Walt Disney World Swaps Another Live Show

August 3, 2020, 2:15 PM · When Walt Disney World reopened its theme parks last month, it announced that it would not run parades or big night-time shows as it looked to promote safe physical distancing inside the parks. But Disney canceled many of its live stage shows, too, due to its inability to reach a deal with the Actors Equity union that represents the performers in those shows.

On its surface, the dispute is over health and safety procedures. The union wants increased testing and new safety restrictions (e.g. masks) for its members, who must perform in often-confined spaces, using props and costumes that are handled by many people. But a cynic might suggest that the real issue - as it often turns out to be - is economic.

With lower capacities due to those physical distancing requirements, there's not a lot of incentive for Disney to pay Equity members to perform shows that could play only to a small fraction of their normal house sizes. So why not decline to increase testing, leave the performers on furlough and save some money while resort income is so low?

(On the flip side, if I'm a performer, I don't know that any level of testing in the state of Florida right now would make me feel comfortable going on a crowded stage, unless I was playing a character in a full Hazmat suit. Maybe it's time for a new Monsters, Inc. show?)

All that said, a lot of theme park fans still expect live entertainment as part of the Disney experience. So Disney is making changes to put something on stage in certain locations.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, the resort has replaced its Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage production with The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends, a musical show with some character dancing. Since there's no live dialogue, it's not covered under the Equity contract. Disney previously downsized the Up! A Great Bird Adventure show at Disney's Animal Kingdom to remove the Equity-represented speaking characters from the production.

However, most major show theaters remained closed, including those for Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo - The Musical, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Have you seen any of these replacement productions? Let us know what you think, in the comments.

Replies (2)

August 3, 2020 at 2:50 PM

Next up on stage:

Loophole - The Non-Verbal Entertainment Experience.

August 3, 2020 at 7:45 PM

I mean... switch to recorded dialog?

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