We’re back with another Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup! In this post, we’ll share the latest on runDisney’s next event cancellation, limited Park Pass theme park reservations availability, increased Cast Member blockouts, and sad news on Ample Hills. Plus, a “stupid criminal” story about an Epcot guest attempting to bring a diaper bag with two handguns and marijuana into the park.
First up, the ongoing saga of Ample Hills Creamery. As we reported earlier this week, Ample Hills Creamery Has Closed Permanently at Walt Disney World, and the second location at Disney Springs will not be built. This comes after the company filed bankruptcy towards the beginning of this year and new owners bought it earlier this summer.
Despite Disney’s statement that “Ample Hills will close at Disney’s BoardWalk and the proposed Ample Hills location at Disney Springs will not open later this year” we held out a sliver of hope that the parties would come to a licensing agreement or something. As passing through BoardWalk yesterday, we noticed that the storefront already had its marquee removed. Not that this is major or surprising news, but it would seem to be the final nail in the coffin of Ample Hills at Walt Disney World. Here’s hoping that a “Salt & Straw: Coming Soon” sign goes up in short order. We could use some good news!
We’ll continue with some more unsurprising news, which is that runDisney has cancelled the 2020 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend that was to be held November 5-8, 2020 at Walt Disney World. Or rather, they’ve moved it to a virtual race–meaning you can buy a shirt and medal, if you want. (Does anyone actually do this?!)
Runners have option of receiving a full refund for the race, or to convert their existing registration to the new virtual event that can be completed from home. Registered participants should have received an email by now with instructions on how to make their registration selection before August 5, 2020. (If you haven’t, more info is here.)
We’re more intrigued by the rationale for this, as well as the ramifications for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. In terms of the reasoning for the cancellation, we think it’s mostly a matter of optics. Walt Disney World received no shortage of unfavorable headlines during the reopening process, and there might be internal concerns about more of the same–especially as Florida’s numbers remain high and other races around the United States are cancelled.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Walt Disney World Marathon. Physical distancing and mask requirements are unlikely to go away by then, so if that’s the sticking point, cancellation of that is also a foregone conclusion. However, these are outdoor events with no contact and only fleeting encounters. Aside from public perception, there’s little logic behind operating indoor bars that serve food but cancelling outdoor running events.
Next, the latest on Disney Park Pass theme park reservations. If you’ve been stalking the Disney Park Pass Availability Calendar like us, you’ve probably noticed that daily inventory has fluctuated, meaning that it’s dynamic like FastPass+ or Advance Dining Reservations. Notably, previously fully-booked parks becoming available for certain dates, particularly for resort guests.
Right now, there are three separate buckets for Disney Park Pass: resort guests, theme ticket-holders, and Annual Passholders. Of those, the only one that is even remotely low on inventory is (unsurprisingly) Annual Passholders. The dynamic system means that Walt Disney World can reallocate unfilled resort guest or ticket-holder capacity to Annual Passholders, which they did previously with a one-time “inventory dump” last week.
Another such inventory dump appears to have occurred for Disney’s Hollywood Studios between July 27 and August 27, as a flurry of availability suddenly opened up late yesterday. (Sadly, it’s now mostly gone–capacity at DHS is super low right now.)
More significantly, inventory has not yet been reallocated from resort guests and theme park ticket holders for the other parks. Silver Annual Passholders and Weekday Select Annual Passholders are able to return to the Walt Disney World theme parks on August 7, 2020 after being blocked out for the summer.
That’s obviously on top of the entire closure period, which has led to some serious pent-up demand among holders of these popular Annual Passes. In looking at the availability calendar, the first few days these APs are able to return are almost entirely booked at every single park.
We caution against reading anything into this in terms of crowds. Those dates are still totally green for resort guests and theme park ticket holders, so it’s not as if Walt Disney World is hitting capacity those days. We’ve already visited several days when Walt Disney World parks were ‘fully booked’ for Annual Passholders, and the parks have been ghost towns each and every one of those days.
Really, this is more odd than anything else. Walt Disney World significantly limiting AP access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios makes sense–daily demand for that park exceeds capacity, and it makes sense to prioritize on-site guests and those who purchase single or multi-day tickets.
However, that’s simply not true of Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. It’s really tough to say at what percentage of capacity these parks are presently operating, but it’s pretty low. All of these parks could easily double their current guest numbers and still accommodate physical distancing and other constraints. It’s hard to say if this is a matter of Disney erring on the side of caution after so much bad PR (that might be a savvy move), or issues with reallocating inventory among the buckets in the Disney Park Pass system.
On a similar note, Cast Member block-outs have once again been extended. The calendars are pure red for Self-Admission, Main Entrance Passes, and One Day Park Hopper Guest Tickets through October 31, 2020–which is as far out as the calendar goes.
Cast Members have been advised that once the blockouts are lifted, their entry will be managed by the Disney Park Pass theme park reservation system. They will have a separate “bucket” of availability, which will presumably even more limited than Annual Passholders. (Priority will always go to resort guests, then ticket holders, then APs, then CMs.)
It should go without saying that Walt Disney World would want to avoid shutting out resort guests. However, at some point this approach with APs and CMs should be rethought for three of the parks. There’s ample surplus capacity, and money is being left on the table in terms of merchandise and food & beverage purchases.
Finally, the biggest headline and smallest piece of news. (Isn’t that how it too often works?) Court documents show that a few days after Epcot reopened from its four-month shutdown, a Georgia tourist was arrested after Disney security found two guns and some marijuana in her diaper bag. The woman was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis, per the arrest report (via Orlando Sentinel).
The Georgia Woman, a close relative of Florida Man, was going through Epcot’s security line with her husband and children when Walt Disney World found a 9mm handgun “in plain view” plus a .45 caliber handgun on the bottom of the diaper bag, and a plastic bag containing marijuana. Orange County deputy sheriffs were called to the scene and arrested Georgia Woman after further searching the diaper bag.
While this is absolutely not the type of “stupid criminal” headline that Walt Disney World wants to see making the news right now, it’s worth noting that it’s hardly uncommon. Several times per year, Disney guests are caught intentionally or unknowingly attempting to bring firearms into the parks. It’s just making waves this time given the timing and relative absurdity of the story.
On the plus side, this incident demonstrates that even Walt Disney World’s modified security screening process and new high-tech baggage scanners are effective. All in all, let’s call this news a wash…
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news roundup? Think the WDW Marathon will happen in January? Amused or concerned by the “stupid criminal” story from Epcot? Thoughts on Park Pass inventory and how it’s being managed? Hopeful that Walt Disney World will get a new ice cream shop in short order? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts and commentary? 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!