In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Disneyland and Walt Disney World have furloughed thousands of Cast Members.
  • Annual pass payments at major parks have been extended or canceled.
  • And more!

I would love to tell you that the news in today’s Theme Park Bits is going to be good, but listen, let’s not pretend otherwise. The world is very much in the midst of a global pandemic, and what has changed since our last column hasn’t made for a more positive set of stories. That’s your warning as we progress today.

First, while you may have noticed that the Disney theme parks have extended their closure indefinitely, you may not have seen that thousands of Cast Members – more than 40,000 – are being furloughed as of April 19 at Walt Disney World alone. This isn’t the situation anyone wanted to find themselves in – we can talk about whether or not Disney pays its Cast Members enough, but they didn’t want to shut the parks down. Disney has made a number of deals with different unions, too, to ensure that union members have benefits for an extended period of time during this…situation.

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Disney World Opening

Since we’re mostly all stuck at home, you might be wondering the obvious: when exactly will the situation end? If there’s such a thing as normal, when can we get back there again? Well, for the theme parks, it might be a lot longer than you think or want. According to a Wells Fargo analyst, it might take two years for the Disney parks to see attendance numbers similar to what they were getting prior to the pandemic. That number may seem scary, but ask yourself this question; let’s say business reopen in the next few months. Are you going to go back to a large, crowded theme park where a virus could potentially float around without a vaccine? I know I wouldn’t, as much as I adore and miss Disneyland.

If you adore the theme parks, you may well have an Annual Pass. Of course, since you’re unable to visit a theme park right now, you may be happy to know that you’re not being charged for your pass. At many theme parks, including Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios, annual pass payments have been paused or extended. At Knott’s, annual passes have been extended by a year. Walt Disney World and Disneyland have paused annual pass payments across the board until the parks reopen. Universal Orlando has done the same. So…that’s one less payment you have to worry about? I’m trying to see the positive here, what can I tell you?

Moving overseas, the Disney parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris have extended their previous closures. Originally, Tokyo Disneyland was set to reopen on April 20, but now its planned reopening won’t be announced until at least mid-May. There’s not much sense that Hong Kong Disneyland or Disneyland Paris will be opening any sooner than that. More than likely, we’ll see those parks open before the ones in the States, at least based on the frequency of tests and social distancing measures in Europe and Asia. But we’ll see.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Ride Through Video

Let’s end today’s column with something nice. Something nice! There’s at least one thing we can share here that’s mildly positive. As noted in the past few months, one of the big attractions that arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. That ride has a lot of fun elements, from what we can see on the outside looking in, and one of those is its song, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now”. Though the title may seem a little ironic at the moment, you can download the song on Spotify and iTunes right now. You might as well listen – it’s a fun song that can get stuck in your head real quick.

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