A Disney World Pervert’s Take On: The Shitcanning Of Disney CEO Bob Chapek
5:14 PM EST on November 21, 2022
The Disney Corporation fired CEO Bob Chapek Sunday night, 11 days after the company reported disappointing quarterly net income and sales figures and triggered a steep decline in stock price. Chapek will be replaced, in a Color Star–esque maneuver, by his predecessor, Bob Iger, who stepped down in February 2020 after 15 years on the job.
Perhaps you have no particular feelings about Chapek personally, and will naturally therefore fall back on enjoying the humiliation of any particular member of the executive class, even as you understand that being fired, at the executive level, often comes with a bonus and severance package worth tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps your only real context for this news is the breathtaking horrors Chapek committed against Disney's labor force during the pandemic: a stunning 32,000 layoffs over a six-month period starting in October 2020; the sudden halting of the company's College Program; and the pausing of the company's cultural representative program, the shuttering of which meant quite literally expelling some number of theme-park workers from the United States.
Chapek's chopping instincts aren't limited to pandemic times: His proposed solution to Disney's disappointing earnings, per an internal memo sent to Disney executives on November 11, was to further slash payroll, via "staff reductions" and a "targeted hiring freeze." In the inspiring words of Chapek, leadership requires the making of "tough and uncomfortable decisions," words that translate from Execuspeak as "let's just take away the livelihoods of the people who do all the actual work around here." It's important to note, here, that Disney is not losing money: It made $162 million in profit on nearly $20 billion in sales in Q4, and Chapek himself bragged in the earnings report of "record sales and [the company's] best revenue growth in more than 25 years." The company simply did not make its forecast, in large part due to the outrageous costs of blasting a firehose of various cinematic universes onto Disney+ (which lost $1.47 billion last quarter alone and is expected to continue operating at a loss until at least 2024) in order to compete in The Streaming Wars. Missing forecast caused shareholders to become bummed, and executives love nothing more than to lift the spirits of shareholders by ending the careers of workers.
Here I shall go Commie Mode on the news of Chapek's firing, in hopes that you will forgive everything that follows. Chapek oversaw one of the more appalling labor reductions in modern history; his only way of balancing a hell-or-high-water pursuit of streaming dominance was to slash and burn other established areas of Disney's business, often at the expense of workers and consumers; and even if the next guy would've pursued and will pursue the exact same strategy, the guy who pulled the various levers that ended with literal tens of thousands of people losing their jobs deserves to be out on his ass, if not in prison. Yeah!
Unfortunately I must now proceed to the Disney World Pervert portion of this blog. For you see, I am a disgusting Disney World Pervert, and as such I feel that I cannot waste this opportunity to use the homepage of this otherwise respectable website to petition the company's leadership regarding certain changes that I would like to see at Disney World when I return there in September 2023, for [gulp] at least the 15th time in 18 years.
Item 1: I Do Not Want To Pay For This Genie+ Thing
It is imperative that Iger immediately get rid of this Genie+ business. For those who are unacquainted, a quick summary: For a long time, certain popular Disney World attractions (the Pervert word for "rides") offered what were called FastPasses, which were distributed each day on a first-come-first-served basis from kiosks located in front of the attractions themselves, and which gave the holder an appointment time to return to the attraction and advance to the front of the queue with little or no wait. The idea was to distribute guests (the Pervert word for "patrons") throughout the park by making it so that some number of guests who were waiting to ride, say, Peter Pan's Flight at Magic Kingdom could do their waiting while riding other rides, eating in restaurants, watching parades, and so on and so forth.
In 2013, Disney upgraded the FastPass system to something called FastPass+, which allowed guests to pre-book FastPasses in advance of their visit, and without physically setting foot in the park, eventually obviating altogether the need for physical kiosks. FastPass+ reservations were stored digitally and redeemed by touching a bracelet loaded with an RFID chip to a fun little stanchion at each attraction's FastPass entrance. Importantly, use of the FastPass+ system was free, as were the Magic Band bracelets used by guests. The FastPass+ system unfairly advantaged guests staying in Disney World resort hotels (as opposed to off-property hotels), who were given priority access to FastPasses, but as I am a true Disney World Pervert who would never, never settle for a room in an off-property hotel, this is something I have not ever cared about at all, and in fact still do not. If Bob Iger dropped The Big One on Kissimmee tomorrow, my sole concern would be protecting the delightful and Disney-run Port Orleans resort from radioactive fallout.
But in 2021, Chapek oversaw the retirement of the FastPass+ system and its replacement with what is called Genie+. Genie+ is basically the FastPass+ system, except that it is now a paid service with "flexible pricing," which means that it will run you anywhere from $15 to $29 per person per day of use. In an even more shameless ploy, Genie+, despite being a paid line-skipping service, does not offer line-skipping at all Disney World attractions where line-skipping is available. Lightning Lanes, a supplementary à la carte service, offers dynamic pricing to those who wish to skip the lines at certain of the parks' most popular attractions. Ostensibly these two services allow you to dabble in only as much or as little line-skipping as you please, but functionally they are designed so that the purchase of one without the other will feel stupid and pointless: Purchasing Genie+ for a day at Disney's Hollywood Studios, for example, gives you line-skipping opportunities at the wonderful Muppet*Vision 3D—which absolutely never has lines long enough to justify any juking measures—while withholding line-skipping opportunities at Star Wars: The Rise of the Resistance, which is probably the most popular ride at any amusement park on the planet. It makes no sense to spend $29 per person for line-skipping at Disney's Hollywood Studios if you are then going to have to spend up to three hours waiting in the line for Star Wars: The Rise of the Resistance. On November 22, the Lightning Lane price for this ultra-popular ride was a whopping, absolutely fucking criminal $25 per person.
It used to be you bought a ticket to a Disney World theme park, you entered the theme park, and you stood in some lines and you rode the rides. Then for a while if you got to the ride and the line was long you wandered over to a little kiosk and checked to see if you could maybe make a date to come back in the afternoon. Then for a while you made your attraction appointments from the comfort of your computer or smartphone, which saved you the effort of backtracking all over the parks collecting FastPass tickets. But the key thing was that these attraction access systems were available to everyone who could afford a ticket to the theme park. Chapek made it so that rich people get to go to the front of the line, and they get to do that enough already.
There again I have slipped into Commie Mode, which is just objectively an absurd mode to be in when discussing pricing at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless I must insist that Bob Iger immediately get rid of this Genie+ business and restore the old FastPass system, in time for my visit, which just to be clear will be in September 2023.
Item 2: I Do Not Want To Pay For Parking
Disney World operates a whole robust bus line for its guests. People who have never been to Disney World might sometimes struggle to wrap their heads around the full scope and scale of the operation down there. Disney World has highways, man. It's got multiple forms of mass transit—buses, boats, a monorail, trams, a damn gondola lift—and those mass transit systems handle approximately 10 times more passengers per week than Baltimore's subway system handles in an entire year.
For about 17 years, Disney World also operated a very popular bus shuttle service taking guests to and from Orlando International Airport. Disney's Magical Express, as it was called, made it possible for a lot of out-of-towners to fly down to Orlando, hop onto a nice, cheerfully themed bus, be delivered directly to check-in at their Disney-run hotel, and never once use a car during their vacation. Importantly, this shuttle service was free.
In 2021, again under Chapek, Disney World announced the discontinuation of the Magical Express service, and sold its airport shuttle business to the less-delightfully named Mears Transportation, which charges $34 roundtrip per adult. This stinks. As good as Disney's on-site bus system is for getting around the parks, it was a lot easier to stomach handing yourself over to Disney transportation when it was free from the moment you got off the airplane. Now that it is not free, the flexibility and freedom offered by your own set of wheels starts to look a lot more appealing. Maybe instead of flying into Orlando International and paying for shuttle service to and from Disney World, you pack your shit into the family sedan and drive on down there, instead.
If there's one thing Disney World has in incredible abundance, it is parking spaces. Two of the five largest parking lots on the planet, by capacity, are found on Disney World property, and each of Disney World's 22 on-site resort hotels has parking lot capacity for maximum occupancy. And, for most of Disney World's existence, those parking spaces were free for Disney World resort hotel guests. I have always been a car user at Disney World, as suits my preference for escaping crowds and spontaneously purchasing gigantic hot fudge sundaes from the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain And Chocolate Shop at Disney Springs at all hours. I don't mind admitting, here, that the relatively hassle- and fee-free experience of driving around Disney World made it possible for me to consume a genuinely astonishing volume of hot fudge sundae over the years.
But in 2018, Disney began to charge guests for parking at resort hotels, at rates of $15 to $25 per night. It is no longer possible to stay on-property at Disney World without paying someone for your ground transportation, whether that be Mears for taking you to check-in, or Disney World for, uhh, allowing you to park in one of its many tens of thousands of open parking spaces. To me this is disgusting, as a person who cares about the bottom-line health of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, and I would like to see the situation remedied before I arrive for my next Disney World vacation, which to reiterate will be in September of 2023.
Item 3: I Do Not Want To Pay Six Bucks For 5.3 Ounces Of Dole Whip Soft Serve
Here you will say that I am nitpicking. Not so! Back in January, Disney World raised prices on nearly all of its food and beverage offerings, soon after blanket increases in the prices of park tickets, parking, airport shuttle service, and more. Fried mozzarella sticks at Tony's Town Square restaurant—this is two long breaded sticks of mozzarella—are now an outrageous $14. Popcorn—which, to be clear, is a small handful of corn kernels which have been heated in oil by a machine patented 130 damned years ago—is $5.50. Delicious Dole Whip soft serve ice cream, purchased from the Aloha Isle snack stand in the Adventureland section of Magic Kingdom, jumped from an already aggressive $4.99 to a deeply disturbing $5.99 per serving. This cannot stand.
It cannot be overstated how aggressively Chapek squeezed Disney World's guests in order to help offset the outrageous costs of his streaming gambit. In November 2021, while discussing fourth-quarter earnings, Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy floated the idea of cutting food portion sizes as a profit-driving measure, suggesting that it "would probably be good for some people's waistlines." I cannot say whether the company ever pursued this strategy, but I can say that charging five damn dollars for damn popcorn will for sure make it that much more painful when I plow through an entire bucket in the time it takes my wife to use the restroom.
The fees and price increases that came to define the Chapek era have taken a Disney World vacation from something many families can manage with a year or two of careful belt-tightening to something some families can manage if they receive a large life-insurance pay-out. I would like to see this trend reversed by September of 2023, so that I may slurp a Dole Whip without needing to dip into my child's college fund.
Item 4: I Do Not Want To Ride This Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway Attraction
Disney World permanently closed The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios back in 2017, and replaced it in 2020 with something called Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. To me this was a huge error, because The Great Movie Ride kicked ass and I loved it. If necessary, you may move Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway to the current location of Under the Sea—Journey of The Little Mermaid, which everyone knows sucks shit. Please see to it that this regrettable mistake has been cleaned up by September of 2023.