Making Safety Fun

In the last week, I’ve examined in depth Disney’s focus on safety in the parks. It is their number one priority, and recently they’ve emphasized key behaviors expected of all their Cast Members. We’ve spoken about the role leaders must set in making safety a priority; we’ve looked at the safety nets Disney creates to ensure safety; and we’ve examined how the approach to safety has evolved over the years.

In this last segment, we’ll look at how Disney makes being safe fun. In order for safety to happen in the parks, Guests must actively support those safety measures in place. There is a body of research that states that if you’re focused on making it easier, and winning people over to the idea of complying, you will be more successful than if you force people to do what you want them to do, or if you keep hitting them with rules and consequences.

That latter approach results in employees coming across as some sort of “Sam Eagle,” a sort of stuffy bureaucratic figure who is more into playing the cop than being truly concerned for the welfare of others. So when Disney and Jim Henson created Muppet Vision 3D, it was a perfect opportunity to have fun with Sam Eagle in explaining to guests that they should file into the theater in an orderly manner. In the pre-show video he presents just such a notion as formally as possible, only to have the trumpet sound and all of the Muppet gang modeling exactly the wrong thing to do as they trample over Sam in entering the theater. It’s a fun way to emphasize the need to show respect to others as you enter the theater.

Here Gonzo demonstrates for Sam Eagle why you shouldn’t put the 3D glasses on until you are seated.

This sort of activity occurs throughout the parks, encouraging Guests to make safe choices in an entertaining and/or themed manner. Read the following safety spiels. See if you can match the spiel with the attraction:

  • “For your safety, I’ve invented rails for you to lean on. I call them: “lean rails”. Please do not sit on the lean rails. Because they’re there to lean on. And please don’t sit on the floor. My studies show that you can’t experience time travel on the floor. And it’s not a pretty picture in those shorts.”
  • “Howdy partners! For your safety, remain seated with your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the train. And be sure to watch your kids! If any of you folks are wearing hats and glasses, best remove them…because this here is the wildest ride in the wilderness!”
  • “We’ll begin boarding in a few minutes but first I’d like to aquaint you with some important safety information. When the doors to your flight open, please take a seat and store all carry on items in the under-seat compartment. This includes: cameras, purses, hats and of course, these little beauties…if smaller aviators don’t measure up to the height indicator on the seat, just put the belt through the loop in the center strap before buckling it. Nice work, pal!…”
  • “…We were just talking about seat belts. Plug them in. Use them. It can get kind of choppy out there, so keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. Flash photography–I wouldn’t. It alters the homing signal, and that’s not good.”
  • “May I have your attention please. At this time, I’d like to take a moment to review our boarding process with you…For your safety, all passengers are required to wear safety restraints throughout the flight…Galactic regulations require that all carry on items be safely stowed beneath your seat…If you have any questions, feel fee to ask an attendant. You’ll be boarding in just a few moments. Thank you, and have a pleasant tour!”
Disney’s safety spiels have become legendary. They are professional, engaging, and even entertaining. Even the most infrequent Disney visitor is familiar with its most famous safety spiel, “Por favor, mantenganse alejado de las puertas.” Where else would you find a safety spiel on a T-shirt than at Disney?
Who knew when Jack Wagner recorded the spiels so many years ago that a safety announcement in Spanish would become a t-shirt?
Recognizing that when it comes to safety it can be a “jungle out there,” Disney decided that helping kids learn the park’s rules required using some of its most popular characters. Since then, Timon and Pumbaa have been “Wild About Safety.” With a full set of cards that Cast Members hand out, plus a coloring book, brochure, and website, these tips teach children in colorful, comic ways about the importance of safety.
One of dozens of cards handed out to teach kids about the importance of safety.
It’s all a part of a complete package to make safety Disney’s first priority. And while no organization is perfect when it comes to safety, it’s pretty difficult to find an organization more committed to creating a safe environment. Similar to what Jiminy Cricket preaches, “Disney’s no fool, no siree. They want their parks to entertain until they’re a 103. They play safe like you and me, ’cause they’re no fool.”

J. Jeff Kober