Disney Is In Trouble


“Minnie! There’s no audience.” – Mickey Mouse, House of Mouse, 2001


The Walt Disney Company has always seemed immune to the anxieties that afflict the rest of us. Like a person who never gets a mosquito bite or catches a cold, nothing seems to bother them. For decades, The company has seamlessly moved forward, buying brands, and massing a wealth of intellectual property.

It is, therefore, disconcerting to read reports that the company is feeling the heat from the current Coronavirus pandemic. The New York Times has a fascinating look at the current state of The Walt Disney Company in an article by Brooks Barnes, “For Disney, a Stricken Empire.”

What struck me in reading Mr. Barnes’ piece was just how vast Disney’s holdings are. According to the article, Disney owns 14 theme parks, 8 movie studios, 25 hotels (42,000 hotel rooms), and a $55 billion licensing division. They also own 312 Disney stores, 29 stage shows, four cruise ships, an island, and even 25 English speaking schools in China.

I knew Disney was big but had never really seen it laid out quite so baldly. Mr. Brooks made me want to learn more so I decided to get a little more granular. What I found was that The Walt Disney Company produced almost 40% of all movies released in 2019. 80% of the movies that produced the biggest ticket sales were from The Walt Disney Company.

Here a partial list of what The Walt Disney Company owns:

  • Pixar
  • Marvel (which includes Star Wars)
  • 21st Century Fox
  • Walt Disney Studios
  • Lucas Film
  • Walt Disney Studios
  • 20th Century Studios Motion Pictures
  • Disney Music Group
  • Disney Theatrical Productions
  • Walt Disney Television
  • ESPN
  • A&E
  • Disney Land
  • Disney World
  • Disneyland Paris
  • Disneyland Hong Kong
  • Disneyland Shanghai
  • Disney+
  • Hulu
  • Fox Network
  • Marvel

What many of these holdings have in common is that they cater to large crowds. Whether it is hotels, theme parks, movies, cruise ships, or live theater, these are businesses you do not want to be in when people are afraid of gathering in groups. As a result, The Walt Disney Company has laid off 100,000 workers and cut salaries.

We rightfully measure the impact of the Coronavirus in how it affects the average person. Those 100,000 people who lost their jobs are the equivalent of the populations of cities like Green Bay Wisconsin and Flint, Michigan.

Disney will,  in the long run, be all right. It is, however, sobering and a little unnerving to measure the world’s current economic situation in the context of the impact Coronavirus is having on what is one of the world’s most powerful companies. 

As Mickey Mouse once said on the “House of Mouse” television show: “Minnie! There’s no audience.”

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