Disney Parks and Resorts Update for May 25th
Disney Springs has returned, Shanghai Disneyland is running smoothly, and we’re possibly days away from terrific news about Walt Disney World theme parks.
For the first time in a couple of months, the DVC Parks and Resorts update is universally positive.
News from Orlando
Orange County, Florida, has become the focal point of the entire tourism industry. The whole world is looking to Walt Disney World in hopes of good news.
The power couple of Orlando is the Orange County Mayor, Jerry Demings, and his wife, United States Representative, Val Demings. The mayor has come across as transparent and reasonable during the coronavirus pandemic. And he recently thrilled Disney fans with his announcement that theme parks could/should submit their reopening plans.
Universal Orlando Resort quickly revealed its proposal, which the mayor accepted. Presuming that Governor Ron DeSantis approves—and he will—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will start hosting trials on June 1, with some annual passholders getting to visit the parks on June 3.
By June 5, all Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando will reopen to the public. They won’t even require advanced reservations. So, we’re only days away from the return of a major park in Central Florida.
Meanwhile, Disney didn’t rush to reveal its plans. The company has taken a more systematic approach in stark contrast to LEGOLAND Florida. That park said it would return on June 1 without receiving governmental approval.
Somehow, Bob Iger and Bob Chapek have done something remarkable. They have developed strong ties to the Demings, who are Democrats, and DeSantis, a Republican. Disney has flatly refused to let politics drive its decision to reopen.
Instead, park officials have behaved appropriately in testing COVID-19 safety measures at Shanghai Disneyland and Disney Springs. Now, they’re ready to present their reopening plans to Demings this week. Presuming that he signs off on the platform—and he will—the governor will authorize Walt Disney World’s reopening.
At that point, Disney Vacation Club members can stop holding their breath and celebrate a bit of good news.
The Reopening of Disney Springs
Several terrific things happened this week for DVC members. Most of us own points at Walt Disney World, and so we’ve spent plenty of time at Disney Springs.
Disney chose its entertainment complex to become the first reopened facility at the Orlando campus. Guests have spent the past several days relishing the opportunity to visit a place they’ve sorely missed.
As was the case at Shanghai Disneyland, Disney Springs has opened in phases. Some stores returned on May 20, and a few others joined them on May 22. May 27 represents the next important date, as some Disney stores like the Marketplace Co-Op and World of Disney will return.
By the end of the month, most Disney Springs businesses will have reopened. The current total is already roughly one-third. And the early results have been quite positive.
Guests are wearing their masks and honoring social distancing policies in place. As long as everyone continues to hold up their end of the bargain, the company’s executives will have more reason to reopen the parks soon.
At the time of publication, Disney hasn’t revealed the date of their presentation, but it will come this week. Since Universal (and LEGOLAND) both asked to come back in two weeks, it’s reasonable to expect a summer return date for Walt Disney World.
We’re all just waiting to hear when. Until then, everyone’s meeting at Disney Springs restaurants and relishing the part of the Disney Bubble that’s available.
Good News from Disneyland
As the week ended, fans of the Happiest Place on Earth received fantastic news…twice!
California Governor Gavin Newsom authorized Stage Two reopening procedures for Orange County. Some counties had previously earned this status, but it now applies to Disneyland’s location, too.
As such, the parks at Disneyland Resort are closer than ever to returning. Disney officials at Disneyland released a statement indicating that they haven’t settled on a return date yet.
Still, this change introduces the possibility of Downtown Disney reopening soon, just as has happened with Disney Springs. Afterward, Stage 3 is when most observers believe that Disneyland can and will return.
Newsom made the following comment about the Stage 3 timeline:
“This is not months and months of a permanent state. This is weeks and weeks. Every week we’ll be making changes to that stay-at-home order.”
I’ll defer to you on reading into that what you will, but I take it to mean that the return of Disneyland is on the horizon. Speaking of which…
The DVC Disneyland Hotel
Disney scared many of its fans during the second quarter earnings report. The company’s CFO, Christine McCarthy, revealed that Disney strategists had cut $900 million in park-related capital expenditures from the budget.
In other words, some proposed park upgrades would get a shave. We still haven’t learned which attractions are in trouble, but DVC members received some fantastic news.
The DVC expansion at Disneyland Hotel is still a go! During a town hall meeting, Disney presented some of its plans to residents in the Walnut Street neighborhood. These people are the ones most impacted by the project, and park officials wanted to alleviate any potential concerns.
DVC executives posted blueprints and mock-ups of the 350-room tower resort. One of the people working on the project did state the following:
“As with all projects, this proposed plan will go through a series of reviews as part of the project approval process with the city of Anaheim.”
That sent a chill down the spine of those of us who remember the previous Downtown Disney project that collapsed in 2018. However, park officials have a much better relationship with the current Anaheim City Council board than the previous one.
Here’s the applicable tweet with two pictures of the proposed plans:
Follow-up tweets indicate that the “DVC complex will consist of one main 12-story tower with a separate, ground-level pool area directly behind it.”
Also, the design will have some unique aspects to reduce the residents in the nearby neighborhood. A later tweet adds:
“The part of the tower that extends toward Walnut Street behind the #DisneylandHotel complex will be built with a stair-step effect, to be less visually imposing on the neighborhood behind it. At its lowest point, it will be just five stories tall.”
As a final tantalizing tidbit, one official indicated that the DVC property will feature a Mickey Mouse-shaped spa and pool area!
An Executive Shake-Up
One other bit of park news came out this week, although its company impact was much larger.
Bob Chapek selected his replacement as Chairman of Disney Parks, Products and Experiences. In a bit of a surprise, Josh D’Amaro received this massive promotion.
You may remember that D’Amaro only recently became President of Walt Disney World Resort. After only eight months on the job, two of them coming while the parks were closed, D’Amaro became THE guy for Disney theme parks around the world.
Of course, that left an opening as the boss at Walt Disney World. Jeff Vahle, a name that DVC members know well, received that promotion. Meanwhile, Vahle’s former underling and past GM at DVC, Ken Potrock, is now the President of Disneyland Resort.
That gig came available when Rebecca Campbell became Chairman of Director-to-Consumer & International at Disney. Like D’Amaro, she’d only been on the job as head of Disneyland for eight months.
However, Campbell’s promotion became necessary when Kevin Mayer, the leader of the Disney+ initiative, defected to ByteDance, where he will become COO as well as CEO of TikTok.
Mayer had been considered a potential replacement for Bob Iger. When Chapek won that job, Mayer weighed his options and took a new job.
With Chapek in charge, he selected two men he trusted to run Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Since both of them were directly involved with DVC management over the years, this turn of events seems like a positive for members. Two men who understand DVC inside and out are now calling the shots at Disney’s American theme parks.
Okay, that’s the news for the week. Isn’t it refreshing that everything sounded positive for a change? Realistically, 2020 can only get better from here.