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Disneyland Article
Employee Previews Offer First Look Inside Soon To Reopen Park
Orange County Register
Brady Macdonald
It only seems appropriate that the first visitors to step foot inside Disneyland and Disney California Adventure after the coronavirus closures that shuttered the Anaheim theme parks for more than a year would be some of its 15,000 cast members, Disney parlance for employees.

“It was honestly so great to spend a full day back at Disneyland after well over a year,” wrote on Twitter. “It’s a true sign that we’re on our way back to some level of normalcy. I, for one, can’t wait to go back again.”

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure began soft opening previews for employees on Tuesday, April 27 following the 13-month pandemic closures. Cast members will be joined by invited community members for previews that continue on Wednesday, April 28 and Thursday, April 29.

Disneyland and DCA will reopen on Friday, April 30 following more than a year of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disneyland cast members and their guests took to social media to post their first impressions, emotions and images from the reopened parks. We’ve gathered the best social media posts to give you a sense of what to expect when the parks reopen to the public.

Consider this your spoiler alert if you’re heading out to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure for the official grand reopening or the days and weeks to follow.

Arrival and front gate

Long lines of cast members waiting to make their way to the front gates of Disneyland and DCA snaked around the plaza between the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking garages on the first preview day.

Cast members walked to the theme parks along the tram route instead of hopping aboard the parking lot trams due to COVID-19 health and safety measures — just like visitors will do on reopening day.

Mickey Mouse was at the front gate to welcome cast members back to Disneyland on the first day of employee previews.

Disneyland resort president Ken Potrock and Disneyland vice president Kris Theiler were just inside the gates to greet cast members — the first visitors to experience the reopened park in more than 13 months.

“It feels great to hear laughter in the park once again,” Potrock wrote on Instagram.

A guest relations host named Kelly was excited to make the Instagram feed of Potrock, who posted photos from day one of the cast member preview.

“So honored to have been a part of history today,” Kelly wrote on Twitter.

Cast members were issued new name tags with the slogan “Bringing Back the Magic” — the theme for the reopening of Disney’s Anaheim parks.

Inside the parks

Inside Disneyland and DCA, COVID-19 health and safety measures have brought lots of changes, but much remains the same in the parks after the yearlong closures. Fresh paint and freshly-planted flowers greeted visitors as they headed down Main Street U.S.A.

Disneyland employees and their guests appeared to be adhering to mask wearing requirements. A few members of Disneyland’s Club 33 and DCA’s 1901 Lounge wore masks bearing the logos of the private, members-only clubs.

Fresh Baked, a vlogger who creates Disneyland videos for YouTube, tagged along with a cast member on the first day of the cast member previews.

“I’m at Disneyland and I’m an emotional mess,” Fresh Baked wrote on Twitter.

SyFy Wire theme park reporter Carlye Wisel visited Disneyland on the first day of cast member previews as a guest rather than a member of the press.

“Today was damn near perfect,” Wisel wrote on Twitter. “If this was just a soft opening, Friday’s official reopening should be nothing short of flawless.”

California’s theme park guidelines require indoor attractions use only outdoor queues. Socially distanced queues on Wednesday looked long, but tended to move quickly because of the six-foot gaps. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run had a line that looked like it might take an hour in pre-pandemic times, but only took 15 minutes with little to no waiting indoors.

The outdoor line for Indiana Jones Adventure extended into the upstairs Jungle Cruise queue, putting the closed water ride to use to keep visitors from bunching up.

Rides and attractions Several Disneyland attractions underwent extensive refurbishments during the pandemic closure while construction continued on a pair of new projects.

The reimagined and renamed Snow White’s Enchanted Wish added new scenes to the Fantasyland dark ride with a renewed focus on the title character — increasing the number of Snow White figures from one to four.

“Snow White’s Enchanted Wish is a definite improvement over what came before,” wrote on Twitter. “A more complete and impressive experience.”

The Haunted Mansion returned after a renovation that brought new draperies, carpet, wallpaper and decor inside the attraction and fresh paint and plants on the exterior.

A changing portrait that may be familiar to longtime Haunted Mansion fans rejoined the portrait gallery between the elevator and load station in the attraction queue. The “April to December” portrait shows a lovely young woman aging instantaneously.

Disneyland’s maintenance crew refurbished the King Arthur Carrousel during the pandemic closure — replacing the steel canopy and freshening up the hand-carved horses on the vintage merry-go-round that was built in 1922 and moved to Disneyland for opening day in 1955.

The biggest new ride at Disneyland is still under construction. A humorous “pardon our pixie dust” sign with Mickey and Minnie dressed in construction gear tried to hide the obvious. “What big building?” read the banner on the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway show building — which won’t open until 2023. Eventually, a cartoon mountain range will hide the new dark ride building.

Rise of the Resistance cast member Frederick Chambers secured a virtual queue boarding group for the popular dark ride on the first day of employee previews. Chambers planned to be back on day two of the previews — switching roles from visitor to Resistance recruiter.

“A thank you to all the cast members who made today such a perfect day at Disneyland,” Chambers wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to paying it forward tomorrow. Stop on by and sign up with the Resistance.”

By Wednesday at 2 p.m., Disneyland was turning away riders from Rise of the Resistance with all the virtual queue boarding groups distributed for the day. That answers one question: Even at reduced capacity, there are enough visitors to “sell out” the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue.

The Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster was running with empty rows between riders to maintain social distance mandates.

Over at DCA, new Avengers Campus gates were in place outside Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! Construction walls still remained up around the new Marvel theme land that opens June 4.


Socially distanced wave-and-play impromptu moments with princesses, superheroes and villains replaced traditional up-close character meet-and-greet opportunities that have long been a staple of Disney theme park visits. Characters can and likely will move between locations throughout the parks.

Rapunzel hung out a balcony in Fantasy Faire posing for socially distanced selfies.

At other times, Rapunzel turned over her spot to the Evil Queen — as if she had a choice.

Snow White, Elena and other Disney princesses greeted visitors from a distance in the Fantasyland Theatre.

Chip and Dale were on the Disneyland train station platform on the Town Square side of the park waving at visitors as they arrived on day two of the cast member previews.

Later, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy took up positions on the train station platform.

Donald Duck was also up on the deck of his Toontown boat — which is normally a playground for kids, but for now will serve as a wave-and-play stage.

Panchito Pistoles from “The Three Caballeros” interacted with Frontierland visitors from the balcony of the Golden Horseshoe restaurant.

Captain Jack Sparrow was up on the wrought iron balcony above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance searching for somebody who could provide him with a splash of rum.

Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore were near It’s a Small World on the parade viewing platform.

In Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Chewbacca could be found in the landspeeder garage keeping a safe distance from visitors who just wanted to give the fuzzball a hug after a year apart. Rey could be spotted on the stage above the landspeeder garage.

Over at DCA, Frozone struck superhero poses in a roped off area near the Incredicoaster launch zone.

An updated photo op location inspired by Sam Wilson’s new Captain America look from “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” show on Disney+ debuted in Disney California Adventure.

Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” could be found near the Carthay Circle fountain at the end of Buena Vista Street.

Dining Disneyland and DCA will return with more than half of their 70+ food and beverage locations.

Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square had socially distance tables on the patio and QR codes for viewing the restaurant’s menu in English and Spanish.

Additional tables were set up along the Rivers of America to allow for more outdoor dining. Working employees armed with sanitizer and towels waited in dining areas to wipe down tables as soon as diners departed.

SyFy reporter Wisel said Mickey pretzels and Matterhorn macaroons were popular on the first day of cast member previews — with the snacks selling out, at least briefly.

As darkness fell, the lights lining the Main Street U.S.A. buildings gave the entry promenade a familiar glow — a sight not seen in a year.

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