Disney Throws Doubt on Quick Reopening with Latest Move

April 6, 2020, 11:38 AM · After announcing a furlough of many salaried and non-union hourly theme park cast members, Disney now is suspending its internship programs, starting April 18.

Disney previously dismissed its spring class of Disney College Program participants and now is working to send international Cultural Representative home by April 17. But the big news for theme parks is that Disney has told its incoming June class of College Program and Cultural Representative participants that they will not be needed to report as planned.

Disney said that it will invite those Cultural Representatives to complete their program at a later date and will allow the June class of College Program to reapply "when the time is right," even if they have graduated.

With internship programs such as these providing thousands of cast members for the parks, these moves provide the strongest indication to date that Disney is not, at the moment, planning to staff for the resumption of full operations in June. Disney is accepting reservations for guest arrivals starting June 1, but without its College Program cast members on board to staff the parks, Disney does not appear to be anticipating that, at the very least, the parks will be operating at full capacity even if they were to open in June.

Now, with rising unemployment due to so many businesses laying off employees or closing entirely due to the global economic shutdown, Disney likely could staff up quickly with new hires should it need to, so this move is not a confirmation that the parks will not be ready to go this summer. But it does give Disney additional flexibility while the parks are closed by not committing to the expense of staffing the parks more fully this summer.

The Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort theme parks officially are closed until further notice.

Replies (7)

April 6, 2020 at 1:19 PM

1. Flexibility as you said. 2. As we know WDW is more dependent on foreign visitors than most WDW parks. 3. It would be bad publicity for Disney if unemployment is still high while they are hiring foreign workers (even if interns) over american's who need jobs. One can imagine one Pres trump tweet sending the stock down 10 percent on that. Especially, after the immense amount of anger directed at 3M from the populace. Tell me if I am wrong Robert, but wasn't the foreign intern program much smaller in the early 2000's. I remember when i went the year after 9/11. There were some foreign born interns in the world showcase shops, but not all around random rides, shops, restaurants like there has been since 2010 or so. (give or take a few years)

April 6, 2020 at 1:48 PM

I don't necessarily think this is a signal that Disney is pessimistic about a June reopening, but instead a tangible way they can minimize potential risk if a June reopening become impractical. Also, I think this recognizes that even if Disney reopens in June, attendance levels will be nowhere near what they would be during a typical June, meaning the additional labor provided by the intern program would be extraneous, making it more difficult for Disney to dig out of the hole by paying for non/under-utilized labor.

This is just a prudent move regardless what the prospects of opening in June may be.

April 6, 2020 at 3:05 PM

I think I agree with Russel. If the park demand isnÕt there, thereÕs no need for seasonal labour.

April 6, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Well before we all jump to conclusions, what did Bob Chapek say about it?

Oh wait ... Nevermind.

April 6, 2020 at 9:18 PM

I read this less as "we're not confident we'll be able to open in June" and more as "we're not confident we'll have enough open or enough demand to justify staffing the programs this term." There's going to be a lot of trimming excess industry-wide in the coming months, so if Disney doesn't feel they need the extra employees it makes perfect sense to cut them. Additionally, it is likely to be very difficult if not impossible to hire foreign workers, both due to travel restrictions and due to excessive unemployment levels. Do I think there is any chance WDW will be fully operational in June? No. Do I think the resort will at least be in limited operation by the end of that month? Yes.

April 6, 2020 at 10:04 PM

I'm gonna start to keep count on how many times TH Creative says he wants Chapek to say something lol

April 7, 2020 at 12:03 AM

It's trickier as it seems now that states who had shelter orders earlier may see a recovery sooner than ones who didn't. Given how Florida's governor waited as long as possible to close beaches, do shelter orders and okay letting some groups gather,

And agree that while full operational doesn't make sense, you can see Disney doing a "phased reopening", starting with resorts first, then the top rides at the parks. For example, MK would have the Mountains, Pirates, Haunted Mansion and a couple of Fantasyland rides but less popular attractions held off. Universal likely to do the same (although the benefit of smaller parks) as anyone who thinks it's going to be right back to normal right away is in real Fantasyland.

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