Make It a Small World

By your host, J. Jeff Kober

Let’s look at how Disney works to make it a small world by providing assistance to those guests who speak other languages.

"it's a small world" where "One Golden Sun" smiles as the sun sets in the land of the rising sun.
“it’s a small world” where “One Golden Sun” smiles as the sun sets in the land of the rising sun. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This is about how to make it a small world. But it’s not about “it’s a small world”.

When I visited Tokyo Disneyland for the first time last summer, I arrived late as the daylight was drawing to a close. I spent the first hour strolling around the park to get a sense of it. The journey led me past “it’s a small world” to Pooh’s Honey Hunt next door.

The entrance to Pooh's Honey Hunt. Notice there is no one in the queue. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The entrance to Pooh’s Honey Hunt. Notice there is no queue. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Pooh’s Honey Hunt is an immensely popular attraction. It’s different than The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh found in the American parks because its ride system works off of a GPS system. A trackless ride–even one that can randomly move about–isn’t just great because of its technology. What makes the ride more immersive is that its detailing is more complete and 3 dimensional–needed because the attraction is seen from all angles as the vehicles turn about. Simply put, it’s not your father’s cardboard cutout dark ride.

Guests enjoying Pooh's Honey Hunt. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Guests enjoying Pooh’s Honey Hunt. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

FastPasses for the attraction are handed out within the first hour or so of most days. The standby queue is long the entire day. So when I arrived in the early evening hours, I was surprised that no one was standing in line. Could I have lucked out? Could I get on right away? I doubted it, but I couldn’t tell because I didn’t know Japanese. Many of the Japanese know some English, and the signage is also in English, so as a guest you can usually get along in the park. So I decided to ask the Cast Member greeting guests at the attraction why it was closed.

She sensed what I was asking–after all, the queue was empty–but she had no language skills to respond. She scrambled for a small book from behind the counter. Flipping through several pages, she finally held up this page to me:

The text in english reads, "This facility is closed, pale Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The text in English reads, “This facility is temporarily closed. Please use another facility.” Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The booklet contains other sets of instructions, and in a variety of languages–mostly those found in Asia. There are many ways that Disney works to make it a small world. My encounter with the Tokyo Disneyland Cast Member and the tool she used to communicate to me was just one way. Brochures in different languages are also available. Technology to translate ride and show experiences into the language of the guest is provided. Cast Members who are hired to speak in two, three, even four or more languages. Training for others in cultural differences and in language basics. Translation services for difficult to deal with situations.

Disney has a very intentional program that helps to make it a small world to those visiting that speak other languages. How do you make your products and services available to others who do not speak your native tongue? What can you do to make it a small world?

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