Why I’m rooting for Shanghai Disneyland, and you should be too
It’s no surprise to anyone who frequents Theme Park Insider that June 16th marks the official grand opening for Shanghai Disneyland, Disney’s largest and most expensive theme park ever. But any excitement that exists seems to be marred with skepticism, apathy and even anger.
Why? Well here are just a few of the reasons, speculations, facts(?) that are leaving a bad taste in many Disney fanboys’ (and girls’) mouths. I can’t speculate or even substantiate any of these, but here are just a few:
- Shanghai Disneyland has absorbed a sizeable piece of the entire Parks and Resorts budget for going on a decade now, at the expense of the stateside parks
- Shanghai Disneyland is over budget and missed its planned opening date by almost a year, causing expense optimization protocols at other Disney parks to make-up for it
- Shanghai Disneyland opens with a slew of brand-new, never before built rides and attractions, using technology that we currently do not at stateside Disney parks
- Shanghai is (and has been) Disney CEO Bob Iger’s major focus for Parks and Resorts, not Disneyland or Walt Disney World
- The construction of Shanghai Disneyland caused delays in the building, expanding and/or re-imagining of stateside parks
But IMHO this should be an exciting time for any Disney Parks fan, and here’s why.
First, remember that a success in Shanghai means everyone wins. Iger, the Disney Company as a whole, you, me, everyone. The fact of the matter is that anything that contributes to the Parks and Resorts division revenue makes Wall Street happy, and when Wall Street is happy, we get to reap the rewards. The larger the Parks and Resorts division becomes, the more visibility, funding and importance is placed on it. So (in theory), if Shanghai is a success, that means more money for the entire division, which means more new rides, lands and expansions for us. If Shanghai were to fail or miss expectations, more money will be funneled to fix it, which means less for everyone else.
Second, like him or not (I happen to), Shanghai is Bob’s baby. His contract was extended (in part) so he could see Shanghai through to grand opening, now that it is here, I speculate one of two things will happen: either Bob will finally vacate his post (soonest would be 2018, due to the latest extension ask from the board) thus bringing in some new blood which should make a lot of Iger-haters happy, or he will continue on indefinitely as CEO. Now, this next statement won’t win me any new friends, but I happen to think that Bob is more of a parks guy than most people. Yes, we went through a rough time where everything at every park started to stagnate, especially stateside. We watched in horror as the parks went underfunded and Disney began to fail to live up to its own lofty standards. But remember that we are in an unprecedented time of expansion for Disney parks…yes, even stateside. Pandora, Cars Land, DHS re-imagining, Disney Springs, Hong Kong Disneyland expansion, Ratatouille, Shanghai, Disney Cruise ship revamps (and two new ships coming) all came out of the Iger era. So let’s give Bob a little credit, I think he likes parks more than his actions show. Also remember, that under Bob, Parks and Resorts overall operating revenue has reached its highest levels ever, and now accounts for over 30% of total Disney Company business. So say what you will, but I’m with Bob.
Lastly, all of the effort, skill and innovation that has brought Shanghai Disneyland to life is a great asset to Disney and us theme park fans. It’s only a matter of time until we see the learnings from Shanghai brought to stateside parks. Disney has done several things for the first-time ever over in China, and now (or soon), the team over in China will come back, hopefully with some amazing things to implement here in the US. Can you imagine if DHS phase 3 included a ‘Treasure Cove’ or ‘Adventure Isle’ with a clone of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride, Pirates Battle for Sunken Treasure and an updated Indy Stunt Show?! Just sayin.’
So whatever your opinions are, let’s agree that from what we’ve seen, Disney brought it’s A+ game to China. As for Disney, I’m wishing them well in China and looking forward to them bringing that A+ game back to the states. As for me, I’m going to re-watch YouTube on-ride videos of Pirates and Tron Lightcycles…for the hundredth time and smile ear to ear.
More Shanghai Disneyland Coverage:
There's a number of BIG risks from Shanghai.
Well now that it's built we have to root for it to do financially well. However my patience for new projects in Orlando is running low.
I'm not a super-knowledgeable Disney guy, but I hear about the great technological advances in overseas Disney parks. How often do they get over here?
Am I the only one who think everyone is over stating how GREAT the Shangahi Pirates ride is? It looks cool, but not earth shattering GREAT IMHO.
Building a park in Orlando was a stroke of brilliance. There is nothing to do, no big city to party in, no beach to distract.
Of course we have to root for Shanghai DL to be a success. If it isn't, maybe that will be an excuse for another round of "expense optimization protocols" (translation: penny-pinching cutbacks).
So much wishful thinking in this article.
I'm sorry - "Indiana Jones Adventure Ride." Did I miss an attraction at Shanghai? I'm thinking the Indy reference was a typo.
We've not had an e-ticket attraction in Orlando for over 10 years. The same time as the project for Shanghai began. #THANKSSHAGHAI
I hope Disney Shanghai will be a successful project. I have faith for the project because China economic is still strong.
What I don't get is the idea that the American parks have to cover the shortages.
Bob Iger is a slave to corporation machine, who sole motivation is the Disney share price. He does not care one iota about whether there are any new attractions in Orlando, or California. He has no vision or love for the parks, he's primarily a love for movies which is where his passion lies. As long as the attendence keeps rising he won't give a damn whether the parks are a shadow of their former selves, with hardly any new attractions in years (AND NO I'M NOT COUNTING RETAIL STORES!)
What!!?? Cut executive pay? You must be joking! Low wage, frontline workers get cut. You know, the people that actually do the work. Executives control the pay, so they will always vote for bonuses for themselves and cut workers. If an executive actually put his own money on the line, that would be taking responsibility for their actions. Why would they do that? Keep the multi-million dollar bonuses comin' and keep makin' those cuts.
I could not be less convinced by the arguments made in this article. I could not care less if Shanghai is a success or failure for Disney and Bob Igor. The American parks will survive regardless and it will not have any long-term impact on the US parks either way. This is a concern for the corporate executives and shareholders more than it is for the stakeholders.
To respond to a couple of the comments....
Well Bryan, I was happy to read something optimistic about SDL. Event if it is a bit overoptimistic, it brings... balance to the Force! ;) I think you got a point: event if we complain that US or (in my case French) parks should have more, some big E-Tickets are coming (Pandora, Star Wars). And in no way should we hope a failure for SDL, because if SDL works well the parks division will be able to say something like "see, this is a profitable business, so gives us money and you will be rewarded with benefits". That's how it works...
Thank you, Bryan.
It seems to me that people are under the impression that just because WDW hasn't built a new e-ticket in a while that it automatically means that the parks aren't good anymore. Take it from someone who's been visiting Florida parks his whole life; whenever I go to WDW, I still enjoy myself just as much as I did in the pre-Iger days. The attractions are still the best I've ever seen, the theming and attention-to-detail are still almost flawless, the customer service is still the best I've ever had anywhere, and it is astounding just how high the maintenance level is.
As a shareholder I have a considerable interest in seeing DIS execute further cost reductions combined with steep price increases on APs.
The theme park division is only a "global" business because they can't help overexpanding. They would rather toss the dice over and over, building international parks hither and yon, rather than improve and maximize the potential of their existing parks.
"What I don't get is the idea that the American parks have to cover the shortages.
As a SoCal kid I grew up going to Disneyland, my Dad worked there in the early 70's and I have three relatives who work at WDW now but once corporations become global and more dependent on satisfying their shareholders than their costumers they no longer deserve any loyalty. The bottom line for someone like me who is not directly invested in WDC is that if their domestic parks become too neglected, mismanaged or costly I will just spend my money elsewhere. I'm not rooting for Shanghai to fail but if it's great success it will likely encourage more international parks and that will ultimately overextend the company and ruin the brand.
Reply to 18.104.22.168
So, by that logic...
Q: "What I don't get is the idea that the American parks have to cover the shortages."
"I ask again: why, oh why, couldn't they have just built these great new attractions in the stateside parks, instead?? "
In response to the two posts above...
I will never understand what Iger was thinking, building this $5 billion park in China. They have no familiarity with Disney IP - to the extent that Disney had to do information campaigns to teach the Chinese people about Disney. It's just absurd. I was pleasantly shocked that Iger admitted this week to the WSJ that they went $3 billion OVER budget on Shanghai due to the level of skills of the construction workers. And most of all I will not support DL Shanghai - I am a dog lover - need I say more. As Gandhi said:'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' Google how China treats their dogs, or even the angora rabbits.
Q: Might it not be a good idea to keep your customers happy?
Reply to "THe WDCo is a global business and needs to be run as such." - 22.214.171.124
I just want to say that Pirates Shanghai is INCREDIBLE. A video does not do it justice, as in the ride, you are completely immersed. I can't say enough about it.
Sure it's an amazing ride. I've never before been blown away by a mere ride video. My jaw was dropping while watching the video!
"As a HR professional we are ALWAYS tasked with reducing expenses via headcount or hours. FT hours are not cut because they are full-time. However, PT hours are continually in a state of flux because they are hired with the knowledge their hours will fluctuate based on need and budget."
As a shareholder in DIS you better believe it's all about the bottom line. I think DIS needs to reduce costs even further in the theme parks, where labor and maintenance are the highest expenditures. Capitalism is about the bottom line. And reflected in your 401(k) return on investment. Not via warm fuzzies!
I am not sure what metric we are using here, but DLP has turned it around. Granted, it is still very expensive, the rides are pretty stunning.
Yeah, construction projects are ongoing, but will any of them show the same quality as what we've seen in Shanghai?
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