Who Is Really Ruining the Magic?

A simple balloon can be magical

If you follow several different Disney-related pages on Facebook like I do, you’ve doubtless seen posts about how the magic is gone at Walt Disney World. Most of the time the poster will blame Bob Chapek for raising prices and allowing too many people in. They will often state that Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave, as if they knew him personally.

I disagree with these posters and comments (although I keep my opinion to myself). If the magic is being ruined, it is the guests who are doing it.

There has always been bad behavior at Walt Disney World. Some people plop down thousands of dollars on a vacation and forget that they are surrounded by people who have done the exact same thing. Lately, though, it seems to be much worse. The sense of “Disney owes me something” has gone through the roof.

I’ve already mentioned elbows and balloons during fireworks. It’s more than that, though. People complain about the amount of trash on the ground, but how did it get there? You’re never far from a trash can at Walt Disney World, the distance between them is measured! One of the few times lately that I’ve seen a Cast Member giving out stickers was at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, near the tram stands. Ten feet away from him there were at least two dozen papers from the sticker backs on the ground. They didn’t get there by accident. While I know that the kids were excited to receive a sticker, it is easy enough to hold onto the trash for another few steps.

A main complaint lately is that Cast Members are letting people through the Lightning Lane while holding back the Standby Line. That’s because those people paid extra to go first! I don’t like paying extra for things that used to be free either, but I understand why the Lightning Lane will be given priority. And while some people act like letting the other side in first is new, I used to hear the same complaint with the old FastPass+ system.

How about attitudes? There are a lot of complaints about rude Cast Members lately. I’ve experienced a few that have been less magical than in past years, but not all that many. I’ve seen many more guests yell at Cast Members for things that are beyond their control. Walt Disney World is feeling the labor shortage as much as the next business, and Cast Members are working long hours in the heat and humidity. I don’t blame them for not always being as upbeat as possible.

I’ve also experienced some extraordinary Cast Members lately. On the first day of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, two women went above and beyond for me for a special order. It was a hectic day for everyone, but they still kept me informed as to what was going on, and they did it with smiles on their faces. I left them both Cast Member compliments as soon as I got home. I did it through the contact form on the Walt Disney World website instead of through the My Disney Experience App, because you can leave more information on the website. I wanted their boss to know how extraordinary these women were.

Even if I don’t leave a compliment, I will still try to say nice things. When I was at Epcot on Saturday, one of the Cast Members was upbeat and cheerful. She seemed to really enjoy what she was doing, even though she was standing in the sun. I told her that I loved her attitude, and that she was an asset to the company. She seemed to really appreciate my words. She had been friendly with everyone in line in front of us, but no one else said anything to her. It takes two seconds to say a kind word.

People complain about crowds, and also about the price. They want to pay less and have fewer people in the parks. This is one area where many will say that Walt Disney World isn’t what Walt Disney wanted. I have no idea what the solution here is. I do know that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 211 million Americans in 1971 (when Walt Disney World opened), while there are close to 333 million Americans today. With the population so much higher, there will obviously be more people in the theme parks! We don’t know if Walt Disney envisioned what things would be like with such tremendous population growth. If the price goes down, more families will be able to afford a Disney vacation, and then the parks will be more crowded than ever. The lines will be longer, the service will go down, and there will be even more trash. Disney could limit capacity, but that will cause even more problems. It’s a catch-22.

Speaking of prices, Disney has never been cheap. Aside from a ticket, you don’t need to buy anything. You can stay off property and use the hotel’s shuttle. You can bring food into the theme parks with you. No one is forcing anyone to buy souvenirs. You can even skip the theme parks altogether and have a great time! If you want to go all out, though, it will not be an inexpensive vacation. You can plan for some costs by doing things such as looking at menus ahead of time. You can even get a general idea of merchandise costs by scrolling through shopDisney.

My point is, for the most part, it is up to us to create or ruin the magic. The song for Disney Enchantment is You Are the Magic. I’m not a huge fan of the song, but I do understand what it is trying to say. When visiting Walt Disney World, we can spend our time complaining that we miss IllumiNations and The Great Movie Ride, or we can enjoy Harmonious and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. We seem to think that it’s up to Disney to create the magic, and to a certain extent that is true. But it is up to us to accept the magic, and to create even more.

I’ll leave this with one final thought. I recently heard about a young girl who gave another girl her balloon at Walt Disney World. The giver couldn’t take it home with her, so she wanted to find someone who would enjoy it. The receiver had wanted a balloon, and was thrilled with the gift. How is it that children understand what magic is all about, while many adults just complain?