Disney draws hundreds of millions of guests to their world-famous resorts each year and they rarely close the doors to any of their parks. They’re one of the few places in the world that is open to guests 365 days a year, but there have been a handful of events that have drawn the magic straight from the parks. Here are ten rare instances when Disney has been forced to close its doors.
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10 September 11th, Disneyland & Disney World, 2001
Every American will always remember the terrible attacks on their nation on September 11, 2001. Almost 3,000 people were killed that day and 25,000 more were injured. A sudden urge to panic spread after the attacks in the United States, and no one could plan what might happen next. Disney made the quick decision to close its parks in Florida and California because the resorts were on the terrorist target list.
Disney employees said they learned what had happened and that the park would close. It was announced through the public address system in the parks that the park is now closed due to circumstances beyond our control. The restaurants, snack bars, sights and shops are closing and forcing guests to go out into the street. Staff were then escorted to direct guests to the nearest exits and were advised not to tell guests the reasons unless they asked. The parks opened as usual the next morning.
9 Hurricane Frances, Disney World, 2004
Less than a month after Hurricane Charley hit Florida, Hurricane Frances caused more destruction to the state. Frances caused damage to Florida’s citrus fruits, closed several schools, airports and businesses, and canceled college football games. Frances ultimately caused 50 deaths and more than $ 10 billion in damages.
Disney World Resorts in Orlando had to close their doors on Saturday and Sunday and reopen on Monday with a limited schedule. Closing a whole weekend is expensive for a place like Disney, and Frances even performed on Labor Day weekend. This would normally be one of the busiest weekends of the year, but instead the resort has missed out on valuable tourism dollars. Disney World reopened fully on Tuesday with minimal damage.
8th Yippies Protest, Disneyland, 1970
The Youth International Party was a radical counterculture and antiwar group better known as the Yippies. In 1970, the group planned a takeover of Disneyland and distributed leaflets for the event. Anaheim Police riot prepared for the group, and every town in the county sent police officers to help in the park that day. Disneyland staff were given specific assignments for the day, and the managers regularly went around telling the groups of yippies to respect other guests in the park.
With a few incidents, the day was mostly calm and Disneyland staff began to relax after realizing they may have overestimated the threat to the park. Around 5 p.m., groups of yippies made their way to Tom Sawyer’s Island, where they invaded Fort Wilderness. After Disneyland caused problems in the park, it announced to its guests that the park would be closed. The police then began pushing the noisy group down the main street to the exit. Heated words were exchanged, an American flag was pulled down, and several yippies were arrested. Disney suffered some minor property damage, but the result wasn’t as insane as expected.
7th Hurricane Matthew, Disney World, 2016
In 2016, Walt Disney World closed its four major theme parks, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, as Hurricane Matthew hit the Atlantic coast. Disney also closed Disney Springs, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, miniature golf courses, and two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. They all closed Thursday evening and didn’t open again until Saturday morning.
It rarely happens that Disney closes a park, but Hurricane Matthew had already devastated Haiti and other areas before landing in Florida with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Matthew raced across the Caribbean killing hundreds of people, mostly in Haiti. Florida recorded 12 deaths from the powerful hurricane and more than $ 2 billion in damage.
6 Hurricane Charley, Disney World, 2004
The arrival of Hurricane Charley on Florida’s coast led several theme parks in the area to close early, including Walt Disney World. Disney’s animal kingdom has never opened for the day. This was only the third time Disney World had closed the park to the public, and they quickly reopened their doors the next day.
Hurricane Charley was the first of four separate hurricanes to hit Florida in 2004. It was the strongest hurricane in the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Florida was badly hit by the hurricane with nine direct deaths, 20 indirect deaths and multiple injuries.
Property damage in Florida from Hurricane Charley exceeded $ 5 billion. Disney World suffered minor damage from the hurricane and the crews worked all night to keep the park ready for guests to have a magical vacation with their friends and family.
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5 Earthquake, Tokyo Disney, 2011
In March 2011, a devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan and caused damage in the north of the country. When the earthquake first struck, Tokyo Disney and Tokyo DisneySea guests were told to take shelter in the park. All guests were evacuated from buildings and housed in the park’s restaurants.
Tokyo Disney was closed for five weeks due to a power outage caused by problems at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. On the first day the theme park reopened, 10,000 guests queued early to be the first in the park. They still closed early at 6 p.m. to save power and DisneySea was closed for a short time.
4th Terrorist attacks, Disneyland Paris, 2015
More than 130 people were killed in terrorist attacks across Paris on November 13, 2015. Suicide bombers were hit outside of a soccer game, several mass shootings took place in restaurants and shooters attacked at a concert. Ultimately, more than 400 people were injured in the terrorist attacks.
Disneyland Paris was closed after the attacks. They were initially closed for security reasons to show solidarity. Two parks at Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, remained closed from November 14-17 as part of a three-day national mourning period. The theme parks reopened on November 18th during normal business hours.
3 Pres. John F. Kennedy assassination attempt, Disneyland, 1963
America lost its 35th President on November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife, Jackie Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and Nellie Connally . Kennedy was shot dead from a nearby building that day by Lee Harvey Oswald. Disneyland, California, closed the park the following day, paying attention to national mourning. It is known that Kennedy visited Disneyland once as a Senator in 1959.
2 Hurricane Irma, Disney World, 2017
Hurricane Irma landed in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane and passed west of Orlando. Florida has seen more than 80 hurricane-related deaths and billions in damage. Disney World didn’t have much of an impact on the hurricane, but the parks closed for a few days.
The park did not lose power, but strong winds and rain hit the park and several trees fell. Some of the resort’s buildings also reported leaks after the storm, and several transformers exploded near Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The parking lot at Disney World served as a staging area for utility crews who were working to restore power to the area. All four parks at Disney World and Disney Springs reopened to the public the following Tuesday.
1 COVID-19, All Parks, 2020
The world was surprised by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, which has now developed into a pandemic. As of June 2020, more than 7 million people have contracted the virus and more than 400,000 people have died globally as the number continues to rise. Several countries have passed laws resulting in most of the world being quarantined at home.
Disney was forced to close the doors to their parks around the world. Tokyo Disneyland closed in late February, Disney World and Disneyland Paris closed on March 15, and Disneyland closed on March 16. Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort closed earlier this year, but Shanghai Disney has partially reopened and is opening different areas of the park in phases. The other Disney parks are working on plans to reopen the resorts during periods of limited guests and workers.
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