Notes from Vacation: Disney World

I don’t know if anyone other than me actually pays attention to my posting schedule, or gets upset when posts do not shot up on time. Hopefully not. But on the off chance that you do, I apologize for last weeks sudden silence. You see, I went on vacation:

Happiest Place on Earth?

Happiest Place on Earth?

I haven’t been on vacation in a while, so I figured why not visit the so called “happiest place on the planet”, aka the Walt Disney World in Florida. I have never been there as a child, so I figured visiting the place as an adult ought to be both entertaining and eye opening experience. Especially since I was being accompanied by seasoned Disney veterans (dare I say fanatics) who planned the whole trip and optimized it for maximum fun. Bear in mind that my entourage 100% composed of adults, so we were not encumbered by squeaky childlings or stroller spawn, and free to eat, drink, be merry and act irresponsibly.

I might write something more extensive about my experience later on, but here are some of my first impressions and reflections on the trip:

While you could make an argument about Disney World being the happiest place to be (after all it all depends on how you define happiness) it is definitely the cleanest establishment I have been to. I was incredibly impressed with the efficiency and aggressive approach to cleanup and upkeep they had in all the parks. You would be hard pressed to find any litter or garbage anywhere on Disney property. Everything from the bathrooms to the main thoroughfare streets is immaculately clean. Disney actually seems to employ roving janitorial patrol teams that scour the parks for any filth or signs of damage and eradicate it with an impressive tenacity. One day I have even witnessed crews trying out puddles on the sidewalk after a rainfall so that the guests don’t get their feet wet.

I have never seen such an approach to cleanliness anywhere else. I spend most of my time in Jersey or NYC so I’m used to filth, litter and garbage lining the streets, overgrown lawns, stained carpets and jumping over puddles of odd organic goo on the sidewalk. Spending a week in Disney’s immaculately clean parks was like visiting some strange alternate dimension where people suddenly started giving a shit about their surroundings. Naturally such an aggressive approach to upkeep must cost a lot of money…

Which brings me to my next point – I don’t think I have ever visited a place that was more engineered to separate you from your hard earned money. This is the part that made me question the “happiest place” a bit – after all, how happy can you be when you are essentially bleeding cash the entire time you are there. The entire place is engineered for profit. Most rides funnel the exiting crowds through gift stores hoping to catch some impulse buys. All the good picture spots are manned by professional photographers who will be more than happy to take your picture for you, with or without a costumed character. Everything is branded, sold at an immense markup and (if you happen to stay on Disney property) can be charged to your room key. I was both impressed and shocked by the absolutely ruthless efficiency with which Disney parks fleeced and wrung out currency from the unsuspecting crowds. I guess this is the part of the experience you are blissfully ignorant about when you visit the parks as a child.

Disney World is a gigantic money making machine that prays upon your nostalgia, and uses it to trick you into puking up wads of banknotes on every step. Fortunately I happen to be mostly immune to this sort of thing. Sure, I grew up watching Disney motion pictures just like everyone else, but I really had no desire to own anything with Mickey ears or Disney logo on it.

That said, the parks are rather fun. I was especially fond of Epcot, especially since they were having their annual food and wine festival:

Epcot

Epcot

Epcot is both impressive and depressing. Impressive because of what it is, depressing because what it could have been. You see, Walt Disney envisioned Epcot as an utopian super-community. It was supposed to be a model micro-city constantly riding on the bleeding edge of technology. He wanted to employ the same social engineering tactics his company used to build money making monster-parks, to create a healthy clean super-community of the future. A place which would always be a little bit ahead of the curve, because Disney would funnel money into it to keep it on the absolute forefront of technological progress. It was supposed to be humanities spearhead launched into the heart of the singularity. It was ambitious and awe-inspiring project.

Unsurprisingly after Walt’s death the entire plan was scraped. Instead of this impressive money-drain, Epcot was turned into yet another theme park – albeit rather unique one. It is now a place that celebrates both retro-futurism of the 70′s and cultural diversity of the world. It is probably not as fun for kids as the other parks, but a great place for adults to get drunk while walking around the lagoon and trying on silly hats in each of the country specific pavilions. And that makes it a definitely awesome place to visit.

Btw, if you are going to be visiting Disney anytime soon, do the Segway tour. It is both fun an informative – you get to learn a lot of back-stage details about Epcot and it’s history, and you get to ride a fucking Segway around the park like a boss.

Have you ever been to Disney? What was your experience?

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5 Responses to Notes from Vacation: Disney World

  1. This past spring marked 10 years since I’ve been to Orlando. It was for a week-long high school marching band trip, and I had a lot of fun because I got to roam the parks with just my friends all day. I don’t know if I’d enjoy it as much today. Like you, my wife and I are immune to buying trinkets and souvenirs, so we wouldn’t bleed money too badly. However, in the past decade since that last trip I spent four grueling summers (60-hour weeks) working at a local amusement park. I feel I’ve had a lifetime’s worth of parks.

    They really do a great job with the atmosphere and mood of the sights and rides. No one else can compete with them on that. If I were to return I think that would be the most enjoyable part, absorbing the atmosphere of the place.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Chris Wellons:

    Yeah, the attention to detail in the atmosphere building department is quite amazing. Disney rides are engineered not as much as rides, but as experiences. I especially liked the Yeti ride in Animal Kingdom. When you get in line, first you go through the little travel agency building, then through the courtyard of a Tibetan monastery, enter the monastery itself, which turns into a Yeti museum of sorts, that then morphs into a tiny Himalayan train station where you finally get onto the roller-coaster. :)

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  3. Mitlik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    As ever, I may be off the main point… but it’s good to see the life hack still seems to be treating you well; looking trim in those vacation pictures.

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  4. GermanPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Yeah, was one of the first things I noticed there, too. You look great, Luke!

    I’ve never been to any of the US Disneys -most likely because I’m not living in the US- but I can say that the one in France is as impressive as you described. Clean, tidy and you only have to step out of a toilet with slightly wrinkled brows to have a janitor show up… (Really happened. There were no paper towels and as I stepped out rubbing my hands… guess you can imagine the rest.)
    Most waiting lines are near gift shops and there will be the ocassional food/drink vendor nearby helping you pass the time until the next ride starts allowing you to inch a bit closer to the start…
    I’m not sure about this in the US since I guess most people there are speaking one language but here the employees all have tiny pins showing flags of the countries which language they speak. Very nice!

    I was able to take two trips in a rather short timespan and one thing I did notice happily on the second was that they seem to listen to customer concerns.
    On the first trip it was virtually the same in every gift shop. The same plushies, the same mugs and the only difference was if the shelves were fake future or retro wild west.
    I was a tad bit annoyed by that and didn’t hesitate to mention while being asked about my stay by a friendly member of the staff.
    Imagine my surprise on the second visit when the interior of the stores didn’t only look different in design but also the contents were different.

    I don’t imagine in the slightest that it was my comment alone, rather that I was one of several voices saying the same.
    And yes, they most likely did it to get that extra cash you wouldn’t spend on the same mug in a different store…

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Mitlik:

    Thank you sir. :D

    @ GermanPete:

    The Florida parks don’t do the language pins, but a lot of the recorded announcements or security messages are done in both English and Spanish back to back which is nice I guess. This is especially evident on the little trams that take you from the parking lots to the park entrance. You have to sit through the “while we are moving don’t stand the fuck up” message twice.

    Which reminds me of another thing – Disney even manages the traffic flow on their parking lots. When you enter one of the extremely vast parking lots, you will be directed and told where to park. Disney has people constantly funneling incoming cars ensuring that every space is filled, no one fights over parking spots, and no one drives around in circles looking to swoop in when someone leaves. You get in, park where they tell you and there is already a tram there waiting to take you to the park. Pretty impressive – I have never seen anything like this anywhere else.

    Oh, and the gift store thing – I would say that roughly 80% of the crap in all the generic gift stores is the same trinkets. The remaining 20% is usually crap that is specific to the adjacent ride, attraction or the theme they are going for with the particular store and that shit is usually very prominently displayed making sure you don’t miss it.

    Granted, some of the stores are unique. I think there was one in the Magic Kingdom where they were actually making the glass doodads in front of you. So you could stand there and watch a guy melt glass with a blow-torch (behind a protective screen of course) and make it into mickey ears or what not.

    The stores in Epcot pavilions were a bit more varied. For example the gift stores in the British pavilion are all like “British pop rock music, soccer and medieval shit”. Norway section is all “Vikings and Trolls” but their stores sell… Jackets, hats and sweaters from Norwegian brands… :P

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