Disneyland reopening

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Layoffs sweep through the Walt Disney Company.
  • Entertainment is being scaled back at Walt Disney World.
  • And more!

If the bullets above don’t give you a hint, let’s make it real clear right now: those of you looking for an upbeat edition of Theme Park Bits may want to dig into the archives instead. The news coming out of theme parks in the last few days has been exceedingly grim, and I’d rather not pretend otherwise. You’ve no doubt already heard that more than 28,000 people have been laid off from the Walt Disney Company, throughout the vast Parks and Resorts division.

Before we dig into the details, it should be noted that the official statement from Fellow Josh, Mr. D’Amaro, tries once again to pin the blame for these massive layoffs in no small part on the unwillingness of California Governor Gavin Newsom to allow Disneyland to reopen. It’s true, of course, that Walt Disney World has been operating without having an obvious super-spreader event for the last couple of months. But it’s also true that Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is not Gavin Newsom, in basically every possible way. One state’s governor is perhaps too cautious, but the other is arguably wildly irresponsible in his attitudes towards public health.

Disney Parks - Wonderful World of Animation

More to the point, roughly a quarter of these mass layoffs are centered in Orlando, so it’s hard to shake the idea that Disney is trying its best to handle a public-relations disaster by pinning the blame on someone else. Whatever the case, these layoffs are devastating in every possible way. Did you enjoy the live entertainment provided by Yehaa Bob at the Port Orleans Resort? Well, sadly, it’s over – he’s been laid off. What about the NBA Experience over at Disney Springs? All of those Cast Members have been laid off too. It extends to transportation options, too, like the Minnie Van service, with its Cast Members being cut.

I could go on, but you probably get the point. These layoffs are widespread and truly gutting to so many people’s livelihoods, and during a time when the U.S. government continues to waffle over whether or not they should provide aid to countless millions who are unemployed or destitute. If you have the means, I encourage you to give whatever you can, to food banks, charities, and other organizations and people trying to help. Tom Bricker over at the Disney Tourist Blog has compiled a list of options for how to help. Please do so if you can.

Some of the layoffs in the Anaheim area are going to be keenly felt by guests whenever Disneyland reopens. (That’s still a very unknown and murky question, of course.) If you’re anything like me, you enjoy live entertainment when you’re at the parks, and two of the very best shows were Mickey and the Magical Map and Frozen – Live at the Hyperion. You may have noticed my use of “was” there; I wish I didn’t have to use past tense, but according to some reports among Cast Members, the shows are being canceled as an after-effect of the pandemic layoffs. This news isn’t confirmed by Disney, and it’s always possible that once the parks reopen, these shows will return. (Mickey and the Magical Map, at least, takes place in an open-air amphitheater.) But for now, it’s a real downer.

At Walt Disney World, operations have scaled back immensely. You can take a look at this list to get a sense of how many other entertainment options have been closed during the pandemic even after the parks reopened. Something to note here: it’s easy to look at a list like this and think, “Well, there aren’t a lot of E-Ticket attractions on here, so what’s the difference?” The difference is that these small touches – from British musicians to lively piano performers – are the kind of special flourish that distinguishes Disney from other theme-park operators. They added to the atmosphere in ways that character or IP tie-ins simply can’t. Rough, rough time.

Of course, some of the entertainment options being removed will be a lot harder to ignore. To wit, Disney recently acknowledged the inevitable and announced that the yearly Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candelight Processional would be canceled this year. File this one under “unsurprising but disappointing”, of course. With so many Cast Members having lost their jobs, and since we’re still stuck in a pandemic situation, holding such mass events is risky even for Disney. There’s always the option to watch last year’s events on YouTube, but…yeah. Like I said: not really an upbeat edition of the column, and I’m not going to try and wrap it up with a smile either. Fingers crossed for something lighter next time, huh?

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