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All masks, no fireworks: Shanghai Disneyland in muted reopening after coronavirus closedown

By Reuters | May 11th 2020
Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, among others, greet visitors at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease.[Photo: Reuters]

Thousands of visitors streamed into Shanghai Disneyland on Monday for the first time in three months as the Chinese park became the first reopened by Walt Disney Co after the coronavirus pandemic brought the Magic Kingdom to a standstill.

While Mickey Mouse joined familiar Disney characters welcoming the crowds, the Shanghai experience will not be as it was: Instead of parades and fireworks, there are mandatory masks, temperature screenings and social distancing for visitors and employees.

Among the crowd on Monday was Shanghai Disneyland passholder Kay Yu. “I think (these measures) make tourists feel at ease,” said the 29-year-old, who was wearing a Minnie Mouse hat and said he had woken up at 4 a.m. to make the trip to the park.

Disney’s $5.5 billion China flagship is the first of its six resorts around the world to reopen after the pandemic that has now killed more than 280,000 people globally threw consumer service businesses around the world into turmoil. The reopening may provide a glimpse of how Disney can begin to recover from closures set to strip $1.4 billion from the company’s profit.

But the limited scope of the reopening in Shanghai underlines the scale of that task: While it welcomed more than 10 million guests in its first year after opening in 2016, the park will now restrict visitor numbers to 20% of daily capacity, or about 16,000 people - far below a level initially requested by the Chinese government.

As well as scrapping parades and fireworks - replacing the latter with an evening light projection show - Disney has shut interactive children’s play areas and indoor live theatre shows.

Still, the vast majority of its rides as well as most of its restaurants and shows will be open, said Andrew Bolstein, the park’s senior vice-president of operations. More might reopen in time to come depending on the situation and government regulations, he added.

Zhang Zhongyu, a 29-year-old passholder and visitor who works in importing, said the things he missed most about the park were the shows and the parade - two attractions that have been cancelled.

“I’m a little disappointed, but there’s nothing we can do - thinking of the virus, you have to avoid guests gathering closely, it’s understandable,” he said.

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