New Disney attractions still coming despite pandemic, executive says

‘Our industry is hurting,’ Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products said

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The executive who oversees Disney’s theme park division signaled Monday the company is continuing with plans to expand its resorts worldwide despite the COVID-19 pandemic leaving some of its parks shuttered and prompting thousands of layoffs.

“Our industry is hurting,” said Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “Travel and tourism have been disrupted before. Maybe not to this degree. We’re a very resilient industry. Families and friends will always have a need, and a passion, to travel and spend quality time together.”

D’Amaro appeared in a video played during a virtual conference hosted by IAAPA, the Orlando-based association representing the attractions industry.

The video was recorded inside Disneyland, which appeared to be empty. The theme park has been closed since March due to restrictions imposed by the state of California that the company has vocally opposed.

“It was shaping up to be an outstanding year for our guests, our cast members, and our communities. And then, just like that, it felt like the world came to a screeching halt,” said D’Amaro. “The impact was devastating to everyone. Our guests felt the blow.

Nonprofit organizations that rely on us for support felt it. Other local vendors and businesses such as restaurants, hotels, taxi services - they also rely on our ability to attract tourists - and felt the impact as well. And our cast felt it.”

Disney has since reopened its theme parks in Florida, Paris, China, and Hong Kong at limited capacity.

Yet last month Disney announced it would be laying off about 28,000 employees at its U.S. resorts.

“As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude was not easy,” said D’Amaro. “For the last several months, our management team worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company.”

According to D’Amaro, Disney cut expenses, suspended capital projects, and modified its operation to run as efficiently as possible.

“However, we simply could not responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity,” said D’Amaro. “But we believe the decisions we were forced to make were the right steps to enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation.”

The Disney executive said the company plans to bring back some of the live entertainment that was recently discontinued at the theme parks, but he did not provide a timeline or specify which offerings might be restored.

During the presentation, the video below was shown.

The video above shows some of the construction projects currently underway at Disney resorts including a “Star Wars” themed hotel, a roller coaster based on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, and a nighttime show that will eventually open at Epcot.

He also said the kickoff to Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary will take place next year, promising to provide additional details at a later date.

“I don’t mean for this update to sound like a commercial,” said D’Amaro. “What I do want to convey is our confidence in our ability to recover and the fact that we’re still building our future.”

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.