Amid major closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney has made a statement saying that they are laying off 28,000 employees from their parks division.
The layoffs were announced by Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products on the @DisneyParksNews Twitter account. D’Amaro said:
“In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits. Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.”
Their statement continues: “Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal. Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return.”
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida closed for close to four months earlier this year, one of the only unexpected closings in the park’s history. The park reopened in mid-July, despite spiking coronavirus cases in Florida. Attendance has understandably been lower than expected, even with lowered capacity numbers.
All four of the Disney World parks have had reduced hours as well, and events such as nightly fireworks and daily parades have been canceled to help guests practice safe social distancing. Many of the resorts have had scattered reopening dates throughout the rest of the year, while some have no rescheduled reopening date planned as of yet. Even the resort’s two water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon – have no plans to reopen until March 2021 at the earliest.
California’s Disneyland closed on March 14 and has been closed ever since, although their shopping area, the Downtown Disney District has begun a phased reopening. Disney’s announcement of layoffs comes soon after Disney called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to allow them to reopen Disneyland.
The dangers of reopening Disneyland as opposed to Disney World are many. Disneyland is significantly smaller, with only two parks instead of four, which doesn’t allow for the same level of social distancing. While there have been no coronavirus spikes attributed to the reopening of Disney World, Orlando’s park is frequented primarily by guests visiting from other states. Disneyland, however, is the country’s largest commuter park, with the majority of visitors coming from California. Any spike in cases would directly affect California and the area’s numbers far more than Disney World.
Closures have also impacted the amount of money parks are putting towards future attractions. While Disneyland has continued work on their Avenger’s Campus, planned attractions at Disney World, such as a Mary Poppins-themed update to Epcot’s U.K. pavilion and a remodel of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth have been postponed, if not completely cancelled.
Orlando’s Universal Studios has also had similar problems lately, cutting park hours, closing low-attendance ride and keeping several of their hotels closed for the time being. The extended closure has also made many question if Universal’s upcoming third gate, entitled Epic Universe, will also be delayed.
The granddaughter of Disney’s co-founder Roy Disney, Abigail Disney, has been particularly vocal in recent months about Disney’s mishandling of their employees. In a Twitter thread posted today, Abigail Disney criticized the recent announcement, stating, “Disney management talks about the ‘family’ that works at Disney, and about the ‘magic’ they make together. I guess this is easier when things are going well.”