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The My Little Pony Theory of Walt Disney World Fandom

My little pony Disney

Over the weekend, my May analysis of our visit to Walt Disney World in Florida (Why Two Disneyland Vets Didn’t Love Five Days in Walt Disney World), unexpectedly became the most popular post I’ve written in eight years of Chicago Carless. Or perhaps, the most infamous. On Shabbat, it was posted to a popular Facebook page for WDW cast members (BackStage Humor), where it drew an immediate and quite polarized reaction. So far, about 2,500 people have read the article since Saturday, and it has received nearly 700 likes on Facebook. In two days.

In my four month-old post, I laid out in thoughtful detail the reasons why Ryan and I–a new Disneyland Resort (i.e. Anaheim, California) fan and a longtime Disneyland Resort veteran–were disappointed with our Memorial Day trip to the east coast Disney parks. We spent hours and hours planning our trip, fully expecting WDW to be different but equally magical, and afterwards we spent hours and hours trying to figure out why we didn’t love Disney’s Florida empire as much as we love the California parks. (Actually, Ryan could go the rest of his life without ever visiting Orlando again, but I will admit to a fondness for Magic Kingdom.)

Many of the comments that ensued, both here and on Facebook, were from thoughtful, committed CMs who hoped we’d give WDW another try, some agreeing with our take on the place’s problems in part or in full, but at least reading all the way through the piece and considering what we wrote about our experience there.

Other commenters, many of whom clearly did not read more than a few paragraphs into the epic-length post, were to understate things, less thoughtful. It has always been clear to me that WDW fans and Cast Members have extraordinarily thin skins when it comes to criticism of the World. Visit any WDW discussion forum (like this one), and you regularly will witness people who don’t agree that everything is absolutely perfect about Walt Disney World shouted down. Not by everyone by any means, but by enough people to be a bit jarring.

My question, as a west-coast Disney park fan, has always been why? Is it that WDW is so perfectly managed and maintained that it renders all criticism meaningless? Or is it that, as I have long suspected, most CMs are fully aware of the way things are in the World, but some cannot admit it to themselves–or by extension to others (like me)–without realizing that maybe they don’t work in quite such a perfect place?

In the time since our trip, talking with Ryan, I’ve worked up what I call the My Little Pony theory of Walt Disney World Fandom. Most WDW vets and CMs live in the real world, even when they’re experiencing or, for the CMs, creating major magic at Disney, and are able to enter into critical discussion and consider opposing ideas and the other side of issues they might not agree with.

But some WDW fans and Cast Members don’t deal so well with the real world and use their Disney trips and Disney jobs as the ultimate escapist fantasy, similar to the way some people lose themselves to an embarrassing degree in fantasy-based hobbies like collecting My Little Pony figures. You always think the latter group is no different from the former group until you tell them you think Rainbow Dash Pony is queer. And then they freak out, throw you out of the house, and decide out of spite they won’t bring anything back for you from the Brony convention.

It is, to my mind, the most pernicious aspect of the east coast Disney “bubble”–it’s so large and secluded, some people strive to take WDW as if it is the real world. Much as I’d love to take another spin on the bumpy but historic east coast Space Mountain, I much prefer my Disney parks with a world city wrapped around them. True, it’s not as easy to get lost in the Disney bubble in Anaheim.

But the upside is that it’s not as easy to get lost in the Disney bubble in Anaheim.

Categories: Disney World (Orlando) Disneyland (Anaheim)

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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8 replies

  1. Disney World is essentially 3D prozac for us. I’m not a superfan–at least by the standards of some of the hard core disboarders and others. However, I do allow myself to be immersed in the artificial culture of DW. I realize it’s an illusion, but frankly I live in a place that has 3 hours of light a day in the winter. I need an illusion. The total isolation of the east coast DW is appealing for this reason. We take an epic flight from Alaska to Orlando, are greeted by our town car driver and begin our temporary respite in a sunny world where every experience is designed to tickle our senses.

    1. So, that’s what we were hoping for. We do think it’s possible to experience total immersion at DLR, albeit in a different way (by dint of spending more time in the parks since everything is so close together.) But we were looking forward to the 40-square–mile magic of WDW. In our experience, we just kept being pulled out of that magic by the problems we encountered there.

  2. I don’t find my collection of My Little Pony figurines to be embarrassing, nor do most people I’ve met. The people I live with would agree with you, but the people I lived with disagree. It’s all based on opinion in the case of the outsider looking in.

    We want things to be perfect. BronyCon is by no means a perfect convention, though you will hear the staff of the convention and most figureheads christen it as the next 1934 Worlds Fair. It’s ironic, but I have a hearty dislike of east coast mentality in general, so I’d be more predisposed to the idea of a west coast convention or otherwise festive event being better than an east coast one. People on the west coast just seem to care about each other more.

    I don’t live in an escapist fantasy; statistically, it could be very possible that Rainbow Dash is, in fact, homosexual. That a small number of fans would react negatively to such an assertion is radically different than the majority shouting down a differing opinion, however. I disagree with the notion that the world as a majority finds pony-collecting embarrassing, or that bronies as a majority would discount the possibility of Rainbow Dash being homosexual.

    In your article, you make it seem as if nearly everyone who’s a CM or WDW vet simply won’t listen to reason or differing opinions when it comes to how wonderful their experience is. The brony fandom in general is nearly the opposite; the majority of bronies will respect the opinions of others, but reject and become irritated with uninformed extrapolations–like the majority of the fandom being gay, which is, once again, quite the opposite of the truth.

    Overall, I don’t feel you’ve made a proper comparison here. In the case of an appreciation for My Little Pony, simply having an open mind about such matters as collecting habits or opinions being presented as opinions rather than fact would, in most cases, make a brony quite agreeable with your differing viewpoint. CMs and WDW vets as a majority, according to you, will not take informed opinions into account, instead narrowing their perception, when they should be expanding it.

    1. No offense to MLP fandom, or WDW fandom or CMs for that matter. I could have been clearer–my point was that some people lose themselves more than they should. More than a rational, average fan might. There’s nothing wrong with My Little Pony fandom at all. But there are the fans who take it very, very far, whatever the object of their affection. The ones who make other fans go, “Huh?” Those fans? That’s who I’m talking about.

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