When Disney World reopened last year, a LOT changed, especially with entertainment.
Some entertainment went away altogether, while other experiences were modified to account for health and safety guidelines.
With Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration right around the corner, we’re going to take a look at what entertainment is like now and what we might be able to expect by the end of 2021. So let’s get started!
How Some Entertainment Has Changed at Disney World
At the moment, there are no parades in Disney World. Instead, there are character cavalcades, which happen in random intervals throughout the day at the parks. These are basically like mini-parades, with some dancers, entertainers, and a couple of characters.
These cavalcades usually follow the parade routes in each park (in EPCOT that means around World Showcase and in Animal Kingdom, check out the waterways!), but because they’re random, guests don’t line up early to see them. The randomness, though, is kind of nice because it means the cavalcades are a fun surprise when they do happen. And they happen often, so it’s pretty easy to see your favorite characters!
Some cavalcades feature characters walking or on cars, floats, horse-drawn carriages, or even boats! The cavalcades are unique to each park, so keep your eyes peeled — you never know who you’ll spot in a cavalcade (or where!).
Cavalcades are NOT the same as parades, though. It’s a quick pause to spot a character going by then you’re back to your day. But as it stands, Disney has shared no information about when parades might return. We can’t imagine that Disney doesn’t have SOMETHING in parade-form planned for part of its 18-month-long 50th-anniversary celebration. Time will tell if that means modified cavalcade, like we saw at Halloween and Christmas, or something much bigger.
Meet and Greets
There are also no character meet and greets in the parks right now. But characters DO still come out and greet guests, just from a safe distance. Some of these interactions are a LOT of fun, and if you haven’t seen Pooh chasing butterflies or Mary Poppins talking to her umbrella, you’re totally missing out! This is another case where staying on the lookout can mean you spot characters is some really fun, unique places you might not expect!
There are still opportunities for socially-distanced selfies with characters, and there is also a lot of interaction happening between characters and guests. One of our favorites? Seeing what Anastasia and Drizella are up to in Fantasyland. They always have something to say!
Traditional meet and greets will likely return at some point, but for now, character interaction is still limited.
Nighttime entertainment has also changed quite a bit. The Happily Ever After fireworks show at Magic Kingdom has been indefinitely suspended. However, work has progressed on EPCOT’s new nighttime show, Harmonious, which was originally supposed to debut last year. The smaller Star Wars fireworks over at Hollywood Studios (along with the entirety of Fantasmic!) have also been suspended.
During the holidays, guests did get to see some nighttime projections at the parks, but it’s not the same as a huge fireworks show to end each evening. Right now, though, most parks are closing so early (save for busier times) that there isn’t even enough darkness to properly showcase this kind of nighttime entertainment.
However, ONE form of nighttime entertainment came back in December. The Electrical Water Pageant returned to Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. You can spot this beloved parade nightly from Magic Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom resorts.
Current Entertainment That’s Been Modified
Live Musical Performances
Some live musical performances have returned to the parks, although they have been modified. For example, the Dapper Dans returned in the fall, but instead of singing down Main Street, U.S.A., they now sing from the Main Street, U.S.A. Train Station or while riding the trolley car. The Main Street Philharmonic has also returned to Magic Kingdom.
Some of the live musical acts at EPCOT have returned, generally as part of the festival entertainment there. We’ve been fortunate enough to see live performances by the Jammitors, Mariachi Cobre, Voices of Liberty, and the pianist at World Showplace.
Live Stage Shows
For the most part, live stage shows have been shuttered at Disney World. However, in October 2020, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration reopened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Much has changed, though, and the theater is only seating 35% of its capacity to maintain social distancing guidelines.
The Disney Junior Play Dance Party returned shortly after the parks reopened. Areas are now set up in the dance area to keep groups socially distanced and everyone is encouraged to groove out specifically within their designated zones.
Disney Springs Entertainment
But wait — because we can’t forget that there’s entertainment at Disney Springs, too! And one of our favorite things to do is to grab a pint and some traditional Irish food at Raglan Road and watch the Irish step dancers do their thing. And don’t forget — there’s live music here, too!
You can also catch live music at spots like House of Blues Restaurant and Bar. Select musicians also occasionally appear on the Disney Springs Marketplace Stage. Disney Springs keeps a running calendar of performances on its website, so if you’re looking for performance dates, check it out!
Entertainment Returning Soon
Festival of the Lion King
One of Disney World’s most beloved stage shows, Festival of the Lion King, will finally make its return this summer. Like the Frozen Singalong, the experience may be modified to account for health and safety guidelines. The show follows the story of The Lion King, but with elaborate dancing, singing, costumes, and puppetry. It was previously held multiple times throughout the day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
So far, though, we don’t have confirmation of other Disney World shows returning. It seems that these entertainment options are being slowly brought back, though. We’ll keep you posted as anything changes.
Entertainment That May Never Return
Disney Performers Laid Off
There may be a lot of entertainment that may never return to Disney World. Some performers have been laid off, including the Grand Floridian Orchestra, Ye-Haa Bob, the Citizens of Main Street, the Citizens of Hollywood, performers from the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, and more.
Also, some full casts and crews for shows were reportedly laid off, including those involved with Monsters Inc: Laugh Floor, Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. It is possible casts could be re-hired but at this time, very little is known about the future of these shows.
EPCOT used to host a TON of entertainment during each festival, such as Eat to the Beat, Garden Rocks, the Disney on Broadway Concert Series, and the Candlelight Processional. NONE of that entertainment has returned to the festivals…yet.
Entertainment at the festivals has been limited to smaller distanced performances like those we mentioned happening with Voices of Liberty and others. We HAVE seen an artist with 2021 dates booked to perform at the Food and Wine Festival, but time will tell if this event actually returns. We have no word if any of these performances will return to future festivals, but as entertainment begins to make its way back into the parks, we’ll be tracking what returns and what doesn’t.
It’s different in Disney World than it was years prior. Entertainment is dramatically reduced but certainly not gone. It’s not the same as it was before the closures, where Disney World was exploding with entertainment options. But if you know where to look, you’d possibly be surprised just how much entertainment is still around.
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What’s your favorite entertainment at Disney World? Let us know in the comments!