The Happiest Place on Earth is far less happy this week after Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 employees from its parks division.
“As much as we try to make these cuts only affect the problems behind the scenes, it eventually gets to the host,” Dennis Speigel, founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services, told USA TODAY. “And by that I mean service and experience.”
Disney layoffs will change visits to theme parks already turned upside down for guests, if they even choose to go. Attendance at all parks that have reopened due to the coronavirus pandemic has generally been disappointing. Florida’s Walt Disney World, which already ran its four theme parks with reduced hours, this month switched to an even shorter day schedule.
Once guests return, however, they should prepare for more than just the rules for wearing the mask.
More details on job cuts: Disney parks lay off 28,000 workers in California, Florida
What Disney Layoffs Mean: Don’t expect special perks to come back
While Disney World reopened in July, Disneyland has yet to reopen and is awaiting guidelines, much to the chagrin of the city of Anaheim, employees, and the California attractions and Parks Association (not to mention enthusiastic guests).
In a letter to employees, Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experience and Product, said his management team worked hard to try and avoid layoffs. They cut spending, suspended projects and modified operations, but that wasn’t enough given Disneyland’s continued closure and limits on the number of people admitted to Disney World due to social distancing restrictions and other pandemic-related measures, he said. .
This also means that some perks are unlikely to return.
“These layoffs mean Disney is planning to keep the park and resort operations where they are now,” park expert Len Testa, co-author of “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World,” told USA TODAY. “Specifically, it means we’re not likely to see the return of longer, pre-pandemic park hours, no special perks like extra time in parks for people staying at Disney hotels, and no widespread use of Disney ride reservations. FASTPASS system. ” The park’s hours will be briefly extended for the Christmas holidays in December, although some events have already been canceled.
Part-time cast members – such as those at Disney’s College Program, made up a large portion of the workforce for these programs, according to Testa – made up the majority of the 28,000 layoffs.
Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involve part-time workers, but they ranged from salaried employees to non-union hourly workers, Disney officials said. The company will provide layoff packages for some employees.
Officials from the union representing actors who play Disney characters in theme parks said they had conversations with Disney officials about how they would be affected, according to the Actor’s Equity Association. Officials from the Service Trades Council Union, which represents 43,000 workers at Disney World in Florida, said they have similar conversations.
Hmm: Theme parks may be mask-free next year if rapid COVID-19 tests are carried out, says former Disney staff
Disney Special Celebrations: ‘You’ll See The Cut Outs’
There’s nothing like a Disney trip, as fans and newbies alike will tell you. But the coronavirus pandemic has altered the ability to keep the magic alive.
Labor is typically 50 percent of a theme park’s operating budget and its largest single expense, according to Speigel.
“Disney is the master at delivering a good time, and they have been since the day they opened the gate,” Speigel said. “But like everyone else, I’m in this situation where they have to take these measures.”
This means that many of the special celebrations will be gone. “Those more engaging, more hands-on engagement experiences – parades, fireworks, larger gathering-type programs that are designed to entertain but also keep guests in the park longer – you’ll see the smaller ones,” Speigel said. “And we’ve already started seeing it.”
Events that typically draw large crowds are “on hiatus” for this year, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Candlelight Processional at Epcot, which is in line with social distancing measures.
Meanwhile, the Castle Dream Lights Christmas show will be replaced by special projection effects; Cinderella’s Castle “will be transformed with a series of rotating patterns, including a quirky Christmas sweater and a regal overlay of red, green and gold ornaments,” wrote Laurel Slater, communications manager for Walt Disney in a blog post World Public Affairs. Disney has in turn developed pandemic-friendly entertainment options for guests, including remote photo opportunities.
Sigh: No Mickey Mouse Christmas parties this year: Disney World cancels some holiday events due to COVID-19
Disney ‘is already working with a skeletal crew’
Other layoffs included musicians from the Disney Grand Floridian and Port Orleans resorts. “Even if those musicians weren’t called back to their jobs when the resorts reopened, guests returning to the resorts in 2021 may notice they are gone,” Testa said.
“I think these layoffs were recognition that it won’t be safe for many months to have guests from all over the world packing in a hotel lobby to listen to music,” Testa added. “And this is understandable.”
Robert Niles, the editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, doesn’t know if the layoffs will ultimately affect guest experiences any more than has already changed. “After all, reduced capacity and lower demand are driving the layoffs,” Niles told USA TODAY. “But the layoffs will hurt Disney’s ability to grow rapidly if consumer demand returns.”
“At present, Disney is already working with a skeletal crew,” Heather Adamczak, the publisher of social media news and sales for the theme park guide Theme Park Professor website. “The cast members are already too skinny these days. They’ve been asked to work even harder and now they have to put up with guests who still want that” magical Disney experience “they paid for. The job of dealing with the guests that they don’t. I want to wear a mask it’s overwhelming. “
He said the shows now feature 75% fewer dancers, and some dancers have opted for other jobs in the park, hoping they’ll be recalled soon. He also predicted that cast members’ attitudes would change when they saw friends and colleagues lose their jobs.
“I met a balloon man in Magic Kingdom this week who saw a ride coming and danced to the music nonstop with tears in his eyes,” he said. “I asked him if it was him and he said,” It’s still me. It will always be me. This is only temporary. “But you could tell it wasn’t safe.”
Contributors: Josh Rivera and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY; Arthur Levine; The Associated Press
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