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The Five Worst Things About Disney

Having defended at least a small portion of the Disney experience, let me let loose with a far easier task: finding the five most irritating elements of the entertainment powerhouse (a company that is growing larger every day).

1. Hannah Montana: I am on the record as having serious issues with the music, but the TV show itself is a disaster to watch. It is trying too hard to be taken as camp and the writing is hardly genius. And, no, I haven't seen the movie. I have to draw the line somewhere.

2. "The Parent Trap": I have nothing against the 1998 movie itself (or the original film from 1961). But -- let's face facts here -- we would have been spared the whole Lohan drama if they'd just remade ""Old Yeller"" instead.

3. The Mighty Ducks: I feel for the early players on the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who had the pleasure of joining a team, founded by Disney, that appeared to be a movie tie-in. The best proof that there are indeed hockey gods is that the Ducks didn't hoist the Stanley Cup until Disney sold the franchise and the "Mighty" part of the name was excised forever.

4. Dumb hair: There must be some secret memo circulating at Disney that every male character in every film and television show must have silly-looking hair, from Zac Efron to Zack and Cody. When you have a lineup in which Billy Ray Cyrus -- BILLY RAY CYRUS! -- has the most sensible coif, you know that something is seriously, unavoidably wrong.

5. EPCOT: Like every other kid of my generation, I took a tour of Epcot a few years after it opened -- to much hype -- in 1982. And like every other kid of my generation, I could not figure out what the heck the appeal was. A giant dome filled with animatronics? Huh? I figured that I must have missed something in my callow youth, and I returned two years ago. It is still baffling.

This is only the start. What elements of The Walt Disney Co. drive you the most nuts?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  September 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Entertainment
Previous: Do 'Boy' Toys Always Trump 'Girl' Toys? | Next: Defending Paid Parental Leave


"Like every other kid of my generation, I took a tour of Epcot a few years after it opened -- to much hype -- in 1982"

Wow! Brian, you really, really grew up in a bubble. And it shows in your writing and your thinking.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 1, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Geeze, Epcot was the only bearable part of the park for me mostly because you can have a cocktail or two there, numbs the annoying music and people. My kids enjoyed meeting the people from other countries and getting their "passports" stamped.

Overall Disney is a lot like candy corn, yummy but only once in awhile. I cannot begin to understand the folks who go EVERY year. You could go to Switzerland for the same money. I also don't understand the people who choose to advertise for the company with those magnets on the car or the adults who wear the Mickey Mouse t-shirt.

Oh and let me comment on the food. Unbeliveable that there is no breakfast buffet at the Beach Club, who wants to make reservations for breakfast on vacation? Every Mariott seems to have figured out how to do a nice buffet. Also the need to make reservations for every single dinner of the trip. Who wants to travel like that? Finally, is it possible for them to serve less than 42 ounces of any beverage. The whole place looks like Wall-E with severly obese people riding in carts sucking on GIANT drinks. Don't get it.

My kids loved it all. Sigh.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 1, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I don't agree with the Epcot comment and mostly don't have much to say about the other points. The shows are geared towards kids so I assume that is why I don't have much interest in them.

I absolutely agree with the comment about The Mighty Ducks. Growing up in Canada, esp. in rural Canada, you grow up living and breathing hockey. We were proud of our hockey teams. And then one day, The Mighty Ducks showed up in the NHL. My boss at the time went to see a game in The Mighty Duck Pond and came back to describe it to us. I felt that rampant commercialization had hit the NHL. It was no longer about hockey and I quit going to/watching games. My only exception was to go to a Montreal vs Washington game a few years ago for my birthday present. Thanks Disney!

Posted by: Billie_R | September 1, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

1. I hate Disney TV shows, more specifically the ones aimed at my tween girls. They are full of ditzy teen girls who speak poorly and focus on their clothing and cute boys. In fact, they send the exact opposite of every message I am trying to send my girls. (We don't have the Disney Channel for this reason)

2. Insane marketing of the Princesses. I am not completely opposed to Princesses, but it gets old having to tell my kids that they do not, in fact, need to eat, sleep and play with pink glittery everything.

Those are my big ones right now. I am sure if I thought about it long enough I would come up with more. I am curious to see what everyone else has to say.

Brian- I think it is funny you say EPCOT. It was my 7 year olds absolute favorite part of our trip last year. She went on it 4 times in a row. I am guessing a lot of people agree with you since we were able to walk her on it that many times with no wait.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | September 1, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I love Epcot.

Why is it so popular to rip on Disney? Just because it is a huge succesful company? Believe it or not, Brian, some companies in the US still need to be successful and make profits to pay taxes and employ people and keep the economy hummimg.

Just don't buy Disney stuff if you don't like it.

Posted by: sunflower571 | September 1, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I really like Epcot and our kids loved it as well.

My biggest dislike at Disney is the same a Moxiemom's - that you have to make reservations for all the sitdown restaurants.

The TV shows don't bother me. Hannah Montana herself does because of how she dresses and she just reinforces the messages that girls need to wear short skirts and dress provacatively.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 1, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I agree with thosewilsongirls about the way Disney promotes consumerism and a focus on appearance. I'd also say it promotes snarky comments from my kids who are only periodically exposed to Disney shows given we don't have a TV. I usually know if they've been watching at someone else's house by the content and tone of their voices when they get home. Ugh.
But I've seen Disney do some good stuff too so I'm in the "don't buy Disney stuff if you don't like it" column with sunflower571. I enjoy some of their material and try to ignore the rest.

Posted by: annenh | September 1, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

@moxiemom1: Yes, the dinner reservation system is really staggeringly dumb. I am at a loss of why a company as smart as Disney would do something so infuriating.

@thosewilsongirls: Princesses get my blood boiling, too, but I didn't know if that was too easy a target.

So hard to pick just 5 ...

Posted by: rebeldad | September 1, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

1. The reality that someday, my little girl will beg to go to Disney. (My parents NEVER took me - I went once in HS on a band trip, and once in college on spring break. And I know I will probably take my kid, ONCE, since I wanted to badly to go as a kid.)

2. The rampant commercialism. But I feel the same way about Barbie.

3. The fact that they store movies in "the vault", and only release them evey few years. Yes, between the library, video store, e-bay, whatever, you can still watch whatever you want. But if you have a kid who's just getting into xyz phase, and you want to get the movie, it should be available for purchase.

4. The fact that I watch some of their horrible, cheesy tv shows, despite knowing how horrible and cheesy they are, and without the excuse that I'm watching with/for my daughter, since she's only 4 months old.

Posted by: JHBVA | September 1, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

There's some sort of safari park down in Florida that is by Disney. I was seriously disturbed to see detailed, fake trees (baobob trees, etc.)

Fake trees. Here's an idea: take your kid somewhere beautiful where there are REAL trees.

Posted by: GoodHome | September 1, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't like the continuing "saga" movies they keep on making (i.e. Cinderalla 3, The Jungle Book 2, etc.). I think they need to branch out and do other things instead of beating a dead horse (over and over and over again).

Posted by: Merdi | September 1, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Went to Disneyworld in Orlando this past summer with a large troup of family. Hated the heat, the very long lines to see and do over-hyped stuff and the extreme expense of it all. But when I rode It's a Small World Afterall with my youngest, 10 years after riding it with my oldest....seeing his excitement and plain joy over Buzzlightyear's lazer ride, riding flying Dumbo elephants and the huge merry-go-round, cooling off on water slides...these were priceless and the kids loved it! I thought it was a sign of the recession when we walked into the Rainforest Cafe for lunch and it was completely empty - no reservations required. Instead, people were outside on benches eating homemade sandwiches they had brought. After a vacation in Disney - I felt like I needed to shop at the Farmers Market for a month to counter the sheer commercialization of it all. Love the line about booze at Epcot. Thankfully, there was a poolside bar back at the timeshare that stayed open late. The kids swam off the heat and we collapsed into poolside loungechairs with a tall cool beverage and wondered: are we having fun yet?

Posted by: justthinking2 | September 1, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"I don't like the continuing "saga" movies they keep on making (i.e. Cinderalla 3, The Jungle Book 2, etc.). I think they need to branch out and do other things instead of beating a dead horse (over and over and over again).

Posted by: Merdi |"

Totally agree, Merdi! And though I know it's not just Disney and comes from a long history of fairy tale stories, I can't stand the demonization of stepmoms!

Posted by: auntieW | September 1, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"@moxiemom1: Yes, the dinner reservation system is really staggeringly dumb. I am at a loss of why a company as smart as Disney would do something so infuriating."

Really? "At a loss"? I'll give you one guess...starts with P ends with rofit.

Posted by: 06902 | September 1, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Epcot, I went once when I was about 12 years old which would've been 1983 and thought it was boring because everything was "educational". The only thing I remember were these hydroponic plants being suspended from the ceiling. Educational stuff is great if you're going to a museum and that's what you're expecting to see, but it was Disney, I was expecting something fun.

The thing I didn't like about Disney World was just that the lines for all the rides were so long and it was August so it was tortuously hot and humid. Now that someone mentioned the "It's A Small World" ride I am going to have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day!!! Argh!

Posted by: StatsMom | September 1, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Without a doubt, the twit princesses. I don't mind a strong, capable princess, even if she's dressed in pink tulle and rhinestones. It's the "someone save me" princesses I hate.

The inevitability of a trip to Disney. I hate heat and lines and crowds. But I'll do it because, like JHBVA, I wanted to go SO badly as a child. It's one of those dream things you can actually give your kid. I doubt we'll ever become regular visitors.

The fact that DAN SAVAGE was appalled by Zack and Cody is enough to be wary of the tweener shows. The little kid shows are OK, but they don't hold a candle to PBS kids.

Posted by: atb2 | September 1, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

@060902: That's just it ... there have got to be more profitable (or as profitable) ways to serve dinner to people who have paid an outrageous sum to visit the parks without driving them nuts. Maybe it's holding open some number of tables as first-come, first-served. Maybe it's building more sit-down eating facilities in high-demand areas. Maybe it's offering some sort of take-out system. Right now, you have to make your reservations, often months in advance, and then schedule your day around where you need to be at 6 p.m.

The theme park concept, as mastered by Disney, is pretty simple: make life as easy as possible. Keep the bathrooms clean. Have the buses move on time. Give people options for the queues. Why they can't make getting to dinner more sane is beyond me.

Posted by: rebeldad | September 1, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I hate that there's a dead or missing parent (usually the mom) in nearly every Disney movie and tv show.

Posted by: jillcashen | September 1, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

As far as the parks go, the heat, the long lines and the cost. Also not enough healthy food options.

I don't watch the Disney channel. So I can't comment.

I am not crazy about the marketing of every movie but it seems like all the other companies do the same (Barbie etc).

Posted by: foamgnome | September 1, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

A few years ago, Disney tried to put up a historical theme park up here in No VA...

But the tree ferries rallied all the environmentalist in opposition and the project got canned.

So I kissed my dreams of ever taking my kids to Disney goodbye. Oh well, I've never been there myself, so it's not like I feel that my spawn will miss much.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | September 1, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

1. Its ubiquity

2. "Mom dies" = primary plot device

3. The princesses

4. "It's a Small World After All"

Posted by: laura33 | September 1, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why so many are so quick to demonize female entertainers like Hanna Montana for not being the optimal role model for our children. Can't we, as parents, just enjoy entertainment for what it's worth and not have to turn every single thing into a teachable moment for our daughters? Ugh!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | September 1, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"The whole place looks like Wall-E with severly obese people riding in carts sucking on GIANT drinks. Don't get it."

Don't go to Universal then. The food is awful, and disgusting. And the people...well, more so.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 1, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

(I meant: the people are more so than you described, Moxie - not more so as in disgusting and awful).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 1, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The TV shows are the worst. I haven't been to Disney World since 1983 (and I was 7 at the time) so I didn't want to go to epcot. But the TV shows just floor me. And no, not because of the message that it sends my daughter, but the message it sends my 8 year old son. Thanks Disney, for making him think that girls are supposed to dress that way to be cool.

Posted by: Sara | September 1, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

What I hate, loathe, and despise about Disney is their knack for turning perfectly good books into sappy stories. Some of the old stuff (e.g., Peter Pan, the great obsession of my late childhood -- wow, I'm dating myself) isn't bad because they kept some of the original tongue-in-cheek wit and sarcasm. But they TOTALLY blew Winnie-the-Pooh, who's almost a Zen philosopher in the original, and nothing since then has been any good. As for princesses, I used to like Snow White because she was a brunette (like me) and had some spunk, but lately she's been turned into yet another bimbo.

Posted by: PLozar | September 1, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Brian, I totally agree with you about the restaurant reservations, but enough people make the reservatons so it's obviously working for Disney. What really annoyed me was we only made reservations for two meals (one breakfast, one dinner) and we still had to wait 15-20 minutes each time. What's the point of reservations if you have to wait anyway?

WhackyWeasel, my problem with Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus isn't that she's not an "optimal role model", it's that she dresses and behaves totally inappriately for her age. She's not even 18 yet and she's been dressing like this since she was 15. If she was 20 I wouldn't care.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 1, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Five worst things about Disney:

1. Pleasure Island at Disney World (surprised nobody else mentioned this) - seriously lame group of "nightclubs"

2. Changing stories/themes/endings - notably "The Little Mermaid." Spoiler alert - in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, she doesn't get the prince; she instead becomes foam on the ocean. But she DOES gain an immortal soul, which is what she really wanted because love of God is more important than romantic love. Disney threw that part away.

3. Staggered/limited releases of the classic movies, as mentioned earlier

4. The fact that they shut down their own animation work prior to acquiring Pixar. As much as I love Pixar's work (yeah, Catmull and Lasseter!) Disney still did some good work of their own.

5. (Oh, I don't know - there are too many other things to pick from.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | September 1, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

We took DD age 7 and we had a blast. It was hot so we did a morning and a evening session. We spent the afternoon at the pool.

The worst thing was the Disney Magical Express. They are the rudest people on the planet. On the way home we missed our first bus because they wouldn't load our luggage or let my husband load it. We almost gave up and took a cab.

Air Tran (the airline) had wonderful people. They even gave DD airline wings. They helped us make our plane even though we were late.

Posted by: shdd | September 1, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I have to none of you work for businesses that operate for profit? Do you not understand why businesses need to make a profit?

And why should Disney stop doing the reservation system because you are too disorganized? I have been there 3-4 times in the last 5 years with no problem. You plan ahead a bit and if there is a day when you didn't make a reservation, not like you starve, there are plenty of places to eat in all the parks that are not sit down or you can eat at your resort/hotel or off site. Really, some of you just like to complain to complain I am starting to think.

Posted by: sunflower571 | September 1, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

fr dennis5:

>...The TV shows don't bother me. Hannah Montana herself does because of how she dresses and she just reinforces the messages that girls need to wear short skirts and dress provacatively.

Not to mention pretending that she can actually sing, and do pole dancing as a minor. Were she MY kid, she'd be yanked off that stage, sent to a public high school wearing decent clothing. Maybe AFTER she graduates take a couple singing lessons.

Posted by: Alex511 | September 1, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

1. Walt Disney was anti-Semitic.
2. Walt Disney paid crap wages.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 1, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

We were going to Disney once, so we went in December and we, gasp, took the kids out of school. It was lovely. Almost no lines, everyone in FL thought it was freezing, we thought it was perfect. We kept remarking on how miserable it all must be in July. We got to do everything we wanted and the kids were pretty much done by the end of the week. The parades were still crowded.

Sunflower, I will speak for myself. The issue of dinner reservations is not about organization but rather enjoying a relaxed time. It is not fun to have to plan a day around 6 pm reservations at the Chinese Restaurant in Epcot. I'm on vacation, who knows whether my kids will love the Magic Kingdom and we will have to stop what we are doing to make our way to Epcot so we can have a dinner that isn't fast food. Same thing for breakfast, I don't know which nights we might be having a good time and staying up later and getting up later or vice versa. Given how much you pay, it seems ridiculous to have to plan do much just to have a decent meal.

Given the fact that you have been there 3-4 times in the past 5 years clearly indicates you are in love with the place. More power to you. We went to Canada where our kids saw real whales in the real ocean. Way cooler in my book. To each his own.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 1, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse


Disney is dead. Now they are a huge employer.

Posted by: sunflower571 | September 1, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Can't comment on the Florida experience since I've never been to that one.

Two years ago we finally took the boys to Disneyland in Anaheim for the week of Thanksgiving (the school district gives us the whole week off every year). We actually only spent two days in *both* parks, and did lots of other fun stuff around Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

I just laugh about "It's a Small World" because DH likes to perform it (singing and guitar playing) as a tango, which is hysterically funny, and his version is all I can think of when I hear the original.

The boys had a pretty good time. Weather was nice and mild in Nov. Lines weren't too bad. We even had our T-Day turkey dinners in the park. Not quite as tasty as DH and my sister teaming up for the usual feasting at her place, but not bad at all.

None of us were so overjoyed that we'd want to do it again, though. There's too many other places we haven't been yet...

Posted by: SueMc | September 1, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Well, I have to admit I probably wouldn't go to Disney so often if I was paying for the whole trip myself. I only went once for fun in the 5 years and the rest of the times either I had a conference down there and my hubby did and we then made a vacation of it. On my own I tend to enjoy the beach or a visiting a real city more.

Posted by: sunflower571 | September 1, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I have this pet peeve about Disney movies in which the family has an unrealistically high standard of living, given the occupations and status of the parents. You know what I"m talking about, the movies where mom and dad are recently divorced and yet they now own TWO incredibly attractive, well furnished and architecturally interesting homes, drive multiple expensive cars and all the kids have new laptops and cell phones. My kids can't stand to rent these movies with us, because my husband and I for some reason can't RESIST pointing out how unlikely it is that a divorced family in which the father is a teacher and the mom is a SAHM would own TWO 800,000 dollar plus homes, the latest mini-van, multiple gadgets, several pets and so forth. (On the other hand, our neighbors DID -- but they got foreclosed last week. Can't help but wonder if maybe they watched too many Disney movies and got the wrong idea about what they were entitled to.)

Posted by: Justsaying4 | September 1, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

*shrug* I love EPCOT, especially since they threw in a few rides like the Test Track and Soarin'.

I, too, toured it when it was first opened as a tween in 1982 and I loved it then, too. That a theme park would have cool science exhibits was fun for me (though I admit that "The Land" still bores me, as does the "Spaceship Earth" ride.

I'm a little confused about the claim there's no buffet at the Beach Club. The Yacht & Beach Club has a fabulous buffet for breakfast and dinner. Yes, the reservation system is a wee bit of a pain in the tuchus, but on a family trip last year where we had a party of 12 (and one of my nephews has a food allergy), if we arrived a little early, they made every effort to seat us so we weren't hanging around. They didn't always succeed in seating us early, but we saw several smaller families treated the same way and seated a bit earlier. And they couldn't have been nicer to us during our wait.

My family aren't big Disney folks - we've done two big family trips in 20 years, and my parents occasionally bring down grand-kids when my Dad invariably has a meeting down there at the Dolphin or Swan. And while it's a pain in the butt to make reservations for everything, you know the tolerances of your family and when they expect to eat. It's not like you can't go online and check out which parks have the extended hours and plan accordingly.

If you want a more casual vacation, then Disney is not really the place for you. Or you can get one of those suites with a kitchen and just go out and go shopping for groceries.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 2, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Never took the kids. Never would. Too plastic. Too commercial. Too crowded. Enriched them with classical music instead.

Posted by: jhazzard | September 3, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

So I'm coming to this party late (what else is new)...but as a longtime Ducks fan, while I was exceptionally happy that they brought the Cup to SoCal for the first time, I was also exceptionally upset (as were MANY other fans) when the Samuelis excised the "Mighty" from the team name, dropped the iconic logo, and changed the team's colors. I bought a now old-style Mighty Ducks sweater (jersey) not long before the changes were announced, and needless to say I wear that sweater VERY proudly.


Posted by: SportzNut21 | September 3, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

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