Disneyland Paris / Where children's dreams and parents nightmares unite.
I recently went to Disneyland Paris with my wife and two kids. We travelled from London on the Eurostar and stayed for three nights at the perfectly fine Sequoia Lodge.
The kids (nearly 2 and nearly 5) enjoyed themselves, my wife enjoyed seeing the smiles on their faces, which I did too of course, but I was left with the sense that I had been financially ambushed by a mouse.
The whole experience has actually got me thinking that Disney and everything it stands for is purely driven by a desire to rob you of your money. I'm not just talking about the theme park, it’s made me question whether there’s any salt of morality in them wanting to education and entertain children or if every decision they ever make is centred around cold hard profit margins.
The perception they give is that Disneyland is a magical place, full of wonderment and sunshine. A place that’s a privilege to go too, to meet your favourite characters and enjoy rides and excitement built around the films you have seen them in. It is all these things to kids, but at what cost? Here’s where me and Disneyland differed:
There was no fruit!
It was far easier to buy a three course meal for 50 euros each than it was to buy an apple. The only time I saw fruit, albeit manky looking bruised fruit was in our hotel breakfast bar. Inside the Park or the Studios there was none…why? I maybe cynical but a child tanked up on fruit rather than sugar is much easier to say No! too.
Smoking was permitted!
I've not problem with anyone operating within the rules of any system, so whilst I found it annoying that people chose to smoke and blow smoke in the direction of my kids, it wasn't their fault…they were allowed too. I’d taken my young children to a place where smoking was permitted, it was the choice I made. To put this in perspective Selfie Sticks are banned…smoking….isn’t.
The abundance of shops selling the same s**t!
There’s no end of shops in the parks, 64 roughly, and they all sell exactly the same stuff? Basically kids clothes, stuffed toys, keyrings and things that flash. There’s emphasis on kids picking up toys off the shelf as they are all at little arm height, you can build your own Lego toys, you can make your own Mr Potato heads you can even try on hats and masks…why…because they know that once your kids touch it there’s a good chance they actually wont it and when high as a kite on sugar…cry if they don’t get it. Disney see a crying child as a financial cash-cow about to be milked.
There’s no grass?
None, anywhere…no where to sit and eat a picnic, no play area for kids to play on, no sand-pits, not so much as a swing…the one thing kids love to do more than go on rides and buy toys…is to run around and play. But if they are running…if they are eating picnic food…if they are on a swing…then they are not spending money or being advertised too.
I could go on, talk about the lack of sign-posts to let you know where anything is so you roam around in true Ikea style looking at things you don’t need, about how they don’t embrace technology to massively cut down on queueing times so you can spend more time outside of the ‘zone of influence’ of advertising (I might write another piece on that) or about how you can’t buy milk, the staple substance of child growth, without a tremendous amount of effort.
So after my visit, after the dust has settled, I’ve gone from the sense that Disneyland is a place of wonderment to a psychologically astute complex aimed at kidnapping your child's desires in order to rob you of your money.
Show me the fruit, show me the milk show me the grass and I’ll reconsider your ethics Disney!.