Orlando, Florida

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“He went to go look for his nuts.”

Danielle and I were online to have our picture taken with Chip and Dale in Frontierland. I might have knocked into a few children while running to get online, but I couldn’t help myself. I have always enjoyed watching them. Introduced to the world in 1943’s cartoon Private Pluto (a World War II propaganda feature), Chip and Dale have the partnership and playful banter of Laurel and Hardy, Bing and Bob, Abbott and Costello, Brian and Stewie, Puff Daddy and Mase (remember them?), and Danielle and I. (At least I would like to think so.)

When they came back from their 5-minute break, I did what any normal 30-year-old woman in Disney World would do, hug them, compliment their awesomeness, and take several pictures with them. These actions repeated themselves with every character we encountered for the rest of the trip.

Danielle and I have been to Disney World on many occasions, separately. We were excited to not only return but to have our five-year-old niece, Vanessa, experience the fun we had when we were younger. As we were running from character to character taking pictures, we noticed that there were many stores and restaurants. In each park, we went to, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there were more places to spend money than we had remembered from past visits. Granted the expectation at Disney is to spend money in the gift shop on your way out of a ride, but this felt very different.

What also added to this disappointing experience is the “rides” that were in service had no excitement to them. For example, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid had us sit in a calm and watch re-created scenes of the movie. The majority of the “rides” were like this. Even after riding “It’s a Small World,” which is a throwback to the 1963-1964 NYC World’s Fair (refer back to the previous blog about NYC Transit Museum), I found myself asking, “What is this? Was this ride always this short and boring?”

Danielle and I discussed. Maybe we were getting the parks confused. The last time either of us visited a Disney theme park was in February 1999 when we went to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. We tried to find answers as we “park hopped” but we got frustrated. We were surrounded by “gift shops” and an unusual amount of people on scooters that you sit on. (Come on America! This is why we have problems! No one wants to (or can’t because of self-inflicted health problems) walk anymore!)

The main purpose of our trip, besides it being the long weekend to celebrate Columbus Day (see the previous blog about the Columbus Statue in Columbus Circle, NYC), was Vanessa’s 5th birthday. That Saturday morning, Danielle made reservations for us to have a princess breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table at Cinderella Castle. Vanessa was able to speak with and take pictures with Cinderella, Princess Aurora, Snow White, Princess Ariel, and Princess Jasmine. Danielle and I were very tempted to ask these princesses tough questions such as “what happened to the Snow White ride” and “are the rides terrible or is it us.” We didn’t though. Vanessa looked too happy for us to ask such questions.

The next day, instead of heading to any of the parks, we stayed at our hotel’s pool. Danielle and I were the only adults going down the water slide. Vanessa occupied herself by trying to build a sand castle. While we were helping her, two young boys came over. “My brother wants to know if he can play with her.” (Yes…this kid had a wingman.) We said sure and the shorter of the two boys started helping Vanessa with the sand castle while the other one ran to play soccer (he succeeded in his job). I sat next to them as they were building a castle and proceeded to ask the little boy about his family, what pre-school he goes to, and if he had started a 401k. “Really Dana? A 401k? You’re scaring this kid!” Danielle said. “I don’t care,” I said, “This stuff needs to be known. Vanessa needs to know what she is getting herself into.” Vanessa didn’t say anything to him and when it came time for him to go with his mom, he cried. It was cute and made us giggle.

It is difficult to hide my disappointment with this trip to Disney World. The Walt Disney Company has done a very good job of bringing money in. It is as though they have taken Walt Disney’s dream of escapism (as told by Neal Gabler in his biography of Walt Disney) and turned it into a harsh nightmare of mass consumption of tangible goods. It is interesting to note Walt Disney was never in charge of the financial aspect of his empire; his brother Roy was. Maybe I’m getting older and my eyes have been opened too much to enjoy something that once was or maybe Danielle and I need a trip to Anaheim, California to really make a comparison…

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