Disney CEO Bob Iger joined CNBC for an interview just one day after it was announced he was remaining CEO through December 2026. Iger spoke about several topics ranging from his extension to the performance of Pixar films, but he also made some interesting comments about Disney’s theme parks.
Iger on CNBC:
“There are other elements of the business that I have huge optimism about, for instance, parks and resorts, which is just a tremendous business for us. We’ve invested significantly but the investments we’ve made over the years are really paying off today.”
Iger also mentioned pricing, which has been a hot topic in the Disney community. He said there aren’t any concerns about pricing and that he doesn’t have any long-term concerns about the theme parks.
His comments come after low crowds over the July 4th holiday at Walt Disney World led to major publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, questioning Disney. Iger said the article wasn’t accurate and focused too much on July 4th individually. There’s no question recent attendance has been lighter compared to 2019’s numbers, but 2019 is often viewed as peak crowding at the parks.
The parks and resorts are Disney’s most reliable source of income. But, too often Disney has slowed their investment in the theme parks when the parks are ripe for expansion. That’s the case today when Walt Disney World has nothing announced for the theme parks after the Journey of Water walk-through attraction opens at EPCOT in Fall 2023. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is also on the timeline, though that retheme of Splash Mountain doesn’t represent new expansion or capacity.
Disney’s lack of plans, especially at Walt Disney World, is troubling given their traditionally slow construction pace. Most recently, TRON: Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom was announced in 2017 but didn’t open until 2023. That doesn’t bode well for Walt Disney World where no new attractions beyond Journey of Water have been announced, meaning it might be 5+ years before anything new opens.
Meanwhile, Universal is full speed ahead on their new theme park Epic Universe just down the road from Walt Disney World. Scheduled to open in 2025, Epic Universe could shake things up in the theme park market in Florida. That’s troubling when Disney has nothing planned to counter Epic Universe. Even if Disney announced something today, their slow construction timelines mean nothing will open until Epic Universe has already opened its doors.
We’ve previously said Disney fans should be excited for Universal’s Epic Universe. Competition is a good thing. Disney will be forced to act when their major rival is making a big play to capture more of the theme park market. But, will Disney act fast enough?