REDLANDS, Calif. — Perhaps no one has had a better view into the theme parks industry than Garner Holt.

After all, it was a trip to Disneyland that first inspired him.

What You Need To Know

  • This week, Disney announced a second round of layoffs in the wake of continued theme park closures in California

  • The closures have impacted park employees, local tourism, hospitality, and other outside sectors like animatronics

  • Garner Holt, whose company is the largest manufacturer of theme park animatronics, said the closures have impacted his business as well

  • Holt fears there will be drastic impacts down the line if parks aren't able to reopen

“I still remember telling my parents when I got home that I wanted to build the things I saw at Disneyland," said Holt.

Over the last 43 years since that first trip to Disneyland, his dreams became a reality. Now, Holt oversees the largest manufacturer of theme park animatronics.

“We’ve gone on to work at all of the major theme parks across the world: Disney, Universal, and all the others, Knotts and everything," he said.

Holt has always loved being able to help create what makes these theme parks so magical — although as he'll be the first to tell you that magic has faded a little over the last year.

“I have been really kind of amazed, and it’s really impacted the theme park industry greatly," he siad.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the closure of all of California's over 30 theme parks, which have remained shuttered to the public since mid-March.

Their closures have resulted in the layoffs of over 28,000 park employees and a projected $2.2 billion loss in revenue from the Disney parks alone.

However, the theme park industry is not the only sector feeling the impact. Closures have also drastically affected local tourism, hospitality, and other outside industries like animatronics.

“This is not over, and it’s continuing to impact this industry very badly," said Holt. "It just can’t keep going on because even these larger companies are going to have real trouble.”

While Holt has been able to keep his own company going with future projects and other orders, there is still some worry about how complement industries like his will be impacted by the continued closures.

“Right now, it’s just unnerving because we’re not sure where that point is, where it flips back to working in the normal world," he said.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced new guidelines for reopening, it's clear there is still a long road ahead — especially for larger parks.

“This industry, we don’t just build rollercoasters — it is a rollercoaster," said Holt. "We’ve had the highest highs, and this is one of the lowest lows.”

What keeps him going is the idea that once parks reopen, he'll be able to create and share that magic once again.

"It’s going to come back," he said. "People are going to be happy to come back to the parks. There’s light at the end of the tunnel."