While the closure of Walt Disney World was sudden, reopening an operation as massive at that is not going to be as easy. Crowds aren’t going to be as big as previously for quite a while, and some say it will take years before we see the same level of crowds in the parks. To be sure, there will be other changes made to the Disney experience to make it more “social-distance friendly.”
Obviously, Disney is going to want to try to cut expenses where they can. They’ve been paying their Cast Members (CMs) for a while while the parks have been closed and will continue to pay medical costs for even longer until the parks reopen. A large number of employees are no longer available since Disney has ended the College Program (those were all of the CMs with their college name on their name tags) and International Program (most of the employees working in the nations at Epcot). You can’t run the parks without employees.
With Disney wanting to save some money, on top of a reduced workforce, what things do I think might not come back to the parks when they reopen, or possibly may never return?
Fireworks shows are expensive. With a reduced number of guests, I could see Disney cutting back on fireworks. Disneyland has gone without nightly fireworks and guests learned to deal with it. One likely scenario would be for Disney to rotate the nights of the nightly shows. One night it’s the Magic Kingdom, then Epcot and finally Hollywood Studios doing Fantasmic. I’m not counting Animal Kingdom because I’m not sure it will be open more than daylight hours for a while
Of course, Magic Kingdom could do the Castle Projection show every night, as that’s much less expensive than a full fireworks show.
Parades are a huge undertaking. Besides all of the performers, there’s a ton of people working behind the scenes to make them run without a hitch. They’re also a considerable crowd sink. All of the people waiting for a parade aren’t in line for a ride. But what if there’s already no one on those lines?
Parades might be in the same boat as fireworks. They could easily run them fewer days a week, meaning they’d only need to use one set of Cast Members instead of two.
Part of what makes Walt Disney World magical is the live entertainment. From large scale shows like Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom and Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to smaller shows like the Dapper Dans on Main Street, The Citizens of Hollywood or the Voices of Liberty at Epcot, they are all labor-intensive. Compared to rides, which are already built, you need to keep paying performers.
While they may not disappear, you might see less of them than you did before.
While the first three things on the list are in jeopardy because of costs, this one is probably never coming back in the same form that we’ve seen them before directly because of the coronavirus.
Walking down a row of open food, handling a spoon that’s been touched by how many other people before you, and then eating what you serve yourself was something we used to do without thinking twice. Now, I got a little weirded out just typing the sentence.
There are ways that Disney can rework their dining experiences to make them acceptable for what’s going to become the new normal. I suspect the buffets just aren’t ever going to come back in the same format they were before.
I’ve seen several memes since the parks are closed with a similar theme.
Disney World is closed and yet there’s still a 45 minute wait for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Some rides at Disney World just always have long lines. Avatar Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Frozen are almost always going to have over a 60-minute wait. Even lesser attractions can have long lines when the park is really packed.
Do you want to wait in a line like that unless you know that you’re not going to get sick from another guest? I didn’t think so.
We’ve already seen that Disney can do a virtual queue with Rise of the Resistance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of those kinds of systems come online for the more popular attractions.
This would mean totally rethinking the way people queue for rides, but Disney has done that before with FastPass and then FastPass+. The only difference is that this time the changes aren’t totally on Disney’s terms but on new societal norms.
$150 Single Day Tickets
Right now if I wanted to buy a one day ticket for the Magic Kingdom on July 4th, I’d have to pay $143.78 after tax. Ticket prices for Disney World were on a neverending upward path for the past several years. The next price increase would have probably seen the total cost of a one-day ticket go over $150.
I don’t know when we will ever see those prices again.
I have no doubt that Disney will discount ticket prices to get people to the parks. The first group that will most likely be targeted are Florida residents. Disney always leans on the locals when times are bad. International travel is going to take a while to return, so I’d expect to see discounted daily passes along with lower prices for dining and merchandise to help bring people into the parks.
Floridians will want to get out of the house and Disney is a great local vacation if the price is right. A depressed worldwide economy will keep prices in check for a while, no matter how badly Disney wants to raise them.
Fewer Epcot Festivals
This is the one I’m the least sure of. Disney uses the special events at Epcot to drive attendance to the park. It’s gotten to the point where it just seems like it’s one yearlong festival at Epcot, with booths that never get taken down.
With people being more conservative with their spending, it’s going to be harder to get someone to pay $50 to eat 4 or 5 small plates of food while standing over a garbage can. I’m sure that Disney is also going to look to cut back on the cost of bringing in entertainment for every night of the festivals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see musical acts only on the weekends like Universal does for Mardi Gras.
Granted, these festivals are popular with locals so I don’t expect them to disappear. I just can’t see their current format being profitable in the near-term.
Can we do anything about this? Maybe, but not much. Honestly, many of the changes will be due to decreased crowds or changes due to new guidelines on how we’re supposed to behave. But for the things Disney will have control over, if you think about it, did the parks need to have fireworks every night?
But some of the changes we can try to prevent. Fill out those surveys when you visit a park and say that you saw the live shows and they were great (because they are). Our highlight of going to the parks is to watch some of the most amazing singers, actors and stunt people do what they do and that’s better than any ride that I’ve been on over 100 times.
#stayhealthy #stayathome #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
Photos from this post:
“Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade – Princess Garden Unit” by John Frost is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
“The Voice of Liberty perform at The American Adventure at Epcot” by Loren Javier is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
“Line Queue Small World Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World” by Michael Gray is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0