Squeezed by limits on attendance at its theme parks and other restrictions due to the pandemic, The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday it will lay off 28,000 workers in its “Parks, Experiences and Products” division in California and Florida.
Shoals native, Darby Pettus worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando twice. Both times through the Disney College Program.
“The second time was even more magical. I worked as a character tenant in magic kingdom. I got to see people meet Mickey for the first time, gender reveals, engagements,” says Darby Pettus.
Disney shuttered its theme parks around the world when the novel coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. earlier this year.
“March 14th they decided to send all college program home,” says Pettus.
Now, all but Disneyland in California are reopened, but with limited visitors to allow for physical distancing.
“It breaks my heart but then again, its good to know that there is still magic happening,” says Pettus.
The shuttered attractions also forced more than 70,000 Disney workers to be furloughed for months, with only some returning to work with the parks’ phased reopening’s.
“It’s still sad. It’s very empty. It looks like closing time, every time of the day,” says Pettus.
Disney says about two-thirds of the laid-off employees are part-time workers.
Pettus has been through this, and feels for the others laid off.
“My first job there was a couple.. Who they worked there.. Together. And they were part time so I’m about 100% they’re both about to lose their jobs. Its going to be devastating. Its going to be very hard because most of them haven’t even been back,” says Pettus.
While she can’t go back for another college program, she says she’s not done with Disney.
She will be a lifetime fan and will be a guest for life.
Disney’s parks unit, which brought in more than $26 billion in fiscal 2019, was crushed during the second quarter of this year. Disney reported a billion dollar loss in profit just a few weeks into the pandemic.