Sadly, the layoffs that have affected Disney Parks, Resorts and Products are also coming to Walt Disney Imagineering.
According to The Orange County Register‘s Brady MacDonald, a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act revealed that 411 Imagineers are expected to be laid off from their campus in Glendale, California.
Disney has struggled to recover from the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure closed with the rest of the Disneyland Resort back in March, and have yet to reopen. Yesterday, Disney Parks announced the layoff of 28,000 Cast Members. In a memo, Disney Parks, Resorts and Products President Josh D’Amaro said: “Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic, we were forced to close our businesses around the world. Few of us could have imagined how significantly the pandemic would impact us — both at work and in our daily lives. We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case.”
Keep reading WDWNT for continuing updates on this ongoing story.
Walt Disney has announced it will lay off 28,000 employees, mostly at its US theme parks.
Disney cited the parks’ limited visitor capacity and uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic would last as reasons for the layoffs.
The company’s theme parks have taken a major hit from the pandemic.
Disney shut all its parks earlier this year as the virus spread, but only Disneyland in California remains closed.
“We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the parks unit, said in a statement.
The layoffs apply to “domestic employees” of which about 67% are part-time.
Disney also has parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris, which are not affected by the announcement.
Hong Kong Disney reopened last week after shutting down for a second time in July due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Except for Disneyland in California, all of the company’s parks have now reopened, although visitor numbers are limited to allow for social distancing.
Disney lost $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in the three months to 27 June, with revenues for its Parks, Experiences and Products division plummeting 85% compared to the same quarter in 2019.
Mr D’Amaro said the company’s problems were “exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”
Disney has been working to persuade California to allow the company to reopen Disneyland.
The Scarlett Johansson Marvel movie “Black Widow,” last set for Nov. 6, heads to May 7 of next year. Instead of opening next month, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery “Death on the Nile” moves to Dec. 18. That was the date originally set for “West Side Story,” but Spielberg’s remake of the classic 1961 musical will instead debut in December 2021.
Disney didn’t entirely abandon the season. The Pixar release “Soul” remains on the calendar for late November. “The Empty Man,” a horror release from the former 20th Century Fox, is moving up from December to Oct. 23.
But the delays of Disney’s highly anticipated films reinforce the growing exodus from 2020 among the blockbusters that hadn’t already uprooted to next year.
Following tepid ticket sales for the spy-fi film “Tenet” — in a U.S. theatrical marketplace where about 30% of cinemas remain closed — Warner Bros moved “Wonder Woman 1984” from October to Christmas. The supernatural slasher tale “Candyman,” from Oscar winner Jordan Peele, has also been postponed by Universal Pictures until next year.
Given the interconnected nature of Marvel releases, the latest delay of “Black Widow” had a domino effect on other films from the comic book kingdom. Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” starring Simu Liu as the martial arts hero, is now slated for July 9, 2021, instead of May 7. Chloé Zhao “Eternals,” with Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani, moves from February to Nov. 5, 2021.
“Marvel made the right and responsible decision,” Nanjiani said on Twitter. “There’s a pandemic. Nothing is more important than health and lives. I can’t tell people to go to a movie theater until I feel safe going to one.”
The Ben Affleck-Ana de Armas thriller “Deep Water” was also pushed from November until August next year.
Notably, Disney didn’t announce any films were pivoting to its Disney+ streaming service. Since the pandemic began, the company’s “Mulan,” “Hamilton” and “Artemis Fowl” have gone direct to streaming. “Mulan” was made available for a special $30 premium purchase by subscribers. Disney has declined to share digital grosses for “Mulan,” though the live-action remake has underperformed in theaters overseas.
Disney is facing backlash after the final credits for its latest film “Mulan” thanked government entities in Xinjiang, the province where Muslims have faced human rights abuses.
The film had already generated controversy after its lead actress, Liu Yifei, recently expressed support for police crackdowns in Hong Kong, spurring talks of boycotts on social media.
That sentiment only increased after it came to light that Disney filmed scenes for the “Mulan” movie in China’s Xinjiang province, where Beijing is accused of detaining more than 1 million Uighur Muslims.
After releasing “Mulan” on Disney+, eagle-eyed viewers noticed a “special thanks” in the film’s end credits that named eight government entities in Xinjiang, including the public security bureau in the city of Turpan, where the country is allegedly operating more than a dozen “reeducation” camps.
The credits also thank the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee, an agency that produces state propaganda efforts.
Representatives for Disney did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
China has been under scrutiny for its treatment of Muslim minorities for years. It has been reported that Uighur Muslims have been detained in camps, subjected to political indoctrination and forced labor.
“Mulan” is set to be released theatrically in China this weekend. The country has become an increasingly important market for Hollywood: It is the second-highest grossing box office in the world. China is also one of the regions where theaters have been able to reopen successfully during the pandemic, driving millions of dollars in ticket sales.
John Boyega has expressed his frustration at being “pushed to the side” in the sequels to his Star Wars debut The Force Awakens, saying that Disney gave “all the nuance” to Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley’s white characters in the later films.
In a candid interview with GQ, Boyega also suggests his fellowed diverse major cast members, including Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran and Oscar Isaac, were all victims of similar fates.
“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up,” commented Boyega.
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“You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all,” he continued. “So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience.”
He added that some of the film’s white cast members did not suffer the same outcomes, “They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”
In the interview, Boyega also expressed his frustration with how his casting and performances in the franchise were often perceived through the prism of his race.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race… It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realize, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’
“Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and black that and you shouldn’t be a Stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”
His comments follows a summer where Boyega stood out as a vocal, prominent and articulate campaigner for change following the killing of George Floyd. The actor made an impassioned speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London back in June, for which he earned widespread praise and recognition.
“Sometimes you just need to be mad,” he told GQ on the speech. “You need to lay down what it is that’s on your mind. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to play the game.”
Boyega will soon be seen in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, and the actor said the experience was a positive one. “Steve [brought] up things I could relate to and comes with a creative mind like I’ve never experienced before…It reminded me of my happiest days at drama school. Being on set was like I’d been given the chance to breathe.”
Just a month after re-opening for park guests, Walt Disney World is re-strategizing as they forge a new path amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. This week, Disney World has announced they will be adjusting the operating hours at all four theme parks at the Orlando resort. The move comes at the same time Disney CEO BobChapek went on record saying some park guests are reportedly canceling their trips and billions of dollars lost in the first months of park closures.
As reported via The Hollywood Reporter, Disney World will be opening and closing Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and the Magic Kingdom within an hour or two of the previous hours. However, the hours for the first Disney World location to re-open, Disney Springs, will be unchanged. These new hours across the various Disney World locations will take effect on September 8 and are expected to last through October. It’s unclear if there are plans to revert to the previous hours or further adjust after October.
Image via Walt Disney World
News of these adjusted hours arrives just one month after Disney World completely reopened to guests on July 11. Upon re-opening, it was made clear new health and safety protocols would be in place, like wearing face masks, in order to keep guests safe from the potential spread of COVID-19. The move was monumental, with Disney keen to re-open following a four-month shutdown in the early days of the pandemic which left the company working hard to re-assess how to survive this unprecedented event.
The impact of the pandemic on Disney’s finances has been incredible. During an earnings call last week, it was revealed (via USA Today) the company lost nearly $5 billion in losses in April, May, and June. Additionally, Chapek has noted during that same call (via CinemaBlend) how the second wave of COVID-19 sweeping through the nation as the summer comes to a close has affected guest reservation habits. He shared, “Unfortunately, [COVID-19] struck again and all the numbers started going up. This gave some level of trepidation to travelers that were anxious about long-distance travel getting on a plane and flying to Walt Disney World. So what we’ve seen is that we’ve had roughly 50% of our guest base still traveling from a distance…We’ve also had a higher than expected level of cancellations once somebody does make a reservation because as the disease ebbs and flows they might necessarily cancel.”
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.
Here are the new hours announced earlier this week (all times in ET):
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (previously 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (previously 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
EPCOT: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (previously 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
Magic Kingdom: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (previously 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Disney Springs: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (hours remain unchanged)
Disney will release its live-action film Mulan online through its Disney Plus service on Sept. 4, but it won’t be included as part of a standard subscription. Mulan will cost $30 in the US in addition to Disney Plus‘ regular subscription fee, and it will be priced at roughly the same amount in international markets where it’ll be available online too, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of countries in Western Europe.
Mulan, which Disney originally slated for theaters in March but had to push back the release date multiple times because of the coronavirus, will be released as what’s known as premium video on demand. Typically, that means a high-priced rental, but Disney will give customers access to watch Mulan indefinitely as long as they keep their Disney Plus subscription active. You’re essentially buying the brand-new movie, rather than unlocking a one-time rental.
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Don’t get your hopes up yet that other mega-budget films — like Marvel‘s Black Widow with a theatrical release date set for Nov. 6 — necessarily will follow the same quick path onto your living-room TV. The company characterized Mulan‘s release as a onetime deal, though it could serve as an experiment that guides its future release decisions.
“Mulan is a one-off,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday during a call that discussed the company’s fiscal third-quarter results. “That said, we find it very interesting to be able to … learn from it and see what happens, not only in terms of the uptake of the number of subscribers that we get on the platform but the actual number of transactions on the Disney Plus platform that we get.”
It will be offered exclusively through the company’s Disney Plus streaming service, seemingly holding out from other popular stores for online rentals like Apple’s TV app, Amazon Video and others.
The company will also release Mulan theatrically on Sept. 4 in markets where cinemas are open and where Disney Plus isn’t operating yet.
“We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters, while also further enhancing the value and attractiveness of the Disney Plus subscription with great content,” Chapek said.
The decision marks an unprecedented approach to releasing a big-budget movie that had been destined to be a blockbuster back when theaters were open worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered cinemas around the globe and forced studios across the board to delay big-budget films for months and years, with no certainty in sight for when theaters can reopen at large or when audiences will feel comfortable sitting in windowless, enclosed rooms for hours.
It’s also a major defection from the rigid rules that usually keep new movies only in theaters for 75 days or more, as well as a surprising change to how Disney Plus has been pitched to audiences since it launched in November. Disney Plus is Disney’s online hub for streaming almost everything the company produces, but it was marketed as an all-you-can-eat buffet like Netflix, where your subscription unlocks everything on the platform to watch. Mulan will bring an a la carte transaction to Disney Plus that its 60 million subscribers haven’t yet encountered.
Disney’s changes underscore how disruptive the pandemic has been to Hollywood studios’ meticulously planned release cycles. With theaters closed and coronavirus preventive measures keeping people stuck at home, studios have mostly decided to keep pushing back the theatrical release dates for mega-budget pictures. But with their tentpole movies in a holding pattern, studios could be setting themselves up to all release a glut of movies on top of each other, crimping ticket sales.
Already, smaller-budget films began to go straight to online rentals or streaming services, such as Disney’s decision to release its Hamilton film and its young-adult sci-fi movie Artemis Fowl on Disney Plus rather than in theaters. And Universal has released new movies like DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour and others as special online rentals.
But Universal’s Trolls World Tour online release enraged cinemas, with US chain AMC even vowing it would ban Universal movies from its screens, including its blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise. Cinemas have doggedly clung to rules that keep new movies only in theaters for months, even as audiences have grown more accustomed to watching video when they want, where they want. Then last month Universal struck a deal with AMC to patch things up, promising to give theaters three weekends of exclusivity for new movies going forward in exchange for lifting the ban on its movies, a signal that cinemas are willing to compromise.
Disney, however, has been one of the Hollywood studios most dedicated to theatrical release. It’s decision to put out Mulan online reinforces the prospect that these alternative release strategies devised in the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic may have lasting effects even after cinemas start reopening at large.
Disney Plus’ standard subscriptions costs $7 a month, or $70 a year, in the US. In Canada, Disney Plus is priced at C$9 a month, or C$90 per year.
In countries that are part of the euro zone, it is 7 euros, or 70 euros a year. In the UK, it is £6 a month, or £60 a year. In Australia, it’s priced at AU$9 a month, or AU$90 per year, while New Zealand subscribers pay NZ$10 per month, or NZ$100 per year. In India, Disney Plus Hotstar is priced at 299 Indian rupees a month, or 999 rupees a year. In Japan, Disney Plus is 700 yen a month through an exclusive partnership with Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo.
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As Disney reopened their premier theme park, Walt Disney World, today in Florida amid exploding coronavirus numbers, social media immediately took the entertainment conglomerate to task by criticizing the decision to resume theme parks operations, calling it premature and risky.
Florida has now seen more than 250,000 total cases of confirmed coronavirus cases and has tallied more than 300 deaths in the last three days, with 11,000 new cases reported on today’s park reopening day.
I can’t say how utterly disappointed I am in Disneythey cater to Families and CHILDREN! At what point do they stop with money making and look after the families with CHILDREN?! Disney World reopens to the general public amid Florida’s surge in virus cases https://t.co/8EbU6EsU29
A Twitter user compared a photo of socially-distancing cast members released by Disney Parks before the opening and a photo from inside Disney World today.
Other early visitors were just happy to be back in the park after the long shutdown.
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Some social media users took aim at the cheery “Welcome Back” videos Disney put out ahead of its world resort’s reopening. Remixing the park footage with eerie music, including the opening theme from horror classic The Shining, they reimagined Disney’s reopening as a sign of a dystopian present. See the pair of Disney videos and their dark counterparts.
With Minnie and Mickey, Josh D’Amaro waves to guests gathered on Main Street USA, in the Magic Kingdom in the final minutes before the park closed, Sunday night, March 15, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Walt Disney World announced that all their Florida parks will be closed for the rest of March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Walking up Main Street to Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida may look at little different in the wake of the coronvirus pandemic, but that doesn’t seem to be dampening the spirits of Disney’s cast members or its most avid fans.
“There’s a lot of trust here, both from our cast members and our guests, and we’ve got a responsibility to deliver on that trust,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products segment.
While D’Amaro declined to give specific ticketing numbers, he noted that guests are booking reservations to visit Disney’s parks and resorts as far out as 2021.
“People love Disney, they love the experiences here,” he said. “They understand the world is different, they are watching us put together these great plans and we are seeing them book for the near term and the long term.”
D’Amaro was officially named to the post of chairman in May, about four months after Bob Chapek departed the position to replace Bob Iger as CEO. He took the helm of Disney’s parks, resorts, cruises, experiences and consumer products a little under three months after the company was forced to shutter all of its theme parks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As Disney has prepared to reopen its parks, D’Amaro has spent the last week interacting with cast members and guests during soft opening events at its parks in Florida. He said that cast members are comfortable with Disney’s new safety measures, which include a mandatory mask policy and temperature checks, and that guests have been “cooperative” with the parks’ new rules.
At Disney Springs, which reopened in late May, “all guests are wearing their face masks and everyone understands their shared responsibility,” D’Amaro said.
Disney has employed specific cast members to look out for guests that “may have had a little slip up” and didn’t replace their mask after eating or drinking, D’Amaro said. Because of all the signage and communication from the company about expectations and rules, he doesn’t expect there to be too many incidents.
Disneyland in California is still awaiting guidelines from government officials before announcing its new reopening date, but guests can expect a similar set of safety measures in Anaheim, D’Amaro said.
Additionally, the construction of Avengers Campus, a new land that was slated to open in July of this year, “will definitely be moving forward” and is “looking fantastic,” he said. D’Amaro did not provide a specific timeline for when that new Marvel-themed land would open to the public.
On Saturday, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom in Florida reopen to the public, and will be followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15. Disneyland Paris is also slated for reopening on July 15.
“We feel really good about everything that is in place,” D’Amaro said.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.