If you look semi-closely around Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim, it won’t take long to notice what appears to be a curious language written all over the place. It looks like this:
During a recent visit to Disneyland with extended family, I saw this writing everywhere. It was something I hadn’t previously observed when growing up in Southern California and visiting the park frequently. Here it is on Star Tours:
And on a door:
And an exit sign:
The list could go on, but you get the idea: these symbols are used in a way that makes them look like another language.
It turns out, though, that they aren’t another language at all; they’re a typeface called Aurebesh, Disneyland spokesperson Erin Glover confirmed to Tripping Over the World.
Turns out, Aurebesh is a typeface created for Star Wars and used to represent “Galactic Basic,” or the lingua franca of the the Star Wars universe. There isn’t a lot of in depth and reliable information out there on the history of Aurebesh, but according to “Wookieepedia, The Star Wars Wiki,” a similar typeface first appeared in Return of the Jedi.
In the 1990s, a guy named Stephen Crane developed Aurebesh into a full alphabet, and it ended up in Star Wars movies, games, and other texts. Glover told me it now appears at multiple Disney theme parks as well. And though Glover did not say when the typeface was rolled out, I do not think it was at the parks — or at least widely used — when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. I suspect it was widely deployed after Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and began more aggressively adding Star Wars features to its parks.
Because Aurebesh is a typeface — not a language — it’s easy to decipher. It has no unique grammar or syntax, and each letter simply gets a different symbol. (That means you could probably use it to write most Latin alphabet languages, such as English or Spanish.)
Here’s the breakdown, which you can use to translate it:
Using that chart, you could walk around Disneyland and figure out what all the futuristic signs in Tomorrowland say. Or you could try figuring it out on your own; after a few minutes at the park, I figured I was looking at a typeface and began trying to decipher it using things like Exit signs. In many cases, English and Aurebesh are written side-by-side and it’s easy to see which letters correspond to which symbols.
By the end of my trip, I didn’t have the entire Aurebesh alphabet memorized, but I did know enough symbols that I could take a stab at what the signs were saying even when they lacked English. And in the end it made for a fun and unusual way to get a little more out of my trip to Disneyland.
— Jim Dalrymple II