It’s been a while since we covered a round-up of the latest news from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so we’ll offer a recap here with a range of interesting stories from the potential reopening to future projects between now and 2023. Let’s start with the latest cancellations.
The Hotels of the Disneyland Resort have sent out another round of cancellation emails, indicating that they’ll “remain closed and will reopen at a later date.” These emails advise guests that Disneyland Resort is unable to accommodate upcoming hotel room reservations, and gives options for modifying and info about waiving change and cancellation fees on future reservations.
Interestingly, this email was sent out to hotel guests for arrivals through September 26, 2020 and Disney Vacation Club members with reservations at the Villas at Grand Californian through September 30, 2020. New reservations are available to book for the hotels and DVC property beginning October 1, 2020…
One thing that’s interesting here is that reservations for all three hotels are available October 1, 2020. Even if Disneyland Resort does reopen by this date, we would not expect all three hotels to open at first. Back when the July anniversary date was the slated return, Disneyland Hotel was not scheduled to reopen.
That was during the peak summer tourist season. Now, it’s California’s off-season for tourism and Disneyland Resort will have the benefit of learning from Walt Disney World’s experience. Based upon both of those factors, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if only the Grand Californian reopens initially. Time will tell, though.
As we note in our Orange County Upgrade: Progress for Disneyland Reopening, Governor Newsom met with leaders from Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and other parks a couple of weeks ago. We heard credible rumors that those conversations were fruitful, and that reopening dates would be announced shortly after Orange County’s tier elevation.
In fact, we went as far as to predict a specific reopening date in When Will Disneyland Reopen?At this point, it now seems likely that the wildfires raging throughout California are the main impediment to Disneyland Resort announcing a reopening date.
Not because the fires burning throughout California directly impact Disney’s operations, but due to the optics of announcing the opening amidst dual crises. Disney already was vilified for the timing of reopening the Florida parks; opening “The Happiest Place on Earth” while California burns would be (fairly) painted as dystopian.
Our expectation at this point is that Disneyland quietly continues reopening preparations, but does not announce an official date until the wildfires are contained and the skies no longer look like something out of Blade Runner 2049. Of course, even once a reopening date is announced, a bit of time will be necessary to recall and train Cast Members, and deploy the park reservation system.
Accordingly, our previously predicted October 1, 2020 date is looking less and less likely. There’s still an outside chance of this happening, but it’ll slip away if no announcement is made by the middle of this coming week. It’s entirely possible that even after the wildfires are under control, Disneyland will want to put a bit of distance between them and the announcement.
That could push the reopening date several weeks later. Perhaps the company will see the Halloween Time season as a lost cause and instead focus on salvaging Christmas. (To be clear, we have not heard anything credible on any delays–the wildfire delay angle is entirely speculative.)
Speaking of cancellations and Christmas, Disneyland has announced the cancellation of Candlelight Processional. The annual event occurs the first weekend of December and features dozens of choir groups on an intimate stage in front of Disneyland’s Main Street Train Station to bring the story of Christmas to life. The event is attended by thousands of guests who tightly pack a small seating area in Disneyland’s Town Square.
Per Disney officials, Disneyland is disappointed that event attendees, choir members, and Cast Members will be unable to partake in the event. Due to its nature and the unprecedented environment, Candlelight Processional is simply not feasible this year for a variety of reasons.
We wouldn’t read too much into this. It certainly does not mean that Disneyland won’t be open by December. Planning for Candlelight Processional takes several months, and Disney could not commit to the process given the current uncertainty of everything. Moreover, Walt Disney World cancelled its Candlelight Processional (among other events) despite already being open.
Candlelight Processional has become divisive among Disneyland guests in recent years. It’s essentially a private event held during normal operating hours, and it causes significant congestion at the front of the park on what’s become a very busy weekend. It has caused increasingly serious crowd-flow issues and headaches as Disneyland’s attendance has surged in the last several years.
Nevertheless, we love Candlelight Processional and hope this is not the first nail in its coffin. It’s a Walt Disney-era offering with great history, beautiful pageantry, and even catching fleeting glimpses of it is something special. Yeah, it’s a pain to enter or exit the park–or even navigate Main Street–during Candlelight, but that’s easy enough to avoid.
With so much of Disneyland’s Walt-era history fading and its physical remnants being replaced, it’s more important than ever to keep traditions like this going. Here’s hoping Candlelight Processional makes a bright return in 2021!
Finally, the Walt Disney Company’s CFO Christine McCarthy spoke at the Bank of America Conference this week and specifically addressed the project priorities for the Disney Parks & Resorts business unit. Unsurprisingly, two of the three projects that were specifically identified are Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Toontown at Disneyland.
This is unsurprising for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, because Disney has quietly shared milestone updates on both projects recently via social media. Ken Potrock, President of the Disneyland Resort, shared photos and video on Instagram of the first steel going up on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, while also indicating that the attraction is “scheduled to open for guests in 2023!” Clever and low-key way to announce a year delay!
The same happened with Avengers Campus, where a Quinjet from the Avengers and a new attraction insignia for Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure were both installed during the current closure while being hyped up on several Instagram accounts from Marvel, Imagineering, and Disneyland Resort leadership.
The Spider-Man attraction was originally scheduled to open this summer, but will now probably pushed into 2021 for strategic purposes. On the other hand, the Quinjet was placed atop the Avengers Headquarters, which is a facade that will become the future entrance to a brand-new E-Ticket attraction. Even before the closure, we repeatedly questioned whether this ride would ever actually be built.
This isn’t a Smugglers Run & Rise of the Resistance situation where one ride is debuting 6 months before the other. Construction has not even started on the actual Avengers attraction–just the facade. The E-Ticket was previously looking at an opening date in the ballpark of 2023.
Now, that’s probably 2024…or 2025? A lot can change between now and then, and nothing in McCarthy’s statement indicates both phases of the Avengers Campus are priorities.
The good news for the prospects of these and other projects is that Disneyland Resort will almost certainly bounce back before Walt Disney World. While Disney has tried its hardest to turn Disneyland Resort into a bona fide tourist destination (we really thought Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would do the trick–but were wrong on that), it is still very much a locals’ destination.
In the near term, there’s an intense amount of pent-up demand among residents of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In the longer term, excessive numbers of vacant hotel rooms won’t be an albatross that prevents a full recovery in the next couple of years. Given the totality of the circumstances, it makes sense that Disney would be prioritizing its projects in California. While we wouldn’t expect Disney to continue aggressive attempts to turn Disneyland into a ‘destination resort,’ investments on new rides and other improvements are relatively safe.
What are your thoughts on the lack of a reopening announcement for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? Think it’s due to the wildfires at this point, or further delays by the state? Disappointed by the cancellation of Candlelight Processional, or would you be fine if it were permanently retired? What about the projects prioritized at Disneyland Resort? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!