An Open Letter to Disney Performers

Thank you, performers.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

As I walked into Disney’s Hollywood Studios today, my eyes immediately filled with tears. And not the good ones.

The only thing I could think about was yesterday’s news that the Citizens of Hollywood had been laid off. Those whimsical, hilarious, perfect, magical characters who never failed to make me laugh…gone.

Citizens of Hollywood

And they aren’t the only residents of this park — included in the layoffs were performers from Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, and Jedi Training Academy, as well as Toy Story Land’s Green Army Men.

Green Army Men Marching

Over at Magic Kingdom, performers from Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor got the call, as did the iconic Citizens of Main Street.  Across the water, performers from the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue are also saying goodbye.

Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

Meanwhile, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re also forced to say goodbye to the casts of Finding Nemo – the Musical and Festival of the Lion King. 

Festival of the Lion King

And we’ve already said goodbye to the Grand Society Orchestra and Yeeha Bob.

Grand Floridian Society Orchestra

Layoffs around the nation due to the pandemic are incredibly sad, no matter what. But for many of us, the loss of these iconic performers hits us in a very personal ways.

I’ll never forget standing on Sunset Boulevard as two Citizens drew portraits of my uncle and I. It took them several minutes – they kept discussing the shading and angles, and complimenting our features. We were giggling the whole time, but when they flipped them around to reveal stick figures, giggles turned into laughs with tears rolling down our faces. We still talk about this moment over 10 years later.

Citizens of Hollywood

Festival of the Lion King is my favorite thing in Walt Disney World. More than any ride, any nighttime spectacular, any parade…it’s this. It’s the music, the passion, the energy. It’s the moment the tumble monkeys complete their daring climbs and flips and the audiences cheers in delight, or when the fire dancer lights the stage on fire to audible gasps. It’s when the birds take flight to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”. It’s the finest Disney Magic, brought to life by an incredibly talented cast.

Festival of the Lion King

I think it’s fair to say, that every single guest that comes to Walt Disney World is delighted by these cast members in one way or another. There’s a family out there whose tradition is to go to the Hoop Dee Doo every year, where they swing their checkered napkins Wildly and join the cast in shouting “strawberry shortcake!”

Hoop Dee Doo

There’s a little girl who will never forget dawning her Jedi robes and fighting Darth Vader with the help of a Jedi Master, and a little boy who danced to the beat of the Green Army Men in Toy Story Land.

Jedi Training Academy

Maybe you’re the one who cries every time you see Finding Nemo the Musical and hear “That’s My Dad.” Or perhaps you can’t leave Hollywood studios without dancing in your seat to “Be Our Guest” during Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage.

Finding Nemo: The Musical

Maybe you’ve got memories of your whole family gasping as you watch Indy perform his iconic fight scenes at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. You know he’s gonna be ok, but man he cuts it close.

Or perhaps you’re a dad whose kids got a real kick out of you being “that guy” at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Or maybe, you just walked into the Magic Kingdom, and spot a gleaming castle in the distance. And as you head down Main Street you hear a familiar chorus of “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” — it’s the Citizens who have joined the Dapper Dans to welcome you home.

The global pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the entertainment and travel industries. Broadway is set to be dark until May 2021, and the Disney Parks have laid off 28,000 people domestically. Movie theaters might not recover. Disneyland still hasn’t reopened. 

Some people will say these aren’t necessary industries. But aren’t they?

Citizens of Hollywood

I’m not naive or pixie-dusted enough to believe Disney is vital to survival. It’s a luxury, it’s an extra, it’s superfluous. But it’s also an escape from the real world and a place where millions of families hold important memories. Disney, at its core, is joy — that’s what it matters. And that’s why the layoffs of Cast Members, especially iconic performers that so many of us know and love, hit so close to home.

Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage

Words don’t seem like a big enough tribute to the people who spent decades bringing joy to millions. To every single performer who these layoffs have effected, my heart breaks for you. I am so sorry. From the singers to the crew to the actors, thank you, thank you, thank you. Your incredible talents were truly a gift to each one of us who were lucky to see you. Thank you for making us laugh and smile and cry — thank you for BEING the magic. 

Citizens of Hollywood

I’m choosing to believe this isn’t goodbye, but rather, a see ya soon. I look forward to the day when I can cry during “Circle of Life” and laugh as the Citizens roll down Sunset in their white open-top car again. 

Because frankly…it isn’t Disney without you.

With love,

Molly & the AllEars Team

If you have a memory of one of these beloved acts and shows, please share in the comments!

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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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24 Replies to “An Open Letter to Disney Performers”

  1. Without the acting cast members and shows, Disney is just another “county fair full of rides”. We visited late September of this year and it was so sad to realize how the magic was missing. I’m tickled to have been able to experience my first trip as a grand dad with my 2 year old grandson who, thankfully, was oblivious to all the missing experiences. If not for that joy, I probably would have wished to not seen the parks in this condition.

  2. My daughter Kara loves the Finding Nemo show! Every visit we never miss it. A few years ago when the show was over a CM came to us and said Nemo would like to meet you. We were so surprised! It was the entire cast who came out to meet my daughter who uses a wheelchair. Each actor was so kind and caring they even pushed her wheelchair so that they could take a group picture with her. They are gave her so much attention she talks about the trip all the time. Thanks to all the cast members who make are vacations so special that we keep coming back!

  3. We haven’t been to Disney World for years because of our financial situation, but we have been there many times prior. One of the greatest thing that made WDW stand out above all other parks is their attention to detail in everything but most important was their cast members and their fantastic entertainment. Now that we are both retired and better financially, we decided to join DVC. This was always a dream of ours. I am so saddened to hear this news of laying off the people that helped make our time there so wonderful. I realize the pandemic situation has caused hardship. I would hope that all of these performers will all be called back. Or is this a way of cheapening WDW experience forever. I’m hoping we haven’t made a mistake in finally joining DVC.

  4. Thank you Molly for expressing what we all feel so beautifully 😍😢😢😢 I am in the UK and not able to travel to the Disney US right now ( not even Paris Disneyland with New France lockdown) but I feel passionately that Disney World – indeed all Disney parks – are so much more than theme parks .The performances are world class, the cast members are exceptional, and this news is beyond heartbreaking. Whatever you believe about Covid , saving the arts for future generations is saving humanity; the Walt Disney company is built on story, creativity and performance. This is why we still watch Disney films from 1930s. Thankyou Molly and allears for bringing us such uplifting content that showcases so many inspirational performers. We will always love and cherish them.

  5. All of these actors were true artists. Art is what adds Joy to our lives and helps us to develop our creativity and ability to express our emotions. I truly have tears in my eyes reading this and pray for all of the families impacted by this decision.

  6. That was perfect. We all love the core of Disney, but its these folks that create those specifi unique individual memories that we all have from Disney World.

    when my daughter was tiny and afraid of most characters, she spend a bunch of time talking to “Fanny O’Rear” one of the MGM Streetmosphere people…because she thought it was Mary Poppins.

  7. Your letter really hit home. My grandson’s first experience at WDW as a two year old was highlighted participating in the “mini parade” at the end of the Lion King Show. And you cannot even imagine the look on my 29 year old daughter’s face (she has CP) and the shear joy she had playing the washboard (she has very limited use of her hands) with a spoon at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. That made her entire trip. Really do hope this is a very temporary set back and we will see them back real soon!

  8. Thanks Molly. I can’t help but to be really scared that they won’t come back at all. This has been the worst year I can remember. I’ve lost a cousin, my dog, my aunt’s dog, my best friend’s dog, a co-worker and for a while there, my job. Prayers for everyone out there.

  9. Beautifully written, Molly. I wholeheartedly agree with you! My youngest son, now a laid off cast member, was picked from the audience when he was 3 to participate in a street show in France. Now 22, he remembers that moment and was able to live his dream working for Mickey. I hope he is allowed to reapply for his job very soon. 🙁

  10. Hoop dee doo was a staple for my family. Every time. I think my brother in law always opted for the less crowded later time so he would have a better chance at being chosen for the brave.
    The long time running baritone of Lion King is a favorite. I used to go at least yearly, sometimes multiple times a year, and missing him for a span of time while there was a different singer . Then, on my last trip, I heard him before he came out and thought, “He’s back!”. Special memories from very special people from every show. Thank you for this article.

  11. I agree with you Molly and everyone else, these CM are so vital the the whole “feel” of Disney. I can’t think of one thing to point out, cause there are so many instances where my trips have been special because of a song, joke, trick or act. We have a trip planned for December (we made our reservations last year)and I feel we need to go, to show support and thank all the people who are still there. Can’t wait for it to get back to normal. Darn you, Covid, indeed!

  12. What makes Disney magical is not the rides and the food-it’s the people…the cast members. You could go to any amusement park, but we choose Disney for the intimate touches and experiences, the joy in wondering around and being immersed in an experience. I could go to Disney and be okay with never setting foot on a ride, but to go with the void of these essential cast members is heartbreaking. The memories my family talk about, almost always revolve around the cast members who elevate our day through a laugh, or through amazement, or through kindness. It’s not Disney without you guys!

  13. Molly, Very well said! As a Cast Member and annual pass holder we’re incredibly saddened by all of the lay-offs/cancellations. The actors, performers and shows ARE the magic – unfortunately without them Disney is just another amusement park.

  14. Now I’m bawling. Beautifully written, as always, Molly. And yes, entertainers ARE essential. They are the only thing getting me through the low points I’ve had during this pandemic. Discovering has been a part of that essential piece for me as well. You nailed it with the word, “joy”. That is exactly what Disney is all about and why the joy just isn’t as magical without the talented people who make your heart swell with their gifts every day at Disney. Thanks, Molly.

  15. Well said, Molly! Citizens of Hollywood were always a joy to watch. Our children were often times chosen as participants in the shenanigans. Their ability to think on their feet to make an idea from the crowd funny was amazing talent! My heart is broken to think they will no longer be strolling down the street in their convertible old timey car. Lion King?! Beauty and the Beast?! Finding Nemo?! All amazing, talented people who made the days magical. I have a video of a Hoop-Dee-Doo Review performer sitting in my husband’s lap singing to him. And there goes my husband’s dream of being Mayor of Main Street one day. Yes, many memories to cherish even more now!

  16. Omg Molly I cried so hard reading that 😭 Festival of Lion King will always be my favorite but beauty and the beast brings back the little girl in me. Ugh so sad

  17. Thank you Molly for your sentiments. We go to WDW at least once a year with the exception of this year (we have plans for next year). I can’t believe the news. No Lion King especially. No Laugh Floor? And I am sure others have their favorites they will miss. Darn you, Covid!

  18. Seems the sad news just keeps on coming. My son works at Walt Disney World and has had to say goodbye to many friends and co-workers. All we can do is hope things get better and all our friends can come back soon.

    1. Memories of 2 “maintenance men” trying to change a lightbulb, the lady who put lipstick on the guys to match her own gaudy make-up yelling “hey lady are you all right” in a growly voice to my best friend as my friend was laughing so hard she was crying, my DH being picked to be in a maintenance skit, to “director” who wanted to “make me a star”, and so many more who created magical moments, to lose you all breaks my heart. We love you guys and wish you well and look forward to your return.

  19. Wonderful post All Ears Team! Disney truly isn’t going to be the same without all these people bringing their heart and soul to the parks. I truly hope that this is just a see you sooner than later layoffs for these people whom have brought such color and joy to the Disney Parks experience.

  20. Man, such tough news. My kids asked if we were still going in Nov after hearing this and I said of course, that it’s important to go. We need to hold the fort down, keep things going, so they can be there the next time. Thanks for writing this.