Is Disney More Than an Entertainment Machine?

The Walt Disney Company is renowned for entertainment. Nearly everything it touches focuses on entertaining customers in some form or fashion. Core products and services include theme parks, resorts, cruises, movies, streaming services, toys, and games. Is Disney an entertainment machine, or is there more to their story?

A Worthy Cause in Vero Beach, Florida

Disney rarely does anything under the radar. However, the company has quietly committed resources to a worthy cause for two decades.

At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney Conservation recently released two sea turtles as part of the 16th annual Tour de Turtles “migration marathon.” The fun, educational event follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches in Vero Beach to feeding grounds in the Caribbean and beyond.

Although the event allows the general public to follow the migration, it ultimately provides scientists with essential data on how best to protect sea turtles for future generations.

Mark Penning, Vice President of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, says, “Disney’s commitment to sea turtle conservation in Vero Beach spans 20 years, and we are very proud to have recently watched our 1.5 millionth sea turtle hatchling leave the nest and shuffle its way to the ocean.

Southeast Florida hosts one of the largest nesting aggregations of loggerhead sea turtles, making up to 40 percent of the global loggerhead population. The team has recorded more than 20,000 sea turtle nests on our survey route since the program began.”

Loggerhead Turtles

Aptly named for its large head, the loggerhead turtle feeds primarily on shellfish with its powerful jaws. They prefer to feed in coastal bays, estuaries, and shallow oceanic waters along continental shelves. Although they rarely nest north of the Carolinas, people regularly observe loggerheads in northern coastal areas such as Cape Cod

Loggerheads are protected under the Endangered Species Act and listed as threatened in the United States. Accordingly, Disney’s sea turtle conservation efforts are critical.

Loggerheads face various threats to their survival, including loss of nesting habitat from coastal development, predators, incidental capture in fishing gear, unintended boat strikes, climate change, plastic pollution, and beach lighting. Disney Conservation and STC aim to educate the public on the threats we can control.

What Does Disney’s Haunted Mansion Have To Do With Sea Turtles?

This year, the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and Disney Cruise Line (DCL) are each sponsoring a turtle. Madame Leota and Harriet are named for characters from the recently released film Haunted Mansion.

Researchers will use satellite telemetry to track many turtles, including Madame Leota and Harriet. The turtle that swims the furthest distance will be declared the winner of the Tour de Turtles. Whether or not Madame Leota or Harriet win is less important than their bigger mission, to raise awareness about threats to their survival.

Collaborative Efforts

The Tour de Turtles event started in 2008. Disney and STC have collaborated to study 29 sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters. The data collected from the migration marathon assists researchers, conservationists, and governing agencies with conservation and management decisions.

“Disney is a fantastic collaborator,” says David Godfrey, STC Executive Director. “Disney’s commitment to conservation, passion for environmental education, and effectiveness at communicating with audiences have made the Tour de Turtles a fun and successful program since it was launched over a decade ago.”

Disney Cruise Line

Upon mention of DCL, most people think of family entertainment and experiences such as Marvel Day at Sea. To support the cause and strengthen youth education programs in port cities, DCL proudly supported local students from Club Esteem in Melbourne, Florida, in this year’s event. Meanwhile, DCF has contributed over $5.1 million to support local sea turtle conservation efforts across the globe.

Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is more than a park to entertain guests. It houses one of North America’s leading veterinary hospitals. Their advanced equipment allows them to diagnose issues and treat animals at the hospital quickly.

The creation of DCF in 1995 evolved from discussions about how the proposed park could help with wildlife conservation, educating the public, and working with communities toward conservation efforts. DCF has contributed over $125 million to support nonprofit organizations and their local communities to reverse worldwide wildlife decline.

Today, Animal Kingdom and DCF are respected world leaders in animal conservation.

Disney Planet Possible

Disney’s collective efforts to reduce our environmental footprint, care for wildlife and their habitats, and inspire action in conservation and sustainability is an initiative called Disney Planet Possible

The company is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions for its direct operations by 2030. They also strive to reduce waste, build more sustainably, and develop packaging and products that lessen their environmental footprint.

Working toward these initiatives, Disney has installed solar arrays at Hong Kong Disneyland and Castaway Cay. They have diverted 61% of their total company operational waste from landfills. 

Disneyland Paris will soon have the most extensive solar canopy plant in Europe. It should reduce greenhouse emissions by more than 750 tons of carbon dioxide annually and generate electricity equivalent to 17% of the resort’s energy needs.

In addition to sea turtle conservation, DCF has directed funds and resources to provide habitats to monarch butterflies in California and purple martins in Florida. DCF also leads efforts to restore coral reefs at Castaway Cay in The Bahamas.

More Than Entertainment

Disney aims to put smiles on kids’ faces and make adults feel like kids again through top-notch entertainment. The company encourages us to dream. As long as some of those dreams are to protect the planet, we can all feel like kids for generations to come.

Featured image credit: Taha

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About the author

View of Glacier Bay from cruise ship

Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.