We’re back with another Walt Disney World news round-up, plus commentary on a variety of stories. This one is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, with upbeat stories on progress and positive changes…plus thoughts on the heart-wrenching layoffs that are sweeping through Florida and California.
Let’s start with the bad: fallout and aftermath of the announcement that Walt Disney World and Disneyland are laying off 28,000 Cast Members. It has since become clearer which areas, unions, teams, etc. are most impacted and in what numbers, via filings and other info. If you’re really curious, the Orlando Sentinel and OC Register have done a good job breaking this down, as have other Disney-centric sites.
The last few days have been heartbreaking. Hearing from Cast Member friends and seeing acquaintances post that they “got the call.” Every time we open social media, there are more people who have received the devastating news. Some of these people are Disney lifers who have been with the company for decades. Some have opened multiple new parks. Some were truly living their dream in working for this company. Some uprooted their families and lives to move to Florida or California and be magic-makers. All were ambassadors for Disney, worthy stewards of Walt’s legacy, and vital assets for the company. We truly cannot fathom Disney without all of these people. They were what makes Disney, Disney.
This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. If anything, it’s understating the tragedy of this. We knew layoffs were a foregone conclusion months ago, and have seen past rounds of job losses and restructuring during and after the Great Recession. That pales in comparison to what has happened and is happening now. The number of great people, knowledge, and passion vanishing right now–I don’t even know what to say.
I think a lot of Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans understand the scale of this and the importance of Cast Members, but perhaps as more of an abstraction. You may not personally know any or many Cast Members. If you’re on social media, I’d encourage you to seek out groups on Facebook, threads on Reddit, posts on Twitter or Instagram from impacted Cast Members. Not for the sake of rubbernecking, but to drive home the gravity of this and the dedication these Cast Members brought to their jobs, plus the grace and gratitude many have even in departing. Our hope is that the hospitality industry recovers swiftly so that as many as possible can be rehired, and more losses do not occur.
We don’t have any interest in offering deep insight into what the layoffs “mean” or forward-looking analysis about the future of the parks right now. Nor will we be offering critique of Florida, California, or the Walt Disney Company over these difficult decisions. Again, we do not envy anyone tasked with making these cuts or phone calls. The only choices right now are a range of “least-bad” ones. It’s devastating for everyone involved.
That includes the Cast Members who are still employed by the Walt Disney Company. There are still many (many, many) great Cast Members in the parks and resorts. It’s worth reiterating yet again that lingering uncertainty remains and no Cast Member is truly unaffected. Everyone will be losing friends and colleagues, will be asked to shoulder more of the weight, and will probably have a form of survivor’s guilt.
Please have empathy and courtesy when interacting with Cast Members in the coming days, weeks, and months. This should go without saying…but is also worth saying. Just because your vacation “cost a lot of money” doesn’t give free rein to treat others poorly. Go out of your way to be kinder than normal. Say hello, smile (with your eyes), give thanks more, etc. For other ways to assist, please see our Help Give Back to Disney Cast Members & Community post, which offers a range of options.
Now to switch gears completely…
D23 effectively cancelled the 2021 event and announced that the next D23 Expo would be held September 9-11, 2022 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The 2022 D23 Expo will be a “celebration unlike any other…[and] first look at the incredible plans for the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company.”
No press release was issued nor has an update to the info on the D23 website been made, so you might’ve missed this postponement if you’re not on Twitter. Or it could’ve been overshadowed by all of the other recent news.
This is disappointing but unsurprising. In talking to people who have worked on planning and organizing past D23 Expos, the work takes over a year. There’s simply too much uncertainty about how things will look a few weeks from now, let alone a full calendar year.
There’s no way Disney was going to spend so much time and money planning an event that could end up being cancelled or having attendance significantly limited. There’s also the reality that with so much shut down over the last several months, and more being scaled back, it would be a pretty meager showing.
On a related note, this should underscore the reality that conventions and events are going to take years to return, and probably never return to their pre-March levels. Many people forced to learn virtual meetings by circumstance will now be comfortable with that, and with the monetary savings of not holding in-person events.
This certainly does not mean all business and events travel is forever gone–to the contrary, some groups will probably be even more eager to hold events in a ‘revenge travel‘ sort of scenario–but much of that will take years to return, and some percentage never will. That presents a challenge for Walt Disney World/Orlando and Disneyland/Anaheim, which have bet big on catering to special events in recent years.
It is unfortunate that there won’t be another big event or splashy reveal of what’s planned for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. We expected this at the last D23 Expo, but instead there was just a quick teaser with a potential logo, plus concept photos of sample food and merchandise. Since that was never released on Disney Parks Blog, it probably did not showcase final designs.
Even with all of the latest cuts and woes, there are plans for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Whether or not those are “big” plans remains to be seen. We make the case for Why Walt Disney World Should Go All Out for Its 50th Anniversary. We’ve since heard unconfirmed rumors about new and ‘imported’ entertainment, which should please fans. However, much could still change.
Turning to Disney Park Pass availability, we once again have seen availability replenished for Annual Passholders on some dates and for some parks in early to mid-October.
The most glaring example is the weekend of October 16-18, 2020. Despite more hours being added for the next two weekends, we haven’t seen the same for those dates…yet. This refill suggests that an extension of hours is likely imminent. At this point, it’s fairly safe to assume that weekend hours will be longer for most (if not all) dates through the end of the year.
More progress has been made on both the renovation/gutting of Electric Umbrella and the new roof on the former Wonders of Life pavilion and future Play Pavilion. We still don’t have precise details on the replacement for Electric Umbrella, but it’s good to see work resume on EPCOT in earnest. Here’s hoping this continues to move forward at a steady pace.
Finally, Walt Disney World has quietly resumed selling new Annual Passes to those who had previously canceled or had their APs expire after March 16, 2020. The new passes are not available online and the sales are being done on a “case by case” basis, but it’s our understanding that there’s really no criteria or magic language other than a post-closure cancellation.
To make the purchase, call V.I.P. Passholder Support at (407)-WDW-PASS (407-939-7277) or in-person. As phone waits can still be long, it’s best to visit Guest Services at Disney Springs or one of the theme parks.
For those wondering when totally new Annual Passes will be available for purchase, which has become one of the most common reader questions in the last few weeks…we still don’t know. Truly, your guess is as good as ours at this point. On the one hand, park capacity is increasing and tourists still are not returning in droves. On the other, Walt Disney World may still be hoping people will start booking vacation packages, and will want to allocate as much capacity to that more lucrative demographic as possible. Ultimately, I’d be surprised if Annual Pass sales have not resumed to some further degree by mid-January 2021. That’s a total guess–not based on any rumors or credible insight whatsoever.
What are your thoughts on the Walt Disney Company’s layoffs? Disappointed that the D23 Expo being postponed until 2022, or think that’s probably for the best? Happy to see Annual Pass sales resume, albeit to a limited degree? Thoughts on Disney Park Pass refills or park hours changes? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!