Would you return to Disneyland if you couldn’t go on Rise of the Resistance, Space Mountain, Fantasyland dark rides and other indoor attractions?
Per the OC Register, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure could reopen in stages under California’s new COVID-19 four-tier plan that allows the state’s businesses to return with outdoor-only operations followed by reduced capacity for indoor services.
California theme parks closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remain shuttered indefinitely while they await state guidelines for safely reopening.
Theme parks were not included in the business sector guidance list released by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office that detailed a new four-tier system taking effect Monday, August 31st. The revised Blueprint for a Safer Economy lays out criteria for loosening and tightening COVID-19 restrictions in California counties.
Orange County, the home to Disneyland, was placed in the most restrictive Tier 1 — the widespread risk level. The other three risk levels — Tier 2 (substantial), Tier 3 (moderate) and Tier 4 (minimal) — bring with them increasingly reduced restrictions as COVID-19 conditions improve in each county. How long Orange County remains in each tier depends on how quickly COVID-19 conditions improve in the region.
Disneyland essentially amounts to a small city unto itself with a wide mix of businesses — including hotels, retail, restaurants, bars and theaters — which all have varying reopening restrictions. Another set of industry sectors — family entertainment centers, museums, public transportation and sporting venues — have attributes that could be applied to theme parks.
Wading through the guidelines and restrictions for the various business sectors can be daunting. But ultimately, each industry sector moves through five stages as it progresses through California’s new four-tier system:
- Closed for business,
- Outdoor operations only
- Indoor operations limited to 25% capacity
- Indoor operations capped at 50%
- Fully operational at 100% capacity.
Many of the business sectors that could reopen now in Tier 1 at Disneyland, namely retail and restaurants, are already operating in Downtown Disney, which reopened in July. Restaurants are restricted to outdoor dining in Tier 1 while indoor shopping is limited to 25% capacity. Hotels can operate at full capacity in Tier 1, however Disneyland has chosen not to reopen its Anaheim hotels. Bars, which must remain closed in Tiers 1 and 2, can reopen for outdoor operations in Tier 3 and indoor service at 50% capacity in Tier 4.
The two closest business sectors to theme parks in California’s new four-tier system are family entertainment centers and museums, each of which explicitly mention that their guidelines do not apply to theme parks.
Family entertainment centers typically include miniature golf, batting cages, laser tag, video arcades and a mix of small rides with an occasional roller coaster. Museums, aquariums and zoos are often grouped with amusement parks because of their themed environments.
Under California’s new four-tier system, museums, zoos and aquariums are permitted to have outdoor operations in Tier 1, indoor operations limited to 25% capacity in Tier 2 and 50% in Tier 3 followed by full operations in Tier 4. Family entertainment centers are one degree more restrictive, allowing outdoor operations in Tier 1 and 2 with indoor operations limited to 25% capacity in Tier 3 and 50% in Tier 4.
So, what does all this mean for Disneyland?
The Disneyland Railroad, Mark Twain Riverboat, Columbia Sailing Ship and possibly even the Disneyland Monorail could open immediately in Tier 1 under public transportation guidelines. Outdoor theater shows like “Mickey and the Magical Map” and “Storytelling at the Royal Theatre” could reopen in Tier 1 as well with social distancing protocols.
A few Disneyland attractions could reopen in Tier 2 under indoor theater guidance — including Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Main Street Cinema and Enchanted Tiki Room. Star Wars: Launch Bay could return in Tier 2 under museum guidelines.
Family entertainment center guidelines allow indoor playgrounds to reopen in Tier 4 — which could apply to Chip and Dale’s Treehouse, Goofy’s Playhouse and Donald’s Boat.
It’s hard to tell how theme park restrictions will be established in the four-tier system without guidance from the state. But if theme parks follow the state’s model, outdoor rides could open before indoor attractions.
Disneyland has a number of popular outdoor rides (for example, Big Thunder Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Jungle Cruise, Autopia and Mad Tea Party) that could reopen during an outdoor operations only tier.
Indoor attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Star Tours, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and the Fantasyland dark rides could reopen at 25% capacity in the next tier and 50% capacity after that.
Whether theme park restrictions are broken into outdoor and indoor attractions and where those guidelines fall in Orange County’s four-tier plan remains to be seen.
Disneyland fireworks, “Fantasmic” and the Magic Happens parade would likely not return until after Tier 4 based on the concerts and sporting events guidelines. Disney already indicated fireworks, parades and nighttime spectaculars — which all draw large crowds — would not be returning immediately when the park briefly announced reopening plans in June that were soon delayed.
Most of the character meet-and-greet areas would also remain closed indefinitely — replaced by socially-distanced encounters.