Home » 5 Classic TV Shows That Brought the Magic of Disney Parks Into Your Living Room

    5 Classic TV Shows That Brought the Magic of Disney Parks Into Your Living Room

    The Disney theme parks are perfect fodder for an episode or two of a sitcom. That’s why the Disney-owned ABC made an effort to promote Disney World on several occasions by having characters from their most popular television shows go to Orlando for a vacation. The scenario is pretty much a win-win: the Disney theme parks are promoted and the viewers get to see their favorite characters in unique environments that many of them already love. Here are four ABC shows that featured some family fun at Disney parks, and one series that took a VERY different approach with its excursion to The Happiest Place on Earth…

    1. Full House

    The cast of Full House lived in San Francisco, California, so maybe a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim would have made a little more sense, but they went to Disney World instead since that was the park that would benefit more from some promotion. The two-part Season 6 finale that aired in 1993 had Uncle Jesse’s band “Jesse and the Rippers” playing a show at Disney World and his two-year anniversary with his wife Becky. Given that Full House is about men raising three girls, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Disney princesses played a big role in the story.

    Michelle (played by the Olsen twins) rubs a magic lamp and wins the opportunity to be a “princess for a day,” to the ire of her sisters, especially Stephanie. D.J., Stephanie and Kimmy Gibler end up losing Michelle at the park, playing into a familiar trope. They find her safe and sound, because this is a sitcom after all. Together the family has tea with some Michelle’s favorite Disney characters, and Michelle makes up with Stephanie by letting her be princess for the remainder of the day. It definitely doesn’t break any new ground, but it is a perfectly pleasant episode of a perfectly pleasant sitcom that makes use of the magic of Disney World.

    2. Roseanne

    In Season 8, the last before the much-maligned final season, Roseanne and the rest of the Conners head to Disney World a little less than three years after the Tanners did. In this episode, the family basically says “screw it” and spends Dan’s last paycheck from the garage where he worked on a somewhat extravagent vacation. 

    3. Boy Meets World

    Only three months after Roseanne and her family took a trip to Disney World, Corey, Topanga and company from sitcom Boy Meets World went on a vacation there, as well. “The Happiest Show on Earth” aired near the end of the season, and had some significant repercussions for the characters including Corey and Topanga finally getting back together. 

    4. Modern Family

    The cast of Modern Family took a recent trip to Disneyland in a 2012 episode simply called “Disneyland.” It’s a great, if brief at only 22 minutes, look at a modern day Disney theme park within a funny story. It even pays homage to the Dapper Dans, a barbershop quartet that’s been featured on Main Street since 1959. Dylan almost loses his chance of getting back together with Haley (again) when she finds him to be a member of that group.

    There’s also an amusing scene where Dylan is wearing a Little John costume trying to discreetly plead his case to Haley, and her other love (like?) interest pushes him over. Overall, it’s a very entertaining episode of a show that’s consistently enjoyable.

    5. Mad Men

    Don Draper going to Disneyland doesn’t seem in line with the moody atmosphere of AMC’s Mad Men at all. The writers of the show probably agreed, which is why we never actually see Draper and his family at The Happiest Place on Earth. That doesn’t stop Disney concepts from being explored in an interesting way, though. We see them around Orlando and at restaurants and hotels, but if you watch don’t expect Mickey Mouse to pop up in the episode.

    The Season 4 finale is titled “Tomorrowland.” That in one sense refers to one of the lands at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, etc., but more broadly it refers to Don Draper’s future and the future of America itself. Draper gets engaged very suddenly, possibly going through a mid-life crisis of some sort. The ad agency he works for is appealing to the American Cancer Society to get their business convincing people to not smoke. That’s ironic both because they previously advertised for a cigarette company and many of the main characters smoke, but, more importantly, it points to a tomorrow where things we grew up with suddenly take on new forms.

    While certainly not extravagantly Disney in any sense, this is probably my favorite TV episode that takes place at a theme park because it uses a part of Disneyland as a metaphor to speak about things that are very deep and though-provoking.

    I hope you enjoyed this exploration of some TV shows that have utilized the Disney theme parks for viewers’ entertainment!