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After taking a day off from covering the grisly details of Disney terminating 28,000+ domestic cast members over the next two months, we do have some unfortunate specifics to cover in this update. Some of what has emerged today is relatively positive. I still go back and forth on how much of this stuff I want to cover in detail. Almost every story coming out of the layoffs is somewhere between despondent and heartbreaking, even from those who have held on to their positions so far. In the coming days, perhaps we can highlight some individual stories that ideally end on a hopeful note. “Beaches and Cream Tomato Basil Soup for the Soul” is probably copyrighted in some way, but, “Sanaa Bread Service Because Carbs and Dips Bring You The Solace that Chicken Soup Possibly Can’t” is probably available.
The Walt Disney Company is an institution that has maintained a largely positive profile despite being one of the most aggressive, money-hungry media conglomerates the world has ever known. The Company’s public relations arm is a powerful one, assuming anyone is still left with a job there. For some reason, the Parks Blog has not reached out to me to start writing posts about Halloween Playlists or downloadable paper folding activities. The day is still young, though. My overarching fear is that by January 1st, most of this will be forgotten as Disney emerges even leaner and more profitable as 30,000+ families struggle more than ever in a free falling local economy. The Christmas season is just a couple of months away, unless you’re Disney, in which case it probably starts next week.
If you’d like to skip some of the union layoff specifics, you can always skip it and jump to the “Today’s Waits” section, which I’m told is particularly invigorating today as only overall average wait time charts can be.
Disney’s largest union made a statement today:
— UNITE HERE! Local 362 (@UNITEHERE_CFL) October 7, 2020
And specifically, the announcement:
Obviously, some will benefit from the weeklong negotiations more than others, but the union “saving” nearly 5,300 full-time jobs is good news, at least so long as the same or a new opportunity becomes available by October 1st, 2022. The union didn’t do much for the 8,800 Part-Time employees who will end up being laid off, in addition to the 6,000+ non-union cast members, and many more thousands of seasonal cast members on both coasts that have seemingly never been acknowledged.
Basically, those cast members who are classified as full-time and haven’t yet been recalled will continue to receive help with health insurance and preserve their seniority. That does come at a cost to Disney, which will be passed down to us, probably in the form of incremental increases in soda prices. While not all part-time cast wanted to be full-time, I would imagine that the majority of those under the age of 40 were striving to make it happen. Keeping part-time cast members on furlough, who don’t receive health insurance or benefits that cost the company much money at all, would have cost less than sticking with the Full-Timers. Imagine working 30 hours a week for about $12.50 an hour for three years, hoping that you’d finally break through to Full-Time, only to be caught in a massive round of layoffs where your individual accomplishments and personality aren’t even considered.
Since I’ve never had a job before, I’m probably not the best source for insight into these negotiations, but I’m guessing a press release from the union paints the picture just about as rosily as possible. But they are right – with so many resorts, attractions, shows, etc. still closed, the work isn’t yet there for 15,000 or more people. That’s particularly true with Disneyland still shuttered after we went Full Florida here over three months ago with one big “!@#$ it.” What’s the worst that can happen when more people come to this state specifically to die than any other already.
There is one key date in the press release – October 1st, 2022, which is also when the current contract expires. Full-Time cast hold on to their seniority, higher pay, and the ability to jump the line in front of those the union identifies as “coming off the streets” until then. But Disney is tricky, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they wait until exactly October 2nd, 2022 to get back to some serious hiring, once they can safely ignore all of the past history with so many of their life-long employees. If you’re looking for a new job with Disney, the fact that most will be unavailable to new hires for the next two years is probably also disheartening. On the other hand, this is the same company that just fired 28,000 people without impunity. A job in the soft serve yogurt business anywhere but the Anandapur Ice Cream Truck sounds refreshing.
Baggage Airline Guest Services, or Bags Inc., will lay off 560 employees. Those numbers aren’t included in Disney’s 28,000+ count because they’re third party. Those cast members work the airline check-in kiosks at the resorts and help with luggage and valet services. It’s unclear when those positions will return or if Bags will still be the employer. Disney isn’t currently offering valet services, but there was typically a cast member in front of the resort to help with bags and direct guests where they needed to go. It’s unlikely most people realized these weren’t officially Disney employees, potentially for liability reasons and to distance themselves from negotiations with the airport and local municipalities. If you can pass the buck, you pass the buck. It’s likely that once Disney begins offering these services again, Bags will rehire people or Disney will hire the positions. If they don’t someone else will. If you see me as the valet, take my advice and take the keys back. Your automobile will return in at least two pieces.
It’s also possible that Disney is using the pandemic as an excuse to cut some of the services that cost the company money, but didn’t necessarily impact whether a guest chose to stay on-site. People continue to fill the available resorts as we speak, even with no Extra Magic Hours or FastPass+ perks, among others. Paid FastPass+ was always in the cards and Disney has wanted to eliminate Extra Magic Hours for years. While we can blame many of the terminations on a lack of demand or limited Park capacities, a lot of the consolidations that we’re currently seeing and upcoming restructuring are all part of the cost-cutting that Disney has been undertaking for years. We blamed it on Shanghai cost overruns for a while. That was never really true. We’re blaming it on COVID now. At some point, it will come out that the disease wasn’t to blame for many of the layoffs either. Disney eliminating the jobs of people who have worked for the company for 20+ years under the guise of an economic downturn is a solid scapegoat. It provides the cover you need to get rid of just about anyone. A couple of posts ago, we highlighted the termination of Ms. Jenn Fickley-Baker, who holds a Ph.D. and has worked for the company for 19 years, basically building the Parks Blog into what it is today during its formative years. COVID is the perfect excuse to get rid of her and replace her with someone who will do basically the same job for half the money.
We should hear more about the specifics about who is being let go from the many unions that represent cast members across property over the next couple of months. The Carpenters expect to lose 184 positions. I’m guessing this hour-long live-stream wasn’t easy to get through for anyone involved.
Time for a little miniature golf with @easywdw at Fantasia Gardens Fairways Course. Bruin’s first time playing. The attendant said “It’s the hardest miniature golf course in the world.” Start them out with the best I say. pic.twitter.com/2kp6IobQ0o
— Grim Grinning Guys (@grimgringuys) March 26, 2018
Switching gears, the Winter Summerland mini golf will reopen on November 6, 2020, and continue to operate through January 30th of next year. Fantasia Gardens will close at the end of the day on November 5th and likely reopen when Winter Summerland closes.
Finally, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Brickers replace Anna and Elsa in the processional around World Showcase at Epcot in the near future. You can pull up the Today article here. Something tells me I’m going to be the person walking behind the horse with the pooper scooper. Poetic indeed.
As usual, we begin with the chart of Animal Kingdom’s average daily wait since the Park reopened:
After last week’s drop in waits virtually across the board, we’re back to seeing the longest waits yet for each day of the week at Animal Kingdom this week. Wednesday’s average of 24.0 minutes was the longest of any Wednesday yet, and longer than the first eight Saturdays.
Here’s the chart:
Higher waits at Animal Kingdom continue to be driven by what is apparently renewed interest in Flight of Passage, where the average for the day is 52 minutes with an 85-minute peak at 9:45am. Waits are longer elsewhere, too, with DINOSAUR peaking at 50 minutes in the afternoon, and Everest shifting between 25 and 35 minutes for the majority of the day. Safaris’ average is also…above-average at 22 minutes. Since it was the busiest Wednesday yet, it makes sense that the waits would also be longer.
Amusingly, TouringPlans is either smitten with or scared of our daily crowd reports, now publishing their own:
Or someone there may have finally figured out how to use the Windows calculator to hit the divide button. It’s both amazing how little information the chart actually provides – Animal Kingdom’s average wait ranges between 22 and 25 minutes for the majority of the day…not super helpful… – and how few actual wait times they collect in the message underneath.
Animal Kingdom has nine attractions that post wait times. Across those nine attractions, and over the course of the eight hour day, their userbase managed to collect 15 total waits, or 1.67 actual waits per attraction. At some attractions, they probably collected zero actual waits. They still try to use that small pool of data to try to explain away why their crowd predictions were so far off from time to time. “It’s not us, it’s them, and we have 1.67 wait times to prove it!” Based on what they’re saying, it looks like they’ll calculate their actual wait times based on how far off standby waits are at certain times of day. As I’ve said before, if you’re capable of subtracting 30% from the posted wait, you could open a Disney World wait times app too and market it as the most reliable out there.
Even if Flight of Passage is moving through just 800 people per hour, or 6,400 riders over the course of the day, it doesn’t seem like you could come to too much of a conclusion about whether or not posted wait times are realistic when you only collect them for zero-point-zero-two percent of rides for the day. Theoretically, their app would offer you the “actual wait” for each attraction every minute of the day. With nine attractions that post a wait, and 3,600 minutes in the operating day, that’s 32,400 actual wait times that the app would need to provide. I’m not sure how much adding 1.67 wait times to each attraction will improve what I’m sure they refer to as “actual wait time models,” but I’ve always said calling their operation junk science is offensive to junk.
Those collected actual waits by app users are also going to be disproportionately at times of day when actual waits would more likely be lower than what’s posted. To start the day, Disney often posts the wait based on the last person to arrive at the attraction. That means the first wait you see for Flight of Passage could be 60 minutes. Will the first person who arrives at Flight of Passage wait 60 minutes? No. But the posted wait at that time isn’t even intended for that person. It’s intended for the person at the back of the line who will actually wait an hour. Likewise, we all know Disney exaggerates waits at the end of the day to dissuade guests from getting in line.
Disney may still post 70 minutes for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway a minute before the Park closes, even if it’s almost always closer to half that. Does that mean posted wait times at Hollywood Studios are off by 100%? If you go by that one actual wait, you might think so. Posted waits typically run about 15 minutes behind the times. So if you see 30 minutes for Star Tours at 1:30pm, and the actual wait is closer to 15, chances are you’ll see a wait closer to 15 minutes posted by 2pm, likely with a five minute buffer for cleaning.
Even with Test Track miraculously operating all day, waits are still well above-average at Epcot. Frozen sees a short lull at 12:15pm, dropping to “just” 35 minutes, before the posted wait doubles to 70 minutes by 1:30pm, and ends the day with a 62-minute average. But we see peak waits that are reminiscent of the Before Times when FastPass+ existed and Park Pass did not. Soarin’ hits 70 minutes. Nemo jumps to 30 minutes. Mission: SPACE hits an hour. Figment tops out at 30 minutes.
That’s not exactly what we bargained for coming off of the low crowds and wait times from the first few weeks. It’s possible that we were all purposefully duped as Disney filled the Park with paid “influencers” promoting the low wait times and how passing by ten thousand nasty unwashed people over the course of the day somehow “felt safer” than grocery delivery or the Taco Bell drive-thru. It really doesn’t, particularly now with three times as many people in the park. But I was right there reporting the good news alongside them, with no goodie bag full of gift cards, cruises, and plush to show for it. You don’t have to be a genius to realize who the idiot is in that situation.
It seems unlikely that Hollywood Studios would show improvement, but we’ll check anyway since we do everything alphabetically. At least that’s something TouringPlans didn’t take from us:
Well…Tuesday’s average wait was actually lower than either of the two past Tuesdays. Here’s the chart:
As usual, take a look at those wait times at 10:30am and try to figure out where you want to wait for an hour. There’s Muppet*Vision at ten minutes, but even Toy Story Mania and Swirling Saucers, which are routinely close to being walk-ons after 2pm most days, are at 35 minutes. Even if the actual wait is 70% of that, it’s still a combined 49 minutes in line for about six minutes of action. That may still be better than Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, where the posted wait is 75 minutes for about 89 seconds of thrills. Even if the actual wait is half, that’s still almost 40 minutes in line just 30 minutes into Park open.
On one hand, I suppose long wait times are an indication of success. You’ve done enough to get the people to pay the money to visit, many of whom are perfectly aware of the morning crush and the fact that you have ten to fifteen seconds to sign your group up to ride Disney World’s most popular attraction before waiting for hours to be disappointed again. That might not be unlike reading through one of those posts.
Here’s October 7th:
Alien Swirling Saucers at 5 minutes to start the day looks good. 50 minutes at 11am does not. 100 minutes for Slinky to start the day is also not particularly positive. Remember, this is just a random Wednesday in October. With wait times that you might be able to describe as preposterous out of the gate, it’s almost unconscionable that Disney hasn’t moved the opening to 8am, particularly after moving Animal Kingdom’s open up an hour to 9am. The Studios, despite the highest average waits, has also seen the fewest Park hour extensions. On some weekends, they’re moving Animal Kingdom back to its original 8am to 6pm hours, and adding two hours to the end of the day at Magic Kingdom. At best, the Studios adds an hour, closing at 8pm. If you’re doing the Studios, load up on alprazolam and try to glide through the day to the best of your ability. Even Muppet*Vision is at 45 minutes at 11:30am, which means you likely need to wait through at least 2.5 shows, plus a ten-minute theater bleach-down, before it’s your turn to enter the theater. Your total experience time there could be as long as 75 minutes.
To the Magic Kingdom:
Typically, average waits at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom go up and down in tandem. That’s not true this week with Magic Kingdom waits shorter each day than the same day last week. It was the opposite at Animal Kingdom. Don’t tell Disney.
Here’s the chart for Wednesday with the lowest overall average for a Wednesday in a month:
In our Animal Kingdom rope drop post, I postulated that Disney was still focusing on getting more people to Animal Kingdom early, which opens up the morning at Magic Kingdom even on days with higher average waits. The buses aren’t there to bring people over from the resorts and physical-distancing drastically reduces the capacities of the monorails and ferryboats. That looks to be true as we don’t see an average wait of 20 minutes until 10am. At Park open, Magic Kingdom’s average wait is 9.1 minutes, compared to 48 minutes at Hollywood Studios. Maybe they can airlift some of the rides from Magic Kingdom over to Hollywood Studios. The Mermaid Ride would fit alongside Voyage of the Little Mermaid. The Barnstormer is short enough to compete directly with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Astro Orbiter might actually launch you into another Park. Who said park hopping was dead?
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as crowds and wait times this week. Since my Seahawks are in primetime on Sunday, we may have some time earlier in the day for an overarching update on how things have shaken out since reopening and focus on some big picture stuff.
Current Disney Park Pass Availability
The general public must be a glutton for punishment as more days in October fill up at the Studios. With the exception of Halloween, every yellow day you see indicates no availability at the Studios. All of the other Parks remain available. This is due in part to the fact that the Studios releases the fewest Park Passes, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much to keep waits down. On October 31st, only Magic Kingdom is currently unavailable.
The rest of the Park Pass calendar is just about what we saw last time. You can always pull up a live-ish version of it here.
Operating Schedule Changes
Look for another round of updates on Friday along with another week of operating hours added in December.
That should get you caught up. I’ll try to get another one of these out for Friday, probably take a day off from it on Saturday, and then take a look at the week and last several months for Sunday’s update. Just hide the Dewar’s.