Why Do UCI Students Love Disneyland?


Image from hellogiggles.com


UC Irvine students are no stranger to Disney-overload: when we log into Instagram, there is usually at least one friend posed in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Walt Disney quotes flood our newsfeeds on Facebook, and a large portion of our friends have Disneyland Annual Passes.  


If you think about it, Disneyland is just a theme park. It is this little microcosm inside of Anaheim, with various shows, rides, and restaurants to market Disney products. And yet, to many people, Disneyland is so much more. 


What about Disneyland makes people come back again and again?  


Brittany Jennings

Annual Pass Holder 

Visits per month: At least twice a month, and as often as three times per week. 

“My favorite quality about Disney is how magical it always is, no matter how many times I go. I see a little kid having a moment with his or her favorite Disney character and I get all giddy.” 


Pam Esquivel 

Cast Member at Disneyland

“I have such a respect for the company as an employer. They are committed to excellence - they do so much recognition for their cast members, and they have specific programs in place to make sure cast members are always informed, updated, and safe!”“My favorite part of working at Disneyland is that everyone is friendly and excited. They are genuine hard-working folk. A man named Carl works for Security at the Check-in gate, and whenever he is there, he has cookies for you grab before and after your shift.” 


Tivoli Evans 

Annual Pass Holder

Visits per month: Two-three times per month. 

“To me, it is the idea that you are in the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland touches your heart as a young adult because you can identify with the nostalgia of it all. You grew up watching all those movies. Now you can continue to remember them through Disneyland, and through characters that you loved when you were a child.”


Lauren Widger 

Cast Member at Disneyland 

Visits per month (outside of work): Once every two or three months. 

“I love how timeless and universal it is; I love all of the history and how it hasn't changed much since it opened almost 60 years ago. I also love how it appeals to all ages, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. It shows how Disney is a shared experience that appeals to everyone.”

“I think the high standard of cleanliness and adherence to the various themes of the park creates a world that you get immersed in, and makes you completely forget the outside world. I get this feeling every time I walk down Main Street towards the castle. Even though I've been to the park countless times, there is something still iconic and magical about strolling down Main Street.”


Image from sheknows.com


But how do frequent visitors not get bored with Disneyland, when UCI students are so flooded with Disney and its main park is a mere twenty-minute drive from campus? To not wear themselves out, one of the key strategies for Pass-holders is to go for shorter periods of time and explore different areas of the park. 


“Disneyland is so much more than going on rides, so when you go a lot, you don't feel pressured to go on all of the rides before the day is over.” Lauren Widger claims, “I enjoy watching shows, trying new restaurants, and just walking around. There is always something new to discover with every trip to the park.”


“The key to never getting tired of Disneyland is to go in small doses. I went three days in a row this week, but only for maybe five hours each day. It's enough time to get a snack and go on a couple rides,” Disney-lover Brittany Jennings adds. “I used to get bored of Disneyland when we had passes when I was little. I think it was because we would go ALL DAY LONG. Disneyland is very draining. Being older and having a pass is so much better. I have to freedom to come and go as I please, with whomever I choose. Since renewing my pass, I have not had a dull moment at Disneyland.”  


Capitalizing on this desire to return and rediscover the park (along with the influx of visitors they will experience with the upcoming summer months), Disney recently raised their ticket prices, Annual Pass charges, and parking fees. Now, if you want to enjoy just one of the parks for one day, you would have to pay $96 per person! In addition, one obstacle facing UC Irvine students is Disney’s elimination of the Southern California Annual Passport. In the past, SoCal residents could go to Disneyland and California Adventure 215 days per year for $379. But as of May 18, 2014, students will have to choose between the Southern California Select Pass (170 days per year, $289), the Deluxe Pass (315 days per year, $519), and the Premium Pass (365 days per year, $699, includes parking). 


“It's astounding how much guests pay for tickets to Disneyland, and how the ticket prices keep increasing but the guests keep coming. I think this is a testament to how influential Disney is in people's lives. Although it costs a lot of money, the standards at Disneyland are much higher than other more affordable theme parks, so as the saying goes: you get what you pay for,” says Cast Member Lauren Widger. 


One-time Pass-holder Bri Verham disagrees: “As you get older, if Disneyland is the most amazing place in the world, you haven't traveled far enough from home and experienced life. These people should use those $100 that goes to Disneyland tickets, and spend it on a road trip or to go somewhere different, to experience a different culture or just the town next door.”


“People love Disneyland because of the hype. They go with the flow and pretend to like it just because everyone pretends. It's a strange collective thought. Maybe it’s to maintain their youth. I think it's stupid and very juvenile.”


Image from panoramio.com


Others disagree with the Disney company itself, and for good reason. 


“I don't like Disney because of the messages they choose to portray in their movies. As wholesome as they like to believe they are, they don't represent all races correctly and in a culturally-sensitive manner,” comments UCI Senior Thu Nguyen. “For example, Pocahontas and Jasmine are sexualized and exoticized compared to Snow White or Cinderella, a.k.a. the white, superior females. Also, Disney’s story lines always have a weak, submissive female lead being the symbol of "good,” telling girls that this is what they should aspire to be. Not to mention that a man always has to come in to save the day, and to give purpose to the female's position. Disney is racist, sexist, problematic, and capitalizes on selling images of backwards characters.”


In regards to Disneyland itself, she continues, “I think people like Disneyland because it perpetuates an alternative reality that is better than the world we actually live in. We all want love stories like the princess stories. We all want the hero winning every time and the villain getting what they deserve. However, those stories aren't real, and in a lot of ways dissatisfying than the real world.” 


Despite these valid claims about Disney (last year, they even tried to trademark the Mexican and Latin American holiday Día de los Muertos), a lot of UC Irvine students continue to ditch campus life and immerse themselves in Disneyland. Disney understands the pull it has on its fans, and consistently increases its prices. But somehow there remains this indefinable quality about Disneyland , created by its enthusiastic employees, warm nostalgia about being a kid again, and the sight of children experiencing the park for the first time, that keeps our students eager to push through the gates at Disneyland once more. For many Anteaters, it is all about the “magic.”