Theme Park Bits: Walt Disney World Reopening, Epic Universe Delayed, And More

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Major Orlando-area resorts are opening back up soon.
  • Disney CEO Bob Chapek shared scant details about enforcing new policies.
  • And more!
  • First, the good news. As you have no doubt already heard, Walt Disney World in Orlando has submitted a reopening proposal to the Orange County Task Force. Unlike Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, both of which are planning to reopen in the next few days, Disney is taking its time: the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom will reopen on July 11, with Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios reopening on July 15. Once you're there, you'll need to wear a mask at all times, socially distance everywhere, prepare for contactless dining orders, and more. This is unquestionably the most cautious theme-park plan so far, and thus, the smartest.

    However. Let's say you're very excited to go to Disney World. (At this point, who wouldn't be?) You and your family are happy to wear masks – it's the safe and smart thing to do. Yet you may wonder: how will Disney enforce this rule, let alone others, once you're inside the park. If you have little kids, you may be worried they'll take a mask off at some point. Or, hell, you might take yours off if you get uncomfortable. The same day Disney announced their plans, CNN interviewed Disney CEO Bob Chapek and posed this very question to him. His answer was...a painful non-answer, with no clear sense aside from "We're going to enforce the rule." Yes, Bob, If the answer is, "If you take off a mask, you're out, period, full stop," then say that. The answers here may be too harsh for some people, but the rest of us need to know for sure before we drop a few thousand bucks on a family trip.

    For now, at least, those of us closer to the West Coast will have to wait a bit longer. At this point, even though the Disney World reopening plan almost certainly promises the same kind of guidelines we can expect at Disneyland, there's no timetable for reopening in Anaheim. California Governor Gavin Newsom did, earlier this week, say that theme parks like Disneyland fall into the Stage 3 group of businesses that can begin preparing to reopen. And Disneyland does celebrate its 65th anniversary on July 17. So it's entirely possible that we're about to hear of a certain reopening date very soon. (It's also extremely possible that traveling to a theme park this summer, social distancing and limited capacity or not, is unwise. But...yeah.)

    If you've been following news surrounding the coronavirus ( hopefully have), you are no doubt aware that many of the countries in Asia have found more success in suppressing the spread of the virus. Thus, as Shanghai Disneyland continues to operate in this new environment, other parks are preparing to do the same. In Osaka, Universal Studios Japan is now permitted to begin reopening, due to the state of emergency restrictions being lifted. And in Hong Kong Disneyland, Cast Members are reportedly going through a soft opening, which may lead to announcements of a hard reopening date for guests.

    universal epic universe

    Of course, while there are plenty of good stories about these parks reopening for the public, the fact that we've all been cooped up for a few months means that some of the stories are a bit more disappointing in their frivolity. If you're a Nintendo fan, you're likely champing at the bit to attend the Epic Universe launch at Universal Studios Orlando. And while that park will open one day, its original slated arrival of 2023 has been pushed back: construction has paused on the park indefinitely. As a Universal executive notes, the Epic Universe is a "big capital swing", so Universal needs to regroup first.