The Disney Curmudgeon on… Character Dining

The following piece will be a new weekly column on The Hyperion Papers where I, Danny, will express some disgruntled opinions about something Disney-related that I find irksome.  Look for it every Monday evening, and feel free to drop me your opinion on my musings in the comments.  I may even use it for fodder in future posts.

As a long time Disney fan, one who grew up in Central Florida and has visited the parks more times than one should probably bring up in polite conversation (lest you want to answer myriad questions about your sanity and emotional age), you should find it as no surprise that I frequent a few of the more popular Disney Parks-related message boards.  While I find the information, discussion and sense of community in such forums to be generally agreeable, there are days where whole conversations, or even sometimes single posts drive me over the edge.  I am an honest enough person, and I speak my mind freely.  I do it without malice, mostly, but I’m not blind to the fact that I sometimes come off as callous or snarky.  In one such instance, I was participating in a discussion on character dining.  I stated that I have never been to a character meal, as a child or adult, and that I have no interest in ever really doing so.   So, after describing my opinions on characters roaming the restaurant during meal time, which I will expound upon further below, one respondent took it upon herself to incredulously reply, “If you’re not going to dine with the characters, then even go to Disney World?”  Ugh.

"Let's have a round of applause for mediocrity!"

“Let’s have a round of applause for mediocrity!”

Okay, here’s the deal: Melissa and I are a young couple, we have no kids and we like our privacy.  I think that is enough to preclude our participation in the overpriced privilege of humoring a poor, sweaty local in a furry suit, but allow me to elaborate with three specific reasons, starting with:

1. The Food:  It is notoriously terrible.  With the exception of, maybe, Cinderella’s Royal Table, I don’t think I’ve ever found a character dining menu that has interested me in the least.  At the best, the menu has a couple of a la carte options that I find passable, but in the case of the aforementioned Cinderella’s Royal Table, one has to prepay a royal testicle just to get a foot in the door.  I can get better food for less than half the price at any of the dining options on the resort monorail loop.  No thanks.  At worst, and this comprises the vast majority of choices, the offering is a boring buffet with a spread as bland and uninspired as a communion wafer.  Melissa and I like to cook, we like to eat good food, and we appreciate a well-crafted meal.  Not that I have a problem with boxed mac ‘n cheese or everything fried, but when I’m paying over thirty dollars a plate, I want a chef to create my menu and an experienced kitchen to make my meal to order.  And I cannot, will not, forgive powdered eggs.  I would rather be the unfortunate soul in the Tigger costume than eat those eggs within earshot of that dude.  We just want a good meal, and that is not a thing to be had when characters are present.  It is just a sad fact.

2. Characters are annoying:  This one is simple.  When I take my lady out for a meal, I want to speak with her, have a conversation, enjoy the ambiance.  I do not want to have to shoo away an over-exuberant costume with lifeless eyes every time I take a bite of food.  At breakfast, if you bother me while I’m eating, I will end you.  Aside from the neighboring family’s kids roaming around under my table and sticking their snotty fingers in my food, I can’t think of a situation I would like less than actually paying someone to bother me during my meal.

3. I don’t want to be those people:  You know who I mean.  That couple sitting in the corner of the restaurant full of overstimulated children, with no children of their own?  Sure, they look innocent enough, but you still give them a leery glance from time to time.  What are they doing here?  Where are their kids?  Why does that bearded guy look so angry?  Why, because that’s just how I look!  I swear, I’m generally jovial, but I just come off as surly before you actually talk to me.  Also, I scare children just by being near them.  I’m serious.  I have literally heard children tell their parents as much in my presence.

After reading this, if you still think it’s a waste of time for us to visit Disney World and have zero interest in meeting Mickey during our meals, fine.  You’re misguided and stubborn, but fine.  But you certainly can understand why I find it so ridiculous that people endlessly complain about Be Our Guest not being character dining.  I think that we can all agree that the food options in the Magic Kingdom are abysmal.  Why take the one promising option we have and ruin it?  If you can’t understand why we would eschew the pleasure of the company of characters while we’re digesting, then I will continue to be dumbfounded by the throngs of people who disapprove of alcohol being served in the parks… But that’s a different rant for a different day.

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