It’s the return of Equity! Actors’ Equity Association that is. We can’t talk about when we’ll see the Disney World shows reopen, without talking about the Actors’ Equity Association. They go hand and hand. There are many things that make a Disney theme park stand apart from the rest, and one of them is definitely the shows. From stunt shows to musical productions, the common thread among them all is talented performers. When Disney World reopened their gates on July 11, 2020, one of the big surprises were how the shows were not part of the plans. Or were they? We like to call that a teaser in the blog business. Alright, we got our script in hand, it’s time to dive into our production of When Could The Disney World Shows Reopen?
Or, better known as the background. Like any good production, you usually walk in knowing a little bit of the story. For this story, the part to understand is the Actor’s Equity Association. Found in 1913 the association (or union) is made up of 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, all of whom work in the live theatre industry. Walt Disney World contracts the Actors’ Equity Association for all of the stage performances around the parks. For example, shows like Festival of the Lion King, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Frozen Sing-a-long, and many others are performed by Equity Actors. At Walt Disney World there are 750 Equity Actors that make up the different casts for the shows.
So, we have our show’s two main characters, Walt Disney World and the Actor’s Equity Association. Let’s draw those curtains!
Let’s call it a first draft. At the end of May 2020, Disney announced the official reopening dates for the Walt Disney World parks. Leading up to the announcement and for a short period afterward, the script included the reopening of the Disney World shows along with the attractions. Even though nothing was formally announced. Disney knows how important the shows are to the overall guest experience. It wasn’t until Disney released more information that we found out that we would not see the Disney World shows reopen. Many believed the shows were held back due to social distancing and overall safety. It wouldn’t be until a few weeks later that we find out what was happening behind the scenes.
Not all script rewrites are a bad thing, but many times it’s a red flag. When it comes to our production of when could the Disney Shows reopen, it was a red flag. On June 23, 2020, Walt Disney World called back the Equity performers for the reopening of the parks but later rescinded the called back on June 26, 2020. Why did the call back get rescinded? Behind the scenes, Walt Disney World and the Actors’ Equity Association were in deep conversations around what it would take for the performers to return to the stage. Everything stemmed around one thing, the availability of regular testing for COVID-19 for the performers. The association requested regular testing for the performers, and Disney stated concerns that the testing is unreliable and could create a false sense of security. Needless to say but both sides were at a standstill.
Few days prior to the official reopening of Walt Disney World the dispute between the two parties become public. Or, as we like to say, it’s working towards the climax of our production. The stand-off carried forward until mid-August 2020. During which time the performers themselves took to YouTube to sharing their thoughts and desire to return to the parks.
Against all odds our two parties found resolution. On August 12, 2020, in what can best be described as out of left field we hear the Actors’ Equity Association and Disney have come to an agreement. In two separate announcements we find out Walt Disney World in conjunction with the state of Florida will provide free COVID-19 testing to all employees and their family members, as well as people within the community. Moments later we find out that the dispute is resolved with the following statements by both parties:
- “We have been consistent that testing is an important part of ensuring a safe workplace for Equity performers, and today, I’m pleased to see that Disney World has agreed,” Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle said.
- “Our actions support all cast and our community at large,” Disney said in a statement.
The big question that remains is when could we see the Disney World shows reopen?
At least the potential closure of our production should happen in the coming weeks. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, Disney is looking to have the Disney World shows reopen no later than the week of September 7, 2020. In the perfect world they would be ready to go for Labor Day weekend. For our understanding, it should take no more than three weeks to have everything in place and to also allow enough time for the performers to rehearse, before the curtains go up. At this moment this timetable is somewhat fluid, similar to everything else right now.
Ultimately, every thing worked out. Disputes are never pretty, especially when they become public, but the ability for all cast members to tested is fantastic. It will be great to see the Equity performers once again take the stage and do what they love the most. Perform! The only thing we’re trying to figure out is which production to see first when the Disney World shows reopen. There is only one way to decide, we’re pulling a name out of a hat!
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