Reopening Update: “Culturally Inauthentic” Cast at Epcot, Reservation Cancellation Questions, Disneyland Delay

In this closure & reopening update, we’ll cover the latest news from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney Resort. This includes “culturally inauthentic” Cast Members at Epcot, closure extensions, and answers to common reader questions about WDW cancelling various reservations and suspending new sales.

Before we start on the news, we quickly want to thank everyone for their comments the last few days. It’s been nice to see so much positivity, especially after weeks of frustration and arguing. We totally understand this is a trying time with a lot of uncertainty and stress, and don’t blame anyone for needing to vent.

We realize we haven’t done the best job of responding to questions in the comments the last couple of weeks. This is primarily because we’re monitoring the comments and addressing common ones via the main text of subsequent posts. We view this as a better approach since many of you have the same inquiries. Hopefully, you’ve noticed and don’t just think we’re ignoring you! With that said, there are a few questions we want to quickly address that have been coming up a lot…

First, regarding cancellations–Walt Disney World’s second bombshell announcement last week. If you have restaurant, FastPass, Disney Dining Plan, etc. reservations that have not yet been cancelled, or if you have Free Dining that has not yet been converted to the 35% discount…it will happen at some point soon.

Unfortunately, we can’t offer a timeline beyond that. Walt Disney World has a huge backlog of cancellations to process, and it takes time to process.

By way of an illustrative anecdote, we’ve had restaurant and resort reservations throughout the closure, and the cancellation timing has been all over the place. Sometimes, we’ve received emails and our reservations cancelled on the day they started going out. Other times, our reservations were poofed from My Disney Experience without notification. On other occasions, our reservations were not cancelled until 2-4 days before they were set to occur.

Throughout this, it has been all over the place–and that was when Walt Disney World was processing cancellations a week or two at a time. The latest announcement cancels upcoming FastPass and Advance Dining Reservations, plus Disney Dining Plans between now and September 2021. Suffice to say, that’s a lot more to cancel and will probably take a lot longer. (There’s also the chance your third party restaurant reservations will not be cancelled.) We don’t have any special insight into timing beyond that.

However, we do have a question for you. A few readers have reported on our Facebook page that they were quietly issued refunds in the amount of their Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets–even though the tickets still appear in their accounts.

Has anyone else experienced this? Walt Disney World has not yet officially cancelled the party and we haven’t seen this reported anywhere else, so we’d like some corroboration as to whether this is–or is not–occurring. Thanks in advance!

In general, we don’t have good answers to most timeline questions, including but not limited to ones concerning refunds, online park reservations opening, ticket or resort bookings resuming, etc.

Our expectation is that the first step will be rolling out the online reservation system for park access, which could occur in multiple phases depending upon whether Walt Disney World wants to give priority to resort guests. We would expect this to occur as soon as possible, as Walt Disney World undoubtedly wants to start selling tickets, hotels, and vacation packages again.

However, any longtime Walt Disney World fan knows that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…and the sloppily laid plans of Disney IT always go awry. Which is our snide way of saying we anticipate some (ahem) hiccups with this online reservation system along the way. For your own sanity, patience will be key throughout this process.

That knocks out a couple of the biggest questions (we probably should do a full reopening FAQ to address others), so let’s turn to the latest reopening news & rumors…

 

We’ll start with a fairly insignificant tidbit, which is that Disneyland has once again delayed new reservations. Previously, Disneyland was accepting new bookings for July 1, 2020 and beyond. Now, the official website has been updated to indicate that they are accepting new reservations beginning July 15, 2020 and later.

No huge surprise here. While representatives of Governor Newsom’s administration previously indicated that Disneyland Could Reopen in Stage 3–potentially as soon as this month–Anaheim officials also stated that they’d be watching the reopening of Walt Disney World and would make decisions based on how that went. Between that and the latest state of affairs in Southern California, it’s safe to say we’re probably looking at an August reopening, at the earliest.

Next, Walt Disney World and Unite Here Local 362 are rumored to have reached a formal understanding concerning how Cast Members will be staffed in World Showcase upon Epcot’s reopening next month. As you might recall, the Cultural Representative program was suspended back in April along with Disney’s other internship programs, and the vast majority of those Cast Members returned to their home countries.

With few exceptions, these Cultural Representatives staff their respective World Showcase pavilions, offering an added layer of authenticity to the experience. We absolutely love chatting with the Cast Members in World Showcase–everyone we’ve encountered has eagerly educated us about their home cities or countries, and offered opinions on working in the United States. They’re great informal ambassadors.

This is actually a big reason why we didn’t expect Epcot to reopen until this fall. Given current travel restrictions that would make it difficult to recall these Cast Members, ongoing construction, and Epcot’s (lack of) popularity in the summer, it seemed possible that Walt Disney World would wait until the start of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival before reopening. Of course, only operating 3 of 4 parks might’ve been a tough sell to those who booked vacations.

However, the agreement between Walt Disney World and the union allows for World Showcase Cast Members who “do not meet the culturally authentic theming” to be temporarily assigned to work in positions otherwise reserved for Cultural Representatives until Disney is able to reasonably resume normal staffing.

This is a tough break for the authenticity of World Showcase, but it’s also a best-case outcome given the circumstances. Without this deal, it’s unlikely Epcot would be able to reopen with the rest of Walt Disney World–and even fall might’ve been an optimistic date for recalling those Cultural Representatives.

The deal also does not allow this practice to continue in the long-term–only until Disney can reasonably resume normal staffing. Walt Disney World has slowly eroded the authenticity of World Showcase over the years, but most of its “soul” is still intact. The Cultural Representative program is undoubtedly more expensive than using normal Cast Members or College Program kids, which could make it the target of cost-cutting endeavors. Thankfully, that cannot happen under this agreement (for now).

Finally, Oriental Land Company has declined to offer reopening dates for Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, stating that the parks will remain temporarily closed despite Japan’s state of emergency being lifted and the resort complex’s shopping and dining district reopening.

OLC further states: “The reopening of the Parks will be determined when external and internal conditions have been readied, including the phased easing of closure requests from the government and local municipalities, as well as preparations for Park operations. The reopening date will be announced once it has been decided.

Additionally, the opening date for the Tokyo Disneyland major expansion area (Beauty and the Beast mini-land, etc.) will be determined after reopening both parks. This will allow for Tokyo Disney Resort to gauge attendance patterns, viability for opening the blockbuster addition, and more.

Tokyo Disney Resort is in a tricky position. The two parks have the most passionate local fanbase of any Disney parks in the world, and millions of these Annual Passholders and local fans live under an hour away by train.

Unlike Walt Disney World, which will likely see a longer road to recovery, guests will return to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in full force as soon as the parks reopen. (Disneyland Resort in California and Tokyo Disney Resort are similar in this regard.)

That’s both a downside and upside. While Walt Disney World would obviously like to see a quick bounce-back in hotel occupancy and attendance for the sake of its financial health, a slow and steady recovery offers operational advantages. With only a handful of hotels, Tokyo Disney Resort won’t face the same prolonged financial recovery, but it could be trial by fire on the operational front.

The good news is that Japanese guests are courteous, staunchly adhering to rules and unwritten etiquette, and there’s a pre-existing culture of mask-wearing. All of this has been exhaustively covered elsewhere to explain how the “Japan model” resulted in so few cases and fatalities despite the country’s population density and public transit. In any case, these same characteristics should prove invaluable in minimizing rule-breaking, backlash to health protocol, and preventing spread once the parks reopen.

Need Disney trip planning tips and comprehensive advice? Make sure to read Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guides, where you can find comprehensive guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond! For Disney updates, discount information, a free download of our Money-Saving Tips for Walt Disney World eBook, and much more, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you fine with culturally inauthentic Cast Members in World Showcase on a temporary basis if it’s what allows Epcot to reopen months before the park otherwise could? Thoughts on Disneyland or Tokyo Disney Resort seemingly extending their closures? Do you agree or disagree with our perspectives? A variety of viewpoints are welcomed here, but we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Additionally, please do not debate the efficacy of health safety policies–all such comments (for, against, otherwise) will be deleted. Those arguments are played out and isn’t the appropriate forum for that.


69 Responses to “Reopening Update: “Culturally Inauthentic” Cast at Epcot, Reservation Cancellation Questions, Disneyland Delay”
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