5. Unhappy cast members and Imagineers

Cast members in mask waving in formation
Image: Disney

All the above areas share a common root—Disney has not managed many of their cast departments very well. Foremost among these is Imagineering.

You would think after the release of The Imagineering Story that Disney had learned their lesson. The series was surprisingly candid about past seasons where Disney failed to meet the creative standard, such as the rocky years surrounding the openings of EuroDisney, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disney California Adventure. The atmosphere of that time sounds extremely familiar—the company number crunchers cracked down so hard that Imagineers were left with no room or resources to produce quality material for the company. The result was a series of failures that failed to meet the standard fans expected and left company creatives frustrated.

The season we are just starting to emerge from has been worse in a number of ways, and there has been much discontent among Disney cast members. One has only had to visit the parks the past few years to see that a lot of frontline cast members seem tired and more on edge. They’ve had to deal with mass layoffs, broad procedural overhauls, and tension with guests who can turn angry and unpredictable far more quickly than in years past. On top of this, some frontline cast members have reported crackdowns in management on creating “pixie dust” moments if doing so competes in any way with Genie+ or Lightning Lane purchases.

This is just the parks division. Disney’s film and TV departments have had their own problems that necessitated an immediate restructuring upon Bob Iger’s return. In short, you have a lot of unhappy cast members across the Walt Disney Company.

How can creatives help solve this?

Cast members taking a selfie with Mickey
Image: Disney

Disney can automate systems and pump money into pushing company IP’s all they want, but there’s no changing a key fact: cast members are the ones who actually make Disney magical.

Walt Disney had a philosophy that if you take care of your cast members and your guests, everything else will fall into place. Disney can do much to repair the damage of the past years by making the choice to invest once again in cast members, especially those in creative roles.

Within the parks, empower cast members to make guest visits magical in unique ways (think Year of a Million Dreams). Don’t quash their creativity in the name of the bottom line. Give them leeway to personalize the Disney experience for families when they see fit. As for Imagineers, bolster that department and get them back to work cooking up fresh ideas, both for new lands and expanding current ones. Disney is currently walking a difficult line in this area because they are both having to proceed with company layoffs, and managing a tricky headquarters move from California to the Lake Nona district of Orlando (a move that cost the company some of their most seasoned Imagineers). Disney needs to do whatever they can to increase morale in this department. If they can do so, some fans think Walt Disney World in particular will benefit greatly from the Lake Nona move as Imagineers will be able to spend much more time on site at the resort than previously, drawing attention to key differences between the California and Florida parks that some guests feel have been missed in the past.

In conclusion, I think most of us can agree Bob Iger is right on one point—storytelling and creativity must be placed back at the core of Disney’s business model. If they can restructure and do this, the company can certainly bounce back from these past strange years and have a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.

What other areas do you think a reemphasis on creativity could solve at Disney parks? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook! Thanks for reading!


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