As a child and, later, as a parent, I certainly bought into Disney as far as cartoons and movies went. I, too, was scarred by the death of Bambi’s mom. My son Patrick was equally traumatized by Mufasa’s demise in The Lion King. On a brighter note, the various young Disney ladies evolved over time, I was glad to see, from mind-numbingly vapid Snow White, to smart and spunky Mulan. So what’s my problem with the other elements of the Disney über-franchise?
Super-commercialization and infantilism! Slap “Disney” on anything from a pencil to a hotel, and the millions will flock. Maybe (probably) I’m just jealous. My husband and I have a children’s theatre company, and we can’t even GIVE our T shirts away! Also, I have relatives who count the days between their Disney cruises—and they don’t even have young children! I had adult neighbors in Pennsylvania who went to Disney World so often that they ended up MOVING TO ORLANDO.
When my five kiddos were young, many of their buddies took regular Disney vacays. I recall volunteering in the elementary school library, working between two major Disney-istas. “What time did you get in line for the character breakfast?” “How close should we stay to the park?” These full-grown adults gleefully traded info like baseball cards, planning their Trip #12. Excuse me, but isn’t there a beautiful country and planet to explore? Do you need to spend your saved-up cash to tour the “Small World” exhibit, when all around you there is an actual world to see? My offspring would, on occasion, ask why we never went to Disney. My stock response? “Let’s go to REAL places when we get the chance!” And, since we actually did that, the Seyfried children were content.
The closest I got to a “Disney” experience was a conference I attended in Anaheim, California a few years back. One evening, the conference leaders arranged shuttle buses for us to visit Disneyland and enjoy the nightly fireworks. See, where I come from, there has to be a compelling reason for Roman candles and sparklers! Like the Fourth of July! But Chez Disney, the extravagant displays go off like clockwork every 24 hours, thus rendering them ho-hum (at least to me). I ended my evening drinking a Heineken beer in a park restaurant, grateful not to be limited to non-alcoholic Ariel Ale and Belle Brew.
Walt himself was, by most accounts, a temperamental and complex man, whose after-death wish was to be frozen, in case he could, one future day, be thawed. See, that’s what I’m talking about! A three-dimensional person—not the nicest guy, granted, but REAL. So, when I play the “who in history would you like to meet” game, I may opt for Mr. D, founder of the wholesome and wide-ranging empire that bears his name. Over a beer in the Magic Kingdom, maybe he’d tell me why almost none of his cartoon heroes have living mothers. I mean, what the actual heck?