Ultimate Guide to Disney Parks Coronavirus Rumors
For months now, people like me have speculated about what Disney will do to protect its guests when the parks return. Meanwhile, fans have wondered whether the current outbreak will impact the parks.
Over the past few days, we’ve gained a great deal of insight into Disney’s thinking on the various subjects. Between the return of Shanghai Disneyland and information relayed during Disney’s recent earnings call, we have a solid idea of what’s happening.
Here is the status of every significant Coronavirus rumor involving Disney theme parks.
Are Masks a Part of Disney Park Visits?
Well, Disney has started selling masks on ShopDisney.com. That’s a strong hint about what the future holds.
We also know now that Shanghai Disneyland will require masks of its guests. One of the guidelines states: “Wear an approved mask during the entire visit to the resort except when dining.”
For a while now, Disney fans have wondered whether this rule would apply to cast members only. This guideline demonstrates it’s for everyone, which makes sense.
Park officials have a responsibility to protect cast members as much as customers. So, masks appear to be a part of Disney visits until the pandemic ends.
Will Disney Take My Temperature?
At the risk of sounding like a Magic 8-Ball, all signs point to yes.
There’s always a chance that this idea doesn’t transfer from Shanghai Disneyland to other parks. In fact, that statement is true of a lot of what we’re discussing here.
Still, park officials will verify people’s temperatures before allowing them into Shanghai Disneyland. It’s a smart precautionary measure that prevents sick people from potentially infecting others.
Yes, the idea has drawbacks. I’m not talking about time delays, as that’s a non-issue. Some biometric scanners can check a person’s temperature as they pass by. Also, some handheld thermometers provide near-instant readouts.
Instead, I’m discussing the genuine problem that people’s temperatures increase on hot days, of which Florida and California have many. So, Disney must find a solution to this problem.
Will Disney Require Reservations?
My best answer to this question is (unfortunately) yes and no. When we talk about the impending return of Disney theme parks, we must acknowledge the fact that the early days will work differently.
Two years from now, you obviously won’t need to confirm with Disney that you intend to visit the park that day. During the pandemic, the situation is much different.
When Disney parks reopen, the management team must keep the crowds under control. So, park officials must take a headcount of expected guests.
During this period, a park visit will work differently. At Shanghai Disneyland, the stated rule is:
“Ticket sales will be available via the resort’s official online channels and official travel partners’ channels beginning on May 8 at 8:00 a.m., with a limited number of tickets available each day during the initial reopening. Guests are required to purchase dated admission tickets prior to their arrival, and Annual Pass holders must make a reservation for their visit date and time through the resort’s official online channels before their visit to the park. During this “Advanced Reservation Period,” General Admission tickets for Shanghai Disneyland will not be accepted.”
In other words, you probably can’t just walk into a Disney park on the first day it returns. You must schedule your visit.
For this reason, booking a hotel reservation via an established Disney travel agency like MickeyTravels is a smart move. You can’t possibly keep up with all the rules changes, but these Disney experts make it their job to know this stuff for you!
Will Walt Disney World and Disneyland Return in Phases?
Shanghai Disneyland reopened in phases. The first one involved the return of a hotel and some restaurants. Later, parts of the shopping district returned. Finally, the park is ready to come back.
I fully expect Walt Disney World to employ a phased reopening. In truth, I’m somewhat surprised that this hasn’t happened already. The Grapefruit Garage at Disney Springs is already back and exclusive to cast members.
This update hints that cast member operations are either underway or poised to return soon.
Walt Disney World could open some stores and restaurants in a matter of days, weeks at the most. A recent push notification reconfirmed that Disney Springs remains closed for now, though.
Still, a phased reopening gives Disney a chance to test some of its Coronavirus safeguards on a limited scale, which is the ultimate goal here.
Will Financial Losses Cause Project Cancellations?
From the moment Disneyland announced it would close, rumormongers speculated that Disney would cancel some projects. In their defense, there’s a basis for this belief.
You may not know it, but Disney’s Art of Animation Resort was never intended as a standalone property. Park planners had planned those grounds as a part of Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Disney faced difficult financial choices as the economy collapsed. Disney decided not to develop a large portion of the planned Pop Century campus.
The company later used it for Art of Animation. So, Disney fans won in the end. However, Pop Century opened in 2003, while Art of Animation wouldn’t debut until 2012.
More recently, during the 2017 D-23 Expo, park officials announced a Broadway-style theater coming to Main Street, U.S.A. Within two years, park strategists quietly ended that project.
So, project cancellations happen. And Disney’s recent earnings report hints that some might have already happened.
Disney’s top executives stated that the company will save $900 million on Capital Expenditure due to Coronavirus. Chapek and his team understandably chose not to go into detail about these savings.
Believe it or not, $900 million in construction isn’t a massive amount, at least by Disney standards. After all, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge cost $1 billion on its own.
Still, this announcement indicates that some projects, possibly ones we hadn’t even heard about yet, are no longer in development. Please remember that they’re not dead forever, though. Disney has merely pushed them to the backburner for now.
Disney Will/Won’t Return in 2020
The question that readers ask MickeyBlog the most is, “When will the parks reopen?” We’re hearing you loud and clear on the fact that you want more information.
We’re not giving you firm details because we don’t know, either. We’ve heard hints, and we’ve diligently researched every rumor out there.
We were disappointed but understanding about Bob Chapek’s reluctance to address the issue during the earnings call. However, while not saying anything about the American parks, Chapek and his staff have given strong hints.
Shanghai Disneyland will return on May 11. That date arrives 107 days after the park closed on January 25.
Hong Kong Disneyland shut down on January 26 and isn’t quite ready to return yet. It’s close, though. In fact, I suspect it could return at the same time as Shanghai Disneyland.
Park officials have likely decided that they want to use Shanghai Disneyland as a trial program. If/when it succeeds, Hong Kong Disneyland will come back.
Since the Hong Kong park isn’t a revenue source right now, its return isn’t as imperative. Also, it’s not suitable as a test case because of social unrest.
So, we have a data point of 107 days for a park reopening. At Walt Disney World, 107 days from its closing on March 16 would indicate a return on July 1.
At Disneyland, the date would be June 29. We know that’s out the window since the Happiest Place on Earth isn’t accepting reservations until July 1.
In combination, these statements demonstrate Disney’s difficulty in reopening parks. Unlike in China, states have rights that give them near-autonomy. In Florida, officials want Walt Disney World back soon.
Ergo, the rumors of Walt Disney World closure until 2021 seem outlandish. Conversely, a return of Disneyland this summer isn’t assured.
Feature Image Credit: Disney/Rebecca Campbell