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This is How Disney Brings Language to Life through ASL Interpretation at EPCOT

This is How Disney Incorporates ASL Interpretation at EPCOT 300-candlelight-processional-narrators

A story was recently released on Disney Parks Blog; it was a very heartwarming story regarding ASL at EPCOT and the other parks. They just celebrated 25 years of interpretation of the fan-favorite “Candlelight Processional” at EPCOT, which is fantastic. Below is the entire story showcasing how Sign Language is used at Disney.

Did you know that across all Disney Parks, Sign Language Interpreters bring our shows and experiences to life in American Sign Language (ASL), French Sign Language (LSF), Chinese Sign Language, and more?

In fact, Walt Disney World is proud to celebrate 25 years of interpretation of our iconic “Candlelight Processional” as part of the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays presented by AdventHealth!

Since 1971, the “Candlelight Processional” has been a beloved offering of Walt Disney World. Debuting first at Magic Kingdom Park after many successful years at Disneyland Resort, the spectacular classical concert features both community and cast choirs, an orchestra, guest conductors, celebrity narrators and notably passionate Sign Language interpreters. As the offering grew in popularity both among cast members and show attendees, it was relocated to its current home in EPCOT, where it is enjoyed by thousands each year.

This is How Disney Incorporates ASL Interpretation at EPCOT
Historical Photo

In 1997, the “Candlelight Processional” at Walt Disney World introduced its first live Sign Language interpretation of the show allowing guests who are Deaf and hard of hearing to enjoy and further resonate with the timeless stories told. Since then, over 2,000 shows have featured this inclusive offering.

“Celebrating 25 years of consistent Sign Language interpretation of this show is such an important milestone,” said Mark Jones, Walt Disney World Resort Manager of Accessibility. “Disney sets the standard for the entertainment industry, and by highlighting this offering among others at Walt Disney World, we give extensive exposure to the ASL community, and motivate for others to take similar steps.” 

Head Candlelight interpreter and choreographer Angela Roth blends her knowledge of interpreting with her unique energetic style to enhance her craft of American Sign Language. As Angela signs, she incorporates her entire body, blocking her movements on stage, adopting the mannerisms of the characters speaking, as well as constantly utilizing facial expressions to allow guests who are Deaf and hard of hearing to fully conceptualize the entire narrative.

By working closely with the Deaf community, actors, and other interpreters, Angela takes performance signing to a new level using a technique called ‘eye-rhyme.’

“Eye-rhyme is where I put together the signs into a visual rhyme that to the Deaf eye creates a visual flow,” said Angela. “I use these eye-rhymes and sign to the pace of the music’s rhythm to create a similar effect to hearing the lyrics with the rhythm.” 

Angela signs not only the words being said but also the music and the story itself. “My approach is not simply to sign the lyrics but to treat each piece as a visual poem incorporating elements from the Deaf community’s Deaf expressions. Deaf expressions originate from their own expressions and are unrelated to spoken languages. Instead, they draw their inspiration from visual metaphors that derive from ASL community and culture,” Angela said.

As a result, the piece becomes even more meaningful and connected to the guests. “We are not here to be human captions,” said Angela. “Like everyone at Disney, we are immersive storytellers and are responsible for ensuring every guest in attendance feels welcomed and sees themselves in the stories we tell.”

Disney Parks Blog
This is How Disney Incorporates ASL Interpretation at EPCOT 2021-candlelight-processional-sign

As they mentioned in the article having Sign Language showcased is about creating an inclusive atmosphere while being immersive storytellers. It is also mentioned that Disney sets the standard for the entertainment industry, and I hope to see more places adopt this and become more inclusive. It is easy to see that Angela is fully invested in her job and aims to create an amazing experience for the deaf and hard of hearing.

When guests can see themselves in different stories that are told throughout Disney, whether it’s in the parks, on TV, or in movies, it creates a safe space for them. Reading heartwarming stories like this reminds me why I love Disney. Also, this is a great story to read during the holiday season.

Hi, I'm Erica, and I write about all things Disney. Before working for The DIS, I was a theme park performer at SeaWorld, but I also performed at Disney. I have such an immense love for theme parks to the point I studied them in college.


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