It was because of those tots that I ended up buying myself and all three of their moms subscriptions to Wondertime. And we all liked the magazine so much, that I renewed everyone's subscription for a second year. Little did I know when I renewed that Disney was getting ready to swing the ax and kill my beloved magazine earlier this year. Titles have been folding left and right, but this was one whose demise actually prompted me to utter an audible gasp and exclaim "Oh, no!" when I heard the news.
So what does this have to do with FamilyFun? Well, the good folks at Disney, in their infinite wisdom, decided all of us Wondertime subscribers would rather have a replacement magazine in the same genre, rather than cold hard cash refunds. In a word: not!
I didn't have time to get very far past the corny covers of the first couple of issues that showed up in my mailbox, but since I was in need of something to review, I sat down with the June/July issue and vowed to give it every chance I could, even though my initial reaction to the magazine, based on the cover blurbs and brief skims, was that it was pretty lackluster.
Larry Dobrow was actually far kinder to the pub in his review two years ago than I am going to be.
It was just a little over a year ago that I wrote about Wondertime and gave it probably the most blatantly gushing review I have ever written. To compare and contrast, it's hard to believe the same publishing company even conceived of these two magazines, since they are so completely different. I feel like physically shaking each and every big advertiser in FamilyFun and saying "Why didn't you advertise in Wondertime instead, so I could still be reading it and not this inane drivel?" I find it hard to fathom that FamilyFun has 2 million readers, when Wondertime never cracked a million.
The vast majority of FamilyFun is things to do with your kid: craft projects and recipes for them to make with your help, kid-friendly trips to take, etc. The magazine seems to feed off the notion that kids need to have their time carefully scheduled full of activities.
Funny, I hear many adult complain about being tied to their BlackBerry and laptop, etc., yet we won't let the youngsters enjoy being young. When I was a kid, we took off in the morning for whatever adventure *we* dreamed up. We'd come back home for meals, and then out the door again. I played with friends, played alone catching caterpillars and toads, rode my bike around the neighborhood, you know the drill. It truly saddens me to see kids today so heavily scheduled with "activities" and lessons.
It doesn't help that many of the suggested activities are kind of boring. I can't imagine inflicting them on any of the kids in my life. I'd be embarrassed that this was the best I could come up with.
For example, one feature shows how you can cut up "red and white" grocery bags (never is the word "Target" mentioned, but it's pretty obvious that this is the store the bags came from) to make "patriotic" pom-poms. (You attach the cut-up plastic bags to a wooden stick that you've wrapped blue painter's tape around.) Another suggests weaving cantaloupe seeds into a necklace. You'd think the folks at Disney (a la Hannah Montana) would know that no self-respecting preteen girl is going to wear anything so lame.
Itineraries for family trips to Boston and San Francisco and Kentucky are suggested. Has no one told the magazine's editors that we are in a recession -- and just scraping the money together to take your family to a baseball game is about all most families can afford this summer?
The readers' comments and pictures just add to the overwhelming clutter throughout the magazine. Lucky for them they have so many ads, but it makes for some very uninspired art direction. Visually, it lacks the hipster edge that made Wondertime feel so special. I was never self-conscious about carrying around a copy of Wondertime. My inclination with Family Fun is to hide it inside of another magazine because I'm kind of embarrassed to be seen reading it.
Now that I'm done writing this review, I will be getting on the phone to Disney to ask for a refund. Nothing can replace Wondertime, least of all, this.
Published by: Disney Publishing Worldwide
Frequency: 10 times a year
Web site: http://familyfun.go.com/magazine/