You could say that Disney tapped into the magic of wholesome family entertainment, but let’s be honest. There was nothing else on television. I grew up with 4 networks and a meager selection of family-friendly programming. We watched cartoons Saturday mornings, after Orion Samuelson’s Hog Report on WGN, which I endured if I woke up way early. Anyone? To this day, I can’t tell you why I wouldn’t just go play or read or do something else instead of watching the hog report. Perhaps, I needed the company first thing in the morning when it was still dark outside, and no one else in the house was awake. Or maybe I had some strange fascination with a pig-oriented population and the thick-lipped, sweet-sounding man who served it.
Disney was everything because there was little competition. When my sister and I went to Disney World, we were star-struck by the characters and overwhelmed at the sight of Cinderella’s Castle. Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a fantasy come to life, and It’s a Small World was worth the hour-long wait. We felt like we hit the jackpot leaving the park with a Mickey Mouse hat with our names embroidered on the back and caricatures illustrated by artists along Main Street.
Our boys, however, are spoiled for choice when it comes to children’s entertainment. They have access to children’s programming 24/7 on multiple networks as well as iPads, DSis, Netflix and DVDs delivering everything they could ever want on demand. If that’s not enough, there is always an age-appropriate movie playing in the theaters--now in 3D. Disney is one of countless companies producing books, games and action figures, and our kids are satisfied consumers of it all.
When Gabriella and I went to Disney World for the first time with the boys last week, we did have a fantastic time. But. It wasn’t the magical experience that my sister and I had once upon a fairy tale time when there was such a thing as magic. It couldn’t have been that magical in today's world where Mickey Mouse shares top billing with Chuck E. Cheese. uch.
So why not stay closer to home and save a boatload of cash at a local amusement park? I’m going to tell you that there is still nothing like Disney anywhere. It’s a completely fabricated world void of cars and crime and litter run by thousands of smiling people dedicated to entertain and serve. And in between the rides, there are characters to meet and parades and dance shows and barbershop quartets and fireworks!
We happened upon Trevor drawing an elaborate scene from Nemo in chalk. Levi asked if he could draw Pluto, and Trevor was happy to oblige.
There were moments of disappointment. Snow White’s Scary Adventures scared the bajeezus out of the boys. It was too dark, and, well, scary. Asher nestled his head under Gabriella’s arm and refused to look up, and as soon as we walked out of the ride, Levi burst into tears. Then after much cajoling, we convinced them to go on Splash Mountain with us even though they had no interest in getting wet in spite of the heat.
Gabriella: Boys, you’re going to love the flume!
Deborah: No one calls it a flume, Gabriella.
Gabriella: But that’s what it is.
Deborah: Is it because you’re foreign that you must use the technical term?
Gabriella: No. It’s because that’s what it is. A flume.
We should not have flumed. I did not recall that so much of the ride took place in dark tunnels. Asher loathes the dark (see Snow White’s Scary Adventures). To make things worse, after our first steep drop in total darkness ending with an unwanted splash, we came to an unexpected and unplanned halt and remained stuck for 15 minutes in yet another dark tunnel, cold air blasting at our wet bodies while Brer Fox lunged at Brer Rabbit over and over again to the recurring echoes of audio-animatronic shrieking interrupted every few minutes by the announcement, “Please stay seated. The ride will resume momentarily.” Lies.
Our family rode the log flume, and all we got was traumatized...and this (hilarious) photograph. See girl in the 3rd row.
Furthermore, Disney is an expensive venture. The park passes are pricey, and once you’re in the park, you can’t avoid all the toys and food and merchandise on offer not to mention the illustrators drawing caricatures.
Full frontal costs a butt-load!
On balance, the highs outweighed the lows by far. There were plenty of rides the boys loved, and The Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios was a huge hit. I'm thinking we made ourselves some life-long memories. We'd do it all over again though we might spend a little more time at the pool and a little less time traumatizing our kids with scary rides at the parks. Next time, we promised no flume. But we never said anything about Space Mountain!
Suck it, Chuck!
Suck it, Chuck!
*This post is dedicated to Asher and Levi’s godmother who sent them a generous gift card allowing them to buy some special Disney swag and taught them the art of budgeting. Thank you, Nancy!