Fireworks over Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World
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Credit: Walt Disney World Resort 

Disneyland and Walt Disney World are still closed, so now what?

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Mar 31, 2020

Hello from my bunker of roller coaster dreams!

Visiting theme parks feels so far away, especially after this week’s news, but remember — we will wait, patiently (or not), and eventually we will get back there.

Just think of it like that dip underneath the train station before entering Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland or Disney World’s Magic Kingdom: Even if you can’t see the rest of the park yet, you know it’s there on the other side. As you take in the vintage attraction posters, the butter-tinged scent of the nearby popcorn stand, the first few details of those turn-of-the-century buildings — you can sense that it’s just a bit farther.

It may be a while until we emerge out the other end of that underpass, but it’ll happen. Don’t forget that: It will happen.

In the meantime, our theme-park-loving hearts still need to bleed for something, so here’s a bit of what you need (important details about these park closures!), what you want (a worthy distraction!), and a new meme you won’t be able to forget:

THE PARKS ARE CLOSED — AND YES, IT'S GOING TO BE A WHILE.

Wondering when you’re going on your theme park vacation? Yeah, so are we. Last week, The Walt Disney Company announced that Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts will remain closed until further notice due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. That means nearly everything — the theme parks, hotels, water parks, "downtown" malls — except for golf (still open?) will remain closed indefinitely.

Credit: Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Now, naturally, for a theme park resort that sees peak crowds over spring break and at the beginning of summer, that can be confusing for someone who has plans in May or June. According to Scott Gustin, both resorts are only offering bookings starting on June 1, signaling the possibility these parks could remain closed for at least another two months. (That would be on the short end. For reference: The theme parks that shuttered first, Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland, have remained closed for over nine weeks.)

Disney Vacation Club Resorts — Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, and Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian destination — are also closed indefinitely, and Disney Cruise Line just halted its cruise departures through April 28.

If you have a trip that needs to be rescheduled or canceled, Disney Food Blog has a comprehensive list of resources to aid in adjusting your vacation plans, including details on an exclusive offer for later this year.

But the big question remains: When can we, the folks who live and breathe for this stuff, return to our place? When can the Disney World fans, who gleefully wait in a 40-minute line for a $6 Starbucks just to sit on a patch of turf in the blazing sun beside a comically large castle, finally go back? It’s looking further and further into summer, but it’ll happen. And when it does, it’ll be incredible.

Credit: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

SO, WHAT IS THERE TO DO BESIDES DAYDREAM?

Obviously, I've been daydreaming a lot. I highly recommend this caramel corn recipe as a dupe for the one from the Karamel-Kuche shop at Epcot’s Germany Pavilion! And, ya know, eating your feelings.

If you're a Disney fan, there’s no better time to take that deep dive into a major Disney education than right now. There are plenty of animated films and YouTube videos of theme park background audio (this one, from Tokyo, is a new favorite), but it’s worth carving out a day to focus on something else: learning how the sausage is really made.

No, we don’t mean the one from Biergarten — or even that of Galaxy’s Edge’s Ronto Wraps — but how these theme parks are actually conceived. Khan Academy’s Imagineering in a Box lesson plan is a free, eye-opening initiative that's family-friendly without sacrificing any hard details. Done in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering — a first, truly considering WDI is so secretive it was major news when it launched its very first website last year — it teaches kids and adults how to build a theme park from the geniuses who’ve already done it.

You’ll get to learn the lingo — beat sheet! ghost graphics! — and even dream up your favorite ride. If it sounds like little kid stuff, remember this: It’ll help you understand not only how theme parks work, but why certain things make it inside, a backbone that’ll pop up on every future visit.

And then there’s my other go-to suggestion: a not-so-little (OK, it’s a 600-plus-page behemoth) book called Disney War. If holding up a hefty exposé sounds like more exercise than you’re willing to do while sheltered in place, the audiobook is absolutely perfect. Narrator Patrick Lawlor brings a booming, broadcast journalist-esque voice to the tale, which plays out like a mix between a compelling deep-dive podcast and a worth-revisiting 60 Minutes episode.

It’s not just history that makes Disney War so compelling either — it’s the unfettered access James B. Stewart was given in writing it. When he references an individual fax or conversation between former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner and other power players like Michael Ovitz and Jeffrey Katzenberg, it feels impossible, but it’s all accounted for. It’s a trip that can be time-consuming in normal life and a little dense for a morning commute, but in the comfort of your own home, it will fill the time with both drama and ease.

TWEET(S) OF THE WEEK

A perfect meme about our love of the parks that landed from heaven and NEVER GETS OLD:

We miss the Disney Outlet report as much as you do, bud.

LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!

- Ride a LEGOLAND coaster, take in a 360-degree view of Universal Orlando’s Diagon Alley or fly down a roaring rapids water slide in Visit Orlando’s compilation of virtual activities.

- And if that's not enough, do virtual zoo visits with animals, download coloring pages, and go on a digital safari over at IAAPA's online experience compilation.

- All Disney executives will be taking a major pay cut, with CEO Bob Chapek halving his base salary and Bob Iger receiving no base salary, starting Sunday.

- Be Our Chef, the cooking competition that will result in one winning dish being served in the theme parks, has launched on Disney+.

- Now, this perfect video is how to get us to buy something fun and frivolous amidst a pandemic.

- Just the thing I need after 2,000 days in self-quarantine.

- Movie journalist Drew Taylor's deep dive for Vanity Fair into the reason Disney+ doesn’t have more of the Muppets is just fantastic.

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