DVC Parks and Resorts Update for March 29, 2021
Is Disneyland getting a third park? I’ll answer this leading question in the latest DVC Parks & Resorts update, which will prove that nobody at Disney’s ready to rest on their laurels.
The Next Generation of Disneyland
When legendary Imagineer Joe Rohde retired, he made an interesting comment. The creative lead on Disney’s Animal Kingdom stated that most projects take many years to complete. He’d have had to commit another three years or more to Disney if he started another project.
At the time, reports centered on whether Disney forced Rohde out, but they may have missed the point. As a 40-year Imagineer, Rohde, of all people, understood the dedication needed to work on projects. And I thought of that this week when Disneyland sprung a surprise announcement on society.
During the park’s yearlong downtime, Disneyland executives haven’t just thought about the impending reopening. They’ve also contemplated what the Disneyland Resort campus will look like a decade from now.
Remembering the Disneyland Lessons the 90s
This concern circles back to failures during the late-1990s. Longtime Disney fans know that Disneyland Resort aspired to greater heights than it reached with Disney California Adventure. Financial struggles with Disneyland Paris and other ventures led to a budgeting shortfall.
More than 20 years ago, Disney solidified plans with Anaheim officials and filed paperwork for these projects that never came to fruition. Today, Disney still owns this land as part of its 490 acres in Anaheim.
However, Anaheim never came to terms with the company about modifying those plans. Now, Disney hopes to repair its fractured relationship with Anaheim’s City Council and agree on using that land.
Eighteen months ago, this thought might have seemed far-fetched. The pandemic caused Anaheim officials and Disney executives to appreciate how much they need one another, though. Their relationship appears repaired enough that such agreements seem possible now.
Welcome to DisneylandForward
Disney’s announcement centers on developing that unused acreage at Disneyland Resort. Presuming negotiations go well, this campus should add many new shops and restaurants by 2030. Disney brass also hinted that new rides are in the offing, too.
The company wasn’t willing to commit to specifics yet, which is understandable. They should remain flexible while negotiating with Anaheim. Still, Imagineers indicated that international Disney park developments could arrive here, too. Have you seen photographs of Zootopia’s plans at Shanghai Disneyland? Think along those lines, along with the new Tangled and Frozen sections at Tokyo DisneySea. A West Coast version of Toy Story Land remains a possibility, too.
Anaheim officials must agree to these plans before Disney can turn them into a reality. That’s because of the previous contracts and other governmental regulations. Imagineer Jeanette Lomboy stated, “Because of the current rigid district structure, we just need more flexibility.”
Thankfully, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has already spoken with Disney regarding the project. There are apparently enough broad strokes agreements in place that Disney feels comfortable announcing the project.
However, the one thing Disney wouldn’t reveal was the possibility of a third gate at Disneyland Resort. Now, that hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating, but I want to be clear. Nothing involving that subject is in any way confirmed.
Still, the addition of several new rides and themed lands would offer a similar impact to Disney fans. This project entitled DisneylandForward could expand the size of the existing theme parks by substantial amounts.
Simultaneously, the new space would allow park officials to manage crowds more, eliminating congestion. This concern has grown prevalent during the pandemic. This additional room would make guests feel less claustrophobic after the pandemic. Even so, the plans we’re discussing are unlikely to occur for several years.
I’ve got lots of park updates to cover, but let’s talk shop about Disney Vacation Club items first.
Disney has announced the date for the annual Disney Vacation Club Condo Association Meeting. You can attend on December 9th if you’re going to be at Walt Disney World then. Disney will host the event at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in one of the ballrooms near the escalators.
New DVC Points Chart?
Also, the latest issue of Disney Files provided magazine readers with some unexpected information. Sajjad Naqvi, Manager, Club Strategy & Development, shared his thoughts on the DVC Points Chart.
My friend, Tim Krasniewski at DVC News, thoughtfully transcribed the post:
“Each year, Disney Vacation Club Management, LLC analyzes nightly demand for villas at all Disney Vacation Club Resorts, identifying times of the year in which Members are having challenges securing the accommodations they desire. We do this each year because travel patterns change over time. A new or increasingly popular annual festival at EPCOT, for example, may drive demand during a previously off-peak period at Walt Disney World Resort.
One of the ways we can spread demand away from those periods of high demand is by making adjustments to points charts to encourage travel during other times of the year. Adjusted points charts for 2022, for instance, aim to ease the challenge of booking fall Walt Disney World vacations–a period of high demand driven in part by increasing popularity of the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival–by increasing vacation point requirements for some fall dates and offsetting those increases by lowering requirements for some summer dates.
These annual reviews and strategic, periodic adjustments are part of our ongoing, multifaceted effort to help Members book the best possible vacation. Other efforts range from helping Members book multi-resort stays (even transporting Members’ luggage from one resort to the next) to making accommodations available for online booking each day at 8 a.m. Eastern (an hour before Member Services begins taking calls) to curating a broad range of exchange opportunities at Disney destinations and beyond.”
Some of you may remember back when DVC incentivized guests to spend the fall at Walt Disney World. The Points Chart required fewer points for nightly/weekly stays during this “off-season” time frame. Well, the demand for EPCOT festivals has increased so much that DVC must switch the system to discourage visits during these calendar periods. We’ve come full circle as DVC better understands that there’s no such thing as an off-season now.
Park Updates: MagicMobile Tech
While the system hasn’t activated yet, My Disney Experience has added MagicMobile passes to the service. Soon, you will get to use your smartphone as proof of admission to the parks. Disney even thoughtfully integrated the software in a way that allows you to add the pass to your Apple Watch, something my wife will love.
Of course, this new technology comes with some piracy risks. Someone could take the identity of a person long enough to enter the theme park. To combat this risk, Disney has begun testing facial recognition software at the parks.
You know what this is because your smartphone likely uses it. You hold your phone up to your face, and the system identifies that you’re who you say you are. The same premise will apply at Disney theme parks for the next month.
You’ll walk up to the easily identifiable facial recognition area at the entrance gate. Rather than tapping your MagicBand and placing your finger on a scanner, you’ll show your face to the digital display. It’ll verify that you’re the right person for the admission ticket/Park Pass. Then, you’ll get to enter the park.
Obviously, the flaw of the fingerprint scanner became readily apparent during the pandemic. In fact, cast members have waved me into the park rather than making me use it. So, Disney needs something fast and safe.
If done correctly, facial recognition software should work even faster than the fingerprint scanner. You won’t have to remember which finger you picked, which is always my problem.
Of course, the system comes with a flaw for the time being. I don’t know about you, but my phone’s facial recognition hasn’t worked well during the pandemic. I took my photo sans facemask, and now my phone doesn’t recognize me.
Disney has indicated the system works with face coverings. You must remove your hat and sunglasses, though.
More Park Updates
We’re running long this week. So, I’ll quickly go through some other updates you should know, starting with the tragic one.
Yes, a park visitor died at EPCOT last weekend. A 66-year-old man suffered a heart incident and required immediate medical attention. While first responders arrived on the scene quickly, all attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Disney has directed all queries about the incident to the sheriff’s office. Still, there’s no reason to believe anything but natural causes led to his death. Disney Legend Jim Cora also passed away at the age of 83 this week. Hug your loved ones, everyone.
In other news, Magic Kingdom has closed Main Street Confectionary for a few months. It should return in plenty of time for the 50th anniversary party in October.
Until then, park officials have taken this opportunity to expand the store’s size. Disney will also add interactive amenities. As someone who used to love watching candy getting made when I was a child, I’m excited about the possibilities here.
Finally, in excellent news for everyone, California has expanded its eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination. Anyone over the age of 15 is eligible now. Florida also just updated its eligibility requirements, allowing anyone 40 or older to get the vaccine.
Presuming that you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you should monitor eligibility in your region to find out when you can get your dose. I strongly suspect that Disney theme parks will expand operations greatly as soon as society reaches theoretical herd immunity numbers. We could feasibly reach this level by June 20th at the country’s current pace.
Okay, that’s everything for this week. Stay safe and get vaccinated, everybody! Mickey Mouse is counting on you!