Welcome to Disney California Adventure, a park on the verge of another round of massive changes. On this Valentine’s Day, we’ll look at where Disney is applying the love and where they are just plain being mean spirited.
Disney Junior Drama
I began receiving messages from upset puppeteers at Disney Junior Live a few weeks ago. We hear from disgruntled cast members all the time. Sometimes there are real issues behind these messages, other times it’s just an individual who is unhappy with a supervisor or who thinks they’ve been treated unfairly. As the emails began to stack up in the Disney Junior case, it was clear that these employees had a real issue that needed to be addressed. However, when the employees sought a solution, Disney reacted by canceling the show all together.
I’m going to share one of the letters with you that I believe best describes the situation, the danger to the skilled cast, and Disney’s hostile reaction.
Hello, I am a puppeteer for the Walt Disney Company and currently perform in the Disney Jr Live on Stage show at Disney California Adventure. As I’m sure you already know, it has officially been announced that the show will be closing on April 9th of this year, but what you may not know is the backstory.
In March of 2015, due to continuing safety concerns with the show, the cast petitioned to join AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists) which is the current union representing singers, stage dancers, and comedians throughout the resort. Since safety concerns of the Disney Junior cast were continually being overlooked, it was decided that we needed a union to support us. Upon petitioning to vote, the company immediately removed all cast members from all other roles in the resort that were not Disney Jr Live on Stage (many cast members worked in the character department and were also character hosts).
As a result, many of the cast went from working multiple shifts a week to no hours at all (most of the part timers received no hours at all). It is against the law for a company to retaliate against workers before a union vote. Any change from daily operations can be seen as retaliation from the company. Not only were cast members removed from their other roles, but management would also post a new ‘informational unionization flyer’ in the green room backstage with ‘information about unionizing.’ Many of the ‘facts’ presented on the flyers were false and/or misleading. When it came time to vote, the majority of the cast voted to unionize, so AGVA is currently representing us.
The union aided us in presenting our case to the National Labor Board. As a result of the affidavits of many puppeteers, the National Labor Board took immediate action and presented Disney with a cease and desist order. In December of 2015, rather than take the case to court, the Walt Disney Company signed a settlement agreement (almost a year after the petition to vote – meaning most of the puppeteers were not getting full time hours for a year). The settlement agreement is public record through the National Labor Board. The agreement stated that everything must go back to the way it was before the vote.
All puppeteers were also to receive back pay plus interest for all of the hours that they lost out on as a result. However, at this point, many of the puppeteers had already quit because they couldn’t afford to live. The settlement agreement was signed by the company in December of 2015 and it has still not been fulfilled over a year later. Many of the puppeteers are not getting the hours they used to receive and back pay has not been distributed. We have been in contract negotiations since 2015 – a slow moving process.
In December of 2016 we heard rumor from reliable sources that Disney planned on closing the show, and as a result the union confronted the company asking if the rumors were true. They admitted that they had plans on closing the show and would expedite letting the cast know (the company typically notifies a cast of show closing 1-2 weeks before the closing date- for example, Mad T Party). In December, they officially announced to the cast that the show would be closing on April 9th 2017. However, shortly after, it will be re-opening as another Disney Jr Live on Stage show. It is rumored that it will consist of video screens and possibly one live performer. However, the show will NOT have puppets.
We were originally told that the the Disney Jr Live on Stage shows in Florida and Paris would be closing as well, however, there is no longer a projected date for those shows closing and their casts have not heard anything about potentially closing either. The puppeteers have gone through hell for the past two years as a result of unionizing- many laws were broken by Disney and rules bent. Not exactly the Disney Magic we’re all used to hearing about. And with the show coming to an end and contract negotiations still not being finished, it’s time for the public to hear about this.
Our thoughts are with the Disneyland Resort’s talented puppeteers. Know that your guests have been dazzled by your hard work and skill. (Note to any reporters out there who would like to follow up on this story. We have lots of additional information about specific injuries, poorly built puppets, attempts by the puppeteers to get Disney to fix these issues without needing to unionize, and labor abuses which forced injury upon cast members.)
Beauty and the Beast Preview Spectacular
Many of us were sad to see the Muppet attraction close to become an uninspired preview center for upcoming films. We lost an entertaining attraction for what’s essentially advertising for Disney Pictures. However, please suspend your disappointment for a moment while we bring you our review of the brand new Beauty and the Beast (live action) preview.
The full first song “Belle,” is played during the preview. It’s spectacular and gives you a great idea of the look and tone of the picture.
Little town it’s a quiet village.
Every day like the one before.
Little town full of little people, waking up to say.
There goes the baker with his tray like always
The same old bread and rolls to sell
Every morning just the same
Since the morning that we came
To this poor provincial town
Good Morning Belle
When I first heard about the live action remake of this film I was worried. Beauty and the Beast was the 2nd of Disney’s animation revival films (Little Mermaid was the first). These films were massive success stories and Beauty and the Beast was practically perfect with fantastic songs, a tight and emotional script, and cutting edge animation. Why remake it? Those concerns melted away as I watched this extended preview at DCA. In fact, I found myself reduced to tears of joy and nostalgia as the lights came up. I can’t wait to see this film in theaters and have a feeling that this could very well become one of Disney’s biggest box office success stories. The film will hit theaters on March 17th.
Here’s a trailer available online (not the longer version being shown at DCA):
Time for us to dry our tears and prepare for invasion. The Tower of Terror is now officially gone as details have been revealed on the new exterior of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! attraction. Bright colors, lots of pipes. It’s exactly what they warned us it would look like. Some will be excited, other will be horrified. But one thing is for sure, you can see this tower from all over the resort.
Let’s take a quick jaunt around Disney California Adventure to see what’s going on.
The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is also under refurbishment, which makes this little corner of the park feel very lonely right now.
Let’s take a quick shopping trip.
Some Summer merchandise has popped up in the stores.
Downtown Disney and Grand Californian
The pool is closed at the Grand Californian. It’s not a minor project. The entire pool deck and surface of all pools have been jack hammered out.
Curl Surf Shop
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|All of us on the Disneyland Photo Update crew would like to thank you for joining us today. Today’s MiceChat Disneyland Update was shot and assembled by Dusty Sage with some additional photos by Brian Pinsky.|
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That’s it for this week’s Update.Are you a photographer? Do you love the parks? Would you like to contribute to the Disneyland Update or other MiceChat columns? Contact Dusty Sage: [email protected]