Disney recently cut entertainment to the bone at Walt Disney World, laying off about 720 of their 780 equity cast members. Following a ton of online backlash, Disney issued a statement on their decision to remove entertainment offerings at Walt Disney World and what it means for the future.
Disney’s full comments can be seen on the Disney Parks Blog, but you can also read it below:
Walt Disney World Resort offers a treasure trove of experiences for guests of all ages. We recognize that part of the magic of visiting any Disney park is seeing favorite Disney friends and discovering one-of-a-kind shows and performances. Since reopening, we’ve continued to offer modified character experiences and entertainment throughout our resort, while also taking the appropriate steps for the health and safety of our guests and cast members.
Recently, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions to reduce our workforce as the business impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic have become more long-lasting than anyone could have predicted. As a result, we’ve had to pause many live shows and entertainment experiences at our resort for longer than originally anticipated.
While it’s impossible at this time to fully replace the incredible entertainment that existed throughout our parks before the pandemic, we are offering live entertainment in new ways wherever possible, including character cavalcades in all four parks and pop-up appearances, like discovering Joy from “Inside Out” frolicking on the lawn near the Imagination! pavilion in EPCOT. Additionally, we’re featuring modified shows such as the popular “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and live musical performances like the Main Street Philharmonic in Magic Kingdom or the Discovery Island Drummers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This extends to our seasonal offerings, with Halloween underway and the holidays right around the corner. In fact, the fan-favorite Voices of Liberty are set to make their return and join the JAMMitors and Mariachi Cobre at the American Gardens Theatre during the upcoming Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, beginning on Nov. 27.
Determining which shows can return and when is a complex process. As with the rest of our phased reopening, we will also consider the guidance of health officials and government agencies in determining when the time will be right to adjust capacity, and as soon as it is appropriate, we will start to bring additional entertainment back.
Like most of our fans, we know that our beloved entertainment cast are an incredibly special and essential part of the Disney experience. We look forward to the day when we can welcome back more live entertainment to our parks, and we will share more news about these announcements as we’re able to do so.
Disney’s statement will ease some fears about entertainment at Walt Disney World, but it leaves plenty of questions. For example, Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical going dark at Disney’s Animal Kingdom leaves a big entertainment hole. Is it fair to ask guests to continue to pay full price when key attractions are shuttered? Why has entertainment been scaled back even in the years prior to COVID-19 while attendance soars?
We recently discussed the long-term effects of Disney’s sweeping layoffs, and this statement didn’t address those concerns. Some entertainment will inevitably return, but will Disney maintain their trend of scaling offerings back even when some return? If we were a betting website, we’d wager a large number of the axed positions will not be returning.
It’s difficult to predict what entertainment at Walt Disney World will look like in the future. For now, it’s important to recognize the incredible talent that has been let go and hope Disney will remember what makes their parks magical when the dust settles.