There are actually a good number of people in the Park, though it will likely pale in comparison to what we see during the peak summer months ahead. Mask mandates and capacity limitations are ending sooner than expected as families start moving spare change from the DoorDash fund to the Disney World vacation savings jar, that just so happens to double as the bathtub. If Dogecoin can make a 14-year old a billionaire in three weeks, then your life savings should be good for at least a few hours at the All-Stars and a Corn Dog split six ways.
Over the past few years, summer crowds at the Florida theme parks have been on the lower end of the spectrum with few special events drawing domestic visitors who would prefer to visit during our state’s version of fall or winter for the “cooler” temperatures and limited-time offerings. We typically do fall for about three days and winter for up to five, but it’s a subtle barometric change in the dew point that most out-of-state visitors likely won’t notice.
We really only do things two ways here. You’ll either open the door in “The Little Mermaid” section of Art of Animation and say to yourself, “I guess it’s not too bad” as you proceed cautiously further from the thermostat that’s programmed to say that it’s 12 degrees cooler inside than it actually is. Or the other season, where that Disney cruise to Alaska, which would have only cost $42,000 more per person, “feels” like a sounder decision than Florida in July, as the heat and humidity hit harder than that Italian Trio from Tony’s Town Square.
But we’ll see if what many expect to be heavy pent up demand results in higher attendance, or if continuing international travel restrictions put a damper on what Disney is certainly hoping will be an uptick in attendance. Entertainment options are ramping up, but we’re still without nighttime spectaculars, traditional meet and greets, scheduled parades, and the like.
We also haven’t heard a peep about opening dates for several prominent resorts, including the Port Orleans Complex and two-thirds of the All-Stars, in addition to the non-DVC portions of several major Deluxe Resorts. Disney has also taken the opportunity to shutter the majority of the Polynesian for a “Moana” overlay and just started a major refurbishment of the Tower rooms at the Contemporary, taking hundreds of rooms that would ordinarily cost $400+ a night out of inventory for at least a couple of months.
So we’ve got some mixed signals from Disney as they’ve already begun to remove social-distancing signs pleading for guests to maintain six feet between parties. Of course, those signs stood tall as Disney continued to increase capacity to the point where it was “literally” impossible to stay six feet away from people anywhere other than in the physical queue for an attraction, where you might spend 5% of your day in the Park.
And even then, with the now-forgotten six foot requirement separating parties and sending guests waiting for Expedition Everest back to DinoLand, you’d still have hundreds of people passing by with just inches to spare as you await your encounter with the hibernating mountain inhabitant.
Supposedly, Disneyland was going to be swamped upon its reopening late last month. But with Disney cancelling Annual Passes and, at least in official correspondence, requiring visitors to be California residents, those Parks reopened with considerably lower crowds than Disney expected. Crowds in Florida last summer also didn’t materialize in numbers anywhere close to what Disney was anticipating.
In July 2020, or what “feels” like about 20 years ago, the website basically packed up its touring advice as few risked travel to a state that has been equally lauded and condemned by what can only be described as a “!@#$ it” approach to the pandemic. It then gently placed its “follow-by-the-minute-or-else-feel-the-consequences-hahahahaha” touring plans into a shredder that seemed suspiciously powerful given the fact that there shouldn’t be a reason why the operator of a Disney World blog would need the capacity to grind up 35,000 pages an hour into confetti around the clock.
There simply wasn’t anybody here ten months ago. You would have had to put in some effort to wait longer than ten minutes for Flight of Passage, which is a far cry from current conditions, when the ride is again hitting triple-digit peak waits, even without FastPass+ priority as an option for most guests, the ride running at full capacity, and the number of guests capped much lower than they will be at this time next month. During May 13th’s earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek reiterated that capacity and the number of Park Passes the company distributes is headed north in the near-term, with the likelihood that we’ve already seen a couple of silent bumps over the preceding weeks and months. Park Passes aren’t “replenished” so much as the number of people admitted into the Park is increased.
At least this little guy is motoring forward with his trip. Hopefully he’s headed for that empty queue for the Wildlife Express that opened this post, or Gorilla Falls Expedition Trail where they could saunter right in, and not the current 70-minute wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Of course, when you blend in with a ride, you may be able to bypass the line in its entirety anyway. That’s how I’m able to get so many videos of TriceraTop Spin.
We’ll see if we can move a little more quickly through the attractions as we’re already on the third or maybe fourth part of this series and only an hour or two into the day.
These attempts have never been successful in the past, but ten years of failure isn’t necessarily a precedent. Spoiler: we won’t be making it to any rides in this post.
Masks are no longer mandatory outdoors as Disney basically reversed course on several of its most substantial safety measures/inconveniences overnight. I’ve yet to see anyone who looks better with their masks off than on, but I’m not sure how many arguments over whether or not the masked person in the picture wasn’t actually someone else. That’s where the single outfit comes in. On the other hand, if you’re the one other person in a navy blue Columbia fisherman’s shirt who also shoots Canon with big lenses, your family is either jealous of how much time you’ve spent at Disney World or will wonder why you’re trying to pawn off pictures of me as you. That plot sounds just lousy enough to be a new episode of The Twilight Zone.
Temperature screenings are also officially retired. A fever was never a good indication of a positive result, but most of us could probably agree that people with temperatures of 101 or 102 degrees should probably be in bed with a glass of water and what may or may not be a rerun of House Hunters International on the television rather than at the end of a 70-minute line for Na’vi River Journey. Then again, 49% of the population disagrees with just about everything. So we’re probably both going home sick. If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.
I’m not sure what my visit count since the Parks reopened in July 2020 is, but I never saw anybody removed from the line because their temperature was too high. I had heard of it happening much more often earlier in the game, particularly from those disembarking non-air-conditioned modes of transportation like watercraft. Over the last few months running up to the end of the screenings, it wouldn’t surprise me if the temperature guns were set to only go off if they read 425 degrees or more, so they could eventually be used at Cosmic Ray’s to indicate that your hamburger is triple overcooked, and thus, worth the $13 ask.
It will be interesting to see if Equity actors return to Anandapur Theater in the form of the previous show featuring Dug, Russell, and the Wilderness Guide, or if the interim show, “Feathered Friends in Flight,” continues its run. The former was panned by just about everyone over the age of eight, but Disney would probably prefer more characters in the Park, even if the reviews streaming in from the various blogs written by childless men continue to score the show poorly. Disney can always buy off the “influencers” with a new Loungefly backpack and a free sticker to try to drown out any negativity about their reduced offerings, anyway.
The interim show, which debuted shortly after Animal Kingdom reopened, passed over the entertainment union, much to their chagrin, as you can imagine. Testing availability for performers, along with masks and distancing, were major sticking points for several months, at least with the posturing of union leadership who collected paychecks regardless of what Disney was and wasn’t offering.
Supposedly, many of the performers were willing to go back to work under Disney’s original safety protocols, but had no way of doing so without the union officials’ go-ahead. Perhaps after a check or two changed hands, the union saved face, but many of the shows have yet to return, and many of the performers remain out of work.
Finding Nemo consists of dozens of union performers. Disney has already cut the amount of room between parties at the “Festival of the Lion King” show replacement from six feet to three. That roughly doubles each show’s capacity, which is good for the guest because they’re more likely to find a better seat at the next show. It also makes more economical sense for the company, whose costs are virtually identical whether the theater is at capacity with 375, 750, 1,125, or 1,500 people in the theater based on distancing guidelines. Spending $7,000 on a show that a maximum of 60 people can see may not make sense. But spending $7,200 on a show that 2,000 people can see is a better value proposition.
While I thought what basically boiled down to the Lion King Jamboree worked well enough with the eliminated elements, Nemo would have to be toned down considerably further, even if we’re basing the new script and performer locations on the next time the Treasury decides the DOW needs to go up a thousand points and nudges whoever at the CDC writes the memo that two feet of separation sounds almost as safe as three, which is only half of six. It’s all roughly equal. At least we have a firm grasp on how economics works.
With Disney’s move to “relax” social-distancing measures by officially keeping people three feet apart instead of six, I had in mind that we’d see new distancing stickers laid down about halfway in between any two currently-present stickers, with some exceptions for airflow and whatnot. But Disney’s already removing stickers instead, at least at attractions like Rise of the Resistance, in addition to removing some of the recently-installed barriers. It won’t be long until we’re all standing on top of each other again, even as 51% of us agree that the six feet laid out in between us via the distancing sticker were a blessing.
People heckle me about only owning one shirt and no longer bathing. Yes, my water is currently turned off by someone identifying themselves as “the utility company.” But do you know the last time someone has willingly gotten within six feet of me? It was well before we started playing concrete sticker jump. Heck, no one was keeping tabs on whether garbage can lids were even kept open, and thus not suitable for Festival photography, or properly closed, making for an attractive arch that always seemed to accentuate the little details that might be missed if I held the item up in front of some random background with my 3-foot wide fake pink thumbnail dominating the shot. We are professionals, after all.
We’ll move towards Asia and then catch up with some newsworthy bits towards the end:
Unless I missed “Miracle in Anandapur” on Disney+, and breakfast at Yak & Yeti’s quick service now borders on being edible, I’d bypass that in favor of putting the money towards an appetizer at the restaurant during lunch. It’s rare that those Ahi Tuna Nachos don’t call my name. But alas, we must review that which is new and bad instead.
Because it’s Disney, and you have to assume that their largest division is the one which makes decisions that make perfect sense, but have terrible optics, Kali River Rapids now opens an hour after the rest of the Park, right as we head into the hottest time of the year. Of course, nobody rides Kali River Rapids at 8:12am, so pushing back the snooze of a douser that’s apparently supposed to make you feel bad about all the wood you see in this picture, or back in your resort room, or your house, etc. to a 9am open isn’t going to have nearly as much impact as intentionally halving the capacity at something like Kilimanjaro Safaris by only loading one of the two possible trucks at a time to start the day.
Here’s a look at Kali’s waits over the last month:
Since I’m operating from the road, we have limited access to visual aids. And probably even more typos given the silly layout of this keyboard. But we can see that Kali’s posted wait doesn’t hit 15 minutes until about 10:15am, and doesn’t hit 30 minutes until noon, topping out under a 40-minute peak average. The 22-minute average at the very end of the graph, which should be marked average, is about equal to anything before 11:30am or after 4pm. The chart only takes waits from the last month into consideration, so we’ll see what things look like next month, when riding Kali at 8:12am with a RealFeel of 102 degrees only sounds marginally regrettable.
While Kali may only average 15 minutes at 10:15am, Safaris would typically post a 60-minute wait at the same time. Since the rafting expedition has only been opening an hour later for a few days, we’ll see if Disney is shifting those early morning savings over to the goat drive-by or simply pocketing the money. I can guess, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
We’ll return for Maharajah Trek in a bit as we watch the drummers float by just as they hit their stride with, “You’ll Be in My Heart.”
A few more as we make our way to Everest and DINOSAUR:
One wonders if anything more happened to the dinosaurs than simple budget cuts. No meteor. No falsified fossil records. What must have been a show just didn’t prove profitable for whoever was doing the wheeling and dealing back then. Only one thing is for certain. Chester and Hester are direct descendants of whoever was in charge back then. I mention this in passing as the Rivers of Light boats are now backstage and hopefully waiting to return with live performers and a storyline that can at least compete with “Tenet” on coherence.
We’ll have to get to the rides in the next Part. Right?