Welcome back to Not Club 33, the home of The Disney Cynic!
Today is the day folks. We find out how Disney plans to reopen its doors to the masses. It’s been a month since my home state of Georgia said “screw it, you can go outside” like a parent sick and tired of their kid moping around while grounded. I would be more excited, but I’m “technically” an essential employee and have been in the field throughout the entire quarantine timeline. Hell, I actually got sent to Florida to go take a look at a job, and had a fancy piece of paper from the Department of Homeland Security stating that I was allowed to travel.
While there was a sudden increase in cases when some of those restrictions were lifted – we’re talking double digits not quadruple digits – I couldn’t give less of a shit. The very hour that my barber opened up, I was there in line and ready with a huge tip for the man. Now that I’ve had my haircut, and as of today dined-in at a restaurant for the first time in weeks, I’m starting to grow more optimistic that we’re going to start seeing some normalcy soon. Some normalcy isn’t back to crowds, necessarily, but it is back to considering going out for a meal or planning a vacation.
Let’s also think back to the last time you or I were in a Disney park….[INSERT HARP MUSIC TO DENOTE FLASHBACK LIKE A 90’s SITCOM WOULD]….I accidentally exchange more bodily fluids bumping into someone than other people do on purpose. It was hotter than the surface of the sun, and literally the instructions you’re given while on-boarding an attraction is to use all space in front of you. Everyone on the DIS Boards did nothing but complain about how crowded the parks are. Wait times for attractions constantly exceeded an hour for even the shittiest of rides.
So, yeah, not exactly what one would call social distancing.
How does a place like Walt Disney World reopen after a pandemic? Sit there and think about it, because it’s a lot harder of a question than you think it is. I have been out in the field for weeks, but I haven’t had to deal with international visitors and irate parents who are already sick of their kids being around them before summer has actually started. Everyone has adapted to the idea of 6 feet apart as the new normal. You’d have been lucky to get 6 inches of room the last time you were in line. To actually go into some stores or businesses, someone will stand outside and take your temperature. Does Disney do the same, and if so, do they have a sliding scale for lots of movement in Florida heat?
Obviously there’s a lot of hurdles to overcome, but I think that I have some solutions to ease these problems which will satisfy all of the terrified Karen’s on the Mom Panel.
First and foremost, Disney has to do a complete remodel of everything in the parks and resorts. Sanitize all hard surfaces, put in completely new beds and bedding for every room on property, and film it as a documentary to put on Disney Plus. Why? Because Disney should want to show you they care about your health. While they’re at it, start doing complete maintenance on all key attractions, and add a new coat of paint to all exterior surfaces. There cannot be a breakdown of a ride when shit reopens, and even Tower of Terror cannot look to be unclean.
Second, Disney has to limit passes to the parks. Anyone who steps foot on Disney property has to believe that they can practice social distancing so that no one brings home the ‘Rona to Grandma and Grandpa. How can they do that? Well, in my plan, multi-day tickets are only allowed to be purchased by guests staying on property. It doesn’t matter if it’s a deluxe or a value resort, you can’t get a discount on tickets without also staying at Disney. This will emphasize the “Disney Bubble”.
It also has to be publicly known that single day tickets are purchased on a first-come-first-serve basis, you’re not guaranteed a ticket for just showing up, and that if you leave the park, reentry into that park is not guaranteed. As a means to soften this, all tickets, regardless of number of days, become park hoppers. That way you get the full value of a day pass, but you’re not over crowding the Magic Kingdom.
When going to the parks, there’s going to have to be forced WDW methods of travel. You’re going to have to use the busses, boats, monorail or Minnie Van to get around. In doing so, you’re also going to have to do some screenings like security does at the monorail resorts. The laser thermometer is going to have to be used before everyone gets on the bus, and if you’re running a fever, you’re going to have to be awkwardly led away. Disney is going to have to soften their ticket policy to allow it to roll over to your next trip if they give you the medical boot.
Disney is also going to have to take a side on masks vs. no masks. Look, it’s probably a good practice to do so, but at the same time, it comes back to trust. Am I trusting you to have changed the filter out on the reusable mask? Am I trusting the one you sewed at home in Mickey cloth is as effective as a store bought one? Hell no on both accounts. Plus, I cannot go outside without sunglasses on. I’m way too cool with them on because they’re expensive. Wearing the mask fogs those bastards up like a Halloween attraction gone awry. Plus, I’m on vacation. I want to be in a place where I am escaping the quarantine, not exposing myself. If Disney opens, masks should be optional, but I don’t know if that means we’ll have to wait months more to have them or not.
As far as crowds are concerned, Disney needs to approach this like the after hours parties. They need to run all of the major attractions as if it’s New Years Eve, but the actual capacity needs to be capped at about 30-50% of total occupancy capacity. To guarantee entry to a park, you have to stay on property, and in doing so, Disney can plan for the number of people based on the number of rooms they’ve sold for a day. Oh, and the actual parties themselves and the various Epcot festivals are going to have to be cancelled. My wife and I have plans to go in October for Food & Wine, and if it is cancelled that is going to be a disappointment. That said, Disney can’t operate at anywhere near full capacity, and therefore there’s not a point in trying to drum that up.
Just like the after-hours parties, there’s also going to have to be a limited roster of attractions open. You really can’t open up attractions like Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, the Peoplemover, Spaceship Earth, or anything with a fixed belt of ride vehicles. Something like Buzz in particular can’t be open. You’d have 15 seconds to wipe it down with a wet wipe and that can’t be effective. You can put a 5 Gallon dispenser of hand sanitizer in front of each attraction on-board area that you must put on before getting on, but I don’t know how effective that will be other than health theater. You can’t just open with shows, so there’s going to be a degree of risk, but that is much more acceptable on a thrill ride than on a fixed track attraction. The biggest debate in my mind is Peter Pan’s Flight. It’s an E-Ticket by wait time, but that is where all the germs are going to go.
Attraction operators are going to have to alter their instructions completely upon re-opening. Gone are the days of shoving everyone into a pre-show like some sort of canned meat. Theaters across all the parks are going to have to have shows at half capacity. Groups are going to be allowed to sit together, because you can’t tell the mom’s who are brave enough to drag their 4 year old around can’t sit with their kids to watch The Lion King. but there’s going to have to be 6 feet in between them and the next group.
Ride on-boards are going to be heavily altered too. If you’re not part of the same party, empty seats are going to happen on something like Space Mountain. Single Rider lines are going to be completely gone. The whole point of that was to fill in the ride, now they’re going to be figuring out ways to get people out. Much to my chagrin, Disney may have to go entirely to a reservation system until this shit is over, and that may end up carrying over to all future vacations. God forbid we have any spontaneity when shit really is normal again, but in this case I might be more prone to accept it.
Finally, the part that is most difficult to figure out is the international visitors. I’m not just doing the xenophobia thing, although to a degree I’ll admit there is a component of fear of people from foreign countries and the validity of their medical care. I don’t even trust our medical system right now. I got sick in early March, made fun of it here, and even though I was one of the first people to raise my hand to say I had fewer degrees of separation between me and COVID-19 than Kevin Bacon, I was never tested in the manner that said “Yay” or “Nay”. The doctor I saw at the time just brushed it off. Are we going to rely on all doctors worldwide to be 100% on the ball? Should Disney be held liable if it’s going to reopen? It’s sort of xenophobic, but maybe now’s the time to focus on serving the domestic traveler, not the international guest.
So there we have it: a complicated plan that both opens and discourages guests from visiting, particularly if you have Libertarian leanings or are someone from another country. It’s far from perfect, but I would bet that many of you would be more inclined to go with something like this in effect. Sound off in the comments section if there’s anything I missed.
In the meantime, if you’re sick, stay home. If you’re not, go to work. Things are starting to settle down, because I just saw Rory McIlroy on TV and it wasn’t a repeat for the first time since March. There’s hope for normalcy, so don’t screw it up people!
-The Disney Cynic
Sent from my MacBook to prevent the transmission of viruses