Disneyland’s closure back in March was one of the first major signs that coronavirus was going to have a lasting impact on the entertainment industry. The Anaheim park’s closure was only its fourth since opening, and also included the shuttering of Disney California Adventure in a strategy that was extended to Disney’s other properties, too. Having previously announced that its Orlando parks will reopen from July 11th, The Walt Disney Company have now revealed a staggered plan to open up Disneyland between July 9th and July 23rd.
However, not everyone is happy with Disneyland opening up its doors to visitors, and an online petition asking Disney to delay the reopening has already amassed over 20,000 signatures. The petition’s main arguments are that the COVID-19 situation hasn’t improved enough to justify Disney’s decision, with its full statement reading as follows:
“The Disneyland Resort put out a statement on June 10th, 2020 to reopen the parks on July 17th, 2020. As you know, 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. So reopening before the 2nd wave even hits us is irresponsible and greedy. I understand everyone is rejoicing for the reopening of the parks but not during a pandemic where people are DYING, now is not the time.”
It’s a difficult situation for Disney to be in: on the one hand, the financial losses caused by closing down its parks have been significant, and when coupled with lost theatrical revenue, we’d imagine there’s a lot of internal pressure to get Disneyland up and running. However, the safety measures that will have to be in place, which will already make visiting Disney’s parks a very different experience than before, will also come under scrutiny as visitors adjust to new rules.
One of the main challenges for the parks will be opening with limited capacity, something that Walt Disney World has already announced it will try. The Florida park will reportedly only be able to handle 20-30% capacity, so as to combat crowds, and presumably make it easier to socially distance on rides and in restaurants and hotels. The same restrictions will likely be in place for Disneyland, meaning that a lot of work needs to happen in the parks, including the cooperation of the public, for risk levels to be kept low.
However, analysts have pointed out that Disneyland may have an easier time of it than Walt Disney World, due to a larger percentage of the California parks’ visitors coming from within the state. By comparison, Walt Disney World gets more out-of-state tourists, as well as international travelers, which creates a higher chance of the virus spreading in the park. For now, Disney appear set on their July plan, although continued pressure and the development of COVID-19 might lead to further delays, perhaps even until 2021.