Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report World closed for a brief period during the worst of the pandemic. When it reopened it wasn't business as usual. In the early days, there were capacity limits, temperature checks, mask requirements, and social distancing, and many areas remained closed.
When the company's four Florida theme parks opened after their pandemic-related closure, Covid still loomed heavily over park operations. Lines moved quickly because of the limited attendance at the parks, but they snaked long distances as the company tried to encourage social distancing.
Rides also had plexiglass between parties, and in some cases, seats were left empty to separate people from each other. Food was ordered and paid for digitally, and inside spaces had capacity limits, which led to lines outside stores.
The most noticeable difference, however, may have been that fireworks, shows, and parades stopped because they encouraged people to stand in one place in close proximity to each other.
Fireworks returned weeks ago and most shows, music acts, and performances have returned.
And now, Disney World has a plan to bring back the last missing piece of the puzzle -- parades.
Why Do Parades Matter for Disney Visitors?
While Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and, most certainly, Epcot (Drinking Around the World) cater to adults in some fashion, Magic Kingdom remains a family park. Disney's original Florida theme park still serves alcohol only at restaurants (not as you walk around the park) and many of its rides work best for children.
The challenge with young kids (and some not-so-young kids) at Magic Kingdom is that most rides at the park require a fairly long wait. Even on less crowded days, a ride like "Pirates of the Caribbean" or even "It's a Small World" requires waiting for somewhere between half an hour to an hour, while more-popular rides like "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" might require a wait twice that long. That's a lot of standing around waiting for a 4-to-6-minute ride.
Shows and parades round out the Disney experience without requiring a long wait. Yes, you have to stake out a good spot for a parade, but that's generally not that hard. And you might stand around for a few minutes in exchange for your kids being entertained for longer than the length of most rides. Mom and Dad at least sort of get to relax for a short while.
Parades expose Disney theme park visitors to a lot of their favorite characters without the lengthy waits required for photo-ops. You can, of course, also take pictures and feel as if you did something more meaningful than waiting in a line.
Disney World Finally Brings Back Parades
"On February 11, Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade will step off on the Main Street parade route. The new production will feature 'nearly 30' Disney and Pixar characters, including the Magic Kingdom debut of Miguel from 'Coco,'" Robert Niles reported at Theme Park Insider.
Walt Disney had previously said parades would return at the Magic Kingdom, but this is the first time the company has confirmed when they will return. It's notable that parades were held back until after the holiday season (when Disney likely had no trouble selling all available Magic Kingdom tickets).
In addition to parades, Disney will be bringing back its live shows that take place at the park's signature castle.
"On February 25, Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire will debut on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. The show will include a new, original song entitled 'Where the Magic Feels Like Home,' as well as a new finale with Mickey Mouse and friends in their 50th anniversary 'EARidescent' (Disneyland Paris winces) outfits," Niles wrote.
The return of shows and parades may be the final shoe dropping that leads to families pulling the trigger on delayed Disney World visits.
As the Covid omicron variant fades (hopefully) and the pandemic becomes less of a concern, parades and shows returning may be the final prompt for people seeing spending thousands on a Disney vacation being worth it.
And that -- along with new rides, restaurants, and experiences -- could lead to a 2022 major attendance bounceback.