A Look at What Makes 'Disney Adults' Tick

'New Statesman' notes many are unwitting creations of the company itself
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2024 9:30 AM CST
One of Disney's Most Lucrative Characters: the 'Disney Adult'
A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse is seen in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)

If you want to start a surefire online debate, mention the idea of "Disney adults." You know, those who regularly visit the parks sans children or remain superfans of the movies, merchandise, and characters well past childhood. Critics will say they need to grow up and get a life, and supporters will tell the critics to lighten up because they just don't get it. "What is missing from endless comment sections is the fact that they are a creation of the Walt Disney Company—a character constructed just as carefully as Elsa or Donald Duck," writes Amelia Tait in the New Statesman. Indeed, both the mockers and the defenders appear to think the phenomenon "arose by accident" instead of as the result of a careful corporate strategy, writes Tait. She explores all of this, starting with her own survey of more than 1,300 self-described Disney adults around the world.

A typical Disney fan might be a white, college-educated woman in her 30s who grew up with Disney all around her. Tait notes that 77% say they remain devoted because Disney "makes me feel happy," but she finds it more telling that 81% say "it offers an escape from an increasingly troubled world." Which prompts her to wonder: "If Disney adults—by their own admission—are seeking escape from a troubled world, then who told them entertainment, not collective action, was the best option? Who told them to seek escapism instead of an escape?" The answer, of course, is Disney itself. Tait details how the company (which declined to comment for the story) began cultivating adult consumers in earnest in the 1990s—even if the adults themselves were not aware of it. Read the full story. (Or check out other longform recaps.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.