Disneyland is preparing to take the next step toward bringing back live shows and nighttime spectaculars that draw big crowds as part of a phased reopening following the yearlong coronavirus closure that so far hasn’t included large-scale theatrical entertainment.
The “Disney Junior Dance Party” will return Friday, Oct. 15 to its indoor theater in Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure after a 19-month hiatus due to the extended pandemic closure of the Anaheim theme park and continuing COVID-19 health and safety concerns.
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The “Disney Junior Dance Party” indoor stage show geared toward preschool and grade-school children features songs, dancing and theatrical sketches based on Disney Junior television shows with appearances by characters such as Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.
The returning children’s show will be presented in a modified format to allow for physical distancing among visitors and performers. Parents will be seated with their children on the carpeted floor of the indoor theater — a change from previous seating arrangements that had parents sit on bench seats at the back of the theater.
The return of “Disney Junior Dance Party” sets the stage for Disney’s Anaheim theme parks to bring back the Royal Theatre storytelling show in Fantasyland, larger productions in DCA’s Hyperion Theater and Disneyland’s Fantasyland Theatre as well as the “Fantasmic” and “World of Color” nighttime spectaculars that have all remained shuttered out of COVID-19 physical distancing concerns since the parks reopened.
Disneyland and DCA have been slow to bring back live entertainment that attracts large crowds out of continuing social distancing concerns — especially with younger children that are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.
DCA used the Disney Junior indoor theater when the park reopened for socially distanced character wave-and-play interactions. The Disney Junior theater is currently hosting the “Mickey’s Trick & Treat” live show during the Oogie Boogie Bash after-hours Halloween events with character performances, video projections and special effects.
State guidelines issued when California theme parks were allowed to reopen in April limited live shows and performances to outdoor settings and restricted indoor rides to 15 minutes out of COVID-19 health and safety concerns. Most COVID-19 restrictions ended in June when state officials fully reopened the California economy after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have taken a slow and measured approach to bringing back live entertainment following the pandemic closures.
Socially distanced character wave-and-play interactions throughout the parks replaced traditional up-close meet-and-greets with hugs and high-fives while Disney characters also took part in mini-parade cavalcades along Main Street U.S.A.
Fireworks returned in time for the Fourth of July with “Mickey’s Mix Magic” offering pyrotechnics on weekends and video projections, show lighting and lasers during the week.
Throughout the summer, the Dapper Dans, Bootstrappers, Five & Dime, Pearly Band and other atmosphere entertainment have brought live music back to the parks with smaller acts that attracted smaller crowds.
The Frightfully Fun Parade during Oogie Boogie Bash marked the first time DCA or Disneyland has hosted a parade since the pandemic shuttered the Anaheim theme parks in March 2020. The Christmas Fantasy parade will be part of the new Merriest Nites after-hours event at Disneyland in November and December.
The return of the “Disney Junior Dance Party” paves the way for Disneyland to bring back the Royal Theatre storytelling show in Fantasyland’s Fantasy Faire — another small theatrical production geared toward families with young children.
The 20-minute outdoor stage shows in the Royal Theatre tell witty and fast-paced versions of the “Tangled” and “Beauty and the Beast” tales.
Disneyland has used the Royal Theatre as a meet-and-greet location where Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Mulan and other Disney princesses strike poses and wave from a distance.
The outdoor socially distanced wave-and-play interactions have replaced indoor meet-and-greet locations at Disneyland and DCA where Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters traditionally greeted visitors for hugs and group photos.
Smaller live shows like Disney Junior and Royal Theatre along with indoor character meet-and-greets are expected to return to Disneyland and DCA before large-scale theatrical productions and nighttime spectaculars that draw bigger crowds.
Walt Disney World — which reopened in July 2020 following a much shorter pandemic closure under looser Florida COVID-19 restrictions — has been much quicker to bring back live entertainment and nighttime spectaculars than its West Coast counterparts.
The Broadway-style “Beauty and the Beast” live stage show returned in August to Disney’s Hollywood Studios while the new “Harmonious” nighttime spectacular debuted in October at Epcot as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Florida theme parks. Disney World parks will bring back indoor character meet-and-greets in November.
The famed “kiss goodnight” that the “Fantasmic” and “World of Color” nighttime spectaculars reliably delivered at the California parks on a nightly basis are not expected to return until 2022. Extensive fountain refurbishment work is currently underway on “Fantasmic” at Disneyland and “World of Color” at DCA.
Don’t be surprised if “Fantasmic” remains dark until next spring. Expect “Fantasmic” to be back in full swing by May 2022 in time for the 30th anniversary of the nighttime spectacular.
Don’t expect to see “World of Color” return to DCA until 2022 either. Oogie Boogie Bash is taking place at DCA through Halloween without the “World of Color: Villainous” show and there was no mention of “World of Color: Season of Light” for the upcoming Christmas holiday season that runs through early January.
“Frozen Live at the Hyperion” and “Mickey and the Magical Map” may never return to the Anaheim theme parks. The casts of both productions have been laid off — leaving both theaters dark.
Disney will eventually fill the large theatrical spaces with new shows. The Fantasyland Theatre would be the easier of the two in the coronavirus era — because it’s outdoors and requires lower entertainment production values.
The Hyperion will likely be the last Disneyland resort theater to raise its curtain. Staging a Broadway-caliber production is costly — from the sets and costumes to the music and performers.
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