For the past eight months, I’ve been putting up quite a fight for Jessie, whose meet and greet in the Magic Kingdom fell victim to apparent budget cuts last September. Besides a steady stream of social media posts, countless emails have been sent to Walt Disney World, by both myself and other fans; conversations have been shared via phone and in-person; and a petition and Facebook page have even been created, all in an attempt to get Jessie’s presence reinstated in the Disney Parks. But sadly, once again, another character change-up has only lengthened Jessie’s absence.
This week, Chip and Dale left the Frontierland meet and greet location that they had taken over from Jessie and Woody back in October, and moved to the Town Square flagpole right inside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. When reports of this switch (that also relocated Stitch to Tomorrowland) first began surfacing, those of us who have been campaigning for Jessie’s return wondered, could this mean that she and Woody would be brought back to their former location? Much to our disappointment, that was not to be the case.
All four Country Bears – who also have an audio-animatronic show attraction by the same name and a live “hoedown” performance in Frontierland – are now greeting guests in the chipmunks’ place, roaming and rotating throughout the day. While I’m aware that the bears are classic Disney characters dating back to the 1970s, and I can understand and respect some people’s sentimental attachment to them, it’s still very upsetting to Jessie’s fans, like myself, who had hoped that that maybe Walt Disney World had finally taken our pleas to heart. Instead, this change feels like a personal affront, a slap in the face of sorts to all of us who have been speaking out on Jessie’s behalf. If they can manage to replace two characters with four, even on rotation, it’s obvious that Jessie (and Woody) could have been worked back into the meet and greet schedule, if management wished to do so. Which in turn makes it painfully clear that the message the Disney Parks like to put forth – one of valuing their guests’ opinions and caring about their wishes – really holds no truth. Instead, their message seems to read that they just want to assert their authority and put dissenters in their place, instead of considering that the dissenters may have a viewpoint worth hearing out.
The problem of Jessie’s absence is one that I still believe to be worth protesting, however, and I will continue to speak out until my voice is heard, along with the voices of everyone else who has pleaded Jessie’s case with me. It’s so important for girls to have an alternative to the frilly princesses in ballgowns (and girly-girls like Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck) that populate the Disney Parks. Who do the tomboys have to look up to, the girls who’d rather wear jeans than dresses? What about having approachable female characters for boys as well, strong girls that they can admire, in lieu of the princesses they often tend to shy away from? And what about families, who can find a common ground in the Toy Story characters and films that all their children, boys and girls alike, have grown up with and watched together? It’s a great disservice to the female lead of such a popular series to consider her undeserving of a permanent presence, while secondary characters like (multiple) Green Army Men continue to be meetable on a daily basis.
Having Jessie only available in the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! dance party parade, where contact with the characters is strictly limited by the cast members performing with them, is not the same, either. When we were vacationing at Walt Disney World just last month, we saw so many Jessie fans crowding around her, wanting to show her their Jessie dolls and just trying to get close to her – something that used to be as simple as walking up to a meet and greet and being able to enjoy a few private, magical moments with their favorite character. Now, it’s a challenge, and a matter of luck. And while we can hope that Jessie will be present when Toy Story Land opens next year, there are no guarantees, because Disney won’t tell us as much. The parks on both coasts (Disneyland having cut her from greeting guests as well) seem to be determined to reduce the Toy Story franchise to only male characters – Toy Story is for boys, princesses are for girls, or so they would like us to believe. There’s no middle ground, which isn’t right, and isn’t accurate.
Have you signed the petition to bring back Jessie? It needs signatures now more than ever! Please sign, share on social media, and help spread the word!