Disney Rumors for June 2023
During a couple of recent appearances, the two people who decide the fate of Disney parks have proven decidedly talkative for a change.
One of the most refreshing aspects of Disney’s leadership change from Bob Chapek to Bob Iger is that transparency is back on the menu.
We just gained strong insights into what Disney has planned in the coming years. So, this is a unique month for Disney Rumors.
Here’s what we should expect at the parks.
No New Parks or Mini-Parks
Early in 2023, Universal Studios executives shocked the industry with an announcement.
Universal intends to build a mini-theme park in Frisco, Texas. It’ll reside in a small space close to an exploding metropolitan area near Dallas/Fort Worth.
Meanwhile, Area15 in Las Vegas, Nevada, will host a permanent installation of Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), thereby expanding that brand.
That decision embodies smart decision-making, as Vegas should prove ideal as the home turf for HHN.
Universal doesn’t have to cut any corners in making the concept child-friendly by placing this experience in Sin City. It’s a smart fit.
For Disney’s part, Universal’s plans somewhat pressure the Mouse to respond.
Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro recently did just that in declaring that Disney isn’t in the business of mini-theme parks, and that won’t change.
D’Amaro dismisses the idea by saying:
“I think it must be interesting for (Universal). For us, we think that focusing on our core assets is where we should be spending most of our opportunity.”
The leader of Disney Parks later added that Disney seeks to increase volume at the parks as the best method for sustained growth.
I’ve learned never to say never in this business (see: the Star Wars Hotel).
Still, I interpret D’Amaro’s comments as well as recent statements from CEO Bob Iger to indicate that Disney isn’t planning a new theme park right now.
Yes, the company filed the paperwork to give itself the right to build a fifth gate at Walt Disney World, but that was basically Hostile Governor Insurance.
When Disney officials indicate that the company will spend $17 billion over ten years in Central Florida, they aren’t referencing a new park.
You can hardly blame them, either. Would you buy a home in a neighborhood where your childhood bully runs the HOA? Exactly.
Disney’s Expansion Plans Are Multi-Coastal and International
I wrote an article the other day about the potential location of a new Disney theme park…and I can assure you that it’s not where you think.
Disney has always explored international expansion due to the cost benefits.
Often, local governments start consortiums of local entrepreneurs/businesses and then entice Disney with sweetheart tax deals.
In fact, Disney didn’t fully own Disneyland Paris until 2017, a quarter-century after the park opened.
At this moment, the Hong Kong government owns more of Hong Kong Disneyland than Disney does. It’s a 52/48 split.
While the benefits sometimes appear questionable, the increased tourism more than justifies this approach.
For example, Hong Kong Disneyland lost the equivalent of $268 million in 2022, although that was largely due to the pandemic.
During calendar 2022, Hong Kong Disneyland only operated for 190 out of a possible 365 days. It’s no mystery why the park lost money.
Still, Hong Kong officials love the deal, as they tracked nearly 2.9 million tourists visiting the city in April 2023 alone.
Over the course of a year, that’s 34.7 million tourists spending money, which more than offsets any losses.
So, you shouldn’t be surprised if/when Disney announces another international theme park. It’s just smart business.
Meanwhile, Disneyland Resort officials are working overtime to persuade Anaheim residents to vote with them on upcoming pitches.
Disneyland Forward was never what anyone thought. Instead, you can think of the entire process as a pitch to change zoning laws. Yes, I’m serious.
However, if/when residents agree to these proposed changes, Disney CAN expand its parks and add more attractions and themed lands.
For this reason, you should be excited about Disneyland’s near-future, presuming that Disney persuades voters.
What’s Happening with Walt Disney World
Let’s start with the obvious. Ron DeSantis’ political ambition has become a chaos grenade for Disney officials.
Everyone expected common sense to prevail at some point, but it really, really hasn’t.
As such, Disney strategists have struggled with making Orlando plans lately.
Disney park planners must feel like the tour manager for Aerosmith, a band that notoriously hates each other.
Still, Disney isn’t bluffing here. Since Iger’s return, D’Amaro has persuaded him that park expansion will solve all of Disney’s congestion problems.
You may not realize this fact, but Disney has always addressed throughput from the meta-perspective.
The company developed a plan to balance throughput by increasing cumulative hourly capacity throughout a park rather than at a specific ride/themed land.
Adding a new show here and a couple of characters there will enable the parks to host more guests without increasing crowds. It’s a savvy approach.
In the age of big data, Disney has evolved a bit, but the idea remains largely the same.
Should Disney do as I mentioned last month and build Zootopia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it’ll solve the park imbalance we’ve faced since 2017.
Since Avatar Flight of Passage opened, guests have headed there in droves.
Meanwhile, only a small percentage of tourists visit DinoLand, U.S.A. first.
You may not worry about such trivial aspects of a park visit. I can assure you that the concerns keep park planners up at night, though.
So, when Disney starts revealing expansion plans – and I expect an announcement at Destination D23 in September – that’ll be the focus.
You can deduce what will go where based on which parts of Walt Disney World theme parks aren’t as well-trafficked right now. That’s the game here.
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