September 2012: It’s official: The Magic Kingdom at Disney World will serve alcohol. A few people will love that; some people will hate it; most won’t care. Still, it marks a significant change from Walt Disney’s legacy. More so than the other parks, Walt wanted to keep his Magic Kingdom G-rated, or at least PG, and that can’t include liquor.
As announced, the change is small. The soon-to-open Be Our Guest restaurant in the new and upgraded Fantasyland replicates the castle from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. While used for dancing in the film, it will be a fine dining restaurant in the evenings soon. And what kind of fine French restaurant doesn’t serve wine?
There will be no free-standing bar beside it to attract the harried fathers who find themselves without children while they spend 45 minutes seeing Ariel with their mother – at least not yet. Still, it’s a foot in the door.
If one restaurant serves alcohol, even for a good reason, it’s not a leap to find it elsewhere once Disney gauges the public’s reaction. Wine is also, for example, a hallmark of Italian cooking, and Tony’s Town Square restaurant (from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp) has been a decades-long hallmark on Main Street.
Mixed drinks, wine, and beer represent a significant yet downplayed profit center for Disney. As one Disney cast member says, “You wouldn’t believe the amount of liquor Disney serves.”
And I personally think that’s a good thing in a place where people can take a monorail back to their room. After all, they’re on vacation.
My guess: The Magic Kingdom is, from now on, a drinking park. But public reaction to this change to Walt’s legacy will make or break the latest alcoholic expansion.