Disneyland expects to reopen by late April

CNN  — 

Disneyland fans are one step closer to returning to their beloved theme park.

Closed since March of last year because of the pandemic, Disneyland Resort is expected to open by late April 2021, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday.

The reopening announcement follows an update from the state of California on Friday allowing amusement parks to reopen with capacity limits starting on April 1.

Chapek made the announcement during the annual meeting of Disney shareholders.

“While last week’s announcement stated that theme parks may open starting on April 1, the fact is it will take some time to get them ready for our guests,” Chapek said.

He said that the company will recall more than 10,000 furloughed workers, who will need to be retrained according to new state requirements. An exact opening date will be announced in the coming weeks, he said.

Attendance will initially be limited to 15% capacity at Disneyland.

Disneyland shuttered while sister park opened

While Walt Disney World Resort in Florida reopened with capacity limits back in July 2020, California’s more stringent Covid-19 regulations have left the original Disney theme park in Southern California shuttered and the travel industry struggling.

The announcement on Friday by state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly affects not just Disneyland but all of California’s amusement parks, including Magic Mountain and Universal Studios, along with sports and concert venues.

“We feel like now is the appropriate time to begin to reintroduce these activities in some fashion, and in a guarded way, in a slow and steady way,” Ghaly said in a teleconference.

‘A path toward reopening’

An employee cleans the grounds behind the closed gates of Disneyland Park back in March  2020.

Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, told CNN last week that “we are encouraged that theme parks now have a path toward reopening this spring, getting thousands of people back to work and greatly helping neighboring businesses and our entire community.

“With responsible Disney safety protocols already implemented around the world, we can’t wait to welcome our guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers labor union applauded California’s Friday announcement as well.

“Our Disney cast members are heartened by this good news today that the Disney parks will be reopening in a month,” said Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW’s Local 324, in a statement.

“They have been furloughed or out of a job for a year now and are excited to go back to work to provide Californians with a bit more magic in their lives.”

Profits for the company have taken a huge hit as the company reported $29 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2021, down 99% from $2.1 billion last year. With its theme parks and other in-person businesses either limited in capacity or entirely closed, Disney has relied on ventures such as the Disney+ streaming service to keep things going. That service has hit a milestone with more than 100 million streaming subscribers.

Why the parks can reopen in California

Cinderella's Castle is the iconic symbol of Disneyland.

For an amusement part to reopen, the spread of Covid-19 in each county where a theme park is located must be reduced enough to advance out of the state’s most restrictive reopening tier.

California has four color-coded tiers for counties with purple being the most stringent. As of Monday, Los Angeles and Orange counties, home to Disneyland and Universal Studios, remained in the purple tier. Both will likely advance to the less-restrictive red tier in the next week or two.

For theme parks located in the red tier, attendance will be limited to 15% of capacity, and only California residents will be allowed to reserve admission to the parks. California remains under a statewide travel advisory that asks residents to remain within 120 miles from their homes.

There will be a time limit on indoor rides, though most are fairly short and already socially distanced. Thrill-seekers will be generally required to queue up outside and enter in groups.

Status of other Disney parks

A visitor wears the now-ubiquitous face mask sits on a ride at Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong on June 18, 2020.

The pandemic affected Disney’s park operations around the world.

Hong Kong Disneyland reopened in February. It was the third reopening for the park since the start of the pandemic.

Disneyland Paris was originally scheduled to reopen on February 13. But the park announced in January that its reopening date was moved to April 2 “due to the prevailing conditions in Europe.”

Though Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are open, a visitor cap is reportedly in place until at least March 21, with each park allowing 5,000 visitors per day, excluding those who have already bought advance tickets.

In Florida, most of Disney World’s parks are open, and Blizzard Beach water park reopened on March 7. No reopening date has been set for Typhoon Lagoon, however.

CNN’s Forrest Brown, Marnie Hunter, Julia Buckley and Frank Pallotta contributed to this report.