online press presentation, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro made a direct pitch to state leaders for reopening guidance.Last week, Disney pushed its case to reopen California's theme parks. At the end of the
It didn't work.
More than a week later, California leaders continue to put off questions about the state's theme park industry, saying that reopening guidance is coming "soon." Officials have been saying that for weeks now, so it seems their definition of "soon" differs from what most people think when hearing that word.
Perhaps it's time to consider a different approach. Here is what D'Amaro said at the end of last week's press event:
"To our California government officials, particularly at the state level, I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors. Help us reopen. We need guidelines that are fair and equitable, so that we can better understand our future and chart a path towards reopening. The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be to Orange County and the Anaheim communities and the tens of thousands of people who rely on us for employment. With the right guidelines and our years of operations experience, I am confident that we can restart and get people back to work. As you can see from this discussion today, we're ready. And more importantly, it's time."
In that statement, D'Amaro never used the word, "safe." The entire presentation before his statement detailed the company's many efforts to create a safe environment for Disney's cast members and guests, but in his closing remarks, D'Amaro talked more about the business impact of keeping the parks closed.
I think that was a mistake, given the current political environment in the state of California. A business-focused PR campaign might move politicians in Orange County, Calif. and Orange County, Fla. — and even the state of Florida. But they're a non-starter with state officials in California, where the Republican Party is dead at the state level and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party is on life support.
If anyone dreams of replacing Gavin Newsom with a more "business-friendly" governor, I've got news for you — Gavin Newsom is the most business-friendly governor that California's going to have for a long time.
So forget the economic appeal. Disney's first key is "Safety." Tell people that. Include it in the pitch. Earlier this month, I warned that the debate over Disneyland's reopening was going to become a cultural battle, driven by people pushing agendas that have nothing to do with theme parks.
That's because theme parks, especially Disneyland, are cultural symbols that transcend so many personal, political and cultural differences in our society. Well, how about making that cultural status a selling point for Disney and theme park industry rather than a weight around their necks?
So here is my humble suggestion for a speech from D'Amaro or, better yet, Disney CEO Bob Chapek that might do more to move Gov. Newsom and other state officials to immediate action.
"To our California government officials, particularly at the state level, I want you to know that theme parks stand ready to help California contain and recover from this virus. For decades, Safety has been the first key in Disney's theme park operations. Theme parks will set the standard for enforcing mask requirements, safe physical distancing, temperature checks and world-class hygiene. We stand ready to support an expansion of Covid-19 testing for our cast and their communities. We will support the state's efforts to expand contact tracing among our cast and guests and will offer our mobile application resources to assist that effort. Jobs are important, but not as important as lives. So the theme park industry offers a path forward that allows us to bring people back to work and restart the economy, safely. With state issuance of reopening guidelines, theme parks can help lead California's response to — and recovery from — Covid-19. Thank you."
Hey, it couldn't do much worse than what the industry has tried up until now.
* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that — and our approach to covering theme park news — please sign up for our free, three-times-a-week email newsletter. Thank you.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.