Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 26 - February 1, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 26 - February 1, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

Hope you are having a good week. The MousePlanet contributors have decided it's time for another MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home Show this week, so we will be streaming Show #32 live tomorrow night, Wedensday, January 27, 2021, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter/Periscope. Join us, because it's more fun to be socially together virtually than physically distanced! 

This week, Disney Parks Blog announced that starting this summer, a modified version of "Festival of the Lion King" will return to Disney's Animal Kingdom. The announcement says that audience seating will be adjusted like the handful of other re-opened theater experiences around Walt Disney World, and that there will be "adjustments to the show on stage and backstage, including updates to choreography to allow for appropriate physical distancing."

Entertainment returning to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.
A modified version of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King will open this summer as the Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening continues. Image courtesy Disney Parks.

In other re-opened theater venues, the overall theater capacity has been reduced, and seating areas are arranged so that each party's area has at least six feet of separation from other parties as noted by markings on the seats (and enforced by cast members). Before the pandemic, members of the audience (and, especially children), would be encouraged to join the Festival at certain points in the show, those sorts of elements likely have been eliminated for the upcoming modified presentation.

While the announcement says that Walt Disney World Resort is turning its "attention to bringing back even more entertainment with a responsible and thoughtful approach," we have not yet heard any concrete details regarding other shows or entertainment offerings returning in the coming months. We do know, of course, that work continues on the new nighttime spectacular "Harmonious" at EPCOT, but it remains unclear when the Resort will resume nighttime spectacular presentations. Stay tuned.

Remember, Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening includes health and safety protocols: mandatory guest temperature checks, limited park capacity requiring guest use of the Disney Park Pass System to reserve a park visit (plus a valid ticket - and limited hours for park hopping for those with that benefit), heightened cleaning especially of high-touch areas, physical distancing, and enforced mandatory face coverings (except when eating and/or drinking while stationary and physically distanced from others not in your party). Be sure to check the My Disney Experience or DisneyWorld.com immediately before any planned visit for any last minute changes to phased reopening operations that may impact your visit.

"New Adventures" Coming to Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise debuted with Disneyland's opening in 1955, and again with Magic Kingdom's opening in 1971. Both parks have seen some modifications to the attractions over the years (the most famous was probably the original Disneyland version officially adopting the less-than-serious, pun-filled approach to the attraction not too long after the park opened). In more recent years, Florida even added a nearby restaurant themed to the attraction, the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, and all of the Disney Parks (plus Disney Cruise Line, Aulani in Hawaii and other Disney destinations) have increasingly tied the story of the attraction into a larger narrative about the "SEA" (Society of Explorers & Adventures).

Yesterday, Disney Parks Blog announced that both the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom attractions will be enhanced this year, including incorporation of the skippers themselves into the storyline of the adventure. Kevin Lively, a former Disneyland Jungle Cruise skipper and now an imagineer, provides some details in a video Disney shared. (And, yes, he is wearing a prominent "SEA" pin in the video.)

Imagineer Kevin Lively discusses some of the upcoming enhancements coming to The Jungle Cruise, including the incorporation of the skippers into the story of the attraction. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

Among the new sights along the rivers will be animatronic skippers avoiding the point of a rhino, apparently after having lost one or two of The Jungle Cruise boats to a group of chimpanzees. Imagineers are sharing details with skippers on both coasts, and, presumably, the latest Disney-approved puns and jokes to share with guests on future voyages. Some additional details and more Florida skipper reactions were shared by the Walt Disney World Ambassadors on an Instagram Video post.

Changes coming to Jungle Cruise
Chimpanzees seize one (or more) of The Jungle Cruise boats in the updated version of the attraction coming soon to both coasts. Artists Concept courtesy Disney Parks.

No specific timeline has been announced, though, we note that the seasonal "Jingle Cruise" overlay has been added and removed overnight in recent years, so this may come along and appear sooner rather than later at Magic Kingdom. Of course, we still have no word on when Disneyland Resort may be allowed by the State of California to continue its phased re-opening by permitting guests to visit the west coast theme parks. California's state-wide stay-at-home order was lifted yesterday, allowing restaurants once again to serve guests outdoors, increasing capacity at retailers, and lifting the overnight curfew (though some municipalities have kept in place stricter rules).

Views from Disney Springs

In recent weeks, we have reported the opening of both Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew on the West Side of Disney Springs and Gideon's Bakehouse in The Landing neighborhood. I visited Disney Springs last week to have a look around (but no sampling, and, indeed, Gideon's had quite a long queue just to get inside the limited capacity shop which I decided could await a future visit). In the food department, I spotted the 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa food truck now located on the West Side, and nearby, construction has progressed a good deal at the future M&M's Store. The photo tour here also includes a visit to World of Disney store where you can find the latest Starbucks park-themed tumblers and the new 2021-themed merchandise among the latest offerings.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle Shares Photos Inside Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Construction continues to progress on the immersive Star Wars-themed hotel experience just beyond Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge next to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Originally booking was to have begun last year for an opening this year, but the on-going pandemic has made the hotel/experience's debut date unclear. Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle recently shared some preview photos of the interior work-in-progress along with the concept art that the work resembles pretty closely.


A post shared by Jeff Vahle (@jeffvahle)

Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Now Available

As the year began, Disney launched its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but not at all on February 13-15, March 26-April 11, or May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.

There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

A 2-Day version is available to purchase and use only through March 11 (but not February 13-15) for $149/tax (add $37.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day's window opens subject to capacity).

This & That…

…As Disney Parks Blog recently shared, shopDisney.com is now selling Limited Release Screen Print Prosters and Lithographs inspired by EPCOT. The first screen print is themed to the Journey of Water (area/experience) Inspired by Moana. The price is $99 (before tax and shipping) for the 24x36 inch poster printed on archival black paper featuring glossing, metallic art finishes. Each screen print will only be available until the next one launches (monthly).

Disney Parks Blog has also published its Valentine's Day Gift Guide featuring the latest seasonal merchandise available at Disney Parks, shopDisney.com, and at Disney stores and other retailers worldwide.

…REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club Members that book 4-night or more room reservations for arrivals through September 25, 2021, that also buy a non-discounted 4-day Walt Disney World theme park ticket will receive 2 extra days added to your ticket. The offer is valid for number of guests on Member’s eligible room reservation and the park tickets must be purchased in advance through Member Services. Like many DVC offers, this one requires that the Member be eligible for Membership Extras (own at least a specified number of points purchased directly from DVC as of a certain date). The park tickets will be valid for admission beginning on date selected as start date and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on ticket length and type. And, of course, until further notice, Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for the dates Members and their guests plan to use their tickets, and those reservations remain limited and subject to availability.

…REMINDER: Like the DVC ticket offer, as Disney Parks Blog announced, guests can receive two additional days park admission when they buy a non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights January 8 through September 25, 2021. Details are published on this page of DisneyWorld.com. (See more from our friends at Get Away Today below. Remember, that offer applies to non-discounted hotel stays; separately, Annual Passholders can save up to 40% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 3 through April 17, 2021; and there are also some remaining 35% discount opportunities for the general public for the same time period.

…UPDATE: The new Portillo's restaurant featuring Chicago-style Hot Dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches and more opening in Lake Buena Vista on March 2 is now hiring. Visit Portillos.com/careers to apply. February will present some previews that this former Chicagoan has been invited to and is very much looking forward to attending! Stay tuned!

…And speaking of neighbors of Walt Disney World Resort, I neglected to mention last week that a new billion-dollar, 10,000-room resort project is expecting to debut its first phase in 2023. Named Evermore Orlando Resort, the developer, Dart Interests Florida, says it is offering a "new approach to vacationing." Evermore Orlando will feature a large-scale community of vacation homes built solely for renting, and they will operate with "hotel-quality standards." Flats and homes will range from 2 to 11 bedrooms and the new resort will also include Orlando’s first Conrad Hotel, Hilton’s luxury brand. This project is a redevelopment of the Villas at Grand Cypress, and its amenities will include a 20-acre tropical beach complex, an 8-acre crystalline water amenity by Crystal Lagoons, a new 18-hole Nicklaus Design golf course and numerous restaurants.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

Disney Resort Hotel reservations are available throughout 2021, and our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer we mentioned several times over the last few weeks that became available January 5: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

Get Away Today can help you book Disney's latest promotional offers

Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021, including the continuing 35% discount on Disney Hotels for travel through April 17, 2021, which may be the better option for some guests traveling this spring. With Get Away Today's complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it's not a better deal, we will leave everything as is, and keep our eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

Get Away Today Logo

Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today!.As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks.

Be sure to check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.