The Disney parks around the world have started to reopen after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the reopening process Disney began to quietly close attractions and shows, cancel planned overhauls of attractions, and delay other reopenings across their sprawling properties. According to Disney’s second quarter earnings call on May 5, the company had $900 million worth of construction projects left for the rest of the fiscal year (ending September 26, 2020). That number is $400 million more on construction and refurbishment than in the 2019 fiscal year. The travel and tourism industry as a whole has suffered greatly through the closures of attractions. In fact, Disney’s theme park competitor Universal (part of the Comcast CMCSA family) lost 94 percent of their revenue in the second quarter. The theme park division generated a mere $87 million, which is down from $1.46 billion generated in the same period in 2019. The park operator has also paused work on their fourth Orlando gate Universal’s Epic Universe until the “future becomes more certain.”
During Disney’s park closures it’s estimated that the business lost an estimated $1 billion in operating income.. Almost half of the lost revenue was from the theme parks in the United States, the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. According to Disney, their international parks and Disney Cruise Line operations accounted for the rest of the lost income.
Parks around the world have reopened except the Disneyland Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland, the later of which is on it’s second temporary closure due to an increase in coronavirus cases. Even with parks reopening and gaining back some income Disney has been going over projects currently in progress with a more critical eye for their budget. In fact, within the first week of reopening Walt Disney World announced they would be closing two attractions and one nighttime show at their parks.
At Magic Kingdom, Stitch’s Great Escape had not been operating as a show, but as a meet-and-greet to see the character from the animated movie Lilo and Stitch. Now the entire area is empty with no future plans for the space in Tomorrowland. Over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Primeval Whirl, an off the shelf “Wild Mouse” carnival ride had been temporarily closed. This was due to lack of available replacement parts from the manufacturer, Reverchon Industries which filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Now Disney has decided to make the ride closure permanent. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park also lost their nighttime show Rivers of Light, which debuted in it’s original form in 2017, and had undergone an extensive refurbishment in 2019.
While not an attraction, Ample Hills Creamery, which had one store at Walt Disney World’s BoardWalk and one store in development at Disney Springs will not be open going forward. The trendy ice cream shop based in New York City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, though a spokesperson for the company said back in March that the reasons for filing were unrelated to the pandemic. “Our agreement with Ample Hills Creamery ended earlier this year. As a result, Ample Hills will close at Disney’s BoardWalk and the proposed Ample Hills location at Disney Springs will not open later this year,” Disney said in a statement.
Disney’s Temporary Delays
Disney current construction schedule is filled with delays thanks a halt in building during the coronavirus closures. Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering explained to D23.com, “We are still evaluating project timelines based on the extended closures we’ve experienced due to COVID-19. While several projects, like Avengers Campus—at both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Paris—are able to surge forward based on where we were in development, there are others that will be picked back up in stages—like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and TRON—and some that are longer-term that we will need more time to assess.”
Magic Kingdom’s newest TRON coaster attraction, based on TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland was set to be open in time for the 50th anniversary of the park in 2021. That timeline could still happen, but work will need to resume quickly. At Epcot, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was nearing completion when Walt Disney World closed. Construction has picked back up on the attraction and expansion of the France pavilion at Epcot, but no opening date has been announced for the ride. The attraction is thought to be very similar in style to the original Ratatouille ride at Disneyland Paris, which cost $270 million USD when it opened in 2014.
Over at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, construction has resumed on multiple projects. The $200,000 renovation of the Frontierland entrance, which was designed to improve a known pinch point of guests in the park has been picked back up. The larger project at the resort is Avengers Campus, which according to Weis is continuing to move forward because of where teams were in development. Avengers Campus was set to open July 18, but has since had a “coming soon” message across all of Disney’s platforms. Disneyland Park was set to get Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction, which recently opened at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. That project has since been placed on hold and will be picked up again when the time is right for the budget at Walt Disney Imagineering.
While not an attraction, the reopening of hotels at Walt Disney World is cause for some concern. Disney recently pushed back the reopening of four of its resort hotels. Disney’s Polynesian Village will open on October 4 and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will open on November 1. Both resorts were originally set to open August 12. Disney Beach Club Resort was set to open August 24 and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn was to open on October 1, but Disney has announced that both will remain closed until further notice. This could mean that Disney isn’t seeing the interest from guests to travel and stay at a hotel, meaning that even fewer need to be open to accommodate visitors.
Disney Projects Delayed Indefinitely
Epcot was to be home to Walt Disney World’s most ambitious makeover since the park opened in 1982. While some projects like a new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster will move forward, two other projects have been delayed indefinitely.
Spaceship Earth, an attraction located inside the park’s iconic geodesic sphere, was set to get a massive upgrade as announced at the D23 Convention in 2019. The multimillion dollar upgrade was to start May 26 and be debuted in time for the 2021 50th anniversary celebration. This project has been delayed indefinitely by Disney, though not completely scrapped at this point.
The other Epcot project that has been delayed with no start date in sight is the installation of Cherry Tree Lane from Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns in the United Kingdom pavilion. Cherry Tree Lane was to look just like the iconic street from the movies and even lead into an attraction. This project had not broken ground before the pandemic and was still in the development phase.
Halloween and Christmas are big time money makers for Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This year both Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park and Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure have been canceled. These parties bring thousands of people into the park each night, all of which pay over $100 a ticket for the special event. There is specialized merchandise, food, and drink available at the party, which increases the amount of money Disney puts in their pocket from the event each night.
Even with all of the closures Disney is sure to make up for the money lost in new ways, even if that is at the expense of guests in the form of increased ticket or hotel prices. Some of these projects will eventually be opened for visitors and help the theme park arm of The Walt Disney Company to rebound over the next few years. Other projects will be canceled completely to make room in the budget for more pressing matters. Either way the ripple effect of Disney’s cancelation and delays could be felt for years to come by theme park fans.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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