Disney World Targets July 11 for Phased Reopening After Pandemic Shuttering

Guests will be required to wear masks and have their temperature checked along with social distancing requirements, the theme park's senior vp operations said.

The Walt Disney World Resort is set for a phased reopening July 11 after months of being shuttered due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom aim to reopen July 11 and Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

Jim MacPhee, senior vp operations for the Florida destination, gave the company's presentation Wednesday to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, which is headed by Mayor Jerry Demings and comprises 44 members of the business community.

The task force unanimously approved the Walt Disney World plan.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek joined CNBC shortly after the plan was submitted. “We want to make sure what we present to our guests when we open up is going to be a quintessential Disney experience,” Chapek said of opening a month after SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando. “While we’ll have substantially lower numbers of guests, we want to make sure we do it in a responsible way.”

Disney World and Disneyland have been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic. Last week, a tiny portion of the Florida resort, specifically the Disney Springs shopping and dining district, opened with strict new measures in place.

Guests are required to wear masks and have their temperature checked before they are allowed into Disney Springs. Those same requirements will apply to the rest of the resort, MacPhee told the task force. Guests can remove their masks while eating.

Much like Shanghai Disneyland, the first Disney park to reopen earlier this month, the Orlando destination will reopen at a much lower capacity to ensure social distancing, a key component for admission, ride and food lines. Chapek on CNBC said the company would not comment on the exact opening capacity as there was no regulation in place to follow, but "our capacity will be a function of the social distancing six-foot guidance from the CDC," he said. 

Sanitization and sterilization efforts will greatly increase with high-touch areas cleaned often, the resort vp said. Hand sanitizer will be readily available throughout the theme park, MacPhee noted. Castmembers (park staff) will also vigorously help maintain social distancing within the theme park. An abundance of signage will also be placed throughout the resort to encourage social distancing.

There will be no parades, firework shows or character meet-and-greets, said MacPhee, adding that anything that could draw a crowd will be closed.

Mayor Demings complimented Disney for its "due diligence" on the reopening plan, noting every aspect discussed was ready for implementation.

Chapek said he did not believe any of the measures put in place would hamper ticket sales. "We still have a tremendous amount of reservations that are on our books and guests have had the ability to cancel now for quite sometime," the CEO said. He noted Shanghai Disneyland is doing 20,000 visitors a day in attendance and Disney Springs has been busy since day one of its reopening. 

In addition to once again welcoming guests to the Florida theme park, Disney is in talks with the National Basketball Association to host the remainder of the 2019-2020 season at the resort in late July. As discussed in the initial talks, games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on the Disney property near Orlando. The Disney site would be used for practices and player housing.

Disney's Florida announcement comes the same day more shops are set to reopen in Disney Springs, such as the first domestic Disney Store, and nearly one week after Universal Orlando presented its plan to reopen to the task force. The task force unanimously voted to approve Universal Orlando's plan to reopen on June 5.

The company also revealed that in the coming weeks, Disney Stores will begin a phased reopening of operations globally, beginning with a select number of stores in the U.S. The first domestic Disney Store opened Wednesday in Disney Springs. There was a three-hour wait shortly after doors opened, according to video and pictures posts on social media. 

SeaWorld Orlando, which also gave its presentation Wednesday, is targeting a June 11 reopen date for its Florida theme park. The task force unanimously approved its plan.

May 27, 10:50 a.m. Updated with comments from Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek.