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Shanghai Disneyland reopens to a reduced, but sold-out, crowd

Florida theme park fans are wondering if the China park’s reopening could be an example for the United States.

With only 20 percent of its park filled, Shanghai Disneyland welcomed guests back to the theme park after a nearly four-month closure caused by concerns over COVID-19.

In a possible sign of what Florida’s theme parks will be like when they reopen, guests in China were required to wear masks and have their temperatures scanned at the entrance. Squares on the ground guided them on where to stand, and every other table in the park’s restaurants was left empty.

Visitors wearing face masks wait to enter the Disneyland theme park in Shanghai as it reopened May 11. [SAM MCNEIL | AP]

Shanghai Disneyland closed Jan. 25. It wasn’t until early March that it started allowing visitors in its shopping area and some resorts, and allowed themed character breakfasts. In Florida, Walt Disney World has announced that it will reopen part of its shopping and entertainment complex Disney Springs on May 20. There has been no word yet on its resorts or theme parks.

Related: Disney Springs will reopen in phases

Theme park fans in Florida are looking at how China’s operation could work in the United States.

“If people can maintain social distancing in a park, riding outdoor attractions that get disinfected before each load, eating food picked up from mobile orders and eaten away from other parties, I think that parks can return sooner rather than having to wait for a vaccine, as some people have feared might happen,” said Robert Niles, founder and editor of the Theme Park Insider blog.

The Chinese government has limited capacity at the park to 24,000 people daily, less than one-third of its pre-outbreak capacity. Shanghai Disneyland has further limited its visitor numbers to 20 percent of capacity, or about 16,000 people. Guests have to register ahead of time for a park visit — Disney officials said this first week is currently sold out.

The park opened in 2016, welcoming more than 10 million guests in its first year.

Visits to the park will be limited initially and must be booked in advance. [SAM MCNEIL | AP]

Operations were quite different on reopening day, with guests passing through a temperature screening tent, wearing plastic gloves as they boarded Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, and being told to keep a distance from costumed characters. They had to wave, instead of give the usual hug.

Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said on CNBC Monday morning that guests were eager for “some semblance of normal.”

“This is a baby step. We are moving slowly but we are very encouraged by what we are seeing in Shanghai,” he said.

He indicated the company is going to be very conservative about reopening. He wouldn’t comment on any U.S. opening dates.

At Shanghai Disneyland on Monday, there were no parades, fireworks or indoor shows, to help limit crowds and to prevent people from mingling too close. There was a nighttime outdoor light show, and the park ended the day with characters waving from a balcony and the voice of Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns singing the lullaby Where the Lost Things Go:

Do you ever dream

Or reminisce?

Wondering where to find

What you truly miss

Well maybe all those things

That you love so

Are waiting in the place

Where the lost things go.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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