Let me make one thing clear: Your friends aren’t wrong to hate Disney.
Think of the world’s worst music; a style or genre of poorly assembled noise that you see absolutely no value in. Not for any political or cultural reason, not because the lyrics are offensive or demeaning to a group of people — music you can’t stand because it is just plain awful.
Now, realize that whatever form of auditory torture you are thinking about makes a lot of people very happy. Whether your most hated noises come from Rap, Metal, Country, Jazz, Classical, Dubstep, or anything else, right now a lot of people are associating those songs with joy, excitement, friendship, and love. They are building their most sacred memories with the soundtrack of that music. Yet, admitting this is true won’t make you enjoy it yourself. It just simply isn’t your thing.
There are some people, many in fact, where Disney just isn’t their thing. Just as you never have to apologize to anyone or feel ashamed about what you love, they owe no one any explanations for the things they don’t. Sometimes we get defensive of our own views and think things like, “They just don’t have magic in their hearts,” or, “They don’t know how to let go and stop taking things so seriously for a bit.” The thing is, there are plenty of wonderful, imaginative, even childlike personalities out there who create their own magic daily — Disney just simply doesn’t do it for them.
Those folks are not the subject of this article, though. There’s no need to convince the whole world to share your opinions. No, I’d like to focus on those that might actually find a lot of enjoyment out of the Disney Parks, but for a number of reasons they’ve chosen to actively avoid them. Those people who you’re sure would see the value if they’d just go, but are unwilling to give it a chance. Basically, someone like me 5-years-ago.
Disney is Always in Your Face
So, let’s talk about music again. Have you ever woken up, gone through your standard morning rituals of bathing, grooming, presumably coffee, and started your car to head to work only to immediately hear a new song on the radio? During your drive you switch stations, and this song shows up again. When you get into the office, your coworkers are having an in-depth discussion of how talented this artist is. On your lunch break you go into a restaurant or local store, and sure enough that song is on the radio. You start to wonder whether the federal government outlawed all other music, because this song is the only thing anyone is listening to.
By the time you arrive home, you hate this song. It’s not that it’s bad; who knows, maybe it’s even good. It’s impossible to tell, because you were bombarded with it from every angle, causing immediate oversaturation. For me, this was Adele. For others, it’s Disney.
Sure, Disney may be an old song, but its remixes are getting released daily. Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger’s strategy, which has proven successful up to this point, has been to accrue as much media and intellectual property as possible. While this has admittedly turned them into an unstoppable entertainment powerhouse, it also means that folks who have never been to a theme park see Disney everywhere they turn.
Want to see a blockbuster new release at the movie theater? It’s probably from a Disney-owned property. Want to watch an old favorite? Disney just bought that studio, so it’s now retroactively theirs. Want to read a comic book? Avoid Marvel and Star Wars. Watch TV? Same rules as comic books, but add ABC and a huge chunk of children’s programming to that list. Wanna forget about that and just catch up on current events? If the news is on, Disney’s probably somewhere in it.
While this makes great business sense, to an average person it can seem incredibly annoying, or even downright greedy. “When’s Disney gonna buy my favorite thing?” they worry. Remember, not everyone has a backlog of childhood memories or emotional ties to Disney, so they don’t have anything to balance out the rapid growth of the company’s ever-increasing presence in their daily lives.
An important distinction that those folks might come to realize is that the theme park experience is unique, and Disney is the top of their class for a reason. Sure, if you run into someone who boycotts every single Disney-owned film, show, or company out of an obstinate loathing for everything “The Mouse” represents, don’t bother trying to explain it. The thing is, it’s totally alright to hate a company yet enjoy its products, as long as your hatred isn’t based on a firm moral belief. (If it is, boycott away.)
Sometimes, I get annoyed with Disney. Some days, I look around at petty cash grabs or major corporate takeovers and think, “C’mon now, how greedy can you be?” The thing is, this attitude doesn’t stop me from enjoying good entertainment. I’ve never been on Space Mountain considering how much the 21st Century Fox takeover will affect the current economic climate, and I’ve never been distracted from a fireworks spectacular by the changes Marvel films will enforce on their comic book counterparts. I just relax and enjoy.
When people are just sick of seeing The Walt Disney Company everywhere, don’t try to change their minds. Invite them to a park, let them know it’s okay to hate on Disney, it might even be fun riffing on them right inside their seat of their power. That could open them up a little to enjoying the fun, even if it starts out ironically. At the end of the day, they’ll realize that they had a legitimately great time.
Disney is for Kids
This is the big one. Sometimes you'll hear "Disney is for families," but it means essentially the same thing. Family-friendly entertainment is just children's entertainment repackaged to be slightly less nauseating to adults.
Here is why it is near impossible, regardless of how many facts you bring to the table, to convince someone who presumes this otherwise. Most Disney fans hear this and immediately jump to the defensive, some even go straight to aggressive.
You are an adult. You love Disney. If someone says that Disney is just for children, then they are calling you a child. They think you are naive, dim, not worth the respect afforded to adults. They think childish things are silly. They think you are silly. How dare they judge you? They must not get it. They must be dead inside. You're not a fool, they are all fools for not seeing the beauty and wonder you see. What terrible people they must be, to be like that. How sad their lives must be.
Except that isn't always the case. There isn't always implied judgement, and even when there is, a door is often left open for a change of opinion. When we become defensive of the things we love, we demean them with our lack of confidence and faith in them.
If you were to ask me why I love my girlfriend, I'm not going to attempt to prove her worth to you. I don't need to, and I would be doing her a disservice by trying. What I would do is explain how she makes me feel, what she has brought to my life, and why I'm a better person for being graced with her influence. I could do this without giving you a single detail about her, and by the time I'm done you may not know who she is, but you will certainly know that her effect on me is profound and wonderful. You might even want something like that for yourself. When we truly love something, it is not our obligation to rescue its reputation from the naysayers of the world, but our good fortune to sing its praises to the open ears we come across.
When we rush to defend Disney, we find ourselves engaging in a debate. Despite what your high school social studies class may have promised, debates rarely end in changed opinions. I find a much better strategy is to share my experiences, ones I know will resonate with my audience.
"You think Disney is just for children? Don't get me wrong, that stuff totally exists. That is why I avoided it for so long. You'd be surprised how many people come to the parks who don't have kids, though. In fact, over half of the people I see driving around Orlando with annual pass bumper stickers are in their early-to-mid-20s. I myself usually avoid a lot of the 'kid stuff.' I'm not big into meeting characters or parades or anything, but you don't have to do any of that to enjoy the parks. The thing to remember is that The Walt Disney Company is a giant profit machine, so they'd be stupid to neglect the childless adult demographic. Most of my favorite rides aren't geared towards children, just fun, and it is so much easier to navigate the parks and do what you wanna do, when you wanna do it, without kids in tow. Magic Kingdom is probably what you're thinking of when you imagine Walt Disney World, and yeah, there is a bunch of child-centric IP there, but some good adult stuff too. Animal Kingdom is great for anyone who likes animals; their Pandora expansion is surprisingly awesome even for Avatar-haters like myself. Epcot gets most of its attention for Food & Wine Festival type stuff these days, and if you're an alcohol drinker then 'Drinks Around the World' is a blast — not to mention the great Resort drinking opportunities (tell me you don't wanna do a Monorail Pub Crawl). Hollywood Studios has Toy Story Land now, but if that is too kiddy for you then try Tower of Terror, probably the scariest ride on property in my opinion."
Now, you can share points taken from your own personal experiences; the facts honestly speak for themselves and it would probably be a time-saver just to hand out 10-page bullet point lists of all the adult-friendly activities on property. Even if you are a big fan of getting your picture taken with "The Fab Five," there is no need to try and validate that to a person who obviously isn't interested in that part of the park experience. Find out how they like to spend their time, and focus on that. The important thing is avoiding judgement from either side. I don't think anything negative about anyone who believes Disney is just for kids, but if they'll give me a few minutes — or hours — to talk about why I love it as an adult, I consider that time well spent.
I don't wanna say "you're wrong," I wanna say, "here's what you might really like about it."
This strategy won't work in an internet comments section — nothing does — but it may have an affect on the friend or family member in your life who refuses to consider how much fun they are missing out on. Even if the conversation doesn't convince them, they'll at least understand why it appeals so much to you.
Why Go to Disney When There Are So Many Better Places in the World to Visit?
At first glance, this is probably one of the best arguments I have heard for avoiding Disney parks, but it's also one of the least logical. Can Disneyland compare to the historical significance of Rome? Does Walt Disney World offer a more unique cultural perspective than Singapore?
No. The answer is probably no, but those are very stupid questions.
The existence of one thing does not have to demean the existence of another. I love Chicago-style pizza. Now, I love NY-style pizza as well; in fact, I eat far more of it than any other style. I also like a more traditional cheese-less pizza made by my friend Marco's straight-outta'-Italy dad. Sometimes I'll hear people arguing about which one is the best, passionately, vehemently at each other's throats over which is the true, legitimate pizza. Why, oh why are humans like this? How have we managed to construct such wondrous and beautiful structures, utilize our ever-expanding knowledge of science to invent ships that travel through space and hand-held devices which can communicate globally in seconds, create stories and art in every conceivable form which can harness the deepest emotions to alter our very lives, and yet still resort to such tribalism that we must argue over which is the best pizza? Why must we always look for a wall to defend, a hill to die on, in the most meaningless conversational ways?
All pizza's are, by their very essence, equally awesome. A singular pizza should be judged not from the style in which it was made, but from the quality of ingredients, culinary skill, and love from which it was formed.
What I mean by this idiotic and convoluted metaphor, is that we compare when we really shouldn't. Vacations are about the experience, the enjoyment, the memories. One of the best times of my life was when I scraped up enough money to spend two weeks in Budapest with an assortment of friends and family. Yet now I find that I am consistently adding wonderful Disney memories to my story. No one in their right mind would ever ask me to choose which memories are better, because that is absurd. Those moments don't battle for supremacy in my heart and mind. Each and every one of those experiences fills me with comfort, causes me to reflect back on the younger versions of the people in my life — some still here, some gone — and reminds me that if I'm lucky I have more of these times ahead of me.
Life is a collection of experiences, the results of decisions made. There isn't a need for competition, because it is impossible for us to know which place, at which time, will lead to the best outcome. It's quite possible that none of those variables even matter, that the outcome is wholly dependent upon how we choose view it.
Avoiding the Disney Parks because there are better places to visit is a pretty flawed argument. There are different places to visit, but better is in the eye of the beholder. It's great if someone wants to travel for history or culture, but if so, they might wanna do it because that is where they find their fun — no ego, bragging rights, or posturing involved. That shouldn't demean Disney Resorts, where travel statistics agree a helluva lotta people find their fun.
Not everyone gets to travel — for most, the process is fraught with an abundance of planning and large monetary expenditures. That is one of the reasons that Disney Resorts are designed the way they are. They are constructed to allow folks an incredible assortment of fun on a daily basis, resort accommodations, transportation options, dining, shopping, and recreation. Providing an enjoyable vacation is their primary purpose, and what they have to offer makes sense for many people.
For families or groups who are split on their travel decision, remember to check all your options. Adventures by Disney combines high-quality Disney service with some absolutely exotic destinations, some which include the parks and some which do not.
Once again, if someone is running into a Disney roadblock because of preconceived notions, don't tell them they are wrong. Just think about elements of a Disney experience that they might enjoy, and speak from the heart. People connect with passion — the most likely thing to change their opinion is seeing how satisfied and content you are with your own Disney adventures.
If that doesn't work, explain my pizza metaphor in detail until they walk away confused.
All images not owned by The DIS are taken from the numerous studios underneath The Walt Disney Company umbrella.
If you'd like to know why I love Disney, this pretty much sums it up.