Yesterday marks one full year since Disneyland closed, and while normal theme park operations aren’t yet scheduled, there will be a reopening of sorts later this week when Disney California Adventure launches a special-ticketed food event. AND, while the state has set an April 1st date for theme park reopenings, none of our local parks appear to be shooting for that date. We’ll explain why and what Disneyland’s current “Late April” target really means. After a year of waiting, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but still a few road bumps ahead.
Today, we’ll explore the latest from the Disneyland Resort and look at what may be coming in the weeks ahead.
Disneyland Reopening . . . When?
As we’ve covered in previous updates the past two weeks, California has updated the state blueprint for reopening to allow theme parks to reopen in the Red Tier (2nd stage) of the state’s 4 tier reopening guidelines. Last week, Orange County (where Disneyland is located) was in the Purple Tier (the 1st stage of the blueprint). As of today, Orange County is firmly in the Red Tier. In fact, some of the indicators for the county are already advanced to the Orange Tier (3rd stage), with some of those very close to the final Yellow Tier. Things are progressing fast. However, unless the state steps in to speed things up, a county must remain in a tier for at least 3 weeks before moving to the next tier. At the current rate that things are going, Orange County could hit Orange Tier in early April.
The county won’t update again until Tuesday, but shows Adjusted Daily Cases (per 100,000 residents) in the Red Tier, and Test Positivity and Health Equity both in the Orange Tier:
Meanwhile, CovidActNow has much better stats as of yesterday:
While we have JUST reached Red Tier, you can see how close the county is to the even less restrictive Orange Tier – though we can’t know if numbers will continue to improve at the current rate, or turn around once again.
To meet Orange Tier, the county will need Daily Cases (per 100,000 residents) under 3.9, and fewer than 4.9% positive tests (5.2% on the Health Equity Quartile).
So, why have I just spent so much time obsessing over how close we are to Orange Tier when the state says theme parks can reopen in Red Tier (after April 1st)? Well, it’s a financial thing. While theme parks could reopen in Red Tier at just 15% capacity, they are VERY unlikely to do so due to the massive cost of operating attractions for so few guests. However, they’ll be able to serve 25% guest capacity in Orange Tier, which appears to be very close at hand.
Most of the local parks are currently offering food festivals which end in April. It’s a pretty good bet that if infection rates reach the Orange Tier, and enough staff can be hired back, trained, and scheduled, Disneyland and other local parks will start reopening with rides in the late April/early May time frame. Disneyland is very much shooting for the late April date if infection stats cooperate.
UPDATE (3/17/21) Our predictions above were confirmed on Wednesday when Disneyland announced an April 30 reopening date:
David Koenig Disneyland News: April 30th, What’s the Hold Up?
Limited Operations Ahead
But even after Disneyland Reopens, it’s not going to be business as usual. 25% guest capacity in Orange Tier means Disney will limit their operations to match the crowds. AND, the state has additional restrictions on indoor dining, indoor attractions, etc. that will impact what can be operated at all. As a result, many shops, restaurants, and attractions will remain closed, and most entertainment will stay dark. (We’ll have an update for you soon on what indoor attractions could be operational when the park reopens.)
That means that Disney won’t need nearly as many cast members as normal times. One of Disneyland’s Unions estimates that Disney will be initially calling back 10,000 employees out of an estimated 30,000+. But the park is expected to start small and slowly grow the workforce to match the actual need. Many support positions may lag at first as cast are called back as needed.
Today, most chefs at the resort will begin receiving their recall notices. They’ll be expected to start ordering food, deep cleaning kitchens, and preparing adjusted menus. Restaurant operations will need to be streamlined a bit to shorten guest waits and allow for limited staffing at reopened locations.
A similar situation is happening in attractions. Trainers will be re-certified on their attractions in preparation for bringing staff back for detailed safety and operations training. As of yesterday, nearly every attractions cast member has lost their annual certification and will need to get it back for the attractions they hope to work.
The cautious approach to recalls extends to Custodial as well, which expects a very small team to begin receiving notices next week. But those positions should ramp up as the parks near reopening.
Disneyland Resort Updates
Now, let’s take a stroll through the resort to see what’s happening as Disney California Adventure prepares for a new event, Disneyland readies itself for reopening, and Downtown Disney is allowed to double its capacity.
A Touch of Disney Prep
Yesterday, Sunday the 14th of March, was the final day to visit the Buena Vista Shopping experience without an event ticket. Disney California Adventure is now in final prep for the big event starting this Thursday.
Guests of the event will park at Mickey and Friends parking structure and walk the tram route to the Esplanade in front of the parks. Banners are in place along the route and music is already pumping to complete the festival vibe.
The entire tram route has banners on every lamp post.
During our inspection of the Tram Route, we could hear music blaring from new speaker boxes installed along the route. It took us a few minutes to find the speakers hiding behind the park fence looking through the mesh.
New tram loading area surround speakers have also been installed. Unlike the speakers on the fence above, these appear to be permanent.
Once you arrive in the Esplanade, you’ll notice new social distancing markers on the ground in front of the DCA front gate.
Inside the park, Disneyland’s event team is hard at work preparing for the sold-out food and shopping event. The Marketplace booths have been positioned on the parade route, equipment has been installed, and menus have been posted.
Even the registers have been put into place.
While we could only see a small portion of the festival area from the open portion of Buena Vista Street, it appears that new dining areas have been added to allow guests to pull aside to eat and remove their masks. Even Grizzly Trail now has tables and chairs.
For those of you who scored tickets to A Taste of Disney, were you able to make dining reservations on Thursday? Since Disney didn’t announce a time reservations would be made available, folks had to endlessly refresh their computers until they were able to get into the waiting room. If you tried to use your Disneyland App to schedule your reservation, you received a message telling you to use a desktop computer. Unfortunately, that was bad advice. Those who ignored the messages and tried to get tickets on their mobile devices anyway were able to claim most of the spots before the desktop users were even let into the reservation page. Lots of upset guests who did what Disney asked (use a desktop browser), were shut out as a result.
We hope Disney is using this time to address the issues with the Touch of Disney tickets and reservations, because this is just a small fraction of the demand that the park reopening is going to get in April. If the systems can’t manage the demand of a small festival, we aren’t sure how they’ll handle the reopening of two giant theme parks. Do you have a solution you think would work? Should they perhaps just implement a lottery system for tickets?
Horse-drawn Trolley Training
The happiest horses on earth have been practicing their route a few days a week for a while now. We just happed to be in the right place at the right time to capture these shots…
We don’t know if the Trolley will be returning with the park or not, but it’s still neat to see this little bit of Disneyland life that we all remember so well.
While we’re snooping through the Disneyland gate, here are a couple other items:
The Mickey floral at the front of the park was replanted recently and looks so enticing.
Don’t get too accustomed to it looking like this. There will be plenty of guests walking around soon enough.
The shop windows at the Disney Showcase have been stripped and ready to be redressed.
But you can see that there are still items on the shelves.
Downtown Disney Raya Mural
Way back in February we gave you a heads up that you should take your final photos of the touching Chadwick Boseman Black Panther mural in Downtown Disney, as it was scheduled to be replaced.
The new mural is now up on the side of the old ESPN building and features an image from the new Disney animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon.
The artwork for the mural was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering Concept Designer, Xiao Qing Chen, who was born and raised in Malaysia. Qing drew inspiration from the film and her heritage, and the piece is loosely based on Batik fabric art, commonly used in the Southeast Asian region. In her two years as an Imagineer, she has done conceptual work for the Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland, graphics work on the Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure Park, and for the new Disney Cruise Line ships. Currently, Qing is working on designs for the Fantasy Springs expansion at Tokyo DisneySea and Journey of Water at EPCOT in Walt Disney World.
Downtown Disney Eggstravaganza
For a little seasonal fun, you can participate in Downtown Disney’s Eggstravaganza starting today. There are Disney-themed Easter eggs to find among the buildings of Downtown Disney. Previously the event would take place in Disneyland, DCA, and Downtown Disney, but this year it’ll only be taking place in the shopping and dining district. The Eggstravaganza will run through April 18. For $7.99 (at participating retailers) you can purchase a game board that can be redeemed for a collectible egg at World of Disney or Pin Traders. . . .or you can just wander around looking for eggs at no additional cost.
We spotted some of the eggs during our last trip, and there were some pretty creative hiding spots. We don’t want to give too much away, but you can consider this your head start.
It was quite busy off and on this past week at the Disneyland Resort. Waits on both sides of Downtown Disney just to get in could stretch into the hours (particularly on the West side). Once inside, the longest lines continue to be for the Star Wars Trading Post, World of Disney, and various shops in Disney California Adventure.
We believe that the lines you see below will be a little less in the coming week as Red Tier capacity increases shops from the 25% it was in Purple Tier (for the last several months) to 50% today. Additionally, restaurants can begin allowing indoor dining again at 25% capacity with 6′ between tables. But we’ve yet to hear which (if any) Downtown Disney restaurants intend to do so. Meanwhile, when the theme parks reopen, they will strangely NOT be allowed to have indoor dining. We aren’t sure what the unequal treatment between theme parks and malls is regarding this particular restriction.
Restaurant patios continue to be busy.
Marceline’s has a few new treats for Spring/Easter/St. Patrick’s Day, so the line was quite long.
The Star Wars store is neat, but these lines have just been insane at 3 to 4 hours. We’ll be interested to see if they double the capacity here as they are now permitted to do by the state.
Although the line for World of Disney can stretch the length of the building, it usually isn’t longer than 20 to 30 minutes.
A long line of cars was queued up for the Downtown Disney parking lot.
One thing for us to track this week is what happens to crowding in Downtown Disney now that Buena Vista Street is closed to Downtown Disney guests. On the one hand, all those shops on BVS helped soak up crowds, on the other, there may be fewer people heading to Downtown Disney with less to see. With the newly increased capacity in the stores for Red Tier, perhaps the long lines will lessen overall. What do you think will happen?
Around the Resort Area – New Disney Safety Signage
As you drive around the resort, you may spot new Incredibles safety signage on light posts around the area, on buses and billboards as well!
Disneyland One Year Later – MiceChat Reader Photos
Well, it happened. We officially hit the one-year anniversary of Disneyland’s closure yesterday. What Disney announced as a 2-3 week shutdown turned into a whole 52 weeks, with (a little) more ahead. This week, we’re taking a look back at the last time we visited Disneyland. We asked the MiceChat Facebook group to share photos and describe what made their last visit to Disneyland memorable. We had a lot of heartfelt responses, and we think you’ll find a bit of Disneyland magic. Let’s take a look!
You’ll see a few Rise of the Resistance photos below. There’s good reason for that, the highly anticipated (and long delayed) attraction was still brand new when the parks closed down.
That was an emotional trip down memory road. But we’re certainly glad to be reminded of happier, simpler times. That said, there’s good news on the horizon, hopefully one where we can return to Disneyland sooner than later. Thank you to everyone who shared a picture and story with us this week. To see more of the pictures of our readers’ last day at Disneyland, be sure to head to the MiceChat Facebook group.
This & That
We’ve just got a few more stories from around the Disney company you might find interesting. Plus we’ll take a look at Universal Studios Hollywood’s first-ever food festival.
Taste of Universal Debut
This past Friday, Universal Studios Hollywood ventured into something unknown for them: a food festival. Taking inspiration from the array of food festivals happening around most of SoCal’s theme parks, it’s the first time guests (and most staff) have seen the park in a year. While the event did draw long lines for food on its opening day, we still had a good time. Here’s a quick look at the event that’s happening Fri-Sun through at least April 11.
It was nice to walk around Universal Studios, even if the major draws of the park (the backlot tour and the rides) weren’t operating. We missed seeing Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle!
We were able to see a little bit of the Lower Lot from above, and saw some of the construction for Nintendo World!
For Taste of Universal being a brand-new food festival, we thought they did a pretty decent job. Universal was using park restaurants and takeout windows to serve festival-sized portions of its normal food. Additionally, there were some new options specifically created for Taste of Universal.
Tickets start at $44 for 5 tastes for the event. Although event dates in March are sold out, many days in April are still available.
For a more in-depth tour around A Taste of Universal, take a look at the video below.
And you can see more photos of the event and food in our write up!
A Taste of Universal Studios Hollywood NOW OPEN with Surprises!
Time’s Running Out for Disney Stores
This week, Disney announced the closure of several of its Disney Store locations. So far, nine Disney Stores are closing in California, but there are dozens more across the country that are shuttering permanently. . . and this is just the first round of closures. We took a trip to our local store to see what’s happening.
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You can read more about the closures in the article below.
Magic Runs Out for Dozens of Disney Stores Closing Across America
Disneyland Paris Extends Closure
The majority of the Disney Parks worldwide have been back in operation for a good while now. The two exceptions to that would be the Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris Resort. Although there were plans for Disneyland Paris to reopen in February (later extended), those plans have been dashed. For the time being, Disneyland Paris has decided to extend its closure once again. You can read the park’s statement below.
Aquarium of the Pacific Returns to Full Operations
Aquarium fans will be gland to know that starting tomorrow, the 16th, the Aquarium of the Pacific will have a full reopening, now including indoor exhibits. For the last several months the aquarium has only been featuring outdoor exhibits. Advance reservations are still required for the full reopening, and attendance will remain limited.
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Disney Travel Deals
(Discount Theme Park Tickets and Travel Packages)
It’s time to give the family something to look forward to. Our travel partners at Get Away Today are here to help you with that by planning a future theme park vacation. There are all sorts of new theme park tickets and travel deals, including a 2 free days offer at Walt Disney World, hotel discounts, ticket deals to various theme parks: More details and to get a quote (HERE)
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Let’s Hear From You
Although it’s been a long and difficult year since Disneyland shut down, it looks like we’re finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. With Disney announcing plans to hopefully reopen in April, will you be shooting to return as soon as the park opens or will you wait it out for a bit? Do you think Disney could continue to offer the food festival even after the rides return? If Disneyland were to return at 25% capacity but with many closed rides, shops, and restaurants, would that be enough for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And if you found today’s Disneyland Update interesting, we’d appreciate the share! Thank you all for reading!
More Theme Park News
We covered Disneyland above, but there’s still plenty of news from other theme parks. Here are this week’s biggest stories:
EPCOT FUN: Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration at the Flower and Garden Festival
Knott’s Boysenberry Festival Blooms & Preparing for Reopening
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