You're dead if you aim only for kids.
Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.
— WALT DISNEY
Walt had it right. And for decades, Disney theme parks were the place to go for people of all ages. Attractions were built to intelligently entertain and enchant guests of all ages. Age and gender-specific attractions weren't easy to find.
So why is it, with the Year of a Million Dreams are the kids being the main target? Do Disney's theme parks and resort no longer interest the young adult and adult segments? Is Disney forsaking Walt's family park, for a place where parents sit on benches and watch their kids have fun while they worry about the next mortgage payment?
Or can adults only have fun at Disney's theme parks by seeing the magic through their child's eyes? Are child-less adults unable to enjoy the parks? Are the parks in general not intended for adult enjoyment?
Disneyland was created for people of all types and ages to have fun. It was designed as an intelligent outpost of creativity, entertainment, and discovery. Yet, with Disney's Year of a Million Dreams, it seems like Disneyland is no longer the Happiest Place on Earth for everybody anymore, but only the place Where Dreams Come True for kids under 14.
Forget the rest of the family - the parks aren't for them anymore. Afterall, what grown man or woman really wants to go into outer space? What grandmother wants to relive her youth on a turn-of-the-century Main Street similar to the one she experienced growing up? What train buff wants to ride a real steam locomotive through 5 magical realms?
A major issue with the Year of a Million Dreams is the campaign's direct marketing toward children. Despite attempting to stir adult interest with the celebrity portrait series, the adult demographic is wholly untapped via TV spots, and most other advertising. The campaign's commercials, the slick publicity images focusing on children, and the line of new entertainment and attractions in the park are all focused directly on the child demographic, leaving little incentive for anybody without a 6-year-old to visit the parks.
Attractions like the Princess Fantasy Faire, Jedi Training Academy, High School Musical Pep Rally, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage all push for a child audience. Adults are left to revisit old favorites like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain instead of being offered new and exciting attractions that they can enjoy on their own or with their entire family.
Commercials and glossy print materials beckon readers to come live their dreams at Disneyland. But what dreams are left for people who haven't been in primary school for decades?
How can we live our dreams when every publicity photo, every commerical, and every ad for the Year of a Million Dreams shows only children living out their Disney dreams?
Has Walt's dream of a place where kids and adults can have fun together died? Is it time to trade in my Mickey Ears for a business suit and tie?
Or is Disney digging its own grave?
It came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always daddy’s day with the two daughters. So we’d start out and try to go someplace, you know, different things, and I’d take them to the merry-go-round and did all these things – sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts –
I felt that there should be something built
where parents and the children could have fun together.
So that’s how Disneyland started.
— WALT DISNEY