It’s the phrase that pays, no? In the same way that we’ve all learned exactly how many retailers have our email address, receiving so many messages of concern from corporation leaders about their various storefronts, we’ve all seen that phrase a ton lately. “Out of an abundance of caution..” starts off so many sentences, and the title of today’s post did indeed show up in this note on March 15 announcing the temporary closure of the Walt Disney World Resort, the Disneyland Paris Resort, and the Disney Cruise Line. (The Disneyland closure was announced in a separate tweet.
A few days after these announcements came down, the CDC made one of its own: large-scale gatherings were discouraged for the next eight weeks. Eight weeks! It’s an incredibly long time for any one person, let alone any one business, let alone a business that thrives on large gatherings. A business like a theme park. When that recommendation was made, I felt like it was inevitable that Disney would have to announce further delays. It was impossible to imagine otherwise.
For now, though, we’re still waiting on that update. Yesterday, Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood embraced the unfortunate inevitable: they’re now closed through April 19. (I’m not a huge fan of the kick-the-can approach. April 19, as you may have noticed if you’ve got a good head for math, is not eight weeks from when the CDC said to avoid large gatherings. I don’t think any of us should be surprised if the delays are pushed back even more.)
The Universal announcement was coupled by the lack of one from Disney, which led to tweets like the one above. And technically, the language of that tweet is accurate; at the time of its posting (and, at the time I’m writing these words), Disneyland and Walt Disney World are technically set to reopen on April 1, in that the current delay is only through March 31. But if Universal Orlando and Hollywood are pushing back their opening until at least April 20, it’s a safe bet that Disney won’t be opening on April 1. (If you believe otherwise, well…April Fools.) It’s an especially safe bet since Orange County in Florida — where Walt Disney World resides — has set in place a stay-at-home order starting tomorrow night and extending for two weeks.
So why, you may ask, has Disney not also embraced the inevitable? Why haven’t they announced that the parks are shut down past March 31? Remember that only a few weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom had spoken with Robert Iger about exempting Disneyland from his order that gatherings should be limited to fewer than 250 people. Disney would like to see itself as a special case, and while that may be a nice aspiration, in the situation of a worldwide pandemic, it’s not applicable.
I can’t help but wonder how much of the delay can be attributed to the recent leadership shift. “Josh,” you may ask yourself, “You said Governor Newsom spoke with Bob Iger about this exemption. But…isn’t Bob Chapek the CEO now?” He is! Though Iger still holds a large role at Disney, it does feel a little odd that he’s taking point with the governor on an issue like this. In the same way that it feels a little odd to see Disney take a back seat to its competition.
This is far from an ideal situation. No one at Disney or Universal wants the parks to be closed. But then, no one really wants us to be living through a pandemic. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Not half-measures.
Your Recommendation for Today
It’s a new day under quarantine, which means it’s time for a new Disney+ recommendation: Return to Oz (1985). It’s a sequel to The Wizard of Oz that begins with Dorothy Gale nearly being put through an antiquated version of electroshock therapy. This Walter Murch cult classic is, in short, not fucking around. Murch is a renowned editor who worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola on many of their classics, but this summer-1985 release is the only feature he directed. Truthfully, it’s a miracle this movie was greenlit, let alone released. Watch it now on Disney+ and give your children, and yourselves, nightmares for days!