Living in Society

Leaving Walt Disney World

Seedling trays at the farm, April 23, 2021.

I won’t likely be returning to Walt Disney World, yet not for the reasons you might think. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the consumer experience was shattered and one of the broken pieces is doing whatever we did for entertainment. Most of us won’t be going back to the way things were.

When our daughter was 11, I felt an urgency to provide her a theme park experience before she got too old. We went as a family, even though we couldn’t really afford a trip to Orlando. It was new even though it was the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World. I remember it as a hot yet fun time where we could be ourselves. It was meaningful visiting Universal Studios and Walt Disney World together.

Lately folks are politicizing visits to Disney. Partly they accuse the corporation of playing politics. Please. Corporations have always played politics better than most. What is concerning to some is Disney recently announced cast members are permitted to display tattoos, wear inclusive uniforms, and display inclusive haircuts. I knew about the “Disney look” for many years and couldn’t see how they found enough non-tattooed people to staff the positions. Supposedly cast members being themselves has broken the willing suspension of disbelief many visitors bring with them to the park. Life is apparently crappy and folk need to travel to a theme park to forget about it. That’s a hella way to build a life.

There have always been guests at theme parks with grievances and disappointments. The new grievance of having one’s immersion into make-believe broken because Disney removed the Song of the South from Splash Mountain is something else. Something is missing.

I have no regrets about my trips to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Sea World, Universal Studios, and the rest. It is a part of my privilege that I was able to go. So many were doing it, theme park trips came to be perceived as a norm for people who had the means.

What the coronavirus pandemic taught me is the important part of visiting theme parts was doing something as a family. It didn’t matter what we did and maybe that’s the point about Disney. Mickey Mouse is getting long in the tooth and society is ready to move on. The coronavirus pandemic changed several Disney employees I know… permanently. They are little different from the rest of us.

I’d like to suspend my disbelief in society’s promise. It’s okay with me if it’s with or without the Walt Disney Company. However, the pandemic taught me there’s a better way in sticking close to home.