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Disney Adult is a slang term used disparagingly against adults who, whether they have kids or not, are overly obsessed with Disney and its products to the point where they treat it less like a company and more like a lifestyle and identity. Despite the phrase being coined in the late 2010s, Disney Adults have been a growing trend since Millennials and Gen Z grew up with the corporation’s intellectual properties in the 1990s and 2000s (a time in which Disney was rapidly growing) and have aged into adulthood but still held onto their '90s nostalgia in a form of corporate fanaticism. While some proudly identify as Disney Adults, the term is primarily used as a criticism or insult online toward those who refuse to grow up.
Before the moniker "Disney Adult" existed, people were aware of adult Disney fans and commonly mocked them online, typically being perceived as weird. The sentiment was somewhat prevalent on the internet during the mid-2010s, though never under the overarching slang term.
One of the earliest viral precursors commenting on the topic was uploaded on March 7th, 2017, by the College Humor YouTube channel that uploaded a sketch in which an adult Disney fan goes on a date and displays how weird and off-putting they are, earning 2.3 million views in five years (shown below).
The earliest known online mention of the term "Disney Adult" was referenced on the Disney Tourist Blog on June 20th, 2017, though it merely referred to "families with 'Disney adults' who are under 21 must pay the adult price for the Disney Dining Plan." However, on August 9th, 2018, the blog Polka Dots and Pixie Dust published an article titled "Things to Do at Walt Disney World for Adults" that contains the earliest known use of the slang term to refer to adult Disney fans visiting the park. While not used in a negative context, it does coincide with the phrase in its current usage (shown below).
Being a Disney Adult means you can stay out late, walk the trails, grab a drink, and eat Disney Snacks before dinner.
Though Disney Adults existed as a subculture for many years, with Marvel, Star Wars and other adult-oriented properties existing under the Disney umbrella for over a decade, it wasn't until 2020 that special exception was taken toward a specific type of Disney Adult — the theme park adherent. This can be seen in the Urban Dictionary definition for Disney Adult, which was added to the site by user SnackStealer on August 12th, 2020, with a short definition and poignant description (shown below).
Adults that are ironically obsessed with Disney, like grow up
Chris is suuuch a Disney adult! They visit the parks every year and do NOT stop talking about it.
As the slang term solidified and was used more commonly in the early 2020s, Disney Adults began to spread in notoriety with increased media attention on viral shenanigans that took place within Disney theme parks, particularly those about adults some perceived as acting out or being child-like.
One such example that sparked a viral debate surrounding Disney Adults was posted on Unilad's Facebook page on May 11th, 2022, about a viral video of a woman crying after hugging a mascot dressed as the Goofy character. The post (seen below) received over 8,500 reactions and 1,700 comments in one month, with some arguing in the comments about whether the behavior was acceptable, though many of the top replies defended her.
Disney Adults often partake in what's known as Disney Bounding and try to dress up as their favorite character or own Funko Pops of them. Because of this, the phrase also began to spread online during the early 2020s through a similar usage to OK Boomer where any reference to a Disney property that seems out of place can result in the person labeled a "Disney Adult."
One such example of this use is seen in the Instagram post by Pathologicals on May 12th, 2022, which was about the Johnny Depp Trial. The post, which uses the phrase "Disney Adult Syndrome," received over 4,800 likes in roughly one month (shown below).
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