The hits just keep coming for Disney. Last week, we learned the entertainment giant is dealing with record losses – to the tune of nearly $1 billion – after a series of recent box office flops. And now it appears that attendance at its theme parks is sagging as well.
On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by Joe Pags, host of The Joe Pags Show, to discuss Disney’s latest decline and what the company needs to do to regain its footing.
Wait Times Are Down
In an earnings call in May, former Disney finance chief Christine McCarthy cautioned investors that the Mouse House was expecting to see “a moderation in demand” at its domestic theme parks in the second half of 2023. That prediction appears to have been prescient. “It’s not looking good for Disney – not looking good at all,” Megyn said. “The latest report is that their theme parks are not doing so well.”
According to data provided by Touring Plans, a trip planning service that measures wait times through information posted by Disney parks on their mobile apps, the Fourth of July holiday saw drops in wait times in both Florida and California.
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, average wait times at Magic Kingdom were 27 minutes on July 4. That is down from 31 minutes on July 4, 2022 and 47 minutes in 2019 (i.e. pre-pandemic). EPCOT also dropped to 27 minutes from 35 minutes a year prior. Meanwhile, wait times declined year over year at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom by 26 minutes and 9 minutes, respectively.
Touring Plans toldThe Wall Street Journal that the drop is surprising. “It’s something that nobody would have predicted — just unfathomable,” said Len Testa, a computer scientist who runs Touring Plans. The group attributed it to factors like scorching Florida temperatures, high ticket prices, and changes in Americans’ travel habits.
Get Woke, Go Broke?
While shorter waits might be a win for those who are planning to visit Disney theme parks, it is likely not what the company had in mind for the busy summer travel season. As Megyn and Pags speculated, the factors outlined by Touring Plans may also be compounded by the cultural moment. “It comes at a time when, of course, Disney’s reputation is hemorrhaging,” Megyn noted.
The financial implications have been obvious. “Disney’s movie business has lost a ton of money… because of the huge investment in ‘woke’ films that nobody wants to go see, and now even [CEO] Bob Iger… is saying, ‘I think we may have misjudged things on our price hikes,’” she noted. “Maybe there wasn’t a market for these big inflated prices? Hello, Bob, especially not given what you’ve done to your brand.”
Pags said the ‘brand’ piece cannot be overlooked. Growing up, his family used to save all year for a trip to Disney. “Families aren’t doing that anymore,” he noted. He believes it has a lot to do with the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandates Disney is now operating under. “I never thought of a cartoon having a sexuality,” Pags said. And yet Strange World (2022) and Lightyear (2022) feature same-sex relationships, while Elemental (2023) has Disney’s first openly non-binary character.
Earlier this year, it was discovered that a man with a beard was working as a ‘fairy godmother’ at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Boutique in Magic Kingdom. “It was a guy dressed as a woman,” Megyn said. “I would not take littles into that store and have them be confused by that.”
In her view, this is not a partisan issue. “Republicans and conservatives and even Democrats who are not on board with this nonsense are not going to go support this brand that’s doing it or subject their kids, who are trying to have a magical experience, to this kind of nonsense,” she said.
What Comes Next
Both Megyn and Pags agreed that Disney can likely rebound if it gets back to its roots. “Disney can still save it if they use their brains, if they decide [to] make wholesome family fun,” Pags said. “It doesn’t matter what their sexuality is, doesn’t matter what the makeup of their family is – let’s just get them into the theme park.”
While that may be true, Megyn believes Disney is “too far gone” and too focused on its social standing. “[This approach] gives them the ability to say they’re better than us,” she said. “That’s what they want: Moral superiority.”
As she explained, “wokism” offers “meaning in a meaningless life” for its devotees. “It gives them the ability to look at the ‘deplorables’ out there – and that includes way more than just the die hard Trump supporters, folks – and say, ‘You’re sh-tty people and we are the enlightened elite… I will lecture you on how to live your life well and be respectful and inclusive of other groups… I’ll put Dylan Mulvaney on a beer can and I’ll solve all the world’s problems. I’ll put a dude in a dress in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Boutique and, therefore, I will leave this earth knowing I left it better than the way I found it.’” At the end of the day, “that’s how they think,” she added.
What Bud Light, Disney, and the like are learning, Pags said, is how that normal superiority impacts the bottom line. “They so dumb they don’t realize that, as they’re looking down their noses, I’m keeping my money in my wallet, you’re keeping it in your purse, and we’re not going to go there,” he said. “I hope that their wait times are two seconds soon.”
Then, perhaps, they will realize that the “elitism” is not doing them any favors. “If they’re smart, they’ll at least hide it,” he concluded. “But they’re putting it right out there for us all to say, ‘Well, I choose not to go to your your little park, and I’ll go to Mount Rushmore instead.’”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Pags by tuning in to episode 586 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.