‘Avatar Experience’ Coming to Disneyland Following Success of Avatar 2; Toy Story, Frozen, Zootopia Sequels in the Works
During Bob Iger's first earnings call back as CEO of Disney, there was an entire slate of announcements made about the focus of the company. Disney corporate structures are being changed and the focus is being placed back on giving power to content creators at the company. As part of this restructuring Disney will layoff over 7,000 employees (remember this is across all divisions and likely is focused on the content side based on the other restructuring news).
After the wonkier information about the structure of the company that matters most to Disney employees and intense followers of the company, Iger turned to discussions of the prior quarter. In this moment, Iger teased a number of big announcements coming that we will get more details on soon. One specifically was on a new “experience” coming to Disneyland.
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BIG Disneyland Surprise Announcement – Avatar Coming to Disneyland
While discussing the success of the recent Avatar: Way of Water film that was a sequel to the popular Avatar film, Iger mentioned that a new “Avatar experience” is coming to the Disneyland Resort. That's right. He also teased other news about upcoming film sequels shared below.
What could the new Avatar experience include?
don't have any further context (edit – Iger made comments at the end of the earnings call that gives us more clues, read on) yet on what the addition of Avatar at Disneyland will look like, what the scale of the addition will be, or what this addition might replace. Disney has used “experience” to describe things ranging from a new photo op to a massive new attraction like Rise of the Resistance. In this case we expect that it is definitely something larger than a photo op as that wouldn't warrant an announcement on the earnings call or even be known by someone at the Disney CEO level.
Walt Disney World already has the Pandora – World of Avatar experience which features an incredible simulator type attraction (“Flight of Passage”) that takes guests on the back of a banshee and boat ride that brings guests up close with a massive Na'vi Audio-Animatronic, but the scale of that land seems far larger than something we would get at Disneyland due simply to expansion space. Perhaps we will get just the Avatar Flight of Passage attraction and not the entire land? At one point this was rumored to be the technology used for the new Avengers Campus attraction that is still in the works. Maybe some of the area included in the Disneyland Forward proposal will be used for Avatar? We will have to see.
Later in the earnings call Iger circled back to the Avatar concept when speaking to the immediate success seen after adding capacity to a park. He used Pandora – World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars Lands at Disneyland and Hollywood Studios as examples of this. “If you look at the results when we put Pandora in Animal Kingdom from year to year they were stunning in terms of how many more people visited Animal Kingdom.” His next sentence then turned back to Disneyland where he said “I mentioned on the call that we are going to bring a version of Avatar to Disneyland. We have other opportunities as well.”
*The above quote is a correction from an earlier version of this article where I more closely linked the comments about the success of Pandora at Animal Kingdom to the planned Avatar experience at Disneyland.
While we can't read into the quote to say that Pandora – The World of Avatar or any of the attractions from the land are coming to Disneyland, we can read into the fact that Iger mentioned the new experience twice during an earnings call. I feel we can confidently say that this is not just a small props exhibit inside the old Star Wars Launch Bay building.
Iger promised that new details are coming soon, but in the meantime let's get the commentary spinning. What could Avatar coming to Disneyland mean? Are you excited about a new Avatar experience coming to Disneyland?
What might an Avatar experience replace at Disneyland?
We have had a rousing discussion about this new Avatar experience on our Facebook page. People have raised a number of different points.
- Some suggested this could be virtual reality experience like the Star Wars experience that took place at Downtown Disney. My take here is that a VR experience that is an additional cost wouldn't warrant a mention on the earnings call.
- Another mentioned that the Avatar experience could replace Soarin' and the general Grizzly Peak Airfield Area in Disney California Adventure. I personally would hate to see this perfectly themed area go.
- Others suggested that it could fit into Tomorrowland or the current area utilized by the old Star Wars Launch Bay build. While a DVC lounge is slated here, the lounge won't take up the entire building so this is a possibility.
- What if they changed Star Tours over to an Avatar experience? I would personally not be devastated to lose this additional Star Wars experience and I could see them pretty quickly making the change. This would also allow for a faster turnaround than building out an entirely new attraction which would allow them slot the attraction in sooner than something completely new.
What do you think?
Other Surprise Announcements On Disney Earnings Call
At the end of the call Iger also commented that sequels for Toy Story, Frozen, Zootopia are in the works. He clearly was demonstrating that the company is leaning into the success of Disney's top franchises.
Disney Corporate Restructuring
In addition to the surprise announcements above, Disney also announced a key restructuring of the business to put the power back in the hands of the content creators of the company. These changes were expected based on the previous comments made by Bob Iger when he returned.
The Disney leadership moving forward will be.
- Disney Entertainment – Alan Bergman and Dana Walden
- ESPN – Jimmy Pitaro
- Parks, Experiences, Products – Josh D'Amaro
The company is targeting $5.5 billion in cost savings. This savings will be found through a reduction of SGA, operating costs, and the layoff of 7k Disney employees. The layoffs are expected to occur in the Disney Media and Entertainment group, known as ‘DMED'. This is the group that Disney is collapsing to give the power back to the creative executives at the company.
The company will focus even more on core brands and franchises, better curate general entertainment content, reassess international markets that they have launched the Disney Plus service in, fine tune advertising initiatives, better control marketing costs, look to the legacy channels for marketing and programming, and lean into legacy distribution platforms to more effectively amortize content costs. This should read to you as diversifying their content offerings across all different channels while still leaning into streaming.
Disney Parks Attendance Comments
Demand on the parks is extraordinary right now. Iger commented that they could increase prices or let more people in, but they “don't think either would be smart.” Iger commented that he believes “accessibility” is a core value of the Disney brand and that after “paying heed” to what they were hearing [complaints about pricing] they started to address it. Speaking of recent changes Disney has announced, Iger said the reaction has been very positive.
He went on to comment about one change which will allow guests to access to the parks at the lowest prices on more days of the year. He was specifically speaking to the lowest priced Disneyland tickets which can now be used for 50 days a year instead of the previous 15.
Most importantly in this section Iger mentioned that he is pushing the entire Parks division to think about how to increase capacity with new experiences. Iger wants to “see where we can invest in them in the parks to increase capacity, while preserving guest satisfaction.” This is a great reassurance that Iger is looking to the parks as a business to keep building on and that the path to increases profits is through new experiences.
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I want to know what it’s potentially replacing bc that’s where my first thought goes….!