Disneyland Announces Reopening!

Disneyland Announces Reopening!

Disney News on Parade for the week of June 8th.

We have so much to cover. Our headlines run from coast to coast this week as we showcase so much of what is going on as Disney parks begin to open up.

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Disneyland Will Celebrate its 65th Anniversary

Here is Disney’s announcement. We’ll provide the play-by-play commentary on the podcast:

“Disney Parks, Experiences and Products today announced proposed plans for a phased reopening of the Disneyland Resort. Pending state and local government approvals, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel plans to reopen on July 23, and Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park will plan to reopen on July 17. Additionally, Downtown Disney District will begin reopening on July 9.

Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will open on the same day. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

“Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, the Disneyland Resort will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests, including Annual Passholders, to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. Theme park reservations will be subject to availability. More details about this new reservation system will be available soon. At this time, there will also be a temporary pause on new ticket sales and Annual Passport sales and renewals. Additional details will be available soon. Please check Disneyland.com for the most current information.

“As one of the first major theme parks to close our operations and the last to reopen, we have been deliberate about keeping the health and safety of our Cast, Guests and local communities top of mind,” said Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro. “And as we look forward to bringing our cast members back to work, and welcoming you back as cherished guests—we know it will take all of us working together responsibly to recapture the magic.”

Certain experiences that draw large group gatherings—such as parades and nighttime spectaculars—will return at a later date. While character meet and greets will be temporarily unavailable, characters will be in the parks in new ways to entertain and delight guests.

Pending governmental approval, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are planned to reopen to guests and members starting on July 23. Plans to support physical distancing as well as increased cleaning measures, along with a number of other health and safety protocols, will be implemented as part of the phased reopening of the hotels and the Vacation Club.

Yet to be announced for reopening is the Disneyland Hotel. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Downtown Disney District will begin reopening on July 9 in line with the state’s reopening guidelines, with its unique variety of shopping and dining experiences, including the flagship World of Disney store. With the health of guests and Disney cast members at the forefront of planning, several operational changes will be implemented based on guidance from health authorities to promote physical distancing and cleanliness throughout the Downtown Disney District.

Downtown Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

The Magic is Returning

We share our thoughts on the podcast, but Josh D’Amaro shared the following on the Disney Parks Blog:

With the announcement of the proposed reopening dates for the Disneyland Resort, we are one more exciting step closer to reopening all of our Disney parks and experiences around the world.  Throughout the past few weeks, we have reopened Shanghai DisneylandDisney Springs and several Disney stores, and set dates for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, with more announcements coming soon.

We are purposefully taking baby steps during this very intentional phased approach.  As one of the first major theme parks to close our operations and the last to reopen, we have been deliberate about keeping the health and safety of our cast, guests and local communities top of mind. And as we look forward to bringing our cast members back to work, and welcoming you back as cherished guests – we know it will take all of us working together responsibly to recapture the magic.

The Cast Members and all who work for Disney do create the magic. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We’re fortunate to be guided by a talented team of professionals who’ve helped us implement a variety of new health and safety measures reflecting the guidance of local health and government authorities. These are designed with both the cast and guests in mind for the unique environments of each of our parks, resorts and stores.

While certain aspects of your visit may change, I assure you the quality of our storytelling, magic of our experiences and the caliber of our cast members has not. We recognize the trust that you have in the Disney brand, and we will continue to earn your trust every day.  

My confidence comes in part from all of the hard work our teams have been doing behind the scenes in the past few months… as well as by the early successes we have seen at Shanghai Disneyland, the first of our theme parks to reopen. Guest satisfaction has been extremely high, and we will continue to make sure that as we bring back experiences, our attention to promoting your safety, maintaining your trust and providing unique ways for you to come together with family and friends to create new memories remains high as well.

Shanghai Disneyland was the first to reopen. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Walt Disney once said that it takes people to make the dream a reality, and as we prepare ourselves to reopen his original park, I want you to know how eternally grateful I am for all of you who have made Disney parks, stores, hotels, cruise lines, guided tours and vacation properties part of your lives, as well as for the cast members, crew members, Imagineers, and employees who have brought them to life for the past 65 years.  

I know this has been a difficult year due to the impacts of COVID-19, but I can’t help but feel a great sense of hope and optimism. And like many of you, I look forward to hearing the laughter and seeing the joy of families making memories together… and I can’t wait to see you when the magic returns to all of our parks and resorts. 

Be well, 

If you haven’t had a chance, make sure you check out my short chat with Josh D’Amaro.

How Many Will Come to the Parks?

UBS, a Swiss investment firm, employed a fancy tool called the UBS Evidence Lab that analyzed satellite imagery of WDW’s Magic Kingdom, concluding that “current guidelines will limit capacity to about 40% of average attendance, or 25% of peak attendance. He also said the mix at first would likely tilt towards lower-spending season-pass holders and in-state visitors at a park that is mostly a destination for travelers.”

In Deadline, UBS analyst John Hodulik said an earlier-than-anticipated openings of parks has boosted his revenue estimates but that he’s keeping operating income flat due to limitations on attendance required by social distancing. His firm employed a fancy tool called the UBS Evidence Lab that analyzed satellite imagery of WDW’s Magic Kingdom, concluding that assuming 70% of attendees are families, 25% couples and 5% flying solo, and assuming 6 feet of distance between people, the mass capacity for WDW is 25,000. The figure may be exacerbated by limitations on travel.”

Guests entering the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Let’s study those numbers a little more deeply. The Magic Kingdom sees over 20 million people a year. If you average that out 365 days you get about 56,000 people. 40% of the average attendance actually makes the number around 22,400, so fairly close. The other three parks see annual numbers much lower than that. Because it is much smaller, the Studios probably have to go with something more akin to 15,000 a day. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is huge, but the pedestrian space is still about the equivalent to Magic Kingdom. So I see the same number. In the case of Epcot, their square footage for spreading the guests out–even with construction, is much higher than that of Magic Kingdom. Therefore, I could guess around 25-28,000 a day. Let’s just add that up. That comes to around. At reduced capacity, that could still be nearly 85,000 a day among all four parks.

Of course, if adding more space was important, why not add the water parks, which both Universal and Sea World is doing, and which guests are going to covet once they get here with their face masks to experience the heat and humidity. This week and next we are covering what we love most about Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. So why aren’t these water parks opening?

Can You Be Safe, Smart & Agile?

What is Agility?

For a business best way to thrive in the midst of a disruption is to be the one to cause the disruption.  The second-best way is to be agile enough to anticipate and respond effectively to the change.

Some bloggers and podcasters have stated that Disney has been truly professional and strategic in not putting profits first, but in truly putting the safety of its guests first as they reopen their parks.

Some bloggers and podcasters have felt that Disney is too slow getting out the gate. In other words, it’s not being agile.

I think Disney is being very smart, and very strategic. But I think given its size, it struggles continually to be agile.

A great example of agility is Frozen Summer Fun in 2014. In two weeks, Disney created an “event” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that included:

  • Olaf on Summer Vacation
  • Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome
  • Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Funland
  • “Frozen” Fireworks Celebration
  • “Coolest Summer Ever” Dance Party
  • For the First Time in Forever: A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration

All that and more Frozen cupcakes than you can imagine. It was so popular they repeated it in a slightly lesser form the following summer. In 2016, they finally created an attraction at Epcot. But Olaf and For the First Time in Forever: a “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration (plus the cupcakes) remained for years to come)

Disney Resort Hotel Safety Services

Here is an example of being safe, smart & strategic:

Katie Kelly, Vice President of Worldwide Safety Services announced procedures for keeping rooms Covid-free as the Disney resort hotels open. Here’s just a small part of that:

  • Options in check-in service at select locations and meeting your Bell Services Cast Member and luggage at your room with redesigned bell services. 
  • Increasing cleaning in high-traffic areas such as elevators and escalators, handrails, benches, tables, handles, restrooms, and more.
  • Expanding the number of hand sanitizer locations across the property.
  • Adjusting services and adding preventive measures at Disney’s restaurants, lobbies, pools, fitness centers, and other public areas. This includes physical distancing, including reducing capacity where appropriate and implementing enhanced cleaning measures. 
  • Using technology to limit contact with shopping and dining locations with Mobile Order, cashless options and Magic Bands.
Disney Explains its Efforts to Enhance Room Cleaning. Graphic by Disney.

Princess & Frog Overlay of Splash Mountain

This is an opportunity for being agile.

A petition on Change.org shows at the time of this recording some 13,000 signatures have been added to the proposal of changing out Splash Mountain into an attraction based on Disney’s Princess and the Frog.

Focus on something really important, such as a more diverse senior executive leadership team. No problem with the people there, but moving forward, they need much more diversity.

I think this is a great idea, that will probably not happen–at least at this time. Disney doesn’t have the money to make those changes, which I estimate to be about $50 million. Disney is having to make hard budget choices. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the new three cruise ships were to be put off indefinitely, certainly they are not coming three years in a row.

Splash Mountain. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

On the other hand, if they did have money, I think this would be a great idea. And the reason I do is because Splash Mountain is caught in a dilemma. Great attractions have to continually be bumped up to stay as great attractions. Little thematic touches to the Haunted Mansion, or changing out the Lady in Red in Pirates, or adding a new holiday overlay to Jungle Cruise.

In being agile, I recommend the following:

  1. Immediately re-instate Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee at Magic Kingdom. Depending on interest, add the same to the Mark Twain at Disneyland
  2. Rename Scat Cat’s Club at Port Orleans as Louis and Ray’s Cabaret. Then reutilize the former Bonfamiles as a Princess and the Frog location.
  3. If interest is real and growing, re-do Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Princess and the Frog being added in some capacity.
  4. If interest continues, replace Splash Mountain in New Orleans Square at Disneyland with Splash Mountain and make all of that just rename Critter Country as Port Orleans Riverside. Leave the other in Magic Kingdom as Splash Mountain and have two different attractions, the same way you have Tower of Terror and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.
This could so easily be overplayed with characters from Princess and the Frog. But it will still cost. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

In being agile, I hope we see something spontaneous, fun and magical as Disney re-opens.

Again, I think this is a great idea for an attraction. But just a little reminder. I think if signing this petition makes you feel like you’ve done your share to “make black lives matter”, then I would suggest you “dig a little deeper.” We all need to do much, much more individually in our communities and at home than we should focus on what kind of ride Disney should rebuild.

I strongly encourage you to visit my earlier post and podcast this week, Your American Adventure. I also touch on our own personal need to understand others in Without Empathy, It’s a Jungle Out There. Please check that out, and find ways you can act locally while thinking globally.

Other News:

Sea World opened its doors today in Orlando Florida, and the crowd response was very strong.

Swan & Dolphin is Accepting Reservations For Visits Starting July 29th.

June 17th Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Opens. Meanwhile, lots of stores opened this week at Disney Springs to include

  • Disney Pin Traders
  • Ever After Jewelry Company
  • Candy Cauldron
  • Goofy’s Candy Company
  • Disney Style
  • Raglan Road Irish Pub and Shop
  • Disney Days of Christmas
  • Star Wars Trading Post
  • Marvel Super Hero Headquarters
  • Art of Disney

USA Today noted that Disney Cruise Line,  which extended its sailing suspension through July 27th last month, has added more cancellations to its list, including sailings scheduled as far ahead as October.

Departures from Europe are suspended through Oct. 2, according to a statement on Disney Cruise Line’s website and departures from Canada are suspended through Sept. 14 while Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy departures remain suspended through July 27.

Tiana’s Place on the Disney Wonder. One of the best Disney Cruise Line restaurants with great entertainment. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

More to Come

Make sure you subscribe as we have so much to come in the days ahead, to include our 100th podcast. I have a special and personal show I’ll present for that occasion. Meanwhile, please subscribe to our podcast, to our YouTube Channel, and if possible send us a positive rating on iTunes. Thanks!

Has all this chat made you hungry for a Disney adventure? Now is the time to dream and plan for your future travels. Be sure to reach out to David Zanolla, owner and agent of of Out The Door Travel, LLC to make arrangements. There’s no cost–but it could save you a lot of time–and even money–especially when you put it in the hands of someone who really knows Disney and travel. Call today at 309-863-5469 or reach out to him via zanolla@otdtravel.com

J. Jeff Kober

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