Staying Inclusive, “Woke” Culture Has Claimed Many Lives at Walt Disney World

Staying Inclusive, "Woke" Culture Has Claimed Many Lives at Walt Disney World
Credit: Disney/ Canva

The last few years have seen a surge of change that has been challenging and dividing in the United States. Many of these changes surround controversial topics such as gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual education.

Weirdly enough, the Walt Disney Company has somehow found a way to center itself right in the middle of a culture shift that has erupted on several occasions into loud cries for equality, even ending in court battles with state politicians and more. This proverbial “war” with what some have coined “woke” culture has left a lasting mark on many Disney institutions, including Walt Disney World.

magic kingdom fantasyland

Credit: Becky Burkett

Disney World has been at the forefront of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion within its parks and entertainment offerings. The theme park giant has taken significant steps to promote social consciousness and awareness, reflecting a commitment to progressive values.

From reimagining classic attractions like Splash Mountain to better align with inclusive themes to championing LGBTQ+ representation in its films and media, Disney World is dedicated to fostering a more inclusive and diverse environment for its guests. For Disney, this commitment is not just a trend but a core value that shapes how Disney World operates and engages with its audience.

What is Woke?

“Go woke, go broke.” You’ve all heard this phrase regurgitated by folks online many times in reference to Disney and Walt Disney World. Although there may be a correlation between financial failure and the idea of woke culture, the concept of garnering inclusion within every Disney Park remains a prevalent stance for Disney leadership.

Related: Sick of “Woke Disney?” Try This Biblical Entertainment Alternative

Woke, being an umbrella term concerned with progressive thinking and ideals that typically require monumental changes, has been synonymous with the Walt Disney Company for years. Although it’s certainly used in a derogatory sense by many, Disney chooses to pride themselves on their attempts to make each and every one of their guests comfortable.

For this to happen, woke culture, or a shift in perceptions and attitudes toward external communities, has seen the end of many traditional Disney attractions, some that were harder to let go of than others.

Disney frontman Bob Iger (as well as its previous CEO Bob Chapek) are considered woke by many thanks to their seemingly neutral standpoint in attempting to create an environment within their businesses that views everyone equally, inspires inclusion, and promotes acceptance.

Ron DeSantis Disney feud woke disney world

Credit: Flickr, Greg Skidmore/ Adobe

Of course, this idea doesn’t sit well for many, especially when speaking to LGBTQIA+ initiatives. However, despite the potential for backlash, Disney made its stance loud and clear when, at the beckon of Cast Members, they took on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The idea of the initial law was to maintain a level of accountability regarding gender and sexual education within Florida schools, especially for younger audiences. However, many felt that this proposed law would stifle the safe community voices needed to protect young minds who are struggling with their sexuality or even trying to understand if they identify as a male or female or something else.

Given Disney’s huge LGBTQ audience and tremendous social pressure, they chose to back those opposing the bill, leading many to assume that the large company was now catering propaganda to the world’s youth.

Related: Report: Disney’s “Woke” Mentality Could Ruin ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 6’

Disney, being liberal and progressive, took matters further by amending many of their park experiences in support of removing outdated concepts and potential offenses, causing frustration among large groups of once loyal guests who refuse to visit their theme parks or consume Disney productions.

Despite Bob Iger’s best efforts to explain away the correlation, one has to assume these movements have had substantial impacts on Disney’s latest numbers, which are far from impressive.

Orlando Is Woke, So Walt Disney World Must Be Too

Decades ago, Walt Disney secretly purchased vast chunks of land in the middle of a swamp in Central Florida. Named his “Florida Project,” this would become what we know today as Walt Disney World. Following the creation of Walt Disney World, surrounding areas like Orlando would see a massive growth boom, which is still happening today.

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Credit: Ashley Carter, Twitter

Quickly, as times change, Orlando has become a safe space for what we now identify as the LGBTQ community. The city, which finds itself in one of the most conservative states in the deep South, remains committed to protecting and servicing this demographic.

“The City of Orlando and the Orlando Police Department are committed to the safety of all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) residents and visitors.” – Orlando.gov.

For this reason, Walt Disney World also possesses a massive following of LGBTQ fans. Disney, being one to acknowledge and consider its substantial influence, has adapted to this culture, bringing in celebrations for Pride Month and more to its theme parks. Disney even unofficially hosts what many refer to as “Gay Days” within their Orlando-based Resort.

A Woke Shift Takes Place

Those opposed to Disney’s changing values can identify many aspects of the company that they consider “woke.” They also have little issue noting any type of change that Disney makes as woke. Change is inevitable, whether it’s the box office or theme parks, but in the powder keg of social change, many protest it in the name of traditional values.

Related: LGBTQ+ News Source Accuses Disney Show of Upholding Florida’s Homophobic Ideology

Disney films are not immune. Although admittedly, Disney has gone in some interesting directions lately with their live-action remakes, including the upcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which will feature a self-proclaimed feminist approach by Rachel Zegler, it feels like Disney is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

They can’t appeal to ALL audiences anymore. Ultimately, you could argue that this is Disney’s fault for picking a side, but it remains true nonetheless.

“Woke” Changes Made to Walt Disney World Over the Years

Disney World, or any Disney Park, is constantly changing. This was Walt’s philosophy, but he also noted that his theme parks were for everyone. Although alienating some groups is inevitable when attempting to run one of the world’s premiere tourism destinations, Walt believed in keeping things simple and magical.

Peltz Perlmutter Make Disney Anti Woke?

Credit: Disney/Fox Business/LGBTQ+ Alliance

Many of those ideas, which found themselves introduced to Magic Kingdom after Walt’s death, are now gone, victims of what some could call pandering and what others would note as much-needed social change.

As times change, Disney has made its best effort to keep up. However, these changes are almost always surrounded by controversy, as Disney fans hold tightly to their nostalgia. Still, many of the changes are considered unnecessary and a direct result of social pressures that are unrealistic to some. Yet, to others, it’s progress.

Pirates of the Caribbean

One could argue that the “unwanted” or “much needed” change taking place at Walt Disney World began a few years ago at Pirates of the Caribbean. Once a fabulous, nostalgia-inducing adventure on the seven seas that stayed true to pirate lore and behavior, in a comedic sense, one particular scene from the popular ride has now been retired.

Related: Of All the Pirates of the Caribbean Rides, Disney World’s is the Worst

Years ago, after plunging into Barbossa’s siege of Port Royal, fans were slowly swept into a sacked pirate port in which a famous red-headed lady was tied up and ready to be sold at auction. Of course, it’s obvious how problematic this is, but many felt the removal of the scene was unnecessary as it stayed true to what being an actual pirate was like.

Historically speaking, there were privateers who were involved in the slave trade, and sadly, human trafficking is still a real issue today, with Florida being one of the most at-risk states.

Still, the scene was removed at Magic Kingdom and replaced with a Redd, a boisterous, sharpshooting pirate Captain with a taste for rum and shenanigans. The change, albeit controversial, may work out in Disney’s favor as they move forward with potential new Pirates of the Caribbean film projects.

Splash Mountain

The decision to retheme Splash Mountain is easily the most controversial on this list. Splash Mountain, which opened in 1992, quickly became a favorite of Magic Kingdom guests. The original attraction, prior to the closing last year for retheming, featured lovable characters, a hilarious story, and a thrilling drop.

Splash Mountain Magic Kingdom Disney World woke

Credit: Disney

However, the problem with Splash Mountain is that it was based on characters and stories from Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South.

That may not sound like an issue until you understand that Song of the South was adapted from stories penned by Joel Chandler Harris, and the characters of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox are actually derived from slave stories that present their struggle with oppression and violence from their white owners.

Now, Splash Mountain is taking on a new story, one that will include Princess Tiana, Mama Odie, Prince Naveen, and many others from Disney’s 2009 film Princess and the Frog.

Jungle Cruise

How could something intended to be solely comedic need a revamp to fit in with Disney’s “woke” agenda? For your answer, look no further than Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom.

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Credit: Disney

The Jungle Cruise was designed out of Walt Disney’s wish to have a ride through safari-style attractions in his parks. Of course, that now actually exists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but the Jungle Cruise has been floating up and down the rivers of the world for a long time, with dad jokes in tow.

The problem with the Jungle Cruise, leading to Disney’s insistence on changing the ride, comes from stereotypes. Dark-skinned individuals in tribal clothing were presented in a very stereotypical and not flattering manner within the attraction, ultimately leading to their removal.

In an age where cultural appropriation is a big concern and reason enough for social media users to “cancel” you, Disney caved to the pressures of new, progressive thoughts and made necessary amendments years ago.

Country Bear Jamboree

The latest victim of Disney’s race to keep things mild at their parks is the refurbishment of the opening day attraction, Country Bear Jamboree. Ironically enough, this relaxing show sits a couple of hundred yards away from the Hall of Presidents, where Donald Trump still sits.

Still, some questionable lyrics from the Country Bear Jamboree at Magic Kingdom have poised Disney to refurb the entire show.

country bear jamboree entrance sign in frontierland, magic kingdom

Credit: Matt Dempsey, Flickr

Only a few days ago, Country Bear Jamboree said goodbye to emotional guests who cling to the nostalgia of the popular show. Primarily, changes will come to the current playlist, which features titles like “Blood on the Saddle,” “All the Guys that Turn Me on Turn Me Down,” and “Momma Don’t Whip Little Buford.”

As the proverbial clock continues to turn and new ideas are introduced, it’s almost certain that Disney will incorporate recent changes to rides and attractions throughout its parks. Whether these need progression or “woke” pandering is up to you.

However, in a place where cliche Native Americans still live in Neverland, and birds still sing in stereotypical accents, it’s a guarantee that some new problems will arise at Walt Disney World, forcing Disney to consider even more changes.

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!

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