Disneyworld has canceled its annual “Night Of Joy,” a Christian music-themed event for teenagers that had been going strong for 34 years, The Orlando Sentinel is reporting.
In a statement, a spokesperson confirmed to the Sentinel that last year’s Night of Joy, which was cut short to one night instead of two thanks to Hurricane Irma, was the last year for the long-running festival. Two of the biggest names in the Christian music industry, Toby Mac and MercyMe, performed at that time. No announcements had been made as to a possible 2018 lineup.
The event began all the way back in 1983 when the dominant names in Christian music included Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Throughout its 35-year-run, the event – which has consistently featured the biggest names in Christian music – was almost exclusively held at the resort’s flagship park, the Magic Kingdom. There was, however, a two-year period where it was held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a two-year period (the last two years) where it was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
Disney did not announce an official reason for the event’s cancellation, but one possibility may be competition. Since 1998, competing Orlando theme park Universal has held its own Christian music festival called Rock the Universe. This year’s special-ticket event will take place September 7-8 and will feature Jesus Culture, TobyMac, and Casting Crowns, among others.
Damn, it honestly just hasn’t been the same since leaving MK. It was nice having some competition with Rock The Universe. I had fun the one time I went, it was one of @skilletmusic best concert experiences I’ve ever been to, seeing them in front of the castle. pic.twitter.com/XrXh5vPpZp
— Armando Mendez (@armendez20) May 3, 2018
The Disney spokesperson would only say that the move to cancel Night of Joy was only part of the resort’s process of “continually changing our offerings.”
In fact, the Walt Disney World resort complex is in the middle of a major overhaul, even as these words are being typed. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) is about half of what it once was, as major sections of the park are being reworked into themed sections based on Toy Story and Star Wars. Toy Story Land is scheduled to open next month, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to follow in 2019. Similarly, a Star Wars-themed hotel is also in the works for the resort, as are a Tron-themed coaster for Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay added to the aging Universe of Energy pavilion at Epcot, a gondola system to ferry guests between certain resorts and certain parks, and a new fleet of monorail cars, among other improvements.
Night of Joy’s cancellation doesn’t mean that the Orlando resort is giving up on Christian music, however. Christian artists MercyMe and Tauren Well will each perform as part of Epcot’s Eat To The Beat concert series, which coincides with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this fall.