No lines at Disneyland may seem like more like fantasy than reality — but anything is possible in 2020. This summer, big crowds at the park may be a thing of the past.
Disney has announced its proposal plans for the phased reopening of the Disneyland Resort, including the reopening of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on July 17. It’s the first scheduled reopening of a theme park in California since the shutdown, but it comes with major changes to the classic Disneyland experience.
The big question now is what exactly will Disneyland look like after its four-month long closure. Will the parks still attract crazy crowds and long lines like they used to? If Disney’s current reopening plans are any indication, Disneyland may end up looking more like a ghost town come July.
Big crowds banned
The biggest proposed change at Disneyland will be how the park will welcome back guests. Disney says park capacity will be “significantly limited” to promote physical distancing and comply with governmental requirements. Exactly how limited is still unclear at the moment, but we expect capacity to be less than 50 percent, most likely closer to 20-30 percent. That would put the parks at off-season attendance levels and “Ghost Town” territory on the Disneyland Crowd Calendar — when the average wait time for most attractions is only around 5-10 minutes long.
To help manage the capacity limit, Disney will also implement a new park reservation system, requiring all guests to obtain a reservation in advance online for each visit. Disneyland guests are already familiar with a number of reservation systems for attractions, dining, and even an annual pass tier. The park has already seen just how effective a reservation system can be in keeping attendance lower last summer, following the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. To enter the new land, an advance reservation was required and, with the help of increased annual pass blockout dates, made Disneyland virtually empty. A park-wide reservation system will almost certainly be just as, if not more, effective at keeping big crowds at bay this summer.
Fewer annual passholders
Disneyland has also announced that it will be pausing all annual pass sales and renewals, as well as new ticket sales. Local annual passholders make up a significant portion of Disneyland’s attendance numbers, so the suspension of renewals and new sales means that there will be fewer annual passholders. Disney had already been letting many passes on monthly payment plans expire if they were up for renewal since the mid-March closure.
Disneyland’s summer season of AP blockout dates will also still be in effect upon reopening, from July 17 through August 16. So for the annual passes that are still valid, the majority of passholders (including the the most popular SoCal Select tier) won’t be able to visit until the blockouts are lifted on August 17.
Reduced attractions and hours
There are even more indications that Disneyland will be taking an off-season approach to the reopening in its planned entertainment offerings. Parades and character meet-and-greets will not be coming back right away. These attractions make it hard to abide to social distancing guidelines, but Disney says that they will return “at a later date.” The same goes for shows that draw large crowds, including Disneyland’s popular nighttime spectaculars (fireworks, Fantasmic!, and World of Color).
Don’t expect Disneyland to remain open until midnight either, as it typically does on summer nights. According to Disney, operating hours may be reduced.
Even more changes expected
Disney is expected to announce even more changes closer to reopening date, but is already signaling that further restrictions may be ahead. Some locations at the Disneyland Resort “may be limited in capacity and subject to restricted availability or even closure based on guidance from health experts and government officials,” Disney says.
Some rides and attractions may not be the same, either. According to Disney, “certain attractions, experiences, services and amenities will be modified, have limited availability or remain closed.” Spaced ride seating on attractions, or even some closures where physical distancing may not be possible, could be the new norm for a while. We’re also expecting Disneyland to expand the use of Fastpass/MaxPass systems to keep lines as short — and virtual — as possible.
“Greedy and irresponsible”
Still, Disneyland’s reopening plans are already causing a stir. The plans still need to be approved by state and local governments, but have already won the disapproval of some Disney fans online. A petition on Change.org entitled “Schedule Disneyland to reopen at a later date” has gained traction on social media, with over 20,000 signatures at the time of this writing. The petition claims that the July 17 reopening of the parks is “greedy and irresponsible.”
According to the petition, “COVID-19 cases are rising and have not dropped. Many people have lost loved ones due to this pandemic and by reopening the parks they are endangering cast members and guests to be exposed to COVID-19. There are more cases now than when the parks closed on March 13th, 2020. Health Officials have stated that the 2nd wave of COVID-19 will be worse.”
Disney says it has taken enhanced health and safety measures for all its guests and cast members, but warns that “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 currently exists in any public place where people are present.” Despite the precautions, some Disney fans think it’s still too soon to reopen.
“An an Annual Passholder I was disappointed to hear they’d be reopening so soon because I am not entirely comfortable going back yet due to the virus, but I don’t want to cancel my AP! I’m also worried for my CM friends who will have to be exposed to such large crowds when they go back to work,” wrote petition supporter Anna Black.
What do you think about Disneyland reopening? Are you planning to visit the parks? Do you think it will be crowded? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!