That’s what Disney insider WDW Pro’s latest information dump makes possible if it’s true. Essentially, COVID has Disney so strapped for cash, that some are speculating that it may have to sell assets including ESPN, A & E, History Channel, TRON, or perhaps maybe even Star Wars.
The following was posted by WDW Pro:
Let me preface this post by saying I know much more than I’m going to say in this thread. That’s just the way it’s going to have to be in order to protect sources, prevent doxing, and keep jobs safe. Additionally, it lets those sharing info with me know that if something needs to be off the record, it will stay if the record.
The Disney company is currently hurting for cash, and not by a little. The absolute destruction of the global film industry means that Disney is losing billions and billions of usual expected revenues with no certain end in sight. Mulan has been pushed to the end of August, but even that still seems optimistic, and likely box office revenues may by as low as 20% of what it could have been. A burgeoning cold war with China likewise makes promoting the film an uncertain formula. The MCU is currently benched, live action Star Wars is on pause, Indiana Jones 5 is more unlikely daily, and there’s simply no good path forward outside of the animation studios. Furthering the dearth of income, Disneyland was prepped to reopen at great expense, only to be indefinitely postponed yet again. The money to reopen Walt Disney World has been immense, but with increasing COVID infections in Florida, it seems more and more likely that increasing capacity will be a slow process, which means revenues for WDW will be lower than projected when the rush was approved to get the parks open fast. Adding to this, capex projects needing completing at WDW are substantial, more than ever in the past decade. Conflict has broken out inside Disney’s top levels with some pushing for continued spending in new projects, such as Splash Mountain reskinning, while others are extremely bearish with a view that Disney should hold every possible dollar.
It is from within this paradigm that Disney is now struggling with public messaging not matching internal capabilities. For example, Splash Mountain changes were announced with little design ready to implement, based off of a blue sky design that had a concept art package quickly produced for social media advertising. Just one problem: the actuaries were not approached, nor were budgets forecast for the changes. In fact, you might say a rogue committee approved the decision without determining the cost or the feasibility… and then the company realizes the issue after public announcement. So what to do? As of now, the plan is to “quickly” change the DLR version, where it is more likely to be received positively, then use Epcot capex funds that would have gone to Mary Poppins and JII to change the superior WDW version starting in 2022 or 2023. However, hopes that Disney can plus the attraction are difficult to materialize with Imagineering already completely flummoxed how they can possibly reskin many dozens of animatronics in a crown jewel attraction. One imagineer has compared the task to retheming Pirates of the Caribbean to a Jungle Book ride. Yet more attractions are likely to be modified, budgets be damned. This has created friction even all the way to the Bobs with Iger doing everything he can to save his legacy, while Chapek tries not to be the fall guy while looking at a company in dire financial straits. Whereas Chapek wanted to spend the capital necessary to retrofit MK for a pandemic and then slowly open other parks as demand and money permitted, Iger overruled the plan and pushed for a full reopening to prevent Universal from getting the upper hand.
Now the company has greater inner turmoil than at any point in the recent past. Spending is continuing in spite of depression-like revenues projected for the remainder of the year… and often on new projects of a social nature (changes are coming to Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise, Country Bears, Pirates of the Carribean, Carousel of Progress, etc). This is coming from one or two factions in the company who share overlap. Other factions are scared the company is stretched thin and needs to hold spending as much as possible. Fear also exists that if relations with China deteriorate, the company could lose both Shanghai and Hong Kong. Not since WWII has uncertainty been so high. The cost of maintaining parks during a pandemic are significantly higher, yet raising ticket prices is nearly impossible.
Going forward, what does this mean?
1. Epcot changes are likely to be MUCH less than originally planned.
2. Layoffs are coming.
3. Announced additions are on very long timelines.
4. Disney World having to close again would be devastating.
5. OLC and Disney relations are strained; expect that to manifest in visible ways.
6. Every penny counts, and cost cutting measures can be expected within 12 months.
7?. Is Chapek the fall guy? Many are speculating Iger plans to use him as the scapegoat.
8. 50th celebration is essentially canceled down to only things that cost little… no new floats, no big refurbs.
Additional info on Splash:
This whole Splash Mountain thing was torpedoed by Tokyo. Disney wanted to get completely away from Song of the South, but OLC essentially told them to pound sand. That meant they’re stuck spending enormous money just to match the current quality, and simultaneously NOT getting away from Song of the South. So the only gain they get is Tiana might sell better in the souvenir shop.
And of course, I’m sure this doesn’t make things any better:
And apparently, Disney – or someone – doesn’t want this video to be seen, whatever it was.
Thanks to General Friendliness for the tip.