Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

When one castle door closes, another opens (and Mickey attacks hyenas in a mobile game)

By Carlye Wisel
Magic Kingdom with characters in front

Time is an invention, society is a construct, and yet, theme parks continue to churn out news.

From closure updates (yes! still!) on both ends of the country to a new way to cheer yourself up inside your home by way of Olaf and Mickey Bars, here's this week in theme parks:


If you thought the breaking news would cease once every theme and amusement park in the country had temporarily closed, you’d be wrong. Crazy wrong, in fact!

Word came early yesterday that Serge Rivera, the CEO of SeaWorld, was stepping down. He is the fourth CEO to leave the company in six years, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and does so as nearly all of its staffers are currently furloughed.

SeaWorld closures due to coronavirus

LEGOLAND New York and its brand-new LEGO Factory Adventure ride — which uses facial recognition to turn you into one of the lil’ plastic minifigures — will be delaying its opening until 2021, well beyond its intended July 4, 2020, opening date.

Knott’s Berry Farm also dropped a bombshell that gave a somewhat dim spotlight into what is to come — and how long it's thinking we might be out of these parks. Over the weekend, annual pass holders to the Southern California theme park were alerted that their admission would automatically be extended through the end of 2021, as reported by the Orange County Register.

The silver lining may be those extra days in the park — possibly close to two years for the price of one! — but the cloud it’s attached to signifies Knott's may expect the parks to open well beyond peak summertime season. Either that, or it’s a generous move intended to sweeten the deal for pass holders, as they already have put money down — particularly since the park has paused its collection of monthly payments. (Heads up: If you want in on the never-ending pass, Knott’s is offering season passes lasting through the end of 2021 to everyone on its website.)

And then there’s Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Disney announced last week that an indeterminate amount of cast members — the cheeky name for The Walt Disney Company’s employees — across the parks, experiences, and products division of the company will be furloughed starting on April 19.

According to a company memo, the leave of absence will be temporary and short-term, affecting executives, salaried, and non-union hourly employees whose jobs are not crucial to maintaining operations while the parks are shuttered. Anyone who is on temporary leave will still retain their health insurance and benefits, can apply for federal compensation, and use PTO at the start of the absence, according to Disney Food Blog.

Early yesterday, news broke that Disney Internships & Programs would also be temporarily suspended with current participants' time ending on April 18. Programs scheduled to begin in June and last through summer have also been canceled. In addition, Disney will be assisting all cultural representatives from foreign countries who currently remain in Orlando in arranging travel home. These employees typically come from around the world to work at restaurants within Epcot or provide entertainment and education in places like Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge for a 12-month stint; participants will be invited back when the parks reopen.

Like I said last week, these parks will reopen — it just feels pretty far away at this moment in time.


Trapped in your house and missing the parks? If anyone gets it, it’s The Walt Disney Company. (And myself, who has replaced all music with Tokyo Disneyland background music loops on YouTube and is slowly losing her mind from hour 17 of never-ending ragtime.)

Still, prepare to fall to your knees in your kitchen-turned-office-turned-classroom because Disney Magic Moments is here to give you a sigh of relief and some pixie dust-sprinkled creative reprieve while stuck inside your room a la Rapunzel. The new website — or categorized landing page within Disney Parks Blog, if that's your jam — is corralling every bit of at-home entertainment for your enjoyment, making it easier to feel a part of the kingdom while you’re trapped within your tower.

You can decorate a printable Onward coloring book! You can watch the new Disneyland parade if you missed it in person! You can view the first of many soon-to-arrive Olaf cartoons that were entirely made at home? All I did today was make a bag of tortilla chips disappear, so color me very impressed.

There are a few other worthy things too, like a walk-through tour of Walt Disney Imagineering, typically a top-secret spot — but not now! (Grab a glimpse of the monorail-themed highway, whose windows serve as portals to other Disney destinations worldwide.) Or you can truly choose your fighter while the parks are temporarily shuttered with the new Sorcerer’s Arena mobile game. Full disclosure, I’m not a ~game person~ and have no idea how to play this, but I love it anyway. The music filled my earbuds with a plucky version of the Soarin' theme as I shopped for new gilded treasure chests? Fantasia Mickey drowned a Lion King hyena and Sulley sucker-punched Jungle Book’s Shere Kahn to his eventual demise? Y’all can keep Animal Crossing, I’m good with this.


If you miss sports more than a $7 pretzel shaped like a humanized mouse’s face, never fear: I’ve got just the thing. Welcome to Disney Food Blog’s perfect Instagram account, which during boom time reads like a hit list of must-buy foods throughout Disney’s theme parks and resorts. It had the potential to leave us thirsty and wanting during this never-ending quarantine but oh no, it's figured out something even better. Enter: THE BRACKET.

These tournaments all go down in DFB’s Instagram stories and play out in real-time, pitting Dole Whip against Mickey beignets and Epcot eateries against Animal Kingdom favorites. There, one not only gets to cast their vote via the ultra-satisfying feeling of clicking for your favorite but is immediately being rewarded with seeing how each stacks up. You can’t change your choice, just revel in glee when a favorite cupcake pulls ahead or panic when a corn dog slips behind. A lot of these challenges have been tight — close to 50-50! — and knowing your vote matters feels oh, so good.

I’m completely obsessed and check constantly throughout the day for the next battle. I’m not entirely sure why, but in a time where we have control over nothing and the parks remain closed for a not-insignificant amount of time, knowing I can toss a nail into Pizzafari’s coffin by way of declaring my love for Harambe Market gives me a purpose.


Yes, it technically went down on Instagram, but Disney Parks inventive chef, People magazine food editor, and all-around heartthrob Shay Spence used his Mickey waffle iron to create, well, everything from a massive pizza pocket face to smushed chicken-and-biscuits, and it’s a damn delight:

Check the thread and prepare to be wowed!


- Want free Marvel comics? Done!

- WDW bought 26 acres outside the Magic Kingdom, following a 235-acre purchase in December.

- If Cruise Law News’ scoop is accurate, 38 crew members on the Disney Wonder have tested positive for COVID-19.

- Not sure what happens now with your Disneyland or Disney World annual pass now? You have a choice.

- Bought a Disneyland ticket that you can no longer use? Here’s what to do.

- I am weirdly transfixed by this Disney Park Bench series, which gives you a people-watching portal from areas in the parks you wouldn’t be able to drop into otherwise.

- Due to Canadian regulations, Disney Wonder sailings are canceled through the end of June.

- Don’t want to read your kids a bedtime story? Let Dolly Parton do it!

- Buy a $50 gift card to Disney Springs’ Raglan Road and they’ll toss in $25 — with all proceeds going to staff.