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Disney World News: August Hours, Hiring Blitz, Ice Cream Addition, Vaccine Campaign

It’s time for a weekend Walt Disney World news roundup. This one covers a new vaccine campaign featuring Disney’s biggest stars, the company’s ongoing hiring blitz in Florida, first set of park hours for August 2021, an Ample Hills replacement, and more!

Let’s start with an update on new park hours as Walt Disney World approaches what’s likely to be a busy summer travel season. All four theme parks, Disney Springs, and Blizzard Beach have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. Added dates are the week of August 1-7, 2021. Here are that week’s hours:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 8 am to 6 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 10 pm (11 pm on weekends)

Keep in mind that Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. These are simply placeholder or “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World hours–the minimum hours the parks will be open for those dates. We would expect an hour or two could be added to many of those closing times, and perhaps some of the opening hours–especially if this summer is as busy as predicted…

After inviting last year’s participants to reapply, the Disney College Program is now open to all applicants. For those unfamiliar with it, this five-to-seven month program gaining on-the-job experience working in Walt Disney World parks and resorts. Disney touts it as allowing participants to network with leaders, take part in personal and career development classes, and build transferable skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest service, and effective communication.

You also might be working cleaning tables at Cosmic Ray’s, which is no knock. Working in the service industry is an incredibly formative experience–we just want to take the rosy picture Disney paints of the program and ground it in reality. Neither of us participated in the College Program, but we have several friends who did. The consensus is that it was a great and life-changing experience, but usually not for the reasons marketed by Disney.

Walt Disney World is recruiting for College Program arrival dates between June and July 2021. Applicants who are unable to arrive until August or September 2021 can apply, but consideration will be based on business needs of Walt Disney World. (Disney has tremendous staffing needs right now, and that’s unlikely to change in August or September–they’re just creating a sense of urgency.)

Departure dates will begin no earlier than January 2022. Individual program length vary; College Program length must be between 5 months (20 weeks) and 7 months (28 weeks).

Although obviously this blog is incredibly influential among the college-aged demographic (how do you do, fellow kids?), we mention this not because we think our readers will be interested in applying, but because of the implications for more reopening at Walt Disney World.

As covered at length in College Program Returns to Walt Disney World, There’s a labor shortage in Central Florida, and Walt Disney World still has tons of unfilled positions even after recalling all eligible furloughed and laid-off Cast Members and going on a new hiring blitz.

Since the College Program reopened, we’ve seen multiple reports on social media of applicants almost immediately receiving “congratulations” emails inviting them to interview–sometimes within an hour of applying.

As covered in When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return?, acceptance letters state that the College Program will begin on June 14, 2021. That’s an impressive turnaround time from announcing the return of the College Program to actually restarting it.

Walt Disney World’s normal hiring blitz also continues. (Perhaps it’s just our location, but we’ve seen non-stop contextual ads all over the internet!) To that point, Disney recently held its largest Traditions training class ever, with over 200 participants in an athletic facility at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex (h/t blogmickey.com). To put that into perspective, these “normally” have around 20-30 participants and are held in a classroom.

All of this bodes well for [insert your favorite restaurant/resort/retail/etc. that’s currently closed] reopening by sometime in July. Walt Disney World is doing all of this hiring and restarting the College Program to ramp up operations and keep up with growing demand, with summer being the target for bringing back many things, and October being the ‘drop dead’ date.

Continuing our quest for influence among the youth, the next big news is that PhotoPass Service is teaming up with Snapchat to offer augmented reality experiences to share with your friends and family, featuring some of your favorite Disney characters.

It all starts with new ways to meet up with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at the resort, with Snapchat Lenses starring your favorite duo. Mickey and Minnie will be right beside you in Snapchat with their playful expressions and gestures. They can even give you a hug.

Several years ago, I downloaded Snapchat, got frustrated after not being able to figure out how to use it, and gave up on it forever. I later read that this is a feature and not a bug…and also a barrier to entry for old people (me, apparently). I haven’t even bothered with TikTok.

In the wise words of Grandpa Simpson, “I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!” I’ve come to terms with not being hip or cool; chasing trends frankly feels exhausting.

Next, a trio fan-favorite Audio Animatronics have returned to EPCOT! In what is hopefully the conclusion to the bizarre saga of the Three Caballeros, the three feathered friends have once again made their way back to the finale of Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion.

Walt Disney Imagineering announced that the historic Audio-Animatronic figures had been restored from the ground up using the latest technology, sharing photos of the process.

These Donald, Panchito, and Jose Audio Animatronics have a long legacy. They started their performing “careers” serenading guests at Mickey Mouse Revue, an opening day attraction in Magic Kingdom.

After that, their world tour kicked off, with a residency at Tokyo Disneyland in the same show there. They performed abroad for 26 years until Mickey’s PhilharMagic replaced Mickey Mouse Revue. A decade later, they came out of retirement, migrating back to Florida to star in Gran Fiesta Tour.

In other good news, a new ice cream shop has opened on Disney’s BoardWalk. Located in the former home of Ample Hills Creamery (RIP) is the creatively named “BoardWalk Ice Cream.”

Here’s the description from Walt Disney World’s official website for BoardWalk Ice Cream: “Bring your sweet tooth to this ‘cool’ ice cream parlor located at Disney’s BoardWalk, featuring ice cream and sundaes to go. Enjoy menu items such as the Shore-Side Sundae with SNICKERS, Bay-Side Brownie a la Mode and the Strawberry Splash Shortcake—all inspired by Beaches & Cream Soda Shop.”

Our expectation is that this is a temporary venue to satisfy the intense summer-time demand for ice cream among Crescent Lake Resort guests (a group known to be ice cream fiends). On the plus side, it’s cheaper than Ample Hills and there are some fun-looking sundaes.

However, like Beaches & Cream, this is presumably off-the-shelf Edy’s. While I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as bad ice cream, I’d rather walk a little farther and pay a little more for high-quality and unique ice cream at L’Artisan des Glaces in EPCOT’s France pavilion.

I’m not going to knock this move–I’m actually surprised Walt Disney World managed to get something in here so quickly given current circumstances, but I hope this is temporary. In the long-run, a specialty scoop shop–even one that’s a bit more expensive–would be far preferable. Salt & Straw is doing pretty well at Downtown Disney and would be a great addition to Walt Disney World!

Finally, Disney has unveiled a vaccine advocacy campaign featuring the Muppets. The above message was shared across all of the Walt Disney Company’s social media accounts and announced on the Disney Parks Blog by Dr. Pamela Hymel, Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer. The ad will also be airing on ABC to encourage others to, as Pepe says, “give it a shot.” It’s part of Disney’s broader effort to spread the word to guests, Cast Members, and the public about getting vaccinated.

“I’m a big advocate for vaccines,” wrote Dr. Hymel in the post. “The consensus in the medical community is that vaccines can help protect you against COVID-19. And when you get vaccinated, you are part of a growing group immunity that helps to keep both you and others safe, especially those who are immunocompromised and can’t be vaccinated…I hope that you’ll consider getting your shot and encouraging your friends and family to join you.”

Disney Parks has stepped up to help with local health initiatives, and in organizing onsite clinics offering vaccines to Cast Members in California, Florida, and France.

Additionally, Disneyland Resort served as one of Southern California’s major vaccine distribution sites, where more 200,000 doses were administered at this location alone. Disney is currently providing space at the convention center of Disney’s Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris where more than 32,000 doses have been administrated.

I’ve seen some cynical responses suggesting that a blue puppet isn’t going to convince anyone to get vaccinated. I disagree. People must not remember that Gonzo is incredibly worldly and well-read, able to recite classic literature from memory. Beyond that, random and unverifiable posts from uncredentialed strangers on Facebook are sufficient to give rise to vaccine hesitancy; Muppets should be credible voices in helping to undo that.

I’m also an optimist who doesn’t think hesitancy exists only in extreme forms. It has been a difficult year with constantly-evolving public health guidance. It’s not unreasonable to have concerns, especially about vaccines that might sound too good to be true. Hearing from family, friends, and other trusted voices all helps to cumulatively and incrementally make people more comfortable with the idea of getting vaccinated. As does more information about how getting vaccinated reduces the likelihood of infection and transmission.

While there have been breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, this is incredibly rare among the fully vaccinated. Moreover, if it happens, the resulting infection has a lower viral load, is shorter in duration, and has a far lower likelihood of transmission to others. In other words, getting vaccinated helps protect others in addition to yourself.

Ultimately, health is an individual decision and your choice is your prerogative. I don’t think it’s right to shame anyone who has reached a differing conclusion than us. I would simply encourage you to make an informed decision based on credible studies, data, and expert guidance–not what random strangers post on social media or blogs (hence the links above!). If you still have questions about getting vaccinated, that’s okay! To learn more, check out GetVaccineAnswers.org.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Optimistic about the current hiring blitz resulting in more reopening at Walt Disney World later this summer? Looking forward to trying BoardWalk Ice Cream, or will you stick to Beaches & Cream or the in-park options? Hoping for more dining options returning in the next couple months? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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