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Grab those binoculars! Or Magic 8 ball. The choice is yours! We’re taking a look into the future at the potential impact the Coronavirus could have on Walt Disney World. First and foremost, the most important thing is the health and safety of everyone around the world. There is no doubt the impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is already having on a global scale. It’s an unprecedented time for us all. We send our best to everyone and know our thoughts are with you. During this time we will continue to provide content as we always do, sarcasm and dad jokes included. With that said, let’s see how it could change the long-term plans for the Walt Disney World parks.

Hyperion Wharf concept art

History Tell Us

As they say, we can learn a lot from our past! When it comes to outside factors impacting the overall direction of the Walt Disney World parks we don’t have to look too far back. We may not need those binoculars after all. The last time something on this scale occurred was back in 2008. In 2008 it was the financial crisis that affected the global economy.

Prior to 2008 Walt Disney World had plans for a variety of updates. Within these updates were two continually talked, never forgot projects in the Monsters, Inc Scream coaster (replacing Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster) and Hyperion Wharf (later became Disney Springs). Neither of these projects were blue-sky ideas, as Disney release concept art for both, with the Monsters, Inc Scream coaster only be shown to cast members. Both of these projects were filed away in the infamous Walt Disney Imagineering filing cabinet. Yes, that same cabinet we mentioned in our Galaxy’s Edge Restaurant. They were both filed away as the financial crisis impacted the Walt Disney Company on many levels and in an effort to “right the ship” Disney moved away from many known and unannounced projects.

Passholder Insights: Hyperion Wharf would have been located where the Boat House and Morimoto Asia are located at Disney Springs.

Mountain at DisneySea

Current State

At the moment, all of the Disney Parks around the world are at different levels of closure. With the parks themselves all being closed. It is the first time in the history of the company that all the parks are closed at the same time. How Disney is handling the situation is, to say the least, spectacular. All cast members will be paid during the closures, additionally, they’ve addressed the guest experience on all levels. From annual pass extensions to waiving all change/cancellations fees, and providing future credits for park tickets that are either not used or partially used. For all the details please reference the following information.

Each of the parks closed on the following days:

  • Shanghai Disneyland – January 25, 2020
  • Hong Kong Disneyland – January 26, 2020
  • Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea – March 1, 2020
  • Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure – March 14, 2020
  • Disneyland Paris – March 16, 2020
  • Walt Disney World – March 16, 2020

There are aspects of the parks in China reopening within the region. On March 9, 2020, Shanghai Disneyland reopened its Downtown Disney section of the park. On March 11, 2020, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea extended their closure from March 16, 2020, to an undetermined date in early April 2020.

The Disney parks in the US are projected to reopen on April 1, 2020, based on the current announcements from Disney. Please note we would not be surprised to see this date pushed further into April if not May, similar to how Tokyo Disneyland readjusted their opening date. Additionally, Disney will also be closing all Disney operated stores within their Downtown and Disney Springs areas on March 17, 2020. The closures continue with all Disney World resorts in the continental US either closing or they are already closed. All of the Disneyland Resort will be closed effective March 16, 2020. Walt Disney World resorts, Disney Vero Beach Resort, and Disney Hilton Head Resort closed on March 20, 2020. Disney’s Aulani Resort will be closing on March 24, 2020, at 5 pm local time. All resorts are projected to be closed through March 31, 2020.

On Friday, March 20, 2020, runDisney official announced the 2020 Star Wars Rival Run weekend would be canceled. The event was scheduled to take place from April 16th to 19th. All races will be refunded within six weeks of the announcement. For more details please see the following notice from runDisney.

UPDATE: On Friday, March 27, 2020, Disney announced they were extending the closure of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort for the foreseeable future. All cast members will continue to be paid through April 18, 2020.

UPDATE: As of Friday, March 27, 2020, Disney’s Aulani Resort, Hilton Head Resort, and Vero Beach have all shifted to closed until further notice. Our assumption is they will follow local regulations as it relates to essential businesses.

UPDATE: As of Saturday, March 28, 2020, Disney has offered a Free Dining Plan at Walt Disney World to any guest whose reservation was canceled due to Coronavirus (between the dates of March 16, 2020, to May 31, 2020). The offer is for is available for travel between June 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Additionally, Disney is only taking resort reservations for trips that begin on June 1, 2020, for all guests.

The Fine Print For Free Dining:

  • Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion.
  • Advance reservation required.
  • Length of stay is 2 nights – 14 nights
  • Ticket requirements: 2-day minimum; all ticket types included (i.e., Base, Park Hopper, Water Park & Sports, Park Hopper Plus
  • Offer excludes the following room types: campsites
  • Children ages 3 to 9 must choose from the children’s menu, if available.
  • Gratuities are not included.
  • Theme park admission is required for some dining locations
  • This offer is subject to availability. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package. Theme park tickets valid for admission beginning on the date of check-in and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on the length of stay and ticket.

Please note the parks could open prior to June 1, 2020. Disney has not announced when the parks could reopen.

With the closures, Disney has estimated they could see a minimum of $280 million drop revenue associated with the Asian region. Estimates for the other Disney parks have not been estimated, but early indicators are saying The Walt Disney Company could see at least an 11% drop in revenue projections.

Early Impact

Walt Disney World is already seeing the impact of the Coronavirus. According to Len Testa of Touring Plans, Disney took a proactive approach with reducing costs at the parks with the removal of certain experiences. One of the experiences effected is The Muppets Present: Great Moments of American History which was located in Liberty Square of the Magic Kingdom. The original plan called for the popular show to continue after its return for the holiday season. However, Disney removed the show once it heard the early reports around the Coronavirus in Asia.

Additionally, performers around Epcot’s World Showcase including the British Revolution in the UK Pavilion and Matsuriza (drummers) in the Japan Pavilion have performed for the last time. It is unknown at this moment if they will return when the parks reopen or not.

UPDATE: On March 17, 2020, it was confirmed that all construction around Walt Disney World has been halted. According to a report from the Orlando Business Journal, Walt Disney World shut down all construction sites to compile with CDC recommendation that we should have groups of 10 or more people. The source for the Orlando Business Journal article is Mark Wylie, president, and CEO of the Central Florida chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. It’s unknown when construction would resume. At the moment, there has been no comment from the Walt Disney Company.

With the delays in construction, it could be assumed the opening date for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be pushed back from the projected May opening. It’s believed the attraction has about 8 weeks of work left to complete the project.

Long Term Impact

The time has come! At the time of writing, it is still unknown the total financial impact the Coronavirus will have on the Walt Disney Company. The financial implications span from all the parks to the reduction of revenue from merchandise and of course from movie studios. Looking back at history it’s fair to say the loss of revenue from the parks will impact the attractions and experiences slated to be coming to Walt Disney World, as well as other parks. More than likely it will not impact the projects currently underway from being completed.

So what could be impacted?

According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, the project most likely to change is the Mary Poppins attraction for Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion. Similar to Monsters Inc. Scream Coaster we could see this attraction put on hold.

Beyond Mary Poppins, many of the attractions that could be impacted are anything associated with Phase 3 or Phase 4 at Epcot. We’re looking at you Imagination Pavilion and World Showcase. World Showcase? Yes, World Showcase. Let’s just say in the DVC Duo house we believe this could impact the addition of another country to the area.

The one attraction in the “gray” area on how it could be impacted is Spaceship Earth. As we discussed in the following article, behind the scenes there is chatter on which direction Disney would go with the update, major overhaul (18+ months) or breaking the project into two mini-updates. In the DVC Duo house, we believe this unexpected global crisis could have a larger impact on how Disney could update Spaceship Earth in the form of downsizing the project.

Outside of Florida, we’re hearing talks of the Quinjet attraction slated as the Phase 2 of Disney’s California Adventure Avengers Campus could be impacted. No decisions have been made and a lot will depend on the months to come. Phase 1 of the California Adventure is going forward as planned with the Spiderman attraction and the Pym test kitchen.

Our Thoughts

It’s not if, but more like how much will the Coronavirus change the scope of the Walt Disney World and all Disney park projects. With Disney more than likely to see a large financial impact from the outbreak, they will have to scale back somewhere. It will be some time before we get the full view of the overall impact of the Coronavirus. Our first insight will come at the next Disney quarterly earnings call estimated to be May 13, 2020. Ultimately, the most important thing is the health and safety of everyone.

We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.