Dear Disney, You Screwed Up

mickeyDear Disney,

You’ve been our family’s safe haven for 12 years now. Faithfully, we’ve visited your park each year, always staying at one of your luxury resorts. Few things can replace the magic of being immersed in a fantasy world, which you can only experience when staying on property. It’s where trash disappears before it falls to the ground. Where you can spend hours each evening walking outside, without the threat of an insect bite.

Everyone in the park pays hundreds of dollars, just for the pleasure of walking through your gates. There, homelessness and poverty no longer exist. The reality of the world disappears as you walk by perfectly manicured grounds, fairy tale castles, and blooming rose bushes. Even the sounds you hear are manipulated. Disney approved music follows you wherever you go, from the hotel lobby to the park gates, to ride queues and restaurants, your meals served by men and women in fanciful costumes, wishing you a magical day.

Everything on your property is make-believe and whimsical. The threat of alligators in central Florida may have been well known to you, but to someone from Michigan (or in the case of the victim’s family, Nebraska) this reality is not known to us. This is especially true considering the atmosphere we are surrounded by. One where nothing is real and nearly everything is manipulated by man. The name, Seven Seas Lagoon, alone implies it is part of your experience. The lagoon, which is man-made, is the last place I’d expect an alligator. That’s why non-Disney resorts close to yours, post signs saying not only no swimming, but be aware of alligators. TMZ has reported that one of your resort employees, claims it was known that guests feed alligators from their balconies. However, the Grand Floridian is an incredibly large hotel. It is entirely reasonable that this behavior (if accurate) was not observed by the majority of your guests. And, if it was a known problem, why didn’t you do more to warn your guests?

I am tired of the media referencing the “no swimming” signs and the fact you are in “gator country”. Your lawyer may say this makes the parents partially responsible, but I don’t feel that way.  2-year old Lane was wading in the lagoon, so close off shore that his father was able to attempt a rescue from (reportedly) the pool area. On social media, parents have posted pictures of their children playing in this same location, including one taken just 30 minutes before the attack. Swimming and playing just off the beach are two different things. While I am not certain I would have allowed my kids to play there, I can’t say that with certainty. After all, you play movies on a wide screen each night on your beach. This is also where your guests frequent, when watching Magic Kingdom fireworks. Therefore, where this occurred is not a remote area in the least. With all the pictures appearing on social media, it seems you should have known kids wade in this water frequently. At the very least, you should have installed better signage or a life guard who could warn of the dangers. Keep in mind, rooms in your hotel are $550 + each night, even more depending on the season. Taking additional steps to secure this location wouldn’t have left your resort unprofitable or been unreasonable to expect.

I understand you’ve been in business over 40 years and this is only the second alligator attack. The first occurred in 1986 at Fort Wilderness. Thankfully in that case, the 11-year-old boy survived. However, I am disappointed, really outraged, that more wasn’t done to prevent Tuesday’s attack. I can’t emphasize enough how expensive a Disney vacation is, especially for those fortunate enough to stay at the Grand Floridian. The best legal, security and wildlife experts should have been at your disposal; even if alligator attacks are rare and this animal’s behavior was atypical. Where we stay, Beach Club, has a beach area with its own body of water. It’s called Crescent Lake, but I have no idea if it’s accessible to alligators. I wonder if my kids have played there. I don’t remember them doing so, but I certainly would have been oblivious to any risk if it existed. In a world of singing bears and dancing giant mice, it’s no surprise Lane’s parents felt comfortable with him in the water.

I know that you are currently reviewing your safety and signage policies. I’ve read that access to all beach areas has been temporarily closed. According to TMZ, at least some guests at the Grand Floridian are receiving refunds; an approximate cost of ½ million each night this policy is extended. I am glad to hear you are doing the right thing in that regard, but it’s not enough. I’ve lost my trust in you. I thought you were better than this.


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