Dana Walden Says Disney Productions Are Among L.A.’s ‘Safest Places’ With Low COVID Rates

After adapting to COVID protocols last summer and fall, most of Disney’s TV productions have maintained virus transmission rates of less than 1%, making them “some of the safest places” in Los Angeles, Disney TV chief Dana Walden told a group of Harvard University undergrads on Sunday.

Walden held a virtual Q&A Sunday morning as part of the annual Intercollegiate Business Convention organized by Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business. Walden, one of the highest-ranking executives in the content industry, was recognized by the organization with its lifetime achievement kudo.

In a wide-ranging interview, Walden spoke about breakthrough moments in her career, the impact of digital disruption on the entertainment business, the explosion of platforms and what that means for the diversity of storytelling.

When asked about the coronavirus pandemic had changed the vast Disney content operation that she oversees, Walden noted that the ABC soap “General Hospital” was the studio’s first show to go back before the cameras last year after the sudden shutdown in mid-March. The fast pace of production on a daytime soap opera proved to be a good place for the studio to learn how to apply COVID safety procedures on other sets.

“They get so much done because of the production cycle of that show — it’s a machine. We got to learn so much about best practices,” Walden said.

The Disney Television Studios imprints that Walden steers had to shutter some 65 active series in a matter of days. After “General Hospital,” ABC created a production bubble at a hotel in Palm Desert, Calif., to film a season of “The Bachelorette.” As dozens of other shows have come back online, Walden said the studio has kept transmission rates under 1%, compared to as much as 7%-9% for other areas of Los Angeles County. She credits the determination of cast and crew members to stay back in business as usual.

“Our shows have become some of the safest places in this city because of a very motivated work force,” Walden said. “Everyone wants to be back at work.”

More to come

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