The Silver Linings Disney Should Find from the Closures
It’s always darkest before the dawn. The famous saying dates back many years, although Florence + The Machine has made it more prominent in recent years.
At Disney theme parks, dawn can’t come fast enough for fans and cast members alike. All Disney parks around the world aren’t open right now, and we don’t know when that will change.
However, some good can and will come from this. Here are a few possible silver linings for Disney.
Magic Bands represent one of the most divisive topics among Disney fans. Imagineers resent their very existence, as Disney went outside the company to create them.
Fans of Magic Bands appreciate their utility as a convenient way to avoid carrying two full pockets of belongings. These wearables work for park admission, FastPasses, and credit card payments.
The sticking point is that Disney chose the wearable. When Disney began the MyMagic+ project, smartphones were already popular, but they weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today.
Meanwhile, wearables were a projectable technology that Disney envisioned guests preferring to smartphones. The beauty of a wearable is that once you put it on, you forget about it until you need it again.
Alas, society has become so collectively connected to smartphones that people carry both at Walt Disney World. And that’s only one of the significant problems.
Disney chose fingerprint recognition as a security measure to prevent unauthorized park admission. Well, in a pandemic, I sure don’t want to press my finger on a spot where hundreds of others have stuck their greasy sausage hands.
So, Disney can and will fix two mistakes here. It’ll have no choice but to introduce technology that works with smartphone apps.
Also, facial recognition software can, should, and will become the new way to enter Disney theme parks.
This technology wasn’t quite ready a few years ago, which explains why Disney didn’t pick it then. However, it’s ready now, and we desperately need it in a post-pandemic society.
Even with this forced modernization, I still believe Magic Bands have their utility, though. Still, the unwelcome tapping of the band with the kiosk sensor is a problem Disney must address.
I’ve spent many hours over the past month researching buffets. What I’ve learned is that the entire industry has no idea what will happen next. It’s like everyone is looking at the competition, asking, “Do you have any ideas?”
At Disney theme parks, cast members don’t describe their meals as buffets for whatever reason. They’re “All You Care to Enjoy” (AYCE) meals.
However, the concept is the same. You grab a plate, fill it with a bunch of stuff that you should never eat in combination, and then await the impending heartburn.
I’m mostly joking, but there’s some truth here. Many Disney character meals are AYCE, and they’re stubbornly interchangeable.
I invite you to name three foods that are different at Crystal Palace, Hollywood & Vine, and Chef Mickey’s. If you can do it, you’re a better Disney fan than me.
Now, I eat at these places anyway. I do it because I treasure the character interactions, which are probably my wife’s favorite (non-Haunted Mansion) thing at Disney.
Even so, I know that ‘Ohana does everything better. At this restaurant, you don’t hang out at the salad bar. Instead, cast members bring plates of food to your table.
One of the main reasons why ‘Ohana is always booked is this style of cuisine. It’s different from the other AYCE options at Walt Disney World.
Disney has headed in the wrong direction on this subject. Storyteller Café at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa switched from a menu to a buffet late in 2018.
Suffice to say that this restaurant needs to change back. In fact, all Disney restaurants must move to family-style services.
Ultimately, this change will aid all the restaurants I mentioned. They’ll carve out their identities, adding to their appeal.
More Local Government Power
Over the past few years, there are three kinds of Disney stories that I’ve liked to cover the least. One is cast member salary, and another is hurricanes/earthquakes.
The third is most applicable right now. It’s the squabbling that has happened between Anaheim’s city council and Disneyland, along with some pushback from the state of Florida toward Walt Disney World.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that nobody would know about Anaheim or Orlando were it not for Disney theme parks. These places were orange groves and swampland before Uncle Walt bought the land.
Unfortunately, some of Disney’s practices have rubbed citizens wrong, and these people vote. They’ve specifically selected candidates who run on anti-Disney platforms.
This politically charged dynamic had led to conflict, most famously when Disney had to cancel a hotel project a couple of years ago.
Well, I can safely say that Disney and the government have kissed and made up. Disney executives have joined economic recovery programs at the behest of California and Florida’s governors.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Orange County, Florida, has stated that the area’s recovery will hinge on Disney.
That’s the thing about society. With nothing important is going on, people will argue about anything. Once a crisis occurs, we band together to work as a team.
Disney has kissed and made up with the two cities it made famous.
Prioritizing At-Home Customers
Here’s a subject that Disney would have avoided if not for the pandemic. The company’s made its position on Virtual Reality (VR) quite clear.
Disney has no interest in delivering VR experiences to customers outside the parks. In fact, Disney didn’t just end its own videogame department. When the company acquired another one from Fox, Disney sold it off piecemeal.
There’s a logic behind this decision. Since Disney earns much more money when guests are at the parks, it doesn’t want to incentivize potential customers to stay home.
However, the situation has changed now. Disney+ has shown the at-home demand for the company’s products. Meanwhile, the pandemic has shown that people can’t always go to the parks, even when we want that.
So, Disney must reevaluate its at-home solutions for entertaining customers. That strategy doesn’t necessarily require VR or Augmented Reality or anything like that.
Still, customers want more Disney content in their homes, and the company knows this now. It’s hosted live events, posted churro recipes, and shown behind-the-scenes footage from attractions.
From now on, Disney won’t hide as many of its secrets behind the curtain, which is good for everyone.
Also, the company can explore ways to monetize at-home customers more than just through ShopDisney. That will help the company’s financials long-term.
I started with a cliché, and so I’ll finish with one, too. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I speak from experience on this, as I once had a liver with five percent functionality. Somehow, I came out of it fine and never even wound up on a transplant list.
Today, I could stand to lose 10 pounds (it’s tough to eat healthy during a pandemic), but I’m better than ever. I expect the same with Disney.
For years now, people have wondered whether Disney could survive something cataclysmic. Cynics derided the company’s handling of 9/11, California earthquakes, and Florida hurricanes.
Each time something forced a temporary park closure, Disney came back better than ever before. In fact, the company doesn’t receive enough credit for how well it managed hurricane season in 2019.
Disney employees are brilliant people who happily learn from mistakes. Whether they made any errors in judgment here is something I’ll evaluate at a later date.
However, what’s abundantly clear is that all the suggestions I’ve listed here fall under the same category. They’re areas where Disney knows it needs improvement, just like with hurricane season a few years ago.
Disney can and will improve its preparedness for future pandemics. Also, the company now has many data points to examine about park shutdown procedures and accompanying financial losses.
I’m an ardent proponent of the philosophy that the best people are the ones who have made the most mistakes. Without struggles, we can’t improve.
Disney was phenomenal already. However, once the pandemic ends, your favorite company will be better than ever.