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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Disney lays off 28,000 employees, many from theme parks. Here's how to help

By Carlye Wisel
Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park

Disney laid off 28,000 employees last week, and, if you are at all in the theme park community, you saw firsthand how widespread the layoffs were. Posts from theme park workers, Walt Disney Imagineering employees, and more sharing that they “got the call” flooded Twitter, along with memories and stories shared by those who were unaware the shift they worked back in March would, indeed, be their final one.

The cuts, which were within Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division, squarely hit employees associated with California and Florida’s theme parks. Employees who worked in retail stores, cruise ships, Disney Vacation Club, and other offerings were also affected. The cuts hit about 15 percent of the division, which according to the Los Angeles Times employs 177,000 people, comprising about 13 percent of Disney’s total 233,000-person workforce.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the Parks, Experiences and Products division, shared that about two-thirds of those who were laid off were part-time employees, emphasizing that the move was COVID-19 related but “exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”

While Florida's theme parks have been open for months despite a steady number of COVID-19 cases (albeit significantly down from the summer's peak), the West Coast parks have not yet been given guidance or clearance to reopen. Governor Gavin Newsom’s guidelines for California theme parks’ reopening were originally supposed to drop last Wednesday. They eventually got pushed and then... well, things got weird. Bob Iger, Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, suddenly and unexpectedly left Newsom’s COVID-19 Economic Task Force on Thursday evening, and the impending announcement of theme park guidelines would eventually not go on as planned. “Given the size and operational complexities of these unique sectors, we are seeking additional input from health, workforce and business stakeholders to finalize this important framework — all leading with science and safety,“ said California Health and Human Services secretary Mark Ghaly in a statement, as reported by the Orange County Register

The inability to reopen their park and the recent layoffs are, naturally, related. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Walt Disney Co., one of the world’s largest entertainment companies, partially blamed California’s strict reopening rules for massive layoffs in its theme park division after trying unsuccessfully to get officials to allow the gates of Disneyland to swing open again.”

In terms of caseload, California is improving, but they're not yet in the clear. The Los Angeles Times reported L.A. County’s seven-day average positivity rate at 2.9 percent and an adjusted case rate of 7.3 cases per 100,000 residents. The county, where Universal Studios Hollywood is located, will not move into a new reopening tier this week; 472 new COVID-19 cases and seven COVID-19-related deaths were reported on Monday. Orange County, where Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm reside, reported 120 new cases as of Monday

We'll continue to wait, and wish all of the cast members who received a notice of separation all of our best. While fans and friends spread the word of furloughed and unemployed workers' businesses and items for sale, some have set up fundraising pages, like Disney Tourist Blog's, which has already raised $50,000

You can donate to help theme park employees in need at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, and through union-centric food drives at Workers United Local 50 in California and Unite Here Local 737 in Florida. Or, if you'd like to support a former cast member directly, there's the Ear For Each Other Facebook page, whose founder was recently profiled in the Orlando Sentinel. It's a helpful marketplace for any local residents in need of odd jobs, but also for many products and creations that can be mailed nationwide.


Jack Black is also a Rat Pizza stan?! The Disney's Hollywood Studios eatery is beloved by some for its Muppets-themed decor and others for its poofy personal pizzas, but to know Black is also a fan of a semi-obscure theme park restaurant is worthy of praise.


- Disneyland Paris introduces Standby Pass, a digital-style FastPass system.

- The very cool new Tokyo Disneyland Toontown costumes have a hidden lil' message in them.

- If you're all about the merch, don't miss Disney's virtual pin-trading event and the new store Downtown Disney may be opening that's actually within the park.

- "Welcome to Royalist theme park Puy du Fou, the least woke place in France."

- Universal's Volcano Bay water park will be closing operations this winter and reopening in Spring 2021.

- Despite Disneyland and California Adventure not yet being open, another new hotel is debuting in Anaheim.

- I had no idea about this 65th Anniversary Disneyland collection at Target!

- Busch Gardens Tampa's Halloween event looks deeply terrifying.