Hong Kong Disneyland unveils pilot programme to bring sign language to live musicals

  • Starting on November 5, the park will incorporate ‘immersive theatrical interpretation’ into one of its stage shows, making it more accessible to people with hearing issues
  • Theme park worked with interpreters from the Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong to design the show
Sue Ng |

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Hong Kong Disneyland will include sign language in one of its signature musical shows “Mickey and the Wondrous Book” beginning in November. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong Disneyland has unveiled a one-year pilot programme to integrate sign language into its signature live musicals, making its shows more accessible to people of all abilities.

Starting on November 5, Disneyland will incorporate “immersive theatrical interpretation” into one of its regular musicals, Mickey and the Wondrous Book, which presents various beloved Disney tales on stage.

According to the most recent government data, as of 2020, Hong Kong has about 48,700 people with communication difficulties and 47,900 people who have long-term hearing difficulties or use a hearing aid. More than 6,000 Hongkongers use sign language in their regular communication.

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The theme park has used sign language in a performance before. Last month, they launched the groundbreaking Let’s Get Wicked Halloween show, complemented by sign language, which runs until the end of October.

Mickey and the Wondrous Book is the park’s second live musical with theatrical interpretation under the new programme and the next step towards promoting diversity and inclusion in the park.

Angela Lam, associate show director at Hong Kong Disneyland, said the park was always eager to take the initiative and create an accessible environment for everyone.

The new performances will begin on November 5. Photo: Handout

“Disneyland strives to create a diverse entertainment experience for our guests … and we always welcome people with disabilities. Currently, we have free sign language interpretation services at some theatre shows and attractions, available on request,” said Lam.

She said it had taken three months for the park and interpreters from the Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong (ADAHK) to design the accessible performance.

“We held a number of meetings to discuss how to match the music, narration, and storyline with sign language to present a perfect show for our deaf and disabled audiences, as well as give the general audience a brand new experience.”

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During the 30-minute performance, two professional sign language interpreters from ADAHK will sign the story from the front of the stage. Shows with theatrical interpretation will be offered twice a month, one on the first Saturday and another on the third Wednesday.

Andy Lee, a sign language instructor who will participate in the performance, said that preparing for the show involved a lot of hard work.

“We have spent a lot of time learning about the songs and stories,” Lee said. “We have watched many Disney films to understand the characters’ demeanour and to interpret the lines and performances precisely.”

“This is a new attempt to incorporate performing arts interpretation into a theatre show,” he added. “We hope that in the future, there will be more performances with sign language for the deaf to enjoy.”

“We have watched many Disney films to understand the characters’ demeanour and to interpret the lines and performances precisely,” said one interpreter from ADAHK. Photo: Handout

Ida Lam, the chairperson of ADAHK, was elated to learn about Disneyland’s new programme. “We are happy to see a major theme park in Hong Kong take the initiative to include sign language in performances, allowing those with hearing impairments to enjoy the show.”

She said that the programme meant more than giving the hearing-impaired a chance to experience art, adding that it also helps them connect with society.

“Through theatrical interpretation, they can enjoy the show in the theatre, surrounded by an audience, laughing and crying simultaneously without feeling left out.”

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