Three Years Ago Today, Disney Closed Due to COVID-19. We Had No Idea What Was Coming.

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

A Disneyland Cast Member stands by a COVID health and safety sign, wearing a face mask and showing off the Disneyland rules.

Credit: Official Disneyland Instagram

Before 2020, fans often joked that the signal of a real threat from a natural disaster (like a hurricane) was the closure of Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort… and Waffle House. So for many Americans, the reality of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic set in when Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure shut their doors for “two weeks” three years ago today, on March 12, 2020. Walt Disney World Resort followed soon after, closing Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom on March 16, 2020.

The closures were scheduled “through the end of the month.” Like the rest of the world, Disney Parks remained on pause for much longer. While Walt Disney World Resort reopened in July 2020, the California government didn’t permit Disneyland Resort to reopen until April 30, 2021, over a year after the initial closure.

Mickey and Minnie on the Teacups at Disneyland
Credit: Disney

@jaysquivel reminisced about the initial announcement on Twitter:

(Un)happy anniversary to the closure of Disneyland for “2 weeks” 😂😩

What followed was tragic mass death across the United States and internationally, thousands of layoffs across The Walt Disney Company and beyond, and widespread public health measures like most people had never seen before. After a few years of vaccines, masks, and other preventative measures, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort have mostly returned to a new normal – except for Disney Park Pass reservations, which are unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Shanghai Disneyland castle with Cast Members and Disney characters
Credit: Disney

Some international Disney Parks are still undergoing the impacts of COVID-19. Tokyo Disney Resort just dropped its mask mandate days ago. Shanghai Disney Resort has closed and reopened multiple times due to China’s “Zero COVID” policy, sometimes opening for just a few days before shutting down again. It reopened for the final time on December 8, 2022, after protests inspired the country to loosen its COVID-19 restrictions.

Where were you when you first heard Disneyland Resort was closing in March 2020? Share your memories with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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