Disneyland Shanghai's Reopening Is A Sad Look At The Future Of Vacations
Disney, as a company, is a fascinating case study in "diversifying your portfolio" without actually diversifying it. They've got their toes dipped in every kind of entertainment imaginable, but when pandemic comes to shove, it's still mostly "optional" stuff in our lives. Parents streaming The Lion King for their kids 40 gazillion times on Disney+ is not enough to offset the money Disney would have made from that same family visiting the Magic Kingdom -- the Disney parks & cruise lines have taken a 58% drop in income, and overall profit is down over 90%.
But there's a small light shining through the cracks: Disneyland Shanghai is opening up next week. It was the first Disney park to close all the way back in January and will be the first to re-open. Obviously, there are going to be safety protocols in effect. For starters, they're lowering the attendance limit from about 80,000 visitors down to 24,000. On the surface it seems like a win for the theme park experience (fewer people = shorter lines = more time to puke riding Space Mountain). In reality, while it's great that Disney is trying to bring a sense of normalcy and even magic back to the people, this doesn't look great for the average chump just trying to meet Mickey.
Disney parks already allow their prices to fluctuate based on demand, and it's a safe bet they will go up because, with attendance caps, the profit's gotta come from somewhere. Sadly, this means there's a fairly large segment of the population that may just get priced out of Disney parks entirely. It might also serve as an opening blueprint for other smaller theme parks across America, such as Cedar Point or Six Flags, which are more designed to hit you with as many thrills as possible in one day and then send you on your merry way with a throbbing headache and a shifted disc in your lower back.
Meanwhile, if you're one of the lucky few who could afford a day of jacked-up costs and are already fist-pumping at the idea of the smaller lines I mentioned earlier, think again. There's already talk of using "virtual queues" to manage line density, and it's gonna be a huge pain in the ass. We know this because it's already been tested pre-shutdown. I was at Disneyland, I kid you not, about a week before the shutdown, and had to use the app-based virtual queue/lottery system to try to snag a place in line for the new "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance" ride. This was a way-too-involved process that required everybody in my party to link our tickets together in the app at our hotel the night before and hit buttons over and over again right at 9:00 in the morning until one of us landed a "boarding time" for everybody. Even then, we still had to wait on a line for 45 minutes until we actually got to board at 3:00 in the afternoon.
While it was totally worth it for that one brand-new ride that gave us a good 20 minutes of entertainment in one sitting, I can't imagine us having to do that every time we wanted a couple minutes on the Matterhorn or the Teacups. Disneyland Shanghai's going to be a solid test for a lot of things, but the biggest test is going to be on how much patience park attendees have.
Top Image: Annj28/Wikimedia Commons