On Thursday, August 28, 2014 Walt Disney World announced on the Disney Parks Blog that some new entertainment offerings will debut this fall at Epcot. Among these are a new Berber music and dance troupe in Morocco, a flag corps in Italy, a Celtic Folk music ensemble in the United Kingdom, a new lumberjack show in Canada “and more.”
Along with this news, the Mouse announced that several World Showcase entertainment offerings would be taking their final bow in the coming weeks. The World Showcase Players will shout their last “Grail, Grail, Grail!” on Thursday, September 25. Fans can see the last musical performances of the Spirit of America Fife & Drum, Mo’Rockin’ and Off Kilter on Saturday, September 27.
As expected, many Disney fans are sad to see some of these acts go, while others are downright livid. In particular, according to my Facebook newsfeed as well as others, it seems that fans are most upset from the news that Off Kilter will no longer be performing their unique blend of bagpipes and rock music soon.
On Facebook, a Save Off Kilter grassroots page has sprung up with nearly 2,000 members in less than two days. Letter writing campaigns have also been started and many fans are voicing their concerns to Disney Guest Relations, their entertainment department and even local newspapers in an effort to get the decision reversed.
Before I go any further, I need to tell you that I can sympathize with the fans of these groups. My favorite entertainment offering at any theme park on the planet was American Vybe, who performed in the rotunda of the American Adventure at Epcot. Growing up, my father instilled in me a huge love for a cappella music and Vybe, in my opinion, were masters at it. They were the “hip” version of Voices of Liberty, performing contemporary songs by American composers. I easily saw them over 100 times and would see them 100 more if they were still around. Sadly, at the end of 2005, they too got the ax from the Disney entertainment department.
I didn’t write any letters, nor did I voice my concern at Guest Relations. Entertainment acts being refreshed or cut is just a part of the biz. Any business, including Walt Disney World, is not a democracy. Just like I can’t walk up to someone’s manager at Target and tell them that one of their employees “deserves to be fired” because I was upset, I can’t tell Disney to keep someone’s job.
Sure, there have been some successful campaigns to change things at Walt Disney World. The “Save Figment” campaign might have something to do with bringing the purple dragon back to the Imagination pavilion. It also might have had more to do with being able to sell Figment merchandise in the gift shop.
Taking a step into the real world, not just theme parks, a group like Off Kilter getting to play five sets a day, five days a week, is nearly unheard of for any band.
Considering Off Kilter started playing at the Canada stage in Epcot over fifteen years ago and have had a continuous gig for that long speaks volumes as to how talented and loved these musicians really are. They produced five albums and actually manage to book gigs outside of Epcot in their spare time.
To help put things into perspective, The British Invasion band in the United Kingdom was replaced a few years ago by the British Revolution. When news first started to hit the web, fans were outraged that theme park fans were going to have their “cheese moved.” However, as it turns out, The British Revolution, with their more contemporary set list, is a smash hit.
Look, I recognize that I am talking about people losing their jobs. No doubt, this is a difficult time for all of the entertainment acts at Epcot who will be departing creatively, emotionally and even financially. However, that’s show business. Not one single performer alive today in any genre in the world can say their job is safe until they are ready to retire.
One more thing to consider. Walt Disney World has already announced the new entertainment offerings that have been announced this fall. Meaning, most likely, contracts have already been signed. Could this be a money saving move? Perhaps, although I don’t know that any more than 99.9 percent of the people reading this, but it’s a safe bet that factors into the equation.
My hope is fans understand that this process of refreshing entertainment is just part of the business. I too will miss these groups as they are a huge part of the reason why I visit Epcot now. However, sometimes it’s best to realize this comes with the territory of being an entertainer. Your thoughts?