Disney Exiles COVID-19 Protocol, Immediately Removes All Characters

in Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

Mickey and friends inside of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney has removed a major offering, including a multitude of characters that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A family enjoying a sunny day outdoors; a woman in a yellow dress and a man in a striped shirt playfully chase two children wearing hats near an elaborate tree structure in a park.
Credit: Disney

During the pandemic, once Walt Disney World reopened, the theme park had to adapt to a flurry of changes due to guidelines presented by the CDC. Of course, we all remember the dreaded social distancing rules that were put in place, and the Disney parks were obligated to follow those rules as well.

Capacity limits were managed through the My Disney Experience app, where guests were required to reserve a park pass for their chosen theme park in advance. Securing entry to Hollywood Studios often felt like a task that needed to be completed weeks ahead! While capacity restrictions have eased somewhat, Annual Passholders still need to utilize the park pass reservation system when visiting before 2:00 p.m. on non-“good-to-go” days.

Not only did that mean a much smaller capacity limit at Magic Kingdom and all of the other parks, but it also meant no more character hugs or close interactions.

During the pandemic, guests entering the parks could spot characters from a distance. For instance, at Magic Kingdom, visitors would typically see Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters atop the Walt Disney World Railroad Station on Main Street, U.S.A. Although access to the train station was restricted, characters would wave and interact with guests from afar.

Similar experiences were available at all the parks, with characters stationed in elevated, roped-off, or inaccessible areas. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, characters such as Pocahontas, Meeko, Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack, Mickey, Minnie, Timon, Rafiki, and even Santa Claus during the holidays would greet guests from a boat known as a flotilla. Guests could wave to the characters as they traversed the waterways visible from various spots within the park.

Disney World flotilla animal kingdom
Credit: Disney

When meet-and-greets returned to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and all other Walt Disney World theme parks, the flotilla continued until now. 

Disney fan site Mickey Blog shared an X post confirming that Pocahontas is back to a regular meet-and-greet and that the flotillas are now a thing of the past.

‼️It’s Pocahontas everybody!

Beginning today, the Character Flotillas will no longer be operating at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Pocahontas has returned to meeting guests in Oasis!✨

While it is nice to be able to meet Pocahontas again, it is unfortunate to have to say goodbye to the flotillas as they did bring through a lot of characters that do not seem to have their meet and greets returned (aside from Mickey and Minnie who got theirs back quite a while ago), while bringing movement and excitement to the waterways at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Also, now that Pocahontas is back to meeting in close quarters, Disney is back to receiving judgment on the performers that they are casting in the role of a Native American Powhatan character.

Pocahontas looks into the distance in front of a blue-green sky.
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

While the above post has not received many interactions yet, one of the few has already questioned, “A white Pocahontas?” 

We have seen Disney cast Caucasian performers into roles of color, such as Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, which is something they have received backlash for and is something they have attempted to change with further casting choices.

Decades after its release, Disney’s Pocahontas remains a controversial film. The core of the criticism lies in its historical inaccuracies. The movie crafts a romanticized narrative around the relationship between Pocahontas, a young Native American woman, and John Smith, an English colonizer. This portrayal erases the significant power imbalance at play and the devastating consequences colonization had on Pocahontas’s people.

Critics also point to the film’s appropriation of Native American culture. Cultural elements are borrowed without a true understanding of their depth and significance. Characters fall into stereotypical tropes, failing to represent the rich diversity of Indigenous communities. Furthermore, the film minimizes the very real struggles faced by these communities throughout history.

Pocahontas holds John Smith's hand as he lays down.
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Another layer of controversy surrounds the portrayal of Pocahontas herself. The movie depicts her as a young woman with romantic feelings for John Smith. However, historical evidence suggests Pocahontas was likely only around 11 or 12 years old at the time of their encounter. This portrayal is insensitive and potentially sexualizes a minor. Disney higher-ups pressed the Pocahontas creative team to make it more like Beauty and the Beast, which had been a runaway hit at the box office — presto, a romance.

Additionally, the film downplays the violence and exploitation that accompanied European colonization. The harmonious coexistence presented between Native Americans and colonists is a far cry from the reality of conflict and devastation.

These criticisms highlight the sanitized version of history presented in Pocahontas. The film ignores the complexities of the real events and fails to acknowledge the true impact of colonization on Native American people and culture.

Disney has added warnings to some films such as Peter Pan and The Aristocats for racism and stereotypes, but they have chosen to omit that warning from Pocahontas, despite the controversy, which has upset fans so much that petitions have been formed.

John Smith and Pocahontas
Credit: Disney

The disclaimer for these films is as follows: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

Despite the surrounding drama, Pocahontas is still visible to meet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She is also present in Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as the Disney Adventure Friends cavalcade at Magic Kingdom.

Do you think that Disney made a mistake in cutting the flotilla’s from Animal Kingdom? 

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