As we round the corner of spring, into what’s sure to be one of the most surreal summers on record, there’s one question on the minds of everyone in America who also happens to own a matching pair of Donald and Daisy Duck sweatpants: When are the Disney parks going to open back up, huh?
The corporate theme parks/mandatory enjoyment centers have been shuttered for more than a month now, after the entertainment mega-giant (begrudgingly) admitted that shoving tens of thousands of people into close, sweaty proximity with each other in the middle of a global pandemic might not be the smartest of moves, planetary survival-wise. Now, Deadline reports that the Orange County Economic Task Force has issued some very early, preliminary guidelines about how Disney and other parks might be able to reopen, should we, as a species, decide that the chance to hug a teenager in a Goofy suit is something we literally can’t live without.
To be clear, these are just guidelines, and there’s no timetable that’s even been hinted at being set yet for when anything might open back up. Also, Disney presumably has its own set of plans it’s working on, independent of the task force’s recommendations, and which it has yet to tip its hand on. But, all that being said: The current suggestion is for some kind of phased re-opening, with the initial stages cutting park admissions by 50 percent, enforcing sanitization procedures parks-wide, and possibly even enforcing social distancing protocols for standing in line. (Which would, presumably, make theme park lines even longer, a thought that truly boggles the mind.) All employees would receive daily temperature checks, be obligated to wear masks, and, if over the age of 65, encouraged to stay home.
Is any of this safe? Who the hell knows—although it’s certainly not safer than, say, not risking the lives of yourselves and your loved ones because the thought of living without a trip to Knott’s Scary Farm this October was just too horrible to bear. Per Deadline, Universal Studios CEO John Sprouls proposed similar guidelines for his own parks last week, along with a renewed focus on using phone-based virtual line/fast-pass systems in order to allow users to better budget their time and exposure amounts.
Regardless of what agreements local governments and parks end up coming to, it’s clear that the theme park industry is going to be massively altered, at least for the near future. Going off social media chatter—to say nothing of Elon Musk-y calls for the “freedom” to catch a potentially lethal disease—there’s definitely a vocal contingent of people who want to be able to get this year’s hottest mouse ears regardless of what harm it might do; the question will be how carefully Disney and its ilk can resist that demand whenever they ultimately start opening back up.