I dealt with yet another Disney-bound family yesterday, giggly little ones with colds whose parents were researching products to get them through the plane trip for the annual pilgrimage to Orlando. I've been to Orlando once on a business trip, and the highlight was going out for dinner with a group of my peers and my mom, whom I had shangaied for a few days in the sun. I drove past the great American Mecca in the dark, on the way home from visiting a family friend. It held no temptation for me then or now.
I have family and friends who go to the DisneyWorld repeatedly, and who feel it's the best vacation spot ever. I have worked with people whose cubicles are decorated with mouse ears and Tiggers. I wait on forty year olds with cartoon tattoos that I hope I don't have to look at when they are seventy and saggy. I am bombarded with commercials, and have been for years, that this is the last chance to see this and this year is the last chance to experience that. And I never experienced a burning desire to cash in the 401K and run, not walk, to the last bastion of pediatric economic exploitation.
Don't get me wrong- I enjoy many of the Disney products. I like the movies, the musicals, the opportunity the conglomerate has given to many of our most creative minds. I have always detested Winnie the Pooh- its creator was estranged from the son whom he based his stories on, and whose life was made miserable by references to the sappy stories. (Bear in mind, I collect children's books.) I liked the Mickey Mouse cartoons when I was young, and recognize their significance in the development of the art form. I liked that they made stories a LITTLE more PC, with strong feminine characters and less negative ethnic stereotyping. I tend to like amusement parks as a general rule, and we took our kids to StoryLand, Santa's Village, Clark's Trading Post, Six Flags & Water Country over the years as they grew (I refused to take them to travelling carnivals as I think they aren't monitored well enough). I just never felt that it would be the highlight of our lives to load 4 kids into a plane and travel to the other end of the country to pay exorbitant fees to eat breakfast with some actor in a mouse suit. And a number of families we socialized with felt the same way. I recently watched the show about the sextuplets screeching their way through the park, too little to really understand and enjoy the activities, while their mom tried to get her camera to work and record the magic moments as she extolled that her children deserved to experience this fun. I had to agree with the National Lampoon parody WallyWorld, that the journey should be more than the destination (deceased relatives notwithstanding).
I used to pull my kids out of school for a week, and we'd go north to Vermont AFTER the school vacations had ended and the crowds were gone, and everything was cheaper. We'd ski all morning, eat a hearty lunch we prepared ourselves, and ski til the lifts closed, then snack and do homework before dinner. At Magic Mountain, the staff knew us, and the wait staff would chat with the kids every year, remembering what they were up to and how big they were last year. At Stowe, we discovered out favourite Mexican restaurant (which we've gone back to numerous times) and saw Aladdin in the theatre. At Pleasant Mountain, we had a condo and cooked in, and had great visits by Joe and other family members & their friends. It was just us and the mountains, the clean, crisp air and the hot cocoa and chili dinners. I never thought fireworks and pirates and big cartoon characters and parades could rival that. We haven't skied all together in a long time, but we still like to be together, and when we cook, we are all in the kitchen. We also made our yearly pilgrimage to the house that holds us all on the Cape, with Vacation A option of early morning hikes and birdwatching, frantic bike riding, kayaking and card playing & Option B being sleeping late, lots of novels, discussions, & hammocks. (Both options included beach, leisurely communally cooked meals, movies and vicious Trivial Pursuit games replete with the Spotted Sandpiper Mating ritual.)
Maybe the hoopla meets that need for some people and it's their way of being together in a special place. It just makes me a bit suspicious that the Corporation has us profiled to a T- they know what kind of offers to tempt the populace with, what deals we cannot refuse. We are told to consume, to expect to be entertained, so frequently, subliminally and steadily, that we feel it is our right as an American to have the wondrous vacation, and to have it yearly. If your child is ill, or has a poor prognosis, arrangements must be made for this pilgrimage as a sacred rite that must be experienced at least once in every lifetime, no matter how short. Americans as a whole have forgotten how to make do or do without, and have gotten very used to doing as we're told by the media.
The whole theme park and cruise line scenario reminds me of a baby on Christmas, overwhelmed with present after present after present, thing upon thing that the child didn't know he needed or wanted until presented with it. And the child retreats into a quiet corner to play with the box.
I am very curious to see how Disney takes the Harry Potter world under its wing and interprets my current favourite series. Will I be a traitor to my own opinions if I decide to someday visit it? I don't know. But for now, Orlando, enjoy the weather and the hoopla while I go to shovel my roof again before the next snow starts. Then I am off to play with a box.