MickeyBlog News for August 13th, 2023
Halloween has arrived at Magic Kingdom, and a calm Bob Iger just promised investors that he can fix everything.
Let’s get spooky in this week’s MickeyBlog News!
Boo to You Time!!!
Once again, cast members are singing my favorite song, as Magic Kingdom hosted its first evening of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) on Friday.
The after-hours ticketed event is one of the greatest parts of Disney’s annual calendar, which explains why it’s already here.
In case you haven’t glanced at a calendar lately, the party started on August 11th, which is the earliest Magic Kingdom has ever hosted MNSSHP.
I mentioned last week that the park had already been decorated for the fall/spooky season. Now, we’ve got cast members shooting sparks with shovels, too!
I’m referencing one of the most memorable moments from the beloved Boo to You Parade.
Disney actually updated sections of the parade for 2023, adding new elements. You can watch the 2023 version here:
Of course, while the Boo to You Parade is my favorite, it represents only a small portion of what party-goers will find at MNSSHP.
More Party News You’ll Love
MickeyBlog’s ace park reporters found themselves split between Disneyland and Walt Disney World this week, but we still offered you full coverage of the party!
Disney even taunted me with a photo op for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Hey, Disney! Do you know what would be even better? Bringing back Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!
This particular character greeting is a perennial favorite, and I speak from experience here, having stood in line for two hours before.
Also, we know it wouldn’t be Halloween without the candy. Here’s a look at some of this year’s Trick-Or-Treat Trails.
Folks, I don’t care what the calendar says. It’s Halloween at Disney, and it’s incredible!
In fact, Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has switched to its fall costumes as well. Yes, Minnie’s Halloween Dine is here!
Iger Gets Serious
Disney’s quarterly earnings report call occurred this past Wednesday.
Wall Street and Hollywood alike have spent the past few days combing through every scrap of information from the call.
Iger performed a minimal amount of damage control regarding his prior, ill-considered strike comments.
For the most part, Disney’s CEO spoke on the subject of his core businesses, though.
Notably, Iger provided a rare level of insight into theme park operations. I’ve written a deep dive on the topic that should be published later this week.
For the time being, what matters is that Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division excelled this past quarter.
However, most of the growth occurred overseas. During Disney’s fiscal third quarter of 2022, international parks still suffered the pandemic’s impact.
In an extreme example, Shanghai Disneyland only opened for three out of 90 days last year. For the same timeframe in 2023, it operated all 90 days.
Not coincidentally, revenue soared by 94 percent, while attendance increased by 88 percent.
In North America, the news wasn’t quite so positive. Walt Disney World’s attendance dropped slightly, while occupancy rates fell from 90 to 84 percent.
Disneyland fared better, which led to modest four percent growth in the quarter for Disney’s American parks.
Iger also described the Parks division as one of Disney’s three primary “value creators” over the next five years.
In case you’re wondering, the others are Disney’s theatrical releases and its three streaming services.
The one tantalizing tidbit is that Iger hinted at five years of theme park growth. Maybe we’re getting an announcement soon?
If you check the calendar, Destination D23 is in four weeks, but it doesn’t have a Parks panel per se. So, believe what you will here.
More from the Earnings Call
I realize that you care the most about the parks, but Disney needs money to fund expansion. So, the other stuff matters, too.
On that front, this past earnings report proved something of a mixed bag.
Disney missed its revenue projection by a minimal amount, but it exceeded expectations on earnings per share.
More importantly, Disney’s free cash flow improved significantly. That’s a number to watch for two reasons.
One is that Disney must pay Comcast a little under ten billion dollars for Hulu in 2024.
Technically, the company only has cash on hand of $11 million right now.
So, Iger is trying to raise capital. This aspect explains a recent ESPN gambling deal.
While critics will argue that Disney shouldn’t get into gambling, the reality here is that the company barely dipped its toe in the pond.
What we’re discussing is really just ESPN licensing its brand to an existing gambling organization.
Meanwhile, Iger thinks he has solved the math problem for Disney+. The service has cut costs via layoffs and reduced content.
Those savings could feasibly go toward the parks, presuming that the Direct-To-Consumer division does start turning a profit in 15 months as current projections suggest.
Disney also touched on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser failure.
The company took a $100 million accelerated charge this quarter and will accept another $150 million next quarter.
That’s the high cost of a missed opportunity.
We were tracking a couple of fun ride rehab stories this week. The funnier one involved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland.
Our staff was there when the attraction reopened from its refurbishment…and then we watched it tear up immediately.
Oh well, at least Disneyland still has the ride. Yes, I remain bitter a quarter-century after Magic Kingdom’s version closed.
However, if you’re visiting Disneyland anytime soon, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is selling this spectacular Tiki Mug!
Finally, we learned the opening date for Shiki-Sai Izakaya and Sushi at the World Showcase’s Japan pavilion. You can dine here starting on August 30th!
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