In 2020, Disney theme parks shut down all over the world due to the global pandemic.
It was an unprecedented move, with all of the parks staying closed longer than they ever had before. We saw the closures of Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland due to the virus first, then the other parks around the world followed, with Disneyland Paris being the last to reopen. But just how rare is the closure of a Disney park? Let’s take a look back at all of the times Disneyland and Walt Disney World have closed in the past.
Disneyland Resort closed on Saturday, March 14th, 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak and officially reopened on April 30th, 2021. This was the longest amount of time on record that Disneyland has ever closed since it first opened in 1955. Disney World closed on Monday, March 16th and reopened on July 11th, 2020. This was also the longest amount of time Disney World had ever been closed.
We’re taking things back to the OG park! When the park first opened in 1955, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the slow season. But, we’re happy that it’s open 7 days a week, 365 days a year now!! Despite all the years it’s been open, Disneyland has made it that long with just 3 closures until now.
The first unexpected closure of Disneyland came 8 years after the park opened. Disneyland closed its gates on November 23, 1963, the day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The park remained closed for one day. Interestingly enough, another historic Disney Park related event occurred on November 22nd when President Kennedy was shot.
At this time, Walt Disney was in Florida scouting locations for his next park. After checking out multiple locations, Walt had an “aha!” moment after he flew over the land that would later become Magic Kingdom. Later that night when he flew back to California, Walt was filled with joy over his newly discovered park location, but he found out that President Kennedy had been killed when he was out.
Disneyland went over 30 years until tits next unexpected closure. On January 17, 1994, the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake struck Los Angeles at around 4:30 in the morning. It was one of the largest recorded earthquakes at the time that was so strong, it was felt all the way over in Las Vegas. Disneyland was shut down following the quake to allow for inspections for one day. Or, so we think! Major news outlets and small blogs consistently have stated that the park closed, but Yesterland.com claims that this is WRONG! The site has even stated that “The park was open for business, although each attraction opened only after it was thoroughly inspected. Newspapers at the time reported that Disneyland stayed open. The mistaken “fact” that Disneyland closed that day has taken on a life of its own on the Internet in recent years.”
So, the question is did the park close or didn’t it? Since we have limited access to newspapers from the time, it’s pretty difficult for us to say! Unless you were there in 1994 and can tell us for sure, we don’t have certain knowledge. What we DO know is that Disneyland was very careful to check everything in the parks following the earthquake to keep quests safe. But, this wasn’t the only time Disneyland closed certain attractions and not the whole park due to an earthquake. In 2010, 2014, AND 2019, Disneyland remained open but closed multiple attractions to inspect the rides for damage following an earthquake. All the ride were cleared and reopened to guests later that day.
Smaller earthquakes have also hit the park with no effect whatsoever. In June of 2012, Cars Land in Disney California Adventure was celebrating its grand opening with a red carpet even when a noticeable tremor hit during the festivities. However, the guests visiting acknowledged the earthquake and then continued to celebrate (what a mood).
Most recently, Disneyland was closed following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Twin Towers in New York City were struck by the planes around 9 AM Eastern time, which meant it was just 6 in the morning in Disneyland. The park had enough time to see the situation unfold so officials made the call not to open for the day. On the opposite coast, Disney World had been open for a few hours already before the incident occurred since the park is in the same time as New York. Instead, they had to escort guests out of the park to close early as a safety precaution. The park reopened the following day on September 12th, but there were new security measures in place like additional police, a K9 unit, and security screenings.
Disneyland has closed early over the years, but usually for scheduled events like private parties or even movie premieres. The park even hosted the red carpet for the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It has also closed early multiple times due to the weather, such as heavy rains that caused walkways to flood. But there was one time that the parks closed early that was a surprise to many.
August 6, 1970
At mid-day on August 6th, the Yippies invaded Disneyland. The Yippies, or Youth International Party, were protesters who planned to take over Disneyland on the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. They were out to make a statement because they felt Bank of America, a main sponsor of Disneyland at the time, was responsible for much of the Vietnam war.
They put ads in LA newspapers telling others to gather at Disneyland on that day, and they promised to “liberate” Minnie Mouse, among other radical claims. Disneyland worked with local police to be prepared for the event. They estimated 100,000 protesters would show and had police outside the gates waiting to spring into action if needed.
On August 6th, only around 300 Yippie protesters made their way into the park but most blended in with regular guests. They focused on taking over Tom Sawyer’s Island. A few groups of yippies began getting into physical fights with regular park guests while others tried to tear down the American flag on Main Street and rip the patriotic bunting off of Town Hall.
A police helicopter hovered down low over Main St with a police official on a bullhorn shouting to guests to evacuate the park six hours before the park was scheduled to close. 300 additional police were armed just outside the gates to ensure the protesters all left without any altercations.
Walt Disney World
Now, let’s take a look at the times the Most MAGICAL Place on Earth has closed unexpectedly (spoiler alert: it’s mostly due to weather!) Did you know that Disney World is considered to be one of the safest places to stay in the United States when a hurricane strikes by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? In 2009, they certified Disney World with the “Storm Ready” designation, which means they’re pretty much prepared to handle any storm that would hit the area (look at them go!!).
Disney World made it nearly 28 years until it experienced its first unexpected closure. But the streak was ended on September 14, 1999. With Category 4 Hurricane Floyd approaching, Disney World closed all of its theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney (now known as Disney Springs) early in the afternoon. Most parks were closed the next day as well, but when the storm changed course, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney were reopened on September 15. The other parks opened the following day.
Disney World was also closed on September 11, 2001 following the terrorist attacks. But unlike Disneyland, the Disney World parks had already opened for the day.
Cast members in each park were instructed to form “human walls” to slowly push guests to the exits and managed to clear guests out within 30 minutes. The parks were reopened on September 12th, with new security measures in place.
Disney World saw its next hurricane-related closure on August 13, 2004. Category 4 storm Hurricane Charley was the offender this time around.
Most of the parks reopened the following day, but storm damage kept some attractions closed for longer.
Unfortunately, Central Florida didn’t get much of a break. Disney World closed again on September 4 and 5, 2004, due to Hurricane Frances. The parks began reopening on September 6th.
September 2004 (part 2)
The hits kept coming in 2004. Disney World parks were closed again on September 26, 2004 because of Hurricane Jeanne. Luckily, this was the last closure for over a decade.
On October 6, 2016, Disney World closed all of their parks at 5 p.m. because of the approach of Category 5 storm Hurricane Matthew. The parks were closed the following day as well.
The next year, Hurricane Irma forced another Disney World closure. Parks were closed starting at 9:00 p.m. on September 9, 2017, and they stayed closed until September 12th.
Damage was overall minor, but still resulted in damage to facades, signs, and tree branches.
Most recently, Disney World closed all of the parks early on September 3, 2019 in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. Most parks were closed at 3:00pm, but since the storm changed course, Epcot hours were extended until 7:00pm.
Since the storm continued to move away from Central Florida, all of the parks were reopened on September 4th.
As of now, all of the Disney Parks around the world are open again, but there have been some more recent closures. At Shanghai Disney, park entry was temporarily suspended on October 31st, 2021 due to the discovery of a positive case of COVID-19 at the park, and the parks were then closed down on November 1st and 2nd.
At Hong Kong Disneyland, the park has temporarily closed several times. After the park first reopened in June of 2020, it has re-closed in July of 2020 (reopening in September of 2020) as well as December of 2020 (reopening in February 2021). Then, the park temporarily closed its gates for the day on November 17th, 2021 due to suspected COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. Disney stated that “In an abundance of caution, Hong Kong Disneyland Park will be closed on Nov. 17 to ensure relevant Cast Members can complete the (COVID-19) test sooner.”
In late 2014, Disneyland was pinpointed as the location responsible for transmission of 147 confirmed cases of the measles, according to the CDC. With so many people in such a small space, if one person has something you can catch, there’s a high chance folks will. So with COVID-19, it’s understandable why the parks were trying to avoid a situation like the measles but on a massively larger scale.
This was a really unique and unprecedented situation we faced not just in the Disney Parks, but in the world. We’ll let you know if there are any other closures coming to the Disney Parks, so stay tuned to DFB for news.
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Do you remember any of these historical closures from the past? Let us know in the comments!