recording their VHS cassettes so that they do not play back on a British VCR. This is to prevent English families who are staying with their Canadian cousins at Christmas time from buying videos cheap at Canadian garages.'
'So we can get it when we go home?'
'No, I'm afraid we can't'
'Haven't we got enough money?'
'It's not that. It's just that Mr Disney doesn't want us to have the Aladdin video for a long while yet, so he won't put it in the shops for ages and ages.
'How horrible. Why does Mr Disney hate us so much?
'He is wreaking belated revenge on us for the colonial past of the American people.'
'What does that mean?'
'It means he is trying to colonise Europe in return, and steal all our fairy stories and turn them into long animated films with Robin Williams pretending to sing, and build a big pretend castle near Paris called Euro Disney that doesn't look like any real castle, only like a fake castle from one of his films, and get everyone to want a video of these films and then not let us have one until we go down on our knees and beg . . . '
'Gosh. How horrible of him. Is there any way we can get our own back?'
'Yes. Promise you'll never never go to Euro Disney.'
'What will happen if we don't go?'
'Then Mr Disney will lose so much money that he will have to rush his videos into the shops much earlier to make money quickly to make up for the money he is losing in Euro Disney.'
'Don't fill the child's head with stuff and nonsense,' said my wife, passing by. 'Leave that to John Patten.'
But it's not really stuff and nonsense. America has been colonising Europe for years in a vaguely vengeful sort of way. Americans really do have revenge at heart.
I once visited Texas, where they were promoting a new kind of home-grown mineral water called Artesian to combat the imported French stuff, and the slogan was: 'Buy Artesian - Kick Perrier in the Derriere]'. I think that sums up the downside of America beautifully: the violence, the resentment of Europe and the obliviousness to the fact that Perrier doesn't rhyme with derriere.
I was talking about this sort of thing on the same trip to a woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and she said to me wistfully: 'Why is it that we Americans export all our trash to Europe and never the good stuff? Why do you get our burgers and never hear about good American cooking?'
And that was before the advent of McDonald's. I used to know a New York woman who was very Anglophile and often came to Britain to see the old England, and I told her once that there was a new kind of eating place coming from America called a McDonald's and what kind of a place was it? And she went very pale, and said, 'Oh my God, oh my God, how could they do this to you?', and she doesn't come to England any more.
Anyway, on the way back to England this Christmas we watched a movie on the plane, I mean film, and it was called Free Willy, and it was all about a young boy who befriends a whale and rescues it, and my son really enjoyed the film and said: 'Look, if we can't get Aladdin on video, can we at least get Free Willy?' and I said: 'Who are you kidding? Free Willy isn't even out in British cinemas yet, never mind on video]'
'Wow,' said my son. 'Those Americans have really got it in for us, haven't they? As a special Christmas treat this year, can we not go to Euro Disney, please, please?'
Well, he didn't say anything of the sort, actually, but I wanted the piece to have a happy ending.Reuse content