Illustration by Tim Foley
“Is this ride over yet?” said a young voice behind me.
I whipped my head around to see a pair of 6-year-old girls in a honey pot on Disney’s Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As the other riders disembarked, I noticed many were smiling. But some—mostly kids—appeared to be thoroughly unimpressed as they fiddled with their electronic devices.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can derive an inordinate amount of joy from tooling around in an oversized jar—though perhaps it is less exciting for two girls dressed like Elsa and Anna.
Later, I took a short walk to visit Ariel at one of the newer attractions, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. During my second spin in a clamshell, I consulted with the preteens in front of me. They’d been on the ride, like, a dozen times, and it was, like, just OK.
“Not as good as Seven Dwarfs.”
“Too much like Nemo in Epcot.”
On my most recent trip to Disney World for my 10-year anniversary, I witnessed more disinterested kids than on any of my previous visits. What in the name of Jiminy Cricket is going on? Has the Disney luster worn off?
Kids aren’t accustomed to boredom. They’ll never know the irritating sound of a dial-up modem, or the letdown of empty shelves at Blockbuster on a Friday night. Technology has, in part, eliminated boredom. Parents fill weekends with more to do than a director of activities at a Sandals resort. Apple picking and hayrides, brunch followed by an afternoon at Bouncetown, and a predinner juice-box tasting.
When was the last time today’s kids were truly bored—in the womb?
Even Disney has to up the ante to keep their attention. The first ride on the honey pot might be fun—but that wears off quickly. It’s tough to stop and smell the sweet aroma of Main Street, U.S.A. when you’re worrying about missing your next FastPass window.
The tantrums often come during the best part of the visit. At the end of the night, during Magic Kingdom’s Wishes finale, kids lie facedown on the immaculate walkways, exhausted from a long—if somewhat underwhelming—day.
“You have to stop crying for Tinker Bell,” I said to a sobbing little girl dressed like Belle. I was way more excited than she was, of course. Not impressed by a fairy on a zip line? Well then, just go tinker with your iPhone, and get off of my honey pot!
King of Prussia’s Katie Bambi Kohler was 25 when she first visited Disney World, because her parents always told her it was closed. Visit her website at www.katiekohler.com.