Yesterday Disney announced that it’ll reopen Shanghai Disneyland on May 11. The first of the company’s 12 theme parks to close due to the coronavirus, it will also be the first to reopen, albeit with a variety of new precautions and policies to hopefully stem the risk of infection. No other Disney parks are currently scheduled to reopen at the moment, but when they do we can probably expect them to follow some of the same procedures as Shanghai.
Here’s what they entail. Capacity will be limited to 30% a day, which roughly comes out to 24,000 visitors. Disney CEO Bob Chapek says attendance will be even more limited to start, before gradually building up to 30% over a period of weeks. That won’t automatically ensure that visitors stay distant, but it will help prevent the massive crowds that typically congregate in Disney parks.
To get in the park, tickets will have to be bought in advance and for specific dates. Annual passholders won’t be able to just show up—they, too, will need to schedule reservations for specific days in advance.
Disney will also follow local medical guidelines for all guests. For Shanghai, that means all guests will have to wear masks, as will cast members (the term Disney uses for its employees). China also uses a QR code app to track movements and contacts in an attempt to prevent spread of the disease; that app will remain in force within Disneyland.
Sanitation measures will also be ramped up, with hand sanitizers located near stores, rides and restaurants, and regular, frequent disinfection of surfaces throughout the park.
Other precautions include either marking off queues for rides to maintain the proper social distance, or using apps to replace physical lines with a virtual queue system. Disney has had some success with virtual queues with its Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction, although even that elaborately planned and well-implemented process still results in a physical line near the end of the ride’s queue.
Most of the park’s attractions and rides would reopen, along with shops and restaurants. Theaters would remain closed, though, so no indoors shows. Character meet and greets would also be suspended, and events like parades and fireworks—which pretty much require large, stationary groups of onlookers to crowd all up on top of each other—will also not be running.
Disney’s other parks aren’t likely to open until the summer, although with Florida’s accelerated return to regular operations Disney World could be relatively close to reopening. Whenever that happens, it’s likely we’ll see many of the same steps that’ll be taken in Shanghai starting next week. No matter when Disney’s other parks open, they’ll definitely feel different than the last time they welcomed guests.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.