Home » 6 Topics Disney Parks Fans Have ZERO CHILL About

6 Topics Disney Parks Fans Have ZERO CHILL About

Epcot Stroller Parking Sign

Disney parks fans can be a passionate group. We all share one important thing in common— love for the Most Magical Place on Earth. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we agree on all things pertaining to Disney. Indeed, there are a number of subjects that can quickly work fans into a hot lather of disagreement.

We love talking about lighthearted, fun subjects here at Theme Park Tourist—things like crazy hacks to beat the heat on your next trip or pondering all the magical things we think about when we aren’t at Walt Disney World. This is not one of those pieces. This is an exploration of some of the biggest controversies Disney parks fans can’t agree on, to the point they elicit strong emotions in no time flat. These aren’t all cut and dry issues either—in most cases, both sides might have very good points why they’re right. Curious, yet? Here are the top six topics Disney parks fans consistently have ZERO CHILL about.

1. Strollers and scooters

Stroller Parking Sign

There are few issues that set Disney parks fans off more quickly than horror stories involving strollers and scooters. We usually picture that one crazed parent who decides to use their child’s stroller as battering ram through Pandora or that little old lady on a scooter who sets her jaw and decides to go full Fury Road down Main Street, no matter who is in the way. While many Disney parks visitors have experienced this scenario, stroller and scooter shenanigans are actually a pretty complex issue, one that actually has proven a sore spot for visitors on both sides of the spectrum.

On one hand, no one likes being rammed, cut off, or chased by a stroller or scooter. Let’s face it—there are some Disney parks visitors who are either outright inconsiderate or who might be a few pineapples short of a Dole Whip. Stories abound, even among our readers, of guests who have been injured or had their kids nearly injured by stroller/scooter encounters that turned bad. In less sketchy situations, most Disney regulars have experienced the rite of passage that is having a stroller aggressively shoved into your path in the midst of a Disney crowd. The issue is such a longstanding one that ahead of the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney banned stroller wagons and extra large double wide strollers (skinner double strollers are still good to go).

There’s another side to the story though: maneuvering a stroller or scooter through Disney parks crowds is extremely difficult for parents and for those who need mobility aids like scooters. The amount of patience, dexterity, and fortitude required for flustered parents with small children in strollers is the stuff of racing game champions. Most parents with strollers and scooter drivers are just trying to enjoy their Disney day without inconveniencing anyone. Unfortunately, theme parks are crazy places, and it’s hard not to inevitably get in someone’s way with something as big as a stroller or scooter. A common issue parents or scooter drivers run into is people stopping suddenly in front of their cart, then expecting the parent or driver to be able to magically stop in time. It never ends well. Especially if little ones are getting moody from a long day, this repetition can drive even the most stalwart parents to their last nerve.

There’s no perfect solution to the problem expect one we emphasize often here at Theme Park Tourist: be patient with your fellow guests and do your best to be courteous. Visitors without kids can make way for parents with strollers who are having trouble getting through a crowd. Stroller or scooter drivers can do their best to stay aware of other guests and be patient with the slower pace. Either way, realize goof ups will happen, and just do your best to have grace for your fellow guests—and just laugh it off and make way when Grandma Furiosa comes barreling through.

2. Thrill rides vs. family attractions

 Smuggler's Run Cockpit Interior

Image: Disney

Thrill rides and family attractions shouldn’t be mutually exclusive—after all, Walt Disney World is staggeringly successful because it appeals to many audiences. However, whenever Disney announces plans for a new ride, the debate rages anew: should Disney focus on developing thrill rides or family attractions?

On one hand, Walt Disney World and Disneyland are family destinations. While this includes families of all sizes and varieties, there’s no doubt that kids are one of Disney’s most crucial audiences. Kids want to be able to experience as much as possible when they visit Disney parks, and it’s never fun when parents have to explain to a little one why a new attraction isn’t available to them due to height restrictions or scary content. New thrill rides add nothing to their trips, so every new family attraction is a win (like the upcoming Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

On the flip side, adults who visit Disney as well as families with teens or older children tend to love thrill rides. Walt Disney World has some great thrill rides in each of its four parks, but they struggle to compete with thrill-saturated parks like Universal Orlando Resort and Busch Gardens Tampa in appealing to the teen and young adult demographic. Small children don’t stay small forever, and when they grow up, Dumbo and It’s a Small World don’t hold the same appeal. If Disney wants to keep those families, they need a good selection of thrill rides in each park. We are entering into a particularly appealing season for this demographic with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster at Epcot, and TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Magic Kingdom.

Fans will continue to have different ride preferences, which is fine. Those often change over time as our families grow and transform. The good thing is that Disney has done a pretty good job not backing themselves into either corner. Attractions like like Avatar: Flight of Passage, Soarin’, and Star Tours might be considered thrill rides by some, but they hold awesome appeal to children as well (once they meet the height restriction). New developments like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are being designed with kids, teens, and adults in mind, with content for all three groups. While Disney may sway one direction or another during some seasons of development, in the long term, they are keeping a good balance between introducing family attractions and new thrills for older audiences.  

3. Intellectual properties vs. original stories

Gaston and kid

Image: Disney

This was a hot topic in our recent Theme Park Tourist staff roundtable. We’ve talked at length about Disney’s strong trend towards basing new attractions on popular intellectual properties rather than original stories. There is no doubt that IP’s have been part of Disney’s DNA from the beginning—Mickey Mouse, Dumbo, and Peter Pan are great examples. The issue that frustrates some fans isn’t Disney emphasizing their beloved characters and films: it’s the elimination of original stories entirely from their attraction lineup.

It’s easy to forget that Pirates of the Caribbean started as an original story attraction. Indeed, no one expected the film series based on the ride to be as popular as it turned out to be. The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Spaceship Earth, Expedition: Everest, and Soarin’ are all based on original tales from the minds of Disney Imagineers. The last major attraction to open based on a purely original story idea was Mission: SPACE in 2003. Since then, Disney has leaned full tilt into gearing all new park developments to pair with major IP’s. Even Illuminations is supposedly being replaced with a new IP-centered show.

Those who agree with the change usually emphasize that IP’s are more recognizable. Disney wants to put forward their most marketable characters and stories as much as possible, and there’s no doubt that this strategy has led to success—consider how Frozen Ever After has drawn crowds in droves to Epcot’s once-quiet Norway pavilion. Longtime fans might hate that change, but its certainly to Disney’s benefit. Emphasizing IP’s also appeals to Disney purists who prefer Disney to emphasize their classic materials rather than giving so much attention to properties like Star Wars and Avatar which feel less “Disney”.

The problem is this: imagination is a cornerstone of the magic of Disney parks. One of the biggest appeals of Disney’s original story attractions is that we don’t know the beginning, middle, and end of those stories—there are gaps to be filled in by guest imaginations. Our perception isn’t colored by already knowing the story of The Little Mermaid, Frozen, or Toy Story. Original stories keep Disney fresh, eclectic, timeless, and they spur the imaginations of kids and adults alike. They take us on new adventures beyond those already familiar. IP’s may wane in popularity, but original stories can continuously bloom into something all their own. Also, who knows if one of those original stories might prove the seed that grows into the next Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Food for thought, but both sides in this discussion have strong points.

4. Changes to classic rides

Test Track at night

Image: Disney

Disney’s greatest strength is the power of nostalgia. It is hard not to grow attached to classic attractions we remember from childhood. However, time changes everything, including Disney attractions—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Whenever these changes take place, fans always have lots to say.

Disney certainly has had their share of wins with attraction changes. While the older version of Test Track was zany fun, the Create-a-Car element of the newer version (TRON Track?) worked out swimmingly. Star Tours: The Adventure Continues turned out to be a great upgrade over the original thanks to its randomized elements. On the other hand, Disney has outright goofed with some ride changes and spurred full fan outrage: think The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management or Journey into YOUR Imagination.

Perhaps no ride has been subject to this phenomenon more than Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates might be a classic attraction, but it’s been changed more times than most fans can even keep track of. In 1997, the ride was refurbished to adjust the dark tone of the pillaging scene (the pirates used to chase the women instead of the other way around) and to scrub the dialogue of the drunken sailor muttering about wanting to “Hoist his colors” for the wench auction. The ride was changed again in 2006 to add Captain Jack Sparrow and elements from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In 2012, mermaids were added to the grotto scene, only to be removed in 2018. Most recently (and controversially), the wench auction scene was changed to transform the role of “The Redhead” into a pirate queen auctioneer instead of a wench for sale.

Redhead leading auction in Pirates of the Caribbean

Image: Disney

On one hand, guests who hate attraction changes are right that updates aren’t always needed. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Classic attractions are classic for a reason, and many fans prefer that Disney just leaves the content of these rides alone. The Pirates of the Caribbean changes also proved particularly frustrating for fans who felt the changes panged of Disney trying to be overly politically correct, missing the whole point that pirates were scallywags of low moral fiber in the first place.

On the other hand, attractions must evolve with the times—not only in terms of technology and content, but in terms of culture. In the case of Pirates of the Caribbean, the changes over the years have actually reflected important shifts in cultural attitudes regarding the objectification of women and downplaying issues like human trafficking. For many guests, the wench auction was no longer fun theme park fare in a world where these issues are serious problems being highlighted more and more. The question is should a ride like Pirates of the Caribbean focus more on emphasizing the realities of a pirate’s life—pillaging and all– or run with a more whimsical picture like we see in the films? It seems that in the end, Disney decided to place their bets in the latter direction, and many fans are okay with that. Either way, classic ride updates almost always court controversy.

5. Bringing babies to Disney parks

Two baby friends in strollers (one is asleep)

Image: Amanda White, Flickr (license)

This is a subject where my own opinion has adjusted significantly over my time working for Theme Park Tourist. It’s actually one of the subjects where our readers have actually altered my opinion: should parents bring babies and small toddlers to Walt Disney World, or should they wait until kids are closer to 4 years old, a solid age where they are more likely to enjoy the attractions and parks a whole? It’s a topic fans are extremely passionate about, and it makes sense because it all comes down to wanting what’s best for kids at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

On one hand, there are some sound arguments against bringing babies and small toddlers to Walt Disney World. Children under the age of four are much more psychologically impressionable, and they don’t yet have the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality like older kids do. Attractions that may not scare older kids or adults might frighten babies or toddlers. Mickey Mouse with his giant, inhumanly sized head absolutely freaks out some small children, and the stresses of a theme park can overwhelm some little ones, especially if long lines and blazing Florida heat is involved. Most regulars have seen a baby or toddler who is just not having a magical time on their Disney day. Experts have found that often, for babies and toddlers, their favorite part of a Disney vacation is playtime in the resort pool. Waiting until kids are older also can potentially eliminate the need for a stroller.

However, there is another side of the argument that is equally valid— some babies and toddlers do great at Disney parks, depending on their temperament. For one thing, babies and toddlers get in free! That’s a huge bonus! Families with multiple kids may not want to wait four years until a baby is older for the other kids to get to visit Disney parks, which is understandable. Each kid is different, and as long as parents are flexible, it is totally possible for toddlers and even babies to have a blast at Walt Disney World. I’ve seen babies light up with joy at the sight of Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck during a character meal, and as long as parents don’t ignore the need for nap-time and keeping an eye on energy levels, many toddlers do well too.

Toddler girl crying while dad holds her on Dumbo

The key is realizing that if you are bringing very-very small children to Disney, it’s no longer all about your plans—experts agree that parents must be willing to adjust to the energy level of your kid. Plan nap times (including a mid-day break at your resort, if possible), snacks, and outdoor play time for toddlers. Take advantage of Disney’s excellent Baby Care Centers, a wonderful haven for parents to take a break. Bring activities to keep them engaged in line and be prepared that they might like the pool more than the parks. Oh, and this is important—if at all possible, don’t come during the busiest seasons. Blazing Florida heat and long lines are a recipe for a disaster with a flustered baby or temperamental toddler who just wants to cool down and have fun.

Another factor that plays into this issue is where you live. Florida locals and passholders will likely have a much easier time bringing babies and toddlers to Walt Disney World. They can bring the child multiple times to the parks more easily and get them used to it. If the kid just isn’t having it, it’s much easier to change plans. For families visiting from abroad, there might be some good reasons to wait, especially if you’re planning a once-in-a-decade Disney trip that you’ll be saving up years for. If that is your situation, it may be worth waiting until your kids are past the toddler stage and can get the most out of Disney’s amazing range of attractions for children and families. Every family is different, and it’s understandable this is an issue that gets both parents and non-parents passionate.

6. Adults who visit without kids

Happy couple enjoying food and wine festival

Image: Disney

You knew we were going to go there…

Let’s clear one thing up—among Walt Disney World fans, the vast majority of regulars understand that the Most Magical Place on Earth is a destination for many different audiences. It’s a top vacation destination for families with kids, for honeymooning couples, and for adults, single or in groups. It’s just not rocket science to deduce that, especially once you leave Magic Kingdom, Disney wants to appeal to as many demographics as possible.

I’m loathe to even draw attention to certain rants about visitors-without-kids that somehow escaped the Twitter-sphere, but every few years the same discussion gets launched back into the headlines: should adults without kids be going to Walt Disney World? Are childless adults ruining the Disney vacations of families who just want their kids to have a good time?

Most Disney parks regulars will agree that the argument is ludicrous.

Walt Disney World is a destination for all. It is one of the top family vacation spots in the world because there is something for every age range to enjoy, whether a family has babies, seniors, teenagers, special needs children, if they’re just a couple in love, or if your family is just you! Families without kids are still families, and there is so much at Disney for single adults to enjoy too! It is profoundly absurd to assume that Disney parks are only made to appeal to a single demographic—families with kids. Consistently, those in the media and on social media who continue to proliferate the idea that adults without kids shouldn’t visit reveal that they don’t have the foggiest clue why people love Disney parks.

Breaching the divide between families with kids and adults-without is simple: be kind to one another and have reasonable expectations.

Little kids dancing with Stitch at Typhoon Lagoon

Image: Disney

You are responsible for planning your own Walt Disney World vacation in a way that will produce the best experience possible for your family. If you have small children, don’t visit during the hottest, busiest times of the year. Do your research and aim to plan your trip during seasons with moderate crowds and weather where your kids won’t be stuck in line the whole vacation. If you’re an adult, don’t get so sloshed drinking around the world at Epcot that you disrupt other guests, especially freaking out those with kids. Make way for that mama juggling three sodas and a stroller who is just trying to get down Main Street. Be willing to give up your seat on the bus if you see a family in need or an elderly person enter. Smile and cheer with your crazy bus driver to celebrate the honeymooning couple with the matching Mickey ears.

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Walt Disney World truly becomes the Most Magical Place on Earth when we love one another and do to others what we’d have done to us (and vice versa). We each can act with courtesy and kindness, recognizing that theme parks are crazy spaces where we may not always agree, and that many people in one space will always cause some stress. Be patient with one another, and no matter our differences, we can always make the Most Magical Place on Earth just a little more magical.

What are some other subjects you’ve seen where Disney parks fans have zero chill?