EPCOT Experience in 2020

Four Years Ago: Disney Announced Parks Were Closing

Four years ago today, we were relaxing in our Jambo House Villa when my phone blew up. I had been trying to avoid the news, but the inevitable was happening. Disney World would be closing due to the pandemic. How could this be happening? Disney Cast Members had just told me to fill in all available space on Test Track an hour earlier!

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Shanghai Disneyland closed in January. But I was still floored by the news. And my mind started to race. Just how bad was Covid-19? Should we try renting a car to get home? Should we stay in our room for the rest of our vacation? We opted to stay and enjoy ourselves. I’m glad we did.

Cinderella Castle being prepped for it's 50th anniversary paint
In March 2020, Cast Members were gearing up for Disney World’s 50th celebration.
EPCOT Experience in 2020
We enjoyed viewing the EPCOT Experience in the Odyssey Pavilion. Plans for the two-story World Celebration Festival Center (left) were later canceled. One of Disney’s many Covid casualties.

Up until that Wednesday, we were enjoying what was probably our favorite Disney World vacation. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway had just opened. And we loved exploring Galaxy’s Edge for the first time. In fact, we huddled with thousands of other guests outside Hollywood Studios’ gates before the park opened that Sunday morning. Nobody was worried about a pandemic that day. We were too nervous about Rise of the Resistance boarding passes!

People lining up to get into Hollywood Studios in order to try for Rise of the Resistance boarding group
Waiting with all of humanity for the privilege of trying for Rise of the Resistance boarding groups.

Fill in all the available space!

We did start avoiding big crowds. No rope dropping, no fireworks. We slept late and enjoyed using FastPasses in the afternoon. Cast Members kept telling us to move forward and crowd other guests, but we ignored them. We kept our reservations at Sanaa and Le Cellier (nothing could make us give up poutine and bread service). And we spent lots of time in the hotel, mostly watching the animals on the savanna. It was peaceful and necessary.

Animal Kingdom - Jambo House's savanna

We were ready to go home by the end of the week. As we were leaving Animal Kingdom Lodge, we witnessed plenty of people checking in. Disney World was closing the following day, and they had come to town to “witness history.” I couldn’t comprehend that. My neighbor was sending me photos of our empty grocery store, and these people wanted to see how Disney handled a pandemic?

Guinevere from Onward parked at Disney's Art of Animation
We saw Onward’s Guinevere parked at Disney’s Art of Animation while sitting on the Magical Express. The movie opened the week before but was quickly sent to Disney+. Free movies were one of the pandemic’s few perks.

We boarded the Magical Express for the drive to the airport. I surveyed the people on the bus, wondering how many were infected. They were probably fine. We never got sick. We avoided people at our gate. When they called boarding group 1, everyone stood and crowded the door. Everything was normal even though it wasn’t.

I have plenty of great memories from that week. I wouldn’t trade that vacation for anything. After all, it’s the last time we enjoyed the Magical Express and free FastPasses.

Josh is a web designer and developer who enjoys writing about all things Disney and Universal. In a previous life, he performed in big bands, orchestras, and everything in between as a professional trombonist.