Opinion | Disneyland: the most commercialized place on Earth

I have what may be one of the most unpopular opinions at Chapman: I dislike Disneyland.


Gracie Fleischman, Opinions Editor

The park’s proximity is used as one of Chapman’s main selling points, but the university’s closeness to Disneyland actually concerned me when I first visited campus. Growing up in Orange County, I had long grown tired of the tourist attraction that so many people flocked to for vacations.

“I’d rather exist in the real world, instead of buying into toxic commercialization and being caught in an arrested development in which your childhood never ended”

Now, after being a Panther for almost two years, I have only become more exasperated with my peers’ over-the-top obsession with Disneyland. I am tired of seeing people’s sappy posts about “the happiest place on Earth” and their multiple pairs of overpriced mouse ears. I pray for the day when I can scroll through Instagram without seeing one of those fancy mouse macarons or someone posing in front of that recognizable castle.

Imagine paying upwards of $150 for a day of germ-ridden kiddie rides, taking photos with underpaid and exhausted teens inside a sweaty Goofy suit, spending ridiculous amounts of money for sugary food and waiting in hour-long lines to see Disney-themed shows made for children. Apparently, this is what some Chapman kids call a typical Wednesday afternoon. No, thank you. I’d rather exist in the real world, instead of buying into toxic commercialization and being caught in an arrested development in which your childhood never ended.

I appreciate the strides Disney has made when it comes to representation, but the fact remains that Disneyland grew from a man whose own grandniece admitted he was an anti-Semite, a misogynist and a racist, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Just because Moana, a brave and independent Polynesian princess, exists now, it doesn’t erase the toxic representations of young women like Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and Cinderella. Embracing these characters long into adulthood and allowing your children to idolize them is unhealthy and odd.

I will admit that I have been to this infamous theme park and had fun. When I was in second grade, the crowds and the expense were of no concern to me. But now, going to the park once every year or two for maybe a couple hours at the most is enough to last me a while. But compared to the students who spend their hard-earned money on extravagant passes and seem to go every day or in between classes, I seem like the abnormal one.

Disneyland brings joy to many children and their parents, and even serves as some children’s final wish for the Make a Wish Foundation. I totally respect that, but I think adults need to get ahold of themselves. Please grow up, save your money and leave the fantasy and magic to children.


  • I’ll give you racist and misogynist (as Abigail Disney, the grandniece to which you refer, said: Walt was a product of his time), but I draw the line at anti-Semite. The Sherman Brothers, who wrote so many memorable songs for Disney including the songs from Mary Poppins and the ever-popularly-hated “It’s a Small World” (pro tip: the late Robert Sherman once said that the best way to get “It’s a Small World” out of your head is to listen to another great song — he recommended “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles), were Jewish. Walt defended them to the ends of the earth FROM anti-Semites. A lawyer who was speaking with Walt once referred to the Sherman Brothers as “those Jew boys.” Walt immediately threw the lawyer off the lot, and said that if he ever made another remark like it, he’d never work with Disney again.

    That being said, you make great points in this article.

    I’m a former cast member, and I still look back fondly upon those times. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked at a job, but also the most FUN I’ve had at any job I’ve had (I was in Outdoor Vending, so I had to push two-ton carts through crowds of people who wouldn’t get out of the way, even after they saw us coming, I spent 100º+ days and cold rainy days outdoors in the elements, , spent hours on my feet, and restocked carts, to the point where I had to accept a guest’s help pushing my stocking card up that VERY mild hill on the parade-route side of The Matterhorn because I was literally out of energy; I then went to an ice cream cart, grabbed some dry ice, and just before I walked back into our office I spread the dry ice on my forehead so it would mix with the sweat and I walked in with smoke literally rising from my head, and they gave me a much-needed break — granted, being a stocker is usually not that bad; they work hard to restock carts, but then have time to play dominoes backstage — but this was a July 4th, in which our department made record profits, and we were rewarded with a walk-through of the Haunted Mansion).

    When Michael Eisner still had Frank Wells around (he was basically the Jiminy Cricket to Eisner’s Pinocchio-mixed-with-Stromboli), he did well. After Frank died in an unfortunate helicopter crash, Eisner surrounded himself with yes-men who let him go all “money-first” with the parks, and the company culture changed. He was said to have said he wanted to do things “on the cheap” and the backstage rumor was that he said that trained monkeys could do our jobs (I’ve never found a concrete source for that one, but I believed it in those days before I had the internet).

    Yes, they still sell “the magic,” and I still love the heck out of The Haunted Mansion and several other shows and attractions. I still do the two-finger point, which I thought was dumb when I hired in (I understood the reasons for it, but figured the open hand would be less awkward…but I caught myself pointing with one finger so often when I was new that it was easier to throw the second finger out there than to go open-hand, and it just stuck).

    But Disney theme park revenue is up according to the recent earnings report, and they raised prices anyway (under the excuse of keeping crowds manageable but, even with the new areas coming to the parks, there’s just not enough supply to meet demand, something Disney could remedy; even at Disneyland, where expansion isn’t easy to pull off, Autopia and the area where the old Motor Boat Cruise used to operate are enough for another entire new land). It’s that dance that Disney has to do — not pricing themselves out of popularity, but trying to keep too many people from being in the parks so NOBODY has a good time (I’d rather they just lower the max capacity than raise prices; if someone shows up at 1:00pm and says “it’s too crowded,” maybe they should have gotten there earlier, but…if you let in all those tens of thousands of people, of COURSE it’s going to be crowded, even for early arrivers).

    But…why would Disney spend the money to expand when they’re packed as it is, restaurants and retail stores are making bank, and every price hike is met with complaint (from people that still pay the higher prices to visit anyway)?

    It’s like when people used to ask me why the churro I was selling them cost so much when we got them for pennies. I would hold up the money they had handed me while complaining and said “If you hadn’t handed this to me, as well as everyone else in this park who buys a churro, the prices would come down. But if you’re willing to pay it, Disney is willing to take it.”

    (Can you believe I won a Spirit of Disneyland award even though I said such things? Granted, I got the award before I was comfortable enough in the job to know I COULD say such things.)

    I adore what Disneyland *could* be. I still believe in the dream, and the magic. And I have no problem with adults who still relive their childhood there. I think it’s important to keep some childhood in you (as a Drabble comic once said in the early 90s — I wish I still had that clipping, because I had it saved for years — “growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional;” granted, there are areas in life where we HAVE to grow up; we need to get jobs, take care of our parents, and otherwise contribute to society, but what’s wrong with dropping your inhibitions and having a little fun now and then?).

    When I worked there, I usually was there 7 days a week. 5 working days, and two days where I was just there as a guest to take it all in. Many times I didn’t even go on the attractions…just being there was enough to trigger fantastic memories (and a few not-pleasant memories, but they were outnumbered).

    But I haven’t visited in years because it’s…just not worth it. It’s expensive, you have to navigate the sea of overstocked people (granted, I’m good at that part — when you work there, you get good at wending your way through a crowd while [a] going faster than them and [b] not bumping into them), and FastPass is an awful idea.

    I’m not one of those “defend Disney at all costs, and silence the naysayers” sort of people. Disney DEFINITELY has its flaws, and Walt had flaws of his own. And I definitely enjoyed reading your article and getting your take on it as we both grew up near the park and visited many times.

    The relatively new push for inclusion is definitely a good thing (not THAT new…Disney was one of the first American companies to provide medical benefits for same-sex partners despite threats of boycott, but it’s nice to see the much NEWER push for inclusion in their movies and shows; you mentioned Moana, and there’s also the “talent over skin color” casting in California Adventure’s Frozen show, where Anna and Elsa aren’t always just white kids).

    But Disney has fallen far from its heyday, at least as far as the core of Walt’s dream is concerned. They still market his dream, but they don’t live up to it.

    Thanks for a well-written article that points out many of the problems with Disneyland (and Disney as a whole) in a fair way. You didn’t simply go on the attack, your critique was fair…and while, despite the fact that I see a lot of problems in the company, I still love Disneyland, my only critique is on the anti-Semite bit.

  • A racist, misogynist and anti-Semite? Yeah, if The Hollywood Reporter reports it, it must be true. I’ll take hyper-commercialization over Millennials who throw out harmful accusations via Entertainment rags without proper research any day.

  • I agree over commercialization is bad, but why is everything “toxic” now? Must be the new slang. Toxic this, toxic that. That word is going the same was as “racist” and “misogynist.” They don’t mean anything anymore. Sure maybe Walt was racist and misogynist, so was MLK and Ghandi. You can’t look at historical figures and apply modern moral standards to them.

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