Thursday, February 19, 2009

Layoffs hit the not-so-Magic Kingdom

As if things aren't bad enough, Disney announced yesterday that they will be making layoffs as part of an ongoing restructuring of their domestic theme-park business. No word on how many fewer Disney-ites will be whistling while they work, but this is an add-on to the voluntary executive buy outs that the company had previously offered. And no word on how many of the 600 execs who got that offer of a kinder, gentler heave-ho have said hi-ho to Disney, nor whether execs will be impacted by not-so-voluntary separation. (Source: Wall Street Journal - access may require a subscription.)

Two weeks ago, Disney had announced poor fiscal 1Q09 earnings for the quarter ending December 27, 2008:

“We faced a challenging first quarter with many of our businesses impacted to various degrees by the economic downturn,” said Robert A. Iger, Disney’s president and CEO. “We are forcefully confronting current circumstance while
investing in the great creativity, brands and assets that are Disney’s strengths and keys to its long-term success.”

This might as well be a cut and paste to everyone's earnings reports these days. (Company name goes here.)

Just one more depressing marker in a long string of layoff announcements, great and small, that I've lost track of. (The other day it was NASCAR that's retrenching. What next?)

I'm not the biggest Disney fan on the face of the earth, but I'm not a Disney-despiser, either.

I completely adored everything to do with Walt Disney as a kid, and can still sing all of the "theme of the day songs" from the Mickey Mouse Club. ("Today is Tuesday, you know what that means? We're going to have a special guest.") I had one of my first crushes on Tim Considine, the cutie-pie who played Spin on The Adventures of Spin and Marty. And, knowing that I would probably never go there, I watched in utter rapture when Disneyland Anaheim was opened.

Half of the movies I saw as a kid were Disney, and it was a big event to get on the bus and go "downcity" (which is what people in Worcester called downtown) with my friends to see The Parent Trap and Darby O'Gill and the Little People. (And, oh, yeah, I still remember the music to both of those movies. "Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah.") Sean Connery, before we even knew James Bond existed, starred in Darby O'Gill, I believe.

My parents weren't big on brand-name paraphernalia - to put it mildly - but we did have a few Disney goods in our house, including a plastic Mickey Mouse wallet that my sister Kath and I may have shared. (Can this be right? How can you share a wallet? Maybe it was hers and she gave it to me. No way it was mine and I gave it to her.) My brother Rich had a stuffed Mickey Mouse (with a plastic face) which he carried around by holding on to its nose with his mouth. All of the black paint peeled off, and the effect was pretty hideous. Picture Mickey with a fleshy-pink nose. Trish was of the Mary Poppins era. (Don't get me started: just thinking about how often we had to listen to that MP album makes me want to kick her Mary Poppins kickball. Good thing Trish was cute.)

Our champeen Disney product accumulator had to be my brother Tom - he of the Davey Crockett era: racoon cap, fringed jacket, cowboy boots, rifle. Not to mention the record which, fortunately, was an incessantly played single, not an incessantly played LP.

But there, of course, has to be an end to the amount of Disney merchandise that even the most modern, consumption-crazed family can accumulate. And only so many trips to the Magic Kingdom that a family facing job uncertainty (uncertainty, that is, unless they've already been laid off) can make - even if you do get to go free on your birthday. Not to mention the fact that, last time I counted, every woman of a certain age who was willing to sppear in public wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirt already has one.

I didn't get to see Disneyland until I was in my twenties.  This was in the seventies, when Walt had a fatwa on hippies. Could it be that they refused to let in men with long hair? That can't be possible. But I seem to remember that women couldn't wear halter tops. And I remember being alarmed and a bit creeped out by how clean cut, plastic, and smiley the average worker was in the park.

Still, I enjoyed every last moment of my Dumbo and Teacup rides - even if it was coming about 15 years too late.

Given the world we live in, it's no surprise that Disney is having layoffs.

But, call my goofy, it still makes me a bit sad.

Where is Jiminy Cricket when we need him?


Trixie said...

Wow - What timing - We were just at Disneyland on Tuesday and we couldn't help but notice a few things that got us wondering what the good folks at Disney were up to. Some of the rides were not as well lit as they used to be - and we realized it wasn't just our almost 50 year old eyes that were the problem - we heard others noting the same thing. So, maybe Walt & Co. are trying to be more "green" by saving some electricity, but more likely just trying to cut down on their utility bills.
Also, given that it was school vacation week, the crowds were way down. Not much waiting in line - which was good news for those of us there - but maybe not so good news for the folks who work there.

Orlando Hotels said...

I hope that Disneyland improved since then, and that everybody is getting back to have fun in Orlando!