Disney World’s Newest Show Highlights Need for Resolution With Actors’ Union

Walt Disney World debuted a new show today – The Disney Society Orchestra, replacing the Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage show. They didn’t come up with a new show because inspiration struck or a hot new Intellectual Property is available, Disney changed the show because they’ve reached a stalemate with the Actors’ Equity Association, a union that represents “equity” actors at the theme parks. Both sides have dug in and Disney is, at this point, yelling that the show must go on.

The Disney Society Orchestra was presumably born out of a necessity to have something in a space that has sat vacant since the parks reopened. Guests are still paying the same price at the front gate to get into a theme park that is reliant on its shows. Indiana Jones isn’t cheating death, kids (and adults) aren’t singing along with Olaf, and, until recently, there was no Beauty and the Beast and no Disney Junior.

Less than a week ago, Disney debuted another new show devoid of equity actors at the Disney Junior Play & Dance, steps away from the new Society Orchestra show that debuted today. Both shows have all of the characters you might hope for – Mickey in a racing outfit, Belle looking regal before her dance with Beast, Doc McStuffins ready to make a house call, and more, but there is an underlying contract that makes the shows feel weird.

The agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association is set to expire in fall 2022, but Disney is hopefully not looking at these new shows as permanent solutions to a problem that will be around for at least a couple more years. According to sources, there are restrictions on what these new shows can do thanks to wording in the existing union contract. Perhaps the average guest won’t notice the changes made on stage too much, but when Belle and the Beast can’t come together for a dance in the finale of a new show, something just falls flat.

This is due to an agreement that says that the new shows can’t feature complex choreography. Instead, we have what amounts to a physically distanced meet and greet or photo op.

In the new Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins is “dancing” via a series of common stretches, and Mickey mimics driving a car. If it weren’t for the talented musicians in the Disney Society Orchestra, what you’re left with is little more than a middle-school theater production. That’s not to say that there aren’t talented people working on these shows, it’s just that the shows are created with one hand tied behind their backs.

Now, what is the solution? That’s for Disney and the Actors’ Equity Association to figure out. Actors’ is asking for regular COVID-19 testing, something that is likely out of the question for Disney and is considered overkill by some of the very Disney Cast Members who this would be protecting. That’s not to say that all of the union demands are outrageous though. Another sticking point is the use of face masks, something that is required by each and every Cast Member in the parks that isn’t dressed up like a princess.

Down the road, Universal Orlando has not shied away from putting some of their characters in face masks. As a matter of fact, Universal’s newest show has their actors in face masks and it doesn’t even come close to diminishing the work that they do to impress audiences in multiple showings per day.

The shows that are debuting now do not meet the quality or storytelling that we’ve all grown accustomed to experiencing in the theme parks. Again, we can’t lay blame at the feet of anyone directly involved with these shows, but hope that the organizations that are currently battling over an important thing like safety are able to come to an agreement that all sides are happy with sooner rather than later.

Mike is the owner and writer for BlogMickey.com. Visiting the parks daily allows him to keep up with the latest Disney news, reviews, and photos from around the Disney Parks. You can reach him at [email protected]

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  1. Why is Mickey still in his Roadster Racers outfit, the show was rebranded to Mickey’s Mixed Up Adventures, and didn’t Doc McStuffins end recently, and BATBLOS has lasted as long as the movie that was based off of

  2. Hi, Mike. The statement that, “Actors’ is asking for daily COVID-19 testing….” is inaccurate. Equity is asking for a round of testing BEFORE Equity performers are called back into work WITH periodic testing thereafter. “Daily” was never a request. That would be (understandably) unreasonable.

    • Thank you. We have updated the post to reflect the “regular” testing that the union called for in their public statement

  3. My girlfriend won 2 adult park hopper passes for 2 days at Disneyland in Anaheim through the end of 2020. It was a raffle winner right before the Covid-19 . She wants more than anything to be able to go. If Disneyland opens before 2021, will she be able to go?

  4. Sounds like the greedy Disney I Used to Know growing up in the 70s and 80s.

    not much has changed.

    the simple answer for a company this large is to just shut down and care about their people more than their profits

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