Today Disney’s Chairman of Parks, Experiences, and Products, Josh D’Amaro, presented at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference. During his appearance, he was asked directly by the event moderator / JP Morgan media analyst Phil Cutick about how the dispute with Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, has impacted Disney’s financials. D’Amaro said it hasn’t, and in regards to his answer, that’s true. But it’s arguable that the success is because of Florida and not in spite of Florida.
According to Deadline, D’Amaro was asked if the issues between Walt Disney World and DeSantis have “altered parks operations in any way.”
The Disney chief’s answer was, “It has not. As you’ve seen in our results, the progress we’ve made coming out of Covid has been exceptionally strong.”
The most interesting point is his discussion about how the company has fared coming out of COVID. The reason the Walt Disney Company managed as well as it did was two-fold.
The first reason was the newly formed streaming service and the company’s ability to offer films in a video-on-demand, up-charged format while theaters were shuttered.
The second reason is more interesting in regards to the question and answer. Disney theme parks are a massive part of their “bottom line,” during the pandemic, all of Disney’s theme parks were required to close for an extended period, except for Walt Disney World. That park was the only one allowed to reopen by the summer of 2020 because of DeSantis and the state of Florida.
Disney tried to use their “track record” with reopening protocols in Florida to argue it should be allowed to reopen sooner in California. Still, they were rebuffed, and Disney was calling out Governor Newsome then. Disneyland did not open for more than a year after it shut down.
The New York Times even stated that the reopening of Walt Disney World helped to keep Disney “remarkably buoyant” during the crisis.
“Despite the impact of the pandemic, Disney’s share price has been remarkably buoyant, with investors overlooking near-term losses and focusing on comeback efforts — most notably the return of some sporting events and the reopening of a retrofitted Walt Disney World to a limited number of visitors.”
It seems ironic that, given the current situation in Florida over the Reedy Creek Improvement District dissolution, D’Amaro would use Disney’s progress from Covid as a reason their bottom line was still “exceptionally strong” given that Florida and DeSantis were a big reason why that was.
D’Amaro still says Disney is still spending $17 billion in Florida. The Lake Nona cancelation had little to do with retaliation towards the state. At this point, the people being punished by the cancelation are the businesses that had contracts with the Lake Nona project and the employees that already relocated to Florida from California.
Disney wants to spend a large sum in the state, but one has to wonder how much the lawsuits Disney filed will drag out the possibilities of new projects as they no longer have complete control over approval. While they keep touting this large amount, they are canceling a hotel and upcoming projects, cutting jobs, Disney+ and Hulu shows, and more to stay “nimble” in the current market.
At this point, all we have seen is talk and potential “Blue Sky” expansions and no actual announcements other than Meet and Greets.
While D’Amaro is correct that Disney came out of Covid strong, it’s also fair to say that a large part of that was due to Florida and not despite it.
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