Home » I Write About Disney Parks– These Are the Times Our Readers Changed My Mind.

I Write About Disney Parks– These Are the Times Our Readers Changed My Mind.

Perspective can be a beautiful thing…

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with Disney parks. I experienced many of life’s major milestones at Disneyland and Walt Disney World—my first words, my first anniversary, several birthdays. In so many ways, visits to Disney shaped my childhood, sculpted my imagination, and brought myriad happy memories. This influence was so strong that by the time I was a teen, I had decided I wanted to write about the parks professionally someday.

I didn’t get to realize that dream until decades later, three years ago (as of this writing) when I joined the team at Theme Park Tourist. Over those years, I’ve had the pleasure to explore the magic of Disney parks from more angles than I could have imagined—from an Introvert’s Guide to Walt Disney World to in-depth guides to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to more experiments with vacation hacks than I can keep track of…

A lifetime visiting Disney parks can leave you with some pretty strong opinions—things I assumed were just right when it came to visiting the Most Magical (or Happiest) Place on Earth. There were certain subjects I just assumed were deal breakers for any good trip. There were rides I couldn’t understand why people liked, experiences I thought fell short of real Disney magic, and decisions made by Disney overlords that I openly questioned.

While the response to my early work for Theme Park Tourist was mostly positive, there were a few occasions as a newbie writer that I courted controversy far more than intended. I found myself on the receiving end of more than one storm of heated comments, and a few articles even earned me personal messages from irate readers. This caught me off-guard at first, but something wonderful happened in the midst of these uncomfortable cases.

I learned to listen to our readers… and the more I did so, the more I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of Disney park fans. Indeed, on more than one occasion, our readers completely changed my mind.

To grow is to never stop listening, and in my experience, positive change comes far more often out of grace rather than judgment. To embrace this has meant admitting I’m wrong more than once, or at least acknowledging that my perspective isn’t the only valid one.

These are some of the most surprising subjects where our readers convinced me that there is always more than one way to look at hot topics surrounding Disney parks.

1. Bringing babies

I don’t think I ever reaped a more spectacular whirlwind than when I opened this particular Pandora’s box…

Bringing babies to Disney parks was one of those issues I largely considered cut and dry—specifically, I fell into the camp of those who thought it was a bad idea. I’d heard multiple stories of the challenges my own parents had bringing me as a baby, and we knew many families who shared similar experiences. Their tiniest little ones were fussy throughout their trips, scared of characters, hated rides, and much of the trip they’d travelled across country for was spent trying to settle their agitated baby. Particularly in older guidebooks, some experts suggested waiting to bring kids to Disney parks until closer to 4 years old when they developed to an age they could better appreciate rides and characters. I echoed this sentiment in one of my earliest articles.

I’ve never received a more intense reader response than I did for that piece. I realized that a lot—a lot—of upset parents disagreed with that perspective. To suggest not bringing babies to Disney parks wasn’t just offensive to these readers—it inspired some to refer to me with some rather colorful and creative invectives.

At first, I was surprised by this passionate reaction—after all, even the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World addresses difficulties inherent with bringing babies and toddlers to Walt Disney World. Parents do have to be more attentive with smaller children and may have to change plans to attend to a baby who has different ideas of how a vacation should go. One of the most commonly reported scenarios was that babies and toddlers seemed to enjoy the resort pool far more than the parks…

The more I listened to our readers though, I realized that the scenarios I had based my original assumption on weren’t as common as I thought. Indeed, our readers totally changed my mind.

There are all sorts of situations where you can bring babies and toddlers to Disney parks and have a great trip—doing so may just take some extra planning and measures. Countless blogs have been written by moms and dads who know to do this smart, and there are some good reasons to do this, like the fact that kids under 3 get in free. Experts advise watching your kid’s energy level, paying attention to if surprising things might scare or disturb them, and being willing to alter plans if necessary. If you have the option to acclimatize your little one to the parks over time (this is particularly possible for local passholders), that’s even better. Staying on property or very close to the parks can be important too so you have a retreat nearby if your tiny one gets tuckered out for the day.

I still think there are some rides it’s best to not take babies and toddlers on since kids at those development stages are very impressionable, but that’s up to parents to decide. The only specific scenario where I still discourage bringing babies and toddlers to Disney parks is this: if you live far away and are saving for a once-in-a-decade trip that you want your child to remember for years to come, then it may be best to wait until they reach around 4 years old. This may be a good choice for families who can only afford a Disney vacation with a long time saving. Bringing your little one before that can still make for a great vacation, but waiting in these cases can be a wise choice for some families.

2. Strollers & scooters

It didn’t take me long as a kid to catch on that stroller shenanigans are a really unpleasant part of visiting theme parks. I remember one uncomfortable incident where a woman literally used her stroller to shove me out of a packed monorail car during loading. There aren’t a lot of good excuses for using your child’s carriage as a wrecking ball, and the subject became sort of a running joke in our family. Scooter antics earned similar head-shaking. My longtime perspective was that of the annoyed bystander, understanding that most parents with strollers do no harm but that those bad eggs who like to play “stroller derby” really sour the Disney experience.

While this is actually a pretty popular gripe, I was surprised when our readers showed me there really is two sides to this issue.

Yes, there are crazy people who sometimes go full Fury Road at Disney parks—stories about guests injured or affected by stroller and scooter incidents aren’t hard to find. However, it’s important to realize that these cases are the exception, not the rule.

It is not easy for parents with a small child—or several small children– to push a stroller through Disney parks. Back when Disney allowed bigger double-strollers, this was even harder. More often than not, people don’t have a lot of mercy on parents with strollers or guests in disability scooters. Guests regularly cut off strollers and scooters, forming impenetrable crowds that can be difficult or impossible to pass. People often come to sudden stops right in front of strollers and scooters, and sometimes the drivers react too late, causing bumped ankles or knees. Accidents and altercations can take place, and the constant attention needed to navigate crowds can prove exhausting.

I realized that the vast majority of families using strollers and scooters just want to get on with their Disney day and are ever grateful when someone smiles and kindly lets them ahead so they can continue to their destination.

I’m not saying there’s no such thing as inexcusable stroller/scooter bullying tactics. However, it’s a common human error that we tend to blame faults in others on defects of character rather than misunderstandings. The more I visit Disney parks, the more I now realize that most guests with a scooter or stroller really appreciate any measure of extra grace from their fellow visitors.

3. Which Disney park is best

Some time back, I wrote a piece for Theme Park Tourist admitting that I used to hate Magic Kingdom. I was a diehard Disney fan who didn’t like Walt Disney World’s flagship park. I loved Epcot’s food and the way it brought science and history vividly alive. Disney’s Animal Kingdom appealed to my love for nature and adventure. Disney’s Hollywood Studios had some truly great rides. Even Disneyland I liked better, thanks to its abundance of attractions and the Indiana Jones Adventure. Magic Kingdom seemed too child-focused, too unchanging, too cupcake for me. On most visits, we treated it as a half-day park at best.

I ultimately changed my perspective on Magic Kingdom (partially thanks to updates like New Fantasyland) , but over many articles, the more I got to know our readers, the more I started to understand why everyone favors different Disney parks.

The truth is each one of Disney’s parks offers something unique, and not everyone is going to enjoy every park. I’ve heard readers make excellent cases for why they prefer Disneyland over Walt Disney World. I’ve loved listening to readers explain their love for Magic Kingdom’s charm, nostalgia, and timeless nature. I have Star Wars loving friends who couldn’t handle the ultra-immersiveness of Galaxy’s Edge but loved Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I’ve had a group of teenage boys tell me they want to go to Epcot instead of any other park when given a choice. There is no best Disney park— each park has its strength, and favorites are all in the eye of the beholder.

The point? There’s something for everyone at Disney parks, and that’s part of what makes them so magical.

4. IP’s are ruining Disney

Few subjects work veteran Disney fans into a lather faster than that of whether too many IP’s—that is intellectual properties—are good or bad for the parks.

Until the early 2000’s, Disney tended to split new attractions between two theme-types. Some attractions were based on popular IP’s, like Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, or even The Great Movie Ride. A large portion of Disney’s other attractions, however, were based on entirely original story ideas, like Pirates of the Caribbean (the films came later), It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, Test Track, and Expedition: Everest. Around the time Michael Eisner stepped down as CEO and Bob Iger became his successor, Disney made a dramatic shift where all new attractions shifted to focus on IP’s. The last major Disney ride based on an all-original story concept was Mission: SPACE in 2003. Ever since then, Disney has redesigned a number of popular rides to pair with well-known IP’s (think “The Seas with Nemo and Friends”) and only generally approved new projects attached to IP’s.

Speaking for myself, I fell firmly in the “enough-with-the-IP’s” camp. I grew up with World of Motion, Horizons, and Maelstrom among the many others mentioned. With IP’s, it can sometimes feel like the story has already been told—like nothing is left to the imagination. With original story attractions, we get to experience a story that hasn’t yet been fully told, and guests can fill in the rest as they wish. Abandoning this seemed to suck some of the magic out of Disney parks.

The more I’ve heard alternate perspectives from our readers, the more I realize that IP’s serve some important purposes, and that IP’s and original stories don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

While I am still an advocate for Disney working in attractions with original stories, IP’s provide an important foundation to connect Disney guests with ride stories. They are stories visitors are familiar with. So many of my favorite attractions are based on IP’s—the Indiana Jones Adventure, Star Tours, and Splash Mountain come to mind. IP’s give guests a reference point to engage in rides and theming, and they also provide an important draw for the parks.

I do wish Disney would make a return to peppering in some original-story attractions, but are living in an exciting time where Imagineers are proving IP’s can be blended seamlessly with original stories. We see some of this in areas like The World of Pandora, but nowhere is it more apparent than in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While the Black Spire Outpost is set in the same Star Wars universe we are all familiar with, it manages to expand on Star Wars lore with an all new original story that actually has some very interesting effects on the Star Wars timeline. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, in particular, might be Disney’s finest achievement in this sort of hybrid between original storytelling and a familiar IP, a trend that could make for some exciting new content in Disney’s future that appeals to both camps of thought.

5. Immersion-everything

I am all about ultra-immersion at Disney parks.

Until the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, my hands-down favorite attraction at Walt Disney World was Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a hyper-VR experience which puts you in the center of an ultra-realistic Star Wars mission. I’m a vocal advocate for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, particularly the land’s most immersive elements like the Star Wars Datapad game and Batuu-bounding. When I first visited The World of Pandora, I found myself enjoying the land’s extremely immersive science fiction feel far more than its connections to the Avatar film series or even Avatar: Flight of Passage.

For me, there can be no higher level of success for a theme park land than to completely transport you to the realm that story takes place and let you adventure there.

However, I’ve come to learn that immersion isn’t everyone’s thing—indeed, too much of it can prove utterly uncomfortable for some guests.

We once had the opportunity to bring a dear friend to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Being he was a Star Wars fan, we assumed he’d enjoy it too even though he tended to not like Disney. Despite how much his kids enjoyed it, he seemed increasingly uncomfortable in Galaxy’s Edge. It’s not-quite-familiar setting threw him off, and he had trouble grasping that the cast members were all “in character”—when he tried to quote a line from the films to one vendor and got a dry answer, he thought the cast member was just being rude. He was baffled by the food choices and almost left the land to go search for a burger. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was cool but left him nauseated. He eventually got the hang of things and had a good time (the cast at Docking Bay 7 gave him a great response to his “Republic credits will be fine” Jedi mind trick), but he just didn’t enjoy the land the way we expected. The ultra-immersion was just too much.

People enjoy theme parks for different reasons, and immersion isn’t always a winning ingredient for every guest. One reader explained it wonderfully— for some, immersion is uncomfortable. It isn’t what appeals to them about Disney. Rather, for some guests, the best part of visiting Disney parks is simply taking in spectacle and marveling at achievements in technology, architecture, and storytelling– even more so, for some the greatest joy is simply watching their kids have a great time. Daydreaming and playing pretend may not be their thing, but Disney still has its own unique magic they can enjoy.

6. So… about those Mickey Ice Cream bars…

Yup, I’m going there.

I will be honest… I am and still remain unimpressed by Mickey Ice Cream bars. I think they’re one of the most overrated food items in the parks. I definitely got an earful (even from some close friends—curse-your-sudden-but-inevitable-betrayal) when I brought this opinion to light in an article.

I have not necessarily changed my opinion on Mickey Ice Cream bars… However, I do have some better perspective on why people love them so much, and it’s something I absolutely understand.

The reason Mickey Ice Cream bars never appealed to me is that if I’m visiting Disney parks, I want to enjoy something I can only have there. Why would I want a Mickey Klondike bar when I can have a Sleepy Hollow Fruit and Waffle Sandwich, a Dole Whip Float, a School Bread, or a Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle? We tend to visit with a limited snack budget, so the question seemed like a no-brainer to me.

That was until I stopped to consider that it’s all about the emotion connected to that food…

Very few things draw outbursts of nostalgic emotion from me like certain experiences at Disney parks. The sound of the Main Street Electrical Parade or the beginning of Fantasmic often manages to squeeze waterworks from my shriveled tear ducts. Tasting certain foods at Disney parks stir similar joyful emotion, particularly items at Kringla Bakery and the Biergarten—when I taste a rice cream or lefse or sauerbraten, feelings connected to happy memories flood back. Those dishes also taste amazing to me.

There are many people who would not get the Disney-feels or even like the taste of lefse or rice cream (they’re not particularly sweet), but I realized that many people get that same gleeful response when eating a Mickey Ice Cream bar. It’s not just vanilla ice cream encased in chocolate—it’s Disney magic on a stick! It’s the taste of childhood.

And that’s totally fine. I get it.

I guess I can say across the board that though I’ve stirred occasional disagreements with our readers, in the end, I feel like I always grow from it. What would the world be like if we listened more, if we considered the perceptions and experiences of others instead of losing our cool? What a difference that kind of grace and patience could make—not just concerning a visit to Disney parks but just the way we treat each other overall.

I need more of that every day… and for that, Theme Park Tourist readers, I am ever-grateful you’ve helped me grow both as a writer and a human being.

Enjoy this article? Keep reading to find out the 10 Things You Need to Buy Before Your Next Disney Vacation to Save Money, as well as 7 Crazy Things People Still Believe About Walt Disney World.