Walt Disney World has laid off 720 actors and singers from its Florida theme parks, representing the pandemic’s latest blow to live entertainment.
The Actors’ Equity Association said on Tuesday that of its 780 union members at Disney’s Orlando attractions, all but 60 were being let go due to budget cuts in the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,’ said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association, in a statement.
‘Disney has made it clear that our members would face work reductions since they announced layoffs of nearly 28,000 employees. That does not make this news any less painful,’ she added.
Walt Disney World has laid off 720 actors and singers, representing the pandemic’s latest blow to live entertainment. Disney cast members are seen above
The cutbacks hit the cast of floor shows such as Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom, seen above in a file photo
‘These reductions are another tragic reminder that until the virus is brought under control with a national strategy for masks, testing and contact tracing, everyone who works in the arts needs help like extended pandemic unemployment insurance and federal COBRA health insurance subsidies,’ Shindle said.
Among the affected performers are cast members of the ‘Streetmosphere’ music and dance teams in each of Disney World’s theme parks, and Broadway-style shows such as Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The cuts also hit Finding Nemo – The Musical and Pandora Utility Suit at the Animal Kingdom, and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom, according to WDWNT.com.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is losing a host of shows, including Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
At Walt Disney World Resorts, the cutbacks affect the revered Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue as well as The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be affected by cuts
The Green Army Men at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are getting the boot. Above, they are seen at the entrance to the Slinky Dog Dash ride in Toy Story Land
The performer layoffs come weeks after Walt Disney Co. announced it was eliminating 28,000 jobs in its parks division in California and Florida, with two-thirds of the planned layoffs involving part-time workers.
On Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis revealed that he had appealed to President Donald Trump to loosen travel restrictions from critical markets such as Brazil and Europe, in hopes of jump-starting theme park tourism.
On Wednesday, Florida health officials confirmed 4,115 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 790,426. The state also confirmed 66 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll from COVID-19 to 16,775.
Though Disney reopened its Florida parks in July, Disneyland in California remains shuttered due to stringent state restrictions.
Last week, Disney said it was considering joining a legal action with Universal and other theme parks in California to protest state guidelines that could keep them ‘shuttered for the foreseeable future’.
‘All options are open at this point,’ Erin Guerrero, executive director of the Californian Attractions and Parks Association, told a news conference when asked whether legal action was being considered.
Broadway-style shows such as Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom also face mass layoffs in the dramatic cuts at Disney World
Finding Nemo – The Musical is a popular Animal Kingdom musical that has seen union actors laid off as Disney slashes costs
The October 21 news conference was attended by senior executives from Walt Disney’s Disneyland, Comcast’s Universal Studios, Legoland and Knott’s Berry Farm in California.
‘Our No. 1 goal is to be allowed to reopen responsibly. Obviously we’d love to keep that conversation going,’ Guerrero said. ‘At this point any options are viable.’
California Health Secretary Mark Ghaly said last week that theme parks with a capacity of more than 15,000 visitors must wait to resume business until a county’s COVID-19 risk level drops to the lowest tier of ‘minimal’ spread.
Tier 4 of ‘minimal’ risk level is the state’s lowest risk level and is when the county has less than one new daily case per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average and a positivity rate of less than 2 percent.
If or when a park can reopen, the parks will then be subject to strict protocols including being limited to just 25 percent capacity for visitors.
Indoor dining and drinking in the parks are also limited to 25 percent.