This past Friday, California’s Disneyland finally reopened after a COVID-19 pandemic induced 412-day shutdown with guests waiting, for hours, eagerly to enjoy the theme park’s attractions.
“Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park reopened at 8 a.m. local time with the first guests cheering, clapping and waving as they came through the gates,” USA Today reports. “The Anaheim parks are only open to California residents at limited capacity for now.”
Some park-goers could be seen trying to hold back tears as they entered the park, and others used it as a sign of a moment of triumph. A couple, Kevin Pryor and his girlfriend Brittany Roth, recreated the famous picture of a sailor kissing the nurse at the end of World War II alluding to victory over COVID-19. However, despite the park’s grand reopening, protective protocols for COVID-19 were still in place all around the park including mask mandates and limited building capacity.
“Cast members monitored lines and enforced distancing rules. Concrete benches in front of King Arthur Carousel have signs to keep people distanced, allowing just one person to sit. Wait times on rides have varied from about 5 to 45 minutes, but the times change quickly as people move around,” stated USA Today. “Characters in Toontown came out randomly, standing at the doorways or front porches of their homes and waved. Guests are not currently able to go into the homes of Mickey, Minnie and other characters but stood on the curb outside the houses, waved and took photos from afar. Mickey came out of his house at 10:30 a.m. and waved to guests who quickly began to gather. A cast member verbally reminded all to ‘stay 6 feet away’ from each other. These are the pandemic-era character meetings under current COVID-19 safety guidelines.”
Guests all around the park were very enthusiastic about the grand reopening, regardless of the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols established.
Disney sat in the headlines as a Disney superfan’s op-ed went viral for criticizing the parks for seeking to adopt and mindset of “wokeness” instead of one that focussed on guest experience.
“The problem is is, I’m not traveling across the country and paying thousands of dollars to watch someone I do not know express themselves. I am there for the immersion and the fantasy, not the reality of a stranger’s self-expression,” stated the Orlando Sentinel’s Jonathan VanBoskerck. “I do not begrudge these people their individuality and I wish them well in their personal lives, but I do not get to express my individuality at my place of business.”
VanBoskerck wrote his article as a response to many of Disney’s decisions over the past decade to update its attractions and allowing its employees more flexibility to express themselves in their work attire.
“Our new approach provides greater flexibly with respect to form of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos,” stated Josh D’Amaro, Disney Park Chairman, of the new guidelines.