Why the recent estrangement? Primarily because my kids are aging out of Disney. And Disney isn’t doing anything about it. If you have kids that are 10+, particularly girls, you may know what I’m talking about, or you soon will.
Thanks to tireless scientific research (consisting mainly of watching Pixar’s Inside Out) I have learned that little girls change a lot when they become what is widely known as the preteen, tween, or can-hardly-say-anything-without-whining phase. They experience moods, behaviors, and ideas that seem alien. I know this because my daughter’s eyes seem to defy the force of gravity and roll upward as soon as my wife or I speak.
Now if your daughter is aged 0-10, there is plenty for her to do at Disney. Probably more so than in any other theme park in the world. There are character dining experiences that allow your princess to meet their princesses for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Obviously their princesses have a little more royal seniority - nobility-wise - because you have to tithe approximately 37% of your entire vacation budget to grant yourself an audience with them and in return they will sign their royal name to anything… except the final credit card bill on the check at the end of the meal.
Then there is an opportunity for her to experience a makeover that, with the help of a fairy godmother-in-training, will style your girl’s hair, makeup, and nails. She can be costumed like her favorite Disney princess and you can have wonderful photos taken of the whole experience, to always remember when your little girl was transformed into royalty and you were transformed into a pauper.
And those were the days before the juggernaut known as Frozen smashed into your home, placed itself on dinner plates and clothing and toys and kid foods and toothbrushes and sheets and posters. Most of which you had to obtain by standing in line for hours to buy at your local Disney Store, clicking the refresh button a hundred times a minute on the Disney Store online, or stalking the employees of your local toy store to hunt down the ever-elusive “truck delivery” with such ferocity that they got a restraining order against you.
It was like a firsthand experience of what it must have been like those first days in Russia when the Communist Party took over everything. Instead of being out in the frozen weather waiting in long lines for bread, I waited in line to spend my bread on Frozen. Yeah I like warm hugs too, but I’m not paying $100 on eBay for one. Okay, maybe just once.
If it sounds like I’m complaining a lot about the cost of all this stuff, it’s because I am. As the Dad, it’s part of my job description to complain about spending excess amounts of money on vacations, toys, and extracurricular activities, whether it’s Disney, dance, or football.
Just kidding. It’s all ultimately worth it when you see her beaming, and you snap the photos, and put the signatures in a scrapbook, and share in her joy, and later recall the amazing experiences and stories.
So what happens to all this wonder and magic? The clock strikes midnight (on their 11th birthday), it all goes poof, and the carriage is back to being a pumpkin.
Your daughter no longer cares about meeting princesses, the only use she has for a sash from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is as a weapon to strangle her brother with, and that Frozen t-shirt you paid $29.99 for is getting sold in a garage sale for $1.
One day my daughter told us the sad, yet highly amusing, tale of when a classmate in her 5th grade class wore an Elsa shirt to school… The poor girl would have gotten less mauled by diving headfirst into a shark tank wearing a necklace of live fish. There’s probably nothing more embarrassing than a 4th Grader loudly asking in front of your 5th grade peers, “Uh, why are you wearing that?”
The things that used to appeal to these little girls no longer affect the young women they are becoming quite the same way. I am surprised that Disney has not realized this; all they have to do is watch their own hit movie. Like I did.
And though I’ve focused on the girls, an argument certainly can be made that Disney is very weak in regard to both genders in this age range. I would say that currently Disney’s primary appeal to boys at the cusp of the 10+ range would be Pirates of the Caribbean, however there has not been a new movie since 2011’s POC: On Stranger Tides.
Now, let’s look at what, if anything, Disney is doing in the near future to address this age group. For girls, I honestly don’t see anything on the horizon. Turning EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion from something educational into a mini-Arendelle is aimed at the little girls who still love Anna and Elsa.
So the answer is: nothing.
As for the boys there is a little more potential now, with the extremely exciting addition of Star Wars Land to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially since that park is so entertainment-deprived that it now counts the parking lot tram as a “ride.”
The caveat with this announcement is Disney seems to be missing a golden opportunity to strike while the lightsaber is hot by not having planned better, and actually opened it alongside the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. That would have been some billion dollar synergy, there buddy. You’d have heard “millions of voices suddenly cry out… I have to go to Disney!”
The other consideration here is that there is no announcement as to a projected opening date, and at the glacial (or should I say Frozen? drum roll-rim shot) rate Disney has been building, it may not be open until Episode 9 (or IX for you Roman Numeral purists.)
Of course, they are also building Toy Story Land at DHS, which I think is a bit disappointing in comparison to having a Cars Land, which I know I would have preferred. Toy Story Land appeals to the younger set, so again nothing for the 10+ crowd especially since its only adding a spinner ride (how creative!) and a family coaster.
Here’s the big question: With Disney Springs still under construction, Pandora being built at AK, the joint (and rather massive in acreage) additions of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land, and even an expanded third Soarin’ theater at EPCOT, is Disney stretching its construction abilities too thin building everything pretty much simultaneously? Or are they staggering the builds? Is this a five-year plan? I suppose we won’t know until Disney releases expected opening dates. But that will be something to watch.
Speaking of Pandora – The World of Avatar, I’m not sure how a single movie that came out in 2009 and doesn’t really have the lasting appeal of other franchises (i.e. Star Wars) is going to excite the 10+ demographic, aside from the general appeal that always comes with something new.
Although I understand that Disney is hamstrung by licensing deals in not being able to bring their Marvel juggernaut into play in the Florida Parks (the opportunity remains viable in California), and I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of the deal, I think that is a hostage worth every penny to free, because in the long run will pay itself off in profit.
Sure, you can argue there are still rides and great restaurants and other experiences in Disney (and I agree), but there is one giant thing missing. Because for a teen, Magic is not the same thing as cool, unless it involves a certain boy wizard with a unique scar.
And for the time being, that is Universal Orlando’s massive advantage in the theme park wars. The Harry Potter franchise is that rare beast that holds equal appeal to both genders in the exact age group where Disney has fumbled the ball. And Universal not only picked it up, but ran it in for a touchdown with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
If that wasn’t enough, they have a T-Rex sized megahit with Jurassic World, and wisely opened a small but awesome addition to Jurassic Park in Islands of Adventure featuring the most popular characters from the film: the velociraptors. The Raptor Encounter promotes synergy with the film and appeals to the 10+ boys.
Even next year’s Reign of Kong ride touches on the giant creature/dinosaur fascination. Despite the fact that the original King Kong film came out in 1933, the advantage it has over Avatar is that it’s far easier for a kid to comprehend...
You say experimental technology that allows someone to become a tall blue alien to join with other tall blue aliens to help them save from a world being exploited for its resources and kids go: Huh, what? You say giant gorilla fighting dinosaurs and you have a crowd on your hands, getting in line.
The question looms, what can Disney do about this in the future? And with park attendance at all-time highs and a marketing push that has drifted away from the American middle class, do they even care to?
One immediate idea would be to capitalize on the recent Descendants Disney Channel Movie which - unlike the more transient High School Musicals and Teen Beach Movies - is grounded in traditional Disney mythology assembled from established Disney characters and their children.
The only thing for sure is that with the rush to build newer bigger and better, it is certainly a great time to be a theme park fan!
I just remain concerned that even in their rush now to match Universal project-for-project, Disney has lost sight that no matter how strong the magic, even princesses eventually grow up.Tweet
I do have a point to make though.
I know Disney is mostly geared to the 2-10 aged crowd, but it works since there is always new children being born and aging, so Disney doesn't lose money off of your statement.
I myself have lost interest in all Disney World parks except MK and the two water parks, the latter of which are on my bucket list.
I think its how she was brought up. The focus of our vacations was and still is on getting there by flight or car, the snacks(churros!), food, and the ride attractions... Never the princesses, autographs, or dressing up. You grow out of those but never of Dole Whips and/or Space Mountain!
And it honestly breaks my heart that I'm in such a minority. I would say that I probably love Disney now more than I did 10 years ago. Yes, they do make a lot of kids movies, but those kids movies have such mature themes! A lot of them deal with the pressures of growing up, like Pinnochio, Lion King and Inside Out; Beauty And The Beast deals with what true beauty really is; and you have Hunchback of Notre Dame, which deals with such things as religion, prejudice, and even lust!!!
This isn't of course to say that the stuff at Universal doesn't have mature themes of their own (Harry Potter is full of them) but I hate how so many people write off Disney films as just kids films yet if they were to analyze those films more closely they'd see just how much adults could enjoy them as well.
So, in addition, to all the existential terrors that stress me out on a daily basis, I now have to face that I'm out of touch with my own generation...great...
Also, why has Disney not done anything with boys being HEROES?! Jackpot. Sold. Done. I think maybe they just can't do it in this politically correct climate.
They love Nintendo.
Whether it’s the games or the merchandise they've always been such huge fans. Games like Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing and Pokémon are big hits with young women and that doesn't seem to change with age. Stop in at Etsy, search for Nintendo and you'll find pages upon pages of merchandise geared towards women, more so than even men. So I have to give a big thumbs up to Universal Studios on obtaining that license. My biggest concern is with Universal not understanding the demographic of Nintendo. It's very similar to Harry potter, but having a much broader demographic of young and old.
Oh and not boys! God, not boys! The second a boy gets to 8 or 9. Nintendo is kryptonite. It's Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty for them or nothing at all.
But I agree, Disney is great for young kids and Older Adults. So Universal is your best option unless you want to venture to an underrated park called Busch Gardens Tampa. This is a great park if you have a rental car. Montu Rules!
I see plenty of girl tweens and teens having a perfectly wonderful time at WDW, and while new resort developments don't exactly target that demo, the wanna-be-independent types visiting WDW with their family will find a way to have fun. Finally, considering SW a boy-centric franchise is not fair since the movies contain some of the most dominant female characters of all time. Many young girls are drawn to SW, and I think the addition in the parks will hit all of the demos evenly. It's cool to be a nerdy girl these days, and those interested in sci-fi and the like have grown immensely over the years. Additionally, the Toy Story addition may seem a bit of a lean towards the younger kids, but I think TSMM itself skews far older, and the added capacity should allow for more frequent re-rides, which plays on the competitiveness of the older kids.
What the heck is wrong with not Loving Disney? Is there an 11th commandment that says – Tho shall not belittle Disney.
What he is saying is that his kids have outgrown Disney not all kids. And I have to strongly agree. If given the choice we prefer Universal or BGT.
Disney is made for younger kids and there is nothing wrong with that.
They know their target audience.
Forest through the trees brother.... Forest through the trees
Also, while there's nothing wrong with not loving Disney, there's also nothing wrong with noting when others may not fully understand what there is at WDW.
Additionally, you don't need to be a boy to enjoy the Star Wars plans just like you don't need to be a child to enjoy what Disney has to offer.
I don't see Universal going for the almost still liquid to 10 years old, just like LEGOland doesn't go for anyone else except for the 3 to 12 year old.
Disney tried once successfully to appeal to everybody but Alien Encounter and the likes closed and all their new stuff is for kids only. That's ok, so all parks have their own identity and that is great. Don't want Universal to be more Disney and don't expect Disney to be more like Universal.
Anyway, I think the problem isn't really Disney but the culture and the audience they find themselves within. For example, I thoroughly lament the dumbing down of Epcot and even MK and now AK. WDW used to have a fair bit of science and technology in it, and now the idea of learning is apparently no longer connected with whatever passes for "fun" these days.
And, to get back to the point, at adolescence, kids begin to realize that some of the most substantial issues and matters and experiences are not the highly abstracted little kids stories their parents once told but stuff about relationships, biology, sex, and ultimately death. These are not kids topics. They are not topics many parents are comfortable talking with their kids overtly about. But adolescents know almost more than anything else when they are being told a distracting tale. They want the real thing. And Disney has failed -- very possibly under pressure from the culture about them -- to find a way to speak to Genuine, Full Life in ways that relate. Their messages need to be deeply coded so they don't get assailed by kid guardians, whether parents or organizations who think they know better than them, who find such parts of real life distasteful.
My personal thoughts are that, as in the case of religion, kids should be allowed to make up their own minds. Meanwhile, come adolescence, Disney loses and had lost any influence on these young people. And that's very sad, in my opinion, both for the young people and the Disney Company.
I've written more about this elsewhere: https://hypergeometric.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/purity-in-disney-tangleds-take-on-premarital-sex/
I also thought it was funny that (for me) the ads on the right and left of your article were both for WDW...
If I asked most of the tweens in my family and their friends along to Disney with me they'd probably die of happiness. Heck they're thrilled for a chance to go ANYWHERE.
So I think it is on a kid by kid basis. If you have "cool kids" who are worried about everyone's opinions then they are probably going to act that way at some point regardless of the theme park you take them too. I really don't see them wanting to dress up as Hermione and wave a wand around either....lol
Also, I feel bad for the poor girl getting roasted for the Frozen shirt in the 5th grade. I sure hope the girls poking fun at her were told that it was NOT ok. So many little girls are becoming way too grown, way too young these days. It's sad.
Disney does not care at all about teenagers they ended Grad nights and shut down just about every club at downtown Disney. Universal makes more of an effort to appeal to teenagers and young adults.
BTW, Wicked Cyclone was a fine ride - but not my favorite "Iron Horse" redo, and Bizarro is still the best ride in that park, by far.
There is an age for everything. People. especially kids, change as they grow older. But it all comes back around again at some point. It's no one's fault, it's just life.
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