WASHINGTON – Oh, Canada! The U.S.A. is closer than ever.
The Bush administration appears to have annexed a major Canadian landmark as part of a slick new campaign to promote U.S. tourism and welcome foreign visitors to America.
A Disney-produced promotional video released last week by the departments of State and Homeland Security highlights majestic American landscapes, from New England's colorful fall foliage and the Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains and Hawaii's pounding surf.
Backed by a soaring orchestral soundtrack, shots of those attractions are interspersed with the smiling images of people of all creeds and colors. The video, "Welcome: Portraits of America," is to be played at select airports in the United States — starting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston — and at U.S. embassies abroad.
About four minutes into the seven-minute production, viewers are treated to the impressive sight and sound of water roaring over Niagara Falls before the screen shifts to the Lincoln Memorial.
In showing the natural wonder, Disney's filmmakers, however, chose the Horseshoe Falls, the only one of Niagara's three waterfalls to lie almost entirely on the Canadian side of the border separating western New York state from southern Ontario province.
Making matters worse, a visitor to the U.S. would not even be able to get the same view of the falls in the video because the scene was shot from a vantage point in Canada, according to Paul Gromosiak, a Niagara Falls, N.Y., historian and author.
Also, he said the video leaves out the two cascades that actually are on U.S. territory, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
"This is not the United States, this is 100 percent Canada, shot from the Canadian side," Gromosiak said after reviewing the video at the request of The Associated Press. "This is an insult."
Although brief, the appearance of the Horseshoe Falls in a U.S. tourism promotion effort is likely to also vex Canadians, who long have fought to distinguish themselves from their larger and more powerful neighbor to the South.
The political boundary is not marked with a line through the Niagara River that divides the two countries and connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The distinction, however, is clear to most who have visited the Falls looking for a picture postcard photo to take home.
But it seems to have escaped the notice of the producers and those at the State Department and Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection agency who presumably vetted the video before endorsing it and posting it to their Web sites.
In a separate "making of" video, Jay Rasulo, the chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, speaks over the falls footage about the importance of showing would-be tourists "the great sites, the great vistas that they dream about all their lives when they dream about America."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack could not speak to the scenery in the short film. But he stressed that Niagara Falls "is a shared natural wonder, a gateway for both our countries and anyone looking at the video will understand how proud America is to share it with Canada."
Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said in a posting to the department's blog Thursday that the production has the administration's blessing.
"This video clearly says: 'We want you to come to America, you will be most welcome,"' she said.
Hughes said she commissioned the work, which Disney shot and produced at no charge and donated, to overcome the pervasive post-Sept. 11 perception abroad that America is hostile to foreigners. She said the video is to be given maximum exposure.
"We have already sent the video and associated posters to embassies and consular offices across the world, where it will greet aspiring visitors long before they arrive on our shores," Hughes said.
"We're going to play it in waiting rooms and at embassy events — and we hope it will inspire many who otherwise might not have thought about traveling to America to come and see it for themselves." she wrote.
Or maybe Canada.