Disneyland Update: Topsy Turvy More or Less

As we approach the traditionally jam-packed 4th of July holiday, things will be a bit different at Disneyland this year. While attendance is set to increase again slightly this week, there will be some additional capacity increases in attractions, restaurants, and entertainment to help soak up the additional guests. But this should be an unusually uncrowded holiday in the parks compared to years past. In today’s update, we’ll look at lots of little things that add up to a much more enjoyable theme park experience, and a few things we’d like to see changed. 

Disneyland, Where Up Means Down

In the current topsy turvy world of Disneyland reopening, more guests mean lower waits! What? Yes, you read that right. As available guest reservations for the Disneyland Resort increases, we’ve been watching wait times decrease. In our the chart below, the blue column was the last day before capacity limits were lifted by the state (the red highlights are the highest waits and green are the lowest): 

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It’s only been a couple of weeks, but as the number of guests has increased, Disneyland has gotten better at operating rides at a higher capacity and has reopened more rides and facilities to keep up. They won’t be able to keep this up forever, but there are still some rides and restaurants left to reopen. 

I visited on Friday the 25th and the park felt less crowded to me even though I knew that there were more thousands more guests than the week prior.

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Since then, Single Rider lines have started opening up at some attractions. While most rides were doing a pretty good job of filling seats, there were frequent empty seats being dispatched on all attractions. That’s now been tightened up a bit. Every body that is pulled out of a line and put into a seat helps shorten waits, so it’s another important step toward full park efficiency. 

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Full seats mean shorter lines

Also adding to the lessening of waits are the return of attractions such as Storybook Land and Buzz Lightyear. Again, more places for guests to ride mean shorter waits elsewhere.  

Storybook Land reopened on Thursday. I was able to ride on Friday. this is one of those rides that’s good for the whole family. An adorable old-school Disneyland ride that we were thrilled to see return. 

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The ride looked to be in good shape and there were some small enhancements, such as the replanting of the rose arches on your way into the Cave of Wonders. 

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Look at all those tiny little trees and shrubs…

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One thing I absolutely can’t stand is the ugly blue wall behind Dumbo. There used to be a tall hedge here to hide Dumbo. But when the Dumbo queue was enhanced with more shade in 2019, the shrub was removed and this wall put in its place. How hard would it be to grow some ivy or plant something tall in front of this hideous wall that looms over Storybook Land?!

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Many of you know that I’ve been trying to go live on Facebook from the park on my weekly visits. It can be a challenge with time constraints, heat, and my general forgetfulness, but this week I was able to take our viewers on a ride-through of Storybook Land. You can watch it below. And to be notified whenever I’m live in the parks, be sure to follow the MiceChat Facebook Page HERE

 

🔴 LIVE from DISNEYLAND!!! Storybookland Returns

Posted by MiceChat.com | The Happiest Place in Cyberspace… on Friday, June 25, 2021

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters returned this week. It’s a high-capacity omni-mover type attraction, so if you didn’t see a line, it’s because the ride can eat up the guests and spit them out quicker than they can line up. That was the case when I visited in the early afternoon on Friday.  

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No line. The listed wait of 5 minutes was an overstatement. I walked straight onto the ride with no wait.

Unfortunately, after being closed for over 15 months, this attraction was having some issues. I saw several vehicles that were covered, likely for maintenance issues since the door on the vehicle in front of me wouldn’t lock in the closed position and the ride had to be briefly stopped so the guests could be moved to a different car.  But with a mostly empty ride and queue, they’ve got some time to work things out after hours. 

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Matterhorn is scheduled to return by July 2nd, but it could open sooner. The attraction has been testing non-stop for weeks and cast members have been riding since at least Thursday. We’re ready to see these walls come down and an old (somewhat painful) favorite attraction return.  

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The area is beautifully planted, the waterfalls are flowing, the ride vehicles are running… all that’s missing is you!

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It was a warm day on my visit and I really needed a break. Thankfully I remembered that the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough had recently reopened.

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And, as you saw in our chart above, waits were insanely low. 13 minutes for Haunted Mansion in the afternoon. Pirates had a posted 20-minute wait but it was much closer to 10 minutes…

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What’s still not open

    • Several ToonTown “attractions”: Chip ‘n Dale TreehouseDonald’s BoatGoofy’s PlayhouseMickey’s HouseMinnie’s House (though you can see the characters outside all of these locations)
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    • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln & the Disney Gallery (the Opera House attractions are closed to accommodate training for Disneyland cast members as they return to work)
    • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (your guess is as good as ours on when this one might reopen)
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    There has been no visible work on the subs
    • Jungle Cruise (Reopens July 16, 2021 with big changes)
    • Matterhorn (reopens July 2, if not sooner, see above)
    • Monorail (we feel that the Monorail could reopen soon. The cabs all have windows that help with the airflow. However, without air conditioning, Disney might just want to wait out the hottest days of the year and save some labor until fall.  
    • Pixie Hollow (with meet-and-greets still off-limits for now, this location remains closed for the time being)
    • Sailing Ship Columbia (There’s a lot of work being done on this ship to get it ready for Fantasmic to possibly return later this summer)
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    • Star Wars Launch Bay (This one could return soon, and the air conditioning would be appreciated on these hot summer days. However, a lack of available cast members may keep this one closed a bit longer)

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Recalls & Recoil 

All departments are now hiring. As an example, Foods is currently looking for more than 350 positions from cooks and servers to bussers and bartenders. But it’s the 72 cashiers that have us happiest. That means that there has been at least some recognition that Mobile Order can NOT be the main option for guests to order food. That’s a good sign and great to see so many more spots open up for cast.  

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Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square is among the closed dining locations

But even as the number of positions being staffed increases, so are the volume of call-outs and resignations. The parks have only been open since April 30th, and already cast are burning out in record numbers, particularly in custodial and foods.  A number of union grievances have been filed for a host of issues.  

One issue we’ve seen play out over and over again is cast who have been forced to work in severely understaffed areas due to either social-distancing needs or the call-outs of their fellow cast members (sometimes both). At entry-level wages, many Disneyland cast members just aren’t accustomed to a breakneck pace all day without relent.  

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Everything in the resort is at a heightened level of needing to be cleaned. But the number of cast available to do all that cleaning is at an all time low. More work for less people.

To make matters worse, some work that was previously relegated to 3rd shift to be completed after guests had left the park are now being pushed upon daytime workers to be completed while guests are still in the parks. 

On a recent day, while guests were still in the queues of several attractions shortly after park closing, custodial was forced to close most of the park bathrooms for deep cleaning. That means that guests who had been in a queue for a long period of time had to search for a bathroom to use as most had closed.  In the past, that work would have been done in the middle of the night, so there would have been no impact on guests still in the parks. The “restorative cleanings” are now being done on an express schedule so regular custodial shifts can do it at a lower wage than the traditional 3rd shift. It’s causing a lot of stress and concern among custodial cast. As a result, the union has requested several walk-throughs with park management to show them areas that are causing concerns and need to be addressed. Let’s hope they can work the issues out before more cast are lost.  

Cast Member Masks update

When masks and social distancing became optional for guests on June 15th, they remained required for Disney’s Cast Members. However, beginning June 26th, they became optional for vaccinated employees of the resort (in outdoor areas).

Here’s what changed over the weekend:

    • Physical distancing was eliminated among cast.
    • Face coverings became optional outdoors only for fully vaccinated Cast Members.
    • Face coverings are still required outdoors for Cast Members who are not fully vaccinated.
    • Indoors, and in enclosed vehicles and select health facilities, all Cast will continue to wear face coverings.

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The elimination of physical distancing for Cast Members will have the biggest impact in kitchens, which have been understaffed to accommodate 6′ of space between workers. This has caused delays in food preparation and long waits for guests to pick up meals at busy times.  We should see food service return to more normal operation soon. 

Self-Checkout Shopping Test

For those of you wondering what else Disneyland can try to get you to do through an app on your phone, here’s the latest – YOU get to scan your own items and bag them yourself as you shop. Before you exit, you’ll show the bag and your completed transaction to a cast member.

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The scan and go shopping experiment is currently being conducted at Disneyland’s Emporium and DCA’s Elias & Co. The program started several months ago at World of Disney. 

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Grab a clear bag off the sign and start filling it with items you’ve scanned on your phone.

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We’re very curious what you think about this program. Would you want to scan your own items? Is this one of those areas where technology makes your life easier or more complicated? Or is this just a way for Disney to get rid of more cast positions and have you do the work? 

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Entertainment Returns

Last week brought the return of the Main Street Marching Band. It was a huge boost to the park experience. But it’s also a drop in the bucket of the volume of entertainment the parks offered in 2019. Gone are the big stage shows in both parks, parades have been silent, and dozens of performers in small groups & bands have yet to return.

Beyond the band, there have been some small changes in the last two weeks. The Citizens of Buena Vista Street have returned to DCA along with the charming Five and Dime band.

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The stage in Carthay Circle Fountain area is used for most of the interaction instead of out on the street with guests.
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Archive photo of Five and Dime on Buena Vista Street.

We are really looking forward to Fireworks returning for a nightly run beginning July 4th. Yes, it’s Mickey’s Mix Magic and not the show-stopping Remember Dreams Come True, but we’ll take just about anything at this point. We’re actually surprised the park isn’t just doing a revamped version of simpler Fantasy in the Sky which can be viewed from just about anywhere in the park and doesn’t rely on the castle as a focal point. 

But here’s where things get really exciting. We learned that some of the folks who normally work on parades have been called back to work. While we can’t say for sure what show they are working on, we’d bet it’s a future return of Magic Happens, which didn’t even run for a month before park shutdowns. 

We have also heard from multiple sources in different departments that there are hopes of bringing Fantasmic back this summer. These are all things that eat up a lot of guests and that means Disneyland can increase guest counts. 

Realizing that it’s going to take Disneyland a long time to ramp entertainment back up, what’s on your priority list? If you could see 3 things return (or something entirely new) that would convince you to buy a ticket to the park, what would they be? 

Daytime Demolition in ToonTown

While the parks were shut down Disneyland continued to work on the massive show building for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction behind ToonTown. The building spans the entire length of the land and looms over it as well. For now, there’s a giant banner on the side of the building making fun of the construction. But it will all eventually be themed to look like hills and buildings in and around ToonTown.  

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On Thursday, there was some major demolition of part of the Five & Dime store at the back of the land which will eventually be the entry to the new ride. 

I was there the next day and could see that the entire building was not bulldozed, but only the section already seen in concept art that will look like a theater. The rest of the old shop is still there off to the right-hand side of the now open hole in the building.  

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They’ve essentially removed a bunch of facade and punched a hole through the back of the land into the new show building. 

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Here’s the concept art for the section of the building they ripped out last week: 

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Refreshments! 

After all that heavy construction, it’s time for a treat. More and more of the smaller quick serve locations and outdoor vending are returning.  

The one most folks are going to appreciate is the Dole Whip stand outside of the Tiki Room. Unfortunately, it’s Mobile Order only.  

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Maurice’s Treats in Fantasy Faire Village has also reopened. It’s a great out-of-the-way spot that a lot of folks don’t know about. the doughnut bites are fantastic, as are the cheddar garlic bagel twists.  

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If you want to give yourself a quick heart attack, Edelweiss Snacks will hook you up with a Turkey Leg (an estimated 1,000+ calories, 55 grams of fat, and 5,250+ milligrams of sodium).

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A great spot to sit and eat that turkey leg is Fantasia Gardens. The old Motorboat Cruise dock makes a lovely shaded seating area.

We mentioned this one last week but we wanted to bring it up again because it’s a great tip. So many folks have been reaching out about non-mobile order restaurants. We recommend Rancho Del Zocalo in Frontierland. Not because it has the best food, but because you can just pop in line like the old days and there’s no Mobile Order available.

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But be aware that the menu is a bit limited at the moment. Only the taco side of the restaurant was open on my visit. The BBQ and Salad sections were closed (though you can get a salad from the Taco section for now). 

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There’s a small-ish covered seating area here too. 

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Just outside you can also get a churro or popcorn as both carts have returned. 

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Meanwhile, back in Galaxy’s Edge, the soda carts are stocked with regular coke bottles again. We’re not sure what the issue is here with keeping the distinctive round bottles in stock. 

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On Main Street, there are a pair of closed food service establishments. Refreshment/Coke Corner is set to reopen July 8th. 

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But no word yet on Carnation Cafe down the street. Disneyland is in need of table service options.  

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Hungry Bear reopens later this week. 

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Open the Gates! 

Here’s some good news from Avengers Campus. The temporary barriers used to control entry into the land have been removed (at least they were on the day I visited). Guests could flow in and out of the land as they wished all day long. 

From the Parade Route walking toward the new land (which is on the left just after that orange umbrella) you can see how open it all looks now. 

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Without the gates, the entry area is no longer crowded.

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You can also enter from Hollywood Land or from Cars Land. Again, not crowded. 

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Once inside, the opening of the land has helped equalize some of the operations. Since guests aren’t stuck inside or out, they don’t feel forced to get in long lines out of fear of not being able to get back in. That means that the little WEB Suppliers store no longer has a 2-hour line to get in. In fact, at 1pm when I visited, there was no line at all. 

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There was an approximate 20-minute wait to order from PYM Test Kitchen without a Mobile Order. But the Mobile Order return time was also about 20 minutes. That’s a pretty fair wait for a brand new restaurant. 

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Another issue of the land is a lack of seating. Some new tables have been set up between Avengers HQ and the Guardians of the Galaxy tower. 

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But the big issue in the land (aside from a general lack of things to do) is the absence of shade. These hot days we’ve been having are amplified by areas in the park that have nowhere for guests to go when they need to cool down. It would be great if they could add shade structures, banners, potted trees, and other elements to provide relief for guests. 

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Now that the land is wide open, Guardians is once again a top draw. The outside queue was full and the ride had a posted 45-minute wait. 

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After checking out Avengers Campus for you I felt quite overcome with the heat. I waited in the sun for a bottle of water and then headed to the Animation Building (which has reopened to guests).  

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They need to add as much additional seating in there as possible. This park has so few cool spaces on a hot day, this spot is an oasis. 

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Most of the attractions inside the animation building have returned except for the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. 

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I walked down to the Sorcerers Workshop. Only the first room (where you can animate a strip of paper) is currently open. 

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The magic mirror beckons you to enter the next room (Beast’s Library) but it’s closed. 

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As you exit, the Off the Page art shop is open from this side. 

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Nearby, the Disney Junior Dance Party has officially been canceled. All signage has been removed and some generic “Disney Theater” text is now on the expansive wrap-around sign.  

This & That

Let’s finish today’s Disneyland Update strong. Here are just a few more stories that you’ll find interesting from around Disneyland.

Forky Cake Pop

We here at MiceChat can never resist a good sugary treat. This week, a new one surfaced at Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff at DCA. The newest cake pop features Forky from Toy Story 4. It’s cute and tasty, and definitely not made of trash. You’ll only find this little guy at Bing Bong’s in Pixar Pier, so just keep that in mind if you want to try one yourself.

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Fruit Pebble Beignet at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

A few weeks ago we tried out the new Fruit Pebble Beignet with Blueberry Lemon icing at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express. This week we couldn’t stop ourselves from getting it again. We’ll openly admit to having a sweet tooth. The beignet is best when it’s hot, with an array of textures and flavors. The lemon icing is bright without being like furniture polish, and the fruity pebbles are a nostalgic treat that is quite different than the pillowy beignet dough. Definitely a lot of fun.

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Disneyland Hotel and Trader Sams’s Reopens July 2

As we head into July (can you believe it?!), the next set of reopenings will take place. The Disneyland Hotel will reopen on July 2 adding more hotel rooms to the resort once again. Once the Disneyland Hotel resumes operation, that will mean that all of Disneyland Resort hotels of the Disneyland Resort will be open again. 

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Also reopening with the Disneyland Hotel on July 2 will be Traders Sam’s (a table service restaurant) and Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill (for quick service). Both will be available through walk-up service, so no reservations needed. Just keep in mind that if you’re planning on grabbing a Pu Pu Platter and some tiki drinks, you’d best be prepared to wait. We’re not sure yet if the eateries will resume normal capacity upon opening, but with a spacious and inviting patio enjoying a drink at Trader Sam’s is the perfect end to a summer night trip to Disneyland. 

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That said, there are still some areas of the hotels that aren’t open again just yet, specifically in terms of dining. Steakhouse 55 and Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel and all of the dining options at Paradise Pier will remain closed until further notice. As the hotels resume operations, hopefully, there will be an increase in availability for dining. 

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Archive photo of Steakhouse 55

The Anaheim Hotel Parking Update

Our friends at The Anaheim Hotel have created an updated parking offer for all-day parking exclusive to MiceChat readers. For $25, you can park literally across the street from Disneyland and save yourself the long walk back to Mickey & Friends/Pixar Pals parking structure. Considering that it’s the same cost as parking at Disney’s lots and so much more convenient, this really is a great offer. This offer is valid 7 days a week, but there is limited availability at the hotel’s lot. If you’re planning on using this MiceChat reader discount, be sure to get there early before the lot fills up! Just show the front desk the image below to get the discounted price if space is available.

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Thank You, Get Away Today

We’d like to thank our wonderful travel partners at Get Away Today for making these updates possible. Not only do you get discounted tickets and hotel rooms by booking through them, the more tickets and packages we sell, the more often we can go to the parks to bring you the latest news. It’s a win/win. If you’d like to support MiceChat, the best way to do so is to book your vacations and park tickets through the links you find on this site. We appreciate it! 


Disneyland Tickets and Hotel Discounts!

Our partners at Get Away Today have worked tirelessly to create the BEST theme park and hotel deals for our readers. You can purchase theme park tickets (that are good through 2022!) HERE and book a hotel/ticket package for your family vacation HERE!

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There are all sorts of new theme park tickets and travel deals, including up to 25% off at the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotels, a 2 free days offer at Walt Disney World, ticket deals to various theme parks, and DISCOUNT TICKETS TO DISNEYLAND: More details and to get a quote (HERE)


Let’s Hear From You

For it being a relatively slow news week, there certainly was a lot to cover. Disney has done a great job so far managing attraction waits, but what do you think the tipping point is where both crowds and waits begin to increase? Do you anticipate this pleasant feeling will continue through the 4th of July? Would self-serve mobile checkout in stores make your park experience better or worse? And what should be next to return on the entertainment roster? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

More Theme Park Reading

Here are a few more Disney Parks stories that will whet your appetite for more theme park news.

Disneyland Update – The Magic of Entertainment Returns

Fab History: Round and Round With Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Walt Disney World 50th: Sparkling New Entertainment On The Way!

Guide to Disneyland’s New Normal (Mask, Physical Distancing, Safety Policies, Etc.)

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Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing, editing or speaking about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty is involved in multiple Disney related projects and charities. He helped save and restore the charming Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago, and currently serves as Executive Director of the Dick Van Dyke Foundation as well as curator of Walt Disney's historic 1930's estate in Hollywood. If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]