Disney Parks and TGIF Programming

Curator's Note

A popular sitcom trope within TGIF programming was the Walt Disney World episode. This trope helped inculcate the Disneyization that occurred during the 1990s, especially considering that The Walt Disney World Corporation acquired ABC, host of the TGIF lineup, in 1996. Created in 1989, TGIF was designed to bring back that family-oriented block of television Jim Jacinek loved watching with his family, Wonderful World of Disney. Neil Postman (1985) noted that television is society’s “cultural command center,” which advocates that this sitcom-trope taught people that Disney World was the ideal place to be if one wanted to be happy and love others, whether it be friends or family. Where else could you be princess for a day or turn from Urkel into Stefan? Much like Darlene in Roseanne, the trope suggests that all it takes is a hug from Winnie-the-Pooh to turn that frown upside down. So, what did the generations take away from these episodes and how does this affect future generations? For one, the target audience for the TGIF lineup have now grown up and started their own families, and if large families like those on Full House and Step by Step can do it, then so can a smaller family. The images that were decoded were those of finding happiness, and the memories cultivated from these episodes may even imprint to make for a happier vacation, regardless of the long lines, big crowds, and hot weather that were ignored in the episodes. Walt Disney World, proclaimed as the happiest place on Earth, is the ideal narrative setting for relationship issues and misdirection. Using popular sitcoms is a brilliant way to bring more guests to the parks and encourage couples and families to continue visiting in hopes of recreating or reconnecting some of that magic they saw happen to their favorite characters. If Danny Tanner can get engaged, if Corey and Topanga can reunite, and if Sabrina can heal a heartbreak, then why would viewers not want to experience the same thing? If favorite and popular characters can reconcile their drama at the happiest place on Earth, then this place must be truly magical.

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