The Downsizing of Entertainment in Disney Parks – A Disappointing Direction

Disclaimer: the following (as always) is my personal opinion and in no way reflects or represents that of any other person or corporate entity.

I’ve actually had this concern in my head since I started this blog, but I had hoped things might turn around and I wouldn’t feel obliged to write about it. However, given the continued direction of entertainment in the parks – the heart of Mousertainment for me – I can’t keep avoiding the obvious.

This trend may have started as far back as the shuttering of Walt Disney World Resort’s popular Downtown Disney Pleasure Island entertainment offerings such as the Comedy Warehouse and the utterly beloved and very grieved Adventurer’s Club which both still brought in crowds at the time they were closed. But I first really noticed it at the Disneyland Resort and then started seeing a pattern overall…

I was worried when the traditional-since-the-days-of-Walt-Disney swing dancers were pushed out of Disneyland Park for an extended period of time. (They were brought back after much public outcry.)

I was sad when the charming Minnie’s Fly Girls at Disney California Adventure was canceled, when it was a better show than some others that stayed and provided a welcome live performance component to that area of the park.

I was upset when a majority of the most popular longstanding entertainment acts in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort were let go including the Fife and Drum Corps, the UK Players, Mo’Rockin and most especially Off-Kilter. It was also reported this past week that Mulch, Sweat & Shears – a show that was on my agenda for my next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort – will soon be disappearing from Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well!

I was annoyed when Frozen took over the Royal Theatre in Disneyland’s Fantasyland and took the place of the brilliant Tangled show and the charming Beauty & the Beast show there. (Though sorry, I didn’t mind it taking over the rarely-filled Muppets 3D theater in DCA.  I like Frozen – I just don’t need it everywhere!)

I was absolutely lost when they tried to replace The Mad T Party at DCA with Frozen. Happily for T fans that experiment was, as many of us expected, unsuccessful.

I think it was a very poor choice to replace the charming Original Disneyland Band with the more raucous new version that simply seems to be an echo of their East Coast counterpart, the Main Street Philharmonic, rather than a special unique entity dating back to the earliest days of Walt Disney’s original park.

I am sorry to lose the wonderful and relaxing Big Thunder Ranch area including such delightful entertainment as Farley the Fiddler (hopefully he can be relocated to Frontierland!) and Miss Chris and Tex Tumbleweed at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ stage but I always knew that area had to be destined for bigger things.

I am sorely disappointed that we have lost all kinds of Halloween entertainment – from the pumpkin carvers and dedicated location for character meet & greets at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree to the Halloween cavalcade at the hard ticket Mickey’s Halloween Party in Disneyland Park. We are also not getting a Halloween Mad T Party this year (a show to be spotlighted at a later date) and seemingly no Christmas Mad T Party either (another show to be spotlighted at a later date).

And then this week the parks announced that there would be no Christmas fireworks and no Sleeping Beauty Castle winter light show due to the 60th Anniversary – meaning no holiday snowfall on Main Street which is one of the most magical Disney experiences of all. However they are bringing the lackluster Olaf’s Snow Fest back because clearly there isn’t enough Frozen in the park already.

But the pitchforks really came out for the announcement this past week that this would be the last year of the utterly cherished Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! There is absolutely no reason for this wonderful Christmas light show not to be presented elsewhere such as at EPCOT or Disney Springs! This holiday tradition has gone on for 20 years and there is no rationale for stopping it entirely instead of just changing the venue as Hollywood Studios will be undergoing construction soon.

I am flabbergasted that a show like Aladdin at Disney California Adventure that is constantly reinventing itself and has appeal for all ages and members of the family is being replaced by a show (what else – Frozen) that even little princesses and their moms seem to be getting tired of (given the lack of Anna & Elsa outfits showing up at the park these days as opposed to many months ago) and few little boys and their dads and granddads are going to want to sit through once much less repeatedly! Heck, *I* don’t particularly want to sit through it – and despite how over-represented it is in the parks, I still think Frozen is a good movie with a great soundtrack!

And I am distraught at the thought of losing bands like the 80z All-Stars and TOMASINA at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Terrace. I can only hope this break is just for a needed refurbishment of the stage and then a temporary use for the Star Wars event, Seasons of the Force, and that the bands will return next summer! Please, please, please!

While other smaller, shorter-term shows like the High School Musical or Phineas & Ferb parade stops at Disney California Adventure have still yet to be replaced at all. May I suggest… anything other than Frozen?

Given that my heart for the last several years has belonged so thoroughly to Mousertainment and that it continues to bring me such joy each and every time I see my dear Dapper Dans or Bootstrappers or News Boys or most especially the Mad T Party – it makes me incredibly sad to think of all the losses in entertainment that we have suffered in the past few years and it appears that this downsizing trend will continue in all of the stateside Disney parks.

I don’t understand why what has to be a relatively miniscule part of the overall park budget is the one that has to endure so many constant and continued cuts while the cost of attendance rises yearly.  I overheard several guests last night making this exact comment upon learning that it was the last show for TOMASINA at Tomorrowland Terrace (a lot of tears were shed last night and next week, the very last week – for now – of bands at that venue will likely be even more upsetting).

Whether it’s nips and tucks like not allowing holiday overlays to the T Party or the Castle or taking days away from the Dappers or Bootstrappers… or hacks and slashes like letting go of the Original Disneyland Band and Off-Kilter, the loss of entertainment takes away from the theming, atmosphere and charm of the show that is the Disney Parks.

I believe the company would use Walt Disney’s famous line that Disneyland will never be completed to justify any and all changes in the parks. However, I cannot imagine Walt Disney sanctioning the loss of beloved, successful things just for the sake of change itself. In other words – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Or: different doesn’t necessarily mean *better*.

I guess the point of all of this is to say – we notice these changes.  And it makes a difference – a sad one – in the type of experience we have at Disney Parks when a small, but important piece of the magic is removed or downsized.  And I hope the powers that be at Disney consider the impact of these changes on the overall quality of a Disney Parks visit for both locals and tourists alike.

What do you think of the continued changes in entertainment in the Disney Parks? Do you think it’s simply a part of progress or an experiential loss to guests overall?

Update 10/10/15: In more bad news for fans of entertainment in the Disney Parks, it was recently announced that on January 10, 2016, the Rivers of America will be closing for at least a year (a year and a half is the anticipated minimum) for construction of the new Star Wars Land.  This means that the hugely popular nighttime show Fantasmic! will be going dark for at least that long, along with the Mark Twain boat which has been a venue for music and characters and is currently home to regular performances by The Straw Hatters (one of the smaller breakout groups from the larger bands), and Tom Sawyer Island which hosts visits by The Bootstrappers.  It will also impact Halloween entertainment like the Cadaver Dans on the Rivers during that time.  While it was confirmed that Fantasmic! will return after the construction, it is expected that changes will be made in the show.  So if you want to see the show as it currently is, make sure you go before the Rivers close at the beginning of the year.  But this long-term loss of a major nighttime show in Disneyland Park is also likely to further push people towards the shows that are left including the Disneyland Forever Fireworks and Paint the Night Parade making for an even more challenging crowd situation in the park than there already is.

Update 1/23/16: It was announced last week that Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would also be closing to make way for Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land construction at that park.

Update 2/27/16: And the hits just keep on coming.  On March 30th, the Diamond Mad T Party will be closing.  And after March 6th, the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony is expected to close.  Several longtime park performers have recently left their roles.  And rumor also has it that the Pixar Play Parade at Disney California Adventure will not run for at least the month of April, but it is thought it will return.

Update 3/4/16: With today’s announcement of the opening date of the Frozen musical at the Hyperion Theater (May 27th), comes the expected announcement of the closing date of the Frozen Sing-Along (April 17th).  Sing along at Disney California Adventure for the next few weeks while you still can!

Update 3/22/16: Even more cuts as March continues… Along with the closing of the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony earlier this month, the Meet & Greet with Russell and Dug at Disney California Adventure was also discontinued and the characters are no longer out at the park.  Simultaneously, The Happy Camper (who I still plan to feature, though now as a flashback), has also disappeared from Disney California Adventure, along with his East Coast counterpart at Animal Kingdom, Gi-Tar Dan, whose last day was reportedly a few weeks ago as well.  Various sites have also reported that one-third of the cast of the Citizens of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was also recently let go.  We can only hope this massive cutback in Disney Parks entertainment will start to slow soon or there will be virtually nothing left!

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One thought on “The Downsizing of Entertainment in Disney Parks – A Disappointing Direction

  1. I totally agree with your assessments of the parks. As well as hearing the same from others on any number of Disney forums. While Disneyland has fared better due to being a local’s park, I have seen the changes. Many of them are not for the better either. One would think that the powers that be
    would be seeing (as we do) that Frozen is beginning to die off. Yet they seem to want to keep pushing it and other lackluster changes without regard to the guests who come to the parks.

    Liked by 1 person

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