This past month has been a tough one for everyone, corporations included. The Walt Disney Company is no exception, having to close many of its international theme parks like Shanghai Disney Resort and the Tokyo Disney Resort. Today, however, the coronavirus scare has also moved the US and China release dates for the studios’ live-action “Mulan” to a later date, and production on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has paused indefinitely. And just this afternoon, Disney Parks and Resorts announced the impending closure of Walt Disney’s original Disneyland and his other dream, Walt Disney World.
Many of these changes and closures have been done out of an abundance of caution for their consumers and those who work to make those products and services.
It is commendable that cast members are still getting paid while the Disney Parks shut down. It’s commendable that movies like “Mulan” are getting release dates pushed so that not only profits wouldn’t suffer on a $200 million movie, but that those who want to see it won’t have to risk a happy moment for a sick one.
When Disneyland announced that it was closing, though, it was commendable, but it hit differently. It quickly made national news and Disneyland fans on social media cried out (albeit somewhat jokingly). I felt a palpable sadness that didn’t come out from the fact that I wouldn’t be able to use my annual pass for a while.
Perhaps it comes from the idea that some of the things that I have consumed in life were the things that I quickly ran to so to avoid the pains of this life and this world. Yes, The Walt Disney Company exists to entertain, but when the things we run to for happiness as a distraction cedes to the dark weights of this world, we take notice. There was one part in Leslie Iwerks’ “The Imagineering Story” that hit hard for me.
It was one Imagineer who worked on Tokyo Disneyland and commented on the closure of the Tokyo Disney Resort due to the large earthquake and resulting tsunamis that hit the country, causing catastrophic damage to homes, businesses, and death.
“After 9/11, the president can come out after a period of time and say, ‘Hey, we’re back on our feet’ and the country feels like it can get back to business,” said Imagineer Daniel Jue. “In Japan, no one announces that. [In some ways,] Tokyo Disneyland had to open for the country to begin to heal.”
After being closed for about a month and a half, Jun continued to say that guests “came back in droves” to “run and hug Mickey and thank him” for bringing back happiness to a place that hadn’t seen it for a while.
Surely, coronavirus will be a fleeting memory. But until that day comes, I’m hopeful that we’ll begin to heal by hugging Mickey again.