Disney Announces Leadership Restructuring – Josh D’Amaro New Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman

Earlier today, Bob Chapek, the Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company, announced today that Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro would be promoted to his former position as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

The position of Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products has been vacant since Bob Chapek moved from the role into the position as Disney CEO when Bob Iger retired. Josh has been Walt Disney World President for less than a year, taking over from George Kalogridis in September 2019.

In his new role, D’Amaro will oversee Disney’s travel and leisure businesses, which include six theme park-resort destinations in the United States, Europe and Asia; a cruise line; a vacation ownership program; a guided family adventure business; and Disney’s global consumer products operations, which include the world’s leading licensing business across toys, apparel, home goods, digital games and apps; the world’s largest children’s print publisher; Disney store locations around the world; and the shopDisney e-commerce platform.

Succeeding D’Amaro as President, Walt Disney World Resort is Jeff Vahle, a 30-year cast member who most recently served as President, Disney Signature Experiences.

“I’m incredibly proud of the new leadership team at Parks, beginning with the segment’s Chairman, longtime Disney veteran Josh D’Amaro, and his newly announced team of Jeff Vahle, Ken Potrock, Kareem Daniel and Thomas Mazloum,” said Chapek. “These talented executives played pivotal roles while leading our exceptional cast members during the largest period of growth in the segment’s history, which included the expansion of our parks and resorts around the world, the addition of new attractions including two highly acclaimed Star Wars-themed lands, and a shift to more personalized experiences for guests. And I am confident that as they assume even greater responsibility and pursue new opportunities, these proven leaders will have an even bigger impact on the future of our company.”

In response to this promotion, D’Amaro stated –

“I want to thank Bob for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to following his record of driving innovation, value and growth at Parks.  I am honored to be able to lead this newly announced team of exceptional senior leaders as we assume our new roles and continue to deliver unforgettable experiences for our guests. Even during this challenging time, the enthusiasm of our dedicated cast members for what we do is unwavering, and my goal is to bring them back to work as soon as possible so they can continue to create that magic.”

Disneyland Resort President Rebecca Campbell will now become the Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International. Both Campbell and D’Amaro will report directly to Chapek.

 

Disneyland Resort Updates Opening Information – Taking Reservations July 1 and After

Disneyland Resort has updated their website in regards to possibly opening. According to the statement, they are now taking reservations for travel dates of July 1 and later.

No definite information regarding an actual opening date at this time.

The full statement is below –

Disney Parks Releases Statement Regarding Reopening of Parks

Earlier today Disney released a statement on their plans and processes for reopening its theme parks.  Although it doesn’t offer any specifics on dates or what specifically they’ll do once the parks do open, it does present the first official details on what Disney is planning.

From Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel:

Dear Guests, 

As you may have heard at Disney’s Q2 FY20 Earnings Results Webcast, our CEO Bob Chapek announced that Shanghai Disney Resort will begin the phased reopening of Shanghai Disneyland on May 11 – an encouraging sign for Disney parks and retail locations all over the world. After so much time at home, I know many of you are eager to enjoy the magic of a Disney parks visit, and we can’t wait to welcome you back.

I’m fortunate to work with Disney’s extraordinarily talented team of health and safety experts who are some of the most experienced in the industry. Together, with our colleagues in operations, and local health and government authorities, we’re evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures to do our part towards helping us stay well while we work, stay, and play at a Disney resort and a Disney store. I’m also working closely with the US Travel Association on a set of guidelines the travel industry may tailor to their individual businesses to help demonstrate that safety of travelers is a top focus.

To that end, I want to share an update with you about our plans and considerations as we prepare for the reopening of our parks, resorts and stores. At Disney, we’re exploring:

  • Phased reopening: We’re looking at all of our locations and how best to begin the reopening process, including a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations. For example, the opening of retail and dining locations prior to the opening of our theme parks.
  • Physical distancing and capacity measures: As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as we implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies. This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. We’re also exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts, like with our Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
  • Cleanliness and sanitization: We’re planning increased cleaning and disinfection, determining where that should take place (for example, in high-traffic areas), and the cleaning products and processes we’ll use.  
  • Screening and prevention support: We’ll follow guidance from the government and the medical community regarding enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures, including those related to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face coverings. Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and hand washing stations across our resorts, have already been implemented.
  • Cast training: We’re further emphasizing our strong culture of health and safety amongst our cast members, and will continue to provide new training and reinforcement as we get closer to reopening.

These are just a few examples of the many areas we are developing plans for, so please keep an eye on our online channels, where we’ll provide more details as we confirm and begin to implement our plans. Given the constantly changing global health environment, these practices may evolve as we consider the latest guidance, but we will share more information with you as we look towards reopening.

In the meantime, our focus remains on the health and safety of the entire Disney community – including the wellbeing of the Cast Members who are caring for and securing our parks and resorts during the closure. We have already implemented a number of enhanced health and safety measures, such as increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in work areas, adjusting practices to promote physical distancing, and providing Cast with access to necessary PPE, including face coverings. We continue to learn from these experiences and will carry these lessons into reopening and beyond.

Finally, I want to recognize the medical professionals working to bring care and comfort in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to do what we can to help support the medical community and our local communities during this time.

We’re looking forward to welcoming all of you back to our Disney parks, resorts and stores. Until we are together once again, we wish you and your families health, hope, and happiness.

Thank you,

signature of Dr. Pamela Hymel

Disney Announces Walt Disney World/Disneyland Resorts Will Remain Closed Until Further Notice

Disney announced this afternoon that its domestic theme parks, which include both Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California, will remain closed until further notice due to the impacts of the coronavirus.

In the announcement Disney states –

While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our Guests and employees remain The Walt Disney Company’s top priority.

As a result of this unprecedented pandemic and in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed until further notice.

The Walt Disney Company has been paying its Cast Members since the closure of the parks, and in light of this ongoing and increasingly complex crisis, we have made the decision to extend paying hourly parks and resorts Cast Members through April 18.

What this means in terms of cancellations, modifying reservations, and rebooking is currently evolving.

DisneyWorld.com’s notice has been modified in several spots, and now reads:

To provide additional flexibility, we are waiving Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees up to the day of check-in for reservations with arrivals through June 30, 2020. And soon we’ll share additional options for booking and modifying vacations.

If no action is taken by you before your check-in date for arrivals during the closure period, Disney will automatically cancel your reservation within 7 days of the original check-in date and process any refund due to the original form of payment.

Since the closure period is now currently undefined, this presumably means that auto-cancellations will simply occur on a rolling basis a week before check-in.

 

Important Update: More Disney Closures due to COVID-19

Late Sunday night Disney announced that they would be closing all Disney Stores in North America beginning March 17. Guests will still be able to shop at shopDisney.com. Disney will also be closing all of it’s owned and operated locations at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and Disney Springs in Orlando, beginning March 17. Individual tenants […]

Late Sunday night Disney announced that they would be closing all Disney Stores in North America beginning March 17. Guests will still be able to shop at shopDisney.com.

Disney will also be closing all of it’s owned and operated locations at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and Disney Springs in Orlando, beginning March 17. Individual tenants will be making decisions on whether to close, continue operating or adjust operations.

In addition, all Disney owned and operated hotels at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will be closing at 5 PM on March 20.

Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort to Close due to COVID-19

As you may have heard the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Paris Resort will be closing until the end of the month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  In addition the Disney Cruise Line will suspend all departures until the end of the month.

In official statements Disney stated –

Disneyland  Resort-

While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California’s executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month.

The Hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16 to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements; Downtown Disney will remain open. We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time.

Disneyland Resort will work with guests who wish to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during this closure period. We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries.

Please contact The Walt Disney Travel Company for questions and cancellations at (714) 520-5050.

Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris & Disney Cruise Line –

Disney made the decision to close the Disneyland Resort following guidance from the state of California on restricting mass gatherings.

At the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney has installed portable hand-washing stations in addition to the hand sanitizer stations that have been in place for the last few weeks.

Walt Disney World has also installed new signage around the parks giving public health recommendations, including frequent hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and to seek medical attention if experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Walt Disney World has also added an FAQ section to their announcement:

PARK TICKETS

May I get a refund on my ticket?

Unexpired multi-day theme park tickets with unused days, or date-specific theme park tickets with a start date on or before March 31, 2020 will automatically be extended to use any date through December 15, 2020.

If you are unable to visit by December 15, 2020 you may apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date.

Will the spring special Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets be extended?

Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets may be used through July 31, 2020.

What about tickets for special events slated to occur during the closure?

Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours and Disney Early Morning Magic from March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 will be automatically refunded.

Will Annual Passes to Walt Disney World be extended?

Walt Disney World Annual Passes will be extended by the number of days the parks are closed.

RESORTS & HOTELS

I have a future stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel while the park is closed. What does that mean for my vacation?

Guests who have not checked in for stays between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 may modify or cancel their Disney Resort room reservation or Walt Disney Travel Company package up to their original check-in date.

If no action is taken, Disney will automatically process a refund to the original form of payment within seven days of the original check-in date. If you did not book through Disney directly, please contact your travel professional.

What if I want to cancel a Disney Resort hotel reservation after the parks reopen?

Disney will waive all Disney imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in through June 30, 2020.

DINING & OTHER EXPERIENCES

I have a pre-paid dining reservation or experience reservation like Droid Depot or Savi’s Workshop while the parks are closed. Will I receive a refund?

Yes.

All pre-paid dining and experience reservations will be automatically refunded if scheduled between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020.

What happens to FastPass+ reservations made during the closure?

They are automatically canceled without replacement.

What happens to dining reservations that required a credit card at the time of booking?

Reservations made at locations impacted by the closure will not be charged a cancellation or no-show fee.

What follows is not official information that Walt Disney World has provided, and is instead opinions made by the Disney Tourist Blog

Will the Walt Disney World theme parks reopen on April 1, 2020?

That remains to be seen.

While the official FAQ answers are treating this as everything magically returning to business as normal come April 1, 2020, we would caution you against having that expectation. It’s simply a matter of Disney wanting to be cautious and not triggering a wave of cancellations beyond then.

It’s moderately instructive to see how this outbreak has played out elsewhere, particularly in countries that have not engaged in aggressive early-stage containment. Japan is a decent example, and original 2-week closures there were just extended another 2 weeks, to be reevaluated at that time.

If the closure is extended, expect Walt Disney World’s official answers above to be modified in accordance with any subsequent extensions.

When do you think Walt Disney World will reopen? 

I don’t have the slightest idea. This such a dynamic and evolving situation–and one that remains in its early stages in the United States. I’m hopeful it can be resolved as quickly and safely as possible with aggressive measures and diligence, but I’m skeptical.

With all of that said, my personal best case scenario is Walt Disney World reopening at some point in mid to late April 2020. If I had a trip planned in or before May 2020, I’d begin processing the very real possibility that it might not occur.

Will Disney Springs remain open during the closure?

Officially, yes.

However, that’s because the vast majority of businesses there are owned and operated by third parties. Expect those to independently announce closures in turn, effectively rendering most of Disney Springs substantively closed.

What about the resort hotels?

Officially, those are remaining opening for existing bookings–primarily guests who have already arrived. Walt Disney World cannot exactly kick guests, many of whom came from literally all over the world and cannot instantly rebook return international flights, to the curb with two days’ notice.

Depending upon the actual duration of this closure, we anticipate resort operations to wind down at some point.

What about Disney Vacation Club points? 

As DVC members are not doubt aware, there are a lot of intricacies and nuance (for lack of better terms) governing the rules of DVC point use years, banking, holding accounts, and so forth.

We have a trip starting in 4+ days and I have a unique question, what should I do?

Wait and see.

The above FAQ was posted as Walt Disney World scrambled to address common questions because they’re website went down last night and call volume was so high that the lines were literally busy. Unless your trip is starting in the next 2 days, we would encourage patience (and we know that’s difficult).

You’ll save yourself stress and headaches in calling, waiting on hold for 5 hours, only to find out the answer is “I don’t know yet.” Everything we’ve seen thus far indicates Disney is going above and beyond to make things right here, and your answer will probably come to you if you’re just patient.

We have a trip slated to start during the closure but continue when the park is slated to reopen in April. What should we do?

Wait and see. (Are you spotting a trend here?)

As noted above, there’s no guarantee that the parks will reopen at the beginning of April 2020. Moreover, you have some time before you “need” an answer, so we’d encourage waiting for more info–it’ll be released as it becomes available.

We have a vacation scheduled for April 2020 or beyond, what should we do?

Wait and see.

There’s truly no benefit to acting preemptively. If Walt Disney World reopens and you’re comfortable to travel, great. If the parks do not open or you’re not comfortable to travel, you will certainly have the option to cancel or postpone without penalty at a later date.

UPDATE: The Walt Disney Travel Company is requesting that anyone with a check-in date after March 2020 not call right now so the lines are clear for more urgent travelers.

Should I call Walt Disney World now for [insert question or concern]?

Phone wait times in the next couple of days will be measured in hours, and will put Free Dining release day to shame.

Before calling, ask yourself what your time is worth, what the likelihood is of receiving an answer that satisfies your question, and the chances that Disney won’t proactively address your concerns at some point in the near future.

I spoke with a clueless customer service rep after waiting on hold for 6 hours, should I scream at them?

There’s a good chance that “clueless” customer service rep was totally in the dark about this (and to a large degree, still is) until arriving at work. There’s an even stronger probability they’ve been dealing with not-so-patient customers all day, and that they are overstressed, underpaid, and overworked.

Finally, there’s 100% certainty the person at whom you’d be yelling did not personally and unilaterally choose to close Walt Disney World or craft the policy you dislike. If the idea of kindness for its own sake is too much to grasp, just remember that (selfishly!) you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

We booked tickets/hotel/etc. via a third party, what is their refund policy?

We’d recommend contacting them directly. No third parties were consulted or notified about Walt Disney World’s plans to close, meaning all of them were caught off-guard and left scrambling to come up with policies.

This is an unprecedented and already catastrophic event for businesses–they’re figuring it out on the fly. We’d stress patience.

Normally we don’t report news from “that park down the road” aka Universal Studios Orlando, but they will also be closing –

Out of an abundance of caution and to assist with our nation’s preventive efforts, Universal Orlando Resort will temporarily close its theme parks. The closure is effective Monday, March 16th. We anticipate remaining closed through the end of March – but will continue to evaluate the situation.

Universal Orlando’s hotels and Universal CityWalk will remain open.

We have created flexible programs for those guests who have booked travel packages or tickets with us. Guests can call this number for more information: 877-801-9720.

 

 

Pictures, Videos and More Pictures…Oh My!

I first of all would like to apologize for not posting anything for a few months, but things have been a little hectic around here.  I was away at the D23 Expo in late August and visited the Disneyland Resort on that trip.  Immediately after I got home we had to take my daughter back to college.  Along with this…since I don’t due rumors and try to stay away from speculation the Disney news cycle kind of dried up just prior to the Expo.

When I go to the Disney parks….I take pictures and videos….a LOT of pictures.  It takes me a while to process all of these images and videos…because there are a lot and because processing the images around my job that pays the bills and allows us to eat.  I know….I need to re-evaluate my priorities…right?

Anyhow….I promise to get back into the swing of things and start posting again…very soon.

In the mean time, here are links to a collection of images and videos that I took while at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the D23 Expo 2019.  Enjoy!

Videos

Disneyland Resort/D23 Expo in Black & White

Disneyland Resort

D23 Expo 2019

 

Brand-New Walt Disney Archives Exhibit Celebrating Disney’s Most Iconic Heroes and Villains to Open at D23 Expo 2019

The Walt Disney Archives returns to D23 Expo with an all-new exhibit, “Walt Disney Archives Presents Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume.” From the classic Mary Poppins to this year’s live-action retelling of Aladdin, more than 70 costumes from 55 years of Disney movies and television shows will be on display from August 23–25 at the Anaheim Convention Center during the biennial event, presented by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.

Guests entering the 12,000-square-foot exhibit will be greeted by “Cinderella’s Workshop,” a gallery featuring the beloved fairy-tale character’s dresses from her numerous Disney incarnations, including 1997’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella; the gown worn by Scarlett Johansson for Annie Leibovitz’s 2007 Disney Dream Portrait series; 2014’s Into the Woods; the 2015 live-action reimagining of the animated masterpiece Cinderella; and the ABC hit series Once Upon a Time.

The main gallery will be broken into three sections: “Disney Heroes,” “Disney Villains,” and “Spaces Between,” reserved for the antiheroes whose fascinating journeys make them among Disney’s most complex characters.

Among the costumes included in the “Disney Heroes” section are Belle’s village dress and ballgown from 2017’s Beauty and the Beast; creations worn by the Genie, Aladdin, and Jasmine in this year’s live-action Aladdin; and—for the first time ever displayed together—three iconic Mary Poppins “traveling dresses” worn in three Poppins productions: the 1964 original film, 2019’s Mary Poppins Returns, and the Broadway musical. “Disney Villains” ensembles include the trio of wonderfully wicked witches from 1993’s Hocus Pocus, the duo of dresses worn by the stepsisters in 2015’s Cinderella, and the dress worn by the incomparable Bette Davis in 1978’s Return from Witch Mountain. And “Spaces Between” includes Maleficent’s gown from the 2014 film, as well as the Evil Queen and Hook’s costumes from Once Upon a Time.

The exhibit includes costumes from some of Hollywood’s preeminent designers, past and present, including Academy Award ® -winners Colleen Atwood, Sandy Powell, and Tony Walton, as well as Emmy ® winner Ellen Mirojnick and Emmy nominees Eduardo Castro and Penny Rose.

Many of the costumes on exhibit will be featured in The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between, a dazzling new book out this September from Disney Editions. The book will also be available in advance exclusively at D23 Expo.

The Walt Disney Archives Exhibit at D23 Expo has alway been a favorite of mine.  It is always well done and is very interesting.  The exhibit at D23 Expo 2017 was dedicated to Pirates of the Caribbean and was incredibly detailed.  I cannot wait to see this in August.

Single-day tickets for Friday and Sunday of D23 Expo 2019 are available for $89 for one-day adult admission and $69 for children 3–9. Gold Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club can purchase tickets for $77 for a one-day adult admission and $59 for children 3–9. Single-day Saturday tickets and three-day passes are sold out. For more information on tickets and D23 Expo 2019, visit D23Expo.com.

Disney Retires Shop Parks app, shopDisney to be Sole Online Shop

Earlier today Disney announced on the Disney Parks Blog that shopDisney.com is set to become the one-stop online shop for all things Disney as the Shop Disney Parks app will be retired at the end of the month.

According to Disney, the Shop Disney Parks app will be retired on May 31.  When this happens shopDisney.com and the shopDisney app will become the ultimate online retail location for all things Disney including Parks merchandise.

If guests go to the Shop Disney Parks app they will see a message upon opening which explains the retirement of the shopping application and providing a link to download the shopDisney app.

Disney has stated that shopDisney will offer an even larger selection of favorite items from Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and more.

At Walt Disney World Resort, My Disney Experience will continue to offer popular shopping features for guests including an availability map or the ability to ship select merchandise to home (U.S. addresses only) when guests order through the My Disney Experience

Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Members will also continue to receive their eligible discounts through the My Disney Experience app.

This does not really surprise me.  Disney had to have realized what I have always experienced with the Shop Parks app.  I have rarely had a pleasant experience.  The availability function with the app was essentially useless.  There have been many times when the app said that an item was out of stock at particular locations, yet there were dozens on the shelves. That was on top of the duplication of the shopping experience.  You never knew where to look for things.  Stuff that should have been park exclusive was seldom available on Shop Parks, yet at times could be found on shopDisney.

I admire the intention of developing and implementation of Shop Parks, but it just never met expectations and was a disappointment.  I’m glad Disney realized this and is moving on.

 

Tale of The Lion King Coming to Disney California Adventure

The Disneyland Resort announced today that they will celebrate the beloved characters and music of Disney’s “The Lion King” with an creative new adaptation of the popular and timeless story this summer. This celebration will be presented as a highly-theatrical outdoor musical production entitled, “Tale of the Lion King.”

“Tale of the Lion King” will take place on the Palisades Stage at Disney California Adventure for a limited time this summer, starting June 7.

According to Disney…

The show will feature a cast of 18 performers, including actors, singers, dancers and drummers, who form an ensemble called the Storytellers of the Pride Lands. This traveling troupe specializes in retelling revered stories in their own contemporary style, weaving their tale through language, song and dance.

Creative Director Susana Tubert and the team at Disney Parks Live Entertainment are in the midst of a series of workshops and rehearsals with the cast in preparation for the opening of “Tale of the Lion King” later this summer. Here’s a look behind the scenes.

Behind the Scenes Video

In this creative theatre production, the scenic, prop and costume designs celebrate the spirit of Africa.  According to Tubert new musical arrangements have been written for the most treasured songs from “The Lion King,” creating a score for the show with elements we associate with the emotional sweep of the original compositions, yet focused on the vocal performances of the actors and music from the drummers to drive a unique percussive sound.

I can’t wait to see this new show this summer when I’m there prior to D23 Expo.

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