As all of the Disney Parks around the world are closed, we are stepping into uncharted territory.
We have seen closures for hurricanes, an earthquake, and other critical moments in our nation’s history, but we can’t help but wonder what kind of impact a closure of this magnitude will have on the future of the parks.
The primary goal for nearly every unexpected park closure was to ensure the safety of all guests and Cast Members. In the most recent instance, Disney parks began taking extra precautions to prevent cross-contamination such as sanitizing stations, extra hand-washing sinks, and increased safety training for Cast Members.
However, “in an abundance of caution,” Disney decided its best defense was to promote social distancing. This decision has shaken up the plans of Cast Members and guests alike, but could this closure cause longer-lasting effects that alter the parks as we know them? Let’s examine some possible ways that this event could change the future of the Disney Parks.
Major Events Have Changed Disney Parks Policies In The Past
Many of us wondered what life would look like moving forward from September 11, 2001. Walt Disney World had already opened for the day when the first plane struck the World Trade Center and Cast Members banded together to evacuate guests from the parks safely.
New Security Measures
Disney World and Disneyland remained closed for the rest of the day, but when they reopened the following day, new security measures were in place. There were police on property with K9s, and Disney had set up security tables overnight to inspect all purses and bags guests were carrying into the park. This was just the beginning of the increased security measures we continue to see evolving over the years.
Today, every time we enter a Disney theme park we go through a regulated bag check. This was unprecedented, and has changed the parks significantly due to the September 11th attacks.
The Disney Parks are a “No-Fly Zone”
The events on September 11th also led to flight restrictions through a Congressional act called Operation Liberty Shield in 2003. It restricted planes from flying within certain distances of government facilities as well as only 2 non-government properties — Disney World and Disneyland. This prohibits all aircraft (including drones) from flying within 3 miles of the parks or under 3,000 ft over them unless they are military, medical, or law enforcement.
Even More Increases in Security
Fast-forward to 2015, and Disney World and Disneyland installed metal detectors at the security checkpoints to bring about the security procedures as we know them today. In a flurry of uncertainty and vulnerability, Disney sprung into action and began implementing policies that are still in place for guests’ safety today.
The Latest Disney Closures
With the recent extended-length closures, we have been stepping into unknown territory. We aren’t sure what the weeks ahead will hold, but all of us (including Disney) are doing our best to protect ourselves and those around us.
We imagine that once the parks begin to reopen, everyone will still be feeling the weight of the latest events — especially the Cast Members, who are tasked with providing a magical, safe, and joyful atmosphere.
What Changes Could We See?
Increased Health and Safety Procedures
Since the virus may have not run its full course before the parks reopen, we expect to still see sanitizing and hand-washing stations prominently throughout the parks. We would expect Disney will continue to practice the more stringent cleaning procedures implemented prior to closure as well.
Cast Members were on high alert before the closure and it’s likely that Disney will continue to institute the extra precautions for enough time that they simply become a standard part of the safety routine.
Possible Changes to Ticket Scanning
Even with so many shared surfaces around the parks, many guests share particular concern with the finger scanners at the entrance touchpoints of Disney World’s theme parks. After scanning their tickets, guests must scan their finger to verify their biometric “Ticket Tag.”
Although Disney states guests can opt-out of scanning by using a photo ID, we wonder if the current concerns will shift Disney World’s gate procedures to match Disneyland’s current process.
On the West Coast, Disneyland guests scan their tickets at the gate and a Cast Member either takes a picture of the guest to link to the ticket or verifies that the person scanning the ticket matches the previous picture in the system. This happens even for a one-day ticket.
This process removes the need for the finger scanner and allows guests to enter the park with just the scan of a ticket and a touchless check of their photo.
Amongst all of the news rolling in each day, we found out that Disney will likely have to halt all construction during the closures to protect all crew members involved.
It’s hard to predict just how long the parks will stay closed, so the closures’ repercussions on construction could extend beyond just pausing work for a few weeks.
The global pandemic could cause long-term shipping delays or difficulties securing raw materials that could halt construction even after the parks reopen. This could potentially mean opening dates may have to be pushed back to compensate for delays.
Disney has canceled or significantly delayed previously announced projects before. For instance, at D23 in 2017, it was announced a large theater that would show Broadway-style shows was to be built behind Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom.
Construction appeared to be ready to begin, then the project was canceled a year later with no public explanation. Disney could be forced to re-evaluate all currently planned projects and figure out which plans can continue as scheduled and which may need to be moved to the back burner or canceled outright.
What Will This Mean For Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?
Disney World has a big 50th Anniversary looming next year, and they’ve been working on a number of projects expected to be ready by then. We have to wonder whether Disney will commit to delaying opening dates to maintain the integrity of their vision for the projects, or if they will compromise on certain elements in an effort to expedite opening.
While smaller projects such as the Cinderella Castle refurbishment and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure may be able to continue construction or simply be shifted back however long the parks are closed, larger projects such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Spaceship Earth’s refurbishment, Epcot’s Transformation, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel, and TRON Lightcycle Run may face more substantial challenges due to the delays and other issues caused by the closures.
Disney Moving Forward
Apart from increased sanitation procedures and delayed construction, this outbreak and resultant park closures have forced Disney to overcome an obstacle the company has never faced before. This will likely help Disney be more prepared for large events like this in the future and be able to respond with more streamlined procedures for Cast Members and more effective communication with guests.
Following the attacks on 9/11, The Walt Disney Company’s CEO, Michael Eisner, told his Cast Members this:
“Finally, let me say, our company around the world will continue to operate in this sometimes violent world in which we live, offering products that reach to the higher and more positive side of the human equation.”
This was his plea to acknowledge the tragedy that had occurred while reminding Cast Members that people may need Disney magic now more than ever — not to forget or ignore reality, but as a way to see the “higher and more positive” in people and our world.
The events are unfolding by the minute and we are facing uncertainty in the future, but we have hopes of a future filled with Disney trips. We think these closures could bring Disney Parks back stronger than before — prepped with new safety procedures and ready to take on whatever lies in the future!
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How do you think these closures could affect the future of the Disney Parks? Let us know in the comments below!