How Disney Might Be the Key to Connecting with Millennials

adulting blogger bounders connection culture disney generational gap lifestyle millennials reaching millennials tips truth Apr 26, 2019

There are several running theories on the internet that Disney has had the ability to shape certain generations.  While I’m not ruling it out, I think the even bigger question is, “Do you believe Disney has had an impact on shaping you and how you connect with Millennials?

This question has been actively on my mind since my recent trip to Disneyland in California.  I experienced Disneyland with two GenX women and no children. It was life transforming for this Xennial, so cue the research and here’s what I believe maybe be possible if you can understand how Disney influenced your generation to better connect with Millennials.

First, a little history is necessary.  Did you know that in 1955 when Disneyland opened in California, Walt Disney had over twenty years of movie making under his belt already?  He was seen as an icon due to the release of these award-winning animated movies throughout the country; Snow White (1937), Pinocchio & Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1935), and Lady & the Tramp (1955).

Sleeping Beauty, Pollyanna, Sword & the Stone, and Mary Poppins followed suit also during the time period of the Baby Boomer generation. These movies were the pop-culture of their births.  If you’re a part of the Baby Boomer generation I believe the fact that the first rides in Disneyland from 1955 are called “DARK” rides probably says it all on how you can best connect with Millennials.

Millennials are looking for someone to support them through the dark stuff. As a Baby Boomer you have this unique ability to make it through the scariest, darkest, and traumatic experiences more than any generation. Your parents were coming out of World War II.  You also watched as you sent your children off to war in Vietnam, and then your grandchildren too into Iraq. Baby Boomers you are tough! You could ride those “Dark Rides” at Disneyland and not blink an eye where Mr. Toad triggered my PTSD like you wouldn’t believe.  Where Baby Boomers can take pride in connecting with Millennials is seeing that Millennials are seeking light and might not be aware of the darkness around the corner. Like Pinocchio or Mickey in Fantasia, Millennials need Baby Boomers to bridge the gap of hope. As a Baby Boomer, you can be available to dive into the dark seasons with a Millennial so they can have support to finding the strength to find their way out.

Now for the Gen-Xers in the room.  Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you!  The connection between Gen-Xers and Millennials is probably one of the most important surrounding the famous mouse ears!

As Gen-Xers you are many times seen as a generation that chooses to have a chip on your shoulder, the quickest to look for a way to escape, or just think about yourselves.  As a Gen-Xer you have so much to offer in acceptance to Millennials, and I feel it’s pretty sad that the world has been trying to pit you against each other. During your births, Walt Disney passed away and it led to Disney as a company having a bit of a lost identity.  Go figure?! The generation that is continually stereotyped as “finding themselves” would be born during a time where the Disney company was doing the very same thing! As Gen-Xers you were probably more influenced by your parents' perspectives of the nostalgia of Disney than any of its releases during that time if you were influenced by Disney at all.  You probably can’t name one big hit during your childhood from Disney themselves, and by young adulthood, Star Wars was your future.

As a Gen-Xer, the way Disney might be able to help you connect with Millennials is seeing that you know better than any of us how to figure things out about YOU.  There’s a reason self-help is huge with Gen-Xers as well as Millennials. As a Gen-Xer, you’re the Hans Solo. Help Millennials navigate their way to their next destination.  It may seem like “The Force” isn’t with them but it’s only because they’re missing a key character in their story and that’s you! Luke & Leia never would have gotten as far without Hans and Chewy, do your part and be the brave navigational guide Millennials are meditating for in the swamps of their dreaming of the future!

Lastly to my Xennial counterparts, here’s how I believe Disney has prepared us to be the connectors of past generations with Millennials.

At the time of our births (1977-1983), Xennials were thrown into the starts of Disney realizing they needed to stick with what they knew, they realized they couldn’t forget Walt.  Disney released its first VHS Video in 1981, and it was Dumbo, something that resonated with a group of children with the largest divorce rate at the time in our country. Our Saturday Morning cartoons were completely influenced by Disney with shows like the Adventures of the Gummi Bears and Duck Tales.  We also witnessed Disney at a young age in a different way, commercially and socio-economically. Going to Disneyland or Disney World became the ultimate family vacation and social status. Birthday parties were themed with Ariel and The Muppets. By the time we were in high school, pretty much every movie we had seen in the theatre had been produced or created because of the company leadership transitions between Disney, Paramount, and Warner Bros.  

As a Xennial you can connect with Millennials by knowing that taking the best from the past and infusing it with innovation, collaboration, and transitions are the only way to growth.  Without our generation making instant hits of movies like Roger Rabbit (1988), The Little Mermaid & Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) Disney may not have found their way to cinematic masterpieces like Beauty & the Beast or being open to creating a creative partnership with Pixar, Inc in 1997.

Maybe you don't feel you have a connection to Disney as a part of your identity or your generation, or like me, have a fascination with what they have done commercially over the years, however, if you do, I hope this perspective might help you see the lessons Walt is still teaching us today.

That whatever we accomplish belongs to all of us, to create a tribute to our combined efforts.” - Walt Disney

Imagine when Generation Z is grown… one word for you, Marvel.

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