By Nate Odenkirk and Ari Mostow | Staff Writers
“What happens when you wish upon a star?”
“Do you believe in magic?”
“Have you been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?”
These are just some of the whimsical questions that greet you upon entering the Disneyland Theme Park & Vaccination Gardens in Anaheim, California. As of last week, Disneyland agreed to transform its park into a massive testing and inoculation site. Accordingly, eager tourists and at-risk individuals have since flocked en masse to this place of childhood wonder for a dose of “magic, miracles, and coronavirus vaccines.”
Those wishing to receive a coronavirus vaccine will park in the “Goofy” lot, put on large Mickey gloves for protection ($14.99 /glove), and ride the magic tram over to the gates. If they’re lucky, they’ll catch a glimpse of Pfizer cast members unloading trays of vials or vendors selling cotton candy. And those who show up at the right time can even experience a socially-distanced parade in which Anna, Elsa, and Olaf remain six feet apart at all times!
To maximize park revenue, the first shot is administered in the Disneyland section, but the booster three weeks later takes place at California Adventures, requiring patients to purchase a pass for both parks. Once you pay the full admission price to enter, a new challenge awaits: actually finding the inoculation site on the premises. Surprisingly, many rides in Disneyland do not make for appropriate vaccination sites, so most of the planning went into figuring out where it would go.
In a twist of cruel irony, the vaccination tent was ultimately set up in Tomorrowland. If you did not purchase a fastpass, the line may well drag you into the land of “tomorrow,” but not to worry—Disneyland pipes in “It’s a Small World” on a loop while you wait. The music stops only for a short informational announcement from the enchanting likenesses of Buzz Lightyear, Minnie Mouse, or Doctor Anthony Fauci.
“Keep your hands inside the vehicle, and stay no less than six feet apart from the nearest cadet. You hear me, space ranger?”
—Dr. Anthony Fauci
For safety, all mascots are now portrayed by CDC personnel, who give a rotating selection of pertinent immunization data all while pointing visitors to the Dole Whip shack. Park guests are also informed that if they hear loud breathing, it is NOT Darth Vader but rather a man hooked up to a respirator… unless you are at the Star Wars ride, in which case it could be either.
The vaccination procedure itself is very close to the normal CDC guidelines, though small elements of that trademark Disney Charm™ make their way into the process. As guests are administered the vaccine, they are soothed by a calming reprise of “It’s a Small World,” which aggresivley continues from the line they were just in. After the injection, visitors are whisked to the gift shop, where they can purchase candid pictures of themselves taken mid-“ride”. Most decline the solicitation.
Disney’s decision to host the Pfizer vaccine is notable, as Disney themselves had been developing an in-house coronavirus vaccine through the ToonTown Department of Virology. Their design, a comically large needle with enough doses for everybody—complete with a boi-oi-oing sound when flicked—proved too unwieldy and wildly unhygienic, however. It did not make it past phase IV of testing.
Like everywhere else, Disney’s doses are very limited in these early weeks of the rollout, so only certain populations are eligible. For now, Disney has made the vaccine available only for essential characters, like Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. Franchises that are less at-risk of impacting profit (Zootopia and Cars) will receive doses by late summer, and poor Uncle Remus will have to zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-wait until 2023. Every mechanical president has already been given a shot, too, just in case.
While the new “pandemic” version of Disneyland may seem off-putting, some are really embracing it. Tom Fernandez, a lifetime super-fan of the theme park, says this is his fifth time getting vaccinated this week. “I actually think Disneyland is more fun now,” he said between bites of his caramel apple. “All of the rides are shut down right now, but the drive-through vaccine experience is basically Autopia. Except even more realistic, because it’s my actual car! The disease is super realistic too. Disney is always top-notch with production value!”
The magic, it appears, is back—with a very high risk of infection. ♦