Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 29 - July 5, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 29 - July 5, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

Even as I finalized last week's Update very early Tuesday morning (late Monday night), we knew that Walt Disney World Resort was going to make announcements after our publication regarding the "World's Most Magical Celebration", the 18-month event marking the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort starting October 1. Sure enough, Disney used its network's ABC-TV "Good Morning America" to make entertainment announcements for the event. By Tuesday afternoon, we added a quick recap of those details to our Update. We'll recap them again here with additional detail and some historical context, and Disney's full recap is available on Disney Parks Blog.


Disney Enchantment debuts at Magic Kingdom on October 1.


Harmonious debuts at EPCOT on October 1.


Disney KiteTails debuts at Disney's Animal Kingdom on October 1.


Disney Fab 50 golden statues will be spread across all four theme parks.


Characters will have new celebration costumes.

Images Courtesy Disney Parks.

The previously announced new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT, "Harmonious," will debut on October 1 with the start of the World's Most Magical Celebration. That debut likely will permanently retire the "EPCOT Forever" show that "temporarily" replaced "Illuminations" back in October 2019 and which returns starting July 1 for its probable final run.

Disney describes "Harmonious" as "one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park." It will include pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting and media in what Disney promises will be "new ways" with "new interpretations of classic Disney songs as you've never heard them before, reimagined in more than a dozen languages by a diverse group of 240 artists from around the world."


The new hardware for "Harmonious" has been very conspicuous in World Showcase Lagoon throughout 2021, and these tents recently appeared in World Showcase Plaza, likely used by teams testing the new show. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Early in June, Walt Disney World Resort neighbors heard late night fireworks testing from EPCOT's direction, and a new beacon lit the sky from that direction for quite awhile as well. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney also announced that a new nighttime spectacular, "Disney Enchantment" will debut at Magic Kingdom for the Celebration starting October 1. Disney describes this as an "evening extravaganza" that "will take you on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment." Like recent nighttime shows at Disneyland in California, this show will include new "immersive projection effects" that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street U.S.A. (a first for the Florida park).

In the meantime, "Happily Ever After" is set to return to nightly performances at the park on July 1. Walt Disney World Resort gave neighbors a courtesy heads-up of a full test being run after park hours on Saturday, and another coming up tonight that reports indicate some cast members have been invited to attend. Disney has not said whether "Disney Enchantment" is a permanent or temporary replacement for "Happily Ever After," which itself debuted back in 2017 after the long-running "Wishes" show was permanently retired.

Magic Kingdom tested "Happily Ever After" well-after the park closed on Saturday. Neighbors, like me, were able to see much of the pyrotechnics (though another neighbors' tree sure has grown taller since the show was last seen through this window). Time Lapse Video by Alan S. Dalinka.


Walt Disney World Resort informed the neighboring communities that it planned to test "Happily Ever After" sometime after park closing this past Saturday and again tonight.


The finale of "Happily Ever After" shone over neighborhoods north of Magic Kingdom on Saturday night.


The lights surrounding Cinderella Castle after the conclusion of the fireworks could also be seen lighting the sky after the test concluded.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, starting October 1, the Discovery River Amphitheater will become home to multiple daytime showings of the new show entitled "Disney KiteTails," featuring windcatchers and kites depicting Disney animal friends, including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie. The Amphitheater was built for the nighttime show, "Rivers of Light," which was suspended with the park's temporary closure last March; during the park's closure, Disney announced that show would not return. The "EPCOT Forever" show which ends the night before "Disney KiteTails" debuts, also uses kites pulled by speedboats.


"Disney KitesTales" will be performed in the currently idle Discovery River Amphitheater several times daily starting October 1. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Kites featuring lights and pyrotechnics are one of the highlights of the EPCOT Forever show which will end to make way for "Harmonious" on October 1. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

New golden character statues will be installed across the four theme parks representing the "Disney Fab 50." Eight golden character sculptures will debut at Magic Kingdom on October 1: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale. Each of those characters will also don new "EARidescent fashions" in the park, including several daily appearances in a new "Mickey's Celebration Cavalcade."

 

Resort-wide pandemic-related policies continue to ease. Earlier this month, face coverings became option for fully vaccinated guests and cast members in most outdoor locations around the Resort. Vaccinated guests have also been able to opt to go maskless in indoor locations (except Disney Transportation) for a few weeks, and, by this weekend, vaccinated cast members were given the same option. Remember that the latest information that may impact your visit can be found on this page of resort-wide policies of Walt Disney World. As I have previously noted, the State of Florida does not permit businesses to request proof of vaccination, and Disney is honoring that by stating: "While we do not require proof of vaccination, we expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation."

While there are still signs reminding guests to physically distance, attractions have been removing the previously-installed barriers between parties as well as the enhanced queue partitions and ground markings. Ride vehicles and shows are being loaded where separate parties may be seated right next to each other again.

It would not be surprising if there were more announcements after publication again today. Independence Day is just ahead and we have not yet seen Disney share its celebration plans. The other Orlando theme parks have restored some of their bigger entertainment offerings and Universal has become the first to announce the return of a full parade. With the Disney parks increasingly crowded again, it would sure be welcome to have more in-park offerings for guests to enjoy. Stay tuned.

As I regularly remind you at this time of year, if you are headed to Central Florida or along the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, it is Tropical Storm season and, indeed, we are getting into rainy season. Some rain daily is just about the norm at this time of year, and showers can pop up quickly. The bigger storms that get extra scrutiny from meteorologists, so far, have not been forecasted to head toward Walt Disney World Resort, but Tropical Storm Danny currently is taking aim at the Carolinas, so if you are up that way, please pay attention to local weather reports and the authorities. And, again, if you have not been vaccinated and you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, do yourself and the rest of us a favor: get vaccinated. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!


Daily storms are pretty much the norm in Central Florida in Summer. The forecast had this afternoon rain storm tracking much further south of Walt Disney World Resort than it actually did. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reimagination Underway at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Anyone who has ridden the monorail through Disney's Contemporary Resort lately has seen indications of the extensive refurbishment underway in the nearly 50 year old main hotel tower this year. This week, Disney Parks Blog showed a first look at one of the reimagined guest rooms.


All nine floors of the A-frame hotel tower inside the Grand Canyon Concourse of Disney's Contemporary Resort have been covered by construction scrims in recent weeks. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Parts of the exterior of Disney's Contemporary Resort facing World Drive and Seven Seas Lagoon also show indications of on-going refurbishment. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

All nine floors of guest rooms are being refurbished. The new room décor debuting this fall "will blend a sleek Monorail motif with some favorite characters from Pixar Animation Studios' Incredibles films, including Jack-Jack, Frozone and Edna Mode." Guest rooms will feature new custom art, corridors will be modern, futuristic, and, according to Disney "oh so stylish, dahling, complementing the resort's architecture while putting the Supers' powers on display." The rooms in the Garden Wing will be refurbished when the tower rooms are complete. Public comments posted on Disney Parks Blog as of our publication were fairly negative on this new look, but you can judge for yourself with the photos released by Disney and republished below.


The reimagined rooms at Disney's Contemporary Resort feature characters from the Disney-Pixar Incredibles films.


New custom artwork has been created for the reimagined and refurbished rooms.


Suits of the "Supers" already appear to be in the reimagined closet space.


Guests may find surprises in the room drawers as well.


Edna Mode touches are included.


Even the drapery features characters from The Incredibles.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

The hotel's lobby will also include a collection of both modern art pieces and historical, "behind-the-scenes photographs of Disney's Contemporary Resort" from back when it was in development and under construction. The lobby restaurant, The Wave... of American Flavors will close to make way for a "reimagined dining experience in time for the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebration." It is doubtful that the space will resemble the sprawling arcade guests of the hotel's early years enjoyed.

Views of Disney's Animal Kingdom

This past week, I made a Disney Park Pass reservation for and visited Disney's Animal Kingdom. Further easing of the pandemic-related resort policies were evident throughout the park.


Characters still make physically distanced appearances by watercraft.


But the recently opened "Celebration of the Festival of the Lion King" show no longer physically separates parties in the audience and fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear face coverings.


The show remains in the "Celebration" version, without the popular tumble monkey acrobatics, and with the modified choreography we previously described.


Though cast released the audience one section at a time, no effort was made to distance guests from each other when exiting the theater.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


At Kilimanjaro Safaris, physical barriers have been removed between the guest loading rows and between the rows aboard the safari trucks as well.


A hippo was out of the water as the truck passed, probably because there was food available. The neighborhood vultures noticed that too.


One of the elephants can be seen in the distance.


There are quite a few recently hatched flamingo chicks on Flamingo Island.


Wild Africa Trek remains "temporarily unavailable."


One of the white rhinos is "fresh" out of the mud.


The Nigerian dwarf goats relax at the new warden's outpost.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


Over at Maharaja Jungle Trek, one of the tigers walks about.


There are many Asian Geese resident at Maharaja Jungle Trek (you can spot the Disney Animals tag on one of its legs, further distinguishing it from the local wildlife).


The aviary at Maharaja Jungle Trek is home to a pair of pheasants. This is the male.


One of the bachelor gorillas enjoys a nap near Gorilla Falls (which guests getting out of safari vehicles can get a look at before returning to Harambe).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…Disney Vacation Club Members need to be aware that some technology system upgrades will cause downtime for Member-facing systems (online and telephone) starting at 10 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, July 17 and continuing until the project's expected completion on Tuesday July 20, 2021. Members will not be able to book reservations, bank points, make dues/loan/escrow payment, start or finalize ad-on membership purchases, or access other areas of the DVC website that require logging in, including the Member Dashboard. Members should still be able to check-in or out of previously booked rooms, access the DVC Lounge at EPCOT, purchase park tickets and make theme park and dining reservations online. Guests who rely on a digital Member Card for benefits should download a new version prior to July 17, 2021 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney Cruise Line has delayed plans to perform a test sailing of Disney Dream from Port Canaveral as part of its efforts to receive a conditional sailing certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because there are no vaccines for children under 12, an important demographic for DCL voyages, Disney has opted to attempt a simulated sailing to obtain its conditional sail order rather than attempt to sail with 98% crew and 95% passengers fully vaccinated. It is unclear whether this will impact Disney's future plans, as a Federal Judge granted a preliminary injunction against CDC enforcement of its sailing rules, effective July 18.

News 13 reports that "Disney on Ice" will return to Orlando's Amway Center September 3-5, 2021, with "Mickey's Search Party." Tickets will go on sale for July 27 for "preferred customers" and general public ticket sales begin August 3. Tickets may be purchased at Amway Center or Ticketmaster.

…REMINDER: Starting July 16, Disney+ subscribers can view all ten episodes of "Behind the Attraction," a new original series looking behind the scenes of attractions and destinations at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world. The series, narrated by Paget Brewster, promises "archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs" of the development and refinement of attractions over the years from The Jungle Cruise to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. The series also includes rare interviews with Walt Disney, Disney Legends, and past and present Imagineers including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, and Joe Rohde.

Disney+ Behind the Attractions
The full 10-episode "Behind the Attraction" series debuts on Disney+ on July 16. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic will return Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30 offering an outdoor festival featuring unlimited food tastings from the resorts culinary team and wine, beer and other sips from around the world. Overnight packages and event-only tickets are now available at FoodAndWineClassic.com. Overnight packages start at $580; event-only ticket options are $165/person (including tax and service fees). Reservations are also available in the resort's new tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

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Resort Reservations, 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.

Walt Disney World Resort continues to offer Florida Resident ticket specials with savings up to 40% on 4-day, 1-park tickets. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for more information and availability (which varies by date). Florida proof of residency required, and there is now a way to provide it electronically.

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are recognizing educators and first responders by offering them special hotel rates. To honor their hard work, the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels which include B RESORT & SPA, DOUBLE TREE SUITES BY HILTON, HILTON ORLANDO BUENA VISTA PALACE, HILTON ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, HOLIDAY INN, and WYNDHAM GARDEN INN LAKE BUENA VISTA, are giving them an exclusive offer starting at $79 per night for travel between now and July 14, 2021, if booked by July 10. The special rates include Bus Shuttle to the parks, a "Passport to Savings" booklet with discounts and specials from Disney Springs merchants, and advance tee times at Walt Disney World Golf Courses. For more information, restrictions, and to book, visit the Disney Springs Hotels official website.

Walt Disney World Resort Summer Room Offer for Select Disney Resort hotels provides savings up to 25% on rooms for stays most nights through September 29, 2021.

Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages can now be booked up to 500 days in advance on a rolling calendar, and a package can be held for just a $200 downpayment with final payment due 30 days prior to travel.

Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. More details are here. 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, they will leave everything as is, and keep their eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. (Responses provided in 1 to 3 business days.) You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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

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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.