I know, I know. You probably hate me already. I get it. Disney is magical to so many people. Forget the kids, I have friends who got married in Disney World, others who honeymooned there, and my in-laws bought a house like 20 seconds from the front gate.
I know, I know. You probably hate me already. I get it. Disney is magical to so many people. Forget the kids, I have friends who got married in Disney World, others who honeymooned there, and my in-laws bought a house like 20 seconds from the front gate. I think they borrow other people’s grandchildren sometimes when they go. I actually suggested that they get jobs there as characters. I personally think my father-in-law would be great as either Chip or Dale, and my mother-in-law can sing “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” in her sleep… WITH ENTHUSIASM!
I, on the other hand, did not come from a Disneyfied family. My mom had no time for cartoons, and my dad was firmly planted in the other camp, much preferring the Elvis-pompadoured Foghorn Leghorn and anything that had an “Acme” stencil falling on that poor coyote.
My siblings and I never aspired to visit the House of Mouse, and our family vacations were more of the rented cabin by the lake, touring Civil War battlegrounds, and watching money printed at the U.S. Mint variety. Don’t get me wrong, we did go to amusement parks and water parks, but they were not world-renowned attractions, and there were no characters roaming around getting mobbed while some poor teenager dehydrated under a giant 15-pound fur and foam animal head.
Suffice to say, I am not into the Disney thing, but I understand that many people are and make annual pilgrimages to the magical theme parks in minivans adorned with silhouette family stickers wearing mouse ears, including the dog, the cat, and the bird. The thing is, while I accept the concept of this Disney worship, the loyal mouse followers refuse to accept mine. Whenever I mention that I’m not into the whole Disney thing, I am barraged with how awesome the theme parks are. And the hotels, and the shops, and…. everything. One of my friends even tried to tell me how great the food was. Seriously? Come on! Yeah, Wolfgang Puck and some of his celebrity chef friends may have restaurants on Disney properties, but that is certainly not where the $12 chicken tenders come from in the theme parks!
My first trip to Disney was at 19 when my dad had a business meeting there. I wasn’t mentally transported to Fantasyland, but I have given it several more chances. As I mentioned, my in-laws live in Cinderella’s zip code, so I have gone to all of the Disney World parks as an adult, a newlywed, and the parent of a baby, toddler, little kid, and big kid, and sorry to say, still not a fan. “Heretic!” You may be thinking, “What is wrong with this woman? How and why does she not love Disney?” Well, here are five reasons:
- The Price. Holy crap! I mean seriously? It’s basically north of $100 just for admission for guests 10 and older, AND kids 4-9. Yeah, there are seasonal discounts, resident discounts, multi-day discounts… Lots of ways to shave a few bucks off the admission price, but a family of four is not getting anywhere near Ariel’s Grotto for under $300, and that is a total low-ball number. Then there are the multitude of overpriced gift shops that you are mandated to traverse after every ride. Of course, stuff is expensive. Duh, it’s a gift shop, but a $95 sweatshirt of Mickey Mouse just pushes my buttons. And a $4 bottle of water? I may as well be at Lollapalooza.
- The lines. Ridiculous. I mean c’mon. I live in NYC, so I am no stranger to lines, but Disney is the queue of nightmares. Kids screaming, babies crying, parents trying to hold their shit together for an hour plus to get a 1-minute picture with anyone from Frozen… I would actually rather sit through the movie again than wait in that line. Hold on, no I wouldn’t.
- The attitude of entitlement. I get it. I do. When you’ve saved your money all year to spend $500 to walk into a Disney park, you sure as hell are going to get your money’s worth. No one will be cutting you in any line, from the café, to the gift shops, to the attractions. And God help us all if you have a double stroller. At forty pounds plus, that thing can go from cozy kid transport to Sherman tank in a matter of seconds. And you will be arriving with sleeping children in the stroller at the crack of dawn and leaving with sleeping children an hour after the park closes when, and only when, you have sucked every ounce of fun out of the vacation for which you mortgaged your house. Lord help anyone’s toes who cross your path.
- The accessories. WTF are your kids going to do with an autograph book of a fake princess and sweating fur creatures when you get home? Seriously, what? You can’t bear to throw it out since that small overpriced book actually cost you 57 hours of waiting in line over a three-day period, so now what? Technically, it’s the kid’s book, but when the 4-year-old scribbles over Cinderella’s name, all you see is the destruction of 90 minutes of waiting in the blazing sun while you had to pee. That autograph book is pretty much worthless. Even if the next Taylor Swift was working at Disney when you visited and she signed it for you, she signed it “Belle” with a lot of hearts and flourishes. Not even eBay material! The book has pretty much become a badge of honor, soon to transform into either clutter or keepsake that needs to be dusted and eventually relegated to the attic.
- The peer pressure. Either it’s changed since I was a kid or I just didn’t notice, but today’s kids are indoctrinated from the time they begin to socialize that YOU MUST GO TO DISNEY! All the other kids are doing it. And the parents are even worse. I’ve been waiting at school dismissal listening to parents brag about how many times they have gone to Disney, which parts are the best, how many characters they waited for, blah, blah, blah. Seriously? And people save all year to go nuts on headband ears, figurines, overpriced clothing, autograph books and pins (which they literally wear on lanyards AS BADGES OF HONOR!). And kids think this is the best vacation ever: waiting in line to see make-believe characters, fantasy musicals, and rides similar to the carnival that sets up in the park every summer. What about enjoying the natural beauty of our national parks? Or walking the Freedom Trail? Or exploring the lesser-known cool things in your town? Shaking the hand of a giant stuffed duck is fine maybe once, but repeatedly? Why not go to a Great Lake and see a real duck? And fast before the next oil spill.
I understand lots of people love the whole Disney universe. Maybe it’s an escape from how crappy reality can be. I think it’s the reason some countries hate us. We’re spending billions on fantasy theme parks while our schools are cutting out music and art, and people can’t afford to live working 40 hours a week. But let’s not think about that. Let’s stand in line to meet a fake snowman. Maybe if our reality was better, escape wouldn’t be so monumental.
That being said, one of the greatest things ever to happen to Disney is their acquisition of Star Wars. It is awesome to watch Storm Troopers do their formation right in front of you! And my husband and I almost cried when we hugged Chewbacca. The kids didn’t need any autographs, but they did make their own light sabers. We took pictures and have fun memories, and we don’t need to do it again.
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