Disney is getting rid of a position overseeing Walt Disney World and Disneyland, which means a longtime executive is leaving the company.
Catherine Powell’s most recent role during her 15-year stint with Disney was president of Disney Parks’ western region, which included the two U.S. resorts along with Disneyland Paris. Bloomberg reported Monday that her position is being eliminated, with the executives in charge of each resort now being directly overseen by Bob Chapek, the chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products division.
While no official reason has been given for this change, Powell may be the first major executive casualty of the disappointing opening for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
The $1 billion expansions at both Disneyland and Disney World were expected to draw enormous crowds, but instead, Disney reported a 3 percent drop in attendance at its U.S. parks last quarter.
“Interest in the attractions and the land is extremely high. We have no concerns whatsoever about them,” said Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger on the August earnings call. “We feel great about the product we created. It’s just going to take some time for things to work themselves out in terms of how the marketplace is reacting.”
Powell may not be alone in receiving her walking papers. Citing unnamed sources, BlogMickey.com reported on Sept. 16 that multiple salaried managers and executives at Disney World have already been laid off.
Other cuts will more directly affect Disney World guests. The resort has announced the end of several live entertainment acts at the parks before Disney’s fiscal year wraps up this month, including Magic Kingdom’s Muppets show on American history and the Burudika band at Animal Kingdom.
While Galaxy’s Edge has been open at Disney World for less than a month, the expected crowds have not materialized there either, despite the longer waits seen on opening day.
“On our 1-to-10 scale, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been a ‘1’ every day since Galaxy’s Edge opened,” said Len Testa, president of Touring Plans, a subscription service that tracks wait times at Disney and Universal parks. Testa noted that attendance was temporarily affected by Hurricane Dorian, which resulted in cancelled flights and limited park hours less than a week after Galaxy’s Edge opened in Florida.
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