Twitter is ablaze over a guest column from a loyal Walt Disney World fan who is strongly rethinking his family’s commitment to Disney because of what he characterized as the company’s change in values.
Those changes include allowing park employees more flexibility to reflect their cultures and individuality on the job and making changes to park attractions that have been criticized as racist such as Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise.
Jonathan VanBoskerck wrote in a column published by the Orlando Sentinel:
“The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney’s political agenda. That’s a mood killer.”
Vanboskerck, who described himself in the column as a Christian and conservative Republican, also was concerned that Disney was changing Splash Mountain because of its association with the movie “Song of the South” and about changes to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
What is ‘wokeness’?
The column, titled “I love Disney World, but wokeness is ruining the experience” led readers to wonder exactly what “wokeness” is, if Google Trends search data is any indication.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, wokeness is “a state of being aware, especially of social problems such as racism and inequality.”
Twitter reacts to his column
Much of the commentary online has not been in his favor.
Rep. Val Demings from Florida’s 10th District also weighed in, saying she was “proud to represent a community that is welcoming, tolerant, and always evolving to offer the best possible experience.”
But there are people on his side, with one Twitter user writing that Disney shouldn’t “ruin more stories and characters in the name of wokeness.”
Changes at Disney:After rethinking racist rides, Disney parks extend inclusion push to cast members, add adaptive costumes
No more savages:Disney World, Disneyland to update Jungle Cruise’s depictions of Indigenous people
Rethinking stereotypes:Disney’s Splash Mountain to get new theme amid calls to ditch racist history
Recent changes at Disney
Disney Parks announced earlier this month that they were adding inclusion as one of their core guiding principles.
Changes to park policies include allowing gender-neutral hairstyles and costuming and adaptive costumes to accommodate employees in wheelchairs.
As for the rides, in the last few months Disney announced that the Splash Mountain log flume rides at Disneyland and Disney World — which previously referenced the controversial film, “Song of the South” — will be re-themed to focus on Disney’s first Black princess, Tiana, from Disney’s animated film “The Princess and the Frog.”
The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland and Disney World had been criticized for its depictions of Indigenous people, and Disney announced early this year the attraction would be updated to better “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.”
Contributing: Arthur Levine
C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter at @cabridges