Disney Parks Decision Process??

k5xs

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 11, 2007
Does anyone have any insight into the Disney parks decision process?

There has been a lot of discussion here and elsewhere regarding recent (and not so recent) changes in the parks that some (myself included) find disappointing. Things like charging for resort parking, eliminating Disney’s Magical Express, replacing Illuminations with barge-marked Harmonius, redesign/theming of the Contemporary rooms, etc.

Does anyone know who makes decisions like those, and what processes are followed? Are committees involved? Are focus groups used? Are survey data collected and analyzed?

I have no purpose in asking other than curiosity, but I would very much appreciate any first-/second-/third-hand insights.
 

BrianL

Doom Buggy Driver
Joined
Jul 24, 2013
It's just like any other corporation - there are a lot of factors that play into it, though they are definitely watching the bottom line the most. For something like Magical Express, the contract was likely up to be renegotiated. Disney and Mears did not come to agreeable terms for whatever reason, so the service is being ended. I am sure both sides wanted to get as much of the pie as they could. Other things absolutely have to do with money, though I am sure they do tons of market research. A lot of the rising prices we are seieng is because, well, the guests will pay it. While it has been the "last straw" for many visitors, there are still many who will go and pay the prices - they were there last weekend (as was I)! So, it's just supply and demand economics at play there. The best thing you can do to send a message is to not pay a price that you deem too high. When enough people deem it such, they will have to adjust their strategy.
 
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Douglas Dubh

True Fiscal Conservative
Joined
Nov 13, 1999
A lot of the rising prices we are seieng is because, well, the guests will pay it.
They also need to increase prices and cut some stuff to pay for increased labor costs. When you have 70,000 WDW cast members working an average of 1500 hours a year and you give them all a $2 an hour raise, that’s $200 million you’ve got to raise or cut.
 
  • BadPinkTink

    Republic of Ireland is not part of UK
    Joined
    Mar 13, 2015
    As part of my degree I had business planning and strategic management modules.

    The decision process is shaped like a triangle.

    Triangle.png

    Basically Bob Chapek at the top. Him and his team would be in charge of planning the big picture things, the overall Walt Disney Company policies and procedures, operations, services, products and so much more which would affect every division and sector of The Walt Disney Company. They would make a corporate business plan which is reviewed on a yearly basis for the following year. So for example in 2021, Bob Chapek would be reviewing the 2021 plan and updating it for 2022.

    A corporate business plan details the services, operations and projects The Walt Disney Company will deliver within a defined period. It also includes the processes for delivering these and the costs associated.

    The corporate business plan is used to drive development of the annual budget.
    Other things included in the corporate business plan
    • Any external trends or key issues that would impact on the objectives in the Corporate Business Plan for the ensuing financial year.
    • Performance data to assess where improvement is required over the ensuing financial year.
    • Any internal operational issues or requirements that could impact on objectives need to be sourced.
    Once the corporate business plan is complete, Bob Chapeck and his team create a corporate strategic plan. This is a plan that outlines how they are going to achieve the goals outlined in the corporate business plan.

    Christine McCarthy the Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Company and her team use the corporate business plan and the corporate strategic plan to create a corporate financial plan and a corporate financial strategic plan. This means they plan out how to finance the goals outlined by Bob Chapeck. They will outline the budgets for each division of the Walt Disney Company.

    The corporate business plan, the corporate strategic plan, the corporate financial plan and the corporate financial strategic plan are then used to create business, strategic, financial, and marketing plans for every division of The Walt Disney Company.

    Each of the divisions of The Walt Disney Company will then use the plans they have been given to make their own plans, for example allocating budget to the various sections in their division.

    Each section will then make plans based on budget etc that their division has allocated to them.

    It goes on and on down, until for example the lead of Disneyland Custodial is told this is the new procedure for cleaning a liquid spill and that we are switching brands of disposable gloves and that hours are being cut and you can only have 2 cast members in a particular section instead of 3. etc etc

    Also just to clarify, this is all based on my observations of the Walt Disney Company and using my knowledge of Business Management.
     

    Devil13

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 19, 2016
    It couldn't be any easier for them. They will raise prices and cut benefits and we will keep going.

    No more Magical Express? You'll keep coming.
    $15/day/person for Fastpasses? You'll keep coming.
    Pay Per Ride for some attractions? You'll keep coming.
    Night Magic Hours for only Deluxe guests? You'll keep coming.
    Change the Christmas and Halloween parties into "After Hours", double the price, remove parades, etc? You'll keep coming.
    No more regular housekeeping? You'll keep coming.
    No park hopping until 2PM? You'll keep coming.
    Force everyone to make reservations? You'll keep coming.
    Remove Memory Maker from APs? You'll keep coming.
    The list goes on and on.

    They would be fools not to continue this trend. There needs to be pushback and I don't see that coming any time soon. Not sure why RotR isn't $50 for Lightning Lane. They are leaving all sorts of money on the table.
     
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    TiggerBouncy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2013
    I love the amount of misinformation and assumptions in these threads.

    I do have actual and factual insight into DME. I can't talk to the other things from a factual standpoint (but I can make reasonable observations). I have explained before in DME (and some choose to believe it and some choose not to - and that choice is fine, but I am just telling you because I was there, so I tend to believe the meetings I was involved in).

    For DME SPECIFICALLY, the program was a conglomeration of a number of companies. For starters, you have Disney who ran the program itself. Also involved was Mears who did the buses. BAGS was a company that handled baggage for cruise ships and Disney. The employees who collected your bags, weighted and handled them were also BAGS. The software that did the airline check-ins was created by a company called ARINC and required them to leverage their contracts with the Airlines in order to do that. The TSA had a special facility located off-property that was an inventive little beast with a unclear side and a cleared side and no way to cross them without going though the scanners (kinda an airport in a box). There were a few other specific vendors that handled some smaller pieces as well, but those were the major players.

    So then the Pandemic happened. BAGS shut down and what was left of the shell was purchased by SP+. Bags had a number of patents that were exclusively owned and I am not sure if and what went with that sale. The TSA cancelled the shell contract they had for special processing which took A LONG TIME to work out and required a lot of special dispensation. ARINC which has long before the pandemic been purchased by Rockwell Collins was sold again to UTC, which was then sold to Raytheon. With the decline of the commercial sector, not sure how many of the original people were still in place after those sales and re-orgs.

    In the meantime, Disney had another problem... they were not happy with DME. DME was known for long waits and inefficient service. For years people complained that the bus would take twice to three times as long as an uber, and many people were flocking away from the service. Baggage was misplaced or lost. People were frustrated and Disney had a lot of complaints. They put a lot of pressure on BAGS and Mears to fix the issues for years, and for years it dragged on and on. Guests do not know any of these companies. they blamed DISNEY because that was the person who provided the service. Disney was sick of their brand name being dragged through the mud by third party contractors who after years and years still couldn't get the job done right.

    So post-pandemic, Disney was staring down a list of companies that had been sold, sold again, patents that were who knows where, contracts that were frayed, burnt and shredded and a very unfriendly TSA. Most of the people Disney worked with and the contacts were gone. Rebuilding this thing was going to be a multi-years long process and very expensive. They had internal pressures that the program was poorly reviewed and the executives did not like the bad PR to the brand. Finally, the market had moved on and many guests had already found other options which operated more smoothly - i.e. the entire thing was no longer used by as many of the populace.

    In short, the recommendation from all of the internal teams was not to try to rebuild DME.

    People here who have ZERO knowledge from the inside can sit and yell that it's about money. But the honest to goodness truth is that money was really not part of the equation, or at least a very insignificant part only in that there was a cost/benefit consideration. But the truth is that no smart business person in their right mind would have voted to rebuild DME given the facts that we had.

    I was not in the final decision making meetings, but I can only imagine it was like the world's worst bludgeoning.

    "So what do we think about DME?"
    "Well, there are challenges "
    "Such as?"
    "Bags is out of business".
    "So we find another partner"
    "Rockwell Collins was sold. <such and such> quit"
    "Can we replace them?"
    "Not easily"
    "Hmmm. ok. so we can work past that. Lets do it"
    "I'm not done".
    "Oh?"
    "The TSA cancelled the contract"
    "How can we re-establish it?"
    "No idea. We will have to try cold calling the agency. Last time it took 3 years to come to a deal"
    "Stop being all doom and gloom. We got this"
    "Mears wants more money"
    "FINE. ARE WE DONE?"
    "Not even close. We had problems with the number of passengers. They were not meeting the minimums guaranteed to our contractors"
    "Well, we just have to renegotiate all those contracts ANYWAY"
    "But generally, it was not a very popular program"
    "So, we will have to design it better!"
    "Here is a list of complaints......"
    "ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! I GIVE UP! STOP!!!! PLEASE!!!"
     
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    TiggerBouncy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2013
    As part of my degree I had business planning and strategic management modules.

    The decision process is shaped like a triangle.

    View attachment 615832

    Basically Bob Chapek at the top. Him and his team would be in charge of planning the big picture things, the overall Walt Disney Company policies and procedures, operations, services, products and so much more which would affect every division and sector of The Walt Disney Company. They would make a corporate business plan which is reviewed on a yearly basis for the following year. So for example in 2021, Bob Chapek would be reviewing the 2021 plan and updating it for 2022.

    A corporate business plan details the services, operations and projects The Walt Disney Company will deliver within a defined period. It also includes the processes for delivering these and the costs associated.

    The corporate business plan is used to drive development of the annual budget.
    Other things included in the corporate business plan
    • Any external trends or key issues that would impact on the objectives in the Corporate Business Plan for the ensuing financial year.
    • Performance data to assess where improvement is required over the ensuing financial year.
    • Any internal operational issues or requirements that could impact on objectives need to be sourced.
    Once the corporate business plan is complete, Bob Chapeck and his team create a corporate strategic plan. This is a plan that outlines how they are going to achieve the goals outlined in the corporate business plan.

    Christine McCarthy the Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Company and her team use the corporate business plan and the corporate strategic plan to create a corporate financial plan and a corporate financial strategic plan. This means they plan out how to finance the goals outlined by Bob Chapeck. They will outline the budgets for each division of the Walt Disney Company.

    The corporate business plan, the corporate strategic plan, the corporate financial plan and the corporate financial strategic plan are then used to create business, strategic, financial, and marketing plans for every division of The Walt Disney Company.

    Each of the divisions of The Walt Disney Company will then use the plans they have been given to make their own plans, for example allocating budget to the various sections in their division.

    Each section will then make plans based on budget etc that their division has allocated to them.

    It goes on and on down, until for example the lead of Disneyland Custodial is told this is the new procedure for cleaning a liquid spill and that we are switching brands of disposable gloves and that hours are being cut and you can only have 2 cast members in a particular section instead of 3. etc etc

    Also just to clarify, this is all based on my observations of the Walt Disney Company and using my knowledge of Business Management.
    This is a good start, but of course like any business, it's a little more complicated and this is a reasonably summary. The only critical piece I would add is that there is a feedback loop built into the process. Prior to Bob Chapek creating the strategic business plan, the individual BU's provide ideas, goals, things they must do and things they would like to do along with a a SWAG usually in some range (in thousand, hundred of thousands, millions, etc). The executive team would then decide which ones they would want further details on and that would go back to the BU to further define the concept, idea, or plan and narrow down the costs associated. That would go back to the executive usually for a few rounds.

    All of this would have to be accomplished prior to the part where your process kicks in.

    In the case of DME for example, it was really decided before it ever got to Chapek unless he wanted to override the BU.
     
  • CarolynFH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 5, 2000
    I love the amount of misinformation and assumptions in these threads.

    I do have actual and factual insight into DME. I can't talk to the other things from a factual standpoint (but I can make reasonable observations). I have explained before in DME (and some choose to believe it and some choose not to - and that choice is fine, but I am just telling you because I was there, so I tend to believe the meetings I was involved in).

    For DME SPECIFICALLY, the program was a conglomeration of a number of companies. For starters, you have Disney who ran the program itself. Also involved was Mears who did the buses. BAGS was a company that handled baggage for cruise ships and Disney. The employees who collected your bags, weighted and handled them were also BAGS. The software that did the airline check-ins was created by a company called ARINC and required them to leverage their contracts with the Airlines in order to do that. The TSA had a special facility located off-property that was an inventive little beast with a unclear side and a cleared side and no way to cross them without going though the scanners (kinda an airport in a box). There were a few other specific vendors that handled some smaller pieces as well, but those were the major players.

    So then the Pandemic happened. BAGS shut down and what was left of the shell was purchased by SP+. Bags had a number of patents that were exclusively owned and I am not sure if and what went with that sale. The TSA cancelled the shell contract they had for special processing which took A LONG TIME to work out and required a lot of special dispensation. ARINC which has long before the pandemic been purchased by Rockwell Collins was sold again to UTC, which was then sold to Raytheon. With the decline of the commercial sector, not sure how many of the original people were still in place after those sales and re-orgs.

    In the meantime, Disney had another problem... they were not happy with DME. DME was known for long waits and inefficient service. For years people complained that the bus would take twice to three times as long as an uber, and many people were flocking away from the service. Baggage was misplaced or lost. People were frustrated and Disney had a lot of complaints. They put a lot of pressure on BAGS and Mears to fix the issues for years, and for years it dragged on and on. Guests do not know any of these companies. they blamed DISNEY because that was the person who provided the service. Disney was sick of their brand name being dragged through the mud by third party contractors who after years and years still couldn't get the job done right.

    So post-pandemic, Disney was staring down a list of companies that had been sold, sold again, patents that were who knows where, contracts that were frayed, burnt and shredded and a very unfriendly TSA. Most of the people Disney worked with and the contacts were gone. Rebuilding this thing was going to be a multi-years long process and very expensive. They had internal pressures that the program was poorly reviewed and the executives did not like the bad PR to the brand. Finally, the market had moved on and many guests had already found other options which operated more smoothly - i.e. the entire thing was no longer used by as many of the populace.

    In short, the recommendation from all of the internal teams was not to try to rebuild DME.

    People here who have ZERO knowledge from the inside can sit and yell that it's about money. But the honest to goodness truth is that money was really not part of the equation, or at least a very insignificant part only in that there was a cost/benefit consideration. But the truth is that no smart business person in their right mind would have voted to rebuild DME given the facts that we had.

    I was not in the final decision making meetings, but I can only imagine it was like the world's worst bludgeoning.

    "So what do we think about DME?"
    "Well, there are challenges "
    "Such as?"
    "Bags is out of business".
    "So we find another partner"
    "Rockwell Collins was sold. <such and such> quit"
    "Can we replace them?"
    "Not easily"
    "Hmmm. ok. so we can work past that. Lets do it"
    "I'm not done".
    "Oh?"
    "The TSA cancelled the contract"
    "How can we re-establish it?"
    "No idea. We will have to try cold calling the agency. Last time it took 3 years to come to a deal"
    "Stop being all doom and gloom. We got this"
    "Mears wants more money"
    "FINE. ARE WE DONE?"
    "Not even close. We had problems with the number of passengers. They were not meeting the minimums guaranteed to our contractors"
    "Well, we just have to renegotiate all those contracts ANYWAY"
    "But generally, it was not a very popular program"
    "So, we will have to design it better!"
    "Here is a list of complaints......"
    "ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! I GIVE UP! STOP!!!! PLEASE!!!"
    Thank you for this. The program was a lot more complicated than I thought! We’ll miss it, but I don’t blame Disney for dropping it.
     

    TiggerBouncy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2013
    Thank you for this. The program was a lot more complicated than I thought! We’ll miss it, but I don’t blame Disney for dropping it.
    Sure thing. Disney makes some tough calls. I had proposed years back a number of cool (I thought anyway) expansions to the program, but Disney's take on it was that they didn't want to touch ANYTHING or expand the concept in any way that was associated with Airports and the TSA with a 10 foot cattle prod because of the POTENTIAL negative connotations associated and how it could affect their brand. And that was not an easy decision for them by any means because there was some good potential.

    DME had already become known (and joked) as the training ground to teach you how to wait in line for the parks. I loved DME, and I was a big proponent of the "Disney Bubble". I sang songs of Doom and Gloom when the end of DME was announced because people with cars will stray.

    But again... looking at facts when they were all laid out, I mean there was just no logical person who would have argued to keep it unless you were saying it as a joke.
     

    cjlong88

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 1, 2019
    People have been mad at Disney's decisions since WDW opened. Just go back in time on these boards to 2014 and read what people were saying when FP+ was first introduced. Decisions for a billion dollar company are never, ever simple. There are so many factors at play. And I don't pretend to know why they make the decisions they make. But I do know life is complex and so is business and it would be silly of me to make assumptions without seeing the entire picture.

    With that said, our own perceptions and ability to adapt have a significant impact on our own experiences. If I walk into WDW thinking I will have a terrible time, I will probably find everything wrong with my experience to validate my feelings and thoughts about WDW. That's just the way we are programmed. We play a huge role in our own experiences -- that is not to forgive Disney when they misstep. I just find that changes (which are inevitable, whether small or big) can be viewed as vacation-altering cataclysmic life ruiners...OR we can view them as a natural progression in life. Things change. Roll with it, or go do something different.
     

    Bruggok

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 25, 2019
    Just as with park reservation helped WDW allocate resources efficiently, WDW could have kept DME going (minus bags). All they needed was to setup DME as prepaid service within MDE, as if I was doing a dining reservation, but no refunds if cancelled within x days of arrival. None of this needed any involvement with TSA, Rockwell, etc.

    With such accurate load predictions, WDW could buy some remaining DME busses from Mears (who would have no use for them), hire drivers, and sell DME seat slots as limited #, first reserve first serve. WDW could ensure every bus run is profitable if they’d had good enough of data. Right now customers can book at no cost, show up or not; no wonder cost is so high.

    I appreciate that corporate decisions can have many facets of complexity, but WDW management as it stands to me seems timid. If they ran Tesla or SpaceX, nothing would've gotten off the ground and projects would’ve been cancelled before they started.
     
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    kanerf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2009
    Disney may have lost as much as a Billion dollars during the COVID mess. Most of these cost cutting measures are an attempt to reduce further losses. I suspect as things improve some things will return that are currently gone. I do not think pricing will return to those before the crisis as that seldom happens.
     

    Weedy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 2, 2008
    Also BAGS supplied a lot of the people who helped with the wheelchair assistance.
    This may be one (of many) reasons why people are having difficulties getting assistance.
     

    TiggerBouncy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2013
    With that said, our own perceptions and ability to adapt have a significant impact on our own experiences. If I walk into WDW thinking I will have a terrible time, I will probably find everything wrong with my experience to validate my feelings and thoughts about WDW.
    This is very, very true. I always roll with the punches. I expect Disney to make missteps and mistakes. At my old job, they used to have a motto "Fail Forward". Meaning they never held you accountable from making a mistake - they held you accountable to learn from it and how you can use it to do better. I expect the same of Disney. I expect not everything they do will be perfect, but I also know they learn, they tweak, they study, they tweak some more, they learn from that experience and so on. They have mastered the craft.

    I also expect and anticipate and desire the company to evolve with the times. I hate that evolution at times. Sometimes it means my favorite acts or rides go away. Sometimes it means services that I used go away - but that's because somewhere in the business model, that service was not making sense - others were not using it, or there were complications that I couldn't see. Sometimes prices go up - <shrug> so does everything else I pay for over time. How else would Disney afford to pay the CM's?

    None of that takes away from the magic that Disney still delivers.

    Just as with park reservation helped WDW allocate resources efficiently, WDW could have kept DME going (minus bags). All they needed was to setup DME as prepaid service within MDE, as if I was doing a dining reservation, but no refunds if cancelled within x days of arrival. None of this needed any involvement with TSA, Rockwell, etc.
    True enough. And that was a consideration and was discussed. Ultimately it was discarded and I can't speak as much to the decisions behind that from personal direct observations, but I DO KNOW that I heard more than once that without luggage, DME was viewed internally as a slow, cumbersome, and frustrating process.

    I.E. Disney still had the PR problem with DME, but it was worse without baggage magically appearing for you. That problem is what Mears is having now - "Why would I pay $90 for a one way trip for my family to get there in 1.5 hours when I can take an Uber for half that price and be there in 40 minutes?!?!?! This service sucks!" But instead of the current "This service sucks" being aimed at Mears, it would have been branded and labeled with Disney and thus Disney gets the blame.

    Again, we do not see it on the outside, but Disney is fiercely protective of the brand name - at least when it comes to SERVICES (they are more bold in the Movie Industry from my observations). They try very hard to keep negative connotations away and are very shy to put their brand on anything they expect will draw public ire. I do not have facts on that - just my observations from the service-based proposals and conversations I have had with exec's there. DME was just too much a hot potato at that point - the bags and automatic tickets (I should note that mobile ticketing also contributed to DME's demise - Disney's value add on the service was also the automatic checking you in, printing your boarding passes and leaving those on your door for checkout) were largely the selling point of the service. Without that, it's just a bus and a poorly run one at that.
     
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    thanxfornoticin

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2020
    Many people on these blogs tend to focus on the negative side - "look what they've taken away", and I understand some of it. But I also think Disney has continued to expand and replace, which costs money. I know the pandemic messed up the timing and efforts of some of the projects, but in the past several years a number of new attractions have been pursued by Disney. I'm sure I'm missing some, but I think of Pandora, Star Wars (including the new resort), Guardians (coming up), TRON (coming up), Toy Story Land, Space 220, new restaurants/shows/parking at DS, Skyliner, and more I'm not remembering right now. Disney is not always just taking away, they're balancing. That's what all long-term companies do.
     

    TiggerBouncy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2013
    Many people on these blogs tend to focus on the negative side - "look what they've taken away", and I understand some of it. But I also think Disney has continued to expand and replace, which costs money. I know the pandemic messed up the timing and efforts of some of the projects, but in the past several years a number of new attractions have been pursued by Disney. I'm sure I'm missing some, but I think of Pandora, Star Wars (including the new resort), Guardians (coming up), TRON (coming up), Toy Story Land, Space 220, new restaurants/shows/parking at DS, Skyliner, and more I'm not remembering right now. Disney is not always just taking away, they're balancing. That's what all long-term companies do.
    Not to mention redoing the ENTIRE front part of EPCOT including removing the age old since opening communicore's - that's a HUGE project that has been underway.

    Also Remy, Epcot Forever, HarmoniUS, Enchantment fireworks, the new confectionary, the lighting up up the 4 major symbols at each park, renovated people mover, the renovation at river cruise, renovated monorails, the Play! pavilion.

    Temporarily paused due to the pandemic; we have Reflections (which even though paused, a extensive amount of work went into the removal of River Country), a refurb of spaceship earth, rebranding of splash mountain, a new monorail (rumored), Mary Poppins, some planned (but not wholey announced) changes at Animal Kingdom around Dinosaur.

    Looking out past just WDW, as a company, they have invested in 3 new cruise ships (the Wish already launched, and the other 2 are still underway and not cancelled), new rides at DisneyLand and other parks around the world, and let's not forget about Disney+ and movies and tv shows that have been greenlighted including things like Mandalorian, Boba Fett, Black Widow, the 10 rings, the new Thor movie, about 30+ other movies in production, WandaVision, Loki, and a host / wide array of other series.

    I know all these things are not directly related to the parks, but as a company, they still have budgets and if they spend money here, they can not also spend it there. They still also have huge outstanding debts from the purchase of Fox right before the **** hit the fan and they lost almost a solid year of pretty much all their major revenue streams.
     


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