"Perception is reality." It's a credo that Disney World seems to have adopted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, even if that perception is one added digitally to the faces of its park visitors.
It's no secret that tons of businesses were adversely affected by the coronavirus, especially those that are predicated by physical, in-person experiences that turn a profit by packing in as many people as they can in a single location.
Theme parks, like Disney World, were hit especially hard by COVID-19. The entire park was shut down for several months while management implemented new cleanliness and safety protocols for its guests.
Although Disney World had suspended and altered many of its services in an effort to mitigate the possibility of guests contracting the coronavirus, it still received criticism for staying open amid the pandemic.
Pictures of guests walking around the park with their masks off or completely down started circulating social media with folks castigating both the visitors and Disney for creating a "petri dish" of sorts by not doing more to stop the curb of the disease.
The park also made headlines recently when it was revealed that visitors who went on rides without their masks would get them photoshopped onto their faces.
That's right, Disney would digitally add fake masks to visitor's faces on post-ride photos in order to maintain a healthy perception and normalize mask-wearing at its parks. Many decried the act as disingenuous on Disney's part, claiming that the entertainment giant was putting its visitor's lives at risk unnecessarily in the hopes of making up for lost profits in the wake of the pandemic.
Disney maintained that its photoshopping of masks on customers' faces was an attempt to inspire guests to be compliant with its face-covering protocols, it ultimately decided to stop the practice. Guests must always keep masks on while at the park unless they are eating or swimming. You also won't be allowed to purchase photos of you and your friends/family riding popular attractions if you're not wearing masks on the rides, either.
Another reason why masks were photoshopped onto people's faces was that visitors had said that their masks had fallen off while they were on the ride, which isn't that far-fetched to believe.
The news of Disney's digital mask editing appeared online in the private Facebook group Disney World Junkies, where an uploader posted pics of their trip, which included mid-ride photos.
"Got all of our photo pass photos from yesterday except Dinosaur. Just finally got it and you can see Disney has already started digitally adding masks so everyone can still get their photos. The woman behind us apparently wasn't wearing hers."
Disney Parks confirmed with USA Today that the movie mammoth "tested modifying some ride photos."
If you refuse to wear a mask on a ride, you should be kicked out of the park.— Garrett Frawley (@GarrettFrawley) December 10, 2020
Spokesperson Jacquee Wahler said, "In response to guest requests, we tested modifying some ride photos. We are no longer doing this and continue to expect guests to wear face coverings except when actively eating or drinking while stationary."
Disney will no longer digitally add masks to guests' faces and instead will just preclude individuals from purchasing photos if their masks happened to fall off.
Some have criticized Disney's PR move as a "cover-up" for the fact that they were called out for trying to still monetize photo sales for individuals who either lose their masks or take them off on rides.
If you don't wear your mask we'll ask you to leave the parks...unless you're on a ride, then we don't care as much - we'll just photoshop one on you. Or not. Wow Disney. Just wow.— Tiffany Means (@TifMeans) December 12, 2020