More Than Mouse Ears: Disney Parks Are a Haven for Neurodiversity

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

Disneyland Paris guests with Pinocchio at restaurant

Credit: Disney

Since Walt Disney first signed the papers, the Disney parks have been designed with guests of all ages, backgrounds, and tastes in mind. As much as they cater to families and children, there has been a significant rise in neurodivergent audiences as guests have evolved.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney World
Credit: Disney

For those not in the know, neurodivergent is a blanket term used to represent individuals diagnosed with different mental functions. Forbes goes into much better detail and describes it with the following,

“Neurodivergent is a non-medical umbrella term that describes people with variation in their mental functions, and can include conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other neurological or developmental conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Studies show that between 15-20% of the population is neurodiverse — including up to 10% of people who are diagnosed with dyslexia, 5% diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 1-2% with autism. So, what does this have to do with Disney and its audience?

Related: Disney’s Magic Kingdom Faces Closure Risk, Multiple Lands Reported for Demolition

A common trait among many neuroatypical groups is hyperfixation, described as an intense desire for a special interest. A recent post on r/DisneyParks featured several neurodivergent individuals sharing their love for Disney and how it manifests as part of their conditions. Additionally, the fans also share how the House of Mouse has been a thriving environment for their hyperfixations.

Disney and Its Neurodivergent Audience

A woman smiles wearing Princess Leia buns, taking a selfie with a black iPhone.
Credit: Disney

u/ohshit-cookies opens the conversation with the following question,

“I had my assessment for ADHD and Autism today and I talked about Disney, especially the parks, and how it’s been my main obsession for a long time. I watch hours of Disney vloggers on YouTube every day, have a ton of merch, wear the clothes, all of that. The psychologist said I’d probably find myself in good company of many other neurodivergent people within the “Disney Adult” community. So I’m curious, how many of you fall somewhere on the neurodivergent spectrum?”

Given that 20% of the current population is neurodiverse, it makes sense that Disney, an entity recognized by most consumers since infancy, would have a large audience in that group. As if to illustrate that notion, dozens of Reddit users join the comment section and share how Disney relates to their condition.

A family of four looks at their phone while visiting Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World.
Credit: Disney

Further down, u/rvdvg writes,

“On the autism spectrum and fellow Disney lover, but I have other intense interests, too. I think it’s probably pretty common. People on the autism spectrum fixate and have intense interests, and Disney is very popular, covers a ton of ground/widely accessible, allows for interest to spiral out easily, and has enough capital to cater to and make money off people that love it in more directed ways than anything else (D23)Disney is one of my special interests in part because they make it SO EASY for it to be a special interest and to fixate on everything from parks to merch to movies to conventions…”

The user makes an excellent point, especially given Disney’s wide field of interests in and out of the parks. The studio is notorious for mixing genres and having a very wide audience appeal, so it makes sense that there are many special interests to pick from.

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Additionally, u/artemisawika points out that even the act of planning a Disney trip can draw neurodivergent guests. The user shares,

“I’m neurodivergent and though I have a few sporadic obsessions that come and go, I would say Disney is one of the constant obsessions, whether is planning for the trip, changing dining reservations a million times to get the perfect schedule. Knowing everything about Disney planning… Knowing the parks like the palm of my hand, lol.”

Disney Knows What They’re Doing

Stitch screams with lilo
Credit: Disney

Not only has the Walt Disney Company amassed a large neurodivergent following, but it’s safe to say that the studio is well aware of their presence and has made steps to make them feel seen. In fact, many of Disney’s finest films featured neurodiverse characters.

Related: Guests Kicked out of EPCOT Land

Inside the Magic has reported on this phenomenon before, and many Disney mainstays like Belle and Lilo are neurodivergent-coded characters. Furthermore, that list seems to have grown even larger, with characters like Dipper and Mabel from Gravity Falls, Bruno from Encanto (2021), and even Loki from the Marvel Universe sharing similar traits to the neurodiverse community.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger posing together at a character meet and greet
Credit: Disney

Speaking as someone with a diagnosed condition (ADD/ADHD), the entwinement of both neurodivergence and Disney has been a consistent presence in more than just the fanbase. Being neurodivergent is more than quirks, hyperfixations, or eccentric personalities, and I believe Disney knows that.

Related: Disney’s Hollywood Studios Faces Another Major Closure

In a world where inclusivity continues to be increasingly promoted, Disney’s use of alternative perspectives with its characters and stories has done a marvelous job of giving this community a voice. Whether it’s in the parks or their animated worlds, there’s a place for everyone under the magic of the mouse.

Are you a neurodivergent Disney fan? Share with Inside the Magic in the comments below!

 

 

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