There has been a barrage of information, misinformation, interviews, quotes, and yes; let’s put it out there, clickbait, all surrounding Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company.
From park closures for months; Disneyland still shuttered up, to cast member furloughs and ultimately lay offs, safety and limited capacity protocols, reservations system backlash and the newest in consumer-direct content distribution, Disney fans are all over the place when it comes to their love-hate relationship with the most Magical Place on Earth.
One of the biggest “narratives” playing out now is the capacity at the parks. With the recent interview of CEO Bob Chapek and his explanation of the parks being at 25% capacity, the knee jerk reaction from those “experts” that are at the parks (and those in the peanut gallery who are not even there) is that he is, well, just not telling it the way it is.
However, after much reflection and the fact that I personally have been at the parks for years, yes folks, years, covering them pretty much on a daily basis, and seeing the crowds now, I had to take a step back and realize what is going on in this place that we forget is, ultimately, a business.
Right now, due to the current situation governing how the parks are being managed, many of the things that we were used to “back when things were normal” are not happening. Shows like Fantasmic, Indiana Jones Experience, Beauty and The Beast, even attractions like Enchanted Tiki Room and Country Bear Jamboree are not packing in the crowds, thus taking them out of the main thoroughfares, walkways and yes, queue lines. Guests now have limited attractions or take longer to board, and those attractions that they are able to enjoy have one common denominator, LINES! I also completely agree with the recent explanation from Fox Business who states; “There are plenty of reasons why lines for Disney attractions are long and the waits for quick-service meals are even longer in the new normal. Social distancing norms dictate sending a lot of ride vehicles and starting a lot of shows with a lot of empty seats between guests. In short, attraction capacity itself is down. There are also no character meet-and-greet areas, parades, and signature nighttime firework displays that gobble up guests”.
As we discovered on a recent visit to Magic Kingdom, ducking in from the rain either in a shop or under shelter, poses the now prevalent uncomfortable situation of social distancing and crowd control. No matter what the “%” of people in the park is, if the park is closing and everyone is exiting on Main Street U.S.A. and decide to linger longer in the Emporium, crowds seem bigger.
The fact also is clear that when Walt Disney World opened during the summer with their reservation system, it was not at 25%. Though we do not know an exact number, it is fair to say that Disney is a smart, competent and well oiled machine when it comes to planning crowds and traffic. This my friends is what they do. They have people who, every day, year after year, study, research and orchestrate just that. So, who am I to think that I am an expert? To those that want to question it, well, that is your prerogative. To those of you who want to use it as clickbait or to rev up engagement, have fun. But for me, I tend to look at reality.
I use the reservation system probably more than most. As a passholder for several years, I too loved the fact that I could just go into the parks, hop from kingdom to kingdom, plan meet ups with groups and well, just have a great time. Now, it is 2020. A year like no other. I am still a passholder, proud and blessed. I use the reservation system and I have to say, really have not had an issue being able to get into the parks when I need or want to. Just takes a little more planning and take it from me, I am the least “planning” person you have ever met. But things have changed. It is different. I tend not to go into the parks every day right now, that being my personal preference and not because of just the crowd dispersement. As it is mentioned in several sources, it does look like Walt Disney World will stay at the 25% cap even though the Governor has given the green light to increase capacity. Again, this is Walt Disney World’s decision. At the end of the day, the buck stops with them, not outside government.
Is Walt Disney World still magical? Can you still have fun wearing a mask? For me, the answers are yes and yes. Is it different? Of course, I would be lying if I said no. Do I miss parades, character meet and greets and the ultimate firework display? Of course. But as we have been to the parks together several times since they have opened, I reiterate what I say many times. Experiences are 99% what you make them. I love Walt Disney World. I have been coming since I was a kid. I started vlogging and ultimately streaming because of my love and passion with everything magical in the parks and the boldness, innovation and imagination of the man behind the Mouse.
But, for now, this is our reality. Walt Disney World is a beast, a machine in not only creating magic and busting down boundaries of innovation, but as a business, a…dare I say it…..corporation. Reality is they must do things that are for the long term, not just the here and now. I cannot imagine the task, the amount of times they have balled up that piece of paper and thrown it in the trash, or banging hands on desks and board room tables. One thing I do know, is that Walt Disney World is grounded on the belief that “It is always fun to do the impossible”. The man behind the magic, the heartbeat of Walt Disney himself was beating with courage and even gained speed from taking risks.
Let’s remember, as we head into the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World and just recently celebrating the 65th anniversary of Disneyland, that the goal and mission is that the magic of Disney will be around for not only our children but their children. So when you step out onto Main Street U.S.A. and look up at that incredibly beautiful castle, rest assured that, though things may be different, that, my dear friends, will always give us goosebumps. That is what it is all about.
Fox Business, USA Today; Spokesmayne; PC Kent Phillips