The Power of Disney

In all honesty, I did not want to go to Disneyland. I imagined long lines, huge crowds, unhealthy food, no recycling and my kids repeatedly asking me to buy over-priced souvenirs. But what a curmudgeonly mother I would be if I didn't go.

And of course, there were some long-term implications of choosing not to go. It would probably become a common dinner refrain: "Remember the time we went to Anaheim and mom wouldn't take us to Disneyland." I would also be cast into the role of the cheap communist, which admittedly I do sound like on occasion. I just don't agree with compulsive consumption or marketing aimed at children, among so many other things related to present-day Disney (Read: hypersexualized princesses). But in not going to see the mouse, I could inadvertently create two Disney-obsessed shopaholics.

It would be better to take them. Then, as I looked at the sheer size of Disneyland and the California Adventure Park, I realized that we would need to go for more than one day. There was also the age difference: my daughter is 10 and my son is 6. They wouldn't be interested in the same things, and this could lead to some hard feelings and inevitable arguments. The solution was to take them for three days.

FYI, you cannot get any deals on Disneyland tickets, but the price per day goes down considerably if you go for three days. After reading up on all the star attractions, I planned that we would do three high-profile rides by 11:00 in the morning before everyone arrived and the lines got long.

We flew through the gates on Monday morning when it opened at 8:00 am. (Weekends are the busiest, particularly in peak season from April to September.) The first surprise--there were recycling bins all around. We headed straight for Star Tours and Space Mountain only to discover that my 10-year-old daughter was too afraid to go on them.

I told her that I had been on Space Mountain before in Orlando and that it was a lot of fun. "No way," she said. After doing all the research, I was kind of looking forward to a few of the rides,  Space Mountain being just one of them, but my daughter gave a definitive "No" to the first two. This was the same child who used to beg us to take her La Ronde, Montreal's amusement park.

The day changed dramatically for all of us when we got to Fantasyland. This is the area of the park for small children with the original 1955 slow rides. The lines were short and the rides were fun. My kids' favourite was the Mad Hatter's Teacups, a ride we did four times. And as corny and embarrassing as it might sound, the Disney carousel was magical for me. But why would that be, especially when the carousels at Montmartre or in Santa Cruz are far more impressive? It took a day of pondering the reason before it came to me. I'd seen the Disney carousel hundreds of times in the opening sequence of the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday at 6:00 pm as a kid, a period of optimism that predated my years of  Disney cynicism.

After the carousel, I let go and enjoyed our day. I found myself looking at all the details of the park. It had all been so well thought out. There was no chipped paint or faded colours, and the ride attendants were gentle with my children. The imagineers, the professionals who devise, install and maintain the attractions, had done a wonderful job. Another positive point, the park offered healthy food choices, and there were even fruit stands. The food and souvenirs were fairly expensive, but not outrageously priced.

Overall, our three days were highly enjoyable, especially the two days when we went early in the morning and avoided the crowds. My two-day nostalgia-filled high from the carousel was exhilarating and gave me plenty of food for thought about marketing to children.

In spite of my education and cynicism, Disney had still managed to trigger a very positive reaction in me, a product of relatively "harmless" Disney from TV in the 1970s. I cannot fathom the impact of Disney's very powerful presence today on the next generation of adults.

I'm relieved to know that the province of Quebec does not allow fast food chains or toy companies to advertise on television to our children, and I wonder if this regulation came to one of our lawmakers after a trip to Disneyland.

Here's the opening of sequence of the Wonderful World of Disney from the 1970s. Do you remember this?



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