How the Internet Turned on “Disney Adults”

in Disney

disney adults with cinderella castle

Credit: Disney

Adults have been going to the Disney Parks since Disneyland opened in 1955 and Walt Disney World in 1971. Walt Disney intended his theme Parks to be for all ages:

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past… and here, youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” – Walt Disney.

Walt Disney on a train
Credit: D23

The Walt Disney Company leaned into that with a marketing campaign enticing childless “Disney Adults” to visit the Parks in the 1990s. But recently, so-called “Disney Adults” have repeatedly become punching bags for Internet bullies.

What is a “Disney Adult?”

walt disney world burnt out sign
Credit: SouthernDisney Belle

The term “Disney Adult” typically refers to a childless adult who loves Disney films, the Disney Parks, Disney Cruise Line, and Disney merchandise.

Related: 6 reasons why loving Disney Parks as an adult isn’t weird

Jodi Eichler-Levine, a religious studies professor at Lehigh University, spoke out in support of bullied “Disney Adults,” saying that for some, Disney is like a religion:

Many of the Disney fans I have observed in person and online find immense meaning in the parks. People don’t just marry at Disney. They mourn lost relatives at Disney. They go to Disney to celebrate surviving cancer.

They go there for one last trip before they die.Religion is a way of making meaning in the world through stories and rituals. It is about a network of relationships with the human and non-human (@RobertOrsi1 very paraphrased). It is about making homes and confronting suffering (@tomtwe loosely paraphrased).

Though Eichler-Levine recognizes that there’s a difference between a church and a massive corporation, like The Walt Disney Company, she maintains there are similarities:

Is this capitalism? Sure it is. Is it also at least quasi-religious? Yes. (And by the way, most religions are intertwined with capitalism. Just ask one of the founders of sociology, Max Weber).

Disney owns our stories. For some people– both those who have another “traditional” religion and those who don’t– the promise of magic at Disney and the feelings they get there are powerful. I’ve seen people cry at the fireworks. Many times.

The professor warns that dismissing Disney as “kid stuff” is invalidating both for “Disney Adults” and children, who deserve to be taken seriously when something is important to them:

Maybe it’s the only place their parents ever acted happy. Or, yeah, maybe they are selfish. But if we measure religion not by its truth-claims– because we CAN’T assess those unless we have something much more powerful than a Ph.D– but by its power in people’s lives, then Disney is as much a religion as anything. It is at the very least a site of meaning and human fellowship, even you hate it. Dismissing it because it’s “kid stuff” is demeaning to children, who are themselves discerning humans.

Despite receiving some support, Eichler-Levine eventually had to lock her Twitter thread, becoming the target of public vitriol for her support of “Disney Adults.”

Viral “Disney Adult” Incidents

pluto with sleeping beauty castle disneyland
Credit: Disney

Many so-called “Disney Adults” have been the target of relentless harassment, such as one woman who shared a video of herself hugging Pluto for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Grown Adult Takes Off Shoes and Goes “Swimming” In Fountain at Disney Springs

In the viral TikTok, the Disney Guest broke into tears as she was reminded of her late grandfather, who loved Pluto. Unfortunately, her emotions made her a target of cruel Internet bullying. She later spoke out, calling the comments she received “vile.”

disneyland-proposal
Credit: u/wasgehtlan

A proposal at Disneyland Paris also sparked debate, when a Cast Member snatched a ring out of a male Guest’s hands to usher them off a stage in front of the Disney Park’s castle. The couple claimed to have permission to use the stage and The Walt Disney Company apologized.

The incident sparked fierce online debate on theme Park proposals, specifically at Disney Parks, and reignited the conversation about “Disney Adults.”

Credit: SVEN X DISNEY on IG

The most recent viral “Disney Adult” incident occurred when a newlywed bride posted to Reddit, asking if she and her husband were “a**holes” for not feeding Guests at their Disney Fairytale Wedding at Walt Disney World.

Allegedly, the couple opted to pay nearly $6,000 to have Mickey and Minnie Mouse attend two of their wedding events and told Guests to find dining options at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort or nearby vending machines.

Disney fans were quick to point out that Disney Fairytale Weddings has a catering minimum, so the post was most likely a fake story intended to ignite “Disney Adult” debate. It was later removed by Reddit moderators.

Related: Disney Fan Fears New ‘Star Wars’ Hotel, Alarmingly Shocked at Character Interactions

However, the damage was done. The post spread like wildfire on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, sparking more hatred towards “Disney Adults” and eventually inspiring the thread from religious studies professor Jodi Eichler-Levine.

The Battle Between “Disney Adults”

mickey proposing to minnie in front of cinderella castle at disney world
Credit: Disney
So, why do adults like to go to Disney Parks? Whether it’s nostalgia, emotional connection, or just pure enjoyment, there will always be childless adults enjoying Disney.
As the Internet turns against these “Disney Adults,” even their own community isn’t united. The proposal situation at Disneyland Paris is a prime example of this, with a fierce line drawn between those supporting the newly-engaged couple and the Cast Member, who believed he was doing the right thing and enforcing a safety rule.
disneyland cast member with sleeping beauty castle
Credit: Disney
But that’s not all. Some “Disney Adults” resent others for their behavior at the Disney Parks, publicly complaining about others who choose to run to their favorite rides at Disneyland’s rope drop, hoping to beat the crowds.
Naturally, there’s competition between the coasts of the United States over which Disney Park is superior- Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is Walt Disney’s original dream, containing Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.
roy and minnie statue
Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando, Florida was Walt and Roy Disney’s “Florida Project” containing Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Regardless of what anyone else thinks, if you’re an adult Disney fan, being a “Disney Adult” doesn’t hurt anyone. More than anything it’s important to do things you’re passionate about and live a life you love!

Would you consider yourself a “Disney Adult?” What do you think about the viral bullying incidents surrounding the Disney Parks community? Let us know in the comments. 

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