Disney has announced a bold and progressive new direction for its theme parks. The company is taking a series of steps to make sure inclusivity is a key part of all Disney properties. Among the changes are making attractions like the Jungle Cruise ride more reflective of the diversity of the visitors to Disney theme parks.
In a statement released Tuesday on the official Disney Parks blog, Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products, outlined the new direction and how the entertainment giant is “taking action to create meaningful change.”
Part of the change means revamping rides with outdated and flat-out racist allusions, such as Splash Mountain. Modeled after perhaps Disney’s most controversial movie, “Song of the South,” it has long been viewed as loaded with offensive imagery. The theme of the popular ride is being remodeled as “New Adventures with Princess Tiana” in the theme of “The Princess and the Frog,” the animated film which featured Disney’s first black princess.
But other key overhauls involve the workers at Disney’s theme parks and their appearance. The company is going to allow workers to choose gender-inclusive hairstyles and costume choices, as well as wear jewelry and nail styles that accurately reflect their cultures. Perhaps the biggest change to Disney’s formerly clean-cut appearance policy? Parks employees will be able to display tattoos on the job, provided they are appropriate. The company said these changes were part of their overhaul of long-standing polices after discussions with employees going back to 2019.
It’s hard to overstate how big a deal some of these changes are to Disney corporate culture. Consider this: When Walt Disney opened DisneyLand in 1955, no employee was allowed to have facial hair. It took until 2012 for Disney Parks workers to be allowed to show up for work with a beard.
But with the company having dealt with one of the most challenging years in its history due to coronavirus, Disney apparently decided it was time to make changes that many of its devoted fans would likely say were overdue.
The Four Keys – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency – have guided Disney’s famous customer-service credo for decades. By adding a Fifth Key, Inclusion, the company believes it will position itself as a corporate leader in diversity.
“Moving forward, we believe our cast, who are at the center of the magic that lives in all our experiences, can provide the best of Disney’s legendary guest service when they have more options for personal expression – creating richer, more personal and more engaging experiences with our guests,”
It’s not clear if any of these new changes to company policy will be visible when DisneyLand reopens on April 30.