Lines and meeting imaginary people: Notes on Disneyworld

Lines. If you like lines, you should go to Disneyworld. There are a lot of lines. There were lines inside of lines – lines that led into other lines, which then siphoned off into smaller lines. Whole families of lines, leading into each other. Some rides were clever about it, videos, video games, crowd-sourced activities while you wait. But it was still pretty much all about lines. It was overwhelmingly a game of finding which rides or shows had the smallest lines, the fastest lines, and determining how long it would take us to get there, and how long the pain of that line compared with the joy of that ride versus the pain of the other line with the joy of the other ride. We would get a fast pass for Space Mountain, then wait in line for something less popular. Then get another Fast Pass for something else (which basically allows you to get past most of the line, but you can only get one at a time, basically). The amount of time spent in lines in every part of the trip versus actual Disneytainment was like 10:1. In the end we were more impressed that we managed to get on a certain list of rides than we were the rides themselves.

baby chewing on stroller counter
She's practical, that comes from my wife's side.
This, with baby strapped to chest, was usually fastest.

Characters. Meeting the characters was both the low point and the highlight. Meeting characters is another name for standing in line to see people dressed up in costumes. You may be amused to know we took our 3-year old, dubbed the “Wild Man” by more than one person. You may guess that he was, not in fact, good at lines. This was a recurring theme. Ha ha, you say. You took a 3-year old. Good luck, mate! Yeah well. It went like this in terms of low points and high points: lowlowlowlowlowlowlowlowlowlowlowlowHIGHdone. He does not see the point of lines, personal space, or safety, around while staying in said line. To watch him talk to some college kid dressed in a costume like a person he’s seen on TV and is not developmentally advanced enough to not recognize as a costumed person is still pretty charming despite the whole He’s/She’s Gonna Find Out About Santa Soon Enough-ness of it all. MA (age 6) got a kick out of it. I thought, I imagined, that I saw the split in her head, knowing it wasn’t really Cinderella, but thinking it was Cinderella. But she was star struck. For me, seeing characters (again, people dressed up like Disney icons) the way I heard someone describe seeing naked people at Burning Man: the first day it’s pretty shocking and exciting, but by the third day, it’s pretty ho-hum. “Yep, that’s Pooh-Bear. Ok, we’re going to watch All About Plants, they have air conditioning.”

word to the sistas

Credit where credit’s due, though: props to Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother. I don’t know if they were given a longer leash because they are both unpopular and unlikable on screen but the characters were very funny. The one took EJ on her lap and started asking him when they could get married, and the other quizzes MA on her name and favorite cheeses. Everyone was professional, don’t get me wrong, all the princesses were kind and the characters took as long as we needed with the two star-struck kids. But they stood out because they were actually funny, everyone else had to come across as silent or sweet.

Random. There were lots of couples/groups there without kids. To which I say ‘Why?’, then run to stop my kid from hitting strangers with his sword, then go, ‘Oh’.

Expensive. Do you have some cash to burn? Head to a park that is expensive to get into, so you can buy expensive gear that you can also get at Walmart or second-hand at the Goodwill if you’re patient.  Those balloons inside balloons, like a Mickey-head inside a transparent balloon? How much would those cost? Normally a couple of bucks. But it’s Disney, so it’s expensive. So $5? They’re $10. For a balloon! Did they invent a new way of doing balloons to make those, and they’re backpaying the inventor? Is it that hard to get that little ballon in the bigger balloon? It must be a thing – money spent at Disney is worth more to the spender than money spent other places, even though it gets less for it.

Pins? Forget about it. Like $5 to start (this for the tiny little metal thingies, pins) up to $14 for more ornate or classic pins. Pins. Little pieces of metal. There are all sorts of strategies to get around this, apparently, like second mortgages, or buying crap before you go and then pretending to your kids that you got it there. It’s shocking. And I did it, too, because my little kiddies wanted it and every other ride let out into a themed gift shop. I can’t think of a more clearly laid-out and executed commercial exploitation of kids’ feelings and impulses.

Along with the pins, it’s cool to see the subcultures pop up, and then depressing once I think through them. There’s a heavily encouraged pin-trading community (buy our stuff, then trade with others, but only those who have bought our stuff!), and a “put your crap up in the window of your hotel/motel room to show you’re a true Disney fan” community in the resorts. Magically, sometimes a cleaning person puts a rolled-up towel animal head in your room (like the Godfather, but nicer), so you put that in the window too, to show you’ve been graced by the cleaning people gods. We got one, I was a little too excited for my kid to see it so they knew they were in the cool club. I’m not sure they cared.  I kept checking other people’s windows and getting ticked we didn’t get more. ‘Why the crap didn’t we get that lizard-looking thing? They got two!’ But we didn’t have a ton of gear in our windows, either.

Overall: I’d do it again, maybe, in like 10 years, when the kids can go off on their own with their teen sibling and my wife and I can go to all the scary rides or stay back at the pool, or go to the beach, or a different theme park with more roller coasters and garbage on the ground. I will give them that – they were very clean. And employees were almost universally strangely enchanted with working there, singing along with the songs and enjoying the parades. It’s possible it’s very rewarding – if you see into kids’ souls every freaking day as they gaze up at their plastic heroes, that would pack a punch. But good grief.

5 thoughts on “Lines and meeting imaginary people: Notes on Disneyworld

  1. Yup … it’s Disney “magic.” I enjoy visiting, though you never have to look too hard through the fantasy veneer to see the huge river of money. I’ve always told myself I would never take a child under 7-8 to the parks just because I did not want to put up with the expense of the park coupled with the endless barrage of product placement. It’s easy to say when it’s all hypothetical.

    1. I like that phrase, river of money, it makes it sound grubby. I think the product placement is still pretty effective on that age, unfortunately – it’s something to think about.

  2. Simply fantastic. I have never been to the so called “World of Disney” but I sure have been to the “Land of Disney”. I have been once, when I was 17, and quite frankly I still have good dreams about it, but then again I went with Doug and Amy and they knew how to work the line system and would quite often leave the kids isolated in some area of the park while we went and played (typical?). Great commentary especially the Godfather reference. I am glad my future is bright (meaning endless lines with kids).

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ed. I saw adults enjoying it. We were ahead of a couple who was there on their honeymoon (you can tell these by a veil/tuxedo mouse ears set) waiting for the princesses and they seemed to be really enjoying themselves. We met a couple from the UK as well who spent a week or two at Disney. Honestly I think our kids would have had as much or more fun if we’d spent half the vacation at the hotel pool.

  3. Hans,
    I enjoyed your post about Disney. We just came back from there this week as we spent new year’s eve at Disney Quest Downtown Disney. We also went to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Magic Kingdom was amazing especially at night! I could have done without the lines the first day we visited, it was completely ridiculous, my 8 yr old wanted to leave after two hours because she couldn’t stand all the people and the lines and the 70 degree sunny weather – it was too much for her. We found out from the hotel concierge that going in early to the park (right after 8 when it opens) you can get a fastpass for the rides and avoid the lines altogether – so we did that for the second day and it was so much better. We also had a handy little iphone app with waiting times for the rides. Overall, good experience. Having two teenagers also helped a lot – Len and I could have never taken the “scary” tower of terror ride if it wasn’t for them distracting our little one. Would I do it again? Yeah – but we’ll be wiser and pre-plan, look at the online event calendar for the park, fast passes, eat a nice big brunch before we go (three meals there for all five of us will break the bank). The kids enjoyed their time and Vivi held the rope for one of the parades – she was so proud of that. It was all worth it in my book! Our favorite spot for the whole family? The Laugh Floor.

Leave a Reply