In the past several months, Disney has announced some changes they’re making to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. Some are some much-needed refreshes that include paint and special effects. But others will reflect how people, their perceptions, and Disney’s responsibilities are evolving.
A case in point is the upcoming new theming to the Song of The South attraction. Disney finally concluded that theming a ride to a movie that focuses on “happy ex-slaves who work on a plantation” isn’t the best idea in 21st century America.
The Jungle Cruise will also get an update, so the audio animatronics aren’t all white guys and Black “savages.” The storyline will change a little and, in the interest of inclusivity, some characters are going to change to women, people of color.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Disney announced some “look” changes for their cast members (CM – Disneyspeak for employees).
What is the “Disney Look?”
The Disney Look is a set of guidelines that CMs have to follow while at work. The goal is for them to look clean, polished and approachable. There are rules about hairstyles and color, facial hair (for decades, CMs couldn’t have facial hair. That changed in 2012 and was updated in 2019, but comes with its own set of rules), fingernail length, nail polish, earrings, tattoos, etc.
Although the guidelines of The Disney Look have evolved over the years, there has always been two sets of rules – one for men and one for women (as an example, women could wear one earring per ear, no larger than a certain size. Men could not wear earrings). Costumes (the clothes CMs wear while working) were also male- and female-specific.
However, there are now going to be some updates. From Disney:
“We’re updating them to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace, but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.
“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.”
Some of the new rules include:
- Tattoos are OK. Of course, there are still size factors and they can’t be on the face, neck or be inappropriate in any way. But they no longer have to be covered (with a long sleeve shirt, for example). And tattoos that are better off unseen can be covered with a nude sleeve.
- Hairstyles – the rules have been updated to be gender-inclusive. Longer hair on men will be allowed, shaved lines into beards or hair are OK, etc. Of course, color still has to be natural (no two-toned or purple!)
- Jewelry – Two earrings will be allowed in one ear. Men will be allowed to wear earrings and bracelets too, etc. (still no other piercings can show – they’re not THAT progressive yet, LOL)
- Nail polish: any color will be allowed, as long as it’s solid and men will be able to wear colored nail polish as well.
- Costumes – Except for some types of management, CMs who work with the public wear uniforms (they call them costumes) provided by Disney. If there are male and female versions of a particular costume, CMs can choose the one they want to wear, regardless of their presenting or birth-assigned gender.
“Walt is turning over in his grave!”
No, he’s not. Walt Disney was forward-thinking and believed that his company should evolve, adapt and change with the times.
Plus, frankly, the Walt Disney Company stopped being as interested in “What Walt would have wanted” sometime in the 1980s. Walt was a dreamer, but he was a lousy businessman. Disney is a business and is run thusly.
Why are they doing this?
As we mentioned above, Disney is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, with changes to make the Disney brand more inclusive. In fact, they just added “Inclusivity” to the “Four Keys” (well, now five – Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency and now Inclusion) they’ve taught to every person who’s worked for Disney over the past 65 years (Disney’s Four Keys serve as a compass for creating happiness and serving others). You can learn more about it on this video:
I will say one more thing – the updated nail polish and hair rules are nice, but that “allowing some tattoos” rule will be HUGE. Just like when they began allowing facial hair in 2012, it will open up the new hire potential like crazy.
So although Disney would never admit it, there’s probably that, too. 😉
Feature Image: Disney
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary