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Shockwaves Across Central Florida as Bob Iger’s Upsetting Walt Disney World Announcement Hits

Bob Iger Disneyland
Credit: Inside the Magic

The Walt Disney Company’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger recently led the House of Mouse’s Q2 earnings call, and his updates revealed an upsetting trend that is hitting Walt Disney World Resort–a trend that will send shockwaves through the Central Florida communities.

Magical fireworks burst in the sky above a fairytale castle under a bright blue sky.

Credit: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr

Demand heightened in the immediate months and years that succeeded the pandemic closures of the Disney World theme parks. Then, once social distancing measures were dismantled and borders were opened for international visitors, attendance soared to peak levels.

Walt Disney World Resort may have been closed for months, but developments did not cease, and since 2021, the theme parks have welcomed multiple new attractions and experiences.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at night with Spaceship Earth in the background at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resort

Credit: Disney

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure debuted for the first time at the domestic parks over in EPCOT’s France pavilion inside of the World Showcase. Not long after, in May 2022, the industry-leading Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind also opened at Disney World’s second theme park, with TRON Lightcycle / Run launching in Magic Kingdom Park in early 2023.

All the innovative attractions and experiences Disney World installs attract guests year after year. Josh D’Amaro recently told The Hollywood Reporter that guest experience is always top of mind for the Mouse House.

Guests ride TRON

Credit: Disney

“We’re talking to our guests all the time, and so we have a really good sense of what they’re reacting to on-screen and understand then how to translate that into stories inside of our theme parks, cruise lines, and experiences around the world,” D’Amaro said, following up on his previous comments that the company’s $60 billion investment, half of which is for parks and resorts, will be geared towards “turbocharging the Disney Experience business.”

That said, Disney World, and by extension, the rest of the Disney Experiences brand, are not immune to intense and sometimes incredibly vocal criticism.

Josh D'amaro with Goofy, Minnie, and Mickie in Animal Kingdom at Disney World

Credit: Josh D’Amaro, Instagram

Regarding the rising ticket costs, the latest update sees 2025 single-day tickets go up by $10, plus the variable pricing on Disney Genie+ and increasing food and beverage costs, guests are forking out hundreds, if not thousands, for a trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

In an ever-changing and turbulent theme park environment, eyes are constantly on Florida’s flagship destination, meaning Disney’s quarterly updates are popular events.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney World

Credit: Disney

On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, Disney released its fiscal Q2 results, which revealed a 10% increase in park and experiences revenue. For Q2, the division had a revenue of $8.393 billion, up from $7.646 in 2023. The financial report reads:

At Walt Disney World Resort, higher results in the current quarter compared to the prior-year quarter were due to:

Increased guest spending attributable to higher average ticket prices

Higher costs due to inflation, partially offset by lower depreciation and cost saving initiatives

Crowds on Main Street U.S.A. at Disney World with Cinderella Castle in the background

Credit: Forsaken Fotos, Flickr

Even with this increase, Disney warned that a slowdown was not only anticipated but expected.

“In terms of attendance, what we’re basically communicating is relative to the post-COVID highs; things are tending to normalize,” said Bob Iger (via Skift). “We still see in the bookings … as we look ahead … [signs that] indicate healthy growth in the business. So we still certainly feel good about the opportunities.”

Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston added: “We are seeing some evidence of a global moderation from peak post-Covid travel.”

Guests walking around World Showcase at EPCOT

Credit: Inside the Magic

With that, and even after the announcement that the Mouse’s fledgling streaming business saw profitability, Disney’s stock dropped.

Former Disney employee and UCF professor Dr. Duncan Dickson has weighed in on how this falling attendance will impact the greater Central Florida area surrounding the Disney theme park brand’s beating heart.

The entrance to Walt Disney World Resort as seen through a car window

Credit: Foxbert, Flickr

“If Disney has a hiccup, Central Florida can have a heart attack… There’s just so many businesses that are dependent on Disney locally,” Dickson told Click Orlando. “The smaller hotels on 1-92, the I-drive hotels, if Disney attendance shrinks, those are the first ones to feel it.”

Dickson warns of the shockwave coming if attendance continues on a downward trend and what that might mean for the cast members who work at the Walt Disney World parks.

A group of excited teenagers, including a boy in sunglasses and a striped shirt, screaming with joy on Disney Thunder Mountain roller coaster.

Credit: Disney

“If Disney employees’ hours are cut, they may not be laid off, but their hours may be cut, which means they are not able to spend as much at Sam’s Club or Costco or whatever, so all of those things go hand in hand, and when you have 70 thousand employees that is a huge monster to tame,” the professor added.

However, it’s not like Disney does not have multiple projects up their sleeves, which might bump up attendance in the near future.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure, which replaced Splash Mountain, at Disney World.

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Park Takes Action: Tinker Bell Indefinitely Suspended Following Controversial Incident

At Magic Kingdom Park, the Splash Mountain replacement, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will be opening in the summer, and later in the year, events such as EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom will return.

Further afield are the large-scale developments heading to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At the former, a permit has been filed for the so-called “Beyond Big Thunder” project coming to the area adjacent to Frontierland.

Frontierland at Magic Kingdom

Credit: Allen Castillo, Flickr

This project will be the largest in the theme park’s history and, per Josh D’Amaro’s announcement at the D23 Expo 2022, could bring the Disney Villains to the location. Reports are now circulating that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will be closed indefinitely closer to the end of 2024.

Then, at Animal Kingdom, the DinoLand, U.S.A. location will be rethemed to include both the Encanto and the Indiana Jones franchises for a Tropical Americas destination. This will be the newest land to debut at the park following Pandora — The World of Avatar years ago.

Concept art for the all-new area coming to Animal Kingdom inspired by Encanto and Indiana Jones

Credit: Disney

Related: “Infuriating”: Guests Accuse Disney World Security of Racial Profiling

No news has surfaced on when the Tropical Americas expansion will officially commence; Walt Disney Imagineering recently took to social media to showcase concepts and designs being explored for the upcoming area.

All eyes and ears will be on Disney’s next earnings call for Q3, and a stock price fallout will likely follow.

Do you think Walt Disney World attendance will suffer in the coming months? Let us know in the comments down below!

This post Shockwaves Across Central Florida as Bob Iger’s Upsetting Walt Disney World Announcement Hits appeared first on Inside the Magic.

About Thomas Hitchen

When he’s not thinking about the Magic Kingdom, Thomas is usually reading a book, becoming desperately obsessed with fictional characters, or baking something delicious (his favorite is chocolate cake -- to bake and to eat). He's a dreamer and grew up on Mulan saving the world, Jim Hawkins soaring through the stars, and Padmé Amidala fighting a Nexu. At the Parks, he loves to ride Everest, stroll down Main Street with an overstuffed pin lanyard around his neck, and eat as many Mickey-shaped ice creams as possible. His favorite character is Han Solo (yes, he did shoot first), and his favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer except when it's One Tree Hill. He loves sandy beach walks, forest hikes, and foodie days out in the Big City. Thomas lives in England, UK, with his fiancée, baby, and their dog, a Border Collie called Luna.

16 comments

  1. Sharon Van Nostrand

    It won’t surprise me if attendance at WDW continues downward. People are having a difficult time with necessities and am not sure how much disposable income is left for a vacation to Disney. Ticket prices keep going up and now food, beverage and other options are going higher. Just adding to an otherwise already expensive trip. Depending on a different way to spend their money many cruise lines are offering lower all inclusive costs and 3rd and 4th person in room for free than the cost of a Disney vacation. Just something to think about.

  2. As a long time Disney visitor about 40 years I have seen it go from affordable to now unaffordable for most people. Disney is a machine now to me and as long as the people are willing to pay for all the extra costs plus the rising costs they will continue to increase these prices without a care. I remember a time when going to Disney was the happiest place on earth and I so looked forward to going. You might be asking if I still go…yes…my daughter loves it so I am not only expressing my opinion but I guess you could say I am part of the problem. I am seriously thinking about planning to vacation other places instead of my usual trip to Disney. I really hate this because Disney is a great place to visit and have fun but when you compare the cost of it all it is absolutely getting yourself in debt or you have to save up for several years before you can go unlike the old days where you could afford to go every year. Just my opinion and if you disagree I am okay with that and no hard feelings.

  3. I’ve never been lucky enough to go to Disney! My parents couldn’t afford to take me when I was a kid. When they died I was only 17. Now I’m almost 50 years old and still can’t afford to go. I’ve always wanted to go because I was raised on Disney. But now it seems like you have to be rich or a celebrity to be able to afford to go. It’s heartbreaking to me that someone like me who was raised on Disney can’t make their dream of visiting come true because I’m too poor and not rich or a celebrity who apparently are the only ones who can afford to visit Disney! ?

  4. Have been to Disney more than 30 times and have lived the increasing costs! Everytime we go it is a magical experience. Love taking our family with us, specially the grandkids. But buying them souveniers, toys, clothing as permanent memories is very difficult now. Disney should offer a rewards card to motivate visiting the parks and purchases within, which you could redeem in your next visit and subsidize your spending. People that are “loyal” to Disney deserve this acknowledgement of you choosing Disney over other cheaper vacation options.
    30 + times in Disney and still considered as anyone else! At least the electric car (wheelchair for me and my husband 70+) should be free or at a discount. Or lower price in multiple parks tickets!

  5. Disney should be the happiest place on earth. A place where childrens dreams come true. The problem today is that it has become a place where the children who really need it, will never be able to afford to go there, and that is wrong in my opinion. Honestly, I think they could drop the price of every child’s ticket entering their park. If they can make over 8 billion dollars, there is no reason they can’t give it back to the children in which the park was built for in the first place! Every child should have the ability to see those parks at least one time in their lives. I think they forgot Walt Disneys vision many years ago.

  6. Robert Gallagher

    I will never be able to afford to go to Disney because the prices for a ticket are outrageous and even if they were to cut the price in half it would still be too expensive. That is so sad because it means that the majority of the middle class and the poor will never ever be able to visit Disneyland.
    Disney used to be my favorite program when I was a kid, I would wait all week see Disney on TV and it was always a lifelong dream that I would go there someday but as I can see now that will never happen

  7. The Disney brand name used to be synonymous with all that is good, clean and wholesome in America. Not so much anymore. Outrageous pricing at the parks, political shenanigans in Florida, and holding on-line streaming customers hostage have put mud on the mouse’s face. I and my family now look elsewhere for our entertainment. The “magic” kingdom is gone and probably not recoverable.

  8. Walt Disney was a good friend of my dad so we used to to Disneyland often back in the day but if Walt learns of the ticket cost today, he would roll over in his grave. Shame

  9. I first went to Disneyland in 1975 on my senior trip. In 1986 I went with friends to Disney World when there were only 2 onsite hotels. The Polynesian and the other one. We stayed in both. We had a blast. We were 19 and it was cheap then. Visited Disney World many times in the 80s and once in 2003. Haven’t gone since and can’t believe how expensive it is now. So glad I went so many times back when it was affordable. I still have 2 adult Park Hopper passes good for one admission on each. They cast nowhere near what a ticket costs now. Iigjt still use them someday.

  10. I enjoyed Disneyland growing up. Thirty years ago I took my two sons oldest 9 for a day and no one had a good time. They did not like standing in line for an hour in the unsheltered hot sun for a two minute ride, and the cost made the whole experience questionable. Have not been back since nor intend to.

  11. While I hate to see employees hurt, I hope attendance drops. The ticket and food costs are astronomical. A family of 4 can easily spend nearly $1,000 a day in going to just 1 park! I have been fortunate enough to enjoyed going often since opening year, but now it’s pretty hard to justify. Instead of 1 or 2 times a year we are more likely once every 2 to 4 years.
    We still love the parks and property but something has to be done about the cost.

  12. Whatever Disney is demonic and telling the kids lies I won’t support anything that Disney owns or operates

  13. The people running Disney are to bent on changing the rides and doing away with some of the rides that brought people back. I also grow up watching Disney every Sunday night after baths. We were able to bring our children (on our income taxes) we went every year back then you could. Now you’re are too focused on tearing things down and adding new things and raising prices to pay for them. Removing Thunder Mountain that has been one of the must do rides every time we went. Keep it up and your attendance will continue to drop.

  14. The Grandparents took our oldest at 4 in 1983 and stayed in the Contemporary. He loved it! A few years later our entire family went and stayed in same place. Iwas a lot to spend then, but worth it to see the kids enjoy. Time jumps forward and we began to camp at Frontierland and loved it with our grown kids and families. Now we have 2 more little ones that I am not sure will get the experience as the costs have gone out of site as the profits are absurd. No family of 4 with good income could face the debit of a week trip to Disney. The food is terribly over priced, many rides are closed, the heat is so brutal and lines so long that no one really enjoys the adventure and you return home to a massive credit card debt … and for what? You spent a week of hard earned vacation and money and still did not get a wonderful adventure as could not afford anything you wished to get after paying exorbitant ticket prices, drink prices, food prices and other needs.. If Disney does not get prices in line for normal families and stay out of politcal and gender issues, their attendance will continue to decline.and their “World” may crumble.

  15. Yes, price gouging is a big drawback, but why don’t Disney just admit the reason they are going down is because they have forgotten Walt’s vision and have succumb to immoral and evil. Even the character of Mickey gets so angry and uses bad language and supports immoral sexual activity – and that is NOT the Mickey Mouse that Walt Disney made! I have been to Disney World 25 times and Disneyland once. I loved it, and as anyone who knows me knows how I felt about it. However, I cannot condone the lies and money hungry ways the company now supports.

  16. At least the lines for the attractions will be shorter. The Magical park is going down like the rest of this system.

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