Created By: NateTheGreatJune 17, 2011 Last Edited By: ArivneNovember 9, 2015

Disneyland Dad

He doesn\'t need to be a disciplinarian, so he can buy his kids\' love.

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The trope "Willy Wonka Divorced Parent was launched prematurely and must be redone.

A Disneyland Dad (term found at the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere) is one who feels that he has to take his kid(s) somewhere spectacular and do expensive stuff to earn their affection. Usually these are divorced parents with limited visitation rights.

A more sinister implication is that since he doesn't live with the kids anymore, he doesn't have to be a disciplinarian and can be the "fun parent." Needless to say, this can annoy Mom, as it makes her look like the bad guy.

An article and comments about the phenomenon can be found here.

Up For Grabs.


Live Action TV
  • In Better Off Ted Ted complains that his ex-wife lets Rose run wild when staying with her, and that he has to be the responsible one because he's "an actual parent, not Willy Wonka."
    Ted: Really, sweetie? Ice cream for breakfast? No, you're right, I don't let you do that. You know what I do let you do? Get vaccinated.
  • Castle. The title character's ex-wife Meredith, Alexis' mother, actually makes Castle look like the responsible parent. Apparently she once dropped by Alexis' school to take her to Paris on a whim. Alexis, fortunately, is more responsible than either of her parents and basically sets the rules for herself.
  • One episode of The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody establishes that the twins' father is a crazy rock star who sets no boundaries at all.
  • Manny's dad on Modern Family.
  • Ludmila in Daddys Daughters.

Western Animation
  • Also, (a different) Manny's mom in El Tigre.
  • Paul in Dexter acts like this toward Astor and Cody in season 1.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • June 17, 2011
    A particular and frequent variation of this is set around Christmas and revolves entirely around the dad's efforts to get this year's Cool Toy or his kids despite its scarcity on the shelves; sometimes the idea of rivalry with an ex-spouse factors in.

    • While he's not actually a parent, Scrooge Mc Duck tries to use his wealth to outdo Donald Duck and win over the nephews in some early Carl Barks stories, before they switched over to more adventurous romps.

    • The "still married" variation is extensively parodied in National Lampoon's Vacation and its sequels with Chevy Chase as incompetent, secretly psychotic wannabe Disneyland Dad Clark Griswold.
    • Robin Williams is like this at the beginning of Mrs Doubtfire; it causes his divorce and sets off the plot of the film.

    Live Action TV
    • Deconstructed for laughs in an episode of Seinfeld when his retired parents, giddy with life in their retirement community, splurge by buying Jerry a Cadillac. Since Jerry is an adult who resents the implication that he's not doing well, and since he lives in New York City and doesn't want to pay exorbitant insurance and parking fees, the gift is more of a White Elephant than a treat.
    • In one Christmas episode of the American Office, Michael Scott decides to go wildly above the $20 limit on gifts by buying an iPod in hopes of winning his staff's affections. It doesn't work very well.
      • Another Christmas episode had divorced dad and Butt Monkey Toby Flenderson trying to buy that year's hottst doll for his daughter, specifically so that he could look better than his ex-wife for once. It doesn't work very well.

    Western Animation
    • After Milhouse's parents get divorced, his mother Luanne briefly turns into this despite the fact that she's the custodial parent.
    • In a creepy variation, the "invisible thief" plaguing the city in an episode of Batman The Animated Series is an ex-con using a mind-damaging hi-tech suit so that he can ignore a restraining order and visit his daughter by posing as her "imaginary friend," winning her affections by stealing jewelry and money to give her expensive gifts. It swiftly degenerates into a kidnapping scenario when he reveals his identity and doesn't get the reaction he expected.
  • June 17, 2011
    • Although not divorced, Hal goes through a phase of this behavior in an episode of Malcolm In The Middle, after he notices that the death of his own father doesn't make him particularly sad. He comes to the conclusion that this is because their relationship wasn't very tight, and now worries that the same is going on with himself and his sons, and that they will forget him rather quickly after his own death.
  • August 26, 2011
  • August 26, 2011
    • Tino's dad in The Weekenders. All Tino wants to do is spend some time alone with him, but he keeps taking him to various attractions and chatting with his former classmates.
  • August 26, 2011
    • Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking is a cigarette lobbyist who takes his son with him on business trips. His ex-wife is not amused.
      "You took him to a cigarette factory." - "No, I took him to a tobacco farm. That's hardly the same thing."
  • August 27, 2011
    This wiki had a Disneyland Dad article about 2 years ago. I don't know why it was removed, but I suspect it would have been removed for good reason, as such a loaded term is Flame Bait and prone to Internet Backdraft. If you're going to push this through, it would be wise to aggressively enforce Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgment and No Real Life Examples Please. It should also be noted that there are a lot of factors involved in setting up a proper parenting environment, with time and static environment being two of the most critical, and in practice, both are in very short supply for the non-custodial parent.

    Also, don't even allow a Troper Tales section for this one. It would probably decay into Complaining About Ex Spouses You Dont Like or Complaining About Distant Parents You Dont Like
  • September 7, 2011
    Since Troper Tales doesn't exist anymore, that's not much of a problem. I agree with the "No real life examples" notice for sure.
  • January 1, 2012
  • January 1, 2012
    From the description, this sounds like the sort of antics step-parents get up to as well. Would those count?
  • January 2, 2012
    I'm not sure. Further commentary?
  • May 30, 2012
    • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter makes a hurtful remark about his kids and spends a lot of effort to earn back their love, but their hurt just couldn't be healed... until Peter pulls out an X Box 360 and they all lovingly embrace him.
  • May 30, 2012
    Good idea, crappy name.
  • May 30, 2012
    Propose a better one, then. I don't like the name either, but that's what it's called. Urban Dictionary entry.
  • July 4, 2012
    In Alyssa Brugman's Young Adult novel Being Bindy, the protagonist Bindy's mother acts like this, constantly taking her out on trips during visits every second weekend. (which is how often she sees her mother). She resents it, feeling like her mother is trying to "make up" for not seeing her often. This book also has her (former) best friend turning against her and them hating the idea of their parents dating. Do we have that trope?
  • November 5, 2012
    There are examples of non-divorced parents creeping in, and that's probably going to continue but I think it's a separate trope. Perhaps we should have a separate Fun Parent Responsible Parent trope for when they're a functioning couple? That, or officially expand the definition of this one.
  • November 6, 2012
    Another episode of Family Guy, Peter makes Stewie angry, deep-sixing the week's worth of "bonding" they had done over the middle third of the episode (said bonding consisted entirely of tormenting Lois because Stewie thought it was hilarious); so to make it up to him, he takes him to, aha, Disneyland. Hilarity Ensues.
  • June 1, 2013
    Sorry, lost track of this one. Should this be discarded, or do people think this is a real trope?
  • June 1, 2013
    Aside from the specific example of Hal from Malcolm in the Middle being this, given above by Lobster Magnus, he's also more generally this by default, since Lois is the hardass. He's covered for the boys on a number of occasions, and there have been a few episodes where he does something fun with the kids (like taking them out of school so they can see an auto race, or taking Francis on a motorcycle trip) behind Lois' back, with the express condition that they never tell her. She usually finds out just the same though.
  • June 1, 2013
    Non-divorcee example from Foxtrot: In one arc, Bumbling Dad Roger quits his job so as to spend more time with the kids. Unfortunately, his idea of fun is more about stuff like Monopoly and Horrible Camping Trips (in fact, when he first told the kids about it, they reacted exactly the same as his wife: "You quit your job? Are you insane?"). Fortunately, it all works out once he realizes how stupid the whole idea was, and as an added bonus (for his family, that is) they won't be able to go on their Horrible Camping Trip this year.

  • June 1, 2013
    I feel like Well Done Dad Guy, which has been launched in the time this was made, winds up filling this trope well enough. I think that description could make specific mention about it but I think adding this one makes it redundant.
  • June 1, 2013
    • The Trope Namer (IIRC) is Dawn's father from The Baby Sitters Club. She goes back to California to visit her father (parents are divorced) who takes her and her brother to Disneyland. Dawn reflects that as much fun as "Disneyland Dad" is, she'd much prefer a dad who was always at home.
  • November 15, 2013
    I think Well Done Dad Guy doesn't have to be an actual dad (as it can be a leader of any kind) while this trope is specific to dads - divorced dads who doesn't have the right for their children anymore.
  • January 4, 2014
    More examples?
  • January 4, 2014
  • April 20, 2014
    • Formatted the Examples section.
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Added Example section media header(s).
    • Namespaced work names.

    Modern Family, Daddys Daughters and El Tigre are Zero Context Examples, and Dexter is close to being one.
  • November 8, 2015
    Yikes, a year and a half? We need to tidy up the examples a bit before launch, right?
  • November 8, 2015
  • November 9, 2015
    Barney Miller: Recurring character Mr. Driscoll, who in the backstory had divorced his wife after he realized he was gay, comes to the squad to ask for help when his ex-wife refuses to let him see their son any more. The ex-wife complains that Driscoll is exposing their son to bad influences including his Camp Gay lover Marty, but it turns out that she just wants him to stop spoiling their son by taking him out to Broadway shows and fine dining restaurants when she can't compete with that kind of monetary outlay and has to be the bad guy and make the son do boring things like homework. "Could you just be less exciting? Say 'no' once in a while!"
  • November 9, 2015
    • In The Babysitters Club, Dawn refers to her father by the trope name (particularly in the opening chapters of The Ghost at Dawn's House), saying that while he always seems to be arranging fun things for her and her brother to do when they visit him in California (such as visiting Disneyland), it doesn't feel like having a "real" father.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable