Universal Puts Disney's Reopening on Defensive

WDW Pro

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
First of all, thank you to my sources for all your info! This will be a longer read, but should give you a good view of behind-the-scene actions:

Today I'd like to update you on Disney's plans for reopening Walt Disney World. Universal's June opening date has actually caught Disney off guard, as it is much more aggressive than previously thought. As recently as two weeks ago, the plan for Walt Disney World had been to reopen August 31st with the prior three weeks of August used to retrain cast. Part of the issue for Walt Disney World is that the federal government is currently paying cast members receiving unemployment a sum equal to $600 per each week they are out... and Disney simply can't match those amounts if they bring back cast. The federal government will (presumably) cease those payments after July. Furthermore, Disney has identified that requiring children to wear masks in summer Florida heat could result in extremely unhealthy situations and PR issues. As an example, let's say you require a child to wear a mask who also happens to have asthma. The heat being near 100 degrees, the parents allow the child to remove the mask as they're dehydrated and having breathing issues... other guests see this and likewise want to remove their masks in the sweltering sun. Now you've either got to enforce the rule on the asthmatic child suffering in the heat, or you have to allow all the other guests to likewise remove their masks. To this effect, Disney has actually even considered using old "smoking areas" as areas where you're allowed to temporarily remove your mask for relief. There are other issues with reopening in early to mid summer, including issues surrounding the Fourth of July. There are issues surrounding guests coming from American hot spots (New York, New Jersey, etc). It's much easier to say "no" to a Florida citizen guest entering Disney Springs on a relatively cool day due to a high temperature versus saying "no" to an entire family from South Dakota who counter that their child's temperature is too high only because its 101 degrees at 2 o'clock as they try to come back from their hotel.

Whereas Universal has now dropped the hammer by having their plan accepted and approved by Governor DeSantis, Disney has yet to submit their plan to the governor. That will likely now have to change as Disney simply won't allow Universal to corner the theme park market in Orlando for an entire summer. Simultaneously, Disney had previously taken a very cautious approach to reopening at a later date, utilizing an intra-company protocol known as Secure Circuit. This protocol would see Magic Kingdom and MK resorts opening first with health screenings at every security screening. However, with Universal planning to reopen everything essentially - including even their water park - Disney is really put in a difficult position. Not only are they now pushed to open earlier than expected, but they also are pushed to reopen more than they had originally planned right off the line. This has created a scramble from within the company to determine how they could reopen more safely and how they could staff such a measure so early. Further complicating these issues is that Disney had planned to use Shanghai data to assist in developing a plan for reopening WDW, but DeSantis' administration is opposed to using any Shanghai information as evidence of success/failure because they feel information coming out of China is completely unreliable (for all we know, the CCP may even be selecting who signs up for the theme park as a global PR stunt).

So where does that put Disney at this point? Well, the test run at Disney Springs has went okay, but not great. Although D'Amaro has moved up in ranks, for all intents and purposes he is still acting as the lead for WDW Resort since the company's main focus is now on getting it up and running in some capacity. And since he was on the ground at Disney Springs, he's well aware that many guests simply ignored the mask mandates once inside Disney Springs. He's also aware that many used the exceptions for guests eating or drinking to avoid wearing the mask. And finally, he's aware that there were some bizarre YouTube style moments where guests even attempted their own barbecue setup outside of a restaurant. And outside of making your own barbecue area, it's hard to blame guests if they find ways to socially distance and take off their mask using a beverage as cover to do so. You can imagine that when sweat is pouring down your body in Fantasyland, you might be inclined to use that large iced latte as a means by which to take off the bloody mask for five minutes as its now drenched in sweat and gross. If half the park is doing that, you've got a problem. And even with a proposed 15,000 maximum capacity at Magic Kingdom at reopen, that's still an unavoidable issue.

Other random things to note:
  • The Star Wars hotel did not have "designers" inside the building planning where lights and speakers go during the governor's stay-at-home orders, despite rumors to the contrary.
  • Universal has upended everything Disney was planning for reopening as of now, and will almost certainly reopen significantly before WDW. Disney will now have to race to re-plan and reschedule, as will other local theme parks.
  • Disneyland is still no where close to reopening. I would not expect to see it reopen this year. If it does, it would likely be no earlier than November.
  • Disney had no plans to reopen Typhoon Lagoon and/or Blizzard Beach this summer. With Universal going the opposite direction, Disney may try to reopen one park, and I'm told it would have to be Typhoon Lagoon (not sure why though). Universal is using its own data about pool chemicals to reopen, but Disney is very reluctant due to the need for guests to take cover during serious (and often) thunderstorms. In these times, guests MUST take cover inside in close proximity, and there's no plan for how to resolve that.
  • At bare minimum, from the time the go-ahead is given, its a two week process to get just the Magic Kingdom and MK resorts up and running with limited capacity, operations, and menu items. DeSantis has yet to even approve a plan from Disney, so don't expect the reservation cancellations to stop this week.
  • Ops has said it's just not feasible to wipe down every vehicle between use for most attractions. In the alternative, there may be "wipe stations" for guests to grab a wipe prior to entering the vehicle, or there may simply be a sanitation station for guests after exiting the vehicle.
  • There's a weird issue about masks and high speed attractions that's being discussed. Apparently a non-disclosed incident occurred in Shanghai in which a guest on a fast attraction had their mask come out of normal position and the guest couldn't resolve the problem due to ride restraints. Disney is looking at how to avoid such a problem with a child on a ride such as Rock'n Roller Coaster. I'm told no solid solution has been determined just yet. It's an unlikely situation, but you would just need one time of a mask becoming a health issue mid-ride for it to be worthwhile to avoid.
  • The cost and availability of fireworks have both went in poor directions for Walt Disney World. Even if fireworks can be planned to return in some capacity, it is much more difficult to acquire shells, as well as more costly. Supply chains for fireworks have been greatly disrupted.
 

Touchdown

Well-Known Member
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I still think it’s way too early to open in June, glad WDW won’t be. Your firework info has me confused though, presumably that industry should have been stockpiling for one of the biggest holidays of the year (4th) and companies would be tripping over each other for business from Disney given how most places have canceled their 4th events. While it might be hard to procure the custom Disney shaped ones (and DLs air launched ones) you think they could get enough generic ones to make it through the late summer.
 

Magic Feather

Premium Member
On today's edition of what does and doesn't match what I've heard

Does Match
  • MK Opening First with its resorts (I think we've all known that for a while)
  • Disney was caught off guard by June 1st for UOR (I think we all were)
  • Everything about Disney Springs's opening being not perfect
  • High Acceleration Attraction Issue (Although, I believe that it was deemed a fluke accident)
  • Fireworks Issues (Which shouldn't be a problem due to the lack of plans to brig them back
Doesn't Match
  • Original Opening date as August 31 (I was most recently told the gear up would begin in the last week of June with a public opening in the week following the 4th of July)
  • "Mask Relief Areas," at least the way described by @WDW Pro were not on the table. Any potential relief area would use a much bigger space, with a couple of other quirks

At the end of the day, both Disney and SeaWorld were thrown for a loop by UOR opening on June 1. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that three levels of clearance would approve this, especially when their proposal had some glaring omissions. I doubt we see anyone in a WDW park before the halway point of June (if rushed), but more likely July.
 

DDLand

Well-Known Member
First of all, thank you to my sources for all your info! This will be a longer read, but should give you a good view of behind-the-scene actions:

Today I'd like to update you on Disney's plans for reopening Walt Disney World. Universal's June opening date has actually caught Disney off guard, as it is much more aggressive than previously thought. As recently as two weeks ago, the plan for Walt Disney World had been to reopen August 31st with the prior three weeks of August used to retrain cast. Part of the issue for Walt Disney World is that the federal government is currently paying cast members receiving unemployment a sum equal to $600 per each week they are out... and Disney simply can't match those amounts if they bring back cast. The federal government will (presumably) cease those payments after July. Furthermore, Disney has identified that requiring children to wear masks in summer Florida heat could result in extremely unhealthy situations and PR issues. As an example, let's say you require a child to wear a mask who also happens to have asthma. The heat being near 100 degrees, the parents allow the child to remove the mask as they're dehydrated and having breathing issues... other guests see this and likewise want to remove their masks in the sweltering sun. Now you've either got to enforce the rule on the asthmatic child suffering in the heat, or you have to allow all the other guests to likewise remove their masks. To this effect, Disney has actually even considered using old "smoking areas" as areas where you're allowed to temporarily remove your mask for relief. There are other issues with reopening in early to mid summer, including issues surrounding the Fourth of July. There are issues surrounding guests coming from American hot spots (New York, New Jersey, etc). It's much easier to say "no" to a Florida citizen guest entering Disney Springs on a relatively cool day due to a high temperature versus saying "no" to an entire family from South Dakota who counter that their child's temperature is too high only because its 101 degrees at 2 o'clock as they try to come back from their hotel.

Whereas Universal has now dropped the hammer by having their plan accepted and approved by Governor DeSantis, Disney has yet to submit their plan to the governor. That will likely now have to change as Disney simply won't allow Universal to corner the theme park market in Orlando for an entire summer. Simultaneously, Disney had previously taken a very cautious approach to reopening at a later date, utilizing an intra-company protocol known as Secure Circuit. This protocol would see Magic Kingdom and MK resorts opening first with health screenings at every security screening. However, with Universal planning to reopen everything essentially - including even their water park - Disney is really put in a difficult position. Not only are they now pushed to open earlier than expected, but they also are pushed to reopen more than they had originally planned right off the line. This has created a scramble from within the company to determine how they could reopen more safely and how they could staff such a measure so early. Further complicating these issues is that Disney had planned to use Shanghai data to assist in developing a plan for reopening WDW, but DeSantis' administration is opposed to using any Shanghai information as evidence of success/failure because they feel information coming out of China is completely unreliable (for all we know, the CCP may even be selecting who signs up for the theme park as a global PR stunt).

So where does that put Disney at this point? Well, the test run at Disney Springs has went okay, but not great. Although D'Amaro has moved up in ranks, for all intents and purposes he is still acting as the lead for WDW Resort since the company's main focus is now on getting it up and running in some capacity. And since he was on the ground at Disney Springs, he's well aware that many guests simply ignored the mask mandates once inside Disney Springs. He's also aware that many used the exceptions for guests eating or drinking to avoid wearing the mask. And finally, he's aware that there were some bizarre YouTube style moments where guests even attempted their own barbecue setup outside of a restaurant. And outside of making your own barbecue area, it's hard to blame guests if they find ways to socially distance and take off their mask using a beverage as cover to do so. You can imagine that when sweat is pouring down your body in Fantasyland, you might be inclined to use that large iced latte as a means by which to take off the bloody mask for five minutes as its now drenched in sweat and gross. If half the park is doing that, you've got a problem. And even with a proposed 15,000 maximum capacity at Magic Kingdom at reopen, that's still an unavoidable issue.

Other random things to note:
  • The Star Wars hotel did not have "designers" inside the building planning where lights and speakers go during the governor's stay-at-home orders, despite rumors to the contrary.
  • Universal has upended everything Disney was planning for reopening as of now, and will almost certainly reopen significantly before WDW. Disney will now have to race to re-plan and reschedule, as will other local theme parks.
  • Disneyland is still no where close to reopening. I would not expect to see it reopen this year. If it does, it would likely be no earlier than November.
  • Disney had no plans to reopen Typhoon Lagoon and/or Blizzard Beach this summer. With Universal going the opposite direction, Disney may try to reopen one park, and I'm told it would have to be Typhoon Lagoon (not sure why though). Universal is using its own data about pool chemicals to reopen, but Disney is very reluctant due to the need for guests to take cover during serious (and often) thunderstorms. In these times, guests MUST take cover inside in close proximity, and there's no plan for how to resolve that.
  • At bare minimum, from the time the go-ahead is given, its a two week process to get just the Magic Kingdom and MK resorts up and running with limited capacity, operations, and menu items. DeSantis has yet to even approve a plan from Disney, so don't expect the reservation cancellations to stop this week.
  • Ops has said it's just not feasible to wipe down every vehicle between use for most attractions. In the alternative, there may be "wipe stations" for guests to grab a wipe prior to entering the vehicle, or there may simply be a sanitation station for guests after exiting the vehicle.
  • There's a weird issue about masks and high speed attractions that's being discussed. Apparently a non-disclosed incident occurred in Shanghai in which a guest on a fast attraction had their mask come out of normal position and the guest couldn't resolve the problem due to ride restraints. Disney is looking at how to avoid such a problem with a child on a ride such as Rock'n Roller Coaster. I'm told no solid solution has been determined just yet. It's an unlikely situation, but you would just need one time of a mask becoming a health issue mid-ride for it to be worthwhile to avoid.
  • The cost and availability of fireworks have both went in poor directions for Walt Disney World. Even if fireworks can be planned to return in some capacity, it is much more difficult to acquire shells, as well as more costly. Supply chains for fireworks have been greatly disrupted.
This sounds totally believable. The major question from all of this, is what about Universal? There seem to be some unsolvable problems with reopening at this time. Is Universal just totally cavalier? The issues you mentioned are not minor. I’m as happy about reopening as anyone, but I just don’t see how it works. I also don’t see how these companies make money.

If DeSantis, Disney, and Universal decide to just swing the doors open, that’s their choice. But that’s a gamble risk-averse Disney would never normally choose. I also still expect Epcot to remain closed. Are they thinking this is going to be a normal summer? This would be a radical departure...
 

disney4life2008

Well-Known Member
Great report! I think Disney should stay closed through September 1st. Who cares if Universal corners the market. A bulk of universal visitors are Florida residents. Actually I'm fine with Disney staying closed through January 1, 2021. OK I'm being selfish, I will be at my first goal weight and don't have to pay my annual pass.

But why is Disneyland closed indefinitely? I don't follow California enough to care.
 

disney4life2008

Well-Known Member
On today's edition of what does and doesn't match what I've heard

Does Match
  • MK Opening First with its resorts (I think we've all known that for a while)
  • Disney was caught off guard by June 1st for UOR (I think we all were)
  • Everything about Disney Springs's opening being not perfect
  • High Acceleration Attraction Issue (Although, I believe that it was deemed a fluke accident)
  • Fireworks Issues (Which shouldn't be a problem due to the lack of plans to brig them back
Doesn't Match
  • Original Opening date as August 31 (I was most recently told the gear up would begin in the last week of June with a public opening in the week following the 4th of July)
  • "Mask Relief Areas," at least the way described by @WDW Pro were not on the table. Any potential relief area would use a much bigger space, with a couple of other quirks

At the end of the day, both Disney and SeaWorld were thrown for a loop by UOR opening on June 1. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that three levels of clearance would approve this, especially when their proposal had some glaring omissions. I doubt we see anyone in a WDW park before the halway point of June (if rushed), but more likely July.

I just realized June 1st in less than 2 weeks away.
 

DisneyOutsider

Well-Known Member
On today's edition of what does and doesn't match what I've heard

Does Match
  • MK Opening First with its resorts (I think we've all known that for a while)
  • Disney was caught off guard by June 1st for UOR (I think we all were)
  • Everything about Disney Springs's opening being not perfect
  • High Acceleration Attraction Issue (Although, I believe that it was deemed a fluke accident)
  • Fireworks Issues (Which shouldn't be a problem due to the lack of plans to brig them back
Doesn't Match
  • Original Opening date as August 31 (I was most recently told the gear up would begin in the last week of June with a public opening in the week following the 4th of July)
  • "Mask Relief Areas," at least the way described by @WDW Pro were not on the table. Any potential relief area would use a much bigger space, with a couple of other quirks

At the end of the day, both Disney and SeaWorld were thrown for a loop by UOR opening on June 1. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that three levels of clearance would approve this, especially when their proposal had some glaring omissions. I doubt we see anyone in a WDW park before the halway point of June (if rushed), but more likely July.
Thanks for the info
 

WondersOfLife

Blink, blink. Breathe, breathe. Day in, day out.
And the mask issue. You know I wasn't even thinking about rides. I don't feel comfortable wearing a mask on a roller coaster.
1.jpg
 

figmentfan423

Well-Known Member
I still think it’s way too early to open in June, glad WDW won’t be. Your firework info has me confused though, presumably that industry should have been stockpiling for one of the biggest holidays of the year (4th) and companies would be tripping over each other for business from Disney given how most places have canceled their 4th events. While it might be hard to procure the custom Disney shaped ones (and DLs air launched ones) you think they could get enough generic ones to make it through the late summer.
Fireworks have a shelf life and must be stored in a facility with severe restrictions placed on them. Canned goods keeps for a long period of time fireworks not so much.
 

Getachew

Well-Known Member
On today's edition of what does and doesn't match what I've heard

Does Match
  • MK Opening First with its resorts (I think we've all known that for a while)
  • Disney was caught off guard by June 1st for UOR (I think we all were)
  • Everything about Disney Springs's opening being not perfect
  • High Acceleration Attraction Issue (Although, I believe that it was deemed a fluke accident)
  • Fireworks Issues (Which shouldn't be a problem due to the lack of plans to brig them back
Doesn't Match
  • Original Opening date as August 31 (I was most recently told the gear up would begin in the last week of June with a public opening in the week following the 4th of July)
  • "Mask Relief Areas," at least the way described by @WDW Pro were not on the table. Any potential relief area would use a much bigger space, with a couple of other quirks

At the end of the day, both Disney and SeaWorld were thrown for a loop by UOR opening on June 1. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed that three levels of clearance would approve this, especially when their proposal had some glaring omissions. I doubt we see anyone in a WDW park before the halway point of June (if rushed), but more likely July.

the poster Marni has kind of always hinted at a WDW July opening.
 

celluloid

Well-Known Member
Just to clarify for those who may think of the surprise as literal, nothing in this choice took Disney by surprise. It was a business choice based on where they were placed with their over head company after furloughing so many and having to deal with larger properties. Not a great look in my opinion, but they made the choice and make no mistake, it was not like Comcast's Parks or Sea World and Resorts sprung this on Disney.
 
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