My Latest Tilt At Windmills: Disneyland

I have been having a bit of a battle with Disneyland. It was brought to my attention that the Haunted Mansion now includes a scene of serial murder. A series of wedding portraits always show the same bride, but with different husbands. The husband hollographically loses his head, and an axe appears in the hands of the bride in each portrait. I have a problem with that, and began a quest to find a way to register a complaint. They don’t make it easy. I finally sent in a contact through a Disneyland website, and received a canned reply. The gist of it was “As diverse as the millions of visitors are who come to the DISNEYLAND® Resort each year, so are the reactions and opinions that we learn about. While we realize that it is impossible to please everyone at all times with the decisions that are made, it is always our goal to provide a quality “show” for our Guests. Please be assured that your comments have been shared with the necessary leaders.”

Well, you know me. Nothing is quicker to rouse my ire as getting a canned response that doesn’t even address my concerns. I sent them a more detailed email, explaining fully what my objections are. Neal worked for Disney Resorts – he was part of their “family.” At least 40 members of his department came to his memorial service – he was a well loved cast member. I felt I deserved better than a form response. I really wanted them to think about the message that they were sending. And I threatened them with a bigger stick.

Disneyland’s next response was more to the point, and not a form letter. Their hearts went out to me for the tragedy that came into my life. They are very sorry for my loss. They danced around the issue, and made non-committal noises. Main paragraph: “Our role at the Disneyland Resort is one of storyteller. While the majority of our attractions focus on more light-hearted themes, The Haunted Mansion is one attraction that delves into a darker side of storytelling. While our goal is to offer a wide variety of entertainment offerings, it is never our intent to offend our guests, and I apologize that this attraction has offended you.”

I don’t object to dark themes or Halloween. I don’t care if the ride is spooky and I have no religious points to make about the attraction. I object to murder. They are portraying serial spousal murder, and it’s wrong. It’s not just a matter of taste, or culture, or religion. Is there a society or group of Disney guests that doesn’t think murder wrong? If there is, then chances are they aren’t big on Disney anyway.

Maybe it’s a tempest in a teapot. Maybe I’m making a big deal about nothing. After all, I can always avoid going into the Haunted Mansion. But, then I think of the millions who go on the ride for the first time, unsure of what they will find. How many of them are in some way victims of violence, trauma or murder? Once you are seated in the ride, you can’t very well get up and leave, and you can’t unsee the portraits without covering your eyes, as the “buggy” turns you deliberately to see them. You are stuck. The mood of fun is destroyed. Memories that you probably hoped to leave at the gate resurface.

I also think about how important Disney has become in the lives of children. The characters, stories and movies are everywhere. Parents and their offspring have learned to trust that Disney is safe. If it’s Disney, it’s bound to be full of wholesome images and happy endings. Perhaps that is a rosy outlook, but it pervades our culture. That image of being a family friendly empire was important enough that the Pirates attraction was changed to be more politically correct. If the pirates can chase girls in circles only because they are carrying food or other valuables, then surely the Haunted Mansion can do without its axe murdering bride.

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