Spring break starts today, and that means lots of families are heading for Disneyworld or Disneyland. As a seasoned vet of the parks, I have some advice about the rides.
Most important: Make sure the ride is age-appropriate. Space Mountain, a murderously disorienting roller-coaster, is frightening for adults who have a keen grasp of physics and mortality, but kids over four love it. Kids under four fly off and are never seen again. Zygotes spontaneously dissolve. The fear of Space Mountain is the beginning of wisdom, to paraphrase a spiritual koan, but most kids beg to go again. Because when they took that corner they felt their neck go CRACK and it was COOL.
Does this mean that kids are immune from being scared? Of course not. Haunted Mansion, for example, is a bona-fide Pamper-packer for very small kids, because it’s full of skeletons and dead things and spooky mad laughter. Any parent who takes a small child into the Haunted Mansion is risking about six months of nightmares. But it’s a loud ride, so if your child howls like a harpy hosed with holy water, people will think it’s part of the ride.
Not so “Ellen’s Energy Adventure.” You might think: Ellen DeGeneres! Instructional movie about the source of energy! Safe bet. No. Read the description. Contains dinosaurs. Contains big animatronic dinosaurs. If your child loves purple cloth-swathed dinosaurs like Barney, it does not follow that he will appreciate a 17-foot tall robotic T-Rex lurching from the darkness and screaming hot carnivorous lust. It’s not as bad as the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom; I’m a grown-up and I bought stock in the company that makes Depends after that ride.
You’re warned at the start that Ellen’s Energy Adventure takes 37 minutes, and if you cannot sit in one place for 37 minutes, you’d better leave, because they’re welding the doors shut and posting ninjas in the back to silently kill anyone who tries to leave, or something like that. The moment the ride began, a Small Child began to wail. When we hit the segment with the enormous robot dinosaurs, the child was screaming at a frequency that dissolved dental enamel.
Which brings us to another point: if your kid starts to scream, and you can get out, get out. Really. We went to the Carousel of Progress, where genial robots describe the technological advances of the previous century. It’s about as scary as Winnie the Pooh passing gas in a coma, but if you’re very young the undead talking machines might unnerve you. Sure enough, a kid started screaming as soon as the robots began to talk, and the kid did not stop. He cried through the 1900s. He cried through the 1920s. When we got to the 1940s the audience had exhausted its supply of sympathy, and began to issue shushes. SSSHHH. SSSHHHH. WE CAN’T HEAR THE ROBOTS PRAISE THE ADVENT OF THE DISHWASHER.
Any parent with three electrons of common sense would have left when it was apparent that Screamy McLeatherlungs would be howling until he got some sunlight and sugar, but no: the parents stayed their ground. Eventually the mom turned around and shushed everyone else. Having made her point that we were all unfair judgmental meanies, then she got up and left.
Any more suggestions?