Today, I’d like to address a topic that likely will make people upset. If I cause you to become angry, I apologize. But here’s the question I have to ask: Is Disney a cult?
Let me explain. A couple months ago I attended a trade show in Orlando. My wife joined me on the trip, along with a business associate and his wife. Since the Disney conglomerate owns about three-quarters of central Florida, it’s possible to stay in a Disney-owned hotel without actually planning to visit one of their many theme parks. The four of us stayed in a place called “The Disney All-Start Movie Resort,” which is a sprawling complex of hotel/motel type structures, but unlike other typical touristy hotel/motels in Florida, this one has 35-foot tall fiberglass cartoon characters everywhere.
Hey, I like Disney animated movies just as much as the next guy. But when you get up early in the morning and groggily walk out of your hotel room looking for a cup of coffee and the first thing you see is a 3-story high dog character from “101 Dalmatians,” you no longer need coffee to wake up because six quarts of terror-induced adrenaline now courses through your veins.
If this whole Disney thing is indeed a cult, I suspect my business associate friend and his wife have already enrolled in the “Church of Walt” Seminary to become ordained ministers. I was vaguely aware they regularly traveled to Orlando for vacations a couple times each year, but I didn’t know they were, well, card-carrying DFs. (Disney Fanatics.)
My friend seems so normal otherwise. I mean, we can have a great two-hour lively discussion about the perfect technique for hitting a 7-iron — you know, normal stuff. (And if you think having lively discussions about the endless minutia of golf is a sign someone is a card-carrying GF [Golf Fanatic], you’re wrong! Talking about golf for hours is almost as much fun as talking about baseball for hours. My BF card is always in my wallet.)
Anyway, there’s something called the Disney Vacation Club. It’s a lot like being a member of an exclusive country club, except a whole lot more expensive. My friend and his wife are members, and I think the initiation ritual involves getting Mickey and Minnie tattoos on strategic body parts. Their membership is something they can pass on to their kids in their wills. It’s also something on which they have to pay property taxes each year. (These last two statements contain no exaggeration, which, if you know me, cannot be said about anything else here.)
When my friend and his wife begin talking about the features of Disney theme parks, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc., their eyes light up as if they had LED lights implanted in their skulls (which, I think, might be another aspect of the initiation ritual).
When I returned home, I discovered many other people also are Disney cultists, er, I mean, Disney Vacation Club members. I could tell because as soon as I mentioned where we stayed in Orlando, a large smile spread across their faces and the LED lights came on. A few unbuckled their belts and gave me a glimpse of their Mickey and Minnie tattoos.
For a while, I was uncomfortable. It all seemed too weird. But then I started thinking about it. I came to realize that Uncle Walt simply wants me to be happy. Mickey and Minnie, Pluto and Goofy, are really my friends. What could be better than “The Happiest Place on Earth”? Yes, it is indeed wonderful. And as it turned out, the LED implants didn’t even hurt that much. Would you like to see my tattoos?