Walt Disney World performers challenge their union, Actors’ Equity Association, for the right to return to work regardless of Equity’s continuing protest against the resort's reopening policies.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Seven unions representing 48,000 cast members signed agreements to have their employees return to work, and the Actors’ Equity rejected our safety protocols. We have exercised our right to open without Equity performers.”

The Actors’ Equity Association includes Performing Cast Members appearing in Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo – The Musical, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, the Beauty and the Beast stage show, and more. Over 200 Cast Members are reported to want to return to work.

However, Walt Disney World’s Equity Cast Members have begun requesting that the union drop the battle with The Walt Disney Company over safety precautions. Cast Members believe that the fight may be putting their highly coveted jobs at risk.

The speculation may be merited. Disney has recently begun the process of recasting and/or modifying its performances to no longer rely on Equity performers, such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park’s new Feathered Friends in Flight show, which has recently replaced UP! A Great Bird Adventure. The new educational bird show no longer requires an Equity Cast Member. The updated iteration features an animal behaviour specialist rather than the previous character performers. While we at Thrillspace are always excited to see a bit more edutainment put back into the parks, we do understand the concern.

That’s not all, folks. Disney has already made several changes to their shows to help meet superior safety standards, including reducing choreography, affixing plexiglass in the dressing rooms, and reducing crowd capacity. In addition, safety training and added supplies have been provided. Alas, Equity appears to be rendered unsatisfied.

Equity has not budged in its quarrel with Disney ordering that Disney both require testing for its Cast Members as well as allow Cast Members to wear masks while performing on stage. Not exactly the ‘Disney Look’ that Uncle Walt had in mind. Naturally, Disney has reportedly said no to both requests from the union.

The aforementioned group representing these Equity Cast Members ready to return to work issued a declaration stating, “While we appreciate our union’s efforts on our behalf, we strongly believe that Disney has taken the necessary safety precautions for a phase one reopening and that we deserve a voice in the assessment of these new protocols.”

Another added concern is that if Union Cast Members do not return to work soon, they will soon lose their unemployment benefits.

However, some of Disney’s performers aren’t certain that they will ever return to the Disney stage. In fact, several performers have even begun applying for jobs elsewhere.

As Walt Disney World performers challenge their union, one must ask if Disney will someday soon sever all ties with the union. Only time will tell.