A column complaining that Disney World’s “vigilance” is ruining the fun “because Disney cares more about politics than happy guests,” sparked a sharp backlash online this week.
The guest column, “I love Disney World, but wakefulness ruins the experience,” was written by Jonathan VanBoskerck and appeared online on the Orlando Sentinel on Friday.
In the column, Mr. VanBoskerck of north Las Vegas wrote that he had “seriously reconsidered” his commitment to the amusement park and the city of Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World.
“The more Disney moves away from the values and visions of Walt Disney, the less Disney World means to me,” wrote VanBoskerck. “Disney forgets that guest immersion is at the core of its business model.”
Disney has made changes to its parks in recent years to make them more “inclusive” and to provide an experience that “all of our guests can connect and be inspired by,” it wrote in a blog post.
Among the changes, Disney announced a “rethink” of Splash Mountain last year, previously based on the 1946 Disney film “Song of the South,” in which a former slave tells African folk tales.
Changes have expanded beyond Disney’s parks, including the decision not to stream “Song of the South” on Disney +.
Disney World reopened its Pirates of the Caribbean ride in 2018, replacing a scene where pirates were selling women at auction. The scene now shows the sale of “city dwellers’ most valuable possessions and goods,” according to a blog post on the Disney Parks website.
Among other things, the company announced that it is building “on the story” of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland and Disney World to “take on new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love – more humor, wildlife and skipper hearts – and also reflect and appreciate the diversity of the world around us. “
The Jungle Cruise ride includes one Indigenous character named Trader Sam who sells shrunken heads. The character was recently removed from the ride.
In business today
April 23, 2021 at 1:31 p.m. ET
“We’re addressing negative portrayals of locals at the attraction,” Disney told Attractions Magazine.
In his column, Mr VanBoskerck said Disney brought “a woken scalpel” to the jungle cruise.
“Every adult in the room realizes that Trader Sam is not a representation of reality and is intended to be a funny and silly cartoon,” wrote VanBoskerck. “It’s no more racist-based than any Disney caricature of a touchless white American father.”
Mr. VanBoskerck, who referred to himself as a “Christian and Conservative Republican,” said he and his family have been Disney customers for decades and that in addition to annual visits to Disney World, the family goes on a Disney cruise or two every year. “
The Las Vegas Review journal and court documents identified Mr. VanBoskerck as an assistant district attorney for Clark County. The prosecutor and Mr VanBoskerck did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
“The parks are less fun because the immersion and thus the joy of politics takes a back seat,” wrote VanBoskerck. “Immersion shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and appeasing the Twitter mob.”
Then came a Twitter mob for Mr VanBoskerck, whose comments online generated a strong response, including from some politicians.
Val Demings, who represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District, where Disney World is located, said on Twitter that she supports Disney’s work to be more inclusive.
“I take pride in representing a community that is welcoming, tolerant, and constantly evolving to deliver the best experience possible,” said Ms. Demings.
Florida State Legislator Anna V. Eskamani took a different approach on Twitter.
“So this grown-up Las Vegas man is crazy about Disney removing racist characters and animatronic rapists from their rides?” Ms. Eskamani said. “Have I understood that correctly?”
Mr. VanBoskerck criticized other changes Disney made, such as one announced this month to allow Disney employees “greater flexibility” with “forms of personal expression” such as nail and hairstyles and visible tattoos.
“The problem is, I don’t travel around the country paying thousands of dollars to see someone I don’t know express themselves,” he wrote. “I’m there for the immersion and the imagination, not the reality of a stranger’s self-expression. I do not allow these people their individuality and wish them all the best for their personal life, but I cannot express my individuality at my place of business. “
In a blog post by Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Disney announced that the change would allow cast members to “express their cultures and individualities at work,” and that the company “remains relevant today remains a job. “
Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
The decision among many is that the park “put a stronger focus on inclusivity and belonging for our cast,” after listening to cast members about their ideas for change, D’Amaro wrote.
Mr VanBoskerck wrote that the next time he goes on the Jungle Cruise or visits Splash Mountain, he will be thinking about Disney’s political agenda.
“This is a mood killer,” he wrote.