If you have not heard, on Sunday, November 20, 2022, Bob Iger was reinstated as the Walt Disney Company’s Chief Operating Officer. The former CEO, Bob Chapek, was fired by the board after a less-than-stellar performance in the stock market. In an earnings call on November 8, it was revealed the company’s stock had hit a 40-year low.
The moment the news was released, the excitement and positivity from inside the parks and throughout social media were palpable.
Iger has not released any official statements about changes to come for the Disney parks, but here are a few things that could possibly change over his two-year return.
The excitement, celebration, and joy were felt most among Cast Members. The videos and memes shared online and between coworkers were some of the best things to happen on the internet in a long time. With this joy, we will start seeing more smiles in the parks. A company’s front line directly reflects the top leadership, and the negativity and “lack of magic” seen in the parks lately truly was a direct symptom of the lack of empathy from the top.
I saw comments about how people cried tears of joy hearing about the announcement. Other said it was like they could breathe again for the first time in 999 days. The fact there was such a united sense of relief says a lot about the state of things under Chapek. Slowly and surely the parks are going to feel magical again.
Listen – Chapek was chosen to be Iger’s successor for a reason. He is an intelligent businessman and is fantastic with numbers. I tried giving him as much charitable assumption and room to grow and understand as I could. But Bob Iger hit it right on the nose in his email to the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution employees on Monday. “It is my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are.” He understands the identity of the company in a way that Chapek never seemed to grasp.
The Walt & The Roy
The Disney Company operates best under the Walt & Roy structure. Walt Disney was the dreamer, and his brother Roy was the doer. They both were extremely successful and thorough in their line of work, but they each pushed each other out of their comfort zones and kept the other on track. Walt would come up with the big ideas, and Roy would try to figure out how to make them happen.
We saw the same thing with CEO Michael Eisner and President Frank Wells. Eisner dreamed big and Wells understood the way Eisner’s brain worked. Eisner tends to have a negative reputation, but he was responsible for the Disney movie renaissance in the 1990s and is the reason the Walt Disney Company is still standing today. His decline came after Wells’ death. He didn’t have anyone to reign him in quite the same.
Bob Chapek is a Roy. He is all about numbers and the black-and-white bottom line. But Disney can’t be Disney without a Walt. And that is where Iger comes in.
Disney Dining Plan
The ever-so-popular dining plan at Walt Disney World still has not been reintroduced in our post-covid world. But this doesn’t mean it is gone forever. Disney has stated it will be bringing back the dining plan, and even with updated menus in the parks the DDP logo still exists.
This is a profitable program for the company, so it is just a matter of time before this returns.
Genie+ & Park Reservations
Popular topics discussed amongst Disney fans surround the distaste for paid Lightning Lanes and the need to book reservations to attend a park. The hope that Iger will remove either of these systems will likely be squashed. Genie+ is a huge source of revenue for the Disney parks. Maybe Iger will decide to adjust pricing and how it is distributed, but the likelihood of a complete scrap is pretty slim.
The Park Reservation system, while slightly inconvenient, is extremely helpful for the parks. This allows Disney to prepare proper staffing, control demand, and ultimately control who can get into the parks. Different Guests are more profitable than others, so allowing more space for them is for the benefit of the company.
Maybe a change we will see is a policy change for park hopping. Right now, heading to the second park for the day is limited until after 2 p.m. Hopefully we will see an update to this soon.
The Issues Are in the Streaming
The biggest loss the company has seen is in and around Disney+. This is the future of media consumption, so it was an important step for Disney to take in 2019. But it is an incredibly expensive investment at the start of the project. We will see an increase in the monthly subscription to $10.99. Plus an introduction to an ad-supported tier.
Disney Parks Are Booming
The financial issues the Disney Company is experiencing have nothing to do with the parks. It was reported that the division that includes the theme parks and cruise line profited $7.4 billion in the 4th quarter of 2022. up 26% from 2021.
While it may feel like the parks are suffering, it’s truly the opposite. Have the cutbacks in the parks been to help offset the losses elsewhere? We saw this happen at the tail end of the Shanghai construction. Multiple experiences were cut from Walt Disney World to help fund the final stages of Shanghai Disneyland.
Time will tell what we see happen around the Disney Company. The most immediate changes will happen on the streaming side of things, but expect to see some uplifted spirits at the front line!