Million-dollar question? More like $900 million dollar question! In The Walt Disney Company’s most recent earnings call, Bob Chapek mentioned there would be Disney World project delays in order to save the company around $900 million in spending this year. Many Disneyphiles around the globe are wondering what Walt Disney World projects delays should we expect thanks to no one’s friend, COVID-19. You don’t have a friend in us! Let’s take a trip around the world and what Disney World project delays we could see.
The $900 Million
The date, May 5, 20202. The place, The Walt Disney Company earnings call. On this date, we learned from Bob Chapek about the $900 million Disney is looking to save this year. First and foremost, it is important to understand what this year means in terms of Disney. The Disney year runs from Oct 1st to Sept 30th. When Bob Chapek mentioned saving $900 million this year, he is referring to the next six months.
Another key aspect to understand is how Disney recognizes expenditures as it relates to Disney park projects. To keep costs and spending down, Disney will usually spread the spending of updating or building of a new attraction over the course of many quarters. For example, if a project is expected to cost $80 million dollars to construct, we could see cost spread over 18 months or more, compared to a lump sum.
When Bob Chapek stated Disney would save $900 million we immediately knew there would we see Disney World project delays. More than likely not canceled, just delayed to when the projects would begin or would be completed. Additionally, with Disney having a multitude of projects around the world, the savings will also come from outside of Walt Disney World. The question now becomes which projects could be impacted at Walt Disney World.
The Magic Kingdom. We’re looking at you Tron Lifecycle Power Run. Slated to be the new cornerstone of Tomorrowland, the Tron coaster could see its opening pushed out further. From what we understand, the original plans were looking for the coaster to be completed within the first half of the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebration in 2021. It was meant to be one of the projects that drew guests to the parks earlier parts of the celebration. With the attraction being a mirror image of the Shanghai Disneyland attraction, Disney knew exactly how long it would take to construct the new attraction and there would not be any delays.
According to Jim Hill, of Jim Hill Media, Tron could be one of the attractions where we could see Disney World project delays take effect. With the attraction not within the park limits, it would be easy for Disney to slow construction progress to spread out the cost associated with the attraction and have minimal impact on the guest experience.
On to Hollywood Studios. After the completion of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the park has minimal construction projects. The one project mid-stream is the new Toy Story Restaurant. Our original estimates had the restaurant opening for the first half of the 50th anniversary celebration.
With recent opening of Regal Eagle Barbecue in Epcot’s American Pavilion and location of the Toy Story Restaurant Disney could easily pause the project. Currently everything is behind the scenes (off-stage, in Disney terms), Disney could easily pause the progress with no guest impact. Based on the current social distancing requirements for restaurant this is a project would make a lot of sense to delay.
It’s the one everyone has been waiting for, Epcot. Just prior to everything getting flipped upside down Epcot was in the early stages of its major overhaul. The multi-year project including changes throughout the park and now we could see Epcot having most Disney World project delays. Let’s go around the horn and start with the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. The first of its kind coaster includes scenes filmed by the movie’s cast. The plan called for the scenes to be filmed in conjunction with the filming of the third movie. This is a similar approach that Disney used with Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout in California. With the movie production facing delays, it is safe to assume the attraction will face delays as well. These scenes play a critical part in the attraction and until they can begin production on the movie, Disney is unable to create what is needed for the attraction.
Next door to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the Play Pavilion. The Play Pavilion has been one of the projects Disney has kept mostly under wraps. It is unknown when it could open, what the experiences will be, and everything in between. With the pavilion having gone used for many years prior to COVID-19 and every being 100% indoors, the Play Pavilion is an easy attraction for Disney to delay. There would be zero guest impact.
Off to the World Showcase Lagoon. When Epcot Forever debuted in Oct of 2019, everyone knew the nighttime show would be a temporary offering until HarmonioUS took its place. Epcot Forever was projected to have a 12-month run before making way. Now, it is looking like HarmonioUS could be delayed for some time. With social distancing being the new norm in the short-term, we would expect Disney to hold off on any nighttime shows in order to prevent “large gatherings” of guests. This could be one of the easiest Disney World projects delays to assume, as Disney will want to make a splash with the new nighttime show.
If there is one attraction that has the highest likelihood of being canceled it would have to be Mary Poppins. Since its announcement at D23 back in August of 2019, the project has been the most up in the air of any announced Disney World related attraction. With estimates of the attraction costing around $80 million to build, we could see this attraction being put back in the Imagineers file cabinet for a bit. This would similar to when Disney canceled the Main Street Theater in order to reallocate the money to other projects.
The time has come to tackle the project that is front and center at Epcot. We’re talking about the Epcot spine project or what will be known as World Celebration. With buildings already torn down and the Fountain of Nations removed, Disney will have a major decision to make as it relates to this area of Epcot. Currently, navigating Epcot is not easy and Disney planned to make updates to this section of the park as fast as possible. This is the one project impacting the guest experience. Rumors are floating around Disney could be looking a lighter version of the planned overhauled. We’ve heard everything from not opening Epcot for some time to finish construction to paving over the area in the short term, and even scraping the idea around the festival center building. With nothing confirmed by Disney, we’re saying everything is on the table. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, Imagineering is evaluating an array of potential options for the area.
There is one delay we should expect and that will be a major overhaul to Spaceship Earth. We’re projecting Disney to go one of two ways, either the lightweight update we spoke about a previous article or holding off altogether. We should know more come the end of May and the originally planned date for Spaceship Earth closing.
Disney World project delays will all depend on when Disney can reopen. There will be a definite balancing act Disney will have to consider, as many of these projects are expected to be headliners for the Walt Disney World 50th-anniversary. A portion of the $900 million in savings is occurring already with all construction being on hold. Additionally, another portion of savings is related to global construction projects like the Disneyland Marvel Campus being delayed. The remaining amount will come from slowing down these projects and potentially resuming normal construction efforts in October of 2020. For us, the next big question is how will this impact the 50th-anniversary celebration. But, that’s a question for another day or maybe next week. Hint, hint! Did we answer the $900 million question? Maybe, as Disney has not officially announced any Disney World project delays. For now, we’re off to work on that next article!