It’s time for another Walt Disney World news and rumor round-up, and this time we have a range of interesting stories. A dash of controversy thanks to a supposed exposé, more details about Halloween, fresh Park Pass availability, and the Million Lights Holiday Spectacular–which sounds a lot like an Osborne Lights spiritual successor!
Let’s start with the latest Disney Park Pass inventory dump for Annual Passholders. This is becoming less and less exciting as it’s now happening with such regularity. In any case, September has seen a near full replenishment of Disney Park Pass inventory on weekdays, including today. Most notable among these is the previously-full September 15 start date of Halloween entertainment and festivities in the parks. (See for yourself here on the Availability Calendar, but note that it does not update in real-time.)
Moving into October, there is still limited availability on weekends, with Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios both fully booked for Annual Passholders many Saturdays and Sundays. The Friday and Monday of the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day long weekend are also starting to show limited availability. It appears that’s the next big “weekend to watch,” so if you’re thinking of visiting then, you might want to read our Labor Day “Crowdpocalypse” Reportand its EPCOT follow-up, which contains specific recommendations on which parks to visit each day of the long weekend.
From September 15 through October 29, 2020, Annual Passholders will once again receive a 30% discount on merchandise purchases at most Walt Disney World stores. There are a ton of exclusions, including Memory Maker, original art, newspapers/periodicals, DVDs, CDs, sundries, prepared foods, kitchen products, consumer electronics, and more. Plus, select Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge locations, EPCOT shops, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Normally, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders receive a 20% off merchandise discount as part of AP perks, so this amounts to an extra 10% off. It’s the second time Walt Disney World has offered this since reopening, and probably not the last.
We’d love to use this discount on Christmas merchandise (and probably aren’t alone in that!) and we’d also be more inclined to graze the Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival booths if those offered a discount. (They don’t–we’re saying they should.) Judging by the lack of lines, that might be a smart move by Disney.
Next, we have some new details about Halloween! Walt Disney World has just shared more details about seasonal entertainment experiences coming to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
At DHS, Minnie’s Halloween Dine will return beginning September 25, 2020 with a “monster feast” served to your table, family style. This modified character meal will feature Minnie Mouse dressed as a happy witch, Goofy as a spooky cowboy, Mickey Mouse as a funny vampire, and Pluto wearing a Halloween collar. (The only difference as compared to our Minnie’s Halloween Dine Review from last year is Pluto added, and mad scientist Donald and Daisy Duck removed.)
Throughout the day in Magic Kingdom, special Halloween cavalcades will pop up on the parade route and head down Main Street, U.S.A. You could come across Mickey Mouse and his pals, all dressed up for the occasion in Halloween costumes. On select days (probably weekends and holidays), there will also be a cavalcade of Disney Villains — from Gaston and Maleficent to Queen of Hearts and Jafar — creeping down the path, or a nightmarish procession featuring the Pumpkin King himself, Jack Skellington!
As another special treat for the Halloween season, the iconic Dapper Dans will return to Magic Kingdom. Beginning September 20, the Dapper Dans will perform a cappella as their undead alter egos the Cadaver Dans. This is one of the unheralded highlights of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party that most guests miss (having the unlimited MNSSHP Party Pass last year allowed us to enjoy them many times last year–often as the only guests watching) and we’re elated to see they’ll be appearing daily this year!
Next, some really good and exciting news for fans of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights and good causes! Give Kids the World, a nonprofit that provides families of children with life-threatening illnesses cost-free accommodations during their visit Walt Disney World, has announced the Million Lights Holiday Spectacular.
For 53 nights from November 13, 2020 through January 3, 2021, the Give Kids the World Village will come alive with a walk-through holiday light spectacular at their complex in Kissimmee, Florida near Walt Disney World. More than one million lights will adorn the 84-acre whimsical Village, including a 150-foot lighted tunnel leading to 33 decorated villas; more than 50 larger-than-life holiday-themed wireframes, some spanning more than 40 feet; an enormous incandescent gingerbread arch; and out-of-this-world space-themed decorations showcasing the Village’s newest centerpiece, Henri’s Starlite Scoops.
Adding to the fully immersive lights and sounds experience, Santa Claus will greet guests from the balcony of Towne Hall, with Give Kids The World’s beloved ambassadors, Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry, on hand to lend some holiday cheer. Proceeds from the event will support Give Kids The World’s mission to provide wish vacations for critically ill children and their families.
We are huge fans of the work done by Give Kids the World, and have been truly moved by past visits to the Village. The organization works closely with Walt Disney World, and Imagineering has assisted in designing some of the Give Kids the World Village. We are really excited for the Million Lights Holiday Spectacular. It should be something truly special, in more ways than one. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in November or December, this is absolutely going to be worth your time.
Finally, this Daily Beast article, which purports to reveal a “cover-up” by Disney of cases among Cast Members, has been making the rounds in Disney circles on social media. While it discusses Walt Disney World at the start and arbitrarily features photos from the Florida parks, the story is exclusively about Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort.
You can read it and draw your own conclusions; I view the piece with a good deal of skepticism. It relies exclusively on agenda-driven sources (the text message exchange among Cast Members explicitly states that their goal is to force Disney to close) and has a clear bias against Disney. Look no further than the Daily Beast’s other recent pieces of exemplary, even-handed journalism: “Disney World Reopens with Short Lines and Scared Staff” or “The Disney Fantasy is Dead. Enter At Your Own Risk.”
There are a number of reasons an employer would not share confidential medical information with union reps or other employees. Most of them are laws. Health privacy concerns are also why it may not be the best idea for employers to directly handle testing. (I can’t speak to California, but in Florida’s Orange County, the Maingate testing complex near Animal Kingdom is convenient for Cast Members, never has a line, and delivers prompt results.)
Anecdotally, we have heard nothing but positive things from Cast Members who have returned to work at Walt Disney World. Of course, that’s a relatively small sample and with tens of thousands of employees, there are undoubtedly many who feel unsafe or that their managers are not handling things well. Given the sheer numbers and range of opinions on the topic, that’s all but a statistical certainty.
There’s also likely at least some validity to the Daily Beast’s reporting, as this kind of story has emerged countless numerous times from credible, mainstream sources. While it does not address Disney, this recent Bloomberg Businessweek article about gag rules at U.S. companies is a good read with a more nuanced take.
Turning again to statistics, there unquestionably have been cases among Cast Members at Walt Disney World. That’s an undeniable reality given the number of people Disney employs, Florida’s numbers at the time the parks reopened, and the fact that they all lead private lives outside of work.
The operative question is not whether these cases exist, but whether there have been outbreaks among Cast Members or guests at Walt Disney World. Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County has been asked about this every week in press briefings, and has repeatedly stated that there have not. The Florida Department of Health has looked for outbreaks and haven’t found any associated with any theme parks–only individual cases here and there.
Given Disney’s outsized presence in Central Florida–not just as far and away the largest employer, but also as a destination for residents in the area–it stands to reason that there would be a spike in numbers post-reopening if the environment is unsafe. To the contrary, every meaningful metric has plummeted since Walt Disney World reopened–new cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations.
Ultimately, there’s a lot to be upset about how this public health crisis has been handled in the United States, both on systemic and individual levels. And despite leadership and approaches that have essentially been diametrically opposed, both Florida and California have seen some of the worst numbers in a nation of bad results.
However, some of these mainstream articles that have emerged about Disney feel very much like a headline in search of a story. It’s as if the angle and tone was established first because Disney is an easy target, and then “evidence” was found to support the preconceived conclusion. We hardly have rose-colored glasses on when it comes to Disney. We recognize the company’s many faults (here’s a far more valid and enraging recent headline), and do not hesitate to offer critique where we see fit. In this situation, after spending countless days in the parks & resorts since reopening, experiencing safety measures firsthand, and talking to numerous Cast Members, our view is that Disney’s approach puts safety first and is largely laudable.
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Excited for the added Halloween entertainment at Walt Disney World? What about Give Kids the World’s Million Lights Christmas display? Thoughts on the Daily Beast article or health safety, coverage of Disney’s reopening, or safety in the parks & resorts? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!