As we've learned it yesterday, new layoffs happened at WDW - around 450 cast-members will lose their jobs. My sympathy is going to all of them and their families. Unfortunately these layoffs won't be the last one this year. Others should follow and in all departments of the WDC, probably including Walt Disney Imagineering.
In Japan, may be you've heard about it, a "senior" is considered as a "Living Treasure". It's probably the best definition i've heard to define the experience that a human being has gained during all his life. When the WDC layoff Senior Imagineers who worked at WDI since the early 70's or even before it is experiences of inestimable value which disappear. Forever. They are people - in this case Imagineers - who have lived not only the legendary times of Imagineering but also been through the thousands of problems that reality can create - and found the solutions. They know everything: how to do this special effect for a certain amount of money, where to find these props for a land theming, why this colour will be better than another one due to the country's climate, etc, etc, EVERYTHING.
Of course, if you're working at WDI since 35 years your salary is different than the one of a "young" imagineer. And here comes the problem. The suits only see this part, how much money the company will save and not the "inestimable experience" they will lose with the layoff. There are reasons for that: the first one is of course a pragmatic one and if you asked them they'll probably say: "yeah, we know, but i've been asked to do it, we really have to find a way to save money and, hey, i'm only doing my job, okay? nothing personal, blah blah blah...". The second reason is because they don't SEE - i mean: they don't have Vision. They don't even know what the word means. Really. Believe me, there is no vision inside these guys - except of course the one of their paycheck at the end of the month and eventually the little bonus of power they can expect after they've done these layoffs. Don't even try to explain to them this notion of "living treasure", we're not talking about the same kind of "treasure".
But where it becomes pure insanity it's when you realize how destructive it is for the company to lose all these inestimable experiences. And yes, even on a financial point of view. Old imagineers know the best way to do things (anything of their specialty) but also how to do it and save money!
Ultimately, what is the main problem is the usual occidental short term vision. This is really the occidental curse - and by the way one of the main reason - along with oversized cynism - of this economy crisis. If they don't do profit THIS year, it's a tragedy! But losing all these "living treasures" and inestimable experiences that goes with them and would have been precious for the future, that's not a tragedy, that's just business.
For sure WDI costs are known to be more expensive than anywhere else - and i can perfectly understand that they want to reduce the costs, but may be not at any price...The Senior employees are the Jewels who make the company what it is. They are those who make the Guest experience something to remember at a Disney Enterprise, be it a store or a park. They are the foundations. The company should save them, before all falls down.
Do you remember the famous - and perfectly stupid - quote: "nobody is irreplaceable". Well, that's all the difference between Orient and Occident. In Japan they have this notion of "living treasure" and in Occident they think that "nobody is irreplaceable". Do you see the difference between these two worlds? What it means?
In the middle of the 70's between 3000 and 4000 imagineers were working at WDI - including the production teams. Now, how many? 800? 900? And unfortunately we can expect more layoffs... Well, i suppose all we can do is to pray there will be enough imagineers in the future to bring us unique attractions. And that in a flash of lucidity the company won't finally layoff all their "living treasures".