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3 Reasons Why MASSIVE Cuts are Happening All Over Walt Disney World

If you’ve been following the news out of Walt Disney World for the last several weeks, you may have noticed a theme: cuts are being made pretty much everywhere.  From reduced hours at Epcot’s Future World attractions to the removal of eight meet and greet characters (the bulk of which are at Epcot), and even some recent attraction closures, things are starting to look a little sparse around Walt Disney World.

And unfortunately, the cuts are going to keep coming, as we’ve just received word that, in addition to cancelling the Club Disney dance party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week, the nightly Unforgettable Happens Here party at this park will also be shuttered next week as well. 

To an outsider, these cuts may seem a little strange, especially since Disney’s most recent financial report revealed that Disney parks have been doing record business, reporting year over year gains in overall park attendance, guest spending, and even hotel occupancy. In fact Disney has gone as far as to tell investors that new hotel construction is likely on the horizon to deal with the flood of guests that have been hitting the parks in recent years. 

So then what's the problem? To understand the potential reasons why these cuts are occuring, we have to look a little more broadly than what is happening just inside the gates of Walt Disney World (where things are going great!). While Disney will never announce exactly why these cuts are happening, here are our best guesses as to what behind-the-scenes changes are prompting these massive resort-wide cuts.

1. Shanghai Disneyland

Image: Disney

Though there are plenty of projects in the works at domestic parks at both Walt Disney World as well as Disneyland Resort, it might be easy for US-based Disney fans to forget that Disney is still building an ambitious new park in Shanghai. And according to unofficial reports, this project is hugely over-budget, and struggling to meet its June 16, 2016 opening date, with some suggesting the resort may open in "phases" over the next several years. 

Whatever the case is, it seems like this new project has been more of a money sink than Disney originally anticipated, and the company may be looking to make these cuts at domestic parks in order to help balance things out while Shanghai Disneyland is still under construction and not bringing in its own revenue. 

2. International park performance

Image: Heather Cowper, Wikimedia Commons (license)

In addition to the massive amount of money that is being spent on the Shanghai Disneyland project, there is yet another budgetary issue happening with Disney's international parks. It's no secret that Disneyland Paris has suffered some major setbacks in the past few months, but recently it was also revealed that Hong Kong Disneyland, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, lost HK$148 million last year, in stark contrast to the HK$332 million profit the park made in 2014. And unfortunately, the bad news keeps coming for this park, as it is estimated that 23 percent fewer mainland tourists visited Hong Kong Disneyland in 2015, which may have contributed to revenue falling 6.4 percent to HK$5.11 billion. 

Though all of these issues sound like they have absolutely nothing to do with Walt Disney World (particularly as Disney has partners in both of these foreign ventures), the fact is that despite its many umbrellas, Disney is, at the end of the day, one company. When revenue is being lost somewhere, it needs to be made up somewhere else. And it looks like that place is Walt Disney World. While it might not seem "fair" to cut attractions, entertainment and meet and greets at the most-attended theme parks in the world, it wouldn't be the first time that Disney has made cuts at its US parks thanks to a failure overseas, and unfortunately, it probably won't be the last. 

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There are 37 comments.

Before Disney fans press the panic button and take out their pitchforks, please note that the attractions with reduced operating hours at Epcot are not the most popular ones, perhaps it's just a reflection of how not popular they actually are.

On a side note, they really should turn Innoventions into a Giant Meet and greet location

They have cut CMs at major rides across all parks... a very slippery slope. How much will they continue to cut while increasing &/or creating prices for everything? WDW can't have their Darth Vader cupcake & eat it, too :o They can't expect people to pay more for substantially less, as many will decide not to return.

Even though I understand the need for cuts to save revenue, but here is another example of a company whose too management has no clue about how to run a company. You have issues at other park's yet let us be the ones who suffer. Yes. There are areas you can cut back on; underutilized areas or attractions. Such as a kiosk or experience few use. However, cutting hours at shops or park's that are exceeding expectations is not the proper approach. Since Disney is supposed to be " the happiest place on earth", does it make sense to cut things for the same of possibly having said " guests" be unhappy and complain? I think not. You afterall are in the hospitality industry. So my advice to you is to tread wearily.

Magic Kingdom DISNEYLAND is the happiest place on earth. Walt Disney World is Where Dreams Come True. And Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth.

I feel like this is def going to be a problem for guests. A lot of the magic is being lost. I could feel it when we went in December to WDW. I would of my 15 or so trips this was the least magical and my overall experience fell way short of what I expect of disney

I'm writing this from my resort room at WDW. I went online to try to figure out what happened to WDW. I've been going to Disney for years .. About 9 times when I was a kid and another 5 times with my kids, and this year my wife and I celebrating our 25th anniversary. Here are things i noticed this week...
- no more radio station coming in... Apparently less than 20% listened.. I was among that group .. So that's gone.
- less buses and longer wait times for buses
- roadways or paths dirty ...must be less staff or less important ...looking more like a six flags park?
- no surprises or extras experienced with restaurants with our 25th anniversary/celebration buttons ...must be cut.
- world of Disney merchandise is far less than other years.
- Disney springs poor bus area information.. Only center bus area running even though brochures state side areas available
- grass at resort needs cut bad
- buses not as kept up as they used to be
- sounds like accountants are taking over .. Missing the special extra feeling.

I can totally see your first two points. They make a lot of sense but, the ESPN problem. ESPN last made something like 3.4 million a day in 2015. Dare we say that this is the slow period in the parks and Disney is spending money domestly like never before. Example StarWars and Toystory lands. Which is forcing Disney to spend money on demolition which everyone knows they hate doing (river country). Not to mention Avatar land and a frozen theam ride plus meet and great. Plus I hear that inoventions East and West simply had their sponsorships not be renewed and they are now moving most meet and greats to West. So The ESPN problem is not a problem.

Oh I completely disagree ESPN is the money pit that money just keeps going into and the other lines of business for Disney are to feel the pinch. Just look at Disney's G1 earnings. Parks & Resorts and Studios posted record profits but not the Television group (ABC/ESPN). Even Disney Consumer Products posted good numbers. ESPN has dished out billion dollar contracts for Monday Night Football and for the NBA as well as people are beginning to ditch cable and not pay for premium packages. About $7 dollars of your monthly cable is for ESPN directly. And it has been shown that people are ditching cable for internet based streaming services delivering the same content (ie. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu etc.) People are ditching the plug and when they do there goes the monthly $7 ESPN charge. Disney needs to fix ESPN either by developing a pay for streaming service or possibly a streaming pay for games themselves. If they can't fix the "ESPN" problem they may need to jump ship with ESPN (as much as I don't want to see it happen) and until they do the other lines of business are going to be the easiest ones who have to pinch pennies

The cuts have already determined that our family will not return to WDW. We typically go twice a year and usually have between 10 to 25 family members with us. We did not go last year due to all the construction and will not return this year due to all the cuts and constructions. We did go to Universal and had a wonderful time. It looks as if Universal will be our "go to" vacation spot from now on.

I wouldn't mind the cuts if the hours and reduced attractions were announced in the same time frame they demand dining reservations now be made. They've made guests plan their days around fast passes in advance and dining in advance, why can't hours and rides have the same expectations. The epcot attractions closing 2 hours early may be due to low interest, but I planned my dining around seeing THOSE attractions after dinner the 1 half day we planned to be in that park. Now we will miss out next month.

Have visited WDW twice since October and after many years of being an annual passholder have decided not to renew this year. The cuts are obvious to long time attendees and as a result the "magic" is gone!

Poor Robert Igers, WDW CEO only earned $46.5 million last year, and that poor chap recieved only a 36% raise! Walt must be turning in his grave.

It's inexcusable to make ANY cuts while at the same time giving CEO Bob Iger a 36% pay raise to over $46 million!

2021 is my next and last trip to Walt Disney World. Celebrate the 50th anniversary. This current management team ha ruined the parks. Say what you will about Michael Eisner (the CEO before current CEO Bob Iger) but under his leadership the parks were NEVER in the condition they are currently in requiring massive refurbishments and closures. Not to mention they never tore up every park at the same time. They also didn't wake up one morning and realize how neglecting the parks for 2 years would cause things to be soo bad. Now they are scrambling to try and get the park back to its usual perfect condition and its not as quick and easy as if they did daily maintenance.

I would recommend googling "paul pressler disneyland" and reading some of the top hits. I am not saying they are all 100% accurate, but most of them debunk your claim of massive refurbishments and park neglecting.

The Disney Decade under Eisner started off well but then Disneyland Paris open and that lead to everything in the pipeline shrunk, suspended or ultimately shelved. Disney California and Hong Kong Disneyland were built on the cheap and Iger and Co has to fix the cost cutting mess left by Eisner, Pressler and Co.

People seem to forget it was Eisner's idea to enter the China not Iger's.

Eisner was there for the ground breaking ceremony in Hong Hong but it Iger who opened the park.

Iger will probably not right all the wrongs done by Eisner in the end when he steps down in 2018

I think we need to calm down with the worry. We lose a few shop hours and some access to wildly under-used sections of epcot. A few less characters (which can EASILY be replaced in one day, or even within hours). In the mean time, WDW is building out 2 new lands in Hollywood studios, a new nighttime spectacular in DAK, as well as an entire new land in Pandora in DAK. Add to this the expansion of DLR Magic kingdom to include star wars land and extended hours in Animal kingdom to accommodate the nighttime features. I call that a very good tradeoff. The parks division is doing JUST fine.

One thing Disney could do, is reduce prices. If that were done you'd get more visiting, you'd make more...

It does seem as though, if these hypotheses and rumors are to be believed, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Very sad. We hav e been going to Disney since 1973 and were gust there in December. Yes we are a lot older but we had the grandkids with us and it just wasn't the same. Something is missing the magic is less. Please don't kill the golden goose. We went to Universal this month to see Harry Potter and it was nice but it will never take Disney's place. So please think of us your tried and true loyal fans and don't price us out .

All of this comes as no surprise. Disney has built a reputation of top notch customer service, and now they rest on that while killing it. The bottom line is that Disney has been reducing the level of customer service and the cuts being made are just in line with what has been happening. Ticket price increases, DVC point price increases, merchandise price increases, and perks being diminished along with general cuts all speak to the change in priorities. Sad - very sad. The Florida resort will not be the top tourist destination long the way things are going.

What is the basis of the author's analysis here? She provides a lot of numbers and statistics about various segments of the company, but the only connection between the cuts she mentions and the figures she provides seems to be that she is declaring the former to the the cause of the latter.

Hum,.....Raise Ticket Prices, Raise Parking Prices, Reduce Staff, Reduce Live Entertainment, Get rid of Cheaper quick service Foods Such as Waffle sandwich's, Replace cheep meals with new over priced sit down restaurants,....Yeah, Great ideas Wdw,.....If you're end goal is pushing even more middle class customers out of you're parks, or helping Universal and Sea World, over yourself.

"It's a small world after all"

I really find it hard to believe that at $100+ per day, per person that Disney isn't making a ton of money. They need to get their act together before they lose more customers.

I understand the global impact on the Disney Company, but maybe they were a little piggish in the market place determined to give the Disney experience in Paris, Hong Kong, and China. Not every country has to have a Disney park ( as evidenced by the declining revenues in two listed above). Maybe before Disney goes off to conquer the world, they should take care of business at home. The promised expansion at Fantasy Land was nothing more than a way to alleviate traffic flow issues. The new attractions are flat and without the quality of what Disney built years ago. In Orlando, the creativity and experiences at Universal's two Harry Potter parks far exceed anything Disney has done in decades. Time to refresh the quality that put Disney on the map to start with...not making cuts and reducing the experience.

Bob Iger sent an email two weeks ago thanking and congratulating his Cast Members and employees for the parks and resorts having record breaking profits. A week later these Cast Members, who rely on 40 hour or more work-weeks to survive, have their hours cut. Then a new stage show, which we all know costs money, is announced to come to Magic Kingdom Park in Florida. This is all in addition to Bob Iger's $40,000,000 salary. I get it. He's the CEO of basically the biggest company in the world so he probably deserves it but this is all bad business for employees. Nasty. Disgusting.

Take it from someone who works for a very large publicly traded company like Disney. If the cuts work they will be permanent.

My main concern with the cuts of cast members.I've lived in Orlando since 2006 and have been visiting the parks regularly since that time and over the last few years there is a noticeable difference in customer service. At one time you would go to the parks and be greeted with smile and waves and now the cast members are just as rude and inexperienced as someone working at Universal or Walmart for that matter. I've heard from friends who work at Disney that training has been reduced significantly and you can tell. I've walked out of the park and two cast members were too busy having a conversation to wish anyone a good evening. Having responsibilities falling on fewer cast members is only going to increase stress for both the cast members and the park attendees and rudeness will be wide spread.

If the Disney Company is having trouble at the Shanghai Disneyland with budget and building time, it seems to me they should scale back the theme park AT Shanghai, not at the more popular parks in the U.S. This is a sign of very poor management by Disney, (cutting off their nose to spike their face). Paris is failing because the French culture is not attuned to Disney's, nor will the culture of Shanghai. Maybe Disney ought to liquify some of its MONEY DRAINING, non-theme park holdings, i.e. ABC, ESPN.

Disney still derieves more income from ABC and ESPN than it does from the theme park division despite the current woes than ESPN is experiencing.

They are not money draining holdings but Disney's biggest revenue generator still.

You are correct. Not many people realize this. To quote the previous CEO of Disney, Mike Eisner "ABC floats Disney."

The writer has little understanding about business management.

You don't cut staff at a retail establishment to "save money", you do so because you anticipate fewer customers, which is what will happen now that WDW enters off-season, as it does every year. Cutting staff at a retail establishment will mean less income, and only a complete fool would do that.

Many of the "cuts" he mentions are due to be replaced by other, newer things and cutting operating hours on a few attractions may be a way of concentrating guest intent into fewer hours to make those (unpopular) attractions seem less empty, to make their experience more efficient, or even to allow longer maintenance shifts at night.

None of it has anything to do with Shanghai or EuroDisney. Each of the parks, even each of the 4 within WDW, has a separate operating budget.

Off-season? It doesn't happen anymore. We just had President's Week and are going into Spring Break. A quick breather in May (hardly) then it's Memorial Day and the whole summer crowds. There is no more off-season at Disney World. You are however absolutely correct about the budgets of individual parks; they don't overlap, and this article is misguided.

Stuff like this is why we stopped annual passes and resort visits. The return on the visit cost has reduced and Universal or other vacation options provide a better return on the overall cost. I envision Disney to build up to the 2013-2014 crowds but due to actions like mentioned above and the huge price increases that the numbers of visitors will plummet negative and they will loose money in a few years as people realize and move on.

I will make the most of any trip to Disney World...if a park closes early, more time to eat and drink in Disney Springs. It's all about what you make of something...it's not going to ruin my trip. Unfortunate for the employees though

Here's the real problem: The Walt Disney Company had its best quarter EVER! That, according to Bob Iger himself. How do you follow that? How do you make the next quarter even MORE profitable? Cut, cut, cut! Import cheap labor to replace nominally paid labor (and make the folks you're laying off train the new people), reduce full timers to 32 hours instead of 40 hours, use non-benefit College Program kids to make up the difference, fire painters and hotel staff, and finally jack up the prices through the roof on everything! Yup, that ought to do it! And whenever anyone says "Disney isn't the only one", well, that's no excuse for overly greedy behavior. This type of behavior is something a struggling company does, not a hugely, vastly profitable company like TWDC.

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