Disney CFO Christine McCarthy says Disney will continue to focus on existing intellectual property for new park investments

May 17, 2023 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Wednesday May 17, 2023 10:22am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Speaking at the SVB MoffettNathanson Technology, Media & Telecom Conference earlier this morning, Christine McCarthy, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, commented on plans for investing in the Disney theme parks.

Christine said that Disney will continue focusing on using existing intellectual property, "the ones that really resonate with our consumers."

Disney's CFO also said that the company uses consumer data from Disney+ to inform its Imagineers on viewing trends "to exploit in the theme park business."

Today's comments are a continuation of former Disney CEO Bob Chapek's comments in September 2022, where he said he sees much closer integration of Disney+ and the company's theme parks.

Chapek said that Disney+ will have detailed knowledge of what a subscriber does during their theme park visits and will be able to adjust Disney+ content to fit. Similarly, theme park experiences will be tailored based on the individual's Disney+ viewing habits.

Chapek also added that Disney+ will, "become a platform for consumer engagement with The Walt Disney Company, not just a movie service platform."

Chapek said that Disney+ would have detailed knowledge of what a subscriber does during their theme park visits and would be able to adjust Disney+ content to fit. Similarly, theme park experiences will be tailored based on the individual's Disney+ viewing habits.

Chapek also added that Disney+ "will become a platform for consumer engagement with The Walt Disney Company, not just a movie service platform."

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Jenny72Jun 18, 2023

My daughter bought a stuffed Figment after riding Imagination, and we had an interesting conversation that went like this: Her: What's Figment from? Me: The ride. Her: No, I mean what movie? Me: No, he's just from the ride. Her: Just from the ride? Just...from the ride? They created him from the ride? Me: Yup, in the previous version they showed how he was created. Her: That's very cool. It was both nice to see how she was attached to Figment even without a movie (or even a good ride...), but also sort of disappointing to see how conditioned she was to expect every character to have been created in a movie first. For what it's worth, we saw a bunch of other kids with the same Figment stuffy.

JoeCamelJun 04, 2023

Maybe something that explains the physical world and it's myriad processes that we inhabit for all our days? Something that delves deep into our bodies with the amazing ability to adapt and change? Something that helps explain and understand our place in the universe and how we came to be in that place? Movies are just made up stories that can be about anything no matter how unreal or nonsensical but the physical world is real, tangible and quantifiable not much room for "opinions" I think I might have visited a park like this in the distant past, it was in a very warm climate that I traveled a great distance to experience.....

BlakeW39Jun 03, 2023

What do you mean by, "we don't know if DAK was considered successful in its original form without IP?" The park didn't have any more IP in 1998 than it did in 2016. If the park was struggling due to a lack of movie franchises, they could have included that in subsequent expansions to the park. But instead they added a walking trail, Kali River Rapids, and Expedition Everest. The one IP conversion they did, DINOSAUR, was considered a flop and has dated considerably because of the IP it was tied to. Illustrating some of the issues with the IP mandate. Not only can you only use movies in the parks. You can only use a handful of extremely popular movies that have proven successful with audiences. In 2017, DAK added Pandora, but you'll have a hard timd convincing me that it was the tie-in to Avatar that created that land's success, rather than the scale and quality of the land itself. Keep in mind Pandora replaced Camp Minnie Mickey, so what really changed wasn't the addition of IP, it was the addition of a quality new land with a solid E ticket attraction. Some of the best attractions WDI has ever produced have been based on IP. So yes IP attractions can have as much value as original attractions. Again, and I'm sorry but I don't why I have to repeat this... there is no inherent problem IP being in the parks. There always has been IP in the parks, and there always will be. The problem here is the IP mandate. I don't know why I have to explain how it's bad??? My "objection" to it is that it severely limits creativity in the parks and forces IP where it doesn't belong. Like another poster stated, imagine if WDAS were only allowed to produce sequels or adaptations of other intellectual property. If they weren't allowed to create their own original films. This is exactly like that, but for theme parks. It's unequivocally terrible for the artistic medium. It seriously confounds me how someone can argue otherwise. I'm sorry if how I phrased that was confusing...but I meant, "IP based attractions haven't proven to increase park attendance or to draw longer lines on average ." Which is true, they haven't. As far as we can tell the largest bump in attendance WDW has ever had with the opening of a single new attraction was Expedition Everest in 2006, the only original E-ticket we've been given in the 21st century. The most popular attractions in MK and Disneyland have likewise not been those with IP either. Both original and IP based attractions can and have been popular in the parks Theme park attractions don't tell stories in the same way that films do. But that doesn't mean they're any less artistically valuable. They tell a different kind of story that is just as valuable. They're just different. Theme park attractions are short, but they're immersive and convey stronger feelings to an audience than your TV can in the same amount of time. Space Mountain for instance isn't just a "rollercoaster in the dark." That's a wildly oversimplified take. And my way of thinking is closed minded? Quite frankly, I'd say yours is. You're making some claims about the art of theme park design that suggests it doesn't possess the same level of creativity that film, TV, etc. More commonly respected mediums of entertainment. I find that not only closed minded, but abjectly false. Lol.... yes African villages exist... but Harambe doesn't. It's a fictional place dreampt up by WDI. It's a place governed by artistic direction and themes, not a real world location governed by economy, living situations, etc. This is really just a silly argument. As for how original attractions are more creative than IP based attractions (all else held equal)... I have explained this before but, 'creative' is defined by google as "relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work." Using your imagination to create new ideas (new "intellectual properties") is more creative than adapting the artistic works someone else has already created. Anyways. This will probably be my last reply to you man. I think at this point we're sort of running around in circles and not getting anywhere. Until some new information comes out, this thread is gonna kind of be like beating a dead horse.

DisneyHead123Jun 03, 2023

I think that’s why the original method of choosing a theme for the entire land, and then theming rides to that, worked so well. Imagine the rides people could come up with if given a starting theme of “Candy Land”, “Holiday Land”, “Medieval Land”, “Tropical Paradise Land”, etc. Easier to come up with ideas when you’re given a starting theme and then the whole thing just flows better because the whole land coheres in (buzzword warning!) an “immersive” way. That’s why I find it puzzling that Disney is veritably obsessed with “immersion” on the one hand but wants random IP all over the place on the other. That is the opposite of immersion. I guess they kind of try for immersion with the “mini lands” like Toy Story and Galaxy’s Edge, but I feel like they don’t go all in on those so even if they’re called “lands”, they don’t feel like a “land” in the sense that the four lands in MK, World Showcase, or the geographical regions in AK do (also, while Toy Story is cute, I don’t know that it has enough thematic charm by itself to carry a whole land.) And with some of the recent proposals, it reads like they’ve given up on even mini lands and are totally just going to “stick in a bunch of IP-ish rides” mode, a la Epcot outside of World Showcase.

erasure fan1Jun 02, 2023

Sure you can, but do you need to? Sometimes a ride like Everest, just works because it's actually about you, the rider, your journey. Of course you can have ip and do a similar thing. But does that make it better outside of selling a plush or t-shirt? Not in my eyes. And that's at the forefront of Disneys ip push. Sell more merch. That's right, it's your fictitious journey to space. It's, let the imagination run and just enjoy the ride. Just like mansion, Everest, thunder, soarin... Again, that isn't to say that ip is bad, because it's not. But does it mean it is a safer bet? Not necessarily. Mermaid, stitch, dinosaur, Nemo... All say different.

SamusAranXJun 02, 2023

Which is why I am glad WDI didn’t have this “mandate” before. They could go with what they felt was best, IP or non IP and also fit with the park theme. Hire me Iger! I will make the parks thematically whole again with IP. I could easily write it on paper :p

Jenny72Jun 02, 2023

I do find it interesting that when people are arguing against original attractions, the ideas they come up with for rides with no movie tie-in are things like driving through a gully or having cheap knockoff characters that no one cares about. It does show how hard it can be to even conceive of a ride as a brand-new creation (like Soarin', Imagination, etc.). Without a movie tie-in, all we can do is stumble through boring everyday scenes....after all, what else is there other than movies that's interesting?

Tha RealestJun 02, 2023

I wish they spent as much time and effort building new attractions and less time trying to data mine me. Though, their tech incompetence is on display every time they open up new reservations for something, so maybe they’ll be toothless when it comes to deploying this surveillance against me.

SamusAranXJun 02, 2023

This thread. At this point no minds will be changed.

el_superJun 02, 2023

We don't really have a way of gauging whether DAK, in it's original form without IP was considered a success or not. We know DCA was considered a failure due to the investment sunk back into it, but DAK is more of a question mark. The investments they have made though, aside from Everest, have mostly been IP focused, so that does seem to suggest that Disney considers the IP attractions a better fit in DAK today than anything else. Can have value, but do you think it's an equal value or not? What would be a reasoned objection to having an IP mandate, if you think that the two are basically on equal footing? It's just personal preference right? You said specifically: IP based attractions haven't proven to increase park attendance or to draw longer lines on average. What did you mean by this? Your thinking here is just too boxed in and limited. If you want to tell a story about space exploration, or exploring new frontiers, you can do that within the context of IP. What I am saying though is that WDI never really made an original attraction that told a story to the same level and degree that the studios told stories. What the two groups do is distinctive and there isn't a lot of overlap between them. Space Mountain doesn't tell a story about space exploration or what it means to be a human in space... it's a roller coaster in the dark. You can create a story about human space exploration and put a video of Buzz Lightyear or Gary Sinise at the entrance, and overall the attraction tells a different story now, but the experience of being a roller coaster in the dark doesn't really change all that much. African villages do already exist. You can go to them. To real ones. How is it considered MORE creative to just copy something that already exists?

Jrb1979Jun 02, 2023

The way I look at Disney and Universal attractions, since they both rely on IP more than any other parks, is how good the ride would be if you take the IP away. Good examples are Velocicoaster and Guardians. Both great rides regardless of the IP. It's me never been about the IP for me but how good the ride is. Frozen is a good example. Terrible ride regardless of the IP. That IMO is the difference in Universal and Disney right now. Look at Epic Universe, from all the rumors I've heard most attractions will be amazing with new technology we have never seen. I wish WDI would do the same.

BlakeW39Jun 02, 2023

I didn't go to EPCOT during the 80s, but I will say I think DAK is the best WDI has been this side of 2000 (domestically at least). You can have IP in the parks but jesus christ, the level they obsess over it today is just insane.

Jrb1979Jun 02, 2023

When Epcot debuted was when WDI was at its best. Those opening day attractions IMO blow away just about anything they have build today. They were well themed, has great AAs and had great stories.

BlakeW39Jun 02, 2023

I don't really understand what you're getting at here^^ I don't believe Moana or Zootopia will fix any supposed "problems" with DAK, whatever you believe those are. Does Bob Iger think DAK has problems and wants to fix them with Zootopia/Moana... I don't know? I can't possibly speak on his specific motivations regarding that decision. No, I haven't. I never said original attractions have more 'value' than IP attractions do. To the contrary, I have made it very clear that IP attractions can have value. I don't have an issue with IP, I have an issue with the IP mandate. I have said that 10000 times. I also never said IP attractions don't increase attendance... that's a misrepresentation my argument. My point wasn't that IP attractions don't increase attendance, my point was that original attractions can as well. I also didn't say IP attractions are at a disadvantage to original attractions, other than the fact that their premise in my opinion has less broad appeal. Your take that WDI has never been creative in the way I'm claiming is a bizarre take and one I strongly disagree with. The IP mandate by definition limits the creativity in WDI and the kinds of attractions they can design. Because the number of popular IPs Disney owns is very limited compared to the infinite number of ideas WDI creatives could come up with if WDC executives allowed them. Again. It's the difference between the world building that exists in Harambe, and that never happening because execs thought WDI should just use what already exists instead. "Just make a land based on The Lion King." Yes they still have to design the land as a physical space, but all the thematic richness created specifically for Harambe would have never happened. The themes of the land would just be whatever 'themes' already exist in the film setting they're trying to replicate.