Disneyland Political Scrimmage

Disneyland Political Scrimmage

The dictionary defines the word scrimmage as a confused struggle or fight. And that defines where Disneyland in this political football game. We’re going to get clarity as we go through this challenge play by play. I noted back at the beginning of this pandemic that opening the parks was going to be a political football for Florida and California. The Florida parks and all other Disney resorts world wide have successfully reopened. Even Hong Kong Disneyland reopened, closed back up again and then re-opened again. But Disneyland still remains closed. And there’s no certainty as to when it reopens. What is certain, is that there is no end of news. And that’s especially true of the events this week.

We will go down the timeline of events, show how the ball has been passed back and forth, see how other events are impacting this game, and where it’s going next. Hint: There’s a big rally to reopen Disneyland this Saturday.

But let’s start from the beginning. You can find our podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotesKey notes, photos and links are below, but you’ll find most of my commentary on the podcast.

Disneyland Closes

On Thursday, March 12th, Governor Newsom held a press conference to address the state’s prevention and containment efforts. By now Disney theme parks in Asia have completely announced their closures. The governor on this date outlined new guidance to cancel or postpone gatherings of 250 people or more in California, but noted that he had spoken with Disney executive chairman Bob Iger on Wednesday, and that casinos, card rooms, theaters, and large parks like Disneyland would be exempt from the recommendations due to “the complexity of their unique circumstances.”

Less than two hours after the press event ended, however, Disney announced that it would temporarily close Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure starting Saturday, March 14 through the end of the month, a move that Newsom thought was a good decision.

“Late last night, California put out a new policy on mass gatherings and engaged in deep conversations with Disney and other companies about how to meet it,” he said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Using that policy, Disney made the right call in the interest of public health and agreed to shut down their California parks. Expect more announcements like this shortly.”

Shortly thereafter it was announced that Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and the Disney Cruise Lines would temporarily be shut down, thus closing all Disney resorts worldwide. The expectation was that it would probably only be for a few weeks and would then reopen.

Disneyland Announces Reopening

On Wednesday, June 10th Disney proposed plans for a phased reopening of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, pending state and local government approvals. It aimed to reopen the Downtown Disney District on July 9. Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park was to reopen on July 17. And the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Paradise Pier Hotel were targeted to reopen on July 23.

Unions Object

On June 17th, union leaders representing about 17,000 Disneyland employees sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom arguing that the state’s rising number of COVID cases made it too unsafe to be reopening the resort. They stated in a petition:

“The Disneyland Resort put out a statement on June 10th, 2020 to reopen the parks on July 17th, 2020. As you know, Covid-19 cases are rising and have not dropped. Many people have lost loved ones due to this pandemic and by reopening the parks they are endangering cast members and guests to be exposed to Covid-19. There are more cases now than when the parks closed on March 13th, 2020. Health Officials have stated that the 2nd wave of Covid-19 will be worse. So reopening before the 2nd wave even hits us is irresponsible and greedy.”

Two weeks after Disneyland announced a proposed reopening date of July 17th, its 65th anniversary, the theme park has reversed course and postponed its reopening indefinitely. Disneyland has been closed to the public ever since.  

Reopening Elsewhere

Downtown Disney reopens on July 9th.

Downtown Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Crowds gather to return to Downtown Disneyland where the same safety measures are put into place that are in effect at Walt Disney World, where all four parks reopen at that same time.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom after reopening. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

One July 17th, Disneyland’s 65th anniversary came and went with little note.

We’re Ready

In August, Josh D’Amaro does an interview told Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association Trade Group: “As soon as a date and those guidelines are set, I can tell you, we’re ready”

On August 28th, Sea World and the San Diego Zoo reopen to guests, being determined by the state that they are in a different category than theme parks.

We Are Ready and It Is Time

On September 22nd, Disney hosts a press event showcasing how ready they are to open the parks. While addressing California state government, D’Amaro stated, “I encourage you to treat theme parks like you do other sectors,” and that Disney needs “guidelines that are fair and equitable.” D’Amaro warned that the longer Disney waits to reopen, the more devastating the economic impact will be on Anaheim and Orange County.

Job Loss Announced

September 29th, The Walt Disney Company issues a statement that it is terminating 28,000 jobs.

Iger Quits the League

On Thursday, October 1st, Disney confirmed that company chairman Bob Iger quit Gov. Gavin Newsom’s economic recovery task force. The Disney spokesperson would not say why or precisely when Iger left the task force.

Chief Medical Officer Plays Defense

California Goes To Florida

Without telling anyone, the State of California went on their own stealth expedition to see what the parks looked like in Florida. In a conference on Tuesday, OC Register shared their comments.

“We look forward to compiling the information from those visits, having ongoing dialogue so we land with the guidance that really does make sense,” Ghaly said during the news conference. “I haven’t gotten the report back on what their findings and experience was, but the reason why we sent people is to really understand in action how a park operates, how the community around it functions with the park open in a time where we’re facing COVID transmission and really how it plays out not just within the park, but beyond.”

So in truth, Disney won’t be judged based on Disney, but based on the airport where they landed, the Walmart nearest to the parks and on the Uber driver that took them there. And yet, all of these services are currently open in California. It’s the Disney parks that aren’t open.

To know the kinds of efforts put in place at Walt Disney World, visit our comprehensive post and podcast to how Disney Parks are keeping guests COVID-19 Free.

“It Will come Out When We’re Ready”

On a news conference on October 13th, OC Register shared a statement from the state of California:

“I know a number of people are continuing to wonder when that guidance is coming out and I like to say, ‘It will come out when we’re ready,’” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said. “We’re working closely with our industry partners making sure that we take all feedback, use our own information from visits to operating parks in other states and then some visits here in parts of California to understand how those plans will come together.”

Chapek Throws a Flag on the Play

On October 13th, CEO Bob Chapek speaks out on CNBC:

“I look across our Disney properties — be it Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Walt Disney World, the Disney bubble for the NBA — and all I see is that we’ve been able to open up responsibly using the guidelines that health care experts have given us,” Chapek told CNBC. “As a result, we’ve been very, very successful at reopening without having issues that would preclude us from staying open.”

“We’re limited by the six-foot social-distancing guideline of the CDC and that translates, essentially, to about a 25% park capacity,” Chapek told CNBC. “Every day, that’s about where we’re at — 25% — and that won’t change until the CDC guidelines change.”

Warren Weighs In

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday, August 13th penned a letter to Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek and chairman Bob Iger concerning the recent theme park layoffs the company made, which officials largely blamed on California for not allowing Disneyland to reopen.

Senator Warren

In her letter, the Massachusetts Democrat cited news stories about Disney executives having their pay restored to full just before the layoffs were announced. Due to the pandemic, Disney said in late March there would be pay reductions among the top tier of its brass, which included Chapek and Iger.

One should note that only January of this year, Siebel Newsom, First Partner to Governor Gavin Newsom endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren in the primaries. Is there a connection here? Why is Senator Warren weighing in when Disneyland is the furthest from her home state?

“Now more than ever, women need a champion in the White House — someone who will stand up for working moms, fight for our seats at the tables of power, protect our health care and reproductive choice, and lift up the underappreciated and often invisible contributions that women make daily to society,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement. “There is no person better equipped to fight for us than Elizabeth.”

Senator Warren would return the favor by noting: “Jennifer’s efforts to break the mold and reshape the First Partner’s office to advocate for equal pay and women’s representation will empower women and girls not just in California but around the country and the world,” Warren said in a statement.

Disney responds with the following:

“Senator Warren’s misinformed letter contains a number of inaccuracies. We’ve unequivocally demonstrated our ability to operate responsibly with strict health and safety protocols in place at all of our theme parks worldwide, with the exception of Disneyland Resort in California, where the State has prevented us from reopening even though we have reached agreements with unions representing the majority of our Cast Members that would get them back to work.” 

State Officials Visit Disneyland and Universal

California state officials visited the Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood this week as Gov. Gavin Newsom mulls issuing guidelines to allow the major theme parks to reopen.

Toon Town, Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Union Agreements

Disneyland announced that it has reached agreements with 11 of the 15 labor unions representing its employees on how they can return to work safely amid the pandemic. But the park still doesn’t know when it will be allowed to reopen.

OC Register reports that the Disneyland resort has lost an estimated $2.2 billion in revenue during the 216-day closure of Disney’s Anaheim theme parks, according to Moffett Nathanson, a financial analyst. The Disneyland resort generated an estimated $3.8 billion in revenue last year, according to Nathanson. That works out to approximately $10.4 million in daily revenue generated by the Disneyland resort.

MagicMakers Unite: Re-Open the Gates

A Facebook Page has stated that on Saturday, October 17th at 11:00 am there will be a gathering at the promenade or park gates. It states:

“To stand in unity with the magic makers and all of those who believe in the magic for the reopening of Disneyland. We will be standing for all the 28,000 cast members who were laid off and with more to come if the gates stay closed. Standing for the community and businesses that have been affected. Standing for all the guests from around the world who need joy and inspiration that comes from the magic makers. We still believe in what Walt Disney said when Disneyland first opened in 1955, “To all that come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with hope that it will be a source for joy and inspiration to all the world.” We hope to see Disneyland reopen. We hope that the magic makers feel love and support and know that they are not alone during this time. We hope to bring awareness of the lives that are impacted because Disneyland is forced to remain closed.”

There’s Much More!

Thanks for joining us. Make sure you check out the following:


It’s where we take best-in-business ideas from the “Happiest Place on Earth” and help apply them to your business organization. Visit DisneyatWork.com


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