Walt Disney World brought back fireworks for the first time in over a year last week. And while the return was welcomed by guests, not everything was exactly the same. The automated announcement letting guests know that the show was about to begin had been modified to remove the phrase "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls." The more inclusive announcement simply informed "dreamers of all ages" that the fireworks would be beginning shortly. The change had the usual impact on Disney purists who never like to see anything change, but it turns out that it's not the first change of this type, and it almost certainly won't be the last.
While Walt Disney World has not made a public comment about the change to the fireworks announcement, Deadline reports that the Oriental Land Company, which owns and operates the Tokyo Disney Resort has made a number of similar changes to the language used within its park so that guests of all gender identities "feel comfortable in the park."
To be clear, the Oriental Land Company only licenses the Disney name for its resort and it has a contract with Walt Disney Imagineering to design attractions, but Tokyo Disney Resort is the one Disney theme park location that the Walt Disney Company doesn't own any stake in. Seeing these changes made in Tokyo doesn't mean they'll happen elsewhere, but the fact that we are seeing them in both places shows how the culture is shifting not just domestically but all over the world.
Even considering the degree to which Disney theme park fans can get upset when things are changed, this removal of a few words resulted in a bit of an odd backlash. Only those who go to the parks frequently enough to have the announcements memorized would even be aware that anything was different. And even then, it the removal of a phrase in announcement to tell you that fireworks are coming, it's not even part of the show.
The move to make the parks more inclusive has been ongoing by Disney for the last couple of years. From the decision to replace Splash Mountain's existing Song of the South theme with a new version of the attraction based on The Princess and the Frog as well as recent updates to the iconic Jungle Cruise, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have taken steps to try and make the parks feel welcoming to every potential guest. People want to see themselves reflected in their favorite attractions and that's what Disney is trying to do here. When you watch that fireworks display you want to feel like it's there for you as much as anybody else.
In the end, these changes don't really impact the attractions in any major way and they will likely have be welcomed by those they are intended to support. In that regard we can expect to see these changes, big and small continue.