Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Misanthrope's Guide to Disney World

Fourth of July at Magic Kingdom

Part of the Misanthrope's Guide to Disney World, a series of posts on surviving the theme parks for people who hate people. The guide page can be found here.
  "Court and town furnish me with nothing but occasions to stoke my fury. It fills me with black depression and reduces me to utter despair to see men living as they do. I meet with nothing but base flattery, injustice, selfishness, treachery, villainy everywhere. I can't stand it any more. It infuriates me."- Alceste in Moliere's The Misanthrope

"The only people who can be excused for unleashing a bad book on the world are the poor devils who have to write for a living."- Alceste again

There's an odd divide that seems to exist within adult fans of the Disney company, and specifically those that attend the Walt Disney World theme parks. On one side are the eternal optimists, excited for any aspect of the world of Disney, always ready to embrace the new and unworried about the little problems. The other side are the pessimists, who don't see little problems, but glaring, growing flaws and issues that will consume the entire company and its magic.

Guides to Disney World often feel like they are addressing either of these sides. Some of these books, especially the official guides, seem to function only to tell you what's more amazing than everything else that is just somewhat amazing. Other guide books operate the other end of the spectrum, in a cynical universe where the theme park experience is a gauntlet to be endured, less a vacation and more a death march with lots of costumed characters along the way.

Christmastime at Hollywood Studios
This isn't all the guides, of course, and over the years many niche topics have inspired their own books. There are books for visiting Disney with kids, without kids, for those that want to gorge and those that want to run. It seems that if you have some special interest or need, there's probably a book written for you.

However, there's a group of us Disney fans that exist in our own weird place. We have a childlike love of the parks and their world, and appreciate the work that goes into the smallest detail. We're also realistic, and see the profit driven business that exists behind the facade of magic and joy. We're not overly optimistic or cynical, but we still often find it a struggle to experience the parks. This is because we can't stand one unavoidable part of the theme park experience, the hordes of people visiting the place at the same time.

Universal's Citywalk is not exempt from overcrowding either
We are the misanthropes, at least when within the overflowing walkways spilling over with humanity. It's not that people are terrible in general. I often enjoy watching the antics of happy families, experiencing moments that seem plucked from a television commercial. Watching children's faces light-up when meeting their favorite character for the first time is amazing. You can also meet many fascinating people during the quiet moments, experiencing a melting pot of cultures from around the world.

Unfortunately, when countless people gather in one place, then force their way through blazing temperatures and long waits, the nastier side of human nature emerges as well. People bash their way through crowds using whatever is at end, whether it's loaded bags, electric wheelchairs, or even their own children. Inconsiderate individuals cut the lines, sing and shout over the sound of attractions, and repeatedly blind other guests with flash photography. This is to say nothing of those who overindulge at Epcot's copious array of alcohol dispensing establishments.

The absolute bliss of an empty Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom
The natural answer is to visit the theme parks during the off-seasons, when crowds are minimal. Even if this is an option, there still remains enough people to ruin any misanthrope's day, not to mention the chance for a random spike in visitors. When things become too hectic, when the combined forces of ignorance and lack of consideration become overwhelming, it's important to know where to escape and how to survive.

There is no Misanthrope's Guide to Disney World. I've always wanted to write a guide to Disney World, ever since I spent hours reading them as a child. I don't know if I'm up to the task, or have the time to invest in such an uncertain project. However, I think it's a niche that still needs addressed, and I think I can contribute something to the discussion.

Whether a series of articles or the foundation for something greater, I'm going to start writing the Misanthrope's Guide. We're going to enjoy Disney World, in spite of everyone else trying to destroy our fun.

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