When EPCOT reopens at the Walt Disney World on July 15, World Showcase will likely feel strikingly different. There will be no cultural representatives on hand to welcome Guests back. According to a WDW union, the World Showcase will be “fully staffed by domestic attraction workers.”
The news comes to us from Orlando’s local Fox station which reported, “When Walt Disney World reopens in July, there will no longer be cultural representatives in the countries throughout Epcot’s World Showcase,” as many of the international employees were furloughed and went back to their home countries because of the pandemic. “Disney has reached an agreement with its union to reopen without them for the time being,” Fox reported.
This news was backed by Walt Disney World’s Cast Member Union during a call explaining how and when they will be recalled and return to work. The union representative explained that along with the absence of Disney College Program Cast Members, the International Programs will also be absent. He pointed to the France, Norway, and Mexico pavilions as examples.
“World Showcase attraction will be fully staffed by domestic attraction workers. There are not going to be any international college program students any time soon staffing Frozen’s ride at EPCOT or the Ratatouille ride in France, or the Mexican boat ride. Any of those things will all be run by domestic attractions workers when they open.”
Walt Disney World’s International Programs were suspended at the same time as Disney’s College Program due to the global pandemic beginning April 18, 2020. With many nations and states still locked down and limiting travel, there is still no word at this time when either Disney’s College Program or International Programs will resume.
Cultural Representatives are the gems of EPCOT’s World Showcase. Adding another layer of authentic immersion, these people give Guests the chance to interact with people from all of the world and learn first-hand about their lives and cultures. Those international programs are also a way for young people from all over the world to have the chance to come work in the United States. It is safe to say that Disney’s permanent world’s fair will not be the same until those representatives return.
Although this union representative only mentioned that World Showcase attractions will be staffed by domestic Cast Members, the Fox report also confirms that the World Showcase will not be staffed by cultural representatives at all. As we wait to hear from Disney regarding when the International Programs will resume, we are hopeful that once international Cast Members are able to come back to work at Walt Disney World Resort, they will do so.
But there are already signs of hope for the return of Disney’s cultural representatives. According to the Disney’s Careers website, Germany and Norway’s Cultural Representative Programs have been opened to applications as early as April 7, and on June 3, positions were posted for Mexico’s 2021 Cultural Representative Program. One can only hope they are allowed to return sooner rather than later.