New Safari Animals, Park Hours, Cast COVID Testing & More

New Safari Animals, Park Hours, Cast COVID Testing & More

August 14th, 2020

Lots of news this week as Disney makes way for testing to occur on Disney property. Actor’s Equity has allowed Disney to go back to work. We look at new upcoming hours at the parks, issues facing annual passholders, and even new taste tests at Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. Then we go around the globe to see some important happenings going on at Shanghai Disney, Hong Kong Disney and Disneyland Paris–all of which has implications for the American parks. It’s a busy news day for Disney News on Parade. And did we mention new animals for Kilimanjaro Safari?

You can find our podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotesKey notes and photos are below, but you’ll find most of my commentary on the podcast.

Disney Offering a Testing Location for Cast Members

The State of Florida will open a new testing site in Osceola County at Disney’s Maingate office complex near to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Testing will begin on August 14 from 7am to 4pm, serving Disney Cast Members and their families, along with members of the public. Cast Members can register for a test at, and the public can register at

Free testing is currently available at the following location for Disney Cast Members, Operating Participant employees, and family members. 

This program is part of the public-private partnership announced on March 13, 2020. eTrueNorth is working with HHS, state and local officials, and pharmacy and lab partners to open testing sites in areas of need.

Here’s a major review of all the different ways Disney is keeping guests and cast members COVID-Free.

The test for those with or without symptoms, is self-administered with a nasal swab from inside your car, and results are delivered in 3-5 business days.

It will be interesting as to whether this news has any impact on how unions at Disneyland will feel about returning to the parks.

Disney Union Performers to Return

Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association stated:

“We have been consistent that testing is an important part of ensuring a safe workplace for Equity performers, and today, I’m pleased to see that Disney World has agreed. With the news that Disney will make testing available for Equity performers and others in the park, I’m happy to announce that Equity’s executive committee has signed a memorandum of understanding with Disney for Equity performers to return.” 

Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre. Though not guaranteed, this action paves the way for Disney to return to doing shows in the parks. And adding shows, particularly in parks like Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, would improve not only folks wanting to come, but Disney’s ability to allow more into the park in a safe manner.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disney has countered what the union has said with the following statement:

“We have offered the location to help with community testing. The Florida Division of Emergency Management will operate the location which is available to Cast Members and their immediate families as well as Florida residents. Any suggestion that this has been done as a result of any one union is unfounded. Our actions support all cast and our community at large.”

It should be noted that Disney Cast Members are not paid for the time they take to go and get tested.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Passholder News

Cancellation Day for Annual Passholders. The last day for passholders to cancel their annual pass came and went this week. Options had been given to cancel their annual pass by August 12th, 2020.

Meanwhile, options for booking anything other than several weeks out remains the scenario.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Disney Changes Hours in Fall

Normally, this wouldn’t be on the news. After all, it happens every year. But the hours are already so short, that the cuts seem deeper than ever. Here’s what they look like:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • Epcot: 11 am to 7 pm
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios 10 am to 7 pm
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm
Photo by J. Jeff Kober

After 4 Passholders will temporarily become After 2 Passholders when hours get cut at Epcot starting on September 8th. That’s when Epcot will begin closing at 7 p.m.


  1. Park hours probably do need cutting for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can do that park quickly.
  2. Park hours do not need cutting at Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, they probably need extending.
  3. Epcot’s hours could be cut, but cut at the front of the day, not at the end of the day. Also, why can’t some days like weekends be longer at parks like Epcot. That way more could enjoy the Food & Wine Festival.
  4. If you provided more options for passholders to visit Epcot after 4 if they had a dining reservation, you would quickly fill the park to your intended level.

Epcot International Food & Wine

We’re adding more items for review on our Epcot International Food & Wine Festival which is now up to some 30 menu items. My wife and daughter checked out the following items and gave them their review.

The photo for the Filet Mignon is not impressive, especially in the lighting of the World ShowPlace. It was carried over there with a napkin on top while navigating a rain storm. Still, it was considered to be a great tasting filet mignon, and worth the price. She gave it 3 Stars.

Photo by Madison Kober.

The lobster tail is expensive and the citrus touches do little to really enhance the experience. Better to go for the lobster macaroni at World Showplace which is more filling and less expensive. She gave it 2 Stars.

Photo by Madison Kober.

Note that the liquid nitro Twix cake pop got 3 stars as did our earlier review on the liquid nitro M&M cake pop, but the M&M is probably the better of the two since the liquid nitro creates more of a texture as the M&Ms are frozen.

Photo by Madison Kober.

You can find our complete review of this year’s food & wine festival here.

Disney Global News

Hong Kong Disneyland

South China Post stated that all full-time employees, or “cast members”, have been asked to take a day’s unpaid leave every week from August 17. It has been stated to have impacted up to 4,000. A 20-30% cut in salary for executives at the VP level and above was already in place since April. It was originally closed on January 26th, then re-opened on June 18th only to close again on July 15th.

Tomorrowland at Hong Kong Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Hong Kong’s tourism has almost ground to a halt, as visitor arrivals slumped by 90 per cent to just 3.5 million in the first half of 2020, according to provisional official figures.

Shanghai Disneyland

Nikkei Asian Review noted that Disney closed its Disney English learning centers in China, recognizing that online learning has become the preference during the lockdown.

As noted in Shine, “Over the past few years, we have noticed a shift in consumer preferences toward online learning experiences and this trend has been accelerated by the global pandemic as families are hesitant to resume in-person supplemental learning classes.

Targeting children between 2 and 12 years old, Disney English has provided supplementary language lessons using Disney characters since 2009. There were 44 centers nationwide as of 2013, according to local media, but a more recent number was 26 locations, with 10 of them in Shanghai. Some 100,000 children went through the program.

Much of the curriculum optimized the use of old cartoon footage, even from the early Disney shorts. That may in part explain why the use of random, seldom-seen Disney characters on Mickey Avenue.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light is currently in trial operations. During this period they are making operational adjustments, and appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disneyland Paris

Originally planned for a September 7th re-opening, the signature Disneyland hotel at the entrance to Disneyland Paris is now slated to reopen on December 8th.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Meanwhile, the Sequoia Lodge is slated to not reopen until March of 2021. The Hotel Cheyenne, which opened for the summer, will close October 1st and not reopen until March of 2021.

New Animals at Kilimanjaro Safari

The last segment of Kilimanjaro Safaris has had more transition than any other part of the tour. First there was the resolution of finding the poacher camp and rescuing Little Red.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Then in 2012, the story line around Big Red and Little Red was taken out and a space was made for the zebras to have their own section.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

That didn’t work and so by 2013, other options were explored, largely using oryx.

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Recently, however more work has been done. Social media shows a little rural barn being set up, and the belief is that African pygmy goats, or something like that is going to the center focal point.

Photo from Wiki.

Whatever is going in, it’s great to see this attraction being plussed continually.

There’s Always More

Thanks for joining us. Make sure you check out the following:

It’s where we take best-in-business ideas from the “Happiest Place on Earth” and help apply them to your business organization. Visit

It’s our place for videos and more at my YouTube channel J. Jeff Kober

Book a Stay at Walt Disney World

Meanwhile, is it time to book your next trip to Disney? The best person to answer that question is David Zanolla, owner and agent of of Out The Door Travel, LLC. 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

J. Jeff Kober

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