Created By: NateTheGreat on June 17, 2011 Last Edited By: AndreaTx on December 2, 2017
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Disneyland Dad

He doesn't spend time on his kids, so he spends money instead.

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A non-custodial or limited-custodial parent who prefers to take their offspring somewhere spectacular and do expensive stuff to earn or show affection. Disneyland Dad doesn't spend time with his kids, so he spends money on them instead.

When parents divorce, it's understood that one parent will move out of the family home. The parent that leaves generally will see a drastic reduction in how often they get to see their children, which may or may not be because of limited visitation rights. This trope can also apply to parents who were never married and have chosen to go their separate ways, but still have children as a result of their relationship.

Generally, there are two types of Disneyland Dads:

  • Type I: Got the short end of the custodial stick, but genuinely loves their kids and wants to spend time with them despite the restrictive custodial agreement. This is emotionally taxing for them, and when they do have their children, they want the experience to be as memorable as possible to make up for their inability to spend more time together. How to show the kids Dad loves them? Take them to the most magical place on Earth!

  • Type II: Doesn't get to see the kids often and that's fine. After all, they have a career or post-break up personal life to focus on. However, even parents who are cool with not seeing their kids every day, or even every month, periodically get a paternal or maternal inkling and feel obligated to go pick up the kids for visit. But what to do with them? What are the kids even into nowadays? Don't know? Take 'em to Disneyland! What kid can resist Disneyland?!

While the kids may love this or thinks it's incredibly lame, depending on age and disposition, the point of the outing is for the non-custodial parent and kids to be able to spend time together with minimal preparation, restrictions or discipline, often allowing this parent to be seen as the "fun parent."

This style of parenting can backfire, possibly resulting in a "The Reason You Suck" Speech by the primary custodial parent, who's tired of looking like the boring, bad guy for enforcing the rules on an everyday basis, or the offspring finally tiring of the elaborate but sporadic outings and making it clear that their affection can't be bought.

May over lap with "Well Done, Dad!" Guy, Visit by Divorced Dad, and Push Over Parents. Contrast Disappeared Dad, When You Coming Home, Dad?, and Daddy Didn't Show. May result in Lonely Rich Kid.

No Real Life Examples, Please!

Examples

Comics
  • While he's not actually a parent, Scrooge Mc Duck tries to use his wealth to out do Donald Duck and win over the affection of his orphaned nephews, Huey, Duey, and Lewey in some early Carl Barks stories.

Film

  • Chef: Carl is so engrossed in his work as a restaurant chef, he mostly ignores his kid Percy even though said son is interested in his job and wants to see the kitchen for himself. When the two get a single day off together, it's summed up in two brief shots of them on a rollercoaster, at a movie, and then Carl having driven Percy right back home.
  • Robin Williams is like this at the beginning of Mrs. Doubtfire; it causes his divorce and initiates the plot of the film.

Literature
  • In The Babysitters Club, Dawn refers to her father almost by 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.
  • 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.

Live-Action TV
  • 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.
    Ms.Driscoll: Could you just be less exciting? Say 'no' once in a while!
  • 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.
  • In the first season of Dexter, Rita's ex-husband, Paul, gets out of prison to find his ex-wife and children living with another man. Because of legal issues surrounding domestic violence against Rita, Paul is only allowed weekly court-supervised visits with his children so he tries to make their time together as fun as possible. It's both because he genuinely loves his children and is bothered by them possibly considering Dexter, who they interact with every day, a father figure.
  • Don Draper in Mad Men. He's pretty much an absentee father after he divorces his wife, Betty, but he periodically picks his kids up for visits into the city, which is practically magical to kids raised in the suburbs, and actually takes them to Disney Land in California.
  • In the American remake of TheOffice divorced dad and Butt-Monkey Toby Flenderson trying to buy that year's hottest doll for his daughter, specifically so that he could look better than his ex-wife for once. It doesn't work very well.
  • 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 an annoyance than a treat.
  • 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.

Western Animation
  • Gabriel Agreste from Miraculous Ladybug is an Ice King Control Freak that has Adrien's entire life planned out in a calculated desire to protect him from the world. Due to his job as fashion mogul and [[spoilers:his excursions as Hawk Moth]], Gabriel could not actually be there for him and instead compensates using his vast fortune to keep his son happy and complacent with any material thing he wants. It doesn't, but still it's the thought that counts.
    Natalie: [Talking to Gabriel Agreste on the phone.] Yes sir, understood. I'm sure he'll understand, sir.
    Adrien: My dad's flaking, isn't he? Let me guess, something came up?
    Natalie: Yes, but he has reserved the best seats in the house for you Adrien. Front row.
    Adrien: As usual, the best money can buy.
  • Tino's dad in The Weekenders. All Tino wants to do is spend time alone with his dad, but his dad keeps taking him to various attractions and talking with other people.

Indexes

Community Feedback Replies: 49
  • June 17, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    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.

    Comics
    • 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.

    Film
    • 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
    LobsterMagnus
    • 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
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • August 26, 2011
    Bisected8
    • 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
    donald
    • 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
    terrafox
    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
    unhappyyak
    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
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • January 1, 2012
    Generality
    From the description, this sounds like the sort of antics step-parents get up to as well. Would those count?
  • January 2, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    I'm not sure. Further commentary?
  • May 30, 2012
    Noah1
    • 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
    animeg3282
    Good idea, crappy name.
  • May 30, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    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
    MorwenEdhelwen
    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
    johnnye
    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
    dvorak
    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
    NateTheGreat
    Sorry, lost track of this one. Should this be discarded, or do people think this is a real trope?
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    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
    Noah1
    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
    Larkmarn
    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
    littlemissmuffet
    • 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
    DAN004
    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
    NateTheGreat
    More examples?
  • January 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Laconic?
  • April 13, 2016
    Arivne
    • 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.
  • November 8, 2015
    NateTheGreat
    Yikes, a year and a half? We need to tidy up the examples a bit before launch, right?
  • November 8, 2015
    DAN004
  • November 9, 2015
    randomsurfer
    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
    KaiYves
    • 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.
  • April 12, 2016
    Noah1
  • April 13, 2016
    Arivne
    The last four OP examples are Zero Context Examples and have been marked as such (ZCE). They need more specific information about how they fit the trope.
  • April 13, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    This is different from buying your kids affectionate, right? They need to actively take them places?
  • April 15, 2016
    Aubren
    I'm confused as well. Is this just a nice dad, or is this a dad who feels like he has to literally buy his kids love? The laconic and draft describe two different things.
  • April 15, 2016
    NateTheGreat
    This is by no means simply a "nice dad". After all, even married parents can buy their kids presents and take them places. But a divorced father doesn't have the restrictions on his spending that a married father does. And it's not "I have to buy my kids' love", it's "Now I can buy my kids' love."
  • April 15, 2016
    DAN004
    A "too nice" dad, basically?
  • June 16, 2016
    NateTheGreat
    Huh?
  • June 16, 2016
    DAN004
    Again, see also Visit By Divorced Dad
  • January 14, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    Closely related, but not quite. A little help "un-ZCE-ing", please?
  • November 28, 2017
    Noah1
  • November 28, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    • Pizzazz's father Harvey in Jem is a rich businessman who buys her presents and gives her money rather than affection. He became this way after Pizzazz's mother walked away on them. Pizzazz grew up into an Attention Whore precisely because of this lack of affection from her father. His spoiling her also caused her to become a Spoiled Brat Woman Child.
  • November 28, 2017
    AndreaTx
    Don Draper in Mad Men. He's pretty much an absentee father after he divorces his wife, Betty, but he periodically picks his kids up for visits into the city, which is practically magical to kids raised in the suburbs, and once took them to Disney Land in California.
  • November 28, 2017
    AndreaTx
    Changed the laconic. Here's the original if the change is not acceptable:

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

    Are we working on the description because right now it reads like an internal memo.
  • November 28, 2017
    SquirrelGuy
    MAD Magazine had a feature titled "You know you're really divorced when..." One item was that you've run out of things to do with your kids on visiting days, and you've been to the zoo so many times that you're on a first-name basis with all the animals. There was a picture of the elephant smiling at the kids waving at him.
  • November 29, 2017
    AndreaTx
    • Changed the laconic

    • Did a complete overhaul of the description

    • Sorted through the examples (Excluded aversion/ subversion where the parents are still married or the primary custodial parent is the one going over the top).

    • Edited examples for spelling and grammar.

    Since it's up for grabs, I don't mind working on it.
  • November 28, 2017
    LB7979
    Compare and contrast Bumbling Dad
  • November 29, 2017
    Omeganian
    Reminds me of this story from Techtales:
    • We had this gentleman call in and ask us "What's your top-of-the line best, most expensive model?" I explained to him all the features of our newest and best models, and he decided he wanted to order the color, high res, super expensive Palm. He also decided to order all of the games expansion cards we had with it. He then proceeded to ask "Do you need to know how to read to use this?" I explained that is was just like any computing device, and literacy is usually helpful to get the full potential of the device. He asked "Do you think my 4 year old would like it? I just HAVE to get a better present than her mother is getting"...

    Right. What's a 4 year old going to do with a wireless handheld computer?

  • November 29, 2017
    LB7979
    IIUC that's a Real Life example, and this is No Real Life Examples Please
  • November 30, 2017
    LavonPapillon1
    Natalie: [Talking to Gabriel Agreste on the phone.] Yes sir, understood. I'm sure he'll understand, sir.
    Adrien: My dad's flaking, isn't he? Let me guess, something came up?
    Natalie: Yes, but he has reserved the best seats in the house for you Adrien. Front row.
    Adrien: As usual, the best money can buy.

    • Gabriel Agreste from Miraculous Ladybug is an Ice King Control Freak that has Adrien's entire life planned out in a calculated desire to protect him from the world. Due to his job as fashion mogul and his excursions as Hawk Moth, Gabriel could not actually be there for him and instead compensates using his vast fortune to keep his son happy and complacent with any material thing he wants. It doesn't, but still it's the thought that counts.

    Also, I'd mention Lonely Rich Kid being the result of this trope.

  • December 1, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    • Chef; Carl is so engrossed in his work as a restaurant chef, he mostly ignores his kid Percy even though said son is interested in his job and wants to see the kitchen for himself. When the two get a single day off together, it's summed up in two brief shots of them on a rollercoaster, at a movie, and then Carl having driven Percy right back home.
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