Disney World News: Statement on Shows, Layoffs Notice, More 2021 Hours

We’re back for another Walt Disney World news round-up! This one begins with an official statement from Disney on the recent cuts to entertainment, more park hours for November 2020 & January 2021, Thanksgiving menus, another update on changes to the Morocco pavilion at EPCOT, and more.

As we reported earlier this week, Massive Layoffs Have Hit Walt Disney World Entertainment. Per the Actors’ Equity Association that represents performers, about 780 Equity Cast Members were employed at Walt Disney World prior to the closure in March. About 60 are currently working or about to return to work in the park. About 720 Equity member workers have now been laid off.

This news made waves among Walt Disney World fans, understandably so as it means pretty much every stage show and live entertainment act that’s not currently performing won’t be back anytime soon. This resulted in a rare statement from Walt Disney World that (mostly indirectly) addresses the layoffs and cuts to entertainment:

“Walt Disney World Resort offers a treasure trove of experiences for guests of all ages. We recognize that part of the magic of visiting any Disney park is seeing favorite Disney friends and discovering one-of-a-kind shows and performances. Since reopening, we’ve continued to offer modified character experiences and entertainment throughout our resort, while also taking the appropriate steps for the health and safety of our guests and cast members.

Recently, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions to reduce our workforce as the business impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic have become more long-lasting than anyone could have predicted. As a result, we’ve had to pause many live shows and entertainment experiences at our resort for longer than originally anticipated.”

“While it’s impossible at this time to fully replace the incredible entertainment that existed throughout our parks before the pandemic, we are offering live entertainment in new ways wherever possible, including character cavalcades in all four parks and pop-up appearances, like discovering Joy from Inside Out frolicking on the lawn near the Imagination! pavilion in EPCOT.

Additionally, we’re featuring modified shows such as the popular “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and live musical performances like the Main Street Philharmonic in Magic Kingdom or the Discovery Island Drummers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This extends to our seasonal offerings, with Halloween underway and the holidays right around the corner. In fact, the fan-favorite Voices of Liberty are set to make their return and join the JAMMitors and Mariachi Cobre at the American Gardens Theatre during the upcoming Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, beginning on November 27, 2020.”

“Determining which shows can return and when is a complex process. As with the rest of our phased reopening, we will also consider the guidance of health officials and government agencies in determining when the time will be right to adjust capacity, and as soon as it is appropriate, we will start to bring additional entertainment back.

Like most of our fans, we know that our beloved entertainment cast are an incredibly special and essential part of the Disney experience. We look forward to the day when we can welcome back more live entertainment to our parks, and we will share more news about these announcements as we’re able to do so.”

We’ve already offered commentary on the topic in our previous post, and don’t have a ton to add here. We do have difficulty taking Disney’s statement at face value, especially the last couple of paragraphs. Those crouch the cuts as being dictated by health safety guidance. That’s undoubtedly true for some (in unmodified form), but not all.

To the contrary, Walt Disney World undercuts its own position by acknowledging that they’ve already brought back an indoor sing-along. A higher-risk activity in a higher-risk venue. Moreover, Disney’s Hollywood Studios already debuted (and then cut) the Disney Society Orchestra & Friends in the Theater of the Stars, which is the venue normally home to Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage. Finally, Universal Orlando and countless other parks following the exact same health safety guidance have brought back plenty of live entertainment.

Accordingly, Disney’s statement discussing when shows “can return” is a bit disingenuous. There’s no denying it’s a “complex process” as Disney also claims. A big part of the complexity is what’s economically viable, pragmatic, and necessary to run while the parks are operating at a loss and are seeing fewer tourists and many more Annual Passholders.

We’re not naive enough to expect full transparency from a Disney press release, but we’re also not going to accept a statement that amounts to Disney effectively claiming its hands are tied. That’s simply untrue. Walt Disney World “can” bring back some of this live entertainment whenever they choose and do so in accordance with the guidance of health officials and government agencies. Whether that choice is the right one in the short-term or long-term is debatable, but it’s absolutely a choice.

On a related note, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts has sent the State of Florida a notice letter that 11,350 unionized Cast Members will be laid off as of December 31, 2020. Of these Cast Members, the overwhelming majority (10,903) have Walt Disney World listed as their work location. The remainder are mostly in Central Florida, including locations in Kissimmee, Orlando, Celebration, and the Orlando International Airport.

This follows an earlier announcement that approximately 6,700 non-union Cast Members would be laid off from Walt Disney World. That would bring Walt Disney World’s layoff total to roughly 18,000 of the 28,000 announced layoffs in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products division. That means the remaining 10,000 layoffs will occur in California, where Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, plus corporate and creative offices in Burbank and Glendale, are all located.

Today, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about how Disney is “more than a job” for some Cast Members, providing them with purpose and identity, plus the companionship of co-workers. That’s a good, albeit incredibly heart-wrenching read that helps humanize the closure/reopening debate.

That article also indicates that about 10,000 of those layoffs will soon hit the Disneyland Resort parks, hotels, and stores in Anaheim, per company sources. Notifications for those layoffs are expected to be sent to Disneyland Resort Cast Members this weekend.

Next, more hours were just posted to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com for January 10-16, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates that week through January 16, 2021:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • EPCOT: 12 pm to 8 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 10 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm

When it comes to these hours, note that Walt Disney World has returned to its normal, pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours “far” in advance. Those hours are then later extended based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections closer to the dates.

In short, these initial “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World park hours are a placeholder, and serve as a minimum baseline for what the ultimate hours will end up being, with hours only extended and not reduced. These will almost certainly end up being longer, but probably not as long as during the holiday season. Unlike the last several years, January 2021 should end up being actual off-season due to no runDisney races, youth sporting events at ESPN Wide World of Sports, conventions, and other events.

Additionally, Walt Disney World has extended hours at all four parks for the weekend following Veterans Day (November 13-15, 2020). With that holiday falling midweek, it’s unclear to us whether it’ll result in the normal crowd spike, but it appears Walt Disney World’s internal forecasts show an uptick in attendance over that weekend.

Interestingly, each of the parks is now opening an hour earlier than before: Magic Kingdom at 8 am, EPCOT at 10 am, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 9 am, and Animal Kingdom at 7 am. Previously, all four parks had their closing time extended, so that weekend’s hours are now the longest of the holiday season–with some parks having longer hours than even Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks!

If you are visiting Walt Disney World over Thanksgiving, restaurants at Disney Springs have started to announce their turkey day menus. Maria & Enzo’s, The Edison, Enzo’s Hideaway, and Morimoto Asia all will offer special holiday prix-fixe menus on November 26, 2020.

At Maria & Enzo’s or Enzo’s Hideaway, you can enjoy a rustic Italian twist on Thanksgiving offerings via a gourmet meal starring their Roasted Turkey Breast and Pancetta. Stacked high with all of the fixings, enjoy the main course along with a plateful of Polenta Stuffing with mascarpone cream, Cranberry Squash Caponata, and green beans for $37 per adult and $19 per child.

The Edison offers a traditional prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu with all of the classic trimmings: slow oven-roasted turkey and creamy mashed potatoes with gravy, house-made stuffing, brown sugar honey glazed baby carrots, and fresh cranberry chutney. Guests can indulge in these dishes for $35 per person and $19 per child nine and under.

It’s unclear what Morimoto Asia will offer; they only list the Peking Duck and signature ramen. As much as we love both, those are not exactly quintessential Thanksgiving dishes. For other options & dining ideas, see our Tips for Thanksgiving 2020 at Walt Disney World.

On the topic of dining, it would appear that we’re already seeing the first change resulting from Walt Disney World’s takeover of the Morocco pavilion from operating participant Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant LLC. On the restaurant’s page on DisneyWorld.com, a banner reads: “Beginning December 10, 2020, we are unable to accommodate reservations for Spice Road Table at Epcot.”

We really hope this means Spice Road Table will become a walk-up only dining location, but we’re nervous that’s not what’s in store given the lack of restaurant hours. As we covered in our recent review, Spice Road Table has become our go-to table service restaurant in EPCOT, offering a great and ambitious menu, lovely waterfront setting, and outdoor dining. A rare trio at Walt Disney World!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? Do you take Disney’s statement about the entertainment cuts at face value, or think they could’ve done more to retain some shows and atmospheric acts? Looking forward to extended holiday hours? Concerned about the future of Spice Road Table? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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