Walt Disney World to Phase In Reducing Physical Distancing; Snack Kiosks Re-Opening at Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World announced that they will soon begin the phasing in of reducing physical distancing at the following updated guidance from Orange County.

Disney has not made any immediate changes following the announcement, by Orange County, but has started to notify Cast Members that the process will take place over the upcoming few weeks.

Walt Disney World has stated that the reduction from 6 feet to 3 feet will take place only in certain areas at the parks, resort hotels and Disney Springs. The reduction won’t apply to dining areas, shopping areas or any area where guests can remove masks.

Disney has updated its website with the following description of its physical distancing policy:

Temporary adjustments are still in place to promote physical distancing. While we will reduce physical distancing measures for Guests across many areas with a gradual, phased approach, six-feet distancing measures will continue in all dining locations, merchandise stores and in areas where Guests can temporarily remove their masks.

Walt  Disney World also announced that Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be re-opening more of its snack kiosks this week as the park’s phased re-opening continues to move forward.

Terra Treats, located on Discovery Island just across from Starbucks will be re-opening and serving up pizza slices.

Dino Diner, located in Dinoland U.S.A. will re-open and will offer hot dogs and churros.

Walt Disney World Announces that “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” to Open in May

Earlier  today, Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle announced that ‘A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King’ will open in mid-May at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Although we don’t yet have a specific start date, the general timeframe of mid-May timeframe supports the idea that Disney plans to increase capacity at the theme parks for the summer season.

As when Disney announced that the show would be returning this summer, the show itself will see some modifications to assist with performer safety and will be reduced in length.

Walt Disney World Updates Mask Policy

Walt Disney World has just announced that it will be modifying its mask policy to slightly loosen the requirements for when masks must be worn at the theme parks.

The latest update will begin on  April 8th.  The update will allow guests to remove masks when they are taking photos outdoors while physically distanced.

Specifically the new policy states –

Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may temporarily remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking an outdoor photo, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing during this time.

It is important to note that masks must be worn at all other times, in accordance with the original guidelines for the park’s reopening back in July of 2020.

Disney MagicMobile Launches on Apple Devices for All Guests

Today Walt Disney World announced on the Disney Parks Blog that beginning today, all guests with Apple devices will be able to enjoy  the new convenient and contactless option for entering the theme parks and more, as part of the rollout of Disney MagicMobile service!

The new service is now available on the iPhone and Apple Watch and coming soon to other smart devices.  Disney MagicMobile service will be an easy-to-use new way for guests to experience Walt Disney World.

It is important to note that the new service will not be replacing the MagicBand, but will offered in addition to other options such as the MagicBand.

Disney put out a few helpful tips to get started with Disney MagicMobile service:

  • Create A Customized Digital Pass: Guests can create a Disney MagicMobile pass through the My Disney Experience app and add it to the Wallet app on iPhone or the digital wallet on other smart devices. You can customize your pass by choosing from several Disney-themed designs that animate upon use (including special designs just for Annual Passholders and DVC Members)! For added ease, you may also store multiple passes on a single device, a great option for families.
  • Easily Enter the Parks and More: Simply hold your iPhone, Apple Watch, or other smart device near an access point when entering the parks or using other available features, just like you do with a MagicBand. With Express Mode on iPhone and Apple Watch, guests do not even need to wake or unlock their Apple device, or open up the app, to use their Disney MagicMobile pass. As a reminder, valid park admission and a park reservation are required for park entry and must be linked to your account.
  • Discover Other App Enhancements: We’ve also added a new feature in the My Disney Experience app that allows you to automatically link your Disney PhotoPass attraction photos and videos to your profile through your smartphone. Just confirm your settings in advance of riding at participating attractions. The My Disney Experience app also enables Disney Resort hotel guests to unlock their room door using our current digital room key feature.

Guests may use Disney MagicMobile service, a MagicBand or a card interchangeably.

MagicMobile is not currently available at the parking lot entry booths, but it is anticipated that it is going to happen in the near future.

Festival of the Lion King to Return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom This Summer

Walt Disney World announced today that Festival of the Lion King will be returning in the summer of 2021.

On the Disney Parks Blog Disney stated –

We are thrilled to be starting the process of bringing back to work more singers, dancers, technicians and other cast members, from one of the most popular shows at Walt Disney World Resort. Expected this summer, the Harambe Theatre at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park will host that fan-favorite troupe of musical storytellers, along with Simba and his friends, in a celebration of the incomparable “Festival of the Lion King.”

Festival of the Lion King will be presented in a modified format. There will be adjustments made tto the show on stage and backstage, including updates to choreography to allow for appropriate physical distancing. also Disney will also adjust how the audience is seated, in line with other theater-based experiences at Walt Disney World Resort.

 

Walt Disney World to Replace Extra Magic Hours with Early Theme Park Entry

Walt Disney World announced today that they will be discontinuing Extra Magic Hours.  Disney will replace EMH with Early Theme Park Entry.

Early Theme Park Entry will debut later in 2021. The new early entry program will give Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests 30 minutes early access to any theme park, every day. Disney has stated that the change will allow a better spread of visitation across all four theme parks and will give guests better flexibility.

When it was running prior to its suspension following the COVID-19 shutdown, Extra Magic Hours offered 3 hours of extended operating hours in the evening, and an hour in the morning. However, the option was restricted to a specific theme park on a specific day.

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

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.

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 World Committed to Open on July 11th…Releases Commitment to Health and Safety Measures

Today in the Disney Parks Blog Walt Disney World stated that they are committed to opening the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom on July 11th and then Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15th.

This came in a personal address by Dr. Pamela Hymel, the Chief Medical Officer for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products where she lays out Disney’s commitment to the health and safety of both guests and cast members for the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort.

In the announcement Dr. Hymel states –

As we continue the phased reopenings of our parks and resorts across the world, promoting health and safety for our guests, cast members, and the larger community is a responsibility we take very seriously.

On Saturday, we will continue the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort, marking the first of our domestic theme parks to welcome guests back to the magic. While we await California guidelines for reopening Disneyland Resort, and will adjust as necessary, we wanted to share more information on our approach to health and safety in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World theme parks. 

We remain deeply committed to focusing on your well-being when you visit or work at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly. We implemented our health and safety measures after considering the guidance of government and local health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the U.S. Travel Association and Disney’s team of health experts.

Together, we are a Disney family, and while COVID-19, and the risk of contracting it, is present in public places, there are many important ways that we can all help promote each other’s safety.  As we implement our guidelines at our parks and resorts, we want to thank our guests and cast members for all they do to care for one another by doing their part.

1.  Health & Wellness

At Disney, our approach emphasizes a combination of measures to help reduce risk in the carefully managed environment of our parks and resorts. 

  • Limited and carefully managed attendance: All guests will be required to make advanced ticket purchases and reservations.
  • Reduced capacity and physical distancing: We’re reducing capacity by letting fewer people enter our parks and are adjusting experiences to allow for physical distancing, a key measure reinforced by the CDC. This includes physical distancing in dining experiences, attractions, queues and other locations. Additionally, physical barriers have been installed in areas where physical distancing may be difficult to maintain, like cash registers.
  • Temperature checks: Quick temperature checks are required for all guests at entry to our theme parks.
  • Face coverings: We will be requiring both cast members and guests ages two and older to wear a face covering – unless swimming or when eating or drinking – and enforcing this policy across our parks and resorts.
  • Handwashing and hand sanitizer: We have increased the number of hand sanitizer locations and handwashing stations throughout our parks and resorts.
  • First Aid locations: Our first aid locations are staffed by experienced nursing staff and have updated their protocols for responding to symptoms of illness.

2. Cleaning & Disinfecting

We’ve updated our already high standards for cleanliness across our parks and resorts, with a special emphasis on areas such as attractions, queues, dining, lobbies, transportation and other common spaces.

  • Increased cleaning & disinfecting: We’re increasing the frequency of cleaning, especially for frequently-touched surfaces and high-traffic areas. Following park close, each park will receive an enhanced cleaning before guests arrive the next day.
  • New procedures for resort stays: In addition to increasing cleaning in areas such as elevators and escalators, handrails, tables, handles, and restrooms, we’ve updated our procedures for guest rooms at our owned-and-operated Walt Disney World hotels. Before arrival, every room will be given an enhanced cleaning and a light cleaning service (including removal of trash and replenishment of towels and amenities) will be offered every other day during the stay.

3. Technology Solutions

We are tapping into Disney innovation to help promote health and safety for our guests and cast members.

  • Disney apps: With the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps our guests already know and love, guests can view hand sanitizer locations, explore digital menus, and more.
  • Limited-contact options: From Mobile Order and cashless payments, to Walt Disney World’s MagicBands and online check-in at select locations, we’re offering technology solutions that can make it easier for our guests to minimize contact and maintain physical distancing.

4. Cast Member Training & Workplace Safety

Safety starts with our cast, and we’ve adopted a number of new policies and practices for cast members at work. 

  • Training: Cast members are receiving additional training on both new measures and the continued importance of personal health and hygiene, such as handwashing and of course, staying home when ill. For some, this includes training on how to help everyone who visits to follow new health and safety measures, including wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing. 
  • Workplace health and safety: We’ve increased the frequency of cleaning in work areas, adjusted our work practices to promote physical distancing, and introduced new protocols for temperature checks and face coverings. 
  • Health screenings: Cast members will self-screen for temperature and symptoms of illness before each shift and will stay home if they are not feeling well.

5. Working Together

Because each of us shares a responsibility for the health of our community, we’re making resources available to make guests aware of our new policies, so they too can do their part.

  • Guest communication: We’re proactively sharing information with guests about what to expect ahead of their visit to support their planning. In our parks and resorts, we have added signage about personal health and hygiene measures, physical distancing, and more. 
  • Following our guidelines: A special group of cast members will also be present in the parks to explain our new procedures, answer questions guests may have, and encourage everyone to follow these measures to promote the well-being of us all.
  • “Together We Can Make Today Incredible” campaign: In June, we introduced “Together We Can Make Today Incredible,” a health and safety campaign that spotlights healthy behaviors featuring fan-favorite characters from the Incredibles animated movies. The campaign emphasizes that everyone has an important role to play in health and safety while engaging guests in a uniquely Disney way.

We’re looking forward to upholding this plan each day, and to the return of our guests and cast members to our parks and resorts. 

The Disney Parks Blog also included a short video summarizing Disney’s commitment.

Commitment and announcements like this is what makes Disney special and why I love this company and the parks.  I hope this sets your mind at ease if you have a trip planned in the near future.  We have a trip planned for early September and it does a lot for my family.