Worst Problems Disney Faces in 2023
You wouldn’t envy Bob Iger right now.
Imagine living in retirement for the body of a year just to get dragged back to your old company to clean up somebody else’s mess.
That’s exactly what has happened. Here are the worst problems Iger and Disney face in 2023.
The Brightline Debacle
Honestly, this one wasn’t Chapek’s fault as much as Iger’s. The latter gentleman was still in charge of Disney when it chose to go all-in on high-speed rail.
Disney executives tentatively agreed to build a Brightline station near Disney Springs.
If Disney had settled on a precise location, it never indicated as much.
Still, the presumption was that guests would travel from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to a Disney Springs station via Brightline railway.
Then, Disney would take care of transportation from there. In the process, the new thing would render Magical Express superfluous and obsolete.
What Disney never did was ask Brightline not to negotiate with anyone else.
The fledgling train service cut a deal with Universal Studios for the proposed Sunshine Corridor.
Disney wanted no part of that and lobbied against another Central Florida Brightline station. Alas, Brightline added the Sunshine Corridor anyway.
This second station would feasibly add ten minutes of travel from MCO to Disney Springs.
Plus, guests could easily stop at Universal Studios, splitting their vacation budgets.
Disney understandably backed out of its agreement for a Brightline station. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, that project is completely dead.
Now, tourists have no Magical Express and no upcoming transportation solution.
Iger must find a way to satisfy irritated guests who don’t like securing their own airport transportation.
Having done this a few times, I can confirm it’s remarkably chaotic.
The Uber/Lyft drivers are prone to panic and circle the airport repeatedly, while Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer are notoriously unreliable.
Could Iger bring back Magical Express? That’s the solution we all want.
However, a renegotiation with Brightline and an expansion of the Disney Skyliner to Disney Springs may offer better long-term prospects.
The Construction Prioritization
In recent Disney Rumors articles, I’ve painstakingly listed all the reasons why park construction has reached a standstill.
Once Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana and Tron Lightcycle Power Run debut, Walt Disney World is fresh out of projects.
Well, I could technically include Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, but that’s a re-theme rather than an entirely new attraction.
Meanwhile, Disneyland’s next new ride opens in four weeks. The only other one Disney has announced is the King Thanos ride that’s probably years away.
Bob Iger needs to greenlight some park expansions…and soon! Currently, the perception is that Disney is building as many hotels as rides. That’s…not good.
Iger should pick something at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and go with it. Meanwhile, Magic Kingdom could use something new. It’s been a while.
Tron Lightcycle Power Run will be this park’s first ride since Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in 2014.
While I fully expect the Tiana ride to be terrific, it’s still a lateral move from Splash Mountain. Magic Kingdom needs more.
The Park Hopping Solution
I’m not someone who vents repeatedly about park changes. After all, if Disney didn’t keep the parks fresh, we’d all grow bored and frustrated.
Still, the current Park Hopping policy makes no sense on any level. You cannot switch until a set time each afternoon.
Also, you must hold a Park Pass and enter that designated park before you can go to another park. It’s maddening.
Recent rumors suggest that management recognizes it has overcorrected here.
There also may be something to the rumors that Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro had a falling out with the departed Bob Chapek over these policies.
As such, I believe that Disney will reset the current rules and bring them back to pre-pandemic norms…or at least much closer to the system we once knew.
At a minimum, Disney shouldn’t require guests to enter one park before visiting another.
Some vacation days just break wrong, and tourists must adapt. Forcing them to go to a park no matter what isn’t very Disney.
Similarly, guests should be able to switch parks whenever they want.
I’ve been stuck at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom a couple of times during the pandemic.
When the crowds are massive, all I want to do is Park Hop to EPCOT, which is almost always less trafficked. Under the current rules, I can’t.
Bob Iger needs to fix these obvious flaws in the system.
The Park Pass Solution
Yeah, I know. I don’t like Park Passes, either. From a business perspective, I totally understand them, though.
Every major corporation’s greatest expense is staffing. Park Passes allow Disney to reduce labor costs by a dramatic amount.
The company rarely pays an excessive number of cast members to work at an unpopular spot now. The system in place has proven stunningly efficient.
However, Park Passes suck-diddly-uck for tourists. There’s just no getting around that fact.
Rumors are percolating that Iger knew this better than anyone. While he played coy during his return interviews, he’d apparently spoken with D’Amaro about the problem.
Now, these two individuals must find a solution that maintains the current staffing optimization while making park visits less infuriating for customers. Good luck with that.
The Reedy Creek Resolution
Recent reports suggest that a resolution is in the offing for the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
As a reminder, Florida’s legislature has scheduled the dissolution of Reedy Creek in June 2023.
Nobody wants that, though. In truth, it’s the blueprint example of legislating without consideration for ramifications.
If Florida dissolves Reedy Creek, it adds $1 billion in debt and a slew of new aggravations.
Also, everyone likes Disney to self-govern because it’s one less thing to worry about. Disney has proven itself a model citizen over the past 50+ years.
If Reedy Creek goes away without a reasonable replacement, that’s terrible for everyone.
Still, Disney suffers the most because it would need governmental approval for all its projects. Nobody likes bureaucracy. It’d be that much worse for Disney.
For this reason, Iger must work behind the scenes to ensure that either Reedy Creek stays, or the next thing works similarly.
Frankly, with Hurricane Ian’s fallout and Florida’s Governor trying to run for POTUS, it seems like the best solution for everyone is to kiss and make up.
That’s easier with Iger back in charge than it would have been with Chapek.
Whither the Dining Plan and Annual Passes?
Disney has promised that annual passes will return at Walt Disney World in 2023. However, it said the same thing about the Disney Dining Plan in 2022.
We’re still waiting on that one.
Under Chapek, Disney emphasized maximizing profit in any way imaginable.
Iger always believed that the parks should remain affordable for everyone. As such, I think we’ll gain clarity on these subjects early in the year.
Frankly, they’re easy wins for Iger. All he needs to do is put these things back on sale. He instantly reminds people why his successor wasn’t up to snuff.
The downside is that Disney earns less profit from the Disney Dining Plan than it would by having guests pay out of pocket for each meal.
Similarly, Disney uses coded terms to refer to local guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
What management means when it uses these terms is, “People who spend less per capita at the parks.”
The locals are savvier consumers who don’t waste their money as much during a visit.
Meanwhile, tourists from distant locales do because they don’t know when they’ll return.
So, annual passes also come with a financial downside. Still, I believe Iger understands that Disney owes its most loyal fans a few make-goods.
Expect good news on this front.