Hello! After a couple of pretty intense weeks, we are back with some major theme park updates. Like an autumnal basket filled with festive gourds — let us dream of November, as Floridian summer is upon us — we’ve got a cornucopia of news for you from coast to coast. From Jungle Cruise changes to clowns abounding, here’s this week’s bounty of theme park news:
JUST A LOT OF DISNEY UPDATES
Let’s start with the good news, which is that as of this week, all Disney parks across the globe are open for the first time in 17 months. It’s a welcome sign that we are moving back to normal, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is not exactly over yet.
I’ve written about my feelings on theme parks and the removal of masks at length, but two new revelations came in the past week. It appears that, even as guidance is now mirrored between Disney’s Florida and California theme park resorts, employee mask requirements continue to vary due to local government mandates. As of this week, employees at Walt Disney World are no longer required to wear masks outdoors if they are vaccinated. In California, Disneyland staff were offered the option to upgrade to an N95 mask on June 15, the day attendees were allowed to go maskless.
For clarity, the parks are continuing to require masks indoors for unvaccinated guests, but it's a self-attested status that, as previously mentioned, is rather pointless in practice. Consider it a Ferris wheel-sized loophole, particularly considering the number of young children, still unable to be vaccinated, who are reportedly wandering the parks sans face covering.
As for employees, it could change soon, too. On June 17, California confirmed that fully vaccinated employees would no longer have to wear masks at work, but individual businesses' rules could supersede that. (Disneyland has not yet announced any changes to their employee mask policies.)
With all that out of the way, let's focus on what else is worth looking forward to at Disney Parks this summer. Nighttime entertainment will return in July to Magic Kingdom and Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Park in California. And, call it pandemic brain or just this year moving too quickly, but the updated version of Jungle Cruise has officially arrived at Magic Kingdom, which has been surprising guests with updated scenes for the past few weeks. California's version of the ride will reopen anew at Disneyland Park on July 16.
And then, there’s Avengers Campus. As predicted, the early bottleneck of crowds has dissipated and the land is now widely accessible — for better or worse, given the increase in capacity — but the new must-see sight isn’t Spider-Man or jumbo Bavarian pretzels. Disney is making good on their multiverse promise nearly immediately, with Loki appearing in costumes directly from the Disney+ two weeks in a row. Following LOKI's first episode, the God of Mischief appeared in his TVA jumpsuit, and after the second episode, donned his desk jockey "Variant" jacket. Not to extrapolate too deeply, but in a larger sense, it bodes well for the future of this land and the park as a whole. If Disney can align their entertainment to media offerings straight out the gate, it’s a standard they’re likely to maintain going forward.
The longevity and lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and, well, the fact that it continues to churn out record-shattering hits) provides a unique opportunity to reflect what's currently happening on-screen within the parks, offering it a new level of relevance no other theme park land has been able to emulate... ever. Without delving into comparisons to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which has yet to really incorporate much from The Mandalorian, Disneyland is already cashing the checks it wrote for Avengers Campus' backstory and I can't wait to see what's on the way. Who can we expect to synergize in the flesh from forthcoming properties like Ms. Marvel and The Eternals? Only time — for all time, always — will tell.
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS IS COMING
Yes, despite the summertime sun scorching the earth, Halloween is upon us. Universal Orlando Resort began dropping hints last week and people were beyond thrilled. And, actually, a bit fuzzy, given how much static the announcement contained. Seriously — horror stans stared at a live stream (!) of static and "VHS input screens", according to Theme Park Insider, in hopes of a reveal which came one day later: that tickets were on sale and Jack the Clown, a fixture in previous years, will return.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced the majesty that is Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort, the entire park essentially duplicates itself with chill-inducing experiences once the sun sets, with over a dozen themed houses and walk-through experiences dripping with fright-filled sights for an ultimately transportive experience, made all the more impressive by its temporary status.
HHN is more significant than, perhaps, any other theme park event that happens throughout the year, and its 2020 cancellation due to the pandemic was a crushing blow to the horror community. Now, with high vaccination rates, decreasing COVID-19 numbers, and the promise of the event returning in full force, it's likely to meet a level of pent-up demand unlike any other theme park gathering this year. If Universal's announcement didn't make it explicitly clear, HHN is back — and it’s going to be bananas.
AND, OVER IN PARIS...
Disney’s Hotel New York - The Art of Marvel officially opened at Disneyland Paris, and... it’s extremely cool!? I won't lie, having only seen the same renderings being passed around since the hotel's retheme was announced at D23 Expo 2017, I wasn't sure what it would turn out like, but color me amazed.
The nods to New York City are intriguing while still subtle, with a sleek lobby reminiscent of a pared-down version of the signage within 30 Rockefeller's lobby, details inspired by Grand Central Terminal, and a Skyline hotel bar which pulls from Disney Cruise Line's similar watering hole for a skyline that includes Stark Tower:
Looking for something more exciting than Marvel shampoo and props throughout property? There's also a Manhattan-themed restaurant and Downtown restaurant, with all-you-can-eat dim sum, but the place to be is the Bleecker Street bar, whose levitating Dr. Strange-inspired cocktail puts Pym Tasting Lab's reverse-tap beers to shame. (Though, uh, one complaint: anything that mashes up New York subway stations with a pool is...no thanks.)
Beyond that underground swimming snafu, it's extremely cool and Russo Brothers-approved. Looks like Avengers Campus has some competition!
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- A young Disney fan was reunited with their beloved Minnie Mouse, thanks to Reddit.
- Gay Days will return to Disneyland this September!
- Universal Orlando is looking to fill over 1,000 foodservice positions.
- Things are getting a bit pricier over at Epcot.
- The new Jurassic World-themed eats at Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure are... so good.
- Pre-shows are back in a big way at Walt Disney World.
- Former Disneyland annual passholders, don't fret — yes, a new membership program is on the way, but there's no news yet.
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