The Halloween Season is in full swing across the Disney Parks, from the Disneyland Resort in California to Walt Disney Resort in Florida to even the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort!
However, during the Halloween season, Hong Kong Disneyland is making Disney Parks history as the first Disney Park to include sign language in performances of its shows, starting with “Let’s Get Wicked.”
A recent article by South China Morning Post gives some insight into Hong Kong Disneyland’s new Halloween performances with theatrical interpretation, which integrates sign language into show performances as part of the Park’s broader initiative to promote inclusion, diversity, and equity.
Alex Clifton, executive director of entertainment and costuming at Hong Kong Disneyland, firmly believes in this initiative:
“There’s a responsibility to live up to the promise that Walt Disney himself made when he invited all guests to come to our park and be welcomed. We need to create uniquely welcoming environments and spaces for our guests.”
Clifton realized the need for these efforts after working with his friend who was in a wheelchair and had cognitive disabilities. After moving to Hong Kong a year ago, Clifton made it a goal to have entertainment at the Park accessible to everyone.
“Let’s Get Wicked” is a live musical show running during the Halloween season through October 31. Performers in this show spent six weeks practicing movements and expressions after being taught by the Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong (ADAHK), who showed them how to blend sign language into their performance. Through this process, the actors learned about communications tactics used by those with hearing disabilities.
According to the article, there are several other opportunities where sign language will be incorporated into entertainment across the Park:
Theatrical interpretation will also be offered twice a month in another show, called Mickey and the Wondrous Book, as part of a one-year pilot programme that begins on November 5. In those performances, two professional sign language interpreters will be signing the storyline as part of the show
Hong Kong Disneyland will also provide free sign language interpretation on request at other attractions, such as the Jungle River Cruise and the show Festival of Lion King.
Another upcoming diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, also a collaboration with ADAHK, will see budding young artists with disabilities supported through a programme of mentorship and skills-building activities.
Since 2017, Hong Kong Disneyland has hosted “Community Got Talent”, under which over 1,800 people from diverse backgrounds, including young cancer patients, students with visual disabilities, speech impairments or special education needs, have been invited to perform.
Besides these incredible opportunities for inclusivity and diversity to be showcased for the Guests at Hong Kong Disneyland, there is a wide variety of diversity of the Cast Members as well. The staff collectively are of 34 different nationalities and speak 24 languages.
This goes to show how committed the Park is to modeling diversity, not just within the shows and entertainment, but through the Cast Members themselves. As Alex Clifton commented,
“We then take the next bold step, which is not just to represent diversity, but to give leadership authority and empower that diversity [by] leveraging the differences that we have within our cast.”
What do you think of this new inclusivity initiative? What other inclusivity measures would you want to see at the Parks?