Cuts to Disney World Entertainment: Muppets, Pixar, Dance Parties
We’re back with a Walt Disney World news & rumors update, this time with entertainment cuts at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. In this post, we’ll cover what’s ending and when, the likely motivation for the removal of these acts, plus extensive commentary.
At Magic Kingdom, the Muppets Present Great Moments in American History and Royal Majesty Makers will both come to an end, and Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! Street Party will be reduced to two shows per day. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, DJ’s Ready! Set! Party Time and the Incredibles at Pixar Place will cease performances. Ditto the Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party at Animal Kingdom.
We can’t confirm specific end dates, but all should end on or around the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, 2019. These entertainment cuts are not yet official, but we consider them highly credible, near-certain rumors. All stem from Entertainment Cast Members working on these particular shows who have been advised by managers that their acts will be eliminated. It’s entirely possible that there’s more to come, especially if budgetary decisions for the next fiscal year are still being made.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I hate the Magic Kingdom street party. I routinely refer to it as the “Move It! Shake It! Whatever It! Roaming Noise Festival” on the blog. Nevertheless, I realize many families enjoy this, and I’m never one to advocate for the entertainment cuts without corresponding additions–especially as Walt Disney World continues to raise prices.
As for the other cuts, both the Incredibles stuff and Lion King Dance Party were, to my knowledge, always intended to be temporary as part of some celebration. DJ’s Dance Party is basically the pre-show for Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. This was part of the pre-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge “fill in all available space” initiative at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that has now proven unnecessary; it’s very rare for Racing Academy to draw a crowd. That leaves only Royal Majesty Makers and Muppets as the potentially big loses.
For me, the Muppets Present Great Moments in American History is a devastating cut. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Muppets fan, but have been disappointed by Disney’s treatment of them. Almost all of Disney’s efforts with the Muppets have been misfires, getting the comedic style and voice of the Muppets wrong in ham-fisted efforts to (unnecessarily) modernize them.
The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History was one big, glorious exception to that. In my “Golden Bricks Awards” for the year this show debuted, I named it the #1 new attraction at Walt Disney World, over both Frozen Ever After and Soarin Around the World.
That’s high praise for a show, but I went a step further, calling it “the best addition to Magic Kingdom in a decade. Its tone is perfect, the script is hilarious, and the way it blends education and entertainment takes a page out of EPCOT Center’s playbook and demonstrates how intellectual property could be used for edutainment.”
The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History also strengthens Liberty Square, simultaneously lightening it up a bit and deepening its significance. The show gives guests a reason to pause, appreciate the beauty and detail of the land, and think about monumental moments in our nation’s history…while laughing.
With all of that said, I must admit that I was skeptical about the show when rumors first leaked of a Muppets show in Liberty Square. Skeptical of the rumor itself, especially when Muppets Courtyard felt like a more obvious choice, but also apprehensive of its substance.
Walt Disney World doesn’t exactly have the best recent track record of tastefully injecting IPs around the parks, and I worried that the Muppets humor would be at-odds with the more solemn tone of Liberty Square. Admittedly, I wasn’t particularly vocal about this (only touching upon it here). It’s not like Liberty Square has the best atmosphere, plus Magic Kingdom is a place of whimsy…and I’m probably a bit too willing to turn a blind eye to thematic integrity if it means more Muppets.
As it turned out, a “wait and see” mentality was best. This show turned out to be pitch perfect, and something that was great for both the Muppets and Liberty Square. Sure, it was “just a diversion” that most guests saw while passing through the area, but it filled that role terrifically.
I couldn’t praise it enough and think that eliminating it is a huge error in judgment by someone who doesn’t understand what an asset this is to Liberty Square and the Muppets brand.
In that same spirit of wait and see misjudgment, I want to try to give Walt Disney World the benefit of the doubt here. Every year for the past several, Walt Disney World has made cuts to entertainment right around the end of one fiscal year and the beginning of the next.
Every year, there’s outrage over a couple of those cuts. (Last year, the big one was Citizens of Hollywood.) Every year, Disney subsequently announces new entertainment about a month later–albeit usually beginning at the start of the following calendar year.
Accordingly, it’s entirely possible this week’s anger-inducing entertainment cut rumors will be followed by official news come October about a bunch of new entertainment beginning in early 2020. That’s sort of the pattern, with Disney coasting through the October with less entertainment, before a spike in Christmas-time offerings (and in fairness, Walt Disney World already has announced new entertainment, particularly at Animal Kingdom, this holiday season).
It’s also possible that Walt Disney World is basing its cuts on guest satisfaction scores, stats on how many people took in a given performance, etc. I’ve seen the Municiberg block and Lightning McQueen are at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and both have been ghost towns at various points the last few months. Reallocating resources and budgets to things more guests will enjoy is not a bad idea, nor should new entertainment be discouraged. That’s my deferential or benefit-of-the-doubt take here.
On the other hand, there’s a pattern in recent years for Walt Disney World to cut Equity Actors (basically, any entertainer performing a scripted or choreographed role) and replacing them with non-Equity performers, or non-labor entertainment. For example, pretty much any ‘citizens’ style streetmosphere acts would be Equity performers. The Incredibles characters or anyone mingling among the audience in a dance party would not.
This is why there are more things like dance parties and projection shows, and less streetmosphere doing dedicated acts or stage shows. Entertainment that is less labor-intensive is prioritized, and offerings with non-Equity performers are favored over those with Equity roles.
Moreover, things just feel differently this year. At this point, it’s not really any secret that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has not met Disney’s internal expectations. Shortly after its debut, Disneyland implemented hiring freezes plus a reduction of labor hours, entertainment, and operating hours for some attractions. Since then, another round of entertainment cuts have occurred out west.
With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge also off to a slow start at Walt Disney World (albeit during a time that’s historically off-season, so not exactly the same scenario…yet), similar cost-savings measures are being undertaken in Florida. In addition to these entertainment cuts, management-level layoffs began last week, select dining experiences will increase in price on October 1, and other measures are likely at the beginning of the next fiscal year.
It’s also not really any secret that Walt Disney World now aims for constant growth, and is beholden to each quarter’s financial results. If those are off even a bit, every department is asked to reduce spending to help buoy the numbers. This is irrespective of ever-growing attendance numbers, ticket prices, etc.
We’ve witnessed the results of this several times over the last few years, in everything from entertainment cuts to reducing ride capacity in the off-season to reducing staffing throughout the parks. It’s short-term thinking for a business unit that should be more fixated on long-term health. As if Walt Disney World is teetering on the precipice of insolvency, even as attendance and per-guest spending are hitting record highs.
Last year, our Is Disney Eroding Fan Goodwill editorial focused primarily on the pricing and economic side of this, and elicited a flurry of impassioned responses from readers. My concerns today remain largely the same as when I wrote that, but I also worry that we will now see more “fat cut” from the guest experience.
The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History is not why anyone is booking a trip to Walt Disney World, and it probably doesn’t rank highly among anyone’s favorite or trip-defining experiences. However, when it comes to a Walt Disney World trip, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It’s the little moments, the ambiance of the parks, the live musicians you pass, the way everything just feels alive that, cumulatively, absolutely does define a trip.
First-time guests may not be able to put their finger on exactly what resonated or made them feel happy at any given moment, but it’s all of this, in its totality. First-timers who fall in love with the parks and become life-long fans are not doing so because they view the parks simply as a collection of rides. Live entertainment and the little “unnecessary” things are part of what makes the parks feel lived-in, and those acts you might walk past seep into your mind and do move the ‘guest satisfaction’ needle.
Disney used to recognize this, delivering a level of entertainment that surpassed guest expectations and offered a litany of surprise gems to stumble upon. In large part, I think Walt Disney World still aims to exceed expectations, albeit on a more epic and less charming scale. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora are both spectacular, and other upcoming additions look very promising. What concerns me is the smaller stuff, especially that which is deemed superfluous, expendable, or can quickly save on labor costs. These smaller things are just as integral to the overall guest experience.
As upset as I am about the Muppet show being cut, I’m willing to take a wait and see approach to what’s announced next–while still being worried that Walt Disney World is preparing to trim as much fat as possible to make quarterly results look better. The problem with that is if you trim too much fat, you start to hit bone. Attendance woes become a self-fulfilling property, especially over time. Cutting part of what makes the parks special only further alienates long-time fans while also making first-timers less likely to fall in love with the place, and become lifelong fans. That’s far more detrimental to the long-term health of the parks than an off quarter or two because of the botched launch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
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What do you think of these Walt Disney World entertainment cuts? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about replacements? Do you likewise worry that the performance of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could have sweeping ramifications for Walt Disney World? 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!
I 1000% agree with everything you said about Disney and The Muppets. I’m very sorry to see this one go.
I didn’t renew my Disneyland annual pass this year. (I got engaged and married at Disneyland and my married initials are even “A.P.”) It’s not just WDW…EVERYTHING is monetized beyond reason suddenly at Disney Parks and Resorts. Even the closest entrance to the hotel: We were denied walking into the front entrance to The Grand Californian when we wanted to visit the gift shop, revisit our wedding venue and grab a bite and a drink with friends at the no-reservations hotel bar. Nope. Despite staying there the week prior and two weeks before that and heading in to patronize services, we were turned away as non-guests, but were told we could walk about a mile around to the entrance via DT Disney. (Did I mention I was wearing a knee brace?) This was the last straw for me. It literally brought me to tears of frustration and disappointment. (Plus, geez I was hungry.)
We all noticed an increase in litter throughout the parks. Fewer cast members. Longer lines. Higher prices for everything. Disappointing and discontinued food faves. Disorganized and lengthy security and line management. Much more frequent scenes of agitated guests and exasperated cast.
My last three trips with various people, everyone said, “I didn’t want to say anything, but… this wasn’t what I remembered.” Followed by discussions about what could possibly be the cause. We agreed it was a lot of things and wondered if CEO, Bob Iger put that $65MM bonus toward the company instead of his pocket, would we have felt like flying in from Seattle 4-6 visits/per year as we have been fortunate to do for years.
I may finally give Disney another chance in October. Or, now that I’ve discovered the joys of Universal, just keep going there instead. Everyone seems happy there (starting w/ the parking folks!) and I won’t feel so heartbroken by the new undisneylike greed I’ve been encountering. I can afford it. But, I don’t think Disney can. Worst of all, I think Walt would be appalled. This shareholder’s return isn’t based on returns. My investment has always been about something much, much more meaningful. #DisneyIsDivestingFans
Sadly, what has happened at Disney in recent years is that they have LOST the vision Walt had for the place. That it’s where you go to make some wonderful memories with your family in a magical place, where almost every FOOT of the place has one more thing thats amazing or fun to stop and see. In recent years the focus has been on “how many can we stuff in here at one time and keep them moving?” My first visits to DisneyWorld years ago were glorious. Just wandering around, ducking into a ride that looked like it could be fun and being struck by sheer wonder once inside. Stopping to eat when and where I FELT LIKE IT. Not like now, when you have to reserve your spot to ride and to eat 9 months in advance. Its not so much fun as it is a marathon. Or an invasion plan. I know most stock holders want bigger and more profits each year. But I recall a time many years ago when the stock split and SAT THERE at that new lower lever for about a decade. So what? The company didnt tank and the people still came. I do believe however that at a certain point the higher costs and the overcrowding, and the necessity to visit in a forced march atmosphere, will kill the park. The place is already as big as a small city. It simply isnt wise to keep building hotels and taking away side attractions. No new timeshares. Build more places to eat. Build a few more rides. And do away with the really awful ride reservation system except for maybe the one primo ride in each park. The system is far too structured and it simply isnt fair. I have been to DisneyWorld at least a dozen times. have always LOVED it. My last few visits have made me question my desire to return to what feels like a straight-jacketed experience at all.
I agree with your observations 100%. Unfortunately, sacrificing long-term vision for short-term rewards seems to be the big business norm these days. If Walt were alive, I can’t imagine he would allow it. Liberty Square, like Main Street, IS Disney at its best: bringing Americana to life.
We have been going to Disney for many years. Starting when our children were in their teens. We took are granddaughters four times and our whole extended family three times. So to say we have experienced the magic of Disney offen is right on. Over the years there has been something to always bring us back. We took a trip in February of 2018 for a wedding and did 3 days at Disney. I have to say it was disappointing to say the least. The crowds and lines for pandora were ridiculous, the cost increases are a deterrent for returning to vacation their anytime soon.
Frankly, I didn’t even now there was a MPGMAH! We are going back in October and I’m so bummed we won’t get to see it then either. We have been APs since last November and never knew it existed. How did I miss that? I don’t remember seeing it on any map. We would have absolutely gone to see it if we had known it was there! Maybe Disney needs to do a better job of advertising lesser known features?
I completely agree. It’s the “little” things that make Disney magical and to continue cutting them is irresponsible.
When we were there this past May we were very frustrated at the amount of food vendors that weren’t open in the morning or weren’t opening until 11am. We always purchase the Dining Plan and on mornings when we get to the parks at rope drop we liked to use some snack credits. This past May that was not possible! And it was very frustrating! The one morning at Magic Kingdom our only choice was Starbucks…I’m sorry, I don’t travel all the way to Disney World to burn snack credits at a Starbucks. We were very disappointed.
I love the Muppets but similar to yourself, I was skeptical about Muppets addition to Liberty Square since I was not fan of the recent Muppet Show or the Muppets Most Wanted movie and I dislike when Disney shoehorns IP into the parks. MPGMAH turned out to be a fun entertaining show. On Magic Kingdom days of my trips, I always see 1 to 2 showing of MPGMAH per day.
I am happy these DJ/Dance parties are discontinued. I loathe hearing loud contemporary Pop/Radio music inside the theme parks as it ruins the wonderful atmosphere and immersion of the theme parks and brings in the dreaded real world intrusion. I hated the prior version of Move It Shake It. With that being said, I actually like the current version of Move It Shake It. I love the rare characters additions such as Three Caballeros, Clarice, Clarabelle, Max Goof, and Horace. It nice to see the classic Mickey Mouse characters rather than constant Pixar, Frozen, Star Wars or other modern IP. The covers of the oldies songs aren’t so bad either although Disney should stick to covers of their song catalog or original songs.
Brace yourselves, I’m about to be politically incorrect… I think the biggest problem with Disney recently is that every offering is geared towards females, probably because some bean counter incorrectly believes females solely account for the majority of merchandise revenue. (Bob Chepek, hello?).
Only marvel has done a superb job of strong female characters… shoehorning that girl car into the Cars franchise killed the last movie for boys and girls never picked up the slack.
Rey is great, but ALL the strong leads in SW are now female and the males aren’t memorable at all (plus she’s a bit too powerful, too fast). The original SW movie had 1 female.
I’m just saying there’s no effort to appeal to males with franchises that were originally geared towards boys.
Try to appeal to everyone and you end up appealing to no one.
I’ll be surprised if SW ever lives up to the hype… this runs deeper than a blotched opening.
And the Muppets!? Now there’s good simple fun enjoyed by everyone (just like Mickey) but Kermit & gang obviously don’t move enough product for the current administration… TIME FOR A CHANGE OF GUARD! P L E A S E ! ! !
We’ve been going twice a year since 2012… skipped last year and only 1 trip for this year… magic is fading fast.
Sorry about Muppet cuts, always so fun and entertaining.
But really sorry to hear about the Equity Actors cuts; Equity members provide consistent professional performances, and the loss will be noticeable everywhere in Disney. This is not the way to save $$$, professionalism is very important; you will sure notice it when it’s gone.
This always happens but I just don’t understand why (doesn’t anyone forecast financials for the next quarter?) vs always cost cutting around this time. I’m sad to hear that they are getting rid of the Muppets performance in Liberty Square (I LOVE the Muppets) and feel that Disney does a disservice to the Muppet Brand even after purchasing them. I tried to watch the new show on ABC and knew it wouldn’t last long, I just wish they would bring the revamp The Muppet Show back to tv. Them getting rid of Equity Actors, jeez. I loved the street performances in HS last year and sad to see it go or slimmed down considerably. Disney needs to do something with their Brand Loyalty. If they raise the prices on food in their residents, I’ll be forced to eat outside of WDW because their comes a point that I refuse to pay $16.99 for a cheeseburger w/fries when I can go to a restaurant outside of WDW & get the same thing for less and just as good or better. Disney I think has hit the price ceiling for APs and they better be extremely careful when raising prices. If Universal decides to up their customer experience, they might just outdo Disney, especially with that new theme park they are opening. To me Disney is lacking or slow and think the name will carry them but it can only take the company so far before they have to be “innovative” again.
I’m still irritated that they cancelled the night time parade and Wishes and replaced them with a projection show with fireworks.
What i have noticed…since the tier change in Hollywood studio. People are going to their Tier 1 fast pass and maybe 1 more tier 1 ride and hitting galaxy edge and then leaving. So the time soent in the park is lessened since the change they should address that. As the tier 2 attractions for teenagers arent all that interesting. And they dont want to stay around 2 hours just to swipe their fastpass and not even ride just to pick up a new fastpass. When they can wait for the 2nd rife..visit star wars and then leave to another park.
Ive posted this before and am posting it Again……Disney desperately Needs a Change In Leadership. Loosing the Muppets Great Moments in American History just doesn’t make sense, Streetmosphere plays a Big Part in the Magic of Disney, and the removal of it is just another stab at the Soul of WDW, what a Shame !!!
Save the Muppets!!!
We caught them twice (or thrice) on our trip last year. It was funny, educational, American and just a surprisingly great fit.
As to what replaces it and the other cut shows? Who knows? But let us face facts:
The Vacation Kingdom so many of us love and cherish has been conquered by an invasion of Bean-Counters.
And Bean-Counters have notoriously bad distance vision. It’s not that they can’t see the forest for the trees; they can’t see the forest because they’re too busy looking at ways to cut the budgets of individual leaves.
Look, we all want WDW to make oodles of profit, but said profit needs to be put back into product.
You can’t be the Happiest Place on Earth when everyone’s grumbling about how much it costs and how everything loved has been cut.
It seems that our voices are not being heard or considered, sadly.
Nooooo I loved the Muppets Present Great Moments in American History! I put it down as a “must see” for my sister when we go in October. Any idea whom we could write at Disney to plead with to not cut this really fun, massively entertaining, and quite interesting little show? You are right about the cumulative small things that make for magic which keep folks coming back. We could go to Six Flags (2 hours away) if we just wanted to hop on and off rides.
Hearing about the entertainment cuts on both coasts is hugely disappointing. I had heard mixed reports about Laughing Stock, but the idea of NO show at all in the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland hurts. I really hope something replaces it in short order.
I very much was looking forward to seeing Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History when I eventually got to WDW and losing it is a huge bummer. From the time I started dreaming of a WDW trip so many things I eagerly anticipated have been removed. Great Movie Ride. Wishes. Illuminations. All things there are no version of on the West Coast. I LOVE that DL is getting Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway without losing anything major AND it leading to a refurbishment of one of my favorite areas. (Toontown) I also can totally feel for WDW fans who lost a classic I wanted so much to experience to get it.
I think you hit everything on the head. When Disney becomes more about the $ and les about the magical dream Walt introduced, we all lose.
I totally agree…..and, in essence, we commented on the same thing…..we need Walt’s vision to be at the top of every thought or consideration…..not at the bottom. His dream works and made the magic we all love!
I’m sad about the Muppets, also. I wonder if they didn’t have the number of people watching it that they would have liked (despite all the posts of people saying they loved it.) I went to Rafiki’s Planet Watch last week and watched an emergency procedure (a duck with a hook in its mouth) and there was a lady there that had a counter that she clicked for every person that walked up to see what they were doing. I had never seen anyone counting people at Disney before so I found this curious but it got my wheels turning about how they may justify cutting certain things if there aren’t enough people that are experiencing it.
I agree it is the little things that make Disney . We watched the muppets and thought it was very funny and well scripted. When we watched there was a large crowd so it will be missed.
We thought the Port Orleans Riverside food was not as good as our last visit when the pizza was excellent and there was far more choice .
Also check in was very lacklustre . In comparison ,our Miami hotel reception ,. Loews Royal Pacific reception and Naples Cove Inn reception , all one night stays ,were far superior .
I agree with you, Tom, and many other readers/commenters that the magical moments that make you want to come back are disappearing if not gone. After this last trip I had very little desire to come back again. I know many will disagree with me but in general the Star Wars/Pandora doesn’t appeal to me, so the fact that there are less worthy attractions combined with less magic means we are barely considering additional visits while we have APs and then will probably take several years off before considering again.
Also, while their food overall seems to be heading downhill, their food allergy department had gone terribly down hill as of our July visit, while is a big reason we love Disney (along with many others), so this REALLY needs to come around or they will alienate many faithful visitors and their “communities.”
I agree with Amanda. The magic is not pandora (although I do like FOP) or Star Wars land (big fan since 1977 but doesn’t “fit” Disney). Also we had very mixed reception regarding food allergies. From “I see someone in your party had food allergies do you have any questions or how can I help ie get a chef to zero nothing although registered as a kid w egg and peanut allergy with Disney. Boo! No muppets. Boo!