Mickey Mouse turns 92 on Wednesday. Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) official mascot has aged better than many of the media giant's businesses these days. Disneyland in California remains closed, and the world's largest theme park operator is losing money at its resorts that have opened elsewhere.
Disney's iconic studio entertainment business -- the same Hollywood tastemakers that put out all six of the country's highest grossing films last year -- is in a holding pattern with multiplex operators struggling and consumers possibly tapped out from a plethora of streaming options at home. Even McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) is now apparently caught in the Mickey malaise, and to think -- as Walter Elias Disney himself used to say -- it all started with a mouse.
Putting a dent in the rodent
Mickey Mouse celebrating 92 years since his debut in Steamboat Willie isn't the first milestone that the original Disneyland theme park in California will be celebrating without guests this year. The park itself turned 65 this summer with its turnstiles firmly locked.
This was supposed to be a big year for Disneyland's Anaheim resort. Marvel's Avengers Campus was supposed to open at Disney's California Adventure in July, giving visitors new ways to engage with the wildly successful superhero franchise. Everything understandably changed in mid-March when all of Disney's theme parks worldwide were closed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, but every resort outside of California has been able to reopen safely this summer.
Disney still hasn't tired of Mickey Mouse as its flagship character. A week ago it put out a tearjerker of an animated short covering the multi-generational story of a family's Mickey Mouse doll. In March of this year it opened Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, just 10 days before that resort had to suspend operations for four months.
The new ride is where Mickey Mouse meets Mickey D's in this story. McDonald's launched a Happy Meals promotion on Tuesday promoting the new ride. The world's largest burger chain is offering kids meals that include one of 10 toys featuring Disney characters experiencing Disney World theme park rides. There is also a Hop Aboard to Win contest to win a Disney World vacation.
If it seems odd to have McDonald's rolling out a promotion eight months after the ride opened, you're not off the mark. The Happy Meal bags have instructions to disregard the August sweepstakes submission deadline, a clear indication that this is a promotion that McDonald's and Disney were planning to run a lot earlier this year.
We can still celebrate Mickey Mouse turning 92. Sure, Disneyland in California doesn't seem as if it will be reopening anytime soon. Disney World is open, but recent layoffs there and delays in the rollout of new attractions dim the resort's near-term prospects. Disney itself has posted back-to-back quarters of double-digit declines in revenue, held back by its theme park and studio entertainment segments. However, we still have Disney+ -- the brightest star at Disney since launching last November -- and a reminder that this is ultimately a media stock with a lot of levers at its disposal to keep consumers entertained. Not every Disney segment will be bringing presents this year, but there's alway the hope that we'll be in a better place when Mickey Mouse turns 93 next year.