I’m incredibly aware that people hate “Disney adults”. To most, an adult’s self-professed love for Disney has been branded as “cringe” as Rolling Stone reports: It’s “deeply embarrassing to throw oneself into a subculture ostensibly aimed at children — even though the Disney parks, as Walt Disney first conceived of them, were very much intended for people of all ages.”
An opinion piece published by The Tab in 2020 labelled “Disney adults” as “overgrown children” that “should be in divorce proceedings with their self-esteem.”
The writer mentions that instead, “they’re hopping up and down at the gates for the post-apocalyptic reopening of Disneyland, posing with Belle and Aurora like they’re meeting actual fucking royalty.”
If that’s your opinion, that’s fine.
“Disney adults” can be a lot, and I’ve also cringed over that one video of the girl crying over seeing the castle for the first time (if you know, you know).
It’s also not the first time “Disney adults” have been under fire either – recently, a Reddit thread went viral for featuring a bride who decided to pay for Disney characters to appear at her wedding rather than pay for dinner for her guests.
That said, who are “Disney adults” really hurting? Apart from the fact you don’t understand why they love Disney so much, I can genuinely say in our current climate, “Disney adults” should be the least of your worries.
How the escapism of Disney helped me through my depression
While I had been to Disneyland Paris as a young child and was seated for the animated movies my mum put on in my early years, I truly couldn’t remember any Disney-related memories from my childhood.
I first travelled to a Disneyland park as an adult during my second year of university. It was a day trip with my partner, and although I had the time of my life, I remember collecting my thoughts on the train ride back.
For the whole day, I’d not thought about anything negative. I hadn’t thought about anything else apart from how happy I was – a feeling of happiness I’d not felt in a while.
On that day, I began planning my next trip – this time Walt Disney World in Florida – and fell into the rabbit hole of Disney-themed YouTube and Instagram content, religiously watching vloggers that showcased content from what you can eat to their experiences in the parks.
Some content-creators have even made Disney their full-time career, journaling what’s new and upcoming in the parks (even including construction work).
My love for Disney arrived at a time when I was struggling with an MDMA addiction. For several months beginning in my first year, I was using the drug regularly due to it being readily available at parties and on nights out – it became the absolute norm and I was sometimes doing it three to four times a week.
My relationship with the drug followed me through my third year on university which was the worst year of my life. Even though I had fallen into the ‘Disney trap’, I was still consumed by every decision I’d made using the drug in the past two and a half years.
It wasn’t until I rewatched Mulan while completing my final year coursework. I was listening to ‘Reflection’, and I remember how the lyrics resonated with me, and what they still mean to me today.
At that time, I was still very much struggling with my sexuality – the lyrics “Now I see that if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart” tore right through me. It was as if someone had stood right in front of me, took off my ‘mask’ and gave me a warm embrace.
How I used Disney vloggers to feel good again
I told my mum the truth, and through her assistance, therapy and antidepressants, I was able to kick the habit and finish university with a clear mind.
I also began reaching for Disney-themed content rather than messaging my friends to “go out” just as an excuse to use drugs. I focused on the lives of Disney vloggers, planning my holiday schedule, and learning about Disney’s history as opposed to wanting to feel numb for a few hours. I know it sounds silly, but it worked.
Even now, when I feel low, I whack on my favourite Disney Youtubers and lose myself in their content for hours. I genuinely don’t know how to explain it, but it’s as if Disney switches off the button in my head that’s filled with anxiety and sadness, telling me I’m “not good enough.”
The art of escapism
“Disney Parks are entirely immersive. Everywhere that guests look, there are buildings, paintings, plant life, sights, sounds, and smells that transport them from the day-to-day to a magical place.
“The average person can travel from the future to a storybook village, to the jungle, and back, all in a matter of hours,” says Inside The Magic.
Entering Walt Disney World allowed me to escape my reality and enter a world that was meticulously crafted through the eyes of someone else for others to enjoy – a world that I (and so many others) could explore for a short while instead of having to deal with our problems.
For me personally, it eradicated the fear I have as an LGBTQIA+ individual living in a big city. The unwillingness to show PDA or be myself was removed by the bubble that Disney provided.
Being a “Disney adult” saved my life
Falling in love with Disney allowed me to put my focus on something else that wasn’t self-hatred, but instead positivity and journey into self-love. It helped me through university and put an end to my recreational drug use. It allowed me to take off the metaphorical mask I was wearing and allowed me to be openly vulnerable with others in a way that I didn’t think was possible.
It was my saving grace during the pandemic, and counting down the days till my next trip (at the time) allowed me to escape from the realities of the death, loneliness, and all-around sadness that Covid had plagued us with.
Becoming a “Disney adult” not only allowed me to claim back the years of life I lost in the pandemic, but also my teenage years – a time rife with self-hate, bullying, and homophobic slurs.
It let me look back at my former self and tell them that it was going to be okay, even if that form of happiness was in an overpriced Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzel.