MickeyBlog News for January 18, 2021
Hoo boy, we just finished quite the week for The Walt Disney Company and its fans. I’ll tell you everything that’s relevant in this week’s MickeyBlog News.
Extra Magic Hours Out, Early Theme Park Entry In
Walt Disney World will take a different approach to Disney resort amenities once the pandemic ends.
After months of speculation, park officials revealed that they have ended Extra Magic Hours forever. But wait! This news isn’t bad at all, despite how it sounds.
In place of Extra Magic Hours, Walt Disney World will introduce Early Theme Park Entry instead.
According to the Parks Blog, this amenity falls under the heading of “coming soon,” meaning we don’t know when it’ll debut.
However, Disney describes this service as superior to Extra Magic Hours, and I tend to agree. With the previous amenity, you could only enter one theme park early each day.
Sometimes, a park would stay open late instead, a feature Disney has apparently dropped for the time being.
Replacing these resort guest benefits is the Early Theme Park Entry system. It’s…pretty much what it sounds like.
Guests staying onsite at official Walt Disney World resorts may enter the theme park of their choice 30 minutes before it opens to regular guests.
In other words, when you stay at one of Disney’s hotels, you receive a half-hour head start on the competition.
Cast members will check that you own a valid admission ticket and are staying at a Disney resort. In the short term, they will also verify that you own a Park Pass for the place you’re visiting.
As long as you meet all three criteria, you can enter whichever park you desire. You should have time to ride at least one of your favorite attractions before the crowds arise.
Extra Magic Hours rarely occurred at multiple parks on the same day. So, this addition provides guests with more flexibility during their vacations.
Magical Express Ends in 2022
I wish that the same statement applied to this update. The other day, I wrote this article, which provides context for what I’m about to say.
Disney executives have decided to cancel the Magical Express service at the start of 2022. So, you can utilize it throughout 2021. However, as soon as the calendar flips into 2022, it’s apparently gone forever.
Anyone who uses the internet knows how challenging it is to find universal consensus about pretty much anything. Well, the cancellation of Magical Express has lined up friends and foes alike.
The overwhelming majority of guests despise this decision, which Disney explains this way:
“Vacationers have more options to choose from than ever for transportation, including ride-share services that save time and offer more flexibility to go where they want, when they want. In light of this shift, when Disney Resort hotel bookings open for stays in 2022, we will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service for airport transportation, starting with arrivals Jan. 1, 2022.”
Those of you who love to visit during Christmas week should pay attention to that wording. It indicates that as long as you arrive via Magical Express by New Year’s Eve this year, you can still use the service.
So, even if you stay for three weeks – and wouldn’t that be nice? – you’ll still receive Magical Express on your way out.
Alas, if you fly into Orlando on New Year’s Day of 2022, you’re on your own. Mears, Disney’s Magical Express partner, defiantly stated that it will continue to run shuttles to and from Orlando International Airport.
For this reason, everyone presumes that Disney has made a simple cost-cutting decision.
The company recently signed an agreement for a Brightline train station at Disney Springs that will debut in 2023. This would connect the airport to Disney via high-speed train.
For guests, this change will mean carrying luggage on a train and then a bus at Disney Springs. If you look at a map of Orlando, it makes logistical sense, as there’s no backtracking across the city.
Even so, I’ve received more angry messages from friends about this than anything park-related I can ever recall.
If you feel the same, please let Disney know at this link. Maybe they’ll reconsider.
More Imagineers Retire
At the start of 2021, Joe Rohde retired from Disney, thereby ending a remarkable era. Before his retirement, Rohde was without question the most famous active Imagineer.
Well, that apparently wasn’t the only significant retirement of note at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Djuan Rivers, until recently the Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has retired. The executive started his position in 2014 and worked at Disney for more than 30 years in total.
Rivers had previously served in such laudable jobs as Vice President of Disney Springs (it was called Downtown Disney at the time) and General Manager of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
The beloved cast member also held leadership positions at Disneyland Paris and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
Obviously, his tenure at Animal Kingdom includes the Pandora – The World of Avatar expansion and other achievements that dramatically increased park attendance.
In a way, the loss of Rivers will impact Disney as much as Rohde. They formed a dynamic team as creative lead and business expert.
Disney will also lose another icon on April 1st. Kevin Rafferty, the Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, will retire on that date after a storied run with the company.
Rafferty worked at Disney long enough to have the creation of One Little Spark on his resume. Then, he stayed until his final project went live. It’s a little ride called Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
The Imagineer also helmed the entire Cars Land project at Disney California Adventure. You can read the lovely Instagram tribute to his career here.
Disneyland Hosting Vaccinations
We’ve just finished one of THOSE weeks at Disney. This article is already running long, and I haven’t even talked about the massive news emanating from the Happiest Place on Earth.
With the parks closed due to sustained Coronavirus issues, Disneyland officials decided to do what they could to help.
Disneyland has volunteered as the first super Point-of-Dispensing Site (POD) in California. I cannot overstate the importance of this move.
Southern California residents can visit the Disney campus to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
I have an elderly friend who works at the nearby Disney Barn. She reports that the shots are available to anyone over the age of 65 as well as law enforcement officials and healthcare workers.
However, you must schedule an appointment online, something she hasn’t managed yet. Here’s how the process works.
The POD opened last Wednesday (January 13th) and hopes to dispense 7,000 daily doses.
So, if California won’t open the parks until the pandemic ends, Disney’s going to do what it can to expedite the treatment of its loyal fans in the area.
Walt Disney World is reportedly negotiating to do the same. The campus already includes the cold storage facilities necessary for the Pfizer/BioNTech version of the vaccine.
Disneyland Annual Passes
Of course, the other aspect of the pandemic involves Disneyland’s prolonged closure.
When Walt Disney World reopened, park officials extended the expiration dates of all annual passes. Effectively, Disney added back all those lost days onto the end of the passes.
With Disneyland, the park has remained closed for ten months and counting. You can imagine how much of a problem this has caused for executives and guests alike.
Ken Potrock, President of Disneyland Resort, hasn’t experienced an open park since he received his promotion, which was probably his dream job.
However, Potrock has stepped up as a leader and made a tough decision. Here’s the tweet:
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) January 14, 2021
Yes, Disneyland is “sunsetting” the current version of the annual pass system until the pandemic ends. Disney will apparently refund everyone for their unused annual pass dates.
So, you will get some money back in your wallet soon. Unfortunately, this announcement functions as a concession that the Happiest Place on Earth won’t reopen anytime soon.
Get vaccinated as quickly as possible, my friends. Disney’s counting on you!
Feature Image: Disney