Walt Disney World Shortening Theme Park Operating Hours Starting September 8th

Today Walt Disney World announced that they will be shortening the operating hours of all of their theme parks beginning September 8th. Here are the updated hours:

Magic Kingdom – 9 AM to 6 PM (previously closed at 7 PM)

EPCOT – 11 AM to 7 PM (previously closed at 9 PM)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 10 AM to 7 PM (previously closed at 8 PM)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 9 AM to 5 PM (previously opened at 8 AM and closed at 6 PM)*

This announcement comes after Disney CEO Bob Chapek noted that there was less demand at Walt Disney World for vacations than expected, during a third quarter earnings report.

* – This is a correction. It was earlier reported as open at 8 AM

Mulan to be Released on Disney+ as a Rental on September 4

In a major development Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced, during their earnings call, that Disney will be releasing Mulan directly to Disney+ on September 4th as a rental..

Unlike the rest of the content available on Disney+, Mulan won’t come with a subscription to the service. Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay $29.99 on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. In markets where Disney+ isn’t available, “Mulan” will play in cinemas…assuming theaters are open there.

“We’re looking at ‘Mulan’ as a one-off as opposed to say there’s some new business windowing model that we’re looking at,” Chapek said on the company’s earnings call.

It’s also notable that that Disney is testing is very different and potentially more lucrative than others deployed by studios. Mulan will cost roughly $10 more than Universal charged for “Trolls World Tour” and it’s sticking the price of a subscription on top of that bill. It remains to be seen if that will be too rich for consumers.

Initially I was upset that in order to watch Mulan when it’s released I would have to pay roughly $30 on top of my Disney+ subscription.  Then I realized if it had been released to the local theater I would have paid more than $30 to take the entire family, even if I went on a discounted day, especially when you add on what I would have paid for snacks.  Even if I had waited for it to come out on video that would have been $20-25.  That’s on top of if it had been released to theaters, I would have gone to see it.  So, thinking about it…I’m okay with this.

Walt Disney World Adjusts Re-Opening Schedule of Remaining Resort Hotels

Walt Disney World announced that it will be delaying the re-opening of some of its Walt Disney World resort hotels and cancelling others.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will now re-open on October 4 instead of the previously announced August 12.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will now re-open on November 1 instead of the previously announced August 12.

Disney’s Beach Club and BoardWalk Inn will now remain closed until further notice.

The revised re-opening schedule looks like this:

  • July 29 – Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • August 24 – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • September 21 – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • October 4 – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • October 14 – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • November 1 – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

The following resort hotels do not have free-opening dates:

  • Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

At this time Disney has not specifically stated why the re-opening schedule has been changed, though it’s like due to a lack of demand.

Walt Disney World Updates Mask Policy with More Stringent Requirements

Walt Disney World has updated its mask policy to specifically exclude more varieties of masks.

Apparently since some guests were abusing the language of the former policy Disney had to specifically exclude face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind in addition to neck gaiters, and open-chin triangle bandanas as unacceptable.

Here are the full revised guidelines for masks at Walt Disney World according to the official website –

All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:

  • Be made with at least two layers of breathable material
  • Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free

At this time, Disney has specifically excluded neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind from being acceptable face coverings.

Disneyland Resort Cancels Oogie Boogie Bash for 2020

On Friday the Disneyland Resort announced that they were canceling this year’s Oogie Boogie Bash.

On the Disneyland website Disney made the announcement with this brief statement –

We have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party.

The OC Register has reported the news that event has been canceled by Disneyland officials, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was expected to start in September and run through Halloween.

Park officials addressed this by stating –

“Given theme park guidelines have yet to be released by the state, and Oogie Boogie Bash requires a substantial amount of planning and coordination, we are unable to bring the event back at this time.”

The park’s announcement came as Governor Gavin Newsom issued new safeguards for the state’s essential workers impacted by the deadly global pandemic, including cashiers and kitchen staff.

To many, this didn’t come as a huge surprise, though I’m sure to many this is disappointing.

Walt Disney World canceled their Halloween event, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a few weeks ago, so it really isn’t much of a surprise that Disneyland canceled as well.

Both Disney and Universal said they plan on bringing back their Halloween events in 2021.

Disney Delays Mulan Release…Again! This Time Indefinitely

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to affect movie release dates. Yesterday Disney announced that it’s reshuffling much of its schedule, delaying Mulan indefinitely and pushing back planned Avatar and Star Wars films.

After a couple of delays, Niki Caro’s Mulan remake was scheduled to be released to theaters on August 21.  It originally had a March release date.

In a statement, a Walt Disney Studios spokesperson said –

“Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis, and today that means pausing our release plans for Mulan as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world.” 

On social media, Cameron shared a letter to Avatar fans, revealing that not only did the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic delay live-action filming in New Zealand, but it also halted soundstage work in Los Angeles.

“There is no one more disappointed about this delay than me,” Cameron wrote. “But I am buoyed by the incredible performance of our cast and the extraordinary work that Weta Digital is doing bringing the world of Pandora and the characters of the film to life.”

The three untitled Star Wars movies have also been pushed back one year and are now scheduled for December 2023, 2025, and 2027.

Disney has shifted a few of its planned theatrical releases to its streaming service, Disney+, including Artemis Fowl and the filmed Hamilton movie (which was originally supposed to hit theaters in 2021), as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep movie theaters closed. For now, the studio seems committed to releasing some of its big-budget films like Mulan in theaters, even if they have yet to set a date.

Notably absent from Disney’s release date announcement was the much-delayed superhero film The New Mutants, which has already been pushed back multiple times since its original 2018 date. (It was finally supposed to hit theaters in April 2020 but was rescheduled for August once the pandemic broke.) As of right now, The New Mutants is still set for Aug. 28, 2020, making it Disney’s next planned theatrical release.

Walt Disney World Permanently Closes Rivers of Light, Primeval Whirl and Stitch’s Great Escape y

Today Walt Disney World has announced that Primeval Whirl, Stitch’s Great Escape! and Rivers of Light are now permanently closed. This was announced in a memo to Cast Members

Stitch’s Great Escape! had been seasonal, essentially closed since late 2016.  At one time  it was strongly rumored to be replaced by a Wreck It Ralph attraction that did not ultimately get approval. The show’s lobby area had been host to a Stitch meet and greet prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Since Magic Kingdom’s reopening, Stitch has been appearing at the Rockettower Plaza Stage.

Primeval Whirl, which is located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been closed for more than a year due to a series of technical and operational difficulties.

Rivers of Light opened with great excitement after a series of delays due it’s ground-breaking autonomous technology, but ultimately failed to meet guest expectations. Disney made budget cuts to the show last year, which saw the live performers removed, but this failed to save the show from cancellation.

Walt Disney World has not made announcements of any plans for replacements at this time. With great uncertainty and budget constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be a while before we hear anything.

I for one will only slightly miss Primeval Whirl. It was a fun attraction, but with it being down for more than a year I kind of accepted that it wasn’t coming back.

Stitch was sort of cute, but won’t miss it.

I found Rivers of Light to be a beautifully looking show, but poorly executed. It was a slow moving show with too much “downtime.” I found it boring. I saw it once and that was more than enough. I won’t miss it.

Walt Disney Company Announces Management Shake Up

The Walt Disney Company announced a couple of changes in their management yesterday.

Jill Estorino was named President and Managing Director of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products International, effective immediately.

Estorino has been been at Disney for 29 years, most recently as Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, and will now overseeing parks and resorts’ international operations and development, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort with the Oriental Land Company, Shanghai Disney Resort and Disneyland Paris.

She replaces Michael Colglazier who was in the job for the past three years and has jumped to Virgin Galactic Holdings. The aerospace and space travel company announced his appointment earlier today and will assume this role effective July 20.

Disney also announced Jackie Swisher as the new Vice President, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Jackie Swisher will be replacing Phil Holmes who had previously announced his retirement this August, after almost 50 years with Disney, but the change appears to be effective immediately.

Guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios received a push notification through the My Disney Experience app that identified Swisher as the Vice President of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Previously, Swisher was the Vice President of Worldwide Safety Services at Disney Parks.

 

‘Mulan’ Gets Release Date Postponed….Again

The Walt Disney Studios has delayed the theatrical release of “Mulan” for a third time, in effect putting an end to Hollywood’s hopes of salvaging a summer movie season.

The live-action remake was slated to be released into theaters on July 24. Instead, “Mulan” will hit the big screen on August 21.

From Walt Disney Studios Disney’s co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn and co-chairman Alan Bergman –

“While the pandemic has changed our release plans for ‘Mulan’ and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance.  Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together.”

“Mulan,” which cost $200 million to make, was expected to be popular in China. But Chinese movie theaters are all currently closed, without a known reopening date. Since the release of “Mulan” in China is very important, it would have been risky to release the movie and leave Chinese audiences behind.

This is the third time Disney has delayed the release of “Mulan.”  It was originally set to open on March 27, but was pulled two weeks before as coronavirus began to spread in North America and had already closed down parts of China. The studio moved the film to the end of July, which many found to be an optimistic delay since there was no guarantee that cinemas would be able to reopen to a significant degree by then.

Like the 1998 animated version, “Mulan” follows a warrior who disguises herself as a man to spare her elderly father from having to serve in the military. “Mulan” is the first of Disney’s live-action remakes to be rated PG-13, due to sequences of violence.

Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to be Re-Themed to “Princess and the Frog”

Earlier today Disney announced that Splash Mountain at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland will be re-themed to “Princess and the Frog.” The version of the attraction located at Tokyo Disneyland will retain the “Song of the South” theme…for now.

From the Disney Parks Blog where the announcement was made –

The theme is inspired by an all-time favorite animated Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.” We pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure – featuring some of the powerful music from the film – as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance.

Tiana is a modern, courageous, and empowered woman, who pursues her dreams and never loses sight of what’s really important. It’s a great story with a strong lead character, set against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. In 1966, Walt himself opened New Orleans Square when it became the first new “land” added to Disneyland park, so it feels natural to link the story and the incredible music of “The Princess and the Frog” to our parks

The voice of Princess Tiana and Tony Award-winning actress, Anika Noni Rose, shared, “It is really exciting to know that Princess Tiana’s presence in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will finally be fully realized! As passionate as I am about what we created, I know the fans are going to be over the moon. The Imagineers are giving us ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Mardi Gras celebration we’ve been waiting for, and I’m here for it!”

Charita Carter, the senior creative producer leading the project at Walt Disney Imagineering shared, “Like Princess Tiana, I believe that courage and love are the key ingredients for wonderful adventures. I am delighted to be a part of bringing this fun-filled experience to our guests.”

As part of the creative development process, conceptual design work is well underway and Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the transformation can start to take shape.

According to reports, Disney Legend and former Imagineer Tony Baxter, who designed the original Splash Mountain, will be brought out of retirement in order to serve as a creative designer on the new “Princess and the Frog” attraction. “Following conversations with Imagineering’s leaders about the new attraction’s scope and resources, I had a great sense of reassurance, the attraction will be one to be proud of, bringing to life places, characters and music from the animated classic The Princess and the Frog…I look forward to being a part of a new adventure in Disney magic and fun!” said Baxter about the overhaul.

Imagineer Scott Trowbridge, lead on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, stated on Twitter that he’s “been stealth working on this for quite a while and happy to finally share!”

While the current attraction has been controversial at times, mainly because the attraction is themed to a movie that many, if not most younger guests have never seen and Disney has refuses to re-release in any form in the United States, the re-theming will also likely be controversial.  While it is comforting to see that key imagineers like Carter, Trowbridge and Baxter associated with the re-theming, there is probably going to be a certain portion of the Disney fan base that will say that Disney is buckling to protests.  As stated above, Disney says that this is not the case, but I’m not sure that will placate some people, especially with the timing. There is also a certain portion of the Disney fanbase that are as we shall say, “reluctant to change.” These fans aren’t likely to be happy.

Though on the other hand, a lot of people will be very excited about this news.  The movie is very popular.

The one problem that I see is that Disney appears to be solving one theming problem with a new theming problem.  They’re replacing a controversial theming of the attraction with a theming of the attraction that isn’t controversial, in fact very popular, but will the theme fit into the respective lands that it will reside in.  Does this theme fit into Frontierland…maybe, but what about Disneyland’s Bear Country?

Because Disney is still working on a timeline for the re-theming, we’re don’t know if the current attraction will open when the US parks re-open.  Will fans of the current theme be able to get a “final ride” before it goes away to be re-themed.

How do you feel about this announcement?

Me…I’m cautiously optimistic.  I think “Princess and the Frog” is a wonderfully fun movie.  I’m sure Imagineering will do a wonderful job. I’m sure it will be beautiful.  I’m just a little confused as to the why.