Given the throngs of visitors and numerous attractions at the Disney parks, it’s easy to get lost. Thankfully, you will always find a worker to point you in the right direction. When you do, you just might start to notice something unique about their body language—and it’s just one of the many secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.
Cast members, as park employees are called, are taught in their training to always point with two fingers instead of one. The first reason for this is that pointing with just the one index finger, as most Americans do, is considered impolite in some cultures and countries. The Disney parks have always attracted a good deal of international visitors, so the more benign two-finger gesture became the norm among employees, in an effort to be sensitive and welcoming to every person. Employees have even affectionately dubbed it “the Disney point.” Michaela Paris, a former Disney employee, said the Disney point is a sign of respect.
“Disney receives plenty of foreign travelers to their parks. The typical single finger point is a symbol of disrespect and has a negative connotation in many cultures. Therefore, Disney created the ‘Disney point’ to accommodate all of their guests,” Paris said.
Case in point: In the Middle East, pointing with an index finger means singling someone out or making fun of them. It’s just one of the 12 things that are considered rude in other countries.
Other sources say this way of pointing is a curiosity based on Disney lore. According to the Huffington Post, it’s actually how Walt Disney himself used to point things out to visitors, because he usually had a cigarette balanced between the two fingers. You won’t find cast members today smoking a cigarette—there’s no smoking (or vaping) allowed for anyone, employees or guests, once you are inside the entrances at Disney parks—but the tradition of pointing with two fingers still stands. You can even see Walt Disney’s famous gesture immortalized in the iconic Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Keep an eye out for the statue of Walt and Mickey doing the “Disney point” next time you’re at Disney World. Meanwhile don’t miss these other etiquette rules that all Disney employees must follow.