"Moooom! Do we have to?"
Ah, that all-too-familiar refrain; the bane of bleary parents and the final plea of young 'uns who "just want to ride Buzz Lightyear", it runs rampant everywhere in Disney parks, lurking wherever boredom and exhaustion cross paths. It can be heard escaping the lips of restless rugrats as Mom drags into a 40-minute sit-down show, or groaned by teenagers who deem themselves "too cool" for It's a Small World.
My most recent encounter with that ubiquitous phrase occurred when I was peacefully floating down the Rivers of America on Magic Kingdom's Liberty Belle steamboat. As I listened to a hyperactive little boy lament the boat's achingly pedantic pace (specifically in relation to the nearby Big Thunder Mountain) to his exasperated mother, I began to reflect upon the not-too-distant past when I spouted the same sentiment. I have distinct memories of my dad insisting that my sisters and I join him in hiking up all 116 steps of the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (which my fourteen-year-old self was none too pleased about) and of humoring my parents' love for shows like Country Bear Jamboree and The Enchanted Tiki Room. Luckily, the last five years have treated me to advancements in maturity, attention span, and degree of Disney love, and my tweenage disdain for the classics has been crushed with adoration for Small World and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority- a love that, I believe, is firmly planted in the traditions begun on that fateful vacation.
While the Hall of Presidents or the Carousel of Progress sound like the antithesis of fun to a sugar-rushed twelve-year-old, they both hold prominent places in the history of Disney parks. I was once chastised by a cast member at the Hall of Presidents who overheard my gripes at having to "waste my time watching fake presidents", and I finally understand why. The woman (who I perceived to be incredibly rude at the time) was clearly passionate not only about the Hall's importance in relation to America's past, but its place in the story of Magic Kingdom as well. The Carousel of Progress, while admittedly outdated, captures the essence of American innovation- a principle near and dear to the heart of Walt Disney himself. It recalls the simplicity of an era without smartphones and wifi, a time when even the slightest advance in basic technology was met with awe and wonder. That is why these attractions are important.
The audio-animatronics may be jerky and the jokes tend to be a little too corny for their own good, but Walt Disney World's classic attractions are a window into the passion of of an innovator and, perhaps even more significantly, the foundation of the American spirit. These quintessential rides and shows represented the cutting edge on their opening days. People were amazed, and they continue to be to this day. Through wind, rain, and surly teenagers, these attractions consistently weather the test of time.
So, the next time your ears perk to that persistent protestation, take a deep breath, smile, and know that there's a great big beautiful tomorrow (and chances are, that kid will feel a lot differently when it comes)!