We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and according to the Surgeon General, this next week will be our “Pearl Harbor moment.” There isn’t one person or one thing that hasn’t been affected by coronavirus, and the Walt Disney Company is no different.
Disney Parks around the world are closed, and last week it was announced that Disneyland and Walt Disney World would remain closed indefinitely. The one glimmer of hope is that guests are able to make reservations for June 1st, and beyond. But even that, is just a number we’re all clinging to. Disney hasn’t confirmed that they will be open on June 1st.
The Walt Disney Company isn’t just about theme parks. It’s about Cruise Lines, Steaming Services, Sports, and movies. All of these are affected by the current crisis. There have been pay cuts across the board and Disney’s former CEO, Bob Iger, will forgo his entire salary. Even with all the chips stacked against them, Financial Analysts say Disney has the strength to come back after this.
Bob Iger recently sat down with Barron’s and spoke about meeting the challenge of the virus, and how the entertainment industry might be left changed.
Iger was asked about the current state of the Walt Disney Company. More specifically, what the mood is like. He answered saying, “We’re optimists, although we’re also obviously realists, too. Optimists, because we have faith in the long-term prospects of our businesses, and our brands, which I think are important here. We know they have always been a place for people to go, whether it’s a movie or a park or ESPN, to enjoy their lives and to distance themselves from whatever daily issues they may be facing.”
He then discussed the long-term of the company; “So, long-term, not to make light of this, what we offer, in terms of people’s time, is and always will be, and always has been, extremely appreciated and attractive. So I don’t mean to in any way suggest a this-too-shall-pass attitude because this is obviously the biggest business interruption we’ve faced. But we know when it ends that we will have things for the public to enjoy and to escape to, maybe in ways they will appreciate more than they ever have.”
Barron’s asked Iger how this challenge compared to the others in his career. The former CEO answered that this was by far the biggest challenge he’s faced. True to his nature, he followed it up with ways you handle these types of situations. Iger stated, “You have to be honest with yourself, with the people who work for you, and the public. You have to be realistic about the size of this and the impact of it all.” He then added, “You also have hope that it will end eventually, and that when it does, that at some point, we’ll be looking at a return to business as usual, even if we know that’s a ways away. More importantly, you have to have empathy for what everyone is experiencing, not just our customers, but certainly our people.”
The interview eventually led to the question we’re all wondering, how will the parks be once the virus passes and they reopen? Iger’s answer points to the fact that just how bag checks have become the new normal, a temperature check for each guest might become something Disney incorporates upon reopening.
Comparing it to a Disney post-9/11, he said, “So we’ve asked ourselves the question, let’s prepare for a world where our customers demand that we scrutinize everybody. Even if it creates a little bit of hardship like it takes a little bit longer for people to get in. Just as the case after 9/11 where people ultimately lived with the notion that in order for them to enter a building, if you’re in an office building you have to show a picture ID or get your picture taken and be screened. Or in order to enter a park, you have to put your bags out there to be checked and you go through some kind of metal detector. Or certainly what’s going on in airports with the TSA.”
Iger further discusses what’s happening with Disney’s movie, retails, and other departments in his interview. To read it in its entirety, click here.
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