It's fitting that the new ticketed event at Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) original theme park resort is called A Touch of Disney. When Disney California Adventure reopens on select days starting March 18 there will definitely be plenty to hear, see, smell, and taste, but it will be a far cry from the multi-sensory smorgasbord guests typically experience at the Anaheim gated attraction.
There won't be any rides operating or shows running at the event. There will be a limited number of costumed characters and photo opportunities, but the experiences will comply with social distancing norms. It's better than nothing, and it's smart for Disney to frame the experience this way.
Three time zones away in the Disney World -- where its theme parks have been welcoming guests since mid-July -- it has played down the epicurean festivals it hosts at Epcot throughout the year in a similar fashion. It's simply slapping a different sense in front of its festival names. The recently concluded Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Arts wasn't as elaborate as previous years of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. Touch? Taste? As long as it ends with the sound of a cash register Disney World and Disneyland will be appealing to the one sense it needs to keep its investors hopeful and its cast members working.
Touch and go
A Touch of Disney won't cost as much as a single-day ticket to the Anaheim theme park, but no one will argue that the $75 price tag is cheap. It should still sell out briskly when tickets for the eight-hour event begin selling on Disneyland's website next Thursday.
It's not a bad deal when you work the math. The $75 cover charge does include parking and a $25 card that can be used toward the purchase of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Guests will also have unlimited downloads of the Disney PhotoPass photos available throughout the park. The event is currently slated to run on select days through April 5, but it will add future dates on a rolling basis until the experience ends. In short, Disneyland is giving it a leash to nix the event the moment California clears the park and the adjacent Disneyland to reopen for real.
With COVID-19 case counts falling sharply and the vaccination process picking up momentum it's not unreasonable to think that Disneyland is back in business at some point during the springtime season. Even New York is letting amusement parks finally reopen between late March and early April.
The wait has been brutal for Disneyland fans, but investors are holding up considerably better. The stock is hitting new highs despite the media stock's near-term challenges with its theme parks, cruises, and theatrical releases. The stunning success of Disney+ to scale so quickly in terms of audiences and flagship content is carrying the entertainment giant these days. It will do for now, but eventually -- just as Disney parks will be serving all five senses -- Disney will be having to be firing on more cylinders.