Last week when Disney announced updates to the “Disney Look” (cast member dress conduct), the Disnerd internet exploded. And people seemed to take one of two sides: adamantly against the change or celebrating it. The update allows appropriate tattoos to be seen, more than one set of earrings worn, more gender affirming costume choices and more. It brings the dress code up several decades to more accurately reflect a Disney of 2021.
You can guess from the headline which reaction I had.
I’ve never been a Disney cast member and, given my penchant for Midwestern weather, I probably never will be. But I am so proud of Disney for taking this important, inclusive step in the right direction. Walt was always a fan of change and didn’t want his creations to go without it, so, regardless of his potential personal views on the subject, the change is a welcome one.
Even if the change wasn’t within Walt’s original vision for his parks, it doesn’t matter. The parks are in the hands of new creators, innovators and brilliant minds. Disney may have been his brainchild, but he left it to all of us to continue to shape.
And, let’s face it, it’s not the 1950’s anymore. (Thank goodness.)
Personally, the change I understand the most is the one about tattoos. If you have ever gotten one, especially a larger one, you know how much effort, money and creativity goes into them. You want to be able to show them off.
I have eight tattoos. I probably have 15 hours worth of ink work on my body. By the old Disney standards I would be wearing long sleeves and pants every day of the year. I wouldn’t be allowed to show off my artwork, most of which is Disney themed, and I can’t imagine not being able to share my joy with guests. My left forearm, for example, has a sketch of Timon who is my favorite character of all time. People compliment it constantly and guests seeing it at the parks does no harm.
What surprised me, in the best way, most about the update was the gender inclusivity. Disney takes pride in its “welcoming” nature, so this decision is the most heartening one. Whether it means getting rid of gender specific hairstyles or changing up the costume selection, this change makes me so happy for my rainbow family. I can wear my Pride ears with even more pride now.
Letting cast members present themselves authentically doesn’t harm anyone or hurt the experience of being at Disney. I can’t count the number of quotes Walt had on the gift of imagination, so why should his parks represent only one way of being?
Both Disneyland and Disney World are filled with the most wonderful, magical and good hearted cast members. Giving them the freedom to be themselves in a place where so many of us escape to to do just that only seems natural. After all, it takes all kinds to make Disney such a fantastical place to be.
It breaks my heart that anyone would frown upon this change that, in most cases, doesn’t affect them in the least. Seeing someone’s “Wish Upon a Star” tattoo isn’t going to ruin your vacation, Karen. Calm down.
Do you want to know what was constantly on my mind when I visited the parks? Knowing cast members couldn’t wear nail polish, more than one set of earrings, show their tattoos or dress for their own personal comfort. Doing right by their cast members should be what is most important to guests.
Whether or not someone can wear blue nail polish shouldn’t even be a discussion.
So, if you have a problem with this new dress code, let’s lean in to one more quote from the Disney vault: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
As for all the cast members who get to wear less gender specific costumes, nail polish, tattoos and all the rest, I’m so happy for you. And you better believe I’ll be complimenting all of you to my heart’s content the next time I’m at the Happiest or Most Magical Places on Earth.