MickeyBlog News for March 16, 2020
Well, this is undoubtedly the weirdest edition of MickeyBlog News that I’ve ever written. Every Disney theme park will be closed on Monday, March 16th. How did we get to this point? I’ll tell you everything that I know about Coronavirus and how it pertains to Disney in this, the worst ever MickeyBlog News update.
Disney Has Closed All Theme Parks
Let’s pull off the Band-Aid right now. The final three dominoes have fallen. Due to Coronavirus concerns, The Walt Disney Company has stopped theme park operations at Disneyland Paris, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World for the next two weeks. All three parks will remain closed until the first day of April.
You have questions.
Let’s start with the basics. China reported the first Coronavirus case on December 31, 2019. The infection spread within four weeks, forcing Shanghai Disneyland to close on January 25th and Hong Kong Disneyland the following day.
Ever since that happened, businesses in the tourism industry have worried about whether the disease would transfer to other countries. Tragically, it has. In fact, the number of reported cases in the United States has soared dramatically.
When I discussed the matter on MarvelBlog, the United States had registered only 500 instances. Since I wrote this, the number has more than quintupled to 2,836. By the time that you read this, it’ll have grown by that much more.
COVID-19 is now a pandemic that is spreading at an alarming rate. Disney theme park officials would do their customers a disservice by keeping the parks open. So, the company proved how much it cares about you by closing the three places that had remained open until now.
The Current Status
When I say current, I mean when I type this. On several occasions this week, I’ve written something, only for it to become laughably outdated in a matter of hours. News is coming hard and fast right now. So, I’m reporting what I know at the moment.
For starters, four people in the state of Florida have died from the infection. A TSA worker at Orlando International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. Orange County, Florida, has verified its first case from a man who attended a lunch at Mar-a-Lago. Anaheim, California, is tracking 14 cases, while the state itself has 288 and counting.
Meanwhile, three Disneyland Paris cast members have contracted COVID-19. And a group of firefighters from Disney’s Reedy Creek Fire Department has had to self-isolate while awaiting Coronavirus testing. If it weren’t for bad news, I’d have no news at all, at least in the western hemisphere.
Disney really had no choice here, and they actually led by example in the theme park industry. Several other places like Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Dollywood, and Six Flags followed Disney.
The company also stopped all cruises for the rest of March. I mean all four cruise ships. Disney will dock them all in the short term. This has led to an oddity wherein one ship sailed before the ban.
People onboard have posted some remarkable updates about the novel experience. Here’s one from our friends at TouringPlans:
One interesting aspect of this cruise is that we’ve had next to no contact with other people since 2 PM yesterday aside from talking with crew (at a 6-foot distance). I don’t know if that’s how people are acting on land at this point, but I hope so.
— TouringPlans (@TouringPlans) March 14, 2020
They later added this:
The Dream is headed to an unscheduled stop tonight in Nassau—a person has appendicitis and needs surgery.@TheDCLBlog
— TouringPlans (@TouringPlans) March 14, 2020
That reads like the first act of a horror movie to me. Everything’s going great, but then the ship is forced to dock. Next, the zombies attack. (Please humor me. I’ve had to relay a lot of terrible news this week.)
Where Does Disney Go from Here?
I don’t own any crystal balls. I leave those to Madame Leota. However, I continue to draw conclusions on what’s happened in Asia. While China has suffered through 81,000 (!) cases of Coronavirus thus far, the situation is improving.
The week started with a ray of hope when Shanghai Disneyland began to re-open. It’ll gradually return to operation over the next couple of weeks. Thus far, some restaurants and stores have opened for business.
The Chinese government authorized this decision on day 45 after Shanghai Disneyland closed. Hong Kong Disneyland hasn’t followed suit for a different reason. Park officials thoughtfully allowed the local authorities to use some of the Disney campus lands to quarantine suspected patients.
Still, we know a couple of things. China reacted too slowly to the pandemic. So, a 45-day timeframe from closing to re-opening is longer than we should need in the United States.
I’m not saying that’s totally certain, as a friend of mine works in the field of pandemic response. She’s…less than positive about how the federal government has reacted so far. However, I think she’s pessimistic here because her job requires it.
I expect Disney to be open a month from now. In the interim, the company’s doing a staggering amount right, though.
Bob Chapek’s Earning Respect as CEO
I’m not sure even a new CEO has ever had a more challenging first two weeks on the job than Bob Chapek. He’s suffered through so many misfortunes that if I were him, I’d stop charging my cellphone. Every text must seem like it comes from a Hellscape.
Also, Chapek has suspended the Disney College Program (DCP) and all of its associate educational programs. This choice isn’t ideal, but Disney has no need for these employees.
More importantly, the company has willingly taken a financial hit by paying the DCP members for the time that they’ll miss. Disney’s waiving the weekly housing deductions as well. So, the impacted students will get more money on their final checks.
Disney at the Movies
Then, there’s the part of the business that worried analysts about Chapek. He didn’t have any experience in the film and television production parts of the company. However, Disney’s CEO has made the right call in several ways this week.
Disney has delayed Mulan and two other theatrical releases to protect their box office potential. This move seems especially savvy in the wake of the second weekend hit that Onward has taken. That film is all but certain to become the lowest grossest Pixar release ever. It didn’t deserve this fate, but COVID-19 fears have kept audiences out of movie theaters.
This external factor has absolutely devastated Onward. It would have similarly impacted Mulan and, to a lesser extent, The New Mutants and Antlers, too.
To date, Disney hasn’t delayed Black Widow, though. The company’s hope here is that Coronavirus concerns will dissipate by the start of May. By that point, the entire country might have cabin fever and rush to watch a new Marvel movie.
The news isn’t all good in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though. Disney had to cancel a scheduled The Falcon and the Winter Soldier shoot in the Czech Republic. Also, the director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is self-isolating right now.
Watch Frozen 2!
However, Chapek noticed an opportunity to make the best of a bad situation. He recognized that most of us will spend the next two weeks holed up in our homes. With nothing else to do, we’ll be binge-watching our brains out.
So, Disney has decided to release Frozen 2 on Disney+ immediately. Like, it’s available right now. I have it playing as I type this. Frozen is available three full months earlier than scheduled.
Chapek recognizes that he could boost Disney+ subscriptions right now, which would mitigate some of the financial losses his company’s incurred through no fault of its own.
Analytically, the businesses that Coronavirus has negatively impacted the most are tourism and sports. Disney takes the double whammy here, as ESPN just lost a large chunk of its programming at the same time that the parks are closing. If Disney+ subscriptions rise significantly, the company will have made the most out of a terrible situation.
The Alternate Reality Update
In some parallel universe, most of this article has discussed the biggest story of the week. In a perfect world, that subject would be Avengers Campus, which Disney announced will open on July 18th. Sadly, we’re all stuck in the darkest timeline.
So, I’ll save the details regarding Avengers Campus for next week, when MickeyBlog News will have a LOT of filler. Seriously, there’s not a lot I can say about closed theme parks.
Finally, I implore you to take Coronavirus seriously, my friends. It has killed nearly 6,000 people, and pandemic experts believe that the number is much higher. Please take precautions and stay inside as much as possible. I want you to be healthy enough to read the next two super-boring MickeyBlog News updates.