Disney Parks have slowly been returning to normal over the last year or so, with international borders opening and pandemic regulations gradually being reduced.
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic changed the theme park experience at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, causing social distancing and face masks to become part of the altered health and safety regulations.
And just when Guests are starting to feel like the Disney Park experience is finally back to normal – now traditional character meet and greets are returning – Disney has revealed that the phased reopening of one of its Resorts is only “halfway through”.
The COVID situation continues to change on a daily basis for those wishing to travel. The pandemic introduced Guests to the new, often sold-out, Park Pass Reservation system, as well as limited Park capacities and the launch of Disney Genie onto the My Disney Experience app.
The removal of the indoor face-covering rule at Disney’s theme parks last month led to a sense of normalcy returning to Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
And after lifting rules based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face-covering guidelines, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock revealed that the Disneyland Resort in California is actually only halfway through its phased opening.
In an interview with the Orange County Register, Potrock discussed the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic amid reopenings of entertainment and experiences like Fantasmic! and the beloved Monorail, saying, “We’ve embarked on this legendary comeback. We’re more than halfway through it, but we’ve got another year.”
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure closed back in March 2020 and Potrock took over as president that May. The Parks remained closed for a total of 412 days, only reopening in April 2021, almost exactly a year ago.
After taking on the helm of the Anaheim theme park resort at the height of the pandemic, Potrock admitted that the role was initially tough:
“The last few years have been rough. So many people said to me that the Disneyland job is going to be the best job you’ve ever had. The first year was a pretty tough job, but this second year truly proved it is the best job in this company.”
Disneyland President Potrock revealed that the year-long closure of the Disney Resort gave Cast Members a chance to reassess operations to focus on the pandemic and survival. “That meant we had to be unified, quicker to market, and innovative,” he said. “We needed to recreate the Disneyland experience without losing the heart of it.”
It’s great to hear Disney leadership talking about the “heart” of the Disney Park experience and the need to “adapt”, but it’s interesting to hear that the team believes Disneyland is only halfway to being “back to normal”.
Guests have seen the welcome return of entertainment like the Dapper Dans, Disney Junior Dance Party, and fireworks at Disneyland Park. On April 22, Disneyland Forever will return to Sleeping Beauty Castle replacing Mickey’s Mix Magic alongside World of Color at Disney California Adventure and the Main Street Electrical Parade. On May 28, Guests will finally get to see Fantasmic! return with all its new characters and magical additions.
Although entertainment is getting closer to returning to normal, big Disney shows like Frozen – Live at the Hyperion have still not returned to the daytime entertainment schedule. Disneyland Resort itself has also seen the launch of the Magic Key program, replacing the old Annual Pass program.
Disneyland Resort had approximately 32,000 Cast Members before the pandemic. They currently employ approximately 30,000 Cast Members, having rehired about 18,000 old employees and brought on 10,000 new employees.
Potrock explained, “We’re never going to be back to where we were until those 10,000 people truly have it in their DNA as to what their role and what their mission is as we begin to go forward”
Regarding the returning and senior Cast Members, he said, “We are so empathetic and sensitive to the tough journey that our Cast Members have been on. We want to make sure that we are showing sensitivity, compassion, and gratitude to our Cast Members.”
A State of the Disneyland Resort presentation in late April will be hosted by Ken Potrock, where he will announce “continued improvements, opportunities, and experiences.”
Ken Potrock has been with The Walt Disney Company for over 26 years, most recently as president of Consumer Products Commercialization.
For most of his Disney career, Ken has led high brand affinity businesses including Disney Vacation Club, the company’s innovative and fast-growing vacation ownership program, Disney Cruise Line, Golden Oak, a luxury residential community in Walt Disney World Resort, and Adventures by Disney, the company’s award-winning guided group travel business.
In 2015, Ken led the team reimagining Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort. He began his Disney career in 1995 as Vice President of Marketing for Disney Cruise Line, where he helped launch the company’s entry into the cruise industry.
We’ll keep you posted with any more announcements regarding the phased reopenings of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, including the return date of Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park.