Disney’s Options for China and California

(Photo credit: Disney)

With Disneyland Resort all but closed until at least late spring of 2021, The Walt Disney Company is readying its response to California. But this next time, it won’t be just words.

Imagine for a moment that you’re Disney. In January of 2020, everything was going exceedingly well. The company had never been bigger, stronger, or more prosperous. Bob Iger was still the CEO, selling a book about how great he had been, and declaring that Shanghai Disney was the most important piece of real estate since the company purchased Walt Disney World in Florida. Literally everything about the company except for Lucasfilm and ESPN were red hot incredible.

Then the pandemic hits, a virus that escaped communist China. Suddenly the film industry is annihilated. Theme parks all over the world are shut down. Disney’s revenue stream is completely dry except for Disney+, which cost such a fortune to start that it will take years before it recoups its investment. America and China enter into a soft cold war, risking your multi-billion dollar investment in Asian theme parks should you say one wrong thing. One wrong word and the Chinese government can take away billions of assets in second.

Iger was tasked with getting the NBA to Walt Disney World in order to keep WDW profitable. The deal was made, but the NBA’s public approval tanked due to their own connections with the Chinese Communist Party and divisive social justice causes. Disney needed to get films out, but one of the only films they could move to either theaters or streaming was a movie literally created within miles of concentration camps. Meanwhile, the company clamped down on attendance at WDW far longer than was economically wise, just so California would be more likely to open up Disneyland. That didn’t happen. So, things have not been going swimmingly.

Now, with Disney desperately needing China-America relations to improve, and with them only making any sort of significant revenue off of Walt Disney World (relatively speaking)… Disney’s been effectively shut down in California. Disneyland Resort, for all intents and purposes, is an abandoned set of theme parks.

Despite playing their cards as perfectly as they could to placate Governor Newsom of California, despite giving the vast majority of their employee political contributions to his party, despite partaking in every possible maneuver to curry favor… Disneyland is not allowed to reopen. No wonder they won’t speak out against the Chinese government. Even a state in America is able to take away their business, little alone a genocidal totalitarian nation of more than a billion.

The OC Register is claiming that the theme park industry is preparing to take legal action against California. That may well be true. But here are some of the things Disney has in their arsenal that they might use to respond in an effort to reopen Disneyland:

First, Disney could legitimately begin moving large parts of their operations out of state. They can’t move Disneyland proper, but they can move parts of their studios to states such as Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and other locales. Second, Disney has ABC News and they know how to wield its power for political purposes. There’s nothing stopping them from moving towards negative coverage of California and the governor in order to move public opinion. Additionally, and although extremely unlikely, Disney could actually move their headquarters to Florida or New York. Behind the table, Disney can start funneling their political influence to opponents of Newsom, and they almost certainly have channels to let him know that’s their intent.

For sure, there seems to be little way that Disney can avoid more layoffs what with the theme parks closed indefinitely. In fact, it’s hard to see how the parks can open at all given that they can be forced to close once more with little notice depending on COVID cases in the area. But layoffs probably won’t affect the California state government and its mandates. So far the state that has Disneyland closed also has requirements for how you chew your Thanksgiving dinner. That’s not the sort of government that cares if you get a Mickey balloon anytime soon. It’s certainly not the type of government that will allow Disneyland to open many of its rides when it does finally get the green light – can’t have you walking indoors after all!

But as we’ve said before, much of this is Disney’s own doing. They courted the Chinese, they invested billions in a country that can take it all away arbitrarily at the drop of a hat. They helped build California’s culture and government into what it is today, and now they’re stuck being told when and how they’ll make any money at all in the state. The only question now is how long will Mickey stay in that mouse trap before he realizes his back is being broken. They’ve made decisions that Walt never would have thought possible.

What is your thinking on Disney’s options moving forward? Drop a comment below:

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WDW Pro is a reliable source for insider scoops, rumors, and news for the entertainment industry, specifically Disney. In 2020, and in spite of rapidly changing decisions behind the scenes, WDW Pro maintained an 87% accuracy rate for reports about Disney Parks' plans prior to public reveal. Pro seeks to detail the latest in entertainment with a focus on ethical, counter-narrative truthfulness.