Live performances around Walt Disney World have been in limited supply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including live theatrical shows, streetmosphere performances, and parades. During today’s earnings conference call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek commented on the current status of live entertainment at Disney Parks, as well as parameters Guests can look toward for understanding how and when additional entertainment offerings will return.
All aspects of Walt Disney World operations (and those throughout the tourism and hospitality industry, and most fields for that matter) are still undergoing a staffing crisis due to the pandemic, and Chapek reported that staffing is partially to blame for the current state of the parks’ entertainment and restaurant scene.
Entertainment is currently running at a lower level than it has been in years at Walt Disney World while staffing numbers are still being recuperated. Chapek shared that the parks are currently operating on “self-imposed capacity restraints” and as those restrictions are lifted, Guests will start seeing more live entertainment return to the parks.
During the same discussion, Chapek commented on the usefulness of the Disney Parks Pass reservation system in balancing Guest and business needs. The system essentially allows the company to know exactly how many Guests to expect in the parks on a given date, so they are able to have consistently magical experiences regardless of when they travel to the parks, and other variables, since the crowd levels will essentially be pre-set.
As these pre-determined numbers are increased, the parks will have more of a need for entertainment, and we should see the return of additional shows and events. Chapek also shared that most locations around Walt Disney World are open in some capacity, and as staffing issues are alleviated, so will the areas that are either closed or not operating to their full ability.
On top of staffing issues, Chapek touched on the Company’s belief that promoting too much density among Guests as tends to happen during live entertainment events can be a difficult initiative while managing different levels of comfort in crowds as a result of the pandemic. On the topic, Chapek said, “Because much of the live entertainment is close proximity, we are self-regulating that. We are self-managing that because we don’t want our guests to feel an excessive level of density.”
It is worth noting that fireworks have previously returned to Walt Disney World with the opening of two new shows for the resort’s 50th anniversary, Disney Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom, and Harmonious in EPCOT. The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is back at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a physically distanced version of Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage has been back for a number of months as well. A modified version of the Festival of the Lion King show is also currently being performed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Earlier live entertainment announcements include the return of Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade in March, the new Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire coming later this month, and the opening of the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade coming this week to the Magic Kingdom. Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is also set to return later this year, along with a reimagined version of Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom.
We are optimistic that more shows will return to the parks soon, however, what many Guests are hoping to hear more about is streetmosphere entertainment. Some of these performers have returned, including the Casey’s Corner Pianist and performers around World Showcase in EPCOT for instance, but others are still missing (including the DinoLand Dance Party, and the Citizens of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, just to name a few.)
We will share new updates on returning entertainment to Walt Disney World, along with additional comments from CEO Bob Chapek here on Disney Fanatic as we learn more.