My Honest View of Walt Disney World

I’m the type of person who is always ready for a trip, still, when a friend asked me to go with her to Disney World, I was somewhat reluctant.  In the end I decided to go, knowing that even though it would not have been my choice of a vacation spot, I would still have a good time.  Living with a military and aircraft history lover for close to forty years has taught me to look for little pockets of interest in the most unlikely places.  And after seeing every aircraft museum from here to Tucson, I have mastered that skill.  Disney World was easy in comparison.

There is a lot to see and do in the Mouse Kingdom, and we only scratched the surface.  One of my favorite attractions was a ride through vintage Hollywood movies.  Because lines can be very long many attractions have pre-shows, and in this case it was a mini-museum of movies costumes.  The one above was worn by Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain.

This dress was worn by Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon.  There was also a costume worn by Katherine Hepburn, but it was black and my photo was  pretty terrible.  It was a delight getting to see a bit of old Hollywood, and it was a sort of double irony, seeing clothes made for make-believe in the ultimate make-believe setting.

Because that what Disney World is – a giant exhibition of make-believe.  But interspersed one can find some glimmers of authenticity, and they are worth the finding.

This section of Disney World, Hollywood Studios, was built in the late 1980s.  All along an area in front of a fake Grauman’s Chinese Theater are the authentic hand prints of many stars set in concrete.  It was interesting looking through them, as many who were hot stuff in the late 80s are now barely remembered.  And sadly, many have since died.

In Epcot there is an international section where eleven countries have displays and restaurants.  The area devoted to Norway had this example of traditional dress along with an explanation of how it was incorporated into the costumes of the animated movie, Frozen which is set in Norway. I was amazed how Disney managed to always connect everything with one of their movies.

There are thousands of ways to spend money in the Mouse Kingdom.  We thought the best stores were in Epcot, as they were not so Disney themed.  The Norway shop was a dangerous place, with a dazzling selection of Norwegian wool sweaters and accessories.  And the shop in China rivaled the best that New York’s Chinatown has to offer.  The restaurants in Epcot were great, and we had  German beer and authentic apple strudel.

I though this was pretty clever, but the chairs were just for show.  It would have been better if this had been an actual resting place.  But it was just an illusion.

In an area called the Animal Kingdom, one can take a safari ride through the African savanna.  Unlike the completely fake Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom, this is a real wildlife area with actual animals.  It looks that the lioness is eyeing her dinner, but even the reality is set up to be misleading.  The two animals are separated by a wide hole which the lion cannot cross.

Probably the one most confusing thing at Disney World is what I called the Cult of the Princesses.  I was familiar with the old Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella cartoons, but clueless me had no idea there are now dozens of these fantasy females, all wearing  gowns and waiting for that all-important prince.  I know I must be exaggerating here, as I do not know the stories behind the new Disney princesses, and so I must assume that at least some of them are models of feminist ideals.

This parade through the Magic Kingdom at midday was full of cast member princesses and princes and even Mickey Mouse and his pal Goofy.  In the float on the left, Cinderella’s gown is being sewn by  her fairy godmothers.

Princesses are big business at Disney World.  There are entire stores that sell the complete ensemble of the various princesses.  The dresses are expensive and horribly cheap looking, being made of brightly colored acetate.  Judging by all the little princesses in attendance, these are mighty good money makers.  Interestingly, I didn’t see any little boys in costume, though I bet that is going to change now that Disney owns Star Wars.

There’s a lot more I could say about the stranglehold of baby strollers and electric scooters, and the high prices of everything, and the crazy long lines, but I don’t want to give the impression that I did not have a good time.  Because I did.  Fun is where you find it, according to Winnie the Pooh, and I found plenty of it.

 

13 Comments

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13 responses to “My Honest View of Walt Disney World

  1. Excellent review, Lizzie, but better you than me (not a Disney fan). Jolly good for going and finding these treasures!

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  2. Indeed, fun is! My father and my stepmother went to EPCOT on their honeymoon (my dad the engineer was a little disappointed).
    I could do a dissertation on the color coding of the princesses, but this is not my blog. I am a Disney park fan, but mostly for the irony. And grateful I did not have daughters.

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  3. I like your attitude, but Disney is still not my thing. We weren’t taken there as kids (my father would make rude comments if we so much as turned on the show on Sunday evenings) and we never took our son. I only went there because my niece now works at Disneyland. I got through the day by remembering that they treat her relatively well (she’s disabled) compared to other low-wage jobs she’s had.

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  4. As a Native Floridian , I and many of my ilk do not care for DW to say the least. Natural Florida is so much more beautiful.

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  5. While being a huge lover of Disney that I am, I can still agree with you on so many points, even despite the fact I have not been to Disney World.

    The strollers and the scooters have gotten out of hand, and I could rage on that for days, but I find the fault not so much with Disney as I do people and parents.

    With regards to fake-ness, Disney Parks there is a lot of fake with a lot of real. Window displays often use real items to create fake scenes and displays. Along Main Street USA many window displays use real antiques. I do like this touch of realism in the mist of all of the fake.

    As for the cult of princesses. I quite agree, it is bizarre and even disturbing at times. The dresses I have a massive problem with, and I have worked closely with them during my time working at Disneyland. They are cheap, made in China and can tear if looked at wrong. Which depresses me to no end. Disney has upped its game on the feminist front though. Merida of Brave is a fine example of a character who fights against the classic “princess in need of prince” story, and that is the spark that kicks off the film. And Merida is very popular. Frozen, the most popular by far now, also moves away from the prince needing trope and argues you can’t marry someone you just met. Girls repeatedly told me they liked Elsa because of her powers, instead of others where sometimes they just said the liked the outfit. Tiana of the Princess and the Frog, also fights against the need to get hitched plot, and actively says so in her film, which takes place during the 1920s. But, in the end, she finds herself falling in love. Tiana is not as popular as I would like her to be, but that is perhaps because she spends most of the film as a frog.

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    • Janey, I appreciate you weighing in on this, especially on the issue of the princess cult. Always an observer of clothing, I could not help but think that some creative parents could have saved a lot of money by making their child’s dress at home before their trip.

      As for the scooters, there were times when I thought I’d gotten lost in the bumper car arena! I think it is great that people with real mobility problems have the option of a scooter, but I’m quite sure in saying that many of the people using them just did not want to do the walking. I saw too many users hop off the scooter and trot up the ramp to the next ride!

      As for strollers, I really respected the parents who came with a small, basic stroller, but there were many more that took up the space of four people. And for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would go to such a place with an infant. Or any child under three, for that matter. By two in the afternoon all the little ones were either asleep or screaming.

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      • Where I worked, we had many girls who came in wearing gowns that a family member had made for them. Which was always refreshing. And, much to my amazement, and excitement, I was pleased to hear people complain of the quality of the gowns that were for sale. I like knowing there are others out there who prefer a higher quality of garment.

        The taking an infant perspective was one I had for a long time when visiting Disneyland, but now that I am here as a local, I seem to believe most with infants are locals. However, it is my understanding that Disney World has fewer locals to visit frequently. I honestly can’t stand the parents who allow children of nine to ride in strollers. It’s absurd!

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  6. I grew up in the proximity of Disneyland and going there as a kid was really fun. In those days, you bought ticket books and you could get in for a very low fee. After we used up the “E” tickets for the big rides, we would go on the rides with short lines, and then finally we would do the free things, like hearing a fake Lincoln give the Gettysburg address. I bought a winter coat at the Pendleton store there for my first trip to Europe. But the Disneyland of today is not at all the same–beginning with the price!

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