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Photograph: Courtesy Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

Here’s what it could look like when Disneyland reopens

And what we can learn from the Shanghai and Orlando parks’ relaunch

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

5/27 Update: Today Walt Disney World announced a planned reopening date of July 11, when the Orlando theme park will begin its relaunch in phases. Pending approval, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks will open on that date, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios following four days later.

As we originally reported here on May 5, Shanghai Disneyland instated precautions and temporary rules for guests to follow—including mandatory masks and limited entry—and while there hasn’t been any word on when Anaheim’s Disneyland will reopen or whether it will follow suit, Walt Disney World certainly will next month.

For the foreseeable future, guests at the Florida park should expect reservation-only admission, temperature checks, and, for those above the age of three, mandatory face masks when not eating. There will also be a hold on parades and other large gatherings, as well as more intimate experiences such as character meet-and-greets.

We don’t know when to expect the return of California’s “happiest place on earth,” but we do know that theme parks are now included in phase three of the state's reopening plan, as opposed to phase four, which was initially expected. Currently, the state is in phase two, with some counties deeper into the process than others with eased restrictions like reopening dine-in service at restaurants and even some early phase three updates; one such region is Orange County, home to Anaheim and Disneyland, which leads us to believe that phase three and Disneyland’s relaunch might not be far at all.

Disney’s given no word on when its U.S. theme parks will reopen, but if its Shanghai location’s new rules are any indication, we’re in for big changes. Today during a quarterly earnings call, Disney announced that Shanghai Disneyland will reopen next Monday, May 11, with a set of guidelines that promote social distancing, even in one of the busiest theme parks on earth. 

If amusement parks are to be included in phase four of Governor Newsom’s plans for gradually reopening California businesses, Anaheim’s Disneyland could be months away from unlocking its turnstiles again—but if we look to the new standards for Shanghai’s Disneyland reopening phase, we can see just what visiting the happiest place on earth might look like in our corner of the world: capped park capacities, mandatory face masks, temperature screenings, and hand sanitizer stations at all rides, among other new practices.

“Our focus remains on the health and safety of the entire Disney community—including the wellbeing of the cast members who are caring for and securing our parks and resorts during the closure,” the parks’ chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, wrote today. “We have already implemented a number of enhanced health and safety measures, such as increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in work areas, adjusting practices to promote physical distancing, and providing cast with access to necessary PPE, including face coverings.”

These practices, as well as Shanghai’s, are just the beginning, according to Hymel, who says Disney’s reopening guidelines could very well evolve along with science findings and medical advisement. 

We doubt we’ll see QR codes play a role in the relaunch of U.S. parks, given the lack of a national app-based health system here in the U.S. (and it’s unclear if or how its absence could alter other safety provisions). But the rest of Shanghai’s guidelines seem plausible for California and Florida parks (where a county task force has already brainstormed some reopening guidelines).

According to an announcement posted by Disney today, here are the official rules that Shanghai Disneyland will follow starting this Monday.

  • Limited and pulsed attendance with an advanced reservation and entry system: Guests are required to purchase admission tickets valid on a selected date only and Annual Pass holders must make a reservation prior to arrival.
  • Controlled guest density: Capacity will be recommended and managed in queues, restaurants, ride vehicles and other facilities. Queues will be structured and ride vehicles will be loaded to promote social distancing.
  • Implementing required government health and prevention procedures: This includes temperature screening and the use of the government-issued Shanghai Health QR code, a contact tracing and early detection system used in China. Additionally, guests must wear a mask during their visit, except when dining.
  • Increased sanitization and disinfection measures: Hand sanitizers will be available at queue entries and attraction exits. High-touch locations, such as ride vehicles, handlebars, queue railings and turnstiles will have increased sanitization.
  • Training for cast members: Cast members will receive training on procedures with an emphasis on contactless guest interaction, cleaning and social distancing and will receive additional protective equipment including masks.

Additionally, Disney states that more reopening details are to follow.

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