The 50th-anniversary celebrations at Disney World begin, and there is a lot on the line.
“I don’t do business with folks who work at carnivals.”
According to tradition, a landowner denied Walt Disney’s effort to purchase oceanfront property in the Florida Panhandle in 1959 with those comments. It may have been one of history’s most egregious economic errors. Instead of going to a tiny Central Florida town called Orlando to develop his East Coast counterpart of Disneyland, the founder of the theme park industry went to Walt Disney World, which now spans 42 square miles, employs more than 70,000 people, and receives nearly 50 million visitors annually.
On Friday, Disney World kicked off its 50th-anniversary celebrations with confetti cannons set to a maximum blizzard, the only setting available to Disney Parks marketing. The promotion will last at least 18 months and include new roller coasters for Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. In addition, this new high-end hotel will simulate travel on a “Star Wars” galactic cruiser, two new fireworks extravaganzas, limited-edition merchandise, and MagicBand+, wearable technology that will unlock interactive experiences (for a fee).
There’s also a theme song called “The Magic Is Calling,” which isn’t exactly subtle.
Those who despise the company’s sugary, supertanker approach to family entertainment will undoubtedly recoil even more. However, millions of people will respond to Disney’s appeal, putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the corporation, airlines, and the Orlando economy, all of which are still recovering from the pandemic.
“There has been a lot of interest,” said Jeffrey Merola, owner of Mouse Vacation Planning in Syracuse, N.Y., a Disney-focused affiliate of Direct Travel. “However, I have had several folks reschedule for 2022. They want to observe how the coronavirus develops, and several of Disney’s larger anniversary offers won’t be available until then.” (Take, for example, those roller coasters.)
On Friday afternoon, Mr Merola, a guidebook author, talked from the Orlando airport. In the morning, he had gone to the Magic Kingdom. But, he explained, “I wanted to be there on the actual anniversary because it felt historic.”
The availability of coronavirus vaccines spurred families to return in huge numbers, resulting in a profit of $356 million for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products in the most recent quarter. (In the same period a year before, the division lost $1.9 billion.) On Aug. 12, Disney’s chief financial officer, Christine M. McCarthy, told investors, “We’re going to be growing capacity as we have the demand.”
However, the Delta version resulted in cancellations, with travel agents reporting that families were again concerned about flying to Florida, particularly with children who were too young to be vaccinated. In remarks at a recent investor conference, Disney CEO Bob Chapek conceded that Delta had had “a little of an impact,” but that reservations for the end-of-year holidays were holding up. Disney’s safety precautions, such as mask regulations, had proven to be beneficial, he said.
On Thursday night, Mr Chapek and Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman, gave addresses in front of Cinderella’s Castle. The corporation had embellished with gold embellishments and iridescent paint (called EARidescent in Disney promos). Fans had reacted positively to the new design, especially when compared to the castle’s disastrous 25th-anniversary makeover in 1996 when Disney turned it into a Pepto Bismol-colored cake.
On the other hand, you can’t please everyone:
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