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New Role for Safety at Disney

'Lion King' characters are enlisted to educate children on preventing park accidents.

May 23, 2003|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

Disney officials Thursday unveiled a safety campaign that will use characters from "The Lion King" to educate children on how to prevent accidents at its theme parks.

Wild About Safety, which will be introduced over the next 18 months, incorporates a dozen messages aimed at children in activity books, maps, brochures, "tip cards," menus and signs.

The materials feature Timon and Pumbaa, characters from "The Lion King," in a series of "misadventures" that promote safe behavior. Among their tips: "Keep arms, hooves, tusks and tails inside the vehicle."

The campaign comes a year after Disney named Greg Hale chief safety officer and released a report outlining steps to enhance theme-park safety. Those moves followed high-profile accidents and scrutiny over how the company discloses accident information to the public.

"This is a comprehensive program to get the message out," Hale said of the campaign. "It uses a variety of vehicles to reinforce people's behavior, but does it in a fun way."

The president of the nonprofit National Safety Council lauded the effort. "Disney has the unique ability to touch millions with its wonderful characters," President and CEO Alan C. McMillan said in a statement. "We are delighted they are using these powerful tools to keep kids and families safe."

In addition, Hale said, Disney has installed 10,000 safety signs at its resorts in the last year and increased the use of gates and fencing at points where people board rides.

As rides are taken down for scheduled refurbishing, safety measures are added, he said. For example, Disneyland's Space Mountain, which is closed for a two-year overhaul, will replace employee hand signals with a synchronized system that requires several employees to press buttons to start the ride.

"This is an ongoing process, and we're constantly working on new technologies," Hale said. "The rest of the industry watches us very closely. We recognize our leadership position and want to live up to that."

In California, theme parks fought state regulation for decades, but a law took effect in 2000 that requires parks to inspect rides and report injuries.

The law was passed after a series of high-profile accidents, including one at Disneyland in 1998 that killed a Washington state tourist.

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