A quick disclaimer: I have no kids of my own. That said, three of my closest friends have four kids between them under age 3. And I do take my "auntie" duties very seriously.

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 aboutWondertime 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:

4 comments about "FamilyFun".
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  1. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service, June 5, 2009 at 1:48 p.m.

    The underlying mantra of 'you're stupid and uncreative! Your kids are stupid and uncreative!' is the reason the only time I have ever cracked any of these magazines has been in a doctor's office where it's that or something put out by the makers of Nexium. Parents generally don't see themselves as morons, nor do they see themselves as pretentious smotherers, so these magazines are appealing to only a small oblivious segment of the grocery store magazine rack.

  2. Michael Woolbright from Parent Leader Publications, June 5, 2009 at 1:54 p.m.

    I agree. I first found Wondertime in the Doctors office and sent away for a subscription. - It is WONDERFUL! I also receive and usually read FamilyFun and it's just not the same. As a single dad with 4 1/2 year old twins, We have our Adventure days. It's a lot easier to say we're going on an adventure, with a surprize ending, so if our plans change, there are no disappointment. Maybe Wondertime can come back on the web? we're trying to put together so if any writers are looking, we're ramping up!

  3. Lori Osiecki from Merryweather Farms, June 5, 2009 at 7:27 p.m.

    I agree! Wondertime was well done. FamilyFun is not. I received an e-mail saying "Thank you for your subscription." But I didn't subscribe to this substandard magazine. I thought that e-mail was some fraud-mail until the magazine appeared in my mail box.
    I guess the question on my mind is why did Disney keep FamilyFun over Wondertime??

  4. Page Allenbeth from PARDON MEdia, June 8, 2009 at 12:11 p.m.

    FamilyFun is filled with fluff and seriously lacks substance. The word "whimsy" will always be ruined for me, thanks to their docile editor Jon Adolph. He describes everything as being whimsical, or having a dash of whimsy...gag.

    It was slightly shocking to see that DPW chose FamilyFun over Wondertime. Tanya is correct in that the magazine is cluttered and uninspired; but, it is even more remarkable to note how the SVP and her minions feel superior to other titles. For example, they poke fun at other titles offering parenting, date night, and tantrum-diffusing and potty training tips (instead of overwhelming the audience with boring crafts). So apparently at FamilyFun, potty training happens all by itself? Maybe they have a craft potty for that, made out of old OJ containers and recycled bags? Or perhaps next time my little one melts down at Target, I can grab a bunch of their plastic bags and make a damned pom-pom? Right.

    The title is in the midst of a current upheaval after their third round of lay-offs (outing Publishers MB Wright and D Mevorah was technically a first, then they had two rounds of office closures and cuts) and is suffering greatly. They have more management than staff and are forced to offer ridiculous prices for an inferior product within their category; be it parenting, travel, etc.

    What my clients enjoyed most about Wondertime was the aesthetic with the understated edit. Perhaps FamilyFun should have taken a cue from Wondertime, seeing as Wondertime was the recipient of many, many accolades.


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