In this edition of Theme Park Bits:
- A former Disneyland Cast Member details the racial discrimination he received.
- Disneyland hotel reservations have been pushed back again.
- And more!
The world right now is the garbage fire to end all garbage fires, and I’m sure you’ve clicked through on this post in the hopes to get a temporary reprieve from the heat of those flames. And listen, I would love to make your hopes come true, but as you know right now, life is full of disappointments. To wit, in light of the worldwide protests being made to speak out against widespread racial discrimination and in support of the #BlackLivesMatters movement, even the Disney theme parks have come under fire.
A former Cast Member who starred in the Frozen: Live at the Hyperion show at Disney California Adventure wrote at length about his experience as the original Prince Hans. Cooper Howell, a young Black man, was cast as the devious Hans and goes into detail about the joy he felt at being cast despite the animated character being white. And he went into even further detail regarding the cruel harassment he received at the hands of the show’s second director and the equally cruel dismissal he felt from the HR team at Team Disney Anaheim. This story is no doubt one of many among Cast Members who are people of color, and it’s just as horrific as you could imagine. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that Disneyland or the Disney theme parks are free of discrimination – enjoy your next ride on Splash Mountain – yet stories like Cooper’s are profoundly infuriating and inexcusable.
Speaking of Disneyland, and moving away from the very real and necessary struggles going on around the world, you may be wondering exactly when you’ll get to visit. We’re all exhausted, we’re all angry, and we all need a brief bit of relief at this point. So, Disneyland! Let’s all head over there, right? Walt Disney World, as you no doubt have heard, is reopening in mid-July (as far as we know). And Disneyland’s 65th anniversary is coming up on July 17. It’s entirely possible that the anniversary is going to be the opening day, because Disneyland now has pushed back hotel reservation dates to July 15. The previous date was July 1, but now it’s inched much closer to the 17th. Fingers crossed?
If you live in Florida, of course, you know that there’s plenty of theme-park options in June, with many opening back up. That, of course, is the good news. (The bad news is that coronavirus cases are going steadily up, but…uh…hey, look over there!) It’s not just Disney and Universal that are reopening, though. On June 11, SeaWorld opens back up and will be implementing a reservation system when it does. Not every theme park that’s reopening is going with the reservation system, which is, putting it lightly, A Choice. SeaWorld’s doing things right, at least at the outset. We’ll see how things go next week.
Lots of the old plans for theme parks are changing because of the coronavirus. If you keep up with the progress of the Walt Disney World theme parks, you know that Epcot was going to be heavily overhauled over the next couple of years. Many of those changes are still going to happen at some point, but “at some point” is the real operative phrase now. Take, for instance, Spaceship Earth. It was planned to go through a massive multi-year construction project. And maybe it still will! But when Epcot opens back up on July 15, so too will Spaceship Earth. The reconstruction has been delayed indefinitely. The original project was meant to run for 2 1/2 years (yes, really), but in this new climate, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the plans get scuttled.
Let’s wrap up today’s column with some genuine, lighthearted hope. Yes, really! A recent article in the Orange County Register highlighted a particularly notable question on a Disneyland survey sent to some passholders: what would you say if Disneyland was willing to deliver some of its iconic food items to you, a la DoorDash or Uber? What if you could get a Monte Cristo sandwich straight from the Blue Bayou or a turkey leg, via delivery? Now, this would likely be something only truly applicable to locals, but those of us scattered around the country can always dream for a mail-order meal, or a HelloFresh-style recipe. Like I said, we’re ending with hope.
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