There's a LOT going on right now (more so this week). Escapism is important and hard in these days of hyperconnetivity. If hugging a park specific IP Squirrel or eating at PizzaRat makes you...less stressed. Do it twice.I get your original point. And I resemble that remark lol
Last Friday, in the same day I wore Mickey ears at a WDW park, and then took an Earl plush for a photo with the meet and greet character at Universal.
Both parks got my money. I shared photos of both experiences on social media. I am your worst fears realized.
The endgame? Probably to make money and make people happy.
One final thought. The children meeting the holiday squirrel after me had no clue who he was. They were just happy to hug a fun character and the parents were happy to get photos. Removing the Disney Adult element from the equation, these types of experiences still work on their own as well. Lifestyle brand or not.