Not everyone loves Disney.
And that’s ok!
Last night, while scrolling my Facebook feed, I came upon a post on a local moms blog. The title and image grabbed my attention, then I read the excerpt. It was clearly another anti-Disney post, like the dozens I’ve read (and hundreds I know are out there) but this one was more than just a post saying why the author doesn’t enjoy Disney, this post was far more vicious, calling out those who do love Disney as ignorant and “what is wrong with the world” As a Disney fan, it irked me. As a mother it made me shake. The judgement in the post was STRONG, the tone harsh and mean spirited.
You all know how much our family, immediate and extended, love Disney. The movies, the books, the parks, the cruises, the adventures, the MEMORIES. It is a part of our life that brings us a lot of joy.
I also know that it is not for everyone.
I have friends, and even family (you know who you are!) who openly dislike Disney. They have their reasons,
some all of them valid. Some think it’s just too expensive. Some hate the crowds, and are only able to travel at peak times because of work or school. Some prefer to use their vacation funds to visit the beach, or road trip to National Parks, others take an annual trip to NYC to see a Broadway show, one visits family in Europe, and there are even a couple who have taken a stand against what they deem to be a problematic corporation. Some just hate magic and fun (again, you know who you are!!) And ya know what? I am totally cool with that! Do I joke with them, and tell them they are missing out? You know it! Do they throw it back at me and tell me I’m crazy for loving it so much? They certainly do! But, none of us judge the others for their choice of vacation spot. Because it’s just that: THEIR CHOICE.
The post implied that those of us who go to Disney aren’t teaching our kids about REAL culture, we’re showing them the fake Paris in Epcot, when we should be taking them to the REAL Paris. That is truly a privileged view. The fact is, not everyone has the opportunity to choose the real Paris over Epcot. There are many reasons, maybe they have young children who they don’t think are ready for a trip to Europe, maybe they have a fear of flying but can road trip to Florida, maybe they cannot afford it but Disney is something they are able to make happen. I have not taken my daughter to Paris. It’s not something we have a lot of interest in at this time. I’d love to take her to Europe when she’s older, though! However, just because she hasn’t traveled the world doesn’t mean she doesn’t know about other cultures. Through our family, friends, and her school, we’ve made sure that she is exposed to other cultures. And *shockingly* Disney has been a part of that exposure. She’s learned traditional German dances, she’s sat with woodcarvers from Africa and listened as they shared how they learned the art form. She’s been taught Berber and Arabic words. She’s learned about Alebrijes and taught to play djembe. And she’s met, spoken to and befriended cast members (and other guests) from all over the globe. Disney has only increased her knowledge of world cultures.
The post also blamed Disney and princess culture for causing body image issues for women. While I don’t disagree that film and media often portray a very skewed ideal of beauty, I don’t think we can put the blame solely on Disney princesses. (Especially when you’re basing that assessment on films from the 1930s and 40s, which were based on fairytales from centuries ago. I think Merida, Mulan, and Moana have done a great job showing my girl that Disney princesses don’t need a prince to prove their worth.) Certainly our girls (and boys) are influenced by what they see around them, but my daughter isn’t only surrounded by Cinderella and Tinkerbell. She has female doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, scientists, teachers, musicians, athletes, nurses, social workers, all shapes and sizes, all different religions and races and ethnicity, different sexual and gender identities, different levels of education and socioeconomic status, some with physical disabilities, some with cognitive disabilities and challenges. She is surrounded by all different women. Strong women. Brave women. Amazing women.
She has never told me that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. But, she knows that she can be ANYTHING she wants (except President. I don’t want my kid to be president, it’s a terribly stressful job) She can be a stay at home mom, or a high-powered corporate executive. She can be a doctor or a nurse or a dentist or a vet (but I’m trying to explain to her that unless Dr. Henry Wu finds some funding and a new lab space, “Dinosaur Vet” is not going to be a lucrative career path) She can join the military, she can be an actress, she can be the first female pro baseball player, she can be a painter, she can be an astrophysicist. She can be a Disney Princess and bring smiles to the faces of thousands of little girls in Disney World. She can be anything. There is no asterisk. Anything means anything.
She also knows she doesn’t need a prince (though she has a few suitors already) She has told me “I am never getting married!” just as many times she’s said “Mommy, I’m going to marry ____.” She’s told me she is going to adopt baby, because she doesn’t think she wants to have a baby in her belly, and she doesn’t want a husband but she wants to be a mommy. Snow White isn’t my daughter’s most important teacher, I AM. And I think I’m doing a pretty alright job.
Our family loves Disney. And it’s ok if you don’t. You have your reasons, but perhaps, before you judge, take a moment to understand why so many of us do love it.
I’ve been visiting Disney World since I was 3. Vacations there, with my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are some of my fondest memories. My grandparents are no longer with us, and my daughter never got to meet them, but we can visit Biergarten in Germany and I can tell Avery stories about watching my nana and poppa dancing together to the German band. I can see Avery watching the parade from her daddy’s shoulders and have those butterfly feelings, reminding me of when I used to watch the parade from my daddy’s shoulders. I get to take her on her first roller coaster just like my dad took me back in 1985.
When Dave and I first met, he had never been to Disney World. It wasn’t something he ever really cared to do since he doesn’t like “theme parks” When he walked down Main Street and saw the castle for the first time, he immediately understood. It was magical. He was a kid again. And he told me, “I can’t wait to bring our kids here someday!”
Now we get to experience the magic through the eyes of our child. And let me tell you, that is absolutely amazing. Because to her, it’s all real. And it is incredible and beautiful to witness the power of magic in that way.
So why do we love it so much? Why did I visit so often, even before I had a child? For me it is truly magical, it is a happy and safe place. A place where the stress and worries of things at home disappear and I can be a kid again. The turning point for me, was a trip when I was a teenager. It came at a time when my family was really struggling. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom, and it all melted away. There were no arguments, no stress, no fear. There was just love, and joy, and fun.
Sometimes, an escape from reality is what we all need. Friends have visited the parks after the sudden loss of a loved one–they said it helped them heal, and laugh again. Other friends have gone after a cancer diagnosis. Others after a major surgery. Others before a long and scary deployment. Others as a final family trip after learning a family member didn’t have much time left. Disney gave them time to be together, having fun, laughing, finding joy when they needed it most.
When Avery was 8 months old, and I was DEEP in the grip of postpartum anxiety, ocd and ptsd, we went to Disney World. For the previous 8 months I was drowning. I didn’t think I’d ever come up for air. I was hopeless. Day after day I was hit with crippling anxiety and ocd that left me compulsively listening to police scanners and texting Dave, certain that he had died at work if he didn’t respond immediately. When he’d get home, my rage would explode on him, blaming him for causing me so much stress. When we got to Disney World, I was ok. I felt safe. I felt joy that I hadn’t been able to feel for months. Disney saved me, Disney helped me to be the mom I was meant to be, Disney gave me a glimmer of hope that I was able to cling to like a life-raft, and I held on.
These are just a couple stories…there are many more that I won’t share here because they are just for us. But, I could fill a book with the stories of magic we’ve experienced in Disney World, and on Disney Cruises. And there are millions of others who have stories like these.
For us Disney isn’t just about princesses and castles. It isn’t just rides and shows and food. It isn’t about money, or elitism. It’s about family, and joy, and love. It’s a place we can visit with our families, young and old, and feel happy and safe.
It’s about the amazing service. It’s about the incredible cast members who make you feel like the most important person in the world. The ones who appear, seemingly out of thin air, with another Mickey Bar after they saw you child drop theirs. Its the ones who will sit and talk about cheetahs until they lose their voice, because that 4 year old little girl has so much to say! The ones who call every gift shop on property to find that baby Pluto doll that your child can’t live without, and then it magically appears in her bed when you return to your room at the end of the day. It’s the Snow White who truly remembers your child year after year. It’s the photopass cm who sees you holding your daughter in front of the castle, and takes the pictures that make you cry tears of pure happiness when you discover them in your account. It the ones who put their arm around you, while you cry at the end of a tough day and tell you “You’re doing a great job, mom!” The cast members make it magical.
Is it expensive? Yes, it is. But, for those of us who love it, our visits there are a priority. Some save for years, some are fortunate enough to be able to afford frequent visits. Some make cuts in other areas of their lives–maybe they don’t go out to eat, or the cut out cable, or they live in a smaller house with a smaller mortgage (ahem) I don’t judge anyone who chooses to go elsewhere for vacation.
We all make choices, and for many of us, Disney is that choice.
Below are some quotes from friends sharing why they love Disney. Please take a moment to read, and understand why, while it may not be for you, it is for others. Have a magical day!
“It’s a place where all members of the family can feel young at heart. In addition to this, my autistic child feels free to be who he is. Cast members don’t judge and help all in need.” B.L.
“Cause it’s always happy” C.H. -age 5
“After a terrible and embarrassing meltdown from my preschooler which then caused a fight with my spouse, and left me standing there in tears, with a broken stroller. An older gentleman CM put his arm around me and let me know it was ok. He said “She’s tired, he’s tired, and you are tired. You’ll all be ok when you get some rest. I see this many times a day, all this magic can be overwhelming for everyone, but you’re doing a good job, mom, and you’ll all be fine.” S.L.
“I have no idea why, but whenever we arrive, we’re all just happy. We never argue when we’re there.” S.T.
“We went to Disney with “The Make A Wish” foundation! We could have gone literally anywhere in the world including Rome or Paris or wherever! My daughter, my beautiful, very sick (at the time), barely able to walk, bald daughter wanted Disney! I wanted to give her make believe and that is what Disney is. It’s a fantasy world filled with princesses and romance and cartoon characters with high pitched voices, bright colors and punchy music! It’s exactly what she needed! It’s exactly what every kid needs! Because unless you live in a glass tower, this world can be terrifying and ugly and filled with hate. Disney is everything reality is not. It’s why people go there!” M.T-S.
“Disney is a place where me and my family connect with one another. No video games, or TV .. no iPads or laptops .. just good old family time.” M.M.
“I had a tough upbringing, no money, dysfunctional home life. So a trip to Disney–or anywhere really!–wasn’t on my radar, not something I thought I’d ever get to do. When I got married and had my sons, this was something I really wanted to be able to do for them. We saved and planned and brought them on what we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip when they were 5 and 7. They’re 16 and 18 now and we’re going back next month for our ninth visit! And they’re still just as excited. There’s so much pressure on kids now–have to have perfect grades, extracurricular activities, testing, college applications, fitting in, etc., etc.,–this is one place they can “run away” to and just be a kid. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s commercialized. But it’s all about your family and what you bring to it. For us, it’s a place with lots of amazingly happy memories and a chance to forget all the everyday pressures and schedules and chores and responsibilities and…and…and… Mom can wear her Mickey ears. Dad can talk like a pirate. We can scream on a roller coaster. Give a big hug to a favorite character. We can just have fun as a family, something that’s all too often overlooked! “ C.M.
“I love it for so many reasons and I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate it in a way that captures why I enjoy it so much.
It might sound cliche, but I adore how magical it is. I can become a little girl again (even at my age) and absorb & experience the wonder of it all. I enjoy bringing my children, but I’d have just as much fun without them either by myself or just with other adults. Disney is truly a place for everyone no matter your age.” M.B.
“Disney is a magical place for the young and young at heart. It provides an escape from reality into a fantasy world in which Disney has mastered. Disney was meant for the young and old. It brings smiles and joy to anyone and everyone.” S.K.
“The BEST memories we have made as a family are at Walt Disney World. They are the best for me because when I was a little girl I dreamed of the day I would go to Walt Disney World with my own family. I actually have a full wall in my house just full of pictures from our Disney vacations. It was Walt Disney himself that said, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” When I am in Disney with my family I turn into the ultimate kid. What’s so great is that I get to experience the ultimate childhood only in my 30’s. Hey, it’s better late than never. I can not begin to describe the joy that I feel watching my kids at Disney. I get to take those moments of their happiness with me. “ N.E.
“Our first trip as a family was when N was 5 and T was 2. One night after dinner, my husband took the little one back to the hotel and I surprised N and took him back to the Magic Kingdom at night. Watching the fireworks together that night was so amazing. I remembered watching them with my parents when I was a kid and doing that with my own son was surreal. Going to Disney as a kid is so fun and memorable. But being a parent and watching your kids experience it for the first time is truly magical!” J.D.
“It’s as if the whole (outside) world disappears as soon as you enter the gates.” J.B.
“I love Disney because I have many happy memories there! While everyone else would ride Space Mountain, and I was too afraid to, Nana would take me on the People Mover. We’d ride it over and over again (there was never a line), and I loved every minute of that time spent. It’s not just a ride anymore. It’s a very happy memory.” A.R.
“My son has special needs making every day tasks most people take for granted very challenging. He can become frustrated and struggle with his self esteem. He has loved Disney World since he was 14 months old. It has been his happy place, his safe zone. He can be himself and truly feel accepted there. His smile is carefree and genuine; as a mother I’d do anything to give him these experiences as often as I can. Personally, I have worked as a manager in the foster care system for 12 years. My every day is filled with horrors most people dont want to know about. Most of the children I know have been abused or neglected, often severely. My emotional and physical health is significantly impacted from the stress of this. I need Disney. I need over the top, sparkly, happy, magic. I need to be consumed in a fantasy land where people spoil the shit out of their kids to make the world right again. I love it. I will always love it. I will sacrifice to be able to go. And no one can change my mind.” J.Y.
“ I’ve always said they just do things right.” C.D.
“MAGICAL! PERIOD.” M.M.
“Disney is the ONLY vacation where I can truly relax. We have a whirlwind of things going with our family. Special needs kid who has sensory issues and me with food allergies, it’s usually a special brand of hell picking a destination. Disney provides a safe space where we can all have fun, have the quiet spots pointed out and be safe at every meal. My favorite story goes like this: I had a girls dinner with some friends at Sanaa. We alerted them to my nut allergy and at dessert, Chef Chris came out with a concerned look…the pudding we thought was safe, HAZELNUTS. And we had no idea. So, he whips me up this DREAM dessert which had the rest of the table jealous! So, in another place, I may have ended up in the hospital because of this. Disney, nope! They also accept my “flappy happy” kid and make him feel normal.” L.F.
“As much as I adore my little family, I didn’t have the best anticipations about Disney. But I will say that it turned out really well. And we DID have a lot of fun. It was crazy busy, crazy hot and crazy tiring – and we were all cranky and complainy at certain points – but oddly enough, I kinda did feel the magic. I drank the Disney Kool-Aid. There really is something for everyone. We’re not running back any time soon – but I will admit that I’m sold. It’s a right of passage for a family and I’m overjoyed that we did it.” M.J.
“I grew up with a season pass to Disneyland, we went weekly, sometimes more. We went to Disney World at least every other year, if not more. i grew up on Disney movies, I love the princesses, as a kid I didn’t think about the adult concepts that we put on them. Now as an adult, I still love the original princess movies that depict stories much much older than Disney. They bring to life the fairy tales my parents read to me. They encourage imagination and hours of imaginary play. I am one of those adults that very much loves going to Disney as an adult and without kids because it lets me relive all those happy childhood memories. What I love about Disney as a parent is seeing the magic come alive in my children’s eyes. When they get to meet their favorite character, or go on a ride that brings their favorite story to life, it’s a feeling that I will never forget. Disney doesn’t force girls to be princesses, as evidenced by oldest wearing a prince costume. She can love to be daring like Mulan and explore the galaxy like Buzz or fight like a Jedi. My youngest loves fashion, it is in her bones and getting to wear amazing princess costumes is who she is, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be a police officer when she grows up. We need to stop putting our own expectations on it and realize that to a child it is only about the Magic. That is what Disney creates and I for one love watching that magic come alive, because childhood is only as long as they believe in that magic and ultimately, that time is so short. “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein” K.B.
“We love Disney and have had many magical moments but the one that sticks out the most to me is when we went for a weekend but on Friday night we drove to Tampa to go to our daughters Architecture Open House. We were staying at Fort Wilderness in our RV while my Mom was staying at All Star Movies. When we got back late Friday night I drove my Mom over to her hotel as her night vision isn’t the best. I was then going to take a bus to MK and catch the ferry back to FW as our campsite was just outside the settlement (200 loop). The MK bus was at ASM when I was walking up so I said I quick goodnight to my Mom as to not miss the bus. The bus driver saw us both and asked if my Mom was coming too and I explained what we were doing. Well I ended up being the only passenger on the bus so he radioed in and got permission to drive me straight to FW and drop me off at the settlement so I didn’t need to get any other bus or transportation. I don’t remember the gentleman’s name any more but I did write a nice letter thanking him for that little bit of magic as my Mom was worried about me getting back safely.” L.H.
“When we were there M who is on the spectrum, has an anxiety disorder and speech disorder was completely comfortable and spoke to cast members and characters without prompting and without speech difficulties. And S decided then that she not only wanted to be an engineer, but an Imagineer so she could build Disney. And S’s all time favorite character is Figment (next to Daisy Duck) because she feels your imagination is the most important thing to have.” H.K. “
“A CM working the trashcans saw we were hot and gave us a wet washcloth so we could cool down.” K.B
“One year we went to Disney and stayed in a few different hotel rooms. My oldest son, who has autism, had brought his “travel buddy” a stuffed animal that he brings on every trip. As we’re packing to go to the airport, my son realizes he can’t find it. At that point, we’re afraid that the trip will be ruined and he’ll forever think of Disney World as “that place I lost my travel buddy.” We went to the hotel desk and spoke with them. They told us that they NEVER throw away stuffed animals that are left behind and they’ll not only look for it, but will mail it to us free of charge. By the time we were waiting for airport security, Disney called us to let us know they found his buddy. A week or so later, a small box arrived that held the lost buddy. This might seem like a little thing, but it kept the trip from being ruined for my son.
Second story: One year we were at Disney World so my wife could attend a conference. While she was there, the boys and I went to Epcot to meet characters. My oldest son REALLY wanted to meet Beast, but when we got to France, only Belle was there. The boys meet Belle and my oldest mentioned that he wanted to meet Beast. They got a photo with Belle and got her autograph and we left. An hour later, we saw a line for Belle and noticed Belle AND Beast coming out. We waited on line and, when it was our turn, Belle introduced my boys to Beast BY NAME and told Beast that my oldest really wanted to meet him. How many kids does Belle meet in an hour’s time? The fact that she remembered my sons’ names and my oldest’s desire to meet Beast made them feel like the most important kids in the park.” J.L.
Thank you so much to all my friends and family who shared their thoughts, stories, and beautiful photos! Love you all and hope to see you in the parks! <3
And if you do decide to go to Disney World, you’ll definitely want to check out