After months of waiting since the “happiest place on Earth” closed its doors three months ago in response to the global pandemic, it seems Disneyland fans will still have a bit more pacing to do while they wait for their chance to get back into action at Disney’s California parks.
As of yesterday (June 24), Disney has officially announced that Disneyland Resort in Southern California will not reopen on July 17, despite an announcement that it would do so earlier this month. The delay, according to Disney officials, comes because the state of California will have no official reopening protocols until after the July Fourth holiday.
"Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and to restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme park and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,'' Disney Parks said in a statement released on Twitter.
Thus far, no reopening date has been offered, only that Disney will share that information once they have a "clearer understanding'' of when guidelines will be available to them.
The move comes as controversy around the opening has begun to swirl. In mid-June, the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions petitioned California Governor Gavin Newsom to forestall the parks reopening on the grounds that it was still too early to do so safely.
"Disney wants clearance from the government to reopen the Disneyland Resort in July,'' noted a letter of complaint delivered to the governor. "Unfortunately, despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced that it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney's rapid timetable.''
While some safety concerns have been addressed around areas like temperature checking for employees, the park has been slower to offer responses on whether they will offer the COVID-19 testing that the labor union has requested.
For his part, California’s governor did not publicly respond to the labor unions’ complaint from the letter, but instead released a statement praising the efforts Disney has made thus far in putting together a safe reopening plan.
"The governor appreciates Disney’s responsiveness to his concerns about reopening amid the recent increases in COVID-19 infections across many Southern California counties,'' Newsom said. "The state and our public health experts continue to be in contact with the company and their workers — as well as other theme parks in the state — as we track and combat the spread of the virus.''
Disney, however, has directly addressed the union’s concerns in a public statement, noting that it needs to “negotiate agreements with our unions to return employees to work.”
"We have had positive discussions and are very pleased we have signed agreements from 20 union affiliates,” Disney noted.
Though the parks themselves will remain closed, the Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment district is still set to reopen on July 9 under the state's restaurant and retail reopening guidelines, the company said.
And what does the delay at Disneyland mean for the rest of the Disney parks? Disneyland Paris is still on track for its July 11 reopening, as is Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort. Disneyland Shanghai has already reopened under new pandemic protection procedures, and Japan’s two Disney resorts are set to reopen on July 1.
But will the planned reopening actually happen at Disney's other U.S. park? That remains to be seen. As of Wednesday (June 24), over 7,000 people had signed a petition to postpone the scheduled resumption of operations on July 11 as the number of COVID-19 cases has been steadily rising in Florida, Reuters reported.
And the petition was notably created by a cast member (Disney’s official name for its park employees) who has worked as an attractions hostess for three years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
“This virus is not gone – unfortunately, it’s only become worse in this state,” said the petition, which was addressed to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “Having our theme parks remain closed until cases are steadily decreasing would keep our guests, our employees and their families safe.”
Apart from the petition text, Belisle has offered no additional public comments.
Disney, however, has – via a spokesperson.
“The safety and well-being of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning,” a Disney spokeswoman said in a statement to the news service. “We are in active dialogue with our unions on the extensive health and safety protocols, following guidance from public health experts, which we plan to implement as we move toward our proposed, phased reopening.”
But, given early blogger reports that Disney has already started to open its doors to tourists in Florida at its Disney Springs Resorts, consumers are beginning to trickle back in to bask in a bit of the Disney magic. It seems if consumers are interested, cast members’ concerns will likely do little to effect an extension of the closure that has already cost the company billions. Disney World, it seems, is opening in mid-July, no matter what happens.
But what will happen at Disneyland remains more of a mystery, and one that will be determined by California’s leadership. Because no matter how hard Disney wishes upon a star, it makes no difference who they are – no matter how much its heart desires a reopening, guidelines still need to come first.