MickeyBlog News for July 20, 2020
The Walt Disney Company has just experienced an odd week. Some parks reopened, while another closed. Another couldn’t celebrate its anniversary the right way.
We’ll cover the details in the latest edition of MickeyBlog News.
EPCOT and Hollywood Studios Reopen
For Walt Disney World fans, July 15th marked a symbolic moment. EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios finally reopened to the public.
When that happened, it signified that every Walt Disney World theme park has returned.
However, some things have obviously changed. Disney’s leadership team has had to make several concessions due to the rise of Coronavirus in Florida.
Some of the changes are as simple as colorful masks for cast members around the parks and frequent ride cart wipe-downs everywhere.
More About the Reopenings
The parks did make one change to their mask requirements for guests. Before, people were allowed to pull their masks down to eat or drink while walking.
Now, you must be sitting down with your food or drink in order to remove your mask.
Other modifications will unfortunately ruin your immersion a bit, albeit to protect your health. So, Disney’s on the side of the angels here.
Throughout the parks, tables and chairs no longer sit closely together. Instead, Disney has spaced them to guarantee social distancing for guests.
In show-based attraction theaters, some seats are blocked off to prevent visitors from sitting side-by-side.
Throughout the ride line queues, markers indicate where guests should stand.
Also, hand sanitizer stations are prevalent so that you can kill bacteria while standing in line.
On Omnimover attractions like The Seas with Nemo & Friends, cast members are loading guests on every other Clamobile to assure social distancing.
At regular intervals, cast members temporarily close rides and perform deeper cleanings. So, you may get stuck waiting a few more minutes.
However, you won’t care because the wait-times are historically low throughout the parks.
At Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Boarding Groups have returned, although they work slightly differently.
You now have three opportunities to schedule a Boarding Pass each day, which takes away most of the pressure.
Finally, the 2020 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival has already returned.
So, the cuisine is terrific and extremely expensive at the World Showcase right now.
Overall, the park reopenings went more smoothly than Disney could have possibly imagined.
Hong Kong Disneyland Closes Again
Okay, I won’t lie. This update is one that I didn’t expect to make.
For the past several months, the city of Hong Kong has had Coronavirus under control.
Alas, my daily readings of the South China Morning Post have turned into a horror show recently.
The city is grappling with an outbreak that has caused the city to break its record new infections three times this week.
Now, we’re still only talking about 64 infections on Saturday, but Hong Kong officials fear that an eye clinic incident will lead to more cases.
As a precautionary measure, the city has shut down many of its public activities.
Yes, Hong Kong Disneyland qualifies as one of them. So, the park that reopened on June 18th closed again on July 15th.
At the time, Disney executives believed that the closure may last for a few days. However, Hong Kong is currently trending in the wrong direction.
So, we’ll have to stay tuned to learn whether the park can reopen again this month. I’m…dubious.
Disneyland’s 65th Anniversary Is Heartbreaking
In some alternate universe, Disney threw a party for the ages this past week.
The Happiest Place on Earth turned 65 on July 17th, but Disney’s big plans fell apart.
Last month, park officials announced that Disneyland would reopen just in time for its 65th birthday.
Alas, California experienced a Coronavirus outbreak, which caused the state’s elected officials to roll back its own plans.
When the governor paused California’s phased reopening, Disney had to follow suit.
In a soul-crushing turn of events, the Happiest Place on Earth was closed on its anniversary.
It was the first time since 1954 (!) that Disneyland wasn’t open on July 17th. That was all the way back during the Dwight Eisenhower administration, y’all!
Thankfully, Downtown Disney has reopened. So, diehard Disney fans did get to celebrate the anniversary on the Disneyland campus, just not in the park.
Oh, while I’m on the subject Disneyland, I do have a bit of good news to mention.
Cast members recently learned that the backstage areas are now totally smoke-free.
Even during the pandemic, Disney remains committed to making its parks entirely smoke-free.
This step will give cast members cleaner air while they work in the background.
In less happy news, Disney has sent out cancellation notices for guests who intended to visit during the first week of August.
So, we’re all going to have to shine it on a little while longer as we wait for the return of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Walt Disney World Attraction Closures
On the attraction front, park officials finally confirmed a couple of longstanding rumors.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Stitch’s Great Escape at Magic Kingdom is gone forever.
A while ago, some cast members had sent pictures of several ride elements, all of which were in various stages of disassembly.
At the time, Disney denied that the attraction was done, which seemed weird.
I presume they wanted to surprise guests with a later announcement. However, the pandemic has presumably placed those plans on hold.
Similarly, Primeval Whirl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been on its deathbed longer than Keith Richards.
I mentioned last week that Disney had removed it from park maps, which seemed like the final nail in the coffin.
Even before then, the unpopularity of the ride had guaranteed virtual walk-on lines…and even those guests left generally dissatisfied.
Disney also ended one more park experience. Rivers of Light felt like a doomed project from the beginning.
Park officials once had to delay it for an entire year. Since then, Animal Kingdom’s nighttime presentation has undergone several changes.
Each time, Imagineers tried to tell a better, more engaging story. Alas, it never quite worked.
Now, Disney has pulled the plug by canceling Rivers of Light. Animal Kingdom once again has no nighttime show.
Primeval Whirl and Stitch’s Great Escape have generally scored in the bottom five among attractions on park surveys.
Meanwhile, Rivers of Light has never come anywhere close to matching the appeal of the nightly presentations at the other Walt Disney World parks.
So, Disney needed to close them a while ago. Unfortunately, the company has waited so long now that it cannot replace either one in the short term.
Other Park Changes
As MickeyBlog has noted, Disney executives have cut capital expenditures by almost $1 billion, which has had other ripple effects.
For example, guests who returned to EPCOT this week were in for a surprise.
The EPCOT Experience had removed two parts of its tantalizing look at the park’s future.
The Mary Poppins ride and the updated version of Spaceship Earth are no longer part of the video loop.
After receiving questions about the matter, Disney released a statement:
“As with most businesses during this period, we are further evaluating long-term project plans. The decision was made to postpone development of the “Mary Poppins”-inspired attraction and Spaceship Earth at this time.”
You can watch this video to see what Disney had promised but has since removed:
I fully expect Disney to return to the Spaceship Earth renovation at a later date.
I’m less sure about the Mary Poppins ride. It may be dead now.
Park officials have projected a groundswell of support for the characters in the wake of Mary Poppins Returns. Alas, that movie did…just okay.
So, Disney has less incentive to move forward with these plans, especially with money so tight right now.
Okay, that’s the news for this week. Stay safe, everyone!