Wait, Now Disneyland Wants To Slow Down Theme Park Reopening?

Mickey Mouse and Friends at Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland

Update: It's now been confirmed that California will not be releasing theme park guidelines this week, so that more feedback from the industry can be obtained. The original story continues below...

For the last several weeks Disneyland has been especially aggressive when it has come to lobbying the state of California to get the guidance necessary for theme parks to reopen. We've seen direct appears from the Chairman of Disney Parks, the President of Disneyland. Disney blamed recent layoffs in part on the fact that the park was still closed. So it would seem that when word came out yesterday that the state would be releasing those guidelines sometime this week, Disneyland Resort would be happy, but instead, now Disneyland and other theme parks in the state are actually asking the Governor to hold off on releasing the guidelines.

In a statement from the California Attractions and Parks Association (via OC Register) which represents California theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and more, it appears that a draft of what the plan for reopening would be was given to the parks in advance, and they don't actually like it. It sounds like the state either didn't work with the parks on crafting these guidelines at all or made some specific recommendations in them that the parks were against. The statement reads in part...

We ask the governor not to finalize guidance for amusement parks before engaging the industry in a more earnest manner, listening to park operators’ expertise and collaborating with the industry on a plan that will allow for amusement parks to reopen responsibly while still keeping the health and safety of park employees and guests a top priority.

Without those guidelines having been released, it's difficult to know exactly what the issues are, but clearly, there are either stipulations required prior to reopening that the parks think are too strict, or additional requirements required after opening that the parks think are too much, or both.

There have been some unconfirmed reports of what is in the guidance. Most of what's there is what you'd expect, and are things Walt Disney World is already doing in Florida, like requiring advance ticket sales and face coverings. The word is parks will be limited to operating at 25% capacity to start, which is somewhere in the range of what we believe other theme parks have been doing.

There are, however, a couple of unique provisions that, if they are accurate, could be the sticking points. One is that theme park attendance could be limited to guests who live within a certain distance of the park. Meaning that if you live outside that range, whatever it is, you wouldn't be able to visit initially. This provision is understandable as, if there were any sort of virus issue, it would help limit the spread, but it also means a drastic reduction in the number of guests who can visit the park.

This could also mean that, while the parks could reopen, hotels might not be able to, if the plan is to limit the initial crowds to locals. That would certainly cut into Disneyland's bottom line, as it would mean no hotel rooms sold, less food, less merchandise, and even fewer tickets than the crowd would indicate.

The other alleged provision is that parks could not open until the county they're located in reaches the lowest level of risk in California's tiered system. Currently, Orange County, where Disneyland is located, is two tiers above that. This would mean that even if guidelines were released now, Disneyland could not even start making plans to reopen, and even doing that would be tough since it would be difficult to know exactly when virus cases would get to the acceptable level.

It will be interesting to see where things go from here. We could see the state release these guidelines as apparently planned or we could see them held off while the state does work with the parks to potentially make changes. Needless to say, we'll be watching this one closely.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.