Dear Disney Parks Fans: Leave Bob Chapek Alone

February 9, 2022, 6:00 PM · Following today's strong financial report from The Walt Disney Company, I used my daily Theme Park Insider video report to suggest that hate on Disney's CEO won't help Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans find the theme park magic they want.

There's a lot more in there than just a comment on Chapek, so I hope you will give it a look through to the end.

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Replies (41)

February 9, 2022 at 6:06 PM

Standing and Applauding

February 9, 2022 at 10:21 PM

Higher income + lower expenses = higher profits. Of course the shareholders are going to be happy with Chapek! But, as you say, Robert, you’ve been around this business for a while so let me ask this: Is reducing the quality of a product while increasing its price a sustainable business model?

February 9, 2022 at 10:41 PM

I have been wresting with a piece for a few weeks now on the fair price of a Disney visit. The issue is that Disney has been wildly underpriced for some visitors and overpriced for others. Chapek's challenge, ultimately, is to raise prices for those who have been getting a deal without driving away too many customers that overall revenue falls. But that's a juggling act that involves maintaining quality for those who have been paying higher prices without squeezing them any harder, too.

February 10, 2022 at 5:38 AM

Agree--you can't blame a CEO for trying to maximize profits for his company's shareholders. It's what he or she is paid to do. He's not doing anything illegal. My family and I went to Disney World the 2nd week of January. Genie+ and the operational changes made it an overall poor experience for us. And as such, we'll stick to Universal and other regional parks for the next couple of years because of it. Living in the Southeast US, we have plenty of alternatives. With that said, the parks were all packed (again, in the 2nd week of January). So there are far more people who don't have a problem with all these changes, or never knew what life was like before them. The majority of people who visit Disney Parks are families with young children. You'll always have an influx of first-time visitors because of that, people who won't pine for the good old days and just take the Disney experience as it is. There is no reason for Disney Parks to go in a different direction.

February 10, 2022 at 8:20 AM

Good video…the only line I don’t agree with is “many people are voting with their wallets”, being used to say the masses are happy with Disney at the moment. Spending is not a direct correlation to guest satisfaction. I know this first hand, being one who spent quite a bit of money in the parks during that time frame, while being unsatisfied overall. While I wasn’t happy with the overall experience, we still had to eat while there, and I wasn’t going to tell my kids they couldn’t get souvenirs just because I was unhappy with the parks operational changes. As far as Genie + goes, just because someone spent money on it definitely doesn’t mean they were happy with it. Lastly, many people probably had their trips planned/booked before the undesirable changes were announced, and I don’t at all think that just because those trips weren’t cancelled that it equals a vote of satisfaction.

February 10, 2022 at 8:31 AM

Agreed, Pete. He is doing what he was hired to do, and his personal earnings have increased because of it (which I don't have a problem with). But I believe he is sacrificing long-term gains for short-term profits.

Here were the announced changes that increase the cost of a Disney trip from January-August 2021 in a post I made in August:

-January: Magical Express will be eliminated in January 2022.
-May: Avengers Campus opens in Disneyland, where, to increase you chances at a higher score in the land's E-ticket attraction "WEB SLINGERS: A Spiderman Adventure", $60 add-on toys can be purchased.
-June: Disney announces replacement for their "Extra Magic Hours" program. Resort guests will now only get 30 minutes instead of one hour in the mornings, and only deluxe and DVC resort guests can attend these extra hours in the evenings, thereby eliminating a perk value and moderate resort guests once had.
-Also June: Prices for "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party" replacement, "BOO BASH" announced. Prices for adults range from $139-$199 for the three hour event, up from $79-$135 for MNSSHP which was a 5-hour event.
-July: Disneyland Paris announces a paid front-of-the-line program with tickets ranging from 8 to 15 euros per person per ride.
-Also July: Disney VIP guest groups (spending as much as $850 per hour) can skip the boarding group procedure for Rise of the Resistance to automatically be guaranteed a ride.
And then we get to a large number of announcements in August:
-Replacement for Disneyland's annual pass program is announced, "Magic Key". While prices are down slightly, Key holders can only hold a certain number of park reservations at a time with the number that can be held decreasing from 6 for the highest level to 2 for the lowest. Free parking is eliminated for everyone but the highest level with the second highest getting half price parking and the lowest tiers getting no parking discount. The number of blackout dates for each of the three lower tiers are increased as compared to the number of dates on a comparable AP tier.
-Prices for Magical Express' replacement, Mears Connect will offer round trip fares from Orlando International to Disney property for $32 for adults and $27 for kids. (Not money going to Disney, but an additional cost for something that was once free or at least part of your resort cost.
-Similar increases in price to the replacement for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party as the Halloween party are announced with those prices ranging from $169-$229, nearly double the $99-$139 prices of MVMCP.
-Starting prices for the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser with a two day, two night "cruise" and one "port of call" to Batuu in Hollywood Studios are announced: $4800 for two up to $6000 for four. STARTING prices, not including room upgrades or upsells.
-Disney's free Fastpass+ service will go away to be replaced by Genie+ at a cost of $15 per person per day at Disneyworld and $20 at Disneyland and also the pay-per-ride service for one or two headliners in each park that is not part of the Genie+ service that can be had much like Disneyland Paris.

These are all new costs to 2021 and beyond. True, not everyone has to partake in every new upsell unless you want the same service as 2019 as those that used to be free. These are in addition to all the normal cost increases we are used to seeing: Ticket prices, lodging, food, souvenirs, etc.

February 10, 2022 at 9:07 AM

Mr. Chapek on Bloomberg Tech. He doesn't have the "in-front-of-the-camera" skillset that Mr. Iger has (I doubt Oprah is going to be touting Mr. Chapek for President). But as much as he struggles in that area he raises some solid points. One of the best comes in a the three minute mark when he talks up the performance of 'Encanto' and how it stands as an example of how Disney+ content can produce a franchise.

February 10, 2022 at 9:37 AM

He's right about that. It appears that "Encanto" could be the next "Frozen". (I really need to watch it again to see if it grows on me like Frozen did.)

However, you can't have it both ways. You can't applaud Chapek for Encanto, but relieve him of blame for Disney Parks. Robert said he's not signing off on the price of churros, and I doubt he is signing off on every piece of music or animation project, either.

February 10, 2022 at 10:30 AM

Wow Robert, bold take there that Bob Chapek is the one who is really suffering in all of this and the people who have to pay thousands of dollars, and climbing everyday, for even the basic Disney vacation experience really need to lighten up.

February 10, 2022 at 10:38 AM

TH-Creative: Did Walt Disney personally save your life or something? Because, if not, the level to which you refuse to broke even the slightest criticism of Disney borders on zealotry.

February 10, 2022 at 11:52 AM

Hey, Bob. I wrote the Reddit post that the New York Post picked up that started a lot of this. I think a lot of people missed the point of that post. I wasn’t organizing a revolt or even telling people to vote Chapek off the board. I was telling people to stop complaining online and signing online petitions and to actually do something about it. I provided one method to do something but yours is equally, if not more, viable. Disney won’t get message we’re unhappy with the nickel and diming until we stop rewarding them for doing it. Kudos to you for being more eloquent in your messaging.

February 10, 2022 at 11:54 AM

Genie+ and individual lighning lanes are huge cash cows, think of how much money Magic Kingdom is making off 7 Dwarfs and Space Mountain alone. What would have been shocking is if they didn't have one of their most profitable quarters ever.

February 10, 2022 at 12:13 PM

Chapek gets all the flak yet D'Amaro gets off scott free practically, go figure

February 10, 2022 at 12:19 PM

@MightyIrish- It's kinda funny how people think that online petitions do anything.

Honestly, theres so much more to it than just Chapek. I feel like he's an easy guy to blame for alot of whats wrong with Disney because it's just one guy and hes the new CEO. It doesn't help too that he isn't that great of a charming public speaker and sometimes even opts out of speaking entirely. I just wish people would see that Disney is a huge machine with many many different people coming into play. As much as Disney can get hate for it, it's a business first and foremost and as long as their profits remain at this rate, this newfound business model will never change.

February 10, 2022 at 12:35 PM

TheOldCream: "... the level to which you refuse to broke even the slightest criticism of Disney borders on zealotry."

Me: Disney should not charge hotel guests to park.

Disney should re-evaluate its ticket distribution system to expand the number of reservation only days to reduce crowds and make the park experience more enjoyable. The only reason they don't do that is because the company wants to maximize its revenue (read that as greed).

Disney should reduce the number of college program cast members to guarantee hours for permanent and part time CMs.

Disney should cover more (if not all) of the health care premiums for its cast members.

Disney's relationship with the Chinese government is something that would have greatly troubled it's founder.

As I have posted here before Universal Creative builds attractions that are on par or better than those built by Disney Imagineering.

In closing, according to your TPI "about" info, you've been hanging out here for less than two months. I've been here for more than 20 years. Perhaps you might want to take your time before drawing such conclusions.

February 10, 2022 at 1:27 PM

Twobits: "However, you can't have it both ways. You can't applaud Chapek for Encanto, but relieve him of blame for Disney Parks. Robert said he's not signing off on the price of churros, and I doubt he is signing off on every piece of music or animation project, either.

Me: That's a poor comparison. The pricing in the parks is minutia. Signing off on a motion picture represents a multi-million dollar investment. If the cost of setting up churro stands were the same as production on 'Encanto'(which some estimate to be north of $100 million) do you really think Mr. Chapek would not be involved with the logistics of that endeavor?

February 10, 2022 at 1:48 PM

Sorry, Robert, your logic doesn't hold up from a corporate governance perspective. Chapek ran the parks when Iger was CEO, pushed for many of the changes happening now, and Iger sat on him, he reigned in Chapek's worst tendencies. Now that Chapek is in charge, he's free to push through the obnoxious changes he's made.

A related example is the handling of Scarlett Johannsen's wage dispute after Disney dumped her movie on streaming. As you will recall, Disney lashed out at her and effectively embarrassed itself. Iger has admitted if he were CEO the Company would not have responded to her lawsuit as clumsily as it did. You're telling us that Disney's CEO doesn't "micro-manage" what's going on in the parks, or with talent, but he certainly sets the tone at the top, and big decisions like these absolutely 100% cross his desk.

Did Disney have second biggest theme park quarter ever? Sure. Did it also advance customer dissatisfaction at a record pace? Probably so! Sure, near-sighted investors are thrilled with the returns, but Disney occupies a rarified space, and that's because of the image it has carefully cultivated for decades, Disney isn't just one more profit-maximizing company to most people, it's the embodiment of Walt's ideals. When that sheen is sanded off by money-grubbing policies that treat guests poorly, it's very difficult to win it back.

Don't believe me? Take a look at DCA. When it opened, Eisner put his thumb in the eye of Disney fans, gave them a cheap park of pure crap, and it took the Company more than a decade and billions to claw back DCA's reputation, and it still isn't fully rehabilitated yet! Goodwill is a nebulous asset, squander it lightly and pay the price.

So yeah, I'm going to keep blasting Chapek, because in a very short tenure he's caused me to feel more animosity toward Disney than I've felt in my life. When my family went to the parks last weekend, we were angry the entire time, angry at the stupid lack of food service, angry at the obnoxious app that requires your constant attention, angry at the crowd control chaos that the new policies have unnecessarily created, angry at having to pay a premium to skip the Radiator Springs line, something that's been free since the ride opened a decade ago!

Chapek thinks charging people extra for fastpass is like the airlines charging to check a bag--you don't have to do it, so no big deal, right? Except everyone HATES airlines for making that change, most everyone preferred when that cost was baked into your ticket. Chapek seems to believe Disney is like the airlines, and he can take away services while charging us more and we don't have any choice but to keep coming back.

On that one he's wrong. Universal is now well ahead of Disney in terms of customer service, and so more and more of us will go there more and more often. Maybe his short term results are great, but this is a dark day for the history of Disney's reputation with its fans.

February 10, 2022 at 1:59 PM

The Colonel: "Universal is now well ahead of Disney in terms of customer service ..."

Me: By which documented benchmark? What objective data can you provide to show that Universal is now "well ahead" of Disney when it comes to customer service?

February 10, 2022 at 3:09 PM

Robert, to me the fair pricing point is what people are willing to pay and I think when it comes to Disney's fan, it has shown people will continue to spend and come to the park regardless how much it cost. I know a lot of folks who make much less than me and sure they complain about rising cost but that's not stopping them from going. To them, this is their thing and they are perfectly happy even if it's the only trip they take all year. As I said in the past, i like to mix things up and take my son to other parks.

February 11, 2022 at 7:27 AM

I don’t know what the solution is, but F&B issues are not unique within theme parks. The entire industry is struggling to deliver anywhere close to the volume and quality that had been established pre-pandemic. I agree that wages for the industry are not great, and career opportunities are pretty bleak for those who want to earn a livelihood from serving food and beverages. However, there has been a seismic shift in attitude towards working in this industry that’s incredibly concerning. Despite increasing wages and improving working conditions, the quality and service within the industry continues to decline precipitously.

While you occasionally ran across workers who couldn’t care less about their job a couple of years ago, that attitude is virtually omnipresent even though wages have gone up in many cases over 30% in the span of a year. Ironically this pattern is similar to the Disney guest experience as we are expected to pay more money for a product/experience that is delivered to a lower standard compared to pre- COVID. F&B workers are getting paid significantly more with greater benefits than they were 2 years ago, yet are not coming close to the same level or performance.

I never worked in a theme park, but I did work in fast food through high school and college. Certainly there was some animosity and lack of enthusiasm for those jobs, but it sentiment towards work was sky high compared to attitudes today. Nobody wants to do hard work it seems, even if you’re getting paid a king’s ransom comparatively, and inflation is starting demonstrate why wages cannot simply be pushed into the stratosphere.

It seems that the months of quarantine and work from home has squashed any pride or incentive to perform manual labor. I certainly feel that some F&B workers and others within the hospitality industry were under appreciated, but those jobs cannot have salaries matching jobs requiring higher education and at standards that necessitate multiple employees to deliver what a single person used to do.

We are definitely approaching a point of reckoning, and at some point those within the industry need to figure out how to deliver to an acceptable standard for a reasonable cost.

February 11, 2022 at 7:28 AM

Mr. Chapek's current contract runs through 2023.

February 11, 2022 at 8:25 AM

Another insufferable story about Disney business metrics, waiting times, and CEOs.

When will the topics get back to fun instead of over analyzing, over guessing and the circular negativity?

I hear BGT Iron Gwazi is a blast!

February 11, 2022 at 9:00 AM

@TH: I was paraphrasing a quote in Robert’s video. I could easily change it to is Chapek going to sign off on whatever minor Encanto attraction that will be rushed into the parks by this summer (which will inevitably happen). That will be far less than a multimillion dollar investment.

OMG…I just agreed with Colonel’s post! Well done, sir. But I fear this may be one of the first signs of the apocalypse.

Definitely a controversial take by Robert. He is getting creamed on social media right now with at least a hundred of posts. I have a feeling he is okay with that, though…

February 11, 2022 at 11:39 AM

I really really don't like the current state of affairs , watching the Disney Brand growing apart from some of it's more die hard fans. It's sad. It's not an económic apocalipsis for the company at all but one does feel this air of Change in how the company now approaches it's relationship with costumers. That one is on Chapek's shoulders. How ever i AM going to Say something somewhat is possible that in the future something similar to what happend to Eisner happend with Chapek. Eisner was the Absolut Disney villan. Vilified for every single mistake the company ever did during his ternure as CEO. history is now telling us.. he also SAVED Disney and helped become the gigant that is now...the international expansión...the Cruise lines, the Disney animation resurging with new movies...Oscar nominations, Star wars coming into the fold. There were mistakes Made for sure, but also great victories. I can only hope that Chapek and Many others within Disney recover the original spirit of excellence in service that branded the company as the gold standard for the industry. Chapek got the leadership role in the midst of the worst pandemic in a 100 years. It's him the rigth leader for the rigth time?? time Will tell. It's a Slim and small the mean with your wallet. Perhaps somebody Will finally listen.

February 11, 2022 at 12:34 PM

Stumbled onto this late but am bemused at how so many of the shots on Chapek are practically word for word what I heard two decades ago on Eisner. Overpricing, bad service, cheap/poor rides, etc.

The more things change...

February 11, 2022 at 12:58 PM

TwoBits: "I was paraphrasing a quote in Robert’s video."

Me: Well that explains everything, doesn't it?



February 11, 2022 at 2:51 PM

TH Creative- This may come as a HUGE shock to you, but just because someone’s posting history is only a few months long, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they haven’t been reading this site for years. And I have in fact been a reader of this site for a decade plus, so you can come off your “I’ve been here for 20 years” cross with me ya big martyr.

Meanwhile thanks for proving my original point with a bunch of snarky responses to posters who were making valid claims about their concerns about the direction Disney Parks are going. That seems to be your go to type of response when you don’t want to actually discuss their points. Which might be cute if you were 10 years old, but, as an adult, comes off as pretty sad.

February 11, 2022 at 4:12 PM

TOC: "TH Creative- This may come as a HUGE shock to you ..."

Me: I am shocked ... but not really.

Aging Creamsicle: "And I have in fact been a reader of this site for a decade plus ..."

Me: I'll take your word for it ... (Chuckle).

Elder Dairy Product: "... so you can come off your “I’ve been here for 20 years” cross with me ya big martyr."

Me: How does that make me a "martyr"? You seem confused.

Antique Cow Juice: "Meanwhile thanks for proving my original point with a bunch of snarky responses to posters who were making valid claims about their concerns about the direction Disney Parks are going."

Me: I have made my own valid claims about the way the parks are going. And I listed them. And you didn't acknowledge that. And no one has disagreed with them. Meanwhile, on this thread, I only refute one claim (Twobits 'Encanto' post -- which resulted in a clarification about the original post) and address Thecolonel's post in which I don't refute him but rather ask him to back it up with actual data. So, BIG swing and a miss on your part.

Ancient Butter: "That seems to be your go to type of response when you don’t want to actually discuss their points."

Me: See previous response where I actually address their points.

Dusty Yogurt: "Which might be cute if you were 10 years old, but, as an adult, comes off as pretty sad."

Me: Actually the "T" stands for "Timelord" ... I'm the third incarnation and only eight ... Best wishes, rookie.


February 11, 2022 at 4:57 PM

I respect both sides on this discussion, but here is the thing:

Bob Iger was a skillful businessman and leader, but in building the brand into one of the most successful BUSINESSES in history, he managed to center the creative WORK of the artists that make the Disney brand what it is. Much like Walt Disney, he always made storytelling the focus of the conversation. The ART created the BUSINESS. WIth Chapek, it's in reverse--he talks about Encanto as a new "franchise" not as a valuable piece of art. Notice that he did not call Soul a franchise, because it didn't generate as much revenue. That is backwards. The story should be: the artists at Disney create the best storytelling in the world, period, and when we do that, our company and our revenue takes care of itself. Instead, the message right now seems to be that we have this great business that allows us to make franchises and make a lot of money. It's a subtle, but very real, distinction. Having Chapek as the head of theme parks was probably a better fit, because the theme park business is all about managing business well. But he should always remember that the creativity of the company is the ONLY reason people choose Disney "magic" over another themed experience. The flap with Scarlett Johansson was totally unacceptable from the perspective of preserving the fan's view of Disney as a driving force for amazing stories, as was the discussion of adding sports betting to the Disney portfolio. Sports betting is the opposite of creativity, and even his mentioning it on a shareholders call did damage to the brand. Having said all of this, I think he can still be a good CEO, but he needs to realize what Iger got right and emulate it: put Disney's incredible storytelling teams (animation, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, imagineering) front and center, and use the magic they create to drive the business. The creatives need to be happy for Disney to thrive. One quarter with record revenue in the parks does not mean all is well. I went to Disneyland this quarter for the first time in three years, and the staff seemed unhappy in a way I hadn't remembered. That could absolutely be about unruly guests and COVID exhaustion. But from my perspective, the subtle balance between storytelling and profits is not holding at the moment.

February 11, 2022 at 6:55 PM

Mr. Sirota: "Notice that he did not call Soul a franchise, because it didn't generate as much revenue."

Me: Certainly you are willing to acknowledge that statement is purely conjecture and not fact.

February 11, 2022 at 10:09 PM

why does the reckoning have to come from people making $2 more an hour to bus tables and not from CEOs making in excess of $20 million a year? you have more in common with the people who serve you food than the people who raise the prices of hamburgers — and yet the animosity goes toward the people who have a bad attitude while serving you the burger.

kinda seems like the class problem at disney is between the people who visit the parks and the people who work there, not the people who pay $20 a day for an in-park upgrade and those that don't, huh?

February 12, 2022 at 12:04 PM

And no....we are not going to leave Chapek alone for a while...for better or for worse, HE IS the face of the Disney company rigth now. We are unsatified costumers and we want a face to vent our complaints. Thats his job and it does come with the position. So he either resolves the problem o he bears the weigth of public opinión. It's that simple

February 12, 2022 at 1:26 PM

PAP: "We are unsatified costumers and we want a face to vent our complaints."

Me: M-I-C ...

February 12, 2022 at 1:41 PM

Build ‘em up, burn ‘em down. Build ‘em up, burn ‘em down. Build ‘em up…BURN ‘EM DOWN!
Oh, to be human is to be an animal…Grrrr.

February 12, 2022 at 3:26 PM

TH, your criticism of my post was a fair one.

But I don't get what you are hoping to accomplish by just finding something to pick on in everyone's posts.

What's the end goal? You can be right and still be acting like a jerk.

February 12, 2022 at 4:51 PM

Excuse me, Mr. Sirota ... "Everyone's"?

I made direct comments regarding three posts. One poster clarified what was written in their comment. One has failed to answer my response. And then there's you that just acknowledged my criticism was on the mark.

And then there's the other guy (Old Cream whatever) who decided to come after me with absolutely no provocation.

By any measure, I did not go after "everyone's posts". What do you hope to accomplish exercising hyperbole?

Let me ask the same question differently. You wrote, "TH, your criticism of my post was a fair one." Why didn't you end the post then and there?

February 12, 2022 at 6:34 PM

@THcreative bullied at school?

February 13, 2022 at 6:30 AM

@UKCoasterman Nah! I am just too short for most theme park rides.


February 13, 2022 at 9:00 AM

The CEO I disliked the most was Michael Eisner, but I do recognize that he saved Disney from bankruptcy. The one I liked the most was Ron Miller, who led Disney to the brink of bankruptcy. Which just goes to show that I have NO clue what I'm doing in the business world (further proved by the fact that I spent some time in retail management at Universal Hollywood, where I was in on decisions on summer merchandise, and literally EVERYTHING I chose to sell tanked terribly).

But you mention people switching companies, Robert, and the new head of Sea World San Diego, Jim Lake, is a guy who used to be one of my managers in Disneyland's Outdoor Vending department before he moved on to lead Eastside Attractions (as in Tomorrowland). He's a good guy.

The pandemic has been a HUGE thing for Disney and every other entertainment company.

But you also mention collaboration, which reminds of the friendship between Walt Disney and Walter Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm fame).You could Knott (er, I mean not) be more rght,

February 14, 2022 at 2:43 PM

Eisner’s reign saw the animated features significantly slip, but dangit, I had the most fun at the parks during that time. Most, if not all, of my problems dealt with how they managed the sea of people when the parks got more and more crowded. Maybe it was the decision to make more hotel rooms without expanding attractions at the same rate. Don’t know if I can criticize the current CEO as they got to do what they can do during these troubling times. I would have been able to judge this new genie thing, but I caught the Covid just before my trip which had to be cancelled. I would love to compare genie with FP+ which I hated. I honestly do not mind paying extra if the services are good. I have clearly noticed customer service not being on the same level in the past, and Universal’s increasing, but why would they change if there are 10,000 people lining up at rope drop?

February 16, 2022 at 9:51 AM

For the record, I do not agree with you.
Chapek is the boss! He is the one to blame if I'm not happy with Disney. That's part of his job.
Of course he had a great quarter, he cut expenses everywhere while still increasing prices. You don't need to micro manage to force cuts and price increases from your vices. But who knows how all that will affect satisfaction.
But as you said, what do I know. All I know is that it will cost me a LOT more money to go to Disney this year (I know, same as always, but seems bigger this year).
Disney's finances may be great but people satisfaction is what counts in the long run. Bad decisions will always bite you back later on. We'll just have to wait and see...
But in the meantime, let me blame Chapek if I want to. He's a grown man. You don't need to protect him.

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