Anyone who has been to Orlando, Florida, will tell you that we are a vibrant, multicultural city with a rich history of inclusion. I worked at Disney in my early 20s and have served seven years in the military since then. Both jobs had strict limits on grooming standards, so I feel like I am in a unique position to opine on recent changes at Disney World.
The updated Disney look guidelines fall exactly into the vision that founder Walt Disney had for the parks and our community as a whole. When he watched his daughter on the carousel as a young father, he wanted a place where families could be together, from Grandma to the baby in the stroller.
The updated Disney look guidelines mean that Disney can retain cast members who truly make magical moments for guests, regardless of their hair or a visible tattoo.
In 2021, in one of the world's most inclusive cities, keeping a labor force that is responsible for making those moments at modest wages is hard enough. Excluding people who want to work for the company, choosing their job for the sheer joy that it brings people, just because they have a small tattoo is the kind of small-minded thinking that I am proud to say is working itself out of Orlando.
Disney made a decision to increase its profits and attract and retain a loyal workforce in concert with conforming to the directions of a changing time.
The overhaul of the Splash Mountain attraction and the removal of Trader Sam from the Jungle Cruise attraction conforms to that view. While some may think of how "political" Disney has become, and that may distract from their enjoyment of the attraction, the racial undertones in "Song of the South" and the feelings that they invoke reflect some of the most painful memories of the civil-rights struggle.
Disney made a ride cartoonizing some of the worst parts of that history and making it into (what we thought was) a family attraction. Orlando has its own terrible history of racial injustice, including the Ocoee massacre of 1920.
If Grandma or any member of the family is less than comfortable, Walt would want to make a change. He was a flawed but forward-thinking man who would have changed with the times. He would be more than OK getting rid of portions of his creation that were less than inclusive.
Cast members are berated constantly. From company-level decisions to mask-wearing during the pandemic, violence against cast members is on the rise.
As the parks opened up last summer, visitors screamed at, punched, and even groped cast members attempting to keep guests in the park safe. One man even tried earlier this year to pull a gun on a cast member for attempting to enforce the rules.
Cast members should be able to express themselves and work in an environment where they are safe and respected. I don't care if they have a tattoo. If they treat me with kindness and try their hardest to make my family vacation a success, they have gone beyond the call of duty.
Yes, tourist dollars are important to the health of Orlando's economy. They always will be. But I think I speak for the Orlando area when I say, if you can't deal with updates to the modern way of thinking and treat cast members with basic human decency and respect, we do not want your vacation dollars.
But if you can come here, set the politics down and enjoy the most "Magical Place on Earth" for your time here, I guarantee you, Orlando will be a place where you will want to spend that hard earned cash year after year.
Cody Vincitore is a student at Barry University School of Law in Orlando. He lives in Winter Garden, Florida. He wrote this for the Orlando Sentinel.