Disney parks around the world are closed to help mitigate the effect of the current global health crisis. As we enter month two of the closure, we’re starting to look ahead at what a reopening might look like.
Disney World and Disneyland both announced their closures on March 12th, but they ultimately closed on different days. Some factors point to a combined reopening for the two parks, while others suggest they may open on separate days. Let’s take a closer look at how Disney has handled the closures on both coasts.
Disney handled things similarly for the different closures, though the parks did not mirror each other.
Disneyland was put on alert about the global health crisis first due to the fact that the third case in the United States showed up in California on January 26th, according to the Orange County Register. It was over a month later when Florida saw its first case on March 1st, per WESH Orlando. Still, both states declared a state of emergency around the same time; Florida on March 1st (New York Post) and California on March 4th (Governor of California).
Despite the fact that California saw a much earlier introduction of health concerns in their state and responded earlier than Florida did, the two domestic resorts closed within one day of each other, announcing the decision a few days prior in statements that used almost identical wording.
Presently, both states are under Stay at Home orders that ensure that the parks will remain closed along with many other businesses around the states. The Governor of California motioned to file a statewide Stay at Home order fairly early relative to the rest of the country on March 19th. Florida’s came two weeks later on April 1st.
California’s Stay at Home order does not have an end date, and we know that the Florida Stay at Home orders mandate that Disney remain closed through at least April 29th. This uncertain timeline goes a long way to explain why both Disneyland and Disney World extended their closures “until further notice.”
Now, some analysts have ventured to predict that the domestic Disney parks will reopen on June 1st. This is due to the fact that Disney World hotel and dining reservations are available June 1st and beyond. The same can be said for Disneyland.
Reopenings may depend on the state of the crisis and local government mandates. Will these be the same on both coasts?
Ultimately, the Disney parks cannot reopen until the crisis begins to lessen and governments remove restrictions. Most likely, the parks will be able to open soon after the Stay at Home orders and gathering bans are lifted — but this could be different between California and Florida.
Much of the response to the health crisis has been left in the hands of individual states (Kaiser Family Foundation). Florida and California have very different governments and have had differing timelines with the health crisis so far, which could affect the openings.
Disney World and Disneyland are in states that have had a very different approach to the health crisis.
On one hand, California is expected to see a peak in the health crisis on April 15th, after which point the situation is projected to level and go into decline. Florida’s situation is expected to be slightly more prolonged (though earlier than expected!) with their peak projected to arrive on April 23rd. Though the peaks are pretty close together, the way that the respective governments respond could differ greatly.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California has been praised for a cautious response to the health crisis. If this caution continues, the decline of the crisis may move more quickly and sanctions could be lifted earlier. Still, it may also mean that the state will leave sanctions in place for longer after the situation starts to improve to make sure they stay on the right track and don’t see any new upswings.
Governor Newsom of California made a statement on April 14th that mass gatherings likely won’t be allowed to take place in California for the next several months. When asked about a time frame, he said, “When you suggest June, July, August, it is unlikely.” That doesn’t bode well for Disneyland being able to open anytime soon. Could Disneyland be exempted from any remaining gathering bans? It’s possible! Prior to the closure, California banned gatherings of more than 250 people but initially allowed Disneyland to remain open.
On the opposite coast, Florida has been criticized for its response to the health situation, per the New York Times. If they continue to take a more economy-driven approach and look to reopen areas of the state too soon, it could take longer for the crisis to resolve. Still, if Disney World can open legally, will it?
What else could affect reopening dates for the two resorts?
Government mandates aren’t the ONLY factor keeping the Disney World and Disneyland gates closed. Even after the parks can legally open, will we need to wait even longer before we can waltz through those gates?
Disney may want to open ASAP to help mitigate some of the financial losses they’re facing. A good predictor of this will be reopenings at the Asian resorts. We’ve already seen the beginnings of a phased reopening at Disney Shanghai Resort. Now, if “ASAP” happens earlier in Florida or California, it’s possible we may see one park open before the other.
And there are several other factors that may affect reopening dates.
Getting Resources Back In Place
Even after the all-clear, Disney World and Disneyland will have to bring back furloughed Cast Members, hire any new personnel needed, train all personnel in any potential new processes, stock kitchens and merchandise locations, and get everything in working order again to welcome guests. This could take longer in Disney World than in Disneyland due to the sheer size of Disney World. (This is also why we may see a phased opening.)
Speaking of Disneyland being MUCH smaller than Disney World that could mean there are fewer aspects to figuring out new processes and management on the left coast. That could also make a case for Disneyland opening before Disney World.
Different Guest Profiles
Now let’s think for a minute about who GOES to Disneyland and Disney World. The two resorts have a different guest profile. Disney World sees many more guests than does Disneyland, and Disney World may also see a larger number of guests from different states and nations. The number of potential guests brought in by a reopening could be much smaller in Disneyland than it would be in Disney World, so it may be easier to control distancing requirements as well.
Disney has to focus on their image. Guest safety is, and always has been, a priority at the company. If Florida, for instance, reopened earlier than recommended, the state could face more backlash than it already has. And Disney World may take the blame for infection peaks in far-reaching locations that it may or may not have caused. In this case, Disney World may remain closed past the mandates until safety is assured.
So, will Disney World and Disneyland open at the same time?
It’s possible that the domestic resorts will open at the same time, but there are a LOT of factors that point to varied openings for Disney World and Disneyland.
Logistically, the parks opening together doesn’t make much sense if the states respond differently. Overall, our best predictor is that the parks will open ASAP based on government and health official regulation. If California and Florida handle the return to normalcy differently, then Disney World and Disneyland likely will too.
When do you think the Disney parks will open? Share your thoughts in the comments!