Epcot's World Showcase.The journey of The Three Caballeros continues inside the Mexico pavilion at
Fans noticed a while back that the animatronics of Donald Duck, José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles that star in the Gran Fiesta Tour indoor boat ride had, uh, seen better days. But today, social media blew up as fans reported that the animatronics had been replaced in one scene by flat cutouts of the three animated birds.
I mean, it's better than a broken animatronic or no characters at all. But the flats definitely push the buttons of Disney fans who fear declining quality in the parks. With the pandemic forcing Disney to cut so much live entertainment and daily spectaculars, you can forgive fans for feeling especially sensitive about any other cutbacks around the resort.
But is this really a cutback? If Disney intentionally chose to replace animatronics with painted flats, yeah, that would be. But this strikes me as a stop-gap to cover something that simply broke. Disney does not maintain an animatronic bank of back-up characters, ready to plug in whenever an on-stage figure breaks. So when something breaks unexpectedly, there's going to be some downtime.
Most of the time, Disney's maintenance crews get broken figures back up and running quickly. (And here are some fun examples.) Sometimes, full functionality cannot be restored, but the figure can be remounted in a stable position. (Hello, Yeti!) But other times characters have to "take a break" for repair. Rather than leave the scene empty or close the ride, something like a flat can provide a stop-gap in the meantime.
Frankly, I think Disney did a pretty good job with these. So I'm not going to rush to criticize Disney for their presence... provided their stay is relatively short. If The Three Cardboard-eros are still there this summer, well, then we will have a problem.
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