Photo credit: Disneyland Resort
Why am I so upset about the recent increase in admission prices at the Disney theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim? As you read on this blog, that organization has adopted a form of "surge pricing", increasing its already-high one-day ticket prices by about 20% on weekends and during periods of high demand. The result is that some parents bringing their children to the Magic Kingdom are faced with prices as high as $124 per person per day for youngsters 10 and more, and $118 for children below 10.
And why am I upset? I am disturbed by the obvious fact that, more than ever before, poor families will be unable to bring their children to Disney World and Disneyland. Poor children, increasingly, will hear their classmates rave about the wonders of never-never land while knowing that they themselves will not be able to experience the same thing.
In many other areas of American life, we attempt to prevent such disparities. All over the nation, school children including the poor are brought to visit museums of art and nature free-of-charge, without discrimination based on income. In numerous theaters and playhouses, school children of all backgrounds are brought, free of charge, to attend presentations. In New York's Broadway theatres, the producers of the hit play-and-musical Hamilton have set aside cheap lottery seats and seats for school children of all income backgrounds.
In Europe, museums of art and history display price charts enabling free or drastically-reduced admission to pensioners and people of low income. They seek to make the wonders of history and art available to all their citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.
Now I am aware that the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chicago Art Institute are not to be compared with the Disney theme parks. The exhibits and paintings of the important museums are vital contributors to education and the proper development of young people. The Disney exhibits, by contrast, are too often frivolous and/or commercial. And yet their fairytales and flights of imagination are marvelous creators of character, and most families believe they are helpful to their children's development and enjoyment.
I am also aware that under our economic system, no one can force the honchos of Disney to reduce their profits somewhat. They have an absolute, legal right to increase every possible buck of income. They can charge what the traffic will bear.
But shouldn't they also have a conscience? Aware that their children enjoy the riches of these remarkable theme parks while others, less fortunate, are barred from having the same experience? Would it be so earth-shattering if they were to reduce or eliminate admission charges for persons on food stamps or otherwise income-impaired?
And shouldn't we, the more fortunate, use public pressures to sway Disney's policies? Shouldn't we write them, and contact other policy makers, to urge Disney to give thought to the poor? And shouldn't poor children, and not simply well-off children, enjoy the wonders that Walt Disney brought about? For that matter, shouldn't we all remind the current executives of the Disney organization of their creator's love for children of all income ranges?
Would Walt have stood silent while poor children were barred from his theme parks because their parents couldn't afford the tab?