It seems hard to overstate. Disneyland and California Adventure reopened Friday after 13 months, a tangible sign of a return to normalcy and an upbeat revival at an iconic site – albeit at 25% capacity, for California residents only, and with social distancing and mask wearing.
A line formed outside the gate before the 9 am opening time and park goers were active on social media sharing and tearing up. Disney’s executive chairman Bob Iger was there snapping pictures. Some fans snapped pics of him, others caught glimpses of CEO Bob Chapek, who gave a speech to staffers this morning before opening. Cast members lined Main Street waving at guests. Outlets reported some park goers sobbing and others whooping with joy.
“A truly happy day at the happiest place on earth,” tweeted Iger. He and Disney had lobbied hard for an earlier opening and against tiered restrictions set by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) April 30, 2021
“The reopening of Disneyland, which was shut down in March of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “is a monumental day for Anaheim,” tweeted a gleeful city spokesman Mike Lyster.
California theme parks are a big source of state and local tax revenue and general economic booster. They’re also key to Disney’s bottom line. Parks have been the entertainment segment about the hardest hit by the global pandemic besides movie theaters and live events. Park closures have cost both Walt Disney and NBUniversal parent Comcast billions of dollars.
Over the past year, California amusement parks have taken issue with Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict closure rules for their properties. In fact, Newsom revealed Iger quit the state task force for economic recovery over their disagreements about reopenings.
Even more recently, there has been confusion over whether fully-vaccinated out-of-state visitors are allowed at parks. Certainly they represent significant revenue for California’s beleaguered parks.
State and local guidelines are confusing — if not contradictory — and while Sea World in San Diego has begun allowing such visitors, most of the big California parks have not. Disneyland has said outright that it will not allow out-of-state visits until the rules are clearer.
It certainly sounded like the state was open for such business yesterday when Newsom held a press conference to sign into law a $6.2 billion tax cut benefitting the hardest hit small businesses in the state.
“We want to see tourism, but we want to see people here vaccinated,” said the governor Thursday. “So as it relates to time parks that will be reopening, I’ll be down at Universal tomorrow, as an example, visiting with their employees. We want to make sure that visitors to Universal, Disneyland that come from out of the state are vaccinated [so that] we keep everybody safe, we keep this disease at bay.”
Deadline confirmed today with a California Department of Public Health spokesperson that state guidelines permit fully vaccinated people from out of state to participate in activities restricted to in-state visitors. This includes theme parks.
Only four months ago, California was fighting hard to contain a new Covid wave that overran hospitals and was killing hundreds of people a day. The rapid vaccine rollout and waning cases across the U.S. have many states fully open or setting dates to do it.
At Disneyland today, fans headed happily to attractions from Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean. “Inside The Magic” fan blog noted only one glitch, a brief closure of the Indiana Jones Adventure just after the gates opened.
Universal Studios Hollywood opened April 16.
— DisneyDoItAll! (@HippyDisneyGuy) April 30, 2021
— Theme Park Shark 🎢🦈 (@ThemeParkShark) April 30, 2021
REPOST from Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products: Disney family, join us as we welcome back Cast Members and guests to @Disneyland on this historic reopening day, April 30, 2021! #magicishere #disneyland pic.twitter.com/uPJFnKI3VQ
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) April 30, 2021
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