Disneyland has remained closed since March of this year, and it isn’t expected to reopen soon.
With strict theme park guidelines from the California government and limited ICU availability in the state, Disneyland has been forced to keep its doors closed for months now. Midway through this closure, the resort got a new President. Take a look at his comments on taking up the mantle in one of the most challenging periods in Disneyland’s history.
In an interview with the Orange County Register, Disneyland President Ken Potrock went into the current challenges the resort is facing and what hopes he has for the future.
“What a way to enter a new job. It really portended to be spectacular. And, lo and behold, it’s been less than spectacular in that we’ve had to face these challenges,” Potrock said of taking the new position in the midst of the pandemic. He was appointed to the role as previous Disneyland president Rebecca Campell was promoted.
When he took up the position, Potrock had two priorities — reopen the Disneyland Resort theme parks as quickly as possible and use the crisis to take a step back and view Disneyland as a fresh canvas.
The first priority didn’t quite turn out as he’d hoped. Despite diligent work on negotiating with state, county, and health officials; the Disneyland leaders were unable to reach an agreement to get the parks open. “I spent an enormous amount of my time on that,” Potrock said.
The second priority, however, went a little bit better. “Boy, what a cool opportunity this affords,” Potrock said of the fresh start, “Even in the pain and suffering, I have to look at, ‘Is there a glimmer of hope in the future?’ And that glimmer is the exciting part.” Potrock said problem-solving has been a major priority in running a closed Disneyland.
The reopening of Buena Vista Street and some potential notes for Avengers Campus (like using the Hyperion Theater queue into an Avengers Garden for those dining at Pym Test Kitchen) are only a few examples of the way the team has reinvented aspects of Disney to contend with the crisis. He said, “People have the ability to be creative problem solvers… We’ve spent a lot of time on reshaping the culture of our leaders so that they’re looking at the challenges differently and coming up with creative solutions.”
On what these changes mean for Disneyland, Potrock said, “We’re looking at all of it now. This is the moment in time. So what does that look like? It doesn’t mean that we’re going to spoil Disneyland as people understand it. It is designed to take Disneyland and make it a better experience actually. Better than it’s ever been.”
Cast Members, local communities, and business partners suffer the consequences of a closed Disneyland. Potrock notes, “Walk down Harbor Boulevard and there isn’t a soul to be found. It’s heartbreaking. I get notes and letters every single day, if not every single hour, from our Cast Members and from business partners that are just worried, afraid, and stressed.”
As we’ve reported before, Disneyland has had to lay off thousands of employees. Potrock addresses this saying, “Clearly, from a financial perspective, we’ve hit a reef. At the same time, we know what makes our business, which is our cast.”
He showed a clear appreciation for the Cast noting, “The reaction from our cast members has been nothing short of magnanimous. With all the hardship that they are facing, the generosity, courage and grace under pressure that they’re showing is something that I marvel at every single day.”
One point in his new position was the opening of Buena Vista Street. “I got to stand literally at the gate when people were walking in and the euphoric reaction that we got from guests was like, ‘Oh, I’m so happy to be back at Disneyland. I feel like I’ve come home again,’” Potrock said. “I didn’t grow up in Southern California so I do not have that DNA connection of growing up with Disneyland. It was hard for me to envision it, but when you see it up close and personal you get the power of it.”
It’s unclear when Disneyland will reopen, but Potrock’s team is ready to continue that hard work and problem-solving mentality. When the time comes, “We will mount a legendary comeback,” he said. Keep an eye on DFB for all of the latest updates on the Disneyland closure.
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!