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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

The path toward Disneyland's reopening is here (and unclear)

By Carlye Wisel
Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park

Welcome to this week's installment of Theme Park News. We've got West Coast updates, video game cafes, and even a smattering of Florida news to cover, so let's get into it...


Main Street U.S.A. is reopening for business...eventually.

After a few weeks of back-and-forth, California's Health and Human Services secretary Mark Ghaly finally revealed California's theme park reopening guidelines this week. We may have clarity on what's required to welcome guests back to the Happiest Place on Earth, but Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland Resort's actual opening dates are yet to be determined.

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom's recommendations, both theme parks will only open once their respective county hits the "yellow tier" — the lowest of California's four demarcations of COVID-19 community spread — meaning it very well may be a while, and that one could open before the other.

Orange County, where Disneyland Resort and Knott's Berry Farm are located, is currently red tier, or "substantial" on California's scale. Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios Hollywood is located, is currently purple tier, or "widespread."

What exactly does that mean for theme park guests and employees? Well, California parks will absolutely not be embracing a mid-pandemic opening like Florida did. The runway towards opening could be weeks or months away, according to the Orange County Register, since COVID-19 numbers must first be lowered in each region. Earlier today, San Francisco was the first major California city to reach yellow tier — which requires less than 1 new daily case per 100,000 people. (Red tier, which Orange County is currently in, is 4-7 new daily cases per 100,000 people, while purple tier, which Los Angeles sits in, is over 7 new daily cases per 100,000 people.)

Los Angeles reported 1,612 new COVID-19 cases today, but the Los Angeles Times adds that new cases are plateauing and death tallies are dropping in the area. At the time of publishing, Orange County's same-day numbers were unavailable, but yesterday, the county had 203 new cases

When California's larger parks do reopen, they'll be limited to 25% capacity, have a reservation system, screen guests prior to entry, and require face coverings for everyone, unless guests are eating or drinking, like with Florida's parks. Other stipulations differ on the West Coast, including dining locations explicitly limited to 25% and no indoor queueing allowed for rides, meaning virtual return time systems are likely to be in wide use when Universal and Disney do reopen those parks. And, according to Ghaly's response to a journalist's question at Tuesday's meeting, if a county slid back to a worse tier, the state could request they close.

Disneyland quickly fired back with the following statement after the meeting:

The news comes a few weeks after The Walt Disney Company announced the layoffs of 28,000 cast members, many of whom are Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort employees. Since Disneyland's closure, Anaheim's city unemployment rate has hit 15% and its budget deficit reached $100 million, according to the Orange County Register.



Universal Studios Japan's forthcoming theme park land may be delayed, but the Mario Cafe opened this past week and it's....delightful!

The cafe is intended to satiate guests for Super Nintendo World's delayed opening —  now slated for Spring 2021 — and from the coin-shaped lighting fixtures to the hilariously familiar touches (like Luigi's moustache as a straw topper) it's just the thing to keep us looking forward towards when this incredible Nintendo land officially welcomes its first guests.

Don't even get us started on the merchandise.



Construction-wise, things are moving along in Florida ahead of Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary next October. As Tron's build continues to wow within the Magic Kingdom, Space 220 is rumored to be moving its restaurant opening to 2021. And Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is updating its facade and beyond. So yeah, there's plenty going on.

Disney World has begun enforcing even stronger mask rules than before, updating their language online and adding brilliantly passive-aggressive sandwich board signs in the park reminding guests that masks should cover their nose and mouths:

And, while capacity is still capped at 25%, Disney appears to be putting more people on busses to increase the number of smaller parties, as well as testing dividers to increase capacity on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — which remains challenging for parkgoers trying to snag a lucky boarding pass, even with reduced admittance. Still, the most unexpected news of these past few days revolves around Disney's new Annual Passholder pop-up shop within Epcot's Germany pavilion, carrying exclusive merchandise that's sometimes offered with major discounts



We give the happy couple our best.



The last bit of (lovely!) NBA Bubble news: Upon exiting, Russell Westbrook left an $8,000 tip for Disney World housekeepers.

Orlando Sentinel explains both sides of Universal's affordable housing pledge.

This new mountain coaster!

I don't know who needs to hear this, but vintage Epcot feels are one click away.

I just hope I look half as good in my Halloween costume.

This Japanese co-working space — inside a ferris wheel — would solve all my issues.

Times are a'changing over at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

An excellent reflection of what 2020 has done for the way we view theme parks.

When you sleep tonight, be sure to dream of this never-built Hong Kong Disney park.

A tourist staying at Disney World brought an AR-15 handgun to his hotel room last month.

Magic Kingdom's beloved PeopleMover won't return until 2021.

How great is this Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary license plate