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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Walt Disney World reopens amid COVID-19 surge, and the NBA moves in

By Carlye Wisel
Three guests holding Disney balloons walking down Main Street, USA at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Hello from Orlando. That sentence hits differently when it’s July 2020, but I’m on property reporting about Walt Disney World’s phased theme park reopening and the safety procedures in place even as on Monday Florida recorded 12,624 new cases, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Rising case numbers have yet to slow down Disney World's reopening, though. There's still much to discuss in the world of theme park news: park details, NBA updates, and plenty more.


Yes, the most magical place on earth is back on the horizon. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the parks back in March, two of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks have opened to the public.

As we’ve said before, this isn’t business as usual. Capacity is reduced, guests are required to book “park passes” to enter, and there is no park hopping or traveling back and forth between locations. But, unlike our previous discussions, we finally got to experience what it’s like firsthand in two of the parks: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

Many attractions are still open in the park, with entertainment being the most noticeable chunk missing. Still, the parks have socially distanced these procedures as well, sending Chip & Dale in their Dino-Bash! costumes out on a boat through Animal Kingdom’s waterways and parading princesses down Main Street, USA, on floats. Yesterday, at an Epcot employee preview, Winnie-the-Pooh even frolicked in the grass with a butterfly net — a much cuter experience than simply giving him a hug inside a jammed Crystal Palace restaurant would have been:

Logistically, there are changes as well. Mobile ordering is not only encouraged but at some locations required. Guests place their orders in advance and only enter once their food is ready. (This has led to some crowding at entrance doors but, as with airline boarding, can be easily avoided by simply stepping away until it’s time.) Thankfully, many spaces within the park remain pretty wide open throughout the day:

Attractions have adjusted boarding to skip rows between parties, and queues are marked with an endless stream of social-distancing stickers, as well as plexiglass barriers in line and loading areas where more than distance is required.

The most surprising thing? On the whole, mask compliance is extremely high. This isn’t the Florida you’re used to seeing on social media — a nose slips out here and there, but besides a few outlying experiences, it’s remarkably good.

Still, you can’t discuss the matter without mentioning what’s happening just outside those park gates, and Monday's case numbers had it coming in second to Florida’s largest single-day increase this year, with over 16,000 cases as the daily average as the death toll also continued to rise.

Yesterday, Hong Kong Disneyland announced it would be shutting back down due to governmental requirements, and back in California, Downtown Disneyland opened days before Governor Gavin Newsom's announcement to pull back on the state’s phased opening. (This seemingly will not affect the Disney mall's operations.)

There are some other changes in Orlando that are pretty important for anyone planning to visit Walt Disney World in the next year. According to WDW Prep School, luggage delivery service for Disney hotel guests is ending this week due to current modifications.

And there’s one more thing, though this has nothing to do with coronavirus-related regulations:

Cinderella Castle looks completely different. The colors reflect differently throughout the day, marking a massive shift from the gray-and-blue icon of yesteryear. All said and done, I definitely like it, but the sightlines from spots in Tomorrowland and Frontierland can be somewhat surprising later in the day when that rose gold really shines through.


Sure, Disney World may have reopened without many of its live performances and theatre shows, but that doesn't mean there isn't peak entertainment coming out of Florida.

The NBA has arrived and, my oh my, we are getting some absolutely amazing updates from the athletes residing at three Disney hotels. When it's good, it's good. Sometimes it's even good when it's not so good.

Even the Mavs recognize the cross-promotion brand potential:

Nowhere is the NBA content coming out of WDW more perfect than when it comes to the Lopez twins. The duo are well-documented Disney megafans — I first heard of them when they attended the Shanghai Disneyland media opening as I wondered who these tall men were  — and, frankly put, the pair are thriving now.

In the Venn diagram of intersecting circles between sports and theme parks, they are at its perfectly hilarious center. I can't get enough of athletes obsessing over Mickey Waffles, watching in-room Disney TV, and overpacking for their trips to Florida.

Desperate for more? Don't miss the NBABubbleLife Twitter and Instagram account, which has been aggregating the best content out of, well, the NBA Bubble.

Not sure if it's worth a follow?:

It's worth a follow.


As someone who is out here braving the Florida heat: I get it!


- Virtual queue will be used for Disney's Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride when it opens later this week

- These Universal characters should have a meet-and-greet!

- LEGOLAND Florida has updated its mask policy in accordance with a city ordinance.

- Squirrels: They're just like us.

Sometimes dreams do come true!

- This shouldn't be revolutionary, but after a few days at the parks, I back this platform 100 percent.

I missed this too!