We’re a little late to the punch on this one, but since this remains (for some reason) a popular news story, we thought we’d share our take on the news that four more Magic Kingdom restaurants will begin serving wine and beer starting December 23, 2016.
These restaurants are Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, Liberty Tree Tavern, Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen and Cinderella’s Royal Table, all of which will serve 0n-theme alcoholic beverages with lunch and dinner. Per Disney, this is a reaction to requests from guests, and alcohol will not be available to-go.
This was a big deal when it was announced that Be Our Guest Restaurant would serve alcohol 4 years ago, prior to its opening. There was a lot of fan outrage, and understandably so. We do not feel that it is nearly as big of a deal 4 years later, but it seems the internet disagrees as this was the “big news” this week in the fan community. As such, we thought we’d share our take…
The reason this is a big deal to many is because Walt Disney famously prohibited the sale of alcohol to the general public in Disneyland. In a 1956 interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Walt said: “No liquor, no beer, nothing [in Disneyland]. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don’t want and I feel they don’t need it. I feel when I go down to the park I don’t need a drink. I work around that place all day and I don’t have one.”
In context, this interview was about how Disneyland differed from a traditional amusement park, and how it offered an inviting atmosphere for families. (The interview also specifically addresses clean toilets…it’s a pretty enlightening and amusing read.) It’s perfectly understandable, we think, that fans are angered by the sale of alcohol in Magic Kingdom, as Walt was pretty explicit on this.
Now, it could be argued that times have changed and it’s impossible to speculate on how Walt’s views with alcohol would have changed or “evolved” over the years. That’s one perspective…but unlike technology or attraction preferences, human behavior when mixed with alcohol has been pretty much constant. It’s not like there is something new that changes everything when it comes to booze in Disneyland (and by extension, Magic Kingdom).
Despite that, to be honest, we have nothing against alcohol being sold at table service restaurants in the castle park. It has been for two decades in Disneyland Paris (in a similarly restrained manner) and problems have not arisen. So long as the mass consumption of alcohol isn’t easy or implicitly encouraged (looking at you, Food & Wine Festival booths), it’s unlikely to be problematic in Magic Kingdom.
As Be Our Guest Restaurant has demonstrated, alcohol at table service restaurants only is enough friction to prevent this from being a concern. Besides, realistically, if someone wants to be wasted in Magic Kingdom, it’s not impossible to drink at Trader Sam’s and take a boat over.
Our issue is with the hypocrisy of the decision. If you’ve ever looked at an announcement of an attraction closing or pretty much any potentially unpopular change being made, it’s justified with some Walt Disney quote about progress or moving forward (here’s one of many, many examples). The message is always clear: “what we are doing is okay because this is what Walt would have wanted.”
This cherry-picking of Walt Disney quotes to justify business decisions is disingenuous at best, and emotionally manipulative at worst. The fact is, no one knows what Walt Disney would have wanted or done decades after his death, and to apply a very vague message to very specific decisions is totally inappropriate. That’s doubly so when there are also very specific quotes about very specific decisions (such as this one about alcohol) Walt did make.
So, while we don’t have a problem with Magic Kingdom serving alcohol in table service restaurants (as someone on Facebook quipped, maybe it’ll make the food at Tony’s Town Square palatable) and we doubt it will lead to anarchy or a drunkfest in the park. We do have a problem with the continuing use of invoking Walt Disney to justify certain decisions, while totally ignoring him when it comes to others. We certainly don’t expect Disney to be totally honest and admit that all decisions it makes are in pursuit of profit, but don’t insult customers by pretending the decisions are made to honor Walt Disney’s legacy. Because they are not.