Theme Park of the Day: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney to consolidate more Disneyland, Disney World management

February 18, 2009, 5:41 PM · Disney announced today that it will lay off more managers in its theme park and attraction divisions, and that to do so, it will consolidate more operations common to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, as well as its Disney Vacation Club and other remote properties.

While I try to track down more of what this means to theme park fans, here's the LA Times write-up of today's announcement.

Frankly, much of what Disney does ought to be handled at a central location, including buying supplies, souvenirs and operational support. And some of that happens now. Under this plan, more will.

That said, I hope that Disney's Worldwide Operations team keeps this in mind (and I think I speak for many fans when I write this): I have never in my life, and never will, buy a sweatshirt or any other souvenir that says "Disney Parks" on it.

I want the sweatshirt I buy in Anaheim to say "Disneyland" and the one I buy in Lake Buena Vista to say "Walt Disney World." Those are Disney's theme park brands. With the volume that Disney commands, it ought to be trivial for one office at Disney HQ to order those two designs from the same source, if Disney chooses. If Disney consolidates on the back end, fine, but it should never make the mistake of trying to cram a generic experience down visitors' throats. My $.02.

Replies (7)

February 18, 2009 at 6:42 PM · "If Disney consolidates on the back end, fine, but it should never make the mistake of trying to cram a generic experience down visitors' throats. My $.02."

You are absolutely right Robert. Such is an example of the juggling act Disney will have to perform. Balancing cost effectiveness with product integrity isn't something they've had to do much of lately. Their problem...they can't afford to maintain their operations as they have in the past, yet they can't afford to sacrifice that "Disney magic", lest it loses it's luster with the fans.

The question...will Disney maintain it's product integrity with sensible decisions that consider business and entertainment? or will it slowly start clinging to the bottom line and sacrifice that quality of experience?

February 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM · The quality of the visitor experience will be the last thing to go for Disney. It is their bread and butter, and the one thing that really separates them from the rest of the amusment park pack. It is also the one thing I think they are so good at that, for the most part, it comes naturally.

You probably won't see any new $80 million dollar attractions over the next few years (DCA excepted, of course - all the "new attraction money" is going to that park for now). Instead Disney will maintain/improve their current attractions and continue to "make memories" by offering an immersive, customer-focused visitor experience.

Something Six Flags has learned the hard way: Hyper coasters are expensive, providing great customer service is not.

Hmmm...there's a book title in there somewhere....

February 18, 2009 at 11:11 PM · As somebody who works at the Disney Store, Disney has a huge problem, as many other compainies do, selling the paticulars. They need to sell things to try to make a profit as large as possible so it would be cheaper to have similar stuff! The Yeti from Everest/Matterhorn are the same too!

Anyway, point well taken Robert! I want a WDW or DL sweatshirt, not so much a neutral one, but Disney does use the same stuff and its theme parks often such as plush etc.

From the Disney Store end, we are starting to carry less and less adult stuff :(

February 19, 2009 at 6:53 AM · I work with an executive in our company who was a former executive at WDW and believes in a very process oriented discipline. Disney operates along these lines already but individually. Running a consolidated back office and support teams that service both entities won't be that difficult to manage. The transition to that on the other hand could take some time.

I work for a company that has 8 divisions all with distinct branding and for the most part operate in a similar model with centralized IT, HR, Finance, and such. It can be done but does require a heightened level of communication and planning. Both of which are a challenge in any medium to large company. But Disney isn't new at this so I think they'll figure it out. And with the marketing machine they run, they won't be cutting corners on anything that could turn them a dollar such as $40 sweatshirts.

February 19, 2009 at 10:48 AM · Can you tell that the "Disney Parks" thing just drives me nuts? If they need an all-parks brand, I'd rather see a shirt with "The Magic of Disney" or something like that than the ultra-lame "Disney Parks."

That just makes me think of generic packaging, like going into a grocery and seeing a row of white cans stamped with "Beer" in black letters. Ugh.

Consolidated back office operations makes generic, cross-property branding logistically possible, but I hope that's one opportunity enabled by this change that Disney choose to leave on the table.

February 19, 2009 at 10:48 AM · Cost cutting with operations is one thing, but what about all of those park personnel being laid off? Is it just that they were management heavy to begin with and can really keep things going without these guys? or are they burning the candle at both ends with a thinly spread staff. If the latter is the case, then they could have some issues. You can't effectively run a resort of that size, scope, reputation, and detail without people and leaders to lead them.

If they are cutting back the programs along with their management, that's fine, but trying to save everything they offer at the expense of their employees isn't wise, because the brand will suffer if they do that. Streamlining their warehouses, IT, and other things related to the cost of doing business will only take them so far if attendance and guest spending drops.

Think of it in governmental terms. They can either raise taxes (ie cost to the consumer), or they can cut spending. They've already given big discounts with hotel rooms. Trying to maintain everything they have while cutting taxes is not going to work...plain and simple. We as a country may find out the hard way just how much it won't work, but Disney has a chance now to prevent potentially bigger problems in the future.

February 19, 2009 at 9:32 PM · I'm also worried what the consolidation of WDI will mean...does this mean no more Florida office? Are they going to combine WDI and Walt Disney Creative Entertainment into one organization? And most importantly, how will this affect the creative flow of ideas that once spewed from WDI headquarters into the parks in the form of new, innovative, creative, immersive, and well-themed rides and attractions? We already have seen Disney come up flat in terms of new rides this year and over the next couple, especially compared to USH with Transformers, IOA with Harry Potter, USF with RRR, and Sea World with Manta

I am very concerned...

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