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.
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!
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!
In my opinion although Disney has bern on the magicsl decline for years the last straw was axing the Osbourne Lights fo Galaxys edge. Even though i an a long time star wars fan ihate the “new” Star wars and am so happy it os doind bad after thwy removed my favorite sisney attracrion of all time for it.
Hoping this makes a difference. Perhaps all the discontent has been noticed?
I am not going back to Disney. I have become sick of their profit over people
Very sad to hear of Muppets Present Great Moments in American History being cut. We really enjoyed watching it. WDW used to have a lot of little “magical moments” but it seems as if $$$ > little bursts of joy.
I agree with others who say that Disney is losing its special touch…I have felt it the last few times I have been. Some things I can’t even quite put my finger on…but from taking away some of the most nostalgic and quintessentially Disney rides and experiences (RIP Spectro Magic…w/o a replacement, I might add, not to mention Great Movie Ride and who knows what will be done to Spaceship Earth) to cutting corners in guest experiences (hello dirty restrooms and overpriced generic hotel rooms), we ARE feeling it. And I will be honest, it’s because of these changes that for the first time in 25 years, I am thinking that my money may not be well spent vacationing there. I keep returning based on warm, fuzzy feelings of yesteryears there and can never quite reclaim them. I’m glad there are at least some originals left and hope they don’t continue to destroy them. I can’t take parks full of the “next big franchise”. Some updates and changes are always necessary, but please Disney, leave a little bit of charm and magic for true fans.
I wonder if this is going to affect the British Revolution band, Oktoberfest Musikanten, Voices of Liberty, Dapper Dans, and etc.? I hope it doesn’t.
Oh Tom we are on opposite ends on this one. I LOVE “Move It, Shake It” and have walked by the Muppets show 100% of the time. That being said, they need more in Liberty Square. We shall see what 2020 brings!
For about 14 years my wife and I had great Disney experiences with our Grandchildren. A minimum of once each year and several years of three times per year. The last trip was in 2017. It was no longer fun. There is no posibility for spontaneity. Like a previous poster said, a trip now has to be done like a planned invasion. I will go back to Disney and hope this hiatus will bring joy back to WDW. I remember our last trip as an uncomfortable struggle with few highlights. The thought of the WDW today vs. what it was makes me sad. Six Flags – WDW
I am so disappointed that the Muppet show is ending. I was looking forward to seeing it again next summer. When I saw it for the first time in 2016, I had one of those “magical Disney moments” that you do not get a lot of when you are an adult. For me, it was amazing to see the Muppets in person. My brain knew it wasn’t live audio and I was curious about what was going on behind the scenes, but it was definitely a highlight of that trip.
I agree. I am also concerned about what it will do to the Dapper Dans, Oktoberfest Musikanten, British Revolution, The Acrobats, Voices of Liberty, and other groups.
I’ve been a Disney fan for over 50 years when Disneyland was truly a magic place. But recently all I’ve seen are add-on prices, extra hard ticket events, shorter park hours, and more (for a price). Disney is a business and they have they have made it clear that money matters. Businesses work very hard to gain and keep repeat customers, but Disney seems to prefer the one and done. Even though I live in Hawaii, I am a D23 member, DVC owner, AP holder, and will be a Disney + subscriber. But I haven’t been to a Disney park in over a year and not too excited to experience Star Wars. The magic of Disney is not in space or with superheroes, it’s with creating and fostering one’s imagination. It’s taking care of the people that got you there without nickel and diming them, or should I say dropping Jacksons and Franklins.
On our last trip I planned for my family to be in Liberty Square to catch the Muppets. My kids watch the old shows on DVD and they loved the show! They sang the Great Moments in History song refrain for the rest of the summer. Some of the whimsy, the unexpected joy, and well..um the MAGIC is being lost.
I just don’t understand why it’s so easy for a Disney fans to see these problems (and their solutions) SO clearly– and yet, nobody in the upper echelons of Disney management seems to get it. I don’t understand how that can be. Is there nobody with any kind of vision? It’s not the giant new lands that keep me coming back. It’s all those little details. I have already seen a huge erosion of them in the 20 years I have been visiting the parks. It’s pretty heartbreaking. They have built some amazing stuff but the level of service isn’t consistently there anymore–it’s very hot or miss. On my last trip a couple weeks ago, my husband and I walked past a giant construction area right in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. There were no walls around it. Since when do they do that???
Anyway, I could go on, but I’m preaching to the choir. Again, I just don’t understand why nobody running the company can see the simple facts– Disney is Disney because of all the “tiny” extra details. Without the pure magic of those little extra touches, I might as well go to Universal. Or Busch Gardens. Without the pixie dust, Disney is just another theme park …
Because we are the minority of Disney park fans. Believe me, Disney has done the numbers on this, and there is more money for them in the one-trip-of-a-lifetime crowd than there is in their repeat visitors. And the once-in-a-lifetime crowd won’t have experienced what was there before, so it won’t lessen their trip.
You’re correct. I hate to bring a “When Walt was around” into this–especially since I wasn’t alive then–but he was the “pixie dust” person, and his brother Roy was the one focused on business. Roy often had to reign Walt in. There’s no balance there now.
I know how to restore goodwill in longtime fans….bring back Spectromagic!
PLEASE bring back Spectromagic!
Agree! That special something is eroding away, because someone guesstimated that high crowds and a worsening experience don’t affect guests much. They are taking the wrong path out of their conundrum. Deliver a quality experience (with plusses,) and you create the enigmatic Disney magic. Lessen quality, increase crowds, reduce the pleasant-ness, and even less of us who value those lovely touches will go. Who is your market, Disney? The Magic Mountain crowd or the more discerning one?
Perhaps Disney needs the Muppet building in Magic Kingdom, the little stand area that houses the Hakuna Matata Dance Party, and the whole darn Pixar Place area in order to add to, or build new, drinking establishments. These people have turned Disney World into what feels like an over-sized barroom! When I went to Disney World for the 1st time in 2016, I immediately fell in love with it. The feeling it gave me was – well, magical. I have been to Disney 10 times since then (and I’m not even a Florida resident). I also became an annual passholder for the very 1st time this past March, but that will NOT be renewed. The ridiculous price hike brought that idea to a screeching halt! And now that I’ve returned from my 10th trip (arrived home this past Saturday), I have completely fallen out of love with Disney for the exact reasons you state so perfectly in this article. Never in a million years did I think I would have such negative feelings toward Disney World. But because of the shameful greed of the “powers that be” the magic for me is now … just gone. I have started making plans for my next vacation in Pigeon Forge, TN – not Disney World. It’s just so frustrating and sad to see a once magical, family-oriented place turned into something that now resembles a profitable frat house.
Agree with you on allowing the drinking. There was no reason for this as alcohol could have been kept out of the parks so as to prevent unpleasant incidents. I guess the lure of the cash was too much to resist in the end. As it is for sporting stadiums which seem to have a problem with the idea of cutting off people when they have had enough. Most people dont want their kids exposed to adults who are inebriated. Ditto, families who have a person with an alcohol problem used to be able to go to Disney safe in the thought there was no alcohol readily available to tempt them. Sad situation.
If you’ve only been going since 2016, you have no idea how things have declined. My first visit was in 1993 when I was 10. it was so clean, and cast members seemed happy. I remember it being so clean even until I was a young adult, that it made our pristine suburban neighborhood look dirty. Until around 2009 or 2010, and now it seems a completely different universe. Tickets have also gone up maybe 80-90% in cost when you factor in that tickets were all “no expiration” in those earlier days, and if I recall, “hopping” was allowed then too in the base ticket. I noticed the faster the ticket prices increase, the faster the magic drains. My parents don’t even want to go anymore. Disneyland is where my husband and I travel, and frankly there’s even less “magic” there. The only reason we go there is because my in laws live 20 minutes away and we wind up going for free.
Very bummed. Ever since the show started I would stop and see it at least once. Just keeping fingers crossed and hoping they roll out maybe an updated muppets history show….(fingers crossed)
Awww! Now I’ll never get to see it & I love the Muppets.
I’m devastated they are removing the Muppet show. It was so cute, when we were there last year we must have watched it 3 times. I wish they would move it to the USA pavilion in Epcot. I find that pavilion to be VERY lacking.
I love The American Adventure exhibit and show. I go, usually, twice each vacation that we take. I love it! But, I can see that the Muppets would fit there. However, if budget cuts got them the ax at MK, its doubtful they would keep them in any other park. Very sad.
Truly, one of your best articles, yet.
You, completely, hit the nail on the head with this single point: “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.”
That’s it! That’s what the powers that be, seem to have lost focus of….the charm and attention to details, that made a fan, a life long fan.
From the hoof prints made into pathways, to the fact that an ordinary sidewalk is not poured in a straight fashion….but, it meanders in a ‘Disney’ curvy fashion. It’s the attention to detail and all the little things that add to the charm, that IS (or, has historically been) Disney.
The epic stuff….which has been a disappointment to them financially….has been a greater loss, to long time fans, of so many things that we loved about our parks. Like the Citizens of Hollywood, The Streets of America, The Great Movie Ride and now the Muppets at MK.
If I wanted to go to the other Orlando park, I would go. BUT, I am a Disney, long time fan….and I’m trying to be patient….but, I’m really tired of watching the powers that be, dismantle the magic, that I love, so very much…..for all these non-Disney ‘epic’ ventures. I’m so tired of their loss of focus on the magic.
We need Mr. Walt back. The powers that be, need to learn of the man who started it all. Maybe, that could bring back the focus, to what made him build a park, in the first place. It wasn’t about money….it was about family magical moments.