We frogs, like our readers, have been hopping with anticipation for news or signs that the U.S. theme parks might be reopening. Good news! Disney World theme parks begin a phased reopening in July! Shanghai Disneyland reopened on May 11, offering a glimpse of what to expect when the U.S. Disney parks reopen. We'll can't wait to experience it firsthand at Disney World when Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom reopen July 11, and then when EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios reopen July 15.
Another clue as to what the parks will be like when they reopen came from the Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer and executives. Disney is evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures as it prepares to reopen parks worldwide. We know the U.S. Disney parks may not operate exactly the same as the overseas parks, but the Shanghai Disneyland opening procedures provide a glimpse of what to expect when U.S. Disney theme parks reopen.
Just as the U.S. was gearing up for social distancing and closing the theme parks in March because of COVID-19, Shanghai was reopening Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. The theme park reopened May 11. It's a phased reopening with additional health and safety measures. There is an “Advanced Reservations Period” with a limited number of tickets available for sale in advance. Disney World will also have a reservations period to limit park capacity.
Let’s take a look at the procedures that have been and are in place during the phased reopening of Shanghai Disneyland. Keep in mind that the situation is fluid and procedures will continue to be reviewed and may be adjusted as time goes on. We've already seen that they are beginning to add shows with social distancing measures in place. We'll also touch on the health and safety measures Disney is exploring for its U.S. parks as outlined by Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Pam Hymel.
New Protocols in Place for Shanghai Disneyland
Limited Attendance with Advanced Ticketing and Reservations
According to CEO Bob Chapek, Shanghai Disneyland's capacity is about 80,000 visitors per day; however, the government has mandated it operate at about 30% capacity (24,000 visitors). Chapek said the park would initially begin well below that, ramp up to that 30% capacity over several weeks and "at that point there could be some lifting of even those restrictions of the 30%."
In order to limit guest attendance initially, the park has to sell a limited amount of tickets and have an “Advanced Reservations Period.” Shanghai Disneyland and its official travel partners will begin selling dated tickets online in advance.
Tickets went on sale May 8. Annual passholders also need to make reservations for their visit date and time before visiting the park during the “Advanced Reservations Period.” For annual passholders, the number of valid pass days the park is closed from Jan. 25, 2020, through the end of the "Advanced Reservation Period" will be added onto their pass. Guests who hold General Admission tickets will be subject to the same extension policy, as General Admission tickets will not be valid during the “Advanced Reservations Period.”
Guest Health Screenings
After purchasing a ticket, and before arriving to the resort, each guest must provide personal information such as name, phone number and ID type. After the information is successfully submitted online, each guest receives a Shanghai Disneyland Reservation QR Code. The guest must present this code before he or she may enter the theme park. Each guest must register for a Health QR Code prior to arrival, and he or she must have a green code to enter the resort. At the turnstiles, each guest must present a China government ID Card (or valid travel document). Each guest will have their temperature checked and must wear an approved mask during their entire visit (except when dining). A YouTube video demonstrating the check-in procedures at Shanghai Disneyland showed a stationary thermometer that reads temperatures as people walk by.
While the majority of attractions, shows, rides, dining locations and shopping locations will be open, guests can expect controlled attendance. Restaurants will have reduced capacity. The park will structure queues and ride vehicles to support social distancing.
Initially Canceling Shows, Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars and Play Areas
Due to social distancing, parades, shows and nighttime spectaculars are slowly returning as time goes on. The best way to keep track of showtimes and open shows is to check availability through the resort’s website and app. The Enchanted Storybook Castle comes to life in early evening each day with light and music with Evening Magical Moments. Stage shows with characters are resuming with social distancing guidelines in place. Children’s play areas are closed for now.
New Character Interactions
Seeing Disney characters is a very magical part of visiting any Disney theme park. Well, there’s good news and bad news on the Disney characters at Shanghai Disneyland. The bad news is that guests are not getting a hug and personal photo with a character anytime soon. But the good news is that the characters will be there to welcome guests and make group appearances in each land. Plus, a special Disney character procession called the Mickey and Friends Express will take place several times daily. For now, the characters need to socially distance themselves and greet guests from a safe space. More good news: The face characters, such as princesses, will not be in masks. They will, however, need to keep a safe distance from the guests, so guests can give a royal wave and send love from a safe distance.
Sanitizing and Disinfection
As can be expected, hand sanitizers are available at each attraction entrance and exit, as well as at restaurants and shops. Cast members have increased the frequency of all sanitation measures. Entry turnstiles and high-touch areas will be sanitized more frequently. Cast members sanitize railings, handlebars and ride vehicles. Guests can expect touchless interactions when purchasing merchandise and food.
Employee Screenings and Education
Employees have received COVID-19 and safety training. The park encourages contactless interactions with guests. Employees also have masks and protective equipment.
What Can We Expect When Disney World and Disneyland Reopen?
While the Walt Disney Company gears up for its phased reopening at Disney World, Disney has already implemented several health and safety measures to keep employees and guests healthy. For example, cast members have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in work areas. They have adjusted practices to promote physical distancing. Disney provides cast members with access to necessary PPE, including face coverings.
Disney Springs at Disney World is in its phased reopening. Hop over to our Disney World reopening post to stay up to date on those procedures and dates. Disney Springs guests undergo a temperature screening (via a touchless infrared thermometer) from a health professional. Masks are required for all guests ages 2 and up except when eating or drinking. Markings on the ground and cast members encourage social distancing. Guests can access touchless hand sanitizer and washing stations throughout the property.
The Disneyland site states, "Upon reopening, certain Disneyland Resort theme parks hotels, restaurants and other locations may be limited in capacity and subject to restricted availability or even closure based on guidance from health experts and government officials." It also says that park admission is not guaranteed.
The Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer, Pam Hymel, released more plans and ideas Disney is exploring in regard to reopening the resorts, parks and stores in a message about Disney Parks from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel.
The Disney parks are exploring and may develop the following scenarios:
Phased reopening - Disney is looking at all of its locations and the best way to begin the reopening process. That may include a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations. It’s possible that retail and dining locations will open before the parks reopen. For example, in Florida, Disney Springs kicked off the Walt Disney World Resort reopenings in May. The theme parks will follow in July with Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom on July 11 and then EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios on July 15.
Physical distancing and capacity measures - Managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus. Disney will implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies. This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. Disney is exploring ways to use technology to aid in these efforts, such as the Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Guests can expect contactless interactions such as Mobile Ordering and encourage cashless transactions.
Face coverings: All cast members and guests (ages 2 and up) are required to wear face coverings except when eating and drinking.
Cleanliness and sanitization - Disney is planning increased cleaning and disinfection in high-traffic and other areas. Disney is considering which cleaning products and processes to use.
Screening and prevention support - Disney will follow guidance from the government and the medical community regarding enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures, including those related to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face coverings. Hand sanitizers and hand washing stations have already been implemented across the resorts.
Cast training - Disney emphasizes a strong culture of health and safety among cast members and will continue to provide new training and reinforcement as reopening gets closer.
As mentioned, these examples may continue to evolve as the situation changes. Keep hopping back, as we will continue to stay on top of these details and share as much as we know about what to expect when U.S. parks open. If you want to stay up to date on all the U.S. theme park closures and reopening dates, be sure to hop over to our post on COVID-19 Information for Theme Parks, Resorts and Hotels.
Related: Disney World Reopening