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Friday, February 8, 2008

A Disney haters adventure to the tragic Kingdom, opps, Magic Kingdom

Before anyone bitches at me I have resigned myself to some form of environmental penance for the carbon food print I must have made in this seven day period, how I will do penance for supporting child labour and sweat shops I do not know.

Now I don’t want to be totally negative so I’ll go through the entire trip and try to be objective.

The airport limo van was quick, efficient, took 5 of us and another couple to the airport in 1 trip. A limo also saved me the risk of leaving my ten year old van that will no longer lock and needs air in the tires weekly at the airport.

Toronto airport had nasty line-ups at check in and then West Jet screwed up by not puttin our 22 month old (who had no seat) on our boarding passes, customs and security were equally slow. They say you should get there 3 hours early and you really do need that much time.

I was quite amazed that my spun stainless steel drink bottle in my knapsack was not hand searched, but of course the security guy was far to busy racially profiling the swarthy fellow in front of me. Had I been profiling I don’t think I would have picked this guy, no accent, a t-shirt with a picture on it, gold ring and chain, designer jeans, and my guess would have placed him as Indian or Guyanese and quite secular.

I would suggest you warn children about the security checks so they don’t flip out when their luggage containing Elmo gets thrown into the x-ray, being asked to take off his shoes was also a bit of an issue for one of my little folks.

The West jet flight was cramped but extremely kid friendly with Tree House available on the seat TVs and they provided juice, cookies, and Bits and Bites in large enough quantities to keep all the wee ones one the plane happy and quiet.

Orlando’s airport was much more efficient than Toronto’s but they certainly start the trip to Disney on the expected consumerism roller coaster by placing shopping conveniently between you and your plane or bus. My first fussing child incident was when the 3 year old would not leave the NASA store because he wanted to visit rover and space man more.

U.S. security people were not at all pleasant like most of the other droids at the airport; also don’t eat in any airport. You are captive and they know it!

The Shuttle bus to Disney was clean and quick and was my first experience with the endless piped in music and non stop Disney Propaganda that I was inundated with for 7 continuous days. The only reasonably nice way of traveling between the resorts and the various parks within Disney was the network of fairies. You get to putt along on a lake, enjoy the scenery, see wildlife and be free from the music. If it had not been for my obligation to help with the kids I could have ridden the boats all day or rented a party barge, anchor in the middle of the lake, read for 7 days, fish and enjoy a few bottles of Samuel Adams.

The Wilderness Lodge was quite nice having pools, beach, gym, nice rooms and even H2O soaps and shampoo, but with most of their accomdations you find yourself 15 minutes away by bus or boat (plus waiting time) from other hotels or parks in Disney. This isolation gives you two choices for eating at your hotel; expensive sit down restaurants or the cafeteria type set up where you can enjoy burgers and chicken fingers for the entire week, yum. Yet again the halls, lobby, elevator etc had endless Disney musak, between the noisey bustle the music and the water features by older boy had a noise tolerance of about 10 minutes in the lobby before he started cowaring and covering his ears.

One thing that bugged me all week was despite the availability of internet access in your room(provided you brought your laptop)there was not a single internet cafe or kiosk anywhere in Disney. After all the kids crashed early and I could only stand so much lou Dobbs so it would have been nice to check my mail and post daily on the nightmare I was living.

We tried to eat most breakfasts and some lunches in our rooms for frugalness sake and just to maintain some sense of normalcy for our kids. It was impossible to do any real food shopping at the hotel store, $4 dollar bread, milk, Rice o’Roni and some other crap that would not enpower you to build a decent balanced meal. Wrong or dishonest instructions led to a 31/2 hour trip for groceries and of course Disney buses will never delivery you anywhere where you might spend some of their rightfully claimed money some place else.

I had a number of issues with the food both at the hotel and in the park.

Price- honestly I don’t need a $20 all you eat buffet for lunch, and I sure as hell don’t expect to pay $11 for the same meal for a 3 year old who will want 5 fries, a pickle, maybe a piece of fruit or cheese. If my kids were really hungry a fully eaten peanut butter and honey sandwich is considered a coup in our house. Fast food was rampant yet decent fast food like burritos, wraps, simple sandwiches were not present.

Selection- with the exception of the sit down places in Epcot the selection sucked. Each area in each park had the same shit at the same outrageous prices.

Nutritional Balance- would it hurt to put some fucking vegetables on the plate. We went to two diner theatre type shows, a Polynesian and a vaudeville/hillbilly kinda show, in both cases 2 meats, 2 starches, and no veggies. While both did have a salad I’m just not use to having the majority of my meals 90% meat and starch and certainly not for a week. They should have had an onsite colonic spa!

Once you get into the various parks you quickly see the quality employment opportunities for seniors who can’t make ends meet, students too stunned to stay in school, glassy eyed people obviously too medicated to realize they are in living hell, and a variety of people who have been kept out of group homes and various other institutions where they could be doing something more productive like weaving baskets.

Yes there was seemingly normal types working for Disney but as one dated anti Disney web site says seems about right

• Young and pretty workers get jobs where they will interact a lot with the customers;
• Older women sell things in the stores;
• Older men work in security;
• Haitian women work in housekeeping;
• Young people from Puerto Rico work in food services and preparation;
• African Americans work as cooks, stewards and in food preparation;
• Anyone who might seem less 'presentable' works on the night shift, from 11pm - 7am.

If the numbers of shambling mouth breathers I saw in the day time were any indication the night crew must be quite something.

Safety. I had to notice that even on crappy carnie rides in Canada they check every single person to make sure they properly secured, belts on , hands in etc. Not at Disney, you loaded yourself, restrained yourself and no one checked. You have to wonder at that point if their maintenance is that shabby?

The People,
It was not just some of the staff that appeared marginally defective; my wife was asked by another guest in the animal park what kind of animal the Gorilla was, she had kids and they did not know either.

We saw one couple planning their Disney wedding who would have been much better served by buying a set of teeth they could have shared.

The number of his and her scooters being used by people who only appeared to be in their forties was bizarre, Yes we saw young men with prosthetics and scooters which we can all understand and sympathize with but the number of people who appeared to have no issues but their weight driving scooters was large.


It’s amazing what they will charge you for in Disney, a 5X7 of your kid with Mickey is $12, to get pictures burned to a CD $150. $10 ballons, T-shirts, Mugs, no matter what you pick are all 2 or 3 times the price of a non branded equivalent outside the parks. I also know an accountant who worked for the copy write police at Disney and they were bastards, but that a different story.

I particularly hated rides that emptied out into yet another gift shop. I have to admit the kids were really quite good and asked for very little. I think they were just too over whelmed with the noise and bustle to even focus on the abundance of crap that was being flogged. I could not believe some of shit people were buying; I mean what grown adult needs Mickey ears, big puffy Mickey hands, a 2 foot tall American flag plush top hat? The assortment was immense and the utility of many of the items was nil.

In the end we got a few shirts for the kids and beach towels/postcards as something they would not grow out of and would be able to keep for years. For me I settled for a piece of pottery shaped like an Olmec head from Epcot Mexico, to go with my collection of Native and fake pre Columbian art.

Would I go again? Not if I could help it

Is Disney the greatest place on Earth? Not even close.

Should an asteroid be nudged into a collision course? Hell yesRecommend this Post


Steve said...

Thanks for the entertaining post. (I found it from a link you posted elsewhere).

When my family and I visited Disneyworld™ years ago, we stayed outside the Magic Kingdom™. This gave us the flexibility to eat and visit any local attraction we desired. Is this still possible?

A few other comments:

Poor working conditions in China. Wages aren't "too low" as long as employees continue to work for them. The same is true of safety. This is because, by the employee's own evaluation, employment under these terms is superior to the alternative.

I used to hate Disney as a company, but they have apparently succeeded in establishing successful, crime-free gated communities and parks. Plus, regardless of whether you or I hate the corporation, it satisfies many other people. The souvenirs you think are worthless are of some value to those who bought them.

"Inadequate" personnel working at the parks. I'm not going to argue that the people you encountered are great employees, but assuming they did their jobs adequately, what is the issue? The apparent pattern of allocating them in accordance with their appearance or ability to interact with customers seems prudent to me.

What was the deal with the able-bodied riding scooters? Are these the devices that you see the ballcap-wearing elderly piloting along the sidewalks and curbs in the Toronto area, and which are inevitably equipped with flagpoles and flags? I'd like to see a Simpsons episode in which Homer's laziness impels him to ride a scooter or a Segway™ 24/7 (a similar theme was undertaken in the episode when Homer passes himself off as an old man so he can live like an infant in the Springfield Retirement Castle).

Consumerism. Yes, prices appear too high for me as well. But, it seems other people are willing to shell out that kind of dough, and I'm sure Disney isn't complaining, either.

You should write about the former Disney accountant. I'd like to know more.

Locating souvenir stores near the kids. Perhaps a dirty trick, but the entrepreneurial side of me would say: in the end, it is up to the parents to decide whether to buy something at one of these places. Your kids were well-behaved (which probably has a lot to do with the way you and the Lady of Wealth raise them), but bad parents are going to suffer at the hands of crying, pleading children--but is that Disney's problem? Can they really be expected to disguise such stores? On the other hand, if I were running the place, I would probably locate some of the more commercial businesses away from the main areas, just to avoid the crassness and obvious profit-making aspect of the park--but this is a mere opinion uninformed by the reality of the situation, and I am not an expert in the field of park management, etc.

I couldn't help but emit a small chuckle at your own souvenir. I'm not going to judge its worth, since you have done that already with your buying behaviour, but at the same time, I'll bet most visitors would regard it as lacking utility (they'd be right from their perspective, as I've tried to argue).

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