Alice in Wonderland at the Disney World theme Parks

After being shuttered for a year now, California theme parks including the world-famous Disneyland are finally gaining some forward momentum in regards to reopening, as well as an upcoming foodie event. The parks have started outlining what exactly that will look like, and if you were an optimist hoping things would look how they used to once the Disneyland and California Adventure parks resume operations, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are going to be some changes. In fact, I’d venture to even call them major changes.

First and foremost, Disneyland and California Adventure may reopen, but we already know they won’t reopen to full capacity. In fact, when theme parks --also including Universal Studios Hollywood and more -- reopen, they will only be allowed to open to 15% capacity. This will obviously have a major impact on the availability of attractions, or as Disneyland put it in its own blog post:

Upon reopening, certain theme parks, hotels, restaurants and other locations may be limited in capacity and subject to restricted availability or even closure based on guidance from health experts and government officials. Furthermore, certain attractions, experiences, services and amenities will be modified, have limited availability or remain closed. Park admission and offerings are not guaranteed.

The “park admission” comment is interesting to me, as it's a reminder that Disneyland will also be requiring reservations once the parks do ultimately reopen. It’s seemed to be working for Disney World, which will be keeping reservations for the time being. To note though, I’d expect weekends to be a really difficult proposition, even once the parks reopen. Disneyland and California Adventure are also making some other huge changes that mirror what has happened with other theme parks. This includes FASTPASS’ going by the wayside, along with MaxPass, the suspension of Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning and cutting back on parades.

As a result of the impact of COVID-19 on operations, FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass services are suspended for the time being and are not available for purchase or use. We will share future updates at a later date…. Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour offerings will be suspended upon reopening of our hotels and theme parks as we plan to manage capacity. We will share any updates on these offerings at a later date.

I’ve been to Disney World since the pandemic reared its ugly head and these changes are very similar to what has gone on at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In addition, there are also safety restrictions and rules including how to stand in line and when it’s OK to be eating or drinking. Even though the Florida parks have been open much longer, events where people congregate, including parades and fireworks extravaganzas, are still out. So, it’s no huge surprise that Disneyland will also be making these major changes, but it will still likely be a shock to the system for those longtime fans who return to the California parks for the first time.

Additionally, select attractions and 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 unavailable for the time being, Characters will be in our parks in new ways to entertain and delight our Guests. The Disneyland Resort will also have capacity measures in place, as well as limitations on parking and operating hours.

One passive programming initiative that Disney World has already taken and Disneyland will take has to do with the characters delighting in new ways in the parks. I’ve seen Cinderella’s sisters doing a comedy sketch, Allice doing her own Wonderland bit, and Pooh doing his own act from a safe distance. Markers are spaced out so fans know how to stand and there’s no waiting in line involved, like a Pooh or Cinderella experience might normally entail. This is a particular change to the park that is actually awesome, so it's not all bad news.

Plus, even with no FastPasses available that 15% crowd capacity limit should mean that lines are still manageable, even when the parks will be at capacity moving forward. So, despite the myriad disappointments, there are silver linings there. You'll have to wait to experience all this yourself, though, as the "spring" reopening is rather vague even as we are springing forward, as it were. We'll let you know as soon as Disneyland and California Adventure have official opening dates, though April is expected.

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