The Photos That Show How Things Evolved at Walt Disney World in 2020

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They say hindsight is 20/20, and whoa boy what a saying that is for this year. As we wrap up the year, many of us are thinking about how we started the year, without any clue what was on the horizon. I thought it would be interesting to look back at some in-park photos we’ve shared on our blog this year. This milestone year has been documented in so many meaningful ways. It is my hope that looking at these photos will have individual meaning for our readers and our team.

2020 started off with lots of construction at EPCOT, as well as the front entrance of Animal Kingdom, and awaiting the arrival of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

Epcot Construction – Walkway Closed – January 2020
Tomorrowland TRON Construction and Pluto Character Greeting –  January 2020
Hollywood Studios Without Icon Stage February 2020
Epcot Construction Park Exit – February 2020
Animal Kingdom Front Entrance Construction – February 2020
EPCOT Festival of the Arts
Epcot Festival of the Arts – February 2020
EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival 2020

Then after an early March opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the news started to get grim. Walt Disney World theme parks shut down on March 15, 2020. Members of our team were there on those final days. We knew it would be important to document those final days, but I am not sure we truly understood how vastly different things would be, and how long the shut down would last.

EPCOT Hand Washing and Sanitizer Station just before March 2020 closure
Adventureland Before Walt Disney World March 2020 Closure
Sunset Boulevard Before Walt Disney World March 2020 Closure
Tree of Life Before Walt Disney World March 2020 Closure
Cinderella Castle Before Walt Disney World March 2020 Closure

After a four-month shut down, Walt Disney World reopened in phases in mid July, with stringent practices that continued to evolve. Walt Disney World was the last of Orlando’s theme parks to reopen, as they set the gold standard for safety. Those first few weeks it was incredibly quiet in the parks.

Hand Sanitizer at Treehouse Entrance
Magic Kingdom Reopening Jungle Cruise Plexiglas Ride Vehicle July 2020
Magic Kingdom Reopening Social Distance Character Greeting July 2020
EPCOT Weekday Low Attendance United Kingdom Pavilion July 2020
Animal Kingdom July 2020

Then, as Disney got more practiced at operating in the “new normal” capacity was increased to 35% of normal capacity. Extended queues became the norm, to allow for physical distancing. Disney provided a more clearly defined policy pertaining to what type of face coverings were permitted. And they increased their announcements and signage about mask requirements.

Cinderella Castle view afternoon of September 26, 2020
Fantasyland Crowds October 2020
Rock N Roller Coaster Extended Queue – October 15, 2020
Mexico Pavilion December 3, 2020
Main Street USA December 5, 2020
Fantasyland Afternoon December 5, 2020
Hollywood Studios Sunset December 9, 2020

Looking back at how the year started, then how things were just before the parks shut down, and the evolution of the parks reopening, has reiterated for me that the only constant thing in life is change. Each Disney fan has their own personal reason for enjoying Walt Disney World, and other Disney destinations.

One of the biggest reasons for my love is Disney is not the escapism. It is the evidence of the triumphant human spirit. Walt Disney came from humble beginnings and built an empire that continues to grow to this day. That empire is not without its countless flaws, but in the end, it still inspires me. Here’s hoping there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow on its way in 2021.

December 22, 2020 — For the future world is born today.

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Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. She's worked in nearly all of Orlando's theme parks, on board Disney Cruise Line, and in hotel management. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife

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