Theme Park News: Say hello to Disney's planned community and goodbye to masks in parks

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Theme Park News: Say hello to Disney's planned community and goodbye to masks in parks

Disney announces a new planned community and removes mask requirements as Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser preps its opening.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Atrium

Hello and welcome to this week's Theme Park News! We've got a real mish-mosh of things happening on both coasts, so buckle up for news on pig-themed park openings, residential communities with Disney ties, and so much more. From mask removals in space to land closures, here's everything you gotta know in the big ol' world of theme parks...

ALL ABOARD THE S.S. STARCRUISER

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser debuts to the public on March 1 and if you get my out of office response this week, it's because… I am currently aboard. I can't say anything just yet, but that won't be much of a hindrance considering Disney recently dropped the biggest look inside the cruise-on-land thus far.

As someone who has already been inside — you can find everything I learned from that sneak peek right herethis quick video really gives you a glance inside the entire experience. From lightsaber training and the ship's bridge, where all the action happens, to the Crown of Corellia dining room, you can peek all the action on-screen — erm, through the ship's main window — in this two and a half minute clip.

There's some talk of the stories behind the vessel known as the Halcyon in an interview between Lucasfilm's Matt Martin and Disney Imagineer Travis Finstein, but the most newsworthy peek it provides is the first extended look at the ship's atrium and cabin rooms beyond artistic renderings. You can actually see people inside these spaces and interacting with the ship as guests, which is exciting because the next time news drops, it'll be from folks like me who just experienced it all firsthand.

Which brings me to my next point...

WAVE GOODBYE TO SAFETY PROTOCOL, I GUESS?

Boy oh boy, do we have to talk about masks. Last week, Walt Disney World — and shortly thereafter, Disneyland — announced that vaccinated guests would no longer be required to wear face coverings indoors throughout the resort. As we've discussed extensively over these past two years, proof of vaccine has never been required at either resort, so we'll call it what it is: a full removal of mask requirements inside attractions, hotels and indoor theme park spaces.

Masks will still be required in certain indoor spaces like First Aid, and on transportation, including Walt Disney World buses and Disneyland shuttles, which poses a unique conundrum for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

After all, isn't the conceit of this entire experience that it is, indeed, transportation?

Every bit of this place's backstory works to emphasize that this is not a hotel. It's the Halcyon, a luxury cruise liner operated by Chandrila Star Line with costumed travelers from across the galaxy. There are no windows to be found — which, personally, I pray leads to a heightened level of Las Vegas loopiness — because you're not in Orlando, you're rocketing towards Batuu and back. It's a cruise, it's a ship, it's not a building that sits permanently grounded on Floridian soil in the distance of Disney's Hollywood Studios. And yet, guests will be required to wear a mask when together on a themed transport bus to the theme park and back, but not on the equally indoors ship itself.

Weird, right? It seems that, despite acting like transportation in both the figurative and literal senses, it opts to self-delegate as a hotel solely when safety protocol comes into consideration. With rules lifting across the country, I recognize there's not much ground to stand on and this is the way things are going, but it remains a specific choice that still feels somewhat too soon. Florida's local COVID-19 rolling 14-day positivity average may be dropping steadily, but is still 15 percent as of this past Sunday.

(In mask news elsewhere, Universal Studios Hollywood remains the lone holdout, but that's entirely due to Los Angeles County's mask mandate. Speaking of — remember how I projected they'd drop masks in late March or early April? That timeline has moved up, following news this week that required metrics have changed.)

IS THIS... EVEN THEME PARK NEWS?

Disney announced a new business expansion last week that, frankly, I was not expecting: residential communities. They call it "Storyliving by Disney," and as grateful as I am to have a goofy new word to add to the Disney Lexicon, it's a curious new step out from their Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products division.

The Rancho Mirage desert enclave boasts an expansion of the Disney touch to master-planned communities complete with club memberships, amenities and activities, and even some neighborhoods specifically for residents 55+.

Though based in California, it's separate from what they're cooking up for the Anaheim theme park resort, but remains equally intriguing. The fine print discloses that Disney is not the developer, builder or seller of the homes in the community, so it'll be interesting to see if the Disney aesthetic will be as visually minimal as it is at Golden Oak in Florida, or if there will be options to boost Mickey Mouse's presence within one's dream home.

Want one of your own? Stay tuned — according to a press release, additional locations in the U.S. are under exploration for further development. All I know is that the glossy and legitimately stylish website launching this concept includes a video of a heavenly dog being welcomed to take a seat at the table, which is precisely my vibe so consider me sold!!!

LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!

  • We, at long last, know what's going and staying as part of Disneyland's update to Mickey's ToonTown. Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, Mickey's House and Minnie's House will remain intact, while Goofy's House, Donald's Boat and Gadget Go Coaster will be "reimagined" in new ways when the land reopens in early 2023 with the addition of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. Wanna catch one last glimpse while you still can? Be sure to visit before March 9, when it will close for refurbishment.
  • Meow Wolf is celebrating the first anniversary of Omega Mart, its large-scale Las Vegas experience. Since opening in February 2020, they have welcomed over a million guests into its "grocery store."
  • LEGOLAND New York released a sneak preview of its new water playground opening this summer.
  • New ways to easily praise hard-working theme park employees is a massive win in my book!
  • Peppa Pig Theme Park hosted its press preview — try to say that five times fast — and i won't lie, those milkshakes look fab. Am I already jealous of everyone who gets to meet Peppa firsthand? Yes, yes I am.
  • Disney World added a little multi-day ticket price increase that requires a lot of knowledge and math skills to track. Thankfully, Disney Food Blog broke it down flawlessly.
  • A delayed round of applause for Dollywood covering 100 percent of tuition, books and fees for any full-time, part-time and seasonal employees pursuing their education. We love to see it!
  • Disney Wish revealed a new Inside Out-themed sweets shop, Olaf's Royal Picnic Frozen character dining, and details about lobby and communal spaces.
  • Heading to Disney Springs? Don't miss the secret (upon request only!) Paddlefish lunch menu, with discounts on stuffed cod, a burger and a kid's cheeseburger, available on weekdays.
  • PLEASE JUST TELL ME!! I NEED TO KNOW!!!
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