Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) has slowly begun reopening its properties around the world. That will kick off with its theme park in Shanghai, which will be operating at 30% capacity as of May 11. Tickets for that day and the next few days quickly sold out, as people appear very eager to get back to the park.

In the U.S., Disney's theme parks remain closed, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Florida, which houses four Disney theme parks and two water parks, has begun phase one of its reopening. The state has also laid out guidelines for what opening the theme parks might look like.

That's encouraging news for people eager to visit Disney World, and there are signs that an opening date may be on the way.

Walt Disney World's teac cups ride.

Walt Disney World may reopen under very different rules. Image source: Walt Disney.

What is Disney doing?

The Mouse House has released plans to slowly open parts of the Disney Springs shopping area beginning May 20. It's a slow process, but one that suggests that the theme parks will follow.

"A phased reopening of Disney Springs will begin on May 20," the company said in a press release. "Following the guidance of government and health officials, a limited number of shopping and dining experiences that are owned by third-party operating participants will begin to open during this initial phase."

Disney was careful to point out that its theme parks and hotels remain closed. Opening Disney Springs, however, gives the company a chance to try out procedures and see how customers react to new safety policies before opening its theme parks.

During the initial opening phase, Disney Springs will have limitations on capacity, parking and operating hours. Given this unprecedented situation, we appreciate everyone's patience and understanding as we navigate through this process as responsibly as we can. Additional protocols and procedures may be announced closer to the opening date. 

That's a toe in the water, but it's an important step. Assuming the Disney Springs opening goes well, you can assume that the company will open its theme parks (under very strict rules) not long after.

Will Disney World open in June?

It seems likely that Disney will reopen its Florida theme parks in June. The company has not confirmed this in any way, but its actions suggest that will happen.

When the parks do open, however, the experience will be very different. The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force has set guidelines for operating when the parks are allowed to reopen. This includes only operating at 50% capacity when first reopening, before moving to 75% in the second phase. There are also a number of other conditions Disney will have to meet:

  • Markers must be placed to show six feet of distance in attraction lines.
  • Staff must regularly clean surfaces.
  • All employees must wear masks.
  • Hand sanitizer needs to be offered at ride entrances and exits, and
  • Staff must undergo temperature checks before their shifts.

Disney will likely use a virtual queue for its rides (as it does on the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride). It's also very likely to use contact-less temperature checks for guests and encourage, if not require, visitors to wear masks.

This may not be the experience some consumers want, but there are benefits to visiting a Disney park with smaller crowds. The company has not announced an opening date, but the gears are in motion, and a June reopening using an advance reservation system to manage limited capacities seems likely.