Two years POST pandemic closures, Disney World is still not truly back to “normal.”
No, we’re not talking about how masks are still required in some places, or how some restaurants still haven’t reopened. We’re actually talking about one BIG thing that has changed a lot over the past several months and is set to continue changing in the upcoming weeks — entertainment. But, more specifically, we’re talking about those little pieces of entertainment that typically fill the streets in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and elsewhere — the streetmosphere!
What is Streetmosphere?
You might be reading this article and wondering “what on Earth is ‘streetmosphere’?” and you’re probably not alone! It might be something that you don’t know the word for, but if you’ve been to Disney World in the past, it’s likely something you witnessed.
Streetmosphere is a sort-of Disney word for “street atmosphere” performers. Basically, these are the musicians, actors, performers, etc. that don’t just set up shop in one theatre or spot. Instead, these are the people who walk around the streets of the parks, performing their entertainment for fans to enjoy.
Oftentimes, these are the types of shows that guests don’t necessarily notice. They might walk right past them or even walk right into them if they aren’t paying close attention, since these folks are just out and about! But those “in the know” might consider these characters and acts to be some of their FAVORITES in the entire resort.
Streetmosphere performers include the Dapper Dans and the Citizens of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, the Jammitors in EPCOT, the Citizens of Hollywood and Green Army Drum Corps in Hollywood Studios, and things like Kora Tinga Tinga in Animal Kingdom.
What’s Happening with Streetmosphere Right Now?
At the moment, some streetmosphere has returned, but some of the big players remain unavailable.
Other streetmosphere performers have NOT returned at all. For example, the Citizens of Hollywood and Citizens of Main Street are not back during regular hours for guests to enjoy. Back in 2020, some of the Citizens of Hollywood entertainers were laid off from Disney. Members of the Citizens of Main Street, the Green Army Men, and more were also part of the layoffs.
These acts have not officially been back since the pandemic closures. BUT we have seen some of these friendly faces pop up during special events.
During a runDisney race in early 2022, the Citizens of Hollywood showed up in Hollywood Studios!
So, it’s not as though we haven’t heard or seen anything about these acts over the past several months, but what we have seen has been very sparse.
With news about some returning entertainment that will be in the parks soon, we couldn’t help but wonder what is going on with our streetmosphere friends. Will they be coming back soon or will they become just another offering that has been removed as a cost-cutting measure in this post-COVID re-opening world? Here’s what we think.
Signs That Streetmosphere Could Be Returning
There are a number of things that have changed at Disney World recently which could indicate the return of MORE streetmosphere in the near future.
For starters, social distancing has very much been done away with in the parks. The social distancing language was removed from Disney’s website long ago, and we’ve seen some seriously LARGE crowds in the parks lately. To the extent that Disney has been concerned about social distancing when it comes to these character experiences, that may no longer be as big of a worry. Plus, capacity is still being controlled (to some extent) by Disney so they could choose not to expand it too much in order to allow space for these acts to take place.
In-person, up-close character meet-and-greets are also returning to Disney World soon, and character dining could also be going back to normal soon. Hugs, autographs, and the other aspects you know and love of “traditional” character meet-and-greets should be coming back in just a few days! This could all be a good sign for more streetmosphere.
We’ve also seen other things return that typically take up space in the parks which run through crowds or otherwise have closer contact to guests (similar to streetmosphere). For example, parades and some of the Main Street Vehicles have returned to Magic Kingdom.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue will also be coming back to Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground soon. All kinds of antics (which sometimes put guests and Cast Members in closer contact with one another) have returned to Whispering Canyon Cafe, and other entertainment is back in Disney World.
Some other entertainment offerings have also returned or will be coming back to the parks soon, including the reimagined Finding Nemo musical (opening in 2022), Fantasmic! (returning in 2022), the castle Stage Show (returned), and Festival of the Lion King (returned, and more aspects of the show will be back soon). So it’s not as though there is no entertainment in Disney World.
And, as we mentioned above, we have seen the Citizens of Hollywood pop up during that runDisney race, so that could indicate that they are still somewhat available and willing to return to those roles.
We’ve also seen Disney post an auditions request for the Green Army Patrol — Drum Corps. That could be a good sign that some more streetmosphere could be on its way to returning to the parks!
Also, it’s worth noting that some of these offerings note that they are “temporarily unavailable,” but their pages on the Disney World website have not been removed entirely.
For example, for the Citizens of Main Street and Citizens of Hollywood, Disney notes that they are “temporarily unavailable” on the website. That is ultimately better than a situation where the pages for these acts have been entirely removed from the website.
Why Aren’t They Back YET?
If they could return, why aren’t they back yet?! Part of the reason why some streetmosphere acts haven’t returned could be staffing. During the earnings call for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that live entertainment is an area that needs more staff.
Chapek said they’re working toward restoring things so they can “get up to something that would be more similar to what we’ve seen in the past in terms of the number of people that we put into our parks.”
As we mentioned above, some members of the Citizens of Main Street, Citizens of Hollywood, and other streetmosphere were laid off back in 2020, so Disney would have to hire these Cast Members back to make things work. That means working out the terms of contracts and going through all of the required legal and personnel hoops.
Another reason why these acts might not be back in the parks is because of COVID-19 concerns and distancing. During the Q1 earnings call for FY 2022 (transcript available on the Disney website), Chapek said that “one of the last things to come back for us in a post-COVID world…is actually live entertainment because much of the live entertainment is close proximity. And we are self-regulating that.”
In other words, because a lot of entertainment comes into close contact with guests, Disney has been regulating how much (if any) to offer, given concerns for the spread of COVID-19.
Chapek said, “We are self-managing that because we don’t want our guests to feel an excessive level of density. And the place that you get it is parades and fireworks shows and things like that. So I suspect that over time we’ll start to regain some of the capacity drop-off that we’re kind of self-imposing on ourselves.”
But maybe Chapek’s concerns are no longer big worries for the Disney Company. Two of the things he discussed — parades and fireworks — are back in the parks, and other experiences with up-close character contact (like traditional meet-and-greets) are coming back.
Those could all be signs that more streetmosphere characters will return soon too!
But, It’s Not All Good News
Despite the many signs that could point to the return of some fan-favorite streetmosphere acts, it’s not all positive news. Other entertainment offerings or special experiences that Disney once offered have not survived the pandemic or have been changed.
For example, Disney has announced that the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show has permanently closed.
Also, the Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), the Main Street Trolley Show (Magic Kingdom), Jedi Training Academy (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Swotu Wayä — the Pandora Drummers (Disney’s Animal Kingdom), and Enchanted Tales with Belle (Magic Kingdom) haven’t returned yet. Perhaps that’s a sign that it’ll still take some more time before entertainment that is in closer contact with guests or just other entertainment in general gets back to “normal.”
Additionally, streetmosphere characters typically perform their acts on the street, right next to guests. They, in a sense, take up space that could be filled by other guests (i.e. more entertainment might mean less space to fill with more guests and increase capacity). That might be a factor Disney is considering, especially as it continues to try and recover post the COVID closures and reopenings.
Streetmosphere entertainment also doesn’t really come with the ability for an upcharge. It’s not as though you can really charge for a Lightning Lane for the Citizens of Main Street. That inability to bring in an additional charge in accompaniment with this entertainment might be a factor under consideration.
But streetmosphere can “add value” to the park experience, make guests feel as though they have more to do that is already included in their park ticket, keep guests busy in one area (drawing them away from other, busier parts of the park, thereby helping to distribute crowds), and could give guests a sense of “normalcy.” For those guests who dearly miss the streetmosphere performers, their return might justify another trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth or otherwise encourage them to come back to Disney.
The changing COVID-19 situation could also be a factor, in terms of increasing cases with the new “stealth” COVID-19 variant (BA.2) and other developments. Some Disney parks around the world have even had to shut down again due to COVID-19 cases in those countries. It’s possible that Disney is waiting for things with COVID-19 to reach a certain point before deciding to bring back these streetmosphere offerings.
Disney doesn’t appear to be unaware of this missing streetmosphere. The recent audition posting for the Green Army Men, Chapek’s comments on the situation during the recent earnings call, and the announcement of the return of other Disney entertainment offerings all indicate that Disney is aware of the fact that some entertainment has been missing from the parks, and they appear to be working to get it back.
In fact, back in 2020, Josh D’Amaro, the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman, said: “We’ve heard from many of our guests that they’re looking forward to us bringing back some of the entertainment that we recently had to discontinue, and we plan to do that.”
And it’s not as though all of this entertainment has disappeared, as we’ve seen some of the Citizens of Hollywood pop up in limited ways. But, concerns with crowding, COVID-19, and staffing could mean that these offerings won’t be back any time soon, may be modified, or may not come back at all. Only time will tell.
Disney hasn’t officially announced the return of some streetmosphere offerings like the Citizens of Hollywood or the Citizens of Main Street. We’ll continue to look for more updates.
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What streetmosphere do you miss in Disney World? Tell us in the comments!
The post What Does the Future Look Like for Streetmosphere in Disney World? We Dig In. first appeared on the disney food blog.