Last week I took a few days off to head back to the States with my boyfriend, Kevin, for his annual corporate trip. In the past, these trips have been to all sorts of romantic destinations like the Bahamas, the Caymans, Puerto Rico, etc. However, this year his company decided that Walt Disney World was going to be our destination. Disney? I’m all for a free trip, but being spoiled by Caribbean breezes and beaches every day AND not have children of my own didn’t help me get too pumped up for this vacation. Regardless, I tried to improve my attitude a bit as we made our way to every child’s ultimate mecca, and in the meantime I made the following observations:
Observation #1: The Magic Kingdom doesn’t make kids happy. On our first day at Disney we decided to join some friends and head off to the Magic Kingdom. It was a sunny, warm day, and I looked forward to Space Mountain, but that was about it. We spent most of the day standing in line for rides that were designed for little kids. By ‘little kids’, I don’t mean kids in general, but rather kids no older than 5 or 6.
These “rides” were basically just cars that carted you around in the dark to different scenes from movies like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or scenes from a haunted house. What I enjoyed most about these rides was the air conditioning and the fact that I could actually sit down for a while.
Anyway, I digress. Like I said earlier, we spent most of our time standing in line, and the rest of the time was spent aimlessly walking from one section of the park to another. After being there for what seemed like forever, but was probably only an hour, I noticed that most of the children weren’t happy at all. Rather than joyfully meeting Cinderella, Mickey Mouse or Pluto, the kids spent their time crying and being harshly reprimanded by their parents. At one point, a mother past me, literally dragging her screaming child and yelling that, ‘This is ridiculous and it needs to stop’. Another time, while going to the bathroom, the mother in the stall next to me yelled at her daughter for ‘tinkling on her panties’ and threatened her by stating that if she didn’t straighten up, they were going home – to Atlanta.
Yes. It was clear that these kids, and their parents for that matter, were tired, unhappy and surprisingly disappointed. After discussing this shocking reaction to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” with others, I got the same reaction from at least 2 other people that had brought their kids to Disney. They both said that their happiest (and cheapest) day in Walt Disney World was the day they spent at their hotel pool…where their kids could swim and play all day, and they could relax in a comfy chase lounge chair with a cold one.
Observation #2: Disney spares no expense when it comes to fireworks. On our 2nd night in Disney, we went to Epcot Center for dinner and to watch their firework display. After dinner we all congregated by the lagoon, looking over the different countries and presumably towards where the firework show would take place. The lagoon was surrounded by what appeared to be hundreds of people all over the place, heavily anticipating this nightly show. Finally, the music started and the fireworks began.
There were fireworks in an assortment of colors and shapes. Most notably, there were blue stars and red hearts, which I hadn’t seen before. I kept waiting for a firework to go off in the shape of Mickey’s head, but even Disney couldn’t quite pull that one off – yet. And, there were lower, graceful fireworks shooting across the water, which created a nice reflection.
As I was thoroughly enjoying this romantic display with Kevin, out of nowhere a huge fireball spewed bursts of fire out into the middle of the lagoon. Maybe ‘fireball’ isn’t the right word for it…I’d say it was closer to a fire cloud, either way it was completely over the top. We could actually feel the heat from this thing as it got bigger, and for a brief moment I thought that there had been a malfunction with the show. Of course, this just goes to show that anytime you introduce large amounts of fire into a show, it’s going to be a huge hit because nobody could take their eyes off that thing. It demanded our attention. We may have actually missed a large part of the show because we were so distracted by the heat and light that this burst was emitting towards us. They finally lowered the heat and ended the show with a nice finale.
However, this show was just the start for us. There were fireworks throughout the rest of the trip. Every night, people congregated to see them from our hotel, from the Magic Kingdom, from Epcot and from wherever else they were set off. I even saw some during the day, while I was eating lunch outside of Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom…during the day, folks.
So, when it comes to fireworks, nobody outdoes Disney.
Observation #3: Parents are exploited to the nth degree at Disney. I’m not a parent, but it was so obvious that Disney was completely taking advantage of moms and dads that even I was a bit put off.
Where do I begin? I guess once you get past the price to stay at a Disney Hotel (over $400/nt), and pay to get into the park ($74 – $80 per day, per person), then you better have arranged to have your kids meet their favorite character at breakfast or something, because I didn’t see any characters making themselves available for the kids to meet in the Magic Kingdom. I saw them in a parade, but you couldn’t go up to Mickey Mouse just anywhere in the park – no. They have him tucked away, so you have to pay a premium to get to him – after waiting in line of course. As far as I’m concerned, Mickey should be greeting every parent as they walk through the front entrance, high-fiving them for making it this far, and wishing them a lot of luck for what the rest of the day had in store for them.
But the most blatantly obvious exploitation to me was what happens after you get off every ride at Disney. Let’s back up. So, you wait in line for at least 45 minutes, get on a ride where, again [in my opinion] the best part is sitting down and cooling off, then when the ride is done you follow the path to the exit, but before they let you go, you have to walk through a shop with memorabilia related to whatever ride you just got off. For example, we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – where the only good part, besides the AC and sitting down, was seeing very good replicas of Johnny Depp – so afterwards before they let you go and wait in line for the next sub-par ride, you had to walk through a store full of overpriced Pirates of the Caribbean crap. I mean, how many times can a parent possibly say no to their child before they breakdown and are forced to say yes? It’s so unfair.
If anything, my recent observations at Disney helped me understand what lengths a parent will go to for their kids. My parents took me to Disney World twice, and it could not have been fun for them. I realize that, for my parents, Disney was probably worth all the effort it took to get my sister and I there, just to see the expression on our faces when we saw Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. I’m sure most parents feel that way, and it's clear that Disney knows how priceless this is. So, Mom and Dad, thank you for enduring what had to have been an excruciating time for you – second only to my adolescence. I love you both.