Posted on Flickr is a photoset of the new Disney ride Expedition Everest, which I believe has just opened. The photoset was placed by the marketing department of Disney, which is pretty cool.
And is the norm with Disney, the theme and decor is amazing. The idea is a fictional Nepalese version of Everest, where the mountain is guarded by the Yeti. Riders approach the attraction through the remote village of Serka Zong in the fictional kingdom of Anandapur, which is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Several village buildings that had been used by the Royal Anandapur Tea Company have been repurposed… the legend of the yeti is communicated vividly through a mandir… and a makeshift museum that documents yeti sightings, the yeti’s significance in Himalayan cultures and a so-called “lost” expedition that ran afoul of the yeti many years before.
However, some of their shrine like depictions of the yeti seem like cultural appropriation, because they appear to have taken images of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman and redrawn them with the yeti in his place. See these images of Hanuman…
The similarities of the yeti and Hanuman are problematic. Especially the depiction of the yeti carrying the mountain which clearly a riff on the images of Hanuman carrying the mountain. That story of Hanuman and the mountain from the Ramayana is very special, and very different than what’s pictured here. Hanuman travels to the Himilayas to get an herb to save his friend Lakshman’s life. But he’s unable to figure out what herb he needs, so he uproots the entire mountain to carry it back to save his Lakshman. It’s a symbol of a supernatural, heroic devotion and loyalty to friends.
Compare that to these:
In this Yeti version, the yeti appears to be pissed off, and appears to be about to throw the mountain in rage, a radically different interpretation of a images that are on the surface quite similar. It wouldn’t be a problem to me if the picture of Hanuman weren’t sacred and symbolic of an important Hindu value, but it is.