The Happiest Place on Earth

Cinderella's Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit,

Cinderella’s Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit.

Minnie and Mickey. Donald and Goofy. Cinderella and Prince Charming. And a…neon-haired Disney worker?

Walt Disney World’s website “The Disney Look” clearly outlines appropriate appearance for all cast members, prohibiting several “’cutting edge’ trends or extreme styles.” Some of these extreme styles include nail polish that is black, silver, gold, or neon. Prohibited styles also include shaved eyebrows, women’s finger nails exceeding a quarter of an inch, and, aha! Tattoos.

According to their website, tattoos “must be discreetly and completely covered at all times” as “costumed cast members are a critical part of enhancing the experience of our Disney show.” Their website indicates that taking pride in your appearance conveys the “attitude of excellence that has become synonymous with the Disney name.”

And I could not agree more.

While I am all about self expression and personal choice, I firmly believe that Disney workers need to maintain a professional demeanor. Despite the fact that some of their restrictions sound just as extreme as the styles they prohibit, (such as: “mustaches must not extend onto or over the upper lip and must extend to the corners of the mouth, but not beyond or below the corners.” What? I needed to reread that to make sure I got everything.) there is a reason that Disney made $5.7 billion in 2012.

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal palace

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

Having been to Disney World seven times (not counting a trip planned for this July), I have experienced first-hand the truly magical feeling that sweeps over you for the entire Disney trip. Whether or not Tinker Bell has sprinkled you with pixie dust, their website suggests that it is often the little things that make the trip meaningful, and it is often the little things that can take away from the experience.

Never have I seen a worker on a cell phone, chewing gum, or anything else that takes them out of their character. Could you imagine Goofy telling a five year old to hold on while he takes a call from AT&T? “Yeah, sorry about that, big guy. I was on hold for half an hour.”

Tattoos would be no exception. There’s nothing wrong with tattoos, but any worker (costumed or not) displaying a tattoo would shatter the bubble that separates visitors from reality. Why? Because it goes back to the idea of permanence. It reminds them that, at the end of the day, the workers are actual human beings, too, with lives and responsibilities and commitments.

Visitors know that their trip will not last forever. They know that, at some point, they are going to have to round up their souvenirs, pack their bags, and say good bye to their hotel room, dragging their suitcase sluggishly behind. There will always be bills to pay and appointments to keep, but for those magical days, visitors do not want a reminder that the “real world” exists. (Unless you’re John Mayer.)

Truly, the Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.

The Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.

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3 comments

  1. Great post Rachel! And I do agree with you that workers should maintain professional demeanor at a workplace. What made you decide to look into Disney specifically? I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the first thing that I was told at Zallie’s was to cover up any tattoos that I had. Great work though.

  2. Definitely a good perspective. There’s also some other things Disney does to hold onto that “magic” that you’re talking about. For example, you’ll never see a delivery truck bringing new t-shirts, toys, or other supplies to one of the shops (they have a network of underground tunnels connecting the buildings, and any “nonmagical” employees and delivery personnel are restricted to those areas). They also have a strict rule about staying in your “world.” You won’t, for instance, see a cowboy from Frontier Land hanging out near Space Mountain, or a fairy princess from Fantasy Land riding the steamboat down in Adventure Land. They don’t want anything to shatter the illusion.

    Speaking of illusions, Main Street U.S.A. is an optical illusion. The buildings in the front are shorter than those in the back, creating a visual effect that makes the castle look further away (and taller) than it actually is.

    But don’t think about all that when you go back. Just breathe in the pixie dust and think happy thoughts.

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