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 to Update Virtual Queue for Rise of the Resistance

Walt Disney World just announced on the Disney Parks Blog that they will be changing distribution times for the virtual queue at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Beginning July 24th the new distribution times will be 10 AM and 2 PM.  Currently the distribution times are 10 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM.

In the announcement Disney stated –

As you’ve also heard here on the Disney Parks Blog, new health-and-safety measures include limiting theme park attendance and implementing new measures to promote physical distancing. This includes requiring extra space between groups in queues and on attraction vehicles. With all of this in mind, we are not able to accommodate as many people on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as we could before we implemented physical distancing.

It has been reported that the distribution times have been allocated very quickly for each distribution time.

Because of this Disney re-iterated these guidelines:

  • First, make sure you have the My Disney Experience app. Once you enter the park, log in to your account at one of the distribution times (10 a.m. or 2 p.m.).
  • Once you have logged in, select “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue” on the home screen. You will be able to view the current status and next steps for joining the virtual queue.
  • The app will indicate when there is no availability for a specific distribution time. Some guests may join backup groups.
  • As long as your My Disney Experience account is linked to park tickets for you and the others in your group, you can enroll everyone in the virtual queue at the same time. In order to give as many guests as possible the opportunity to join the Resistance, each guest can enter the virtual queue no more than once per day.
  • Make sure push notifications are turned on for My Disney Experience so you will be alerted if your group is called to return. You’ll have up to an hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Guests who are enrolled in the virtual queue will be able to see an estimated return time indicating when they may be called back to experience the attraction. This time may change throughout the day, so continue to check the app for updates. Also, the tip boards around the park will display the boarding groups that have been called back.
  • Please note that joining the virtual queue does not guarantee the ability to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

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.

 

Rise of the Resistance to Use Virtual Queue When Disney’s Hollywood Studios Re-Opens

Walt Disney World has announced that when Disney’s Hollywood Studios re-opens on July 15th that they will be using the virtual queue system that was introduced when the attraction originally opened.

In the Disney Parks Blog, Disney stated –

We wanted to share an update about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which will once again be using virtual queue in the My Disney Experience app.  

Walt Disney World also stated in the announcement that instead of it being what many called a lottery at park opening, there will be instead three distribution times (10 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM).

Because of this, there is no need to arrive early to the park to check the virtual queue, according to Disney.

In the announcement Walt Disney World offered these guidelines:

  • First, make sure you have the My Disney Experience app. Once you enter the park, log in to your account at one of the distribution times (10 a.m., 1 p.m. or 4 p.m.).
  • Once you have logged in, select “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue” on the home screen. You will be able to view the current status and next steps for joining the virtual queue.
  • The app will indicate when there is no availability for a specific distribution time. Some guests may join backup groups.
  • As long as your My Disney Experience account is linked to park tickets for you and the others in your group, you can enroll everyone in the virtual queue at the same time. In order to give as many guests as possible the opportunity to join the Resistance, each guest can enter the virtual queue no more than once per day.
  • Make sure push notifications are turned on for My Disney Experience so you will be alerted if your group is called to return. You’ll have up to an hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Please note that joining the virtual queue does not guarantee the ability to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

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.

Oga’s Cantina Removed from Opening List at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

When Walt Disney World released the list of dining locations that would be open when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens on July 15th, one location caught us by surprise….Oga’s Cantina.

I for one could not understand this location being open.  Oga’s Cantina has very low capacity and has a rather tight and confined interior space with no outdoor capability.

What might have been the death knell would be the new guidelines that are restricting the sale of alcohol at bars.

Walt Disney World Releases Full Listing of Theme Park Dining Locations

Walt Disney World has released the full list of dining locations that will be open when the theme parks open in a few weeks.

Magic Kingdom

When Magic Kingdom park reopens on July 11th, the following locations will be available for dining:

Aloha Isle
Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies
Be Our Guest Restaurant
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
Liberty Square Market
Liberty Tree Tavern
Main Street Bakery
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Pinocchio Village Haus
The Plaza Restaurant
Sleepy Hollow
Storybook Treats
Sunshine Tree Terrace
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

When Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park reopens on July 11th, the following locations will be available for dining:

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck
Creature Comforts
Dawa Bar
Dino-Bite Snacks
Flame Tree Barbecue
Harambe Fruit Market
Isle of Java
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
Mr. Kamal’s
Nomad Lounge
Pongu Pongu
Rainforest Cafe® at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Restaurantosaurus
Satu’li Canteen
Tamu Tamu Refreshments
Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks
Tiffins Restaurant
Trilo-Bites
Yak & Yeti™ Local Food Cafes
Yak & Yeti™ Restaurant

EPCOT

When EPCOT reopens on July 15th, the following locations will be available for dining:

Biergarten Restaurant
Choza de Margarita
Coral Reef Restaurant
Crepes des Chefs de France
Fife & Drum Tavern
Funnel Cake
Garden Grill Restaurant
Gelati
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
Joy of Tea
Kabuki Café
Katsura Grill
L’Artisan des Glaces
La Cantina de San Angel
La Cava de Tequila
La Hacienda de San Angel
The Land Cart
Le Cellier Steakhouse
Popcorn in Canada
Refreshment Outpost
Refreshment Port
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue
Rose & Crown Dining Room
Rose & Crown Pub
San Angel Inn Restaurante
Spice Road Table
Sunshine Seasons
Tangierine Café
Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival kiosks
Traveler’s Café
UK Beer Cart
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

When Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopens on July 15th, the following locations will be available for dining:

50’s Prime Time Café
Anaheim Produce
Backlot Express
BaseLine Tap House
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo
The Hollywood Brown Derby
The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
Milk Stand
Oga’s Cantina at the Walt Disney World Resort
Peevy’s Polar Pipeline
PizzeRizzo
Ronto Roasters
Rosie’s All-American Café
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
Sunshine Day Bar
The Trolley Car Café

Walt Disney World Will Not Use Virtual Queues or Single Rider Lines When Parks Re-Open

Despite rumors about virtual queues, according to sources, Disney has informed Cast Members that they will not be using them when the parks re-open on July 11th and July 15th.  This includes Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It appears that Disney is confident that it can control attendance at the park, which probably will mean manageable queues at the attractions.

While we have known that FastPass+ will not be available for some time, it appears that Single Rider lines will also no longer be available.

From everything that we’ve been told, Disney will be using every inch of its vast queue capacity to maintain social distancing.

So assuming you can secure a reservation into the park, the lack of queue complications should make for a very pleasant, no-planning experience.

Walt Disney World Provides Key Attraction and Entertainment Details for Phased Re-Opening

In the Disney Parks Blog earlier today, Walt Disney World provided key information regarding its attractions and entertainment during the phased re-opening of its theme parks.

Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will open on July 1th and Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open on July 15th.

In the blog post, Disney states that most attractions will be available at each park.  While Disney does not provide an exhaustive list, they do provide the names of key attractions in each park that will be open.

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Expedition Everest
  • Flight of Passage

Epcot

  • Soarin’
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Test Track

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

As I’ve mentioned, this is not an exhaustive or extensive list.  Based on the wording of the blog post, many if not all of each parks could be open.  I believe that nearly all of the attractions of each park will be open and Disney only managed to mention the major attractions in order to alleviate fears of attending guests that these attractions might not be open.

It is also important to note that the refurbishment of Spaceship Earth has been postponed, or as Disney states “paused” during this phased re-opening.

If you’re worried about seeing characters, Disney addressed this….

Just as you may have seen recently at Disney Springs, our characters will appear in new and different ways that bring a smile to your face while also being mindful of physical distancing. From special cavalcades down the Magic Kingdom Park parade route and friends sailing the waterways of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, to processions along the World Showcase promenade at EPCOT and motorcades on Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Boulevard, each area will come to life throughout the day. You never know when a party of your pals may come by, so be prepared for plenty of surprises!

For example, after rocketing through space in Tomorrowland you might see that famous Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear; or discover a captive Captain Jack Sparrow as you traverse the Castillo del Morro on your way to Pirates of the Caribbean. You could cross paths with Queen Anna and Elsa as they venture “into the unknown” on a journey around World Showcase at EPCOT or spy members of the Resistance hiding out from the First Order throughout Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu.

Disney added that guests will also be returning several musical groups to the parks.  When we return home to the theme parks we can look forward to seeing Main Street Philharmonic at Magic Kingdom Park, plus the Mariachi Cobre and everyone’s favorite funky drumming crew the JAMMitors at EPCOT, plus many more.

While we won’t be seeing parades, in the traditional sense, and there won’t be any character Meet and Greets, it is good to see that we will still will be able to see the characters that make trips to Walt Disney World special each time.  I’m also glad to see some live entertainment returning, even if it is at a distance.