DVC Resale Market’s Disney Parks News for March 2020
Ordinarily, we talk about a month of exciting Disney updates. This time, if you missed the last five days, you’re comically far behind. This week qualifies as one of the craziest of the 21st century for Disney. Let me explain why.
Disney Introduces a New CEO
For years now, speculation has centered on who will replace Robert Iger as the leader of The Walt Disney Company. Iger has held the title of CEO since 2005, and his tenure has included several highlights.
Under Iger, Disney purchased Marvel, Star Wars, Fox, and Pixar. The company built the most popular film franchise in history with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The addition of Pixar’s leadership aided in Walt Disney Animation’s return to the top of the industry. And Fox assets have proven integral to the early triumph of Disney+.
I recently read a Variety article describing Iger this way. “If there’s ever a Mount Rushmore for CEOs, his face will be on it.” He is legitimately one of the most exceptional leadership executives ever.
Over the years, several candidates have positioned themselves as Iger’s natural successor. In an unexpected turn of events, one of them suddenly won this week, as Disney named Bob Chapek the new CEO.
Most recently, Chapek has worked as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Before that, he held several other titles during his 26-year tenure with the company. He’s an extremely well-liked and respected Disney loyalist.
Of course, in the wake of the struggles of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge last year, critics had wondered whether Chapek would survive the year at Disney. Now, he runs the company! Alas, his first week on the job has been absolutely brutal…
A Sinking Ship
When Iger and Chapek announced the change in leadership, the most surprising aspect was that it took place immediately. Bob Chapek has led Disney as CEO since February 25th. In the wake of the announcement, some cynics suggested that Iger was jumping off a sinking ship.
For some Disney park guests, that metaphor became an odd reality on Thursday. At Magic Kingdom, Jungle Cruise suffered one of the most embarrassing accidents ever on Thursday. The Bomokandi Bertha took on water and slowly sunk…with passengers still on board!
Don’t worry. Nobody was ever in any jeopardy. One of the dirty secrets about Jungle Cruise is that the water’s extremely shallow in most places. Still, a group of guests had to evacuate, and they did get their socks, shoes, and even pants soaked. Poor Bob Chapek wouldn’t even get through the day before other disasters struck the Disney empire.
Another Closed Theme Park
After weeks of speculation, The Oriental Land Company finally did the unthinkable. Disney’s friends in Japan chose to close Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea from February 29th through March 16th.
I should stress that this decision wasn’t up to Disney. The Oriental Land Company maintains complete autonomy with its parks, merely licensing the rights from Disney. However, the latest closure means that HALF of Disney’s theme parks around the world have shut down due to concerns about coronavirus.
If you’re scoring at home, I’m referencing Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and now Tokyo Disneyland. Disney’s lone European park, Disneyland Paris, remains open and doesn’t seem like it’s under local pressure to close.
France has only reported 57 cases to date. Similarly, Covid-19 has impacted just 66 Americans thus far. So, the Western Hemisphere has avoided the frustrating fate of its Eastern counterparts. But the revenue losses for Disney could have ripple effects. Realistically, though, these are trivial concerns compared to the health and well-being of all citizens of the Earth impacted by this disease.
A Scare at Beach Club
Chapek’s Thursday from Hell continued late into the evening, as guests contacted local authorities about a visitor. These parties suggested that a man was carrying a concealed weapon through the hotel, which understandably isn’t allowed.
Local law enforcement officials took the matter seriously. They responded in force, as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office combed the grounds. Also, multiple SWAT teams scanned the area for potential persons of interest.
Eventually, all involved parties acknowledged that the entire situation was a false alarm. Someone thought they saw something in a person’s jacket, but it turned out to be paranoia.
By this point, Bob Chapek was probably wishing his phone was out of juice so that he could stop getting texts, though. But surely the next day would work out better, right? Well…
A Colliding PeopleMover
On Friday, February 28th, guests on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover experienced a collision. The beloved Magic Kingdom attraction has experienced a couple of snafus recently, including copious amounts of smoke coming out of the escalator last month.
This time, one of the trams didn’t brake properly and slammed into the tram in front of it. Thankfully, no injuries were reported during the incident, and Disney re-opened the ride within a couple of hours of the reported evacuation. So, it’s luckily just a funny ending to a comically bad first week on the job for Chapek. Then again, he wasn’t the only one…
A Fire on Main Street
Before Iger ceded his title of CEO, he also experienced a theme park snafu. Earlier last month, the Anaheim Fire and Rescue Department had to make an emergency call at Disneyland.
Cast members reported a fire in the Adventureland area. Due to the location, guests first noticed the flames at—I kid you not—the Disneyland Fire Department. Obviously, it’s not a real fire department but rather a bit of Disney staging. Still, the irony is amusing.
Government officials later determined that a temporary construction generator malfunctioned, causing part of the area to erupt into flames. Again, nobody was ever in any danger. So, all four of these snafus backhandedly demonstrate just how safety-focused Disney is.
February came with what felt like five years’ worth of park snafus in about three weeks, though.
More Disney Price Increases
In recent years, Disney has announced price increases during the winter. It’s the company’s way of setting a course for the entire year. For customers, the higher costs provide another reason to grouse about Disney pricing people out of theme park visits.
Thankfully, Disney apparently listened to complaints this year, as the expected increases aren’t that bad, especially for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members. The headline-grabbing story is that Disneyland has altered the Surge Pricing plan.
Single-day admission at Disneyland now subdivides into five tiers rather than three, and the most expensive tickets break the $200 barrier. However, that’s one extreme example. Mostly, Disney’s raised costs by five percent or so.
For DVC owners, the beloved Gold Annual Pass only went up by $20. Meanwhile, the Platinum and Platinum Plus Passes are $899 and $999, the same prices as last year. So, it could have been much worse for program participants.
New Ticket and Dining Options
Disney also introduced a few modest changes to provide guests with more choice. Park Hopper Plus now includes NBA Experience access. Also, guests can purchase a Water Park and Sports ticket upgrade.
For a modest fee, this ticket entitles the holder to a daily visit to one of the water parks, NBA Experience, golf courses, and mini-golf courses. A person with a seven-day ticket may experience up to seven events, while someone staying for four nights would choose up to four events.
Finally, Disney has added a new Disney Dining Plan (DDP) option. The DDP Plus effectively splits the difference between the regular and Deluxe versions. With the standard DDP, guests can eat at one Quick Service and Table Service restaurant each day. The Deluxe DDP entitles three daily meals, all of which can be Table Service entitlements.
With the DDP Plus, guests receive two daily entitlements, just like with the standard DDP. However, these are Table Service credits, allowing guests to enjoy two sit-down meals each day.
Changes Coming to Cinderella Castle
Disney did manage to earn some headlines for the right reasons this month. Park officials announced a makeover for Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.
With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, Imagineers will splash a touch of elegance onto the existing structure. Disney will paint gold highlights on many of the towers and other eye-grabbing spots. Cinderella Castle will also gain a gentle pink hue in some places to provide a more calming vibe.
Indications are that cast members will have the upgrades in place by the end of 2020.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway FastPasses Now Available
In a matter of days, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will finally open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Park officials have promised this attraction for a few years now. So, the anticipation is high for what’s expected to be a wildly popular attraction.
While rumors surfaced that Disney might forego FastPasses for the new ride, that’s not the case. As of a few days ago, Hollywood Studios has added Runaway Railway on the menu. It’s listed in the top tier, along with Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to pick one of them…but Mickey and Minnie Mouse have never starred in a ride before. So, you should totally pick this one.
A New Name at Epcot
The last update this month is the silliest but also the loveliest. Epcot is no longer the official name of what should be your favorite theme park. As a retro nod to the past, park officials altered the title slightly. It’s now EPCOT.
You may remember or have heard that this park initially opened as EPCOT Center. It later dropped the Center part of the title and utilized the lower-case spelling of Epcot. However, nostalgia is all the rage at the parks these days, and so Disney’s leaning into it.
Look on the bright side. You can tell your friends and family members that you need to go back to Walt Disney World. After all, you’ve never been to EPCOT!