Disneyland President Ken Potrock Reflects on Two Years Since COVID-19
It’s been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Disney parks around the world needed to shut down. The OC Register recently chatted with Disneyland President Ken Potrock who reflected on his time in the role, the majority of which has been spent grappling with the impact of COVID-19 on Disneyland Resort.
In the interview Potrock advised that it will take at least another full year for the phased reopening of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to be complete.
Potrock told the Register, “The last few years have been rough.” The Disneyland President continued, “So many people said to me that the Disneyland job is going to be the best job you’ve ever had. The first year was a pretty tough job, but this second year truly proved it is the best job in this company.”
For those unfamiliar, Potrock has been with Disney for nearly three decades but took over as Disneyland President in May of 2020, just a mere two months after the Anaheim theme parks where forced to close. At that time, no one fully expected Disneyland to be closed as long as it was – 412 days!
April marks the one year anniversary since Disneyland reopened to the public but for Potrock, its only the halfway point of a phased reopening. According to the exec, another year is needed to get the parks back to pre-pandemic levels.
When reflecting on his strategy in getting through the past two years Potrock said, “We focused on two things.” He continued, “One was we were very focused on a common enemy — the pandemic. Then we had a common objective which was survival. That meant we had to be unified, quicker to market and innovative. We needed to recreate the Disneyland experience without losing the heart of it.”
The pandemic shutdown was also an important time for Disney executives to take stock and reassess they way they do things at the theme parks.
Some of the changes that have been made over the past year include a new passholder program, pay-to-ride attraction access and an “ambitious” expansion plan. Not all of these changes have been popular with avid Disneyland fans. Potrock told the Register that he knows that the rollouts of some new services didn’t go as planned especially changes that impacted Disneyland’s loyal passholders.
“I tell the team again and again, ‘We’re going to try stuff and I’m OK if we don’t get it perfect right away,’” Potrock said. “A lot of times perfect gets in the way of excellence. We’re really focused on doing the best we possibly can. We’re going to listen and adjust as quickly as humanly possible. The team gets it and that’s the culture that we’re trying to create.”
The theme parks closure had a massive impact on Disneyland cast members. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Disney had 32,000 cast members but during the closure went down two 2,000. The majority of the cast members were impacted by furloughs and layoffs. Over the past year, Disney has rehired and hired 28,000 cast members. That brings Disneyland Resort back to 30,000 cast members.
But Potrock advised that hiring is an ongoing process at Disneyland, “We’re still not staffed up all the way,” Potrock said. “We are hiring every single week.”
Recently Disneyland held an employee service celebration where 5,600 cast members with over 10 years of experienced where honored at Disney California Adventure. “We are so empathetic and sensitive to the tough journey that our cast members have been on,” Potrock said. “We want to make sure that we are showing sensitivity, compassion and gratitude to our cast members.”
It will be interesting to check in with Potrock a year from now as the Disneyland Resort comes to the end of its phased return. MickeyBlog will be bringing you all of the news from Disneyland Resort throughout the year so keep following along with us for further updates!
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Source: OC Register