Relaxed Disney Look for Cast Members

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products has shared an update from Chairman Josh D’Amaro on where Walt Disney World and Disneyland stand in their efforts in creating a place where everyone is welcome and taking action to create meaningful change. This post will share the new points, plus our commentary on the changes.

Disney’s update touches upon a range of topics, including reimagining attractions to be more inclusive. This includes things big and small, from the Soul of Jazz exhibit at EPCOT to ongoing enhancements to Jungle Cruise and last summer’s announcement that that Splash Mountain will be rethemed to the Princess and the Frog at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

D’Amaro also discussed the shift from the Four Keys — Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency — which guided Disney’s approach to guest service for more than 65 years to the Five Keys, with inclusion at the heart. These Five Keys will continue to guide Disney as the company interacts with guests, collaborates internally, makes critical business decisions, and creates the next generation of Disney products and experiences.

The relevant new information revealed by D’Amaro in the update is that Disney is looking at other traditions. Specifically, a relaxation of the “Disney Look” policy that guides how Cast Members show up for work. The company has an updated new approach that provides greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices.

The relaxed Disney Look will also allow visible tattoos that are appropriate. Tattoos on the head, neck, or face will not be permitted. Tattoos that depict nudity, offensive or inappropriate language or images, or violate the Walt Disney Company policies will not be permitted.

The Disney Look is being updated to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace, but also to enable Cast Members to better express their cultures and individuality at work. Here’s a video showcasing the changes:

Moving forward, Disney believes that Cast Members, who are at the center of the magic that lives in all theme park 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 guests.

This is just the beginning as the Walt Disney Company continues to work toward a world where we all belong — including a more diverse and inclusive Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. There’s more to do, but the company is committed to listening, learning, and making meaningful improvements.

The world is changing, and Disney will change with it, continuing to be a source of joy and inspiration for everyone around the globe. The Walt Disney Company will never stop working to make sure that Walt Disney World and Disneyland are welcoming places for all.

D’Amaro closes by saying that he’s excited about where the Walt Disney Company is headed, and will have more to share soon. (As we’ve said since last summer, there are other minor attraction updates to come.)

In terms of my commentary, I don’t really have a ton to say. I think it’s probably born out of practical necessity more than Disney’s update suggests, but then again, the motivation is more or less immaterial to me. The world is fundamentally different than it was in the 1950s and companies need to evolve with the era. In other regards, Disney has been at the fore, but they’ve been slow on this front.

Moreover, while this is the hot topic of the day, this isn’t the first, second, or even third relaxation to the Disney Look in the last decade. It’s hardly unprecedented. Just since I’ve been an active member of the Walt Disney World fandom, there have been at least 4 instances of the rules being loosened. Many of the past changes have revolved around facial hair. Originally, no facial hair was allowed; that has been modified several times, and jewelry has also been allowed in the last couple of years.

Each change to the Disney Look has been met with controversy–from both directions.

One side has bemoaned the loss of Disney’s “clean cut” image and standards crafted during Walt Disney’s era, whereas the other has wondered why this antiquated set of rules still exists. I don’t doubt that this announcement will be met with similar reactions.

Personally, my take is that if this allows others to express themselves more authentically and comfortable in their role, great. If it attracts more great Cast Members who were otherwise apprehensive about working for Disney, double great. Whether a Cast Member has a tattoo, particular hair style, etc., has literally no bearing on my enjoyment of a theme park.

Beyond that, this hardly amounts to a free for all on potentially objectionable looks or anything of the sort as there are still clear limits on tattoos, accessories, and appearance in general. If you’re worried about kids seeing something they shouldn’t, well, I’ve seen plenty of lewd t-shirts on “clean cut” guests.

What matters far more to me is that Walt Disney World and Disneyland are able to attract and retain passionate individuals with high standards of customer service and a desire to carry forward the legacy of Walt Disney. In my view, appearances are not paramount to that legacy. One’s ability to “make magic” or offer exemplary guest service is in no way dependent upon how they look.

From a practical perspective, the Walt Disney Company is a significantly larger enterprise. Walt Disney World alone employs exponentially more people than Disneyland did back when the Disney Look policy was created. Onerous personal appearance standards might be something a mom and pop business can work around, but a colossal employer arbitrarily shrinking the labor pool in a tight market isn’t the most savvy idea.

If nothing else, the Disney Look has been an impediment to hiring and retaining people who would otherwise be great Cast Members. Right now in particular, as many companies are already having difficulty scaling back up after massive layoffs or furloughs last year, it would make sense that Disney would relax its appearance rules. Cast Member morale isn’t exactly high, and perhaps this will help with that and also Disney’s hiring efforts. It should go without saying, but Walt Disney World and Disneyland absolutely need to be competitive in the labor market.

At the end of the day, that’s pretty much where I’m at with the Disney Look. There will undoubtedly be a lot of fans against this, as is the case with literally any change, and especially that perceived as disregarding tradition or history. Many of those same people will also be the ones who demand exceptional service as guests, wonder why Cast Members aren’t “making as much magic” right now, and/or decry Walt Disney World wage increases because they don’t want to pay higher prices. When you recognize that for many prospective employees, Walt Disney World and Disneyland are regular ole employers just like any other, it becomes impossible to reconcile those contradictory positions. Something’s gotta give.

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What do you think of Disney Look being relaxed? If you’re against this, how do you propose Walt Disney World and Disneyland attract and retain Cast Members who offer superlative customer service? Further pay increases? More benefits? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

62 Responses to “Relaxed Disney Look for Cast Members”
  1. Rebecca April 15, 2021