Disney to Allow Tattoos, More in 'Disney Look' Overhaul

April 13, 2021, 1:00 PM · Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro this morning officially announced the addition of "Inclusion" as the Fifth Key in Disney's theme park operations, joining Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. The addition was announced internally to Disney cast members last year. But its formal announcement to the public now should signal that the public should be prepared to see some different looks from on-stage Disney cast members in the near future.

Which is the whole point of "inclusion," isn't it?

To accommodate this "Fifth Key," Disney again will be changing its famous "Disney Look" appearance rules, in order to "enable our Cast Members to better express their cultures and individuality at work," D'Amaro said.

"Our new approach provides greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos."

Of course, the word "appropriate" in this directive means that Disney will continue to retain some judgment over cast members' appearance, so do not expect this push for inclusion to become a standardless free-for-all. But the appearance standards that Disneyland adopted at its 1955 opening reflected a mindset that was not as open to the wide variety of races, ethnicities, gender identities and cultural backgrounds that have fought for inclusion in American society today.

Disney has changed its Disney Look guidelines in the past, so today's announcement is not unprecedented. Indeed, D'Amaro said that more changes may be coming.

"This is just the beginning as we continue 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 we’re committed to listening, learning and making meaningful improvements."

In his post, D'Amaro also reference previously announced changes to the Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain attractions in the United States, but did not provide any new information about them.

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Replies (18)

April 13, 2021 at 1:12 PM

Long overdue. I remember my orientation at Universal Studios Hollywood from years ago that the presenter talked about “dressing up professionally in a super bland way to not offend people.” She didn’t like the process due to she loved to dye her hair, show her tattoos, etc.

April 13, 2021 at 2:16 PM

I'm kind of on the fence with this. The word "uniform" means that CMs should have a similar or nearly identical appearance. Just as the CMs that fill "face character" roles have to project a very specific "look" or "appearance" indicative of the character they are portraying (each of the princesses has very specific traits that CMs must have, and they are not interchangeable), front facing CMs should have a consistent look that is NOT individualistic or one that sets them apart from their teammates. When it comes to inclusivity, there are plenty of CM roles that don't necessitate a front-facing uniform code (or allow aspects of body modification/individual expression to be covered by a costume), and allowing flexibility that permits individual expression for ALL could undermine specific codes applied to certain front-facing CMs (i.e. characters and performers).

I'm all for letting people be themselves, but when you're on the clock, you are expressing values and standards of a company that you are only a minuscule part of. Pushing the envelope for uniform standards will only create bigger issues down the road as managers and supervisors will need to make judgement calls as to where new lines are drawn. One person's neck tattoo of colorful flames may be prohibited, but a tattoo of Fantasia 2000's Firebird may be permitted.

I'm of the opinion that visible tattoos (those that cannot be covered by a standard uniform or costuming, which can include optional long sleeves and pants) and excessive piercings/gauges on the face should not be permitted for front-facing CMs that interact directly with guests. The last time I checked, most people are not offended or intimidated by people wearing a uniform and complying with a standardized uniform code, but some may be offended or intimidated by employees covered in tattoos, piercings, and excessive makeup/died hair. Our society as a whole is getting more accepting of these expressions of individualism, but there are still those that are not comfortable being confronted by people that express their individuality in contrast to a company's standard image.

Inclusivity is a 2-way street, and allowing CMs to express their individualism could reduce the feel of inclusivity to guests that object to body modification and have grown accustomed to the Disney Look that they have come to expect when visiting Disney properties.

April 13, 2021 at 2:20 PM

Let's also not be naive and overlook that this is a labor supply issue for Disney, too. The main reason that Disney relaxed the facial hair ban was to increase the number of people that Disney could consider as applicants for public-facing parks jobs. Today, Disney needs to show additional flexibility in order to not rule out a growing percentage of the labor market in the years to come.

April 13, 2021 at 2:56 PM

The company I work for has just this week begun allowing facial hair, visible tattoos and nose rings. We have also suspended drug testing for Marijuana. None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the dreadful shallow applicant pool. We are having a miserable time filling roles and these changes are just in hopes of finding some staffing.

April 13, 2021 at 6:30 PM

Wow Rob where do you work if they didn’t allow facial hair ? Maybe they’ll allow women to wear pants next ??

April 13, 2021 at 6:35 PM

Just as long as no 'Mickey-hickeys' are visible. I'm @ Dland, not Knotts or MM.

April 13, 2021 at 7:55 PM

Let’s be real: The old Disney Look(Along with other uniform based jobs) were implemented to make people of color look “friendly” towards white people. The idea of having a “standard” haircut/style was a clear indicator of negating a POC’s natural hair.

April 13, 2021 at 9:19 PM

I am SUCH a huge fam of adding this fifth key. It is LONG overdue. But I will grant Disney this: this has been an "unofficial key" for a long time. I believe Disney was if not the first, ONE OF the first to grant medical benefits to same-sex partners of cast members. When I was a cast member in the mid-1990s, it was the most diverse set of people with whom I had worked anywhere, and I loved my experience working there. I learned SO much about inclusiveness, and I'm SO glad that Disney is making it the fifth key.

April 14, 2021 at 12:03 AM

Full disclosure i'm going to offend some people here with this opinion. I'm fairly liberal, not religious, and believe people should be able to freely express themselves in ways that do not harm others. TBH I think that stereotypical bible bumping protestant Americans for the most part are holding this country back.

But I f'ing hate tattoo's with a passion. In my opinion they look gross on almost everyone that has them. While there was a certain inevitability to this...I guess...I still hate it and always will. I could go into a really bad George Carlin like tirade on this topic but don't want to get banned.

April 14, 2021 at 12:05 AM

My opinion on this is quite simple: If a cast member's appearance doesn't detract from the guest experience, it shouldn't really be an issue. What is detracting from the guest experience? In my mind, that would be either a cast member standing out so much that their appearance detracts from the thematic experience, or a cast member displaying something intended to provoke a reaction. Basically, the kinds of things that make a cast member a focal point when they're not supposed to be one. For example, if someone has a fancy hairstyle or a small tattoo on their forearm, you might notice it but it's not something you're likely to linger on, so I don't see a solid reason to restrict against such things in most roles. On the flipside, someone with a bright, unnatural hair color or a tattoo covering half their face is definitely going to draw attention and distract from the experience, so that isn't an acceptable look for a theme park employee.

April 14, 2021 at 12:57 AM

I don't have any tattoos, but if I were to get one, it would be the neon space Mickeys from the Star Trader around my upper arm. I haven't ruled out getting this tattoo, but I'm also not yet committed to it. The fact that this wouldn't disqualify me from working for Disney again if the opportunity arose is kind of nice (though I would likely get it above the level where short sleeves would cover it).

April 14, 2021 at 8:21 AM

@AJ - What you suggest is completely reasonable, and is exactly what I would expect in a theme park environment. However, the problem is trying to interpret what does or does not "draw attention" or "detract from the experience". Trying to give CMs the ability to express their individualism while still maintaining uniform standards is really difficult, and having grey areas that allow certain forms of expression but not others depending upon how extreme they are will inevitably create situations where people are treated differently.

I completely agree that a small tattoo on an exposed forearm or ankle would not be bothersome, but at what point does "small" and acceptable become too "large" and prohibited, and what subject matters and tattoo locations are considered acceptable or verboten. That's where I feel Disney will run into problems. It's a slippery slope, and while Robert makes a great point regarding the reason for these changes may have more to do with increasing the size of the eligible applicant pool, doing so introduces a minefield of situations that could get Disney into trouble down the road.

April 14, 2021 at 9:11 AM

I am pleasantly surprised how accepting y'all have been. Well done.

April 14, 2021 at 12:56 PM

For everyone who dislikes tattoos, consider that the day that Disneyland allows cast members to wear visible tattoos might very well be the day that they fall officially out of fashion and young people stop wanting them. LOL.

April 14, 2021 at 1:43 PM

Hummel has it correct. Even though this new policy states tattoos and piercings are allowed, I would not expect to see anyone with a chain connecting their nose ring to their earring loading up Space Mountain or Ariel with a full back tattoo.

And Rob is correct as well. Tats and facial piercings are very popular and with young people less willing to enter the workforce, the pool of applicants need to open up.

April 14, 2021 at 5:23 PM

Russell, Disney's got various guidelines to answer all those things. For example, tattoos cannot be on the face, head or neck, must be small enough to be covered by one hand, and cannot depict anything that violates company policies. For piercings, ears are the only visible ones permitted, and earrings must be small, simple, symmetrical, and are limited to two pairs. It's all spelled out in a new document that went out to cast members, and after skimming through a copy I found online it seems to be very thorough. Based on what I see, for the most part if you aren't looking for things you're not likely to notice them.

April 15, 2021 at 10:04 AM

That's good that Disney has clearly written guidelines, because there was a lot of room for interpretation in what D'Amaro announced. I think a tattoo covered by a hand allows for some pretty large pieces, especially on calves. I also think there could be issues of interpretation/taste where a tattoo of flames behind the image of a devil being prohibited, but a similar tattoo with flames behind a Firebird (or Hades) being acceptable. There are some fine lines here that Disney will have to walk, and even with some very clear written rules, you could end up with situations where CMs or perspective CMs feel aggrieved by Disney's interpretation of their body art.

Did you notice if there were any rules regarding ear gauges? You noted only ear piercings were permitted and had to be "small, simple, symmetrical, and limited to 2 pairs". Someone gauging their ears starts small, but they slowly increase in size over time. At what point do ear gauges cease being "small"? Obviously, any CM that would object to having their ear adornments rejected could point to Joe Rohde as a double standard, who was permitted to walk through the parks with massive, non-symmetrical ear jewelry (and gauged ears) wearing a CM nametag even before the appearance standards were changed.

April 16, 2021 at 12:24 AM

Russell, I'm not 100% sure, but I believe it said any visible body modifications besides piercings for the purpose of wearing earrings were not allowed for costumed cast members. There was a separate section for non-costumed cast members that I didn't read, so the standards might be slightly different there, but I'd be surprised if ear gauges were allowed. The guidelines also are only applicable to cast members working at parks and resorts, so they wouldn't cover someone whose role is not primarily concerned with guest interaction like Rohde (I'm sure every branch has their own set of appearance standards).

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