Keep the Magic Kingdom Dry

A very polarizing article was posted on the Disney Parks Blog yesterday.

You have to hand it to Disney – they tried to hide the devil in the details. In a fairly standard Parks Blog article filled mostly with “food porn” and the daily quota of Disney marketing words (magical, story, inspired, and theme) they deftly and delicately dropped an atomic bomb.

The Magic Kingdom will begin serving alcoholic beverages.

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Let me state very plainly, I am against this decision.

Guests who feel the need to purchase alcohol can do so at any of Disney’s other theme parks (including the water parks) and resorts. The only reason to allow the purchase of adult beverages inside the gates of the Magic Kingdom is for profit. Plain and simple. There’s a lot of money to be had in the sale of alcohol – and the Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world. How could the Disney brass deny 17 million annual visitors the chance to drop $8 for a pint ($12 in a souvenir mug)?

Walt was no teetotaler. In fact, his favorite drink was a scotch and water (right after work, usually while still in the office). So, why has there been – until now – a rule regarding no service of alcohol in the parks?

Walt’s “official” decision to exclude alcoholic beverages from the Magic Kingdom theme parks dates all the way back to his search for Disneyland East. One of the original possible locations was St. Louis, Missouri; due to its proximity to Walt’s boyhood hometown of Marceline. As the story goes, once August Busch heard about this possibility he threw in full support; wanting to be one of the local monetary sponsors. He thought it would be a great opportunity for Busch Beer and unabashedly suggested that his company’s beer be the only alcoholic beverage served in the park. Offended, Walt told August that the intention was to make Disneyland an innocent, family-friendly park – free of alcohol.

Not only did any further discussion of building in Missouri end, ever since then, it was decided that all Magic Kingdoms would be “dry” parks (Disneyland’s one exception is the exclusive Club 33). It should be noted: Disney’s official language is that St. Louis was ultimately decided against due to the inclement weather (which is certainly plausible).

Coincidentally, construction began on Busch Gardens Tampa in 1957, and the park opened March 31, 1959. Walt had to have known this. I wonder if his decision to buy property in Orlando (only 85 miles away) was partially driven by some sort of old spite still held against the beer magnate.

It’s very telling. August Busch knew, all those years ago, that Walt Disney’s parks presented him with a fantastic business opportunity. Regardless of the fact that this sort of deal would also be financially wise for Disney, the company stood its ground on principle. In what sounds like the beginning of one of Disney’s own fairy tales: 45 years after the king had passed, the kingdom was overthrown by the Green-eyed monster.

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