Disney Parks and Resorts Update for October 5th, 2020
The Walt Disney Company just laid off 28,000 employees, including 411 Imagineers and 279 Disney Vacation Club workers. You understandably have questions. I’ll try my best to answer them in the DVC Parks and Resorts Update for October 5th, 2020.
Disney Declares War
Remember all those times that I said that Disney had a strong working relationship with California’s governor? And their opinions on the pandemic were more in line with his than the governor of Florida? Well, that statement is no longer accurate, presuming it ever was.
In fact, we’ve now entered the phase where that couple that always acted so happy together has had an acrimonious breakup, and you feel caught in the middle.
This past week, Disney announced that it will lay off 28,000 employees and threw the blame squarely at the feet of California’s governor. Here’s the statement I’m referencing:
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) September 29, 2020
Yes, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products just blamed California’s government for his company’s layoffs. In a year full of constant surprises, this one ranks high on the list.
In fact, Disney’s so angry about the fact that Disneyland remains closed that Bob Iger quit California’s Economic Recovery Task Force. Iger was one of the first people asked to join, which tells the whole story.
We’ll talk about the layoffs first, then we’ll discuss their impact on Disneyland’s reopening. I’ve already mentioned a couple of details. Yes, Disney just terminated the employment of 279 DVC employees.
With direct sales struggling, the company eliminated positions that aren’t necessary at the moment. Since many of us have friends and/or guides within the program, this news causes stress.
More about the Layoffs and Disneyland
To general Disney fans, the DVC layoffs represent just the tip of the iceberg, too. Disney has laid off 411 Imagineers from its main office. Also, it announced that Disneyland will eliminate 2,500 food industry staffers and another 950 workers from one of its unions.
That group, UNITE HERE Local 11, has declared that its impacted members will lose their jobs on November 1st. They released a statement that you can read from the union’s Facebook feed. Then, they tweeted this:
Governor @GavinNewsom vetoed #AB3216, a bill that would have granted workers laid off during #COVID19 a right to return to their old jobs when business reopens. Click now to tell the governor you disapprove of his decision. https://t.co/YubcExBjiP
— UNITE HERE Local 11 (@UNITEHERE11) October 2, 2020
The governor chose to veto a bill that could have aided cast members. Obviously, this elected official must weigh public safety when contemplating theme park reopenings. Disney officials and cast members applied all the political pressure they could to change his mind.
Later, the governor indicated that he would finally publish the reopening guidelines for California theme parks. Some affected theme park vendors received early drafts of the planned rules. They…were not happy with what they read.
In fact, they immediately requested that the governor hold off on publishing new guidelines. While his staff indicated the timing was coincidental, the reopening rules did not come out last Friday, as promised. So, we’re all left hoping that theme parks can negotiate a successful outcome with the governor.
From Disney’s perspective, they’ve run Walt Disney World safely since May 20th, with the parks returning on July 11th. Healthcare officials haven’t tracked an outbreak to any Florida theme parks, suggesting that Disney can operate safely. We’re at an impasse, but I’m not sure we should be.
Speaking of Walt Disney World, Disney has fired 6,700 non-union employees. Executives have suggested that almost 70 percent of layoffs involve part-time personnel.
Still, Disney had employed 223,000 at this time last year. So, 28,000 layoffs represent 12.6 percent of the workforce.
Disney’s cost-cutting measures have had ripple effects at some Disney resorts. I mentioned last week that The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra wouldn’t return to the hotel lobby. The band played its final show on Saturday, and it was a bittersweet event.
Disney also laid off Yehaa Bob Jackson, the longtime performer at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. That one seemed fated after the Grand Floridian lost its band. Perhaps we should have expected this next update, too.
The performers at Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Luau Cove are reportedly part of the layoffs as well. Some questions remain about this one. So, I’m holding out hope that it’s an inaccurate rumor.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort has intensified construction during its planned eight-month renovation of the Great Ceremonial House. The hotel check-in area has temporarily relocated to Pago Pago, the DVC building closest to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
With the hotel in flux and a pandemic ongoing, management may not feel comfortable hosting a dinner show anytime soon. If the Spirit of Aloha dinner doesn’t return after the refurb has finished, it’s tragically gone. Let’s all hope that’s not the case. I cannot imagine the Polynesian without this show.
DVC News Part 2
On the plus side, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has restored its boat service. You can now travel to and from Magic Kingdom again via watercraft. I know that it’s one of my favorite forms of Disney transportation and makes me feel like Disney is closer to returning to normal now.
Similarly, Disney’s Beach Club Resort has reopened Beach Club Marketplace after its renovations. The colors have changed, and the shopping area has introduced some social distancing signs on the floor. Other than that, it’s the same place where you’ve poured soooo many soft drinks over the years.
Also, when you stay at certain DVC resorts, you’ll discover a pleasant surprise. Fishing expeditions have returned after an extended hiatus. I suspect that Disney had taken these off the board so that NBA players would have a distraction during the completion of their season. Now that we’re down to two teams, the boats are available to regular guests once more.
The other item of interest for DVC members primarily applies to annual passholders. Now that the parks have reopened for nearly three months, some people have had their annual passes expire or close to it.
Technically, Disney isn’t selling annual passes right now. However, you’ll be happy to know that the company has started making exceptions for those passholders who need to renew. If yours has expired or will do so soon, contact Disney to add another year.
Finally, following up on a previous story, Table Service to Go has added a couple of new restaurants as expected. You can now grab and go at Kona Café and The Wave… of American Flavors. I would like to personally thank Disney for timing this perfectly for my Bay Lake Tower stay at the end of the month.
Other Disney News
Disney just confirmed what many analysts had expected. The company won’t hold the D-23 Expo in 2021. Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary in less than a year. Disney used the 2019 event to publicize all the attractions coming to the parks by then.
The pandemic has delayed some of the projects, leaving Imagineers with tight deadlines for some stuff. Disney certainly won’t announce anything new over the next year. So, the event wasn’t necessary.
However, another even more remarkable celebration lurks just around the corner. The Walt Disney Company will turn 100 in 2023! Disney will host the D-23 Expo in 2022 as a means of identifying some of its planned centennial events. Honestly, Disney should have skipped 2021 and chosen this schedule anyway.
At the parks, crowds have increased recently. As such, Disney has reopened some restaurants to meet the increased demand. The Lunching Pad and The Friar’s Nook have both returned at Magic Kingdom. At EPCOT, three new booths have opened as part of the Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has experienced some strange changes. Backlot Express added an hour to its operating hours, while PizzeRizzo took one (and a half) away. They both close at 5 p.m. now. Meanwhile, Ronto Roasters now closes at 3 p.m., which means it’s really just a lunch place at this point.
For Universal Studios fans, I have an important update. Volcano Bay won’t open year-round in 2020. On November 2nd, it will close for the winter. Universal officials suggest the waterpark will return on or before March 1st.
Since the park has experienced some recent safety issues, it could use this time to fix some stuff anyway. The lack of crowds gives Universal a reason to shut down and get better during the offseason.
Finally, you may have heard about some changes to DVC’s waiver contracts, especially regarding Disney’s Riviera Resort. Until the company makes a formal announcement, I’m operating under the assumption that this was a clerical error or oversight that has since been corrected. Should Disney clarify the matter, I promise to discuss it in detail in a future update.
Until then, please stay safe and smart. And enjoy the 31 Nights of Halloween on Freeform!