July 24, 2024

Disneyland Entertainment Cuts & Additions

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There’s good & bad news for entertainment at Disneyland Resort, as several entertainment acts are being cut or scaled back as other additions are made to celebrate Inside Out 2. This post covers what’s ending,




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There’s good & bad news for entertainment at Disneyland Resort, as several entertainment acts are being cut or scaled back as other additions are made to celebrate Inside Out 2. This post covers what’s ending, having performances reduced, timelines, plus commentary about the likely motivation for the changes and why these decisions are misguided or frustrating to fans.

Let’s start with the bad news, as there are several cutbacks being made at DCA that’ll take effect later in June 2024. One of those has already taken effect, with Club Pixar no longer featuring dancers or a DJ. Games, photo opportunities, and other offerings will continue daily at Club Pixar from 4:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., minus the dancers and DJ.

Located in the Hollywood Backlot of Disney California Adventure (across from Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue), Club Pixar previously offered life performances in addition to the games and other activities. Nothing has replaced the dancers and DJ thus far, and nothing is expected. These cuts were made with “guest feedback and operational considerations,” according to Disneyland officials.

The bigger losses are coming to permanent entertainment in Avengers Campus. A show that has been a mainstay of the Marvel land since it opened in 2021–and has a purpose-built venue specifically for the show–will permanently end later this month.

The final performance of “Doctor Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic Arts” in Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure will be on June 29, according to Disneyland officials.

“We continually evaluate our entertainment offerings and make adjustments. Dr. Strange will continue to encounter guests throughout the campus,” explained a Disneyland representative in justifying the end of the Dr. Strange show.

But wait, there’s more! The Orange County Register has confirmed with Disneyland Resort officials that they will reduce performances of Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milaje also in Avengers Campus and the Citizens of Buena Vista Street at the front of Disney California Adventure.

Both shows were previously performed daily, but performances will be reduced by 20% or more in July. Warriors of Wakanda will not be offered on select Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Citizens of Buena Vista Street will not be offered on most Thursdays and Fridays according to the OCR. For these reductions, Disneyland officials offered the same justification about constant evaluation and adjustments.

It’s worth noting that these reductions occur against the backdrop of Disneyland character performers voting to unionize last month. These cutbacks have all been announced in the weeks since–with even more reductions rumored that haven’t been confirmed. It’s thus difficult not to conclude that the cutbacks would be occurring in response to unionization. After all, if Disneyland’s labor costs are increasing, it stands to reason that they’d offset this by making reductions.

However, both Disneyland and the Actors’ Equity Association deny that’s what’s happening here. For its part, Disney has released the above statements that it continually evaluates its entertainment offerings and makes changes in response to guest feedback. Not exactly convincing, as we’ve heard similar to justify the elimination of even popular things. And it’s not like guests are actively asking for Disneyland to eliminate entertainment.

Lending that explanation more credence is the Actors’ Equity Association itself, which says that they don’t have any information that would sindication that the cutbacks are due to Cast Member vote to unionize. The AEA said this: “[Disneyland] often shifts entertainment offerings throughout the parks…we are hopeful that Disney will continue to add new offerings.” The Actors’ Equity Association adds that they look forward to “working with Disney at the bargaining table to make sure that that magic remains sustainable for Disney, Cast Members and Guests alike.”

We’ll have more on this in the commentary, but for now, let’s turn to a couple of kernels of positive entertainment news, which are particularly relevant with today’s release of Inside Out 2…

For a limited time, guests can enjoy “Emotional Rollercoaster,” a new water short ahead of “World of Color – ONE” in celebration of “Inside Out 2.”

In “Emotional Rollercoaster,” guests will see inside Riley’s head with memories of her experiencing Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust and navigating new emotions like Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment and Ennui to learn how all these emotions must learn to live together peacefully.

Beginning today (June 14, 2024), Anger from Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” will greet guests in Disney California Adventure at the Pixar Pier Band Shell. Pixar Fest, and the Anger meet & greet, run through August 4, 2024.

This is the second meet & greet addition to Pixar Fest, with the first being Meilin and Ming Lee from “Turning Red,” who return as a character experience last month. The mother and daughter duo do meet guests near Grizzly Peak at DCA.

I’ll start with commentary about the Pixar Fest “adjustments,” as I think there might be an interesting story here about that event. The additions of the World of Color pre-show and Anger are not part of that–those are undoubtedly coming from Pixar’s marketing budget for the new film. These are both very ‘standard issue’ additions that we’d expect to see for a summer tentpole movie release.

Adding Meilin and Ming Lee so soon after Pixar Fest began was more curious to me, and made me wonder whether perhaps the event was falling short of expectations and failing to excite guests or pull people to the parks.

Honestly, I think more or less the same explanation could be applied to Club Pixar. Fans would like to ascribe nefarious motivations to ending that, but the more straightforward one is just that it wasn’t very good or popular. I’d be willing to bet that’s the real reason it was removed.

So Disneyland’s explanation that it ended due to “guest feedback and operational considerations” is sorta accurate. It’s not guests saying they don’t want it…and instead voting with their feet. (I also wouldn’t be surprised if guest satisfaction scores on Club Pixar were/are low.)

Not to defend these cuts (and if you keep reading, you’ll see I don’t), but I think the same likely applies to Doctor Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic Arts. When people list off their favorite Disneyland entertainment, this one doesn’t come up very often. (I’ve never heard anyone say they love this show, but I’m sure some fans do.) And for good reason!

Honestly, I’m surprised this lasted as long as it did. It was difficult to watch the show due to how the small viewing area was set-up and the cool effects in the show didn’t really work until the sun was lower in the sky. My guess is the reason that it wasn’t on the chopping block before is because it’s one of the main venues in Avengers Campus, and what else are they going to do with it?!

The Warriors of Wakanda show, on the other hand, is fantastic. This is one of my favorite things about Avengers Campus, which on its own isn’t saying a whole lot since I don’t like much about the Marvel land. But this is actually really good. Guests stop in their tracks when seeing the Dora Milaje march out of nowhere, and the show always draws a crowd.

Warriors of Wakanda is one of the things that gives Avengers Campus life, and I’d go as far as to say it’s better than when they launch the Spider-Man dummy off the building. That does have more wow-factor, though.

That cuts to the heart of why these cuts are so concerning: Avengers Campus desperately needs atmospheric entertainment to give it life. To be blunt, the land itself isn’t very good. It has all the charm and place-making of a suburban office park, with an aesthetic inspired by a defunct Circuit City. The setting leans way too heavily on Imagineering’s “repurposed ____” trope, and is utterly uninteresting.

However, Avengers Campus is redeemed to a large extent because the land itself is primarily a canvas for the action and actual characters. As with the movies, that’s where Avengers Campus shines–it comes alive with a range of heroes and villains from the various MCU properties. To whatever extent the Marvel land works, it’s on the shoulders of the super heroes.

Cutting these characters is just a really, really bad idea. I could get behind the decision to do away with Dr. Strange if it were for a different show or more free-roaming atmospheric acts. In fact, that would be a good idea. Reducing the Warriors of Wakanda and eliminating the Ancient Sanctum show without replacement is not the right move, though.

Reducing the Citizens of Buena Vista Street is likewise a terrible move. These performers are hilarious and great for impromptu interactions, also giving the front of the park a sense of place and life. While Buena Vista Street is actually a good area on its own (much more charm than Circuit City), it still benefits tremendously from having this streetmosphere.

As for the rationale for these reductions if it’s not the unionization, my best guess is that Disneyland Resort is attempting to maintain its momentum from the pent-up demand period even as there’s a slowdown. And it does appear that Disneyland is finally starting to see a drop in demand–look no further than the summer ticket deal (available to the general public and not just Californians for the first time) for evidence of that.

That the last couple of years have set a high bar for financial success that’ll be impossible to continue achieving, but they’re going to try anywhere…and the answer is cutbacks. I don’t think it’s a good “answer,” but they didn’t ask me.

A secondary explanation is that Pixar Fest is ongoing and Fantasmic just returned, and those two offerings are entertainment-intensive. So reductions elsewhere are an offset, of sorts, to that. I also don’t think this is a great justification. It’s not like Fantasmic is actually anything new, and Pixar Fest has been done before in past summers, too.

Disneyland is commonly lauded for its atmospheric entertainment, including by this blog. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of entertainment has been lost over the years. There’s currently no night parade, which is the most obvious thing, but that’s not all. Disneyland has also lost Bill Hill and the Hillbillies, Minnie’s Fly Girls, Instant Concert with Goofy, Pixarmonic Orchestra, Red Car Trolley News Boys, the Hyperion Theater stage show, the Fantasyland Theatre stage show, and more.

In fairness, many of those acts existed before Avengers Campus and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, both of which brought a ton of entertainment with them. But new lands have also increased the capacity of the parks, and attendance along with it.

Disney Parks have had several record-setting quarters in the last couple of years, so it’s not exactly like these cuts “needed” to happen for the financial health of the company. Unless you view padding profit margins as “necessary.”

Long term, reducing entertainment is ill-advised. We’ve written versions of this same editorial countless times, but this is the first time it’s been directed at Disneyland. By contrast, Walt Disney World has had a penchant of cutting entertainment for several years.

At its best, Disneyland is more than the sum of its parts. It’s the little moments, the ambiance, the live musicians, the way everything just feels alive that, cumulatively, defines a trip even if you don’t actively notice at the 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 lifelong 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. They aren’t actually unnecessary. It’s the exact opposite–they’re the heart and soul of the parks.

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 Disney still aims to exceed expectations, but they also seem to have a mentality of making cuts they can get away with. I’m excited about the new attractions and lands that’ll be built over the next decade at Disneyland. What concerns me is the smaller stuff, especially that which is deemed superfluous, expendable, or as a quick way to save on labor costs. These smaller things are just as integral to the overall guest experience.

The problem with this approach to reductions is if you trim too much fat, you start to hit bone. Attendance woes become a self-fulfilling prophecy, 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 falling short of investor expectations for a quarter. And let’s not forget, the parks have been massively outperforming for the last couple of years, achieving record numbers–so it’s not exactly like they’re struggling! It’s short-term thinking for a business unit that should be more fixated on long-term health.

It’s as if Disney Parks & Experiences is teetering on brink of bankruptcy, even as the company boasts about record results on earnings calls. Charging more and offering less might be one way to achieve short-term targets, but there are certainly long-term negative consequences to that approach.

This is a big part of what’s so frustrating to fans–we know what Disneyland used to offer, and hear them bragging about the financials. Here’s hoping that’s not what’s happening here; that instead this actually is reevaluating entertainment, and Disneyland plans to announce replacements for all of this in short order. Given the losses we’ve seen over the years, I’m not holding my breath on that.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and many other SoCal cities!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of these Disneyland entertainment additions and removals? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about DLR replacing some of these reduced or eliminated acts? Agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!




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