Skift Take

At the D23 Expo, Disney Parks boss Josh D'Amaro announced significant updates to the theme park experience. The changes will likely include bringing Disney+ content to the parks, delivering the online experience to their parks.

Disney’s annual D23 Expo took place this past weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, where the conversation was led on stage by jeans and Adidas-clad Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

“There’s no limits to where we are going,” D’Amaro said in an address to an enthusiastic crowd. “When I look back over our first 100 years, what jumps out at me is how we are just constantly reinventing ourselves, telling new stories for brand-new generations. You all know this: We need those stories more than ever. And that’s a lesson we take straight from Walt.”

D’Amaro will be a featured speaker at Skift Global Forum taking place September 19-21 in New York City.  

D'Amaro addressing the crowd
Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, on stage at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this past weekend. Source: Walt Disney Co.

The D23 presentation featured a variety of guest speakers and celebrities, including singer-songwriter Jordan Fisher, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Highlights included the expansion of Avengers Campus by adding new characters at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as well as the addition of Disney Treasure, a new addition set to take place in 2024. Disney Cruise Line also announced plans to add Australia and New Zealand to its travel routes, as part of a limited-time cruise initiative.

D’Amaro also shared news of expected updates to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is set to include a spinner ride and a log-flume ride based on Moana and Zootopia. This is just one of the reimagined projects Disney is using to rebound from the pandemic.

Based on the fiscal earnings report released in August, Disney’s efforts to recover from a historic revenue loss in 2020 have proved effective, as Disney theme parks delivered a 26 percent increase in revenue sales this past quarter.

“We had an excellent quarter, with our world-class creative and business teams powering outstanding performance at our domestic theme parks, big increases in live-sports viewership, and significant subscriber growth at our streaming services,” said Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, about the third fiscal quarter report.

The relative success of Disney+ did help soften the blow of pandemic sales, but theme parks have since experienced a resurgence in customer attendance. Coincidence? Maybe not.

This year, Disney announced Disney+ Day, inviting subscribers of the streaming service to take advantage of various perks, including special access to cruises, parks, and hotels. The day coincided with the D23 Expo, which quickly sold out.

So, both Disney theme parks and the streaming service might go hand in hand. A 2021 CNN article addressed this new approach to Disney consumerism: “In short, Disney – a traditional media company that’s been around in Hollywood since 1923 – is starting to look more like, and being treated like, a tech company,” reporter Frank Pollotta wrote.

This idea is supported by Dennis Spiegel, president of consulting firm International Theme Park Services who believes the D23 expo is a perfect example of all we have to look forward to with Disney theme parks and services. “Disney sets the bar for our entire industry when it comes to tech, product, experience, and excitement,” he said, “They continue to lead the way in technology infusion in our industry.”   

There is a lot to watch, going forward with Disney—both on the streaming platform, and in the numbers. The entertainment giant still anticipates a significant revenue increase from Disney+ alone by 2024, but with theme parks steadily reopening, the advent of digital innovation should significantly impact revenue sales and consumer experiences.

Tags: disney, disney parks, technology, theme parks, tourism

Photo credit: Disney World Anthony Quintano t / VisualHunt