In a blog post this week, the chairman of Disney's parks division Josh D'Amaro committed to updating attractions, modernizing the parks' values and, perhaps most visibly, changing the guidelines for how park employees — better known as Disney Cast Members — look and dress.
D'Amaro said that the company will provide "greater flexibility" to their Cast Member's outfits with respect to "forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices." The parks will even allow Cast Members to show off "appropriate visible tattoos."
"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," D'Amaro wrote.
Historically, Disney has been specific about Cast Members' appearance — favoring a clean-cut look, to stay consistent with the company's family-friendly image. For example, in the past, Cast Members were barred from having facial hair.
However, Disney is now looking at ways to update its parks for an evolving world in which inclusion is becoming a key corporate value.
"We want our guests to see their own backgrounds and traditions reflected in the stories, experiences and products they encounter in their interactions with Disney. And we want our cast members — and future cast members — to feel a sense of belonging at work.," D'Amaro wrote. "That means cultivating an environment where all people feel welcomed and appreciated for their unique life experiences, perspectives and culture. Where we celebrate allyship and support for each other. And where diverse views and ideas are sought after as critical contributions towards our collective success.."
Jungle Cruise, where guests take a journey through the wilderness with a comedic skipper, is being updated with new scenes and characters. The ride has been criticized for its depictions of wild "natives."
Splash Mountain, a ride based on controversial 1946 film "Song of the South," will be completely remade to show characters from the 2009 animated film, "The Princess and the Frog," which features Disney's first Black princess.
D'Amaro explained that the company sought input from Cast Members in 2019 about how to update the parks' culture. One of the suggestions was to add a fifth key to Disney's "Four Keys," which are its longstanding tenets to the park's guest service. The Cast Members suggested adding a fifth key of inclusion to go alongside safety, courtesy, show and efficiency.
"Inclusion is essential to our culture and leads us forward as we continue to realize our rich legacy of engaging storytelling, exceptional service, and Disney magic," D'Amaro wrote.
The changes come after the parks unit experienced one of its hardest years ever due to closures and layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcements are also taking place as other major companies such as JPMorgan Chase invest billions to promote racial equality.
Another unit of Disney, ABC News, is breaking barriers this week. The news organization announced on Wednesday that Kimberly Godwin will become the president of ABC News, making her the first Black executive to run one of America's major broadcast network newsrooms.
D'Amaro ended his blog post by saying that the world is changing and Disney will continue to change with it.
"We'll never stop working to make sure that Disney is a welcoming place for all," he wrote.