Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Sign at Walt Disney World
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Guests head back to Disney World as NBA players learn their Mickey Mouse fate

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Jun 23, 2020, 4:26 PM EDT (Updated)

If you’re someone who's typically attuned to what's happening at Walt Disney World, last week likely felt more like one never-ending day. A tidal wave of Disney World news, updates, and protocols has continued to steadily rush in, and there's been crossover with NBA Twitter, so it's been a challenge to remember where one day ended and another began.

Case in point: I now get push notifications whenever Mickey Mouse’s parent company or Shams Charania tweet something out onto the web, because Disney news can (and has!) unexpectedly come from either one. So! If you heard something about reservations, another thing about Yacht Club, and are unsure who exactly was allowed on Disney hotel ground today, we're dedicating the entire column this week to breaking down this week's updates in a clear and concise way. 

Grab those virtual mouse ears and tuck in for the wildest theme park ride on the internet:

NBA AT DISNEY WORLD

Yes, it’s going forward, and soon James Harden will seemingly be calling Disney’s Grand Floridian home. The NBA dropped a 113-page dossier outlining every step involved in bringing the basketball league to the Most Magical Place on Earth and the details provided are wild. They've proposed group outings to Disney Springs' NBA Experience (the irony!), will be offering COVID-19-detecting rings, and, apparently, using Disney's MagicBands for health screening:

The silliness of some specifications was rife for jokes, like the one about no doubles ping-pong  and Kyle Kuzma on the "snitch" hotline, but the best fodder for a never-ending day full of NBA Twitter ~ScOopS~ came from details of where each team would be staying:

Basketball Twitter is very good at Disney jokes, but less good at knowing which hotels deserve snark. The digital giggles came for Yacht Club, an undeserved recipient of jokes about its name given its status among Disney fans. 

Let me explain: In non-coronavirus times, Yacht Club is within walking distance of two parks, has a small footprint — so the building is always low-key (even before social distancing!) — and has always been a great choice for stumbling back from Epcot. It’s temporarily closed, but it also has a joint claim to Stormalong Bay, the best pool on the property right down to its pirate ship waterslide. (If you want a hotel to be the butt of a joke, may I offer up All-Star Movies and its larger-than-life ode to... Herbie? Yeah, there's much weirder things to discuss than wealthy people's watercraft.)

The debate raged on so strongly that I wound up going on NBA Desktop (above) and guest starring on a basketball podcast to break down Disney hotel rankings — me, the same person who had to google “basketball words” to write this column earlier this month. But! Over the weekend, Disney confirmed opening dates for guests for the three hotels, which settled the score: Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort will be the final destination for players, and therefore takes the cake. But, until then, we'll always have this week's perfect memes:

DISNEY PARK PASS: THE HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN

This past week has seen a rollout of Walt Disney World updates that has emotionally broken even the most seasoned theme park experts. With new procedures, booking systems, and operations drawing as many answers as there are questions, one thing became clear: Walt Disney World is going to be a very, very different place to visit for the next year or more.

The death knell came for things like Park Hopping (until later this year, most likely) and complimentary MagicBands with hotel stays (starting in 2021), but Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party — the annual candy-packed, spook-free fest that was previously confirmed — is also canceled. Given that its biggest draws — parades, stage shows, strangers giving you handfuls of food — are discordant with pandemic-era safety protocol, it makes sense, but it’s still a major bummer for fans who plan trips around the celebration.

The news was just as wild over at Epcot, where Food & Wine Festival is a go in a new modified version, Eat to the Beat Concert Series was nixed for 2020, and... Electric Umbrella restaurant rose from the dead? Okey-dokey!

Now, if you have a Disney vacation upcoming and you don't know what's going on, you're going to have a little work to navigating the sea of information. What to do about reservations at a hotel that won't open, how to get a refund for your Annual Pass, and when you can buy tickets — and what you can do with them — varies greatly and is spread across the Walt Disney World website. (I went so far as to make my own extensive notes on the new procedures public for others to use; within 24 hours, it was outdated.)

Still, the biggest change of all is the new Disney Parks Pass theme park reservation system. It launched yesterday on the heels of plenty of announcements, and its first day in operation was memorable, and not just because it saw a community of strangers bonded in the early hours of the morning over an animated Cinderella Castle doodle and Astro Orbit animation — symbols of the digital waiting room that are now instantly iconic:

There were stories of great success and extreme failures from yesterday — what is seemingly a glitch in the website wouldn't let many, many Annual Passholders book the right amount of theme park reservations — and long, long, long calls to Disney. (Many people even found themselves using a workaround to "make" a dining reservation to skip a loop-to-nowhere of login screens, a trap I got caught in too.)

Guests who got in early had an easy time, but even people who spent the day struggling to confirm park reservations shouldn't have their trip affected too much. At the time of writing, every day for the next 14 months (save for Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ first few days open) is currently wide open for hotel guests; Annual Passholders and ticket holders will have their crack at reservations later this week.

GUESTS ARE WAKING UP AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RIGHT NOW

Yes, it's true — for the very first time since the resort closed for COVID-19, guests are finally back at Walt Disney World hotels. Well, barely.

With the parks not opening until July and only DVC Deluxe Villas open at the moment, we didn't expect the hotels would be busy... but we also didn't expect it to look post-apocalyptic:

Some hotels are busier than others, but there have been multiple accounts of folks being the only guest in the lobby of a hotel during the first day of operation:

Empty. Empty! There’s no fear of lack of social distancing yet, considering in many cases, there’s practically nobody there. How bizarre!

Oh, and with the phased reopening came a first look at Magic Kingdom's newly painted Cinderella Castle:

We knew the castle would be pink, but this is a serious rose gold situation. At first glance, the community seems somewhat torn about it, but nostalgia aside, the beloved gray-blue scheme (my personal favorite!) was... a little faded out. I'm saving my full opinion for when I'm able to see it in person, but its gilded aesthetic does pair nicely with Hong Kong Disneyland’s new creation, which opened along with the park earlier this week.

LINKS LINKS LINKS

- Things are starting to happen at Disneyland, where governmental approval was provided to reopen hotels and Downtown Disney is ramping up to welcome back guests.

- This roundup of Black Disney Instagrammers is packed with must-follow accounts.

- WDW Annual Passholders, don't fret — you will be mailed your magnets

Disneyland Paris will open on July 15, 2020.

- ... and Tokyo Disneyland will open on July 1, 2020!

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