I have huge reservations about writing this post. Sharon and I have lived in Orlando for 20 years. We’ve been visiting Walt Disney World regularly for more than a decade before that. It’s with a heavy heart that we’re reading on Facebook and Twitter that Disney has fired 700 of the Equity performers who have worked at the theme parks, many of them for decades.
How should I write this post without seeming insensitive? Every one of these people has spent most of their professional lives making people happy and have now lost their jobs because of a situation beyond their control.
My only solace is to write as if I am a journalist. How will this affect those who will visit Orlando in the next months or years?
This may be just a partial list, but Walt Disney World has reportedly fired actors from all of the following shows:
- Festival of the Lion King
- Turtle Talk With Crush
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
- Finding Nemo the Musical
- Jedi Training Academy
- The Castle Show
- Hoop De Doo Revue
- Beauty and the Beast
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Theater
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid
- Citizens of Hollywood/Streetmosphere
- Citizens of Main Street/Streetmosphere
The only live entertainment we’ve heard that’s left are the Dapper Dans, The Frozen Sing-A-Long, and Savi’s Workshop – and even of those, many part-time performers were also let go.
I already have written about how living in Orlando wasn’t very magical right now. At no time has that been more true than tonight. Our community has been suffering from losing jobs at the theme parks, but these cuts indicate how things will be different for guests for months, or years, to come.
For the pain our city is feeling right now, we know that many people are thinking, “What does this mean to me?” Well, if you’re thinking of visiting the Disney theme parks in Orlando, the experience you’ll get will be very different from what you’ve experienced before.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, your Walt Disney World experience was influenced by an actor. No matter if you were singing about Strawberry Shortcake at the Hoop-De-Doo Review. talking with Crush about how things were “totally tubular,” or watching Jack Diamond perform magic on Hollywood Blvd, those interactions were with an actor who is no longer employed by Walt Disney World. Whether they were small interactions while walking within the parks or massive stage shows, they all employed professional actors.
Unbeknownst to the average tourist, these actors were masters at their craft and overall talented performers. Living in Orlando, we were able to see many of these actors outside of their everyday jobs at the theme parks. Ariel from Little Mermaid might be an incredible improv comedian, Belle from the Beauty and The Beast show may be an awesome cabaret singer, and that funny guy who improvised on the streets of the Studios for the past 10 minutes might perform Shakespeare in his spare time. I can say that visitors were fortunate to see such amazing performers, even if they didn’t realize it.
Like Broadway theaters, many of these shows at Walt Disney World are not economically possible with the restrictions necessary while COVID-19 is running rampant. Shows wouldn’t be safe for the performers without major (expensive) changes and guests wouldn’t be safe without significantly reduced audiences due to social distancing.
Once Florida and the rest of the country have been able to get the coronavirus under control, I’m hopeful that many of these jobs will eventually return. Until then, throw this onto the pile of things that COVID-19 has totally messed up.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary