Many fans said they would turn their back on Walt Disney for taking the coronavirus threat too seriously.
If there’s a way to gauge difficulties big businesses face amid the pandemic, take a look at Disney World, the most visited resort in the world.
Walt Disney plans to reopen its famous resort in Florida in the United States, in a phased manner. The Disney Spring section, which features shopping malls and restaurants, is slated to start receiving visitors from May 20.
Excitement, however, has waned since the Vice President of Disney Springs, Matt Simon, wrote a blog over the weekend on the company website. In it, he explained how visitors will now have to wear masks and be assessed through temperature screenings. Some fans have been left dismayed.
“Face masks and temperatures means I won’t be returning. I will be letting my annual pass lapse next month,” read one of the comments under the blog.
“I’m sorry to say that I will not be visiting if face coverings and masks are required. If this is a requirement for the parks, eventually I won’t renew our annual passes either,” another person said.
On its website, the entertainment giant has also added a disclaimer.
"An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.” It goes on, “COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death."
"By visiting Walt Disney World Resort, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19."
For some, the magic seems to have now fully disappeared from the famed Disney experience.
No place on land for Ariel
Disney’s properties, including its resorts in the US and elsewhere, were shut in March. Since then its theme park in Shanghai, China, has reopened but with various strict rules, including a limit on the number of visitors.
Other disappointments await children, one being that the posing of photographs with their favourite Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse or Ariel from the famous cartoon, The Little Mermaid, will be prohibited.
When Disney reopens in Florida, its staff will be checking the temperature of its visitors. Guests who present themselves with 100.4 degrees or more, will not be granted entry and will be turned back along with anyone in their party.
Negative reaction to safety measures has bewildered many since the social distancing requirements have been enforced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the comments section on Simon’s blog was closed shortly after its publication, an overwhelming majority of people on Twitter thanked Disney for taking precautions seriously.
Thank you @WaltDisneyWorld for taking this science based approach to keep your cast members and guests safe! This long time Annual Passholder and Vacation Club owning family is excited to return The Happiest Place on Earth (with our favorite Disney character masks, of course)!— Kristen Kercher (@3dogrunner) May 17, 2020
The guidelines are not unusual compared to what’s happening elsewhere in the world. For instance, the park has encouraged cashless transactions - the use of debit cards and online transactions is already up.
Change we must
Walt Disney’s four theme parks in Florida receive more than 50 million visitors every year, a figure that, in some cases, dwarfs the tourism numbers of other countries.
Both governments and businesses feel the urgency to kick start the cycle of spending. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the global economy will shrink by 3 percent, straining the finances if the lockdowns continue.
Disney, which employs about 77,000 people, has already felt the pain. Last month it sent home more than 40,000 workers on a furlough.
The job market in the US, where more than 89,000 have died due to coronavirus complications, has seen a massive setback. In a matter of weeks, around 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims.
The economy aside, some people simply disagree with the need for social distancing. They see it as a hoax.
In recent days, lockdown sceptics have come out to protest in the UK and Germany.
It is not just happening there, though. From a golf course in Atlanta to markets in Karachi, Pakistan, people are openly defying the guidelines, in what health experts say puts the lives of their own families and loved ones in danger.
And for most of us, Disney has always been about care.