As of this writing, the only Disney theme park in the world that’s open is Shanghai Disneyland. After 4 months of closed gates due to coronavirus, the park is open, but there are limitations. You have to make a reservation for entry day and time because they’re only allowing a certain number of guests into the park on any given day. Guests have to show a green health code on their cell phones. You have to get your temperature taken. Masks are required at all times, unless you’re eating.
Once inside the parks, you must adhere to social distancing which are guided with signs and markers. There are no parades or fireworks, since those draw crowds. Interactive play areas that require touch are shut, and indoor live theater shows aren’t running.
Although there are no signs of when the Disneyland parks in Anaheim, Tokyo, Paris or Hong Kong will open, Walt Disney World is dipping its toe into reopening, starting with Disney Springs, its shopping/dining district, on May 20th. None of the Disney-own storefronts will open that day but a handful of third-party shops and eateries will. That will be followed by more places at Disney Springs, including some Disney-run shops, the following week.
Disney has already posted what is to be expected on May 20th in terms of changes to Disney property, which include:
- Limited parking and reduced entrances
- Temperature screenings prior to entry
- Face coverings required for everyone
- Physical distancing practices including physically-distanced queues and physical barriers
- Temporary operation modifications, including reduced hours at select locations and no scheduled entertainment offerings or high-touch interactive areas
- An increased focus on disinfecting and sanitation, including the addition of hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers in key areas
I suspect when the theme parks are ready to open, the same rules will be in place, as well as several more than probably mirror Shanghai.
Some of these changes won’t make a huge difference in peoples’ visiting Disney. The limited parking and reduced entrances are mainly for Disney Springs, so there’s control of where people can enter the area – that’s so they can get temperature checks done. Temperature checks can be done at the parks when they’re doing bag checks.
But once people are in the parks, I suspect things will be very different.
For better or for worse, Disney has “trained” some of its consumers to the point where the company has enmeshed itself into peoples’ emotions. It’s to the point where some of them see a visit to WDW as going “home.” Anything that messes with those emotions can be a bone of contention, especially when the increasingly-common-in-the-21st-century feelings of entitlement start to come into play. And yes, even, apparently, during a worldwide pandemic and, no, won’t last forever. I’ve seen them on the various message groups on Facebook:
- “If there aren’t any parades or fireworks, what’s the sense of going?”
- “If I’m paying that much for a ticket and only half of the attractions are open, I want to pay half price.”
- “The reason I got an annual pass was so I could go on the spur of the moment and now they want me to make a reservation?”
- “I couldn’t imagine going to Disney and my kids not being able to hug the characters and get their picture taken with them”
- “If I spent all that money on a Disney vacation, I want it to be magical. It can’t be magical if I have to watch where I walk and can’t go and do everything like I usually do. And it will really be not magical if I have to wear a mask.”
And that last one? THAT’S going to be the one to watch. There are SOOO many people who won’t go to WDW (or DL, for that matter) because they don’t want to wear masks. You’ve got:
- the Disney purists who don’t want to wear masks because it will be messing with their magic (“Do they expect us to get our pictures taken with masks on?”).
- the naysayers who think it’s all a hoax, or COVID isn’t as bad as the media makes it seem to be.
- the ones who are just not comfortable wearing masks. They claim they can’t breathe with a mask on, it will be too hot in the summer for a mask, or, my favorite, “I certainly hope they have a staff of full time EMS workers and ambulances on hand to carry all those people who faint from heat stroke or dehydration because Disney said they had to wear masks in 100 degree heat.” (paraphrased and purposely keeping anonymous, to protect the drama llama)
I mean, there are already people who are going as far as looking at lawsuits as a way to not have to wear a mask at Disney, using ADA/health related reasons (that way it could be considered discrimination).
So all those people? They’re not coming unless they can go mask-free.
And on the other hand, you have all the people who won’t go to Disney UNLESS everyone is wearing masks. Inside. Outside. All the time unless they’re eating. They’re going to be wearing one, and they’re afraid that others might have the virus and be asymptomatic. So if people cough or sneeze, or even are out of breath and breathing hard and deep after walking up a flight of steps because they’re out of shape, they could be spreading COVID cooties everywhere. If everyone isn’t forced to wear a mask, they’re not coming until masks aren’t necessary anymore.
So you got the guests who won’t come if they have to wear masks, and the ones who won’t come unless everyone wears masks.
Disney is usually the master at keeping a lot of people happy all at once but this is going to be one of those times when a huge chunk of people not only will be unhappy, but just won’t come. When it comes to masks, Disney will be damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t.
Granted, Disney will started with a limited numbers of people in the parks. With so many people out of work when they were quarantined, WDW may initially be a financial hardship for many. With lots of domestic flights still off on the horizon and international flights even moreso, there will be less people available to go to Walt Disney World, anyway. But still, I see no way for Disney to spin this one to keep most people happy.
What do you think? Should it be Disney with masks, or a mask-free Disney?
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary