Walt Disney World’s phased reopening is underway as of the July 11 grand reopening for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and July 15 for EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As we previously shared, the reopening has been met with some resistance, including the Actors’ Equity Association, which represents Disney’s actors. As discussion between Disney and the Actor’s Equity continue, Disney is finding ways to work around the absent performers.
According to Orlando Sentinel: Actors’ Equity represents about 750 performers at Walt Disney World, including those who sing in “Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage,” “Finding Nemo — The Musical” and the “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.” The union has been pressing Disney to provide regular COVID-19 testing of performers; Disney has said it is confident in the safety protocols already in place.
Equity filed a grievance after Disney canceled a planned recall to work for Equity-represented performers when the theme parks reopened this month after the lengthy coronavirus shutdown. Multiple sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed the two sides would meet July 20.
Disney has debuted a revamped version of its bird show at the Animal Kingdom theme park. Previously titled “Up! A Great Bird Adventure,” the show featured an Equity-represented actor portraying Wilderness Explorer Troop Leader Jones, as well as troop member Russell and Dug the dog, characters from the film “Up!” The new version is titled “Feathered Friends in Flight.” A Disney employee who identifies as part of a team of animal-behavior specialists now hosts the show with a colleague.
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Savi’s Workshop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened without its “Star Wars”-themed show and Equity-represented actor. Guests interact only with the secondary cast members.
The official Walt Disney World website still lists the former “Up!” and “Savi’s Workshop” shows as “temporarily unavailable,” so they could return. But the changes have rattled Equity performers, who are taking to social media to express their fear of being squeezed out of their jobs.
Disney’s agreement with Actors’ Equity lasts until 2022. If discussions between Disney and Actors’ Equity cannot resolve the grievance, an arbitrator will be called in.