The Ways The Pandemic Will Change Disney Theme Parks Forever
There is sunshine on the horizon Disney friends! Last week, we here at MickeyBlog shared the news that Disneyland will be opening later next month! And though that is a sign that life is starting to slowly return to a “new normal” it is safe to assume that things will never go back to the way they were before!
After all, as a piece in today’s OC Register tells us, Disney has been shut for a year, the company has lost billions and tens of thousands of cast members found themselves unemployed. Sunday March 14th will mark the 1 year closure of Disneyland Resort and by the time it reopens, Disneyland theme park will likely have remained closed over 400 days.
According to reports, this year long closure of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure has cost the economy in Southern California more than $9 billion over the course of the year!
In addition, the OC Register tells us that Disney had 32,00 cast members before the closure and as of going to print about 11,000 have been called back to work as Disney readies for a possible reopening.
Looking back to 2019, Disneyland’s two theme parks brought in 28.5 million visitors. However, due to COVID-19 mandates and attendance capacity will be enforced meaning we can only expect a fraction of those attendance numbers in 2021.
Upon reopening, guests can expect many of the same attractions and surroundings however, as we’ve also seen at Walt Disney World, there will be changes including the addition of 1,000 hand sanitizing stations, 2,000 plexiglass dividers and over 20,0000 COVID-19 signs.
When the parks in Anaheim re-open, it is expected they will do so at 15% capacity which will then increase gradually to 25% and then 35% provided that COVID-19 numbers stay low. It’s impossible to predict just yet when the parks will be able to return to full capacity. It might not be until later in 2021 or even 2022. It all depends on the country’s progress in reducing COVID numbers.
Similar to Walt Disney World, it is expected that guests will need to make Park Pass reservations while attendance remains capped. This is something that the East Coast theme parks have been doing since reopening last Summer.
In addition and as we’ve seen at Disney, perks that made Disney regulars feel pampered including Extra Magic Hours, Park Hopper, Single-Rider Lines etc. will be on hiatus with many wondering if/when all of these perks will return.
With reopening dates uncertain, Disney also made the decision earlier this year to do away with the current annual pass program and will instead have a re-think about new programs with added benefits for Disney regulars.
With capacities limited, and perhaps even some attractions Disneyland will also be using this time to rethink pricing structures which could lead to the implementation of dynamic pricing. This could mean Disney charging more during peak periods. As the Register says, “The goal is simple: Less crowding makes for more enjoyable visits and happier visitors spend more money.”
It should also be noted that when Disneyland does reopen, not ALL attractions will resume operations. Outdoor rides will be the first to reopen while indoor attractions, like indoor dining initially restricted.
To meet the state mandated social distancing requirements, new plexiglass dividers will need to go up on all attraction queues. A whole host of digital tools will also be promoted including mobile ordering, virtual attraction queues and more!
Other experiences that will be on hiatus includes Character Meet and Greets. The characters will still be out but all photo ops will need to be socially distanced. Character dining is also changing with the times with many of these dining experiences also on hiatus at Walt Disney World.
Disney will also need to suspend certain activities like building a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop or making your own droid at the Depot. And at least for the foreseeable future you won’t be able to saunter into a crowded Oga’s Cantina or get a makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
So where will Disneyland’s three onsite hotels fall in all of this? The Grand Californian, Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotel stopped taking reservations. Reports were coming in this week that the Disneyland Hotel has been roped off completely to visitors and a new tower is currently being built. No word yet on if and when we may see the other two properties reopen to guests.
And then lots talk about future plans. Disney is still announcing that Marvel’s Avenger’s Campus is slated to debut at Disney California Adventure later this year. However, no word yet on the second e-ticket attraction that was expected to debut later as part of phase 2. We’ve seen Walt Disney World cut back on projects particularly at EPCOT including a reimagining of Spaceship Earth and a new Mary Poppins attraction. No word yet on if and when will be seeing those.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is apparently still a WIP at Disneyland theme park but the pandemic pushed the whole project back and it’s not expected to open until 2023.
Disney has also previously announced that they will be reimagining both Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise which many are speculating will both be opening in 2022.
Some essential Disneyland renovations did happen though during the hiatus, that included a reimagining of scenes for Snow White’s Scary Adventure as well as updates to Haunted Mansion and King Arthur Carrousel. Tomorrowland and Frontierland entrances were also expanded to better handle crowds!
Disneyland is also expected to have a massive 100 year anniversary celebration in 2023 which will also mark the reopening of the NEW DVC tower at Disneyland Hotel.
But, the pandemic has left a whole in some much needed areas at the theme parks. The Hyperion Theater is now without its frozen production and some attention will eventually need to be paid to both the Hollywood Land and Grizzly Peak areas of the parks. As the Register pints out, work to Tomorrowland at Disneyland theme park is also long overdue.
We love the theory that the Register put forth that Disney and other theme parks will have a golden age in 2024 and 2025 when trepidation around the virus has dissipated and families rebound financially. Apparently it’s called the “Roarin’ 20s” effect! During the interval, its a wait and see as to how and how long it takes Disney parks to rebound, what gets left behind in the process and what permanent changes will be made with roots going back to the start of the pandemic.
This is a story that we’ll continue to follow closely and readers are encouraged to keep checking back with us for further news and updates!
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