By Marilyn Ferdinand
For those of you who may have been wondering why things have been quiet at Chez Ferdy on Films, the answer is that I’ve been in Orlando working a convention for my day job. Specifically, I have been at one of the resorts that service visitors to Disney World. The property, the Coronado Springs, has a Latin American theme. The eateries are Mexican cuisine, though in a nod to people who don’t want to eat quesadillas every day, a cafeteria-style restaurant offers pizza, pasta, and salads. The sit-down restaurant features margaritas of every stripe as their signature drink. A sweeter, more nauseating margarita I have never had. The grounds are beautifully planted around a manmade lake that is encircled with a trail for early morning joggers—in mid June Florida, only a crazy person would go running when the sun dominates the sky.
And, of course, the ever-present Big Brother that is Disney surveys it all.
Now, I’m not talking about Walt and Roy per se. Yes, the cartoon-centered empire is built upon their creations and business sense, and Walt makes appearances via all the TV screens and monitors Disney controls. It is that control that makes Disney so B.B. on the Disney Magical Express shuttle from the airport to the resort, those little pop-down screens you see on airplanes creating a hazard to body and mind. I literally injured myself when I bumped my head on one as I sat down in my seat. During the 40-minute ride, not even the sight of great blue and great white herons flying and strutting through what marshes remain along the spaghetti bowl of highways could help me escape the nonstop commercial that ran on these Orwellian ViewScreens. When I took the shuttle back to the airport at the conclusion of my business, one of the passengers said families should plan to bring $2,000 per child for a trip to Disney World, and seeing how the commercial hyped the shopping and the necessity to go to all of Disney’s theme and water parks, I’d say his estimate was right on the money. Oh, and don’t forget that if you are kicking yourself for not buying that $200 Cinderella porcelain music box, there’s always the online shopping experience for when you get home. Oh, and don’t forget, we have another park in Anaheim (but let’s not talk about EuroDisney right now—it’s not the happiest place on earth). Cruises to Alaska, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean populated with your favorite Disney characters and gift shops complete the money pit.
I was not prepared for the total immersion of Disney. Little girls can be seen everywhere wearing princess costumes. Every product, from a candy bar to a belt buckle, is Disney-branded. The Coronado Springs is brightly colored and, from a distance, looks like a cartoon set. It is impressive beyond belief how single-minded the Disney Co. is in creating its own highly scripted version of reality. This really is Disney World, covering a vast expanse in Central Florida that pays homage to American family values—children, wholesome entertainment, shopping—like nothing else. It’s impossible not to be awed into wanting everything Disney has to offer.
I had no time or energy—nor was I tempted to part with several hundred dollars—to try to get to Downtown Disney, Epcot, or any of the other locations accessible by bus (no walking here!). So my remove from the actual frenzy of kids and parents enjoying and enduring at the main attractions let me take a look at the value on offer at the resort. Frankly, the guest accommodations were pretty paltry. The rooms were fine, but the safe for valuables would hold a wallet or two, being that it was just a shallow hole cut in a wall with a locking metal panel in front of it. The TV set had very few entertainment stations, taken up as they were by more Disney advertising. Many of the sinks didn’t work in the common bathrooms, and I swear I heard Mickey Mouse laughing every time the toilet flushed.
My Disney memories have nothing to do with Goofy or Donald or even the Mouse himself. My most exciting moments comprise having a hummingbird feeding at a flower while I sat on a bench talking on my cell to the hubby, seeing a locust on the ground moving slowly and bending its legs like a folding chair in a hypnotic ritual, and watching the volunteer members of the association for which I work conduct their business according to Robert’s Rules of Order—a fascinating look at democracy in action on behalf of children. Disney could take a few cues from these volunteers.