Ariella Hendrix, licensed costumes product design manager for Disney’s Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, grew up loving the costumes she saw on stage.
Now, she oversees the development of licensed Halloween costumes and roleplay items—in collaboration with costume companies like Disguise, FUN.com and others—using her creativity to immerse fans in the magic of their favorite Disney stories.
“My dream is that everyone has a costume that they feel seen in,” Ariella said.
She fondly remembers the spark she felt when dressing up in Disney costumes as a child, especially the treasured Belle costume she frequently wore.
“As an adult, and especially now as a parent, I have been able to relive that joy, knowing that the next generation of children will grow up immersing themselves in our stories when they put on a costume that I had a hand in developing,” Ariella shared.
Throughout her 11-year career with Disney, Ariella has been a champion of inclusion. She is the marketplace co-lead of one of the Disney PRIDE Business Employee Resource Groups (BERG), an employee-led resource group that advocates, celebrates, and educates on behalf of LGBTQIA+ and ally employees, fostering a culture of authenticity and inclusivity across the enterprise, marketplace and global community.
Expanding our Line of Adaptive Costumes and Wheelchair Wraps
Ariella wants all communities to be able to partake in the excitement of Halloween dress up. She’s working toward this goal, in part, by growing our collection of adaptive costumes and wheelchair wraps with Disguise, a collaboration that began roughly five years ago.
“We want to ensure that children with disabilities have costumes that specifically meet their needs,” she said.
This year, the Disguise team released a new Disney Mickey Mouse Adaptive Costume for Kids and matching Disney Mickey Mouse Fun House Adaptive Wheelchair Cover. The team was also incredibly proud to launch the first-ever licensed adaptive costumes in adult sizes: the Disney “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” Sally Adaptive Adult Costume, Disney’s Jack Skellington Adaptive Adult Costume and accompanying Disney “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” Adaptive Wheelchair Cover.
“I always aim to ensure that we are being the most thoughtful to the community in considering what features of the costumes will address the widest variety of need,” Ariella explained.
For example, when developing wheelchair wraps, her team focused on the ease of use and the wearer’s visibility. Adaptive costumes are constructed with features meant to be easily accessible, comfortable and compatible with various needs like medical tubes.
To gain insights on how to improve the costumes directly from cast members within the community, Ariella partnered with Disney’s Enabled BERG, an employee-led resource group that promotes respect, equality and appreciation of people with disabilities through community, awareness, education and inclusion. The designs were also informed by guidance from Disguise’s consulting firms, to ensure the final product was as inclusive as possible.
Ariella said that one of the most joyful and rewarding experiences is witnessing the impact of her creations in real time, and when parents share how meaningful the adaptive costumes and wheelchair wraps can be.
“They explain the excitement that their child feels in getting to try on a costume that fits them in a way that other costumes have not in the past,” she added.
Prioritizing Size-Inclusive Costumes
As part of their commitment to make Halloween dress up more inclusive, Ariella and her team are also working on expanding the size options available for many of our costumes, in collaboration with FUN.com.
“Whenever there’s a sign that there are gaps in the representation of diverse communities, that is when the conversations begin to address that need,” she added.
Ariella noted that this progress is possible due to the incredible collaborations with Disguise and FUN.com, both of which are dedicated to bringing meaningful costumes to life.
While she’s proud of her team’s impact, Ariella knows this is only the beginning. Driven by her personal passion for inclusion, she’s committed to continue learning and incorporating feedback from the fans who wear our costumes.
“It all comes back to a desire to develop costumes that make individuals feel truly represented,” she said.