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Guest Editorial: Epcot cast members not happy with upcoming costume change at The American Adventure

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By Lonnie Hicks

We are definitely not happy Disney World cast members at Epcot’s “The American Adventure” pavilion.

In the near future, we will (unfortunately) no longer portray “Colonial Gentlefolk” and represent hospitable residents of the magnificent Georgian mansion which houses the unique Epcot animatronic theater show known as “The American Adventure” because some Disney executive has decided to take away the appropriate period costumes from the cast members. This arbitrary change (after 30 years) seems like a misguided and ill-informed decision.

Instead, we Colonial Folks will wear modern suits and dresses closely resembling air-flight attendants. (Perhaps these uniforms were discarded from the failed Disney/ABC-TV series “Pan Am”?) Yes, the color combination will indeed project a red/white/blue USA color scheme, but the same color comment could also apply to France, Norway and the United Kingdom. Where is the distinct design and style? Current cast members who will be directly affected have negatively expressed their obvious displeasure by labeling the sketches of the proposed costume designs as “hideous” or by using the “thumbs-down” gesture in despair.

Gone will be the classic period theming and atmosphere which has always ranked as a distinguishing hallmark of the various Disney theme parks. Where’s the story, the living narrative, the character, the heritage, the culture, the attention to detail? The popular attraction’s official Operating Guide clearly states that three years of extensive research were used “… to obtain information as complete and as accurate as possible …” from historical experts, libraries and archival resources. Surely these modern uniforms will visually nullify the ambience which the original Disney Imagineers so carefully created and cultivated. Who will be next: the Fife and Drum Corps or the Voices of Liberty?

Ironically, in a recent edition of Orlando Attractions Magazine [Summer 2012, Volume 5, Issue 3] Richard Taylor (former vice president of Walt Disney World Entertainment and Costuming) makes this statement: “One of the main components of the Disney experience is the meticulous attention to details, often in places that the public don’t really notice. Costuming is one of those places, and it’s the costumes of all cast members that really themes the parks.” He then continues to detail how Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was specifically constructed with utility corridors underground to solve the problem of cast members appearing in areas where their costumes didn’t fit, a situation which troubled Walt Disney himself at Disneyland. Won’t these contemporary costumes destory that illusion of definite time and place?

Through the years WDW guests have come to anticipate and appreciate the personal interaction and appearance of the appropriately dressed World Showcase countries inhabitants. One of the guests’ (as well as we cast members’) favorite frequent activities is to pose for souvenir photos with the attraction’s Colonial Folks. These picture opportunities seem especially important to visiting school groups and tourists from other nations. They often comment on how much they like or admire the historical-appearing clothing from America’s proud past. What guest will want to pose with a contemporary airline steward? What performance role will we now play if we don’t look the part? Will these new contemporary costumes create guest disappointment and dissatisfaction?

This whole modern costume sitaution at Epcot’s “The American Adventure” attraction seems so sad and pointless, particularly since nobody was consulted or surveyed, not even management. (If so much money readily exists in the current budget, new seat covers in the theater would have easily qualified as a much better project.) But for now, we cast members directly affected are not happy about our future portrayals at Epcot’s “The American Adventure” attraction.

Sincerely, Lonnie Hicks
16 year Disney Cast Member and a Partners in Excellence honoree

Photos by Jeff Lange and Denise Preskitt.

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24 comments

Lile Lecuona June 28, 2012 - 5:19 pm

If they do that, I will never visit the American Pavilion again, not ever. What more do they want to steal from our heritage. That was the most important part to me, seeing their costumes, now I’ll refuse to go, eat there or spend any money there. I’ll get this going on facebook as well.

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OT June 28, 2012 - 7:57 pm

I will not go so far to boycot the attraction (I never ate there, the food and it’s decor are horrible) but it’s sad to see those wonderfull costumes go. I will go to customer service and file a complaint.

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gary June 28, 2012 - 10:54 pm

They are slowly destroying whats left of the original Epcot. Horizons, TheWorld of Motion,Journey Into Imagination,the original Universe Of Energy and the music from these attractions gone forever,and did they replace them with something better? NO…. LOOK AT TEST TRACKS INTERIOR SCENES COMPARED TO WORLD OF MOTIONS,OR JOURNEY INTO IMAGINATION COMPARED TO WHAT IT ORIGINALLY WAS. LETS HOPE THE NEW TEST TRACK COMING THIS FALL IS AN IMPROVEMENT.

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Ed Curry June 29, 2012 - 6:46 am

Comfert is found in consistancy and familurarity. Something Walt understood. Why change what works. Sounds like this guy needs to find a new job where he can’t ruin an American Instatution.

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JB June 29, 2012 - 7:00 am

I am from the UK and think it is very sad when any country lets part of their heritage go. I love seeing the various costumes worn by the Disney cast members but over the last few years many of them seem to be changing to ‘boiler suits’, maybe they are cheaper to make than the beautiful costumes we all love to see them wear, such a disappointment that this is now going to happen.

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Raquel June 29, 2012 - 10:57 am

I was a CM at The American Adventure a couple of years ago. It wasn’t my definite work location, but I did work there multiple times.
Yes, our costume was very history-like, but very disfunctional.
Specially for the women who wear the dress. It’s absolutely inappropriate for holiday season, for the spot of The American Adventure is wide open, with lots of winds and affected by the weather.
Try opening the stands in a dress! Try surviving the crazy Florida weather IN A DRESS!!!
Imagineers never do harm on the costumes.
So it’s certain to come something more adequate and still resembling American history.
People should stop worrying about their decisions…
And it’s logical they don’t consult anyone on this! There would be many different ideas and no conclusion.
The attraction is not losing a part of itself or its identity, it’s just welcoming a new facade.

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jim June 29, 2012 - 2:34 pm

wow…what a terrible idea. I can’t even believe they would consider doing this. I really hope this doesn’t happen. And Lonnie is one of the best CMs in all of WDW. He knows the pavilion inside and out but somehow folks from “above” who probably never even set foot there know best….

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Don June 29, 2012 - 11:50 pm

Disney execs seem to be making a lot of bad decisions lately. Just look at Pleasure Island, the Adventurers Club in particular.

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Don June 29, 2012 - 11:58 pm

To Raquel: the fact that you have worked there “multiple times” hardly carries much weight compared to the opinions of those who have worked there steadily for years and object to the costume changes.

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Jud June 30, 2012 - 2:44 pm

Here, here! SOMEONE has to OCCUPY Dizzy Corp!

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Andrew June 30, 2012 - 7:15 pm

Don, that is rude and wrong for you to attack Raquel. Her opinion is just as valid as the ONE person complaining because the truth of the matter is that most if not all of the CMs that work in the World Showcase hate their costumes. That includes the AA. Her opinion is more valid than yours and just as valid as the man who thinks that dressing like a colonial person makes sense when watching a movie that describes events that take place after said period. He is wrong, she is right.

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orljustin July 3, 2012 - 6:03 am

Guess what Raquel… They’re still going to be wearing a dress.

http://ultimateorlando.blogspot.com/2012/07/american-adventure-new-costumes.html

Just one that has no reason for being there. A plain vanilla business suit type dress, instead of a themed on-stage costume. Tell me how that distinctly represents the “set” that is America there.

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BerNard July 5, 2012 - 2:22 pm

Wow those new costumes are pretty lame, I think the old ones should be more authentic, they are going the wrong way.

Of course, name one good thing Disney execs have done right in the last 15 years…

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Patrick July 5, 2012 - 4:39 pm

If anything, they should change the costumes of Canadian Pavillion. Girls never were lumberjacks at the time! But to actually change the US… It’s quite strange, especially that everything in the US Pavillion is from that era. It was like cast members lived in the house. I guess now they will be merely seen as greeters and pointers and not part of the show. How sad.

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Disney Junkie July 5, 2012 - 7:44 pm

I gotta think this is due to the political correctness that is taking over our culture as well as changing our history to be more friendly (and less truthful). Although I have no proof, I’m wondering if some guests view the current (old) colonial uniforms as a reminder of a time of repression of a certain percentage of our citizens.

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Kathy July 6, 2012 - 9:15 am

I am unhappy about this, but isn’t Epcot’s overall theme supposed to be the future? The more modern, professional attire, while terribly bland, works with the whole idea that they are there to educate.

So long as Disney doesn’t do something truly crazy, like eliminating the Colonial attire of employees in The Magic Kingdom, I am okay with this.

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Kathy July 6, 2012 - 9:19 am

Disney Junkie, I know it is pretty common these days to turn everything on the internet into a political issue and/or argument, but I think you are reaching on this one.

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DWFanatic July 6, 2012 - 3:37 pm

I have to agree, I do not think they should be changing the costumes. I really enjoy the Colonial costume and the overall theme. Its def a shame.

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Stacey July 7, 2012 - 8:37 am

The Disney executives are turning everything into a business instead of focusing on a family fun theme park. Enough with all the ridiculous changes already.

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susie-Q July 8, 2012 - 2:39 am

Terrible idea! Part of the charm of the attraction are the costumes the cast members wear. This is a boneheaded decision by some in management without thought to how the guests will percieve the cast members. Who decided this? They should be given lessons in “What would Walt do”.
As a regular guest, I am not happy with this decision.

Why don’t they give some actual thought to what they are doing and how it affects the ambience and whole experience of an attraction?

Bad move on management’s part! They do not seem to making very good decisions these days. Someone needs to change the guard at the Disney management office and get rid of these people who have no idea of the actual Disney spirit!

The costumes have fit the ambience and feeling of the American Experience so well and also went well with the “Voices of America” singers. Are they next? What will they dress them in? Contemporary suits and ties and cocktail dresses? It seems many of these new decisions take us further and further away from Walt’s dream. The idea is to stay true to the period and make it as reaslistic as possible. Manmagemen t needs to gwet on the ground in the Parks and “see” how things realy are and how theri decsions will waste money and tarnish the memory of Walt Disney himself, without whom they would not have a job and a reason to justify their ill advised decisions.

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Ramona July 9, 2012 - 7:05 pm

I truly don’t understand this decision by Disney to change something like a costume so drastically. But mostly, I definitely CANNOT picture airline attendants greeting everyone inside the American Adventure pavilion! What an odd thing to change. And also as Lonnie wrote, and what will be particularly upsetting for my family and myself will be the end of the pictures with the cast members in this area. The American Adventure was so on the mark with the costuming. They fit in just perfectly with their surrounding that you couldn’t help but want to take a picture of them! And now there will be absolutely no way I would ever have our family pictures taken with airline attendants–no thanks! I can do that at the airport. Like many people out there, the pictures of our Disney vacations mean so very much to my family and we especially love the pictures that express the theming, or joking around with cast members and characters, etc. And a few of our very favorite pictures are of my family of all ages with the cast members in their historical Colonial costumes, inside the grand entrance of the American Adventure. Priceless. Now just even thinking about replacing the cast members in those pictures with airline attendants is literally a joke! This is just such an absurd change and I too will be making a complaint to guest services whenever this is in effect, and I am on one of our many trips to WDW! Maybe these lovely cast members will end up getting their wish and get their old costumes back. 🙂

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Jon July 11, 2012 - 5:14 pm

I must have missed the memo….. Isn’t it sort of a loss of sight toward the goal when the outfits of the folks in the pavilion of a park’s home country don’t evoke consideration of the historic value involved? Since my wife and I started visiting WDW in 1999,so much has changed and in the last few years, that change has come in the form of devaluation of the show.
To those wonderful cast members who for years have tried so hard to present the very real image of colonial America, Thank you so much and I’m very sorry for your disappointment and loss

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Jeff July 20, 2012 - 7:50 pm

The costumes that are pictured are the same ones that are worn at the Hall of Presidents, so really the are making a different costume instead of the standard one they had before.

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Kim Dugger August 18, 2013 - 4:30 pm

Lonnie,

Thanks so much for giving a personal painting tour to myself and DBF back in 2008. It was his first trip and I wanted to make it special for him. I saw your tour back in 2006 with my friend whom I’d travel with. She had passed away for months before our visit. So it was extras special to me.

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