Disneyland safely reopens and creates magic, despite pandemic restrictions


Ernesto Aguilar

The Disneyland Resort’s reopening saw many changes to the traditional experience of visiting the magic kingdom, such as outdoor queuing only that stretched into communal walkways.

Just in time for summer, Disneyland Resorts reopened on April 31 with a heavy dose of safety measures and reimagined experiences. Since then, the overall capacity of the resort has been increased due to Orange County moving into the “Yellow Tier” of California’s plan to reopen the economy. At Disneyland Park, sweeping changes were made to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and keep guests safe as they enjoyed their visits.

From the sidewalks of Main Street U.S.A. to restaurant and souvenir store queues, the ground around Disneyland Park was labeled with social distancing markers in order ensure proper distancing between each party in lines. The markers were placed six feet apart from each other and often trailed out into walkways, causing confusion among guests who would sometimes accidentally join a line they thought was for something else.

At attractions, indoor queuing was abandoned temporarily due to safety concerns, which led to lines forming outside attractions as opposed to inside of their built in queues. This was necessary for health safety but also put a strain on the narrow walkways of the 1955 park, especially in areas such as Fantasyland and New Orleans Square.

At first glance, many lines seemed long to wait in. However, the lines moved quickly and, oftentimes, predicted wait times were much shorter than advised. The constantly moving lines were a pleasant change of pace as opposed to standing in line and advancing only a few steps in a few minutes. Disney’s FastPass service is temporarily unavailable, which meant only a standby line was available for each attraction, which provided a fair, traditional, fast-moving, experience for guests.

Throughout the resort, mobile ordering for food was strongly encouraged. Disney pushed contactless payment via the Disneyland App to order food at most quick service restaurants. Guests were encouraged to select a time-frame in order to pick up their food when it was ready so that lines and crowds did not form around food venues. For the most part, the system worked well, but it was an extra step for a process that is typically very direct. 

In order to maintain proper physical distancing, Disneyland reimagined character meet and greets to provide the same magical character interactions, but from a safe distance. Around the park, various characters were positioned in areas respective to their stories which added a sense of dimension and atmosphere to each land. The Evil Queen, for example, was stationed on a high balcony in the Fantasy Faire area near Sleeping Beauty Castle in Fantasyland. Guests were invited to interact with her from a distance. The distanced characters were a welcome addition to the park and would be great to keep in addition to traditional meet and greets once the park is allowed to fully reopen without distancing.

With the reopening of Disneyland, the reimagined Snow White’s Enchanted Wish attraction was unveiled. The ride previously known as Snow White’s Scary Adventures received major updates to its scenes and storyline.The Evil Queen’s dungeon was reworked, replacing the prison of skeletons with the laboratory of concoctions the Evil Queen used to poison Snow White’s apple. While the ride previously ended abruptly with the wicked witch being chased by the seven dwarfs to her death, the ending now features Snow White being reunited with the Prince and forest animals after the iconic “true love’s kiss” scene. However, the chase scene was kept and reimagined just before the Prince awakened Snow White, which kept the storyline consistent. Overall, the ride looked spectacular and was a massive upgrade to the lone Disney princess ride-through attraction in the park. Lines for Snow White’s Enchanted Wish were consistently long throughout the day as it was a must-see for both casual visitors and Disney fanatics.

Also, along with the reopening of Disneyland, the infamous Haunted Mansion received much needed cosmetic upgrades which enhanced the ride. In the outdoor queue for the attraction, a pet cemetery with comical tombstones was added which provided another charming level of story to the already intricate lore of the attraction. The loading area to the ride vehicles was reimagined, adding a new changing portrait that peers over guests as they board the attraction. On the ride part of the attraction, the lighting was meticulously restored and each one of the 999 happy haunts was visible. Previously, the Haunted Mansion had suffered from visibility issues with the many ghosts in the attraction, but this refurbishment fixed the clever effects. Lines for the Haunted Mansion were also very long throughout the day, overflowing into the walkways of New Orleans Square and at times nearly colliding with the equally as long Pirates of the Caribbean queue.

A major part of the Disneyland experience that was missing, however, was atmospheric entertainment. Fireworks displays, parades, band performances and stage shows were not available in order to avoid overcrowding in common areas and breaking social distancing. While the park felt desolate at times, the music playing and characters stationed around the park did their best to emulate a normal day at Disneyland.

Many attractions were closed, whether it be for COVID-19 hazards or refurbishments which at times made the park feel incomplete. Matterhorn Bobsled and Jungle Cruise were both closed for refurbishment and their closure is noticeable since both attractions take up a large footprint of Disneyland. Other attractions, such as the Disneyland Monorail and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage were closed because it is virtually impossible to keep guests six feet apart from each other. The two Tomorrowland attractions being closed caused their corner of the park to feel dead, especially since the Matterhorn Bobsleds is directly adjacent to them. However, the walkways around the attraction provided for a secluded, uncrowded spot to rest tired feet.

Overall, the return of Disneyland was successful, even though it may have felt like a scaled back experience. The shorter wait times, ride-repeatability, and newly reimagined experiences made the visit to the happiest place on earth just as magical as it would have been before the pandemic.