Walt Disney World character performer and entertainment department decimated in layoffs

Oct 28, 2020 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:51am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Layoff notices have gone out this week to thousands of Walt Disney World entertainment Cast Members, reducing the department to just a handful of performers to cover the current minimal entertainment offerings.

All seasonal and part time character performers have been let go, which includes those with decades of experience at meet & greets and character dining. Many full time workers, including some who have already returned to work and have been part of the reopening cavalcades, have been relocated to attractions and custodial roles.

Outside of the character performer layoffs, the vast majority of Walt Disney World's Equity performers have also been notified of layoff. This includes performers at Festival of the Lion King, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Citizens of Hollywood streetmosphere, Green Army Men, Finding Nemo the Musical, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, The Laugh Floor Comedy Club, Citizens of Main Street, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, and Hoop de Doo.

The Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement after signing a memorandum of understanding with Walt Disney World regarding layoffs of most of their Equity member employees.

“Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “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. 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.”

Before the pandemic, about 780 Equity members were employed at Walt Disney World, either full time, part time or seasonally. About 60 are currently working or about to return to work in the park. About 720 Equity member workers have now been laid off. According to the new agreement with Disney, these laid-off members maintain recall rights until the end of 2021.

While there has been no timetable for a return of character meet & greets and live shows, the deep cuts to the entertainment department now make it extremely difficult to resume these types of offerings. There has been talk among some performers of a possible recasting for shows in the middle of 2021, but nothing official at this point.

The layoffs come as part of the decision to layoff 28000 workers from Disney's domestic theme parks to control costs during the COVID-19 crisis. Cuts have been made across the board, including at the resorts, restaurants, transportation, DVC, back-of-house and administration.

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CaptainAmericaMar 07, 2021

CaptainAmericaMar 07, 2021

tommcp516Mar 07, 2021

That's great news--first and foremost for the CM's and also for people with upcoming trips. I'm curious if the specific details of who is being called back might give an indication of where the next change in Covid-related closures might occur: are there any callbacks to laid-off CM's from a currently closed resort, restaurant, or attraction/entertainment (which means an opening might be on the near horizon)? Or are they calling back laid-off CM's to currently open resorts, restaurants, or attractions (which means that an increase in capacity might be coming soon)?

HauntedMansionFLAMar 07, 2021

Yes. Lots and lots of call backs.

nickysMar 07, 2021

Great news, nonetheless.

Disney AnalystMar 07, 2021

Unsure of date. Same role, but may not be same location. Still waiting to find out.

SkywiseMar 07, 2021

At this point, having had the vaccine, he'd probably test positive for that now?

asianwayMar 07, 2021

Ah I was curious I had thought the test only works for three months after but who knows at this point, there so many conflicting stories

SirwalterraleighMar 07, 2021

No...I have not. I thought about getting one last summer/fall...but I wasn’t in bad health and we were medically unprepared to handle everyone till recently. I was a 1A for vax in my state...but I waited until 1B for it.

tommcp516Mar 07, 2021

Out of curiosity, was your friend given a tentative re-hire date? Was it to their same position?

asianwayMar 07, 2021

You had an antibody test?

SirwalterraleighMar 05, 2021

I know it’s serious...that’s why I pointed out the context and where it’s at.

SirwalterraleighMar 05, 2021

I am still debating whether to pay the park hopper add on... It really depends on the weather, the crowds and the hours. Right now hours after 2 and not knowing if they’ll “ease” their capacity limits in a busy week means “no”.

Chip ChippersonMar 05, 2021

Yeah it definitely wouldn't be worth it to keep the passes knowing you wouldn't get to use them. Had we not already gotten 2 trips out of our passes and knew we wouldn't get back again before the extension ran out then we would have gone for the refund when it was offered. But we got our money's worth out of them and we'll get our money's worth out of them again this time, so I'm glad we held on to them. I'm not sure we would have been able to "renew" them if we had taken the refund and the thought of buying tickets when we aren't even sure how much time we'll be spending in the parks was a bigger headache for us - and our stay won't be long enough to take advantage of the DVC ticket offer so it was an easier call for us to just renew and know that we'll be able to go to the parks and not feel the need to worry about adding on the Park Hopper option just in case we decide we want to hit the food booths or mobile order from Regal Eagle at EPCOT in the afternoon for a meal.