Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 7-12, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 7-12, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

I hope you had a happy and safe Fourth of July and Independence Day Weekend.

Walt Disney World Resort did not run its special Independence Day fireworks salute at its parks, I posted my video of the July 1 return of "Happily Ever After" at Magic Kingdom with an Independence Day soundtrack and addition (the entire show is 20 seconds). Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

To my fellow Floridians and those visiting the region, I hope this Update finds you having weathered Hurricane Elsa overnight. As of this posting, Elsa has been downgraded from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Tropical Storm off the west coast of Florida near Tampa Bay. Walt Disney World Resort and the Orlando metropolitan area has been in the northeast quadrant of the advancing storm, meaning that it is largely outside of the strongest winds of the storm, but under a tornado watch and various flood advisories with the possibility of rain amounting to 3-6 inches or more. Magic Kingdom ran its "Happily Ever After" fireworks on schedule at 9:15 p.m. last night (as I heard and saw from home), and normal park hours are scheduled for Wednesday. Remember, if you plan to visit Central Florida, Tropical Storm Season continues until November, with the peak of the season occurring in September-October.

As Walt Disney World Resort continues preparations for "The World's Most Magical Celebration" which starts October 1, 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the Resort's opening, the gradual return of many pre-pandemic operations continue hand-in-hand with some of the changes made during the phased reopening that appear to be around to stay. On the returning side, as I cover this week, more food and beverage locations have reopened and are scheduled to reopen around the Resort and Magic Kingdom and EPCOT both returned to their schedule of nightly fireworks. In more than one published interview this past week, Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, has made clear that the Disney Park Pass Reservation System is one change that the company plans to keep.

There are also more nuanced changes that not all Disney Resort guests will like. Extra Magic Hours were suspended with the pandemic. Early park entry will be offered to resort guests starting with the Celebration. But for evenings, there is a new limitation that is noted in a Disney Parks Blog post promoting "The Magic of Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel During Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary" which says (with emphasis added):

guests staying at one of our Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotels will also be able to enjoy extended evening hours on select nights in select theme parks. Extended evening hours will begin in early October with specific dates and parks to be shared at a later time, so please be sure to check back on DisneyWorld.com for the latest.

Please note that guests will need a valid ticket or pass and a theme park reservation for the same park on the same day to experience extended evening hours. Or, guests may visit with a ticket or Annual Pass with the Park Hopper option as long as they entered their first park where they made their reservation earlier in the day.

Characters will make "surprise" appearances in their EARidescent costumes at Disney Resort hotels during the Celebration. But there is still no news on when or whether FastPass+ reservations for attractions will return in Florida. There was social media buzz this week that Disneyland Paris is eliminating its FastPass service in favor of a new virtual standby system with a pay-for-expediting tier. Nothing like that has been mentioned for the Florida parks as of yet, but we know the new Disney Genie system which is supposed to help guests create travel itineraries is still in the works and continues to be mentioned in only general terms by Josh D'Amaro and other Disney leaders.

Last week, Walt Disney World Resort selected its new Ambassadors team for 2022-23 from more than 800 cast member applicants. Ali Manion and Raevon Redding were selected in a special ceremony at EPCOT to carry on the tradition first started by Walt Disney when he chose Julie Reihm to be Disneyland's first Ambassador back in 1964. Stephen Lim and Marilyn West will conclude their extended run as Ambassadors at the end of 2021; Ambassador teams usually serve for two years, but their term was extended due to the pandemic.

2022-23 Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador Team
Ali Manion and Raevon Redding have been selected as the 2022-23 Walt Disney World Resort Ambassadors. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

Though the Delta Variant of the novel coronavirus is becoming a greater concern to some health experts, especially given the number of those vaccinated has not reached the population distribution level experts and some government leaders had hoped, the easing of the pandemic-era restrictions around Walt Disney World Resort has continued. Face coverings remain optional for fully vaccinated guests and cast members in most locations around the Resort except for most Disney Transportation. Physical distancing barriers and markers continue to be removed around the Resort. The latest Resort policies that may impact your visit can continue to be found and updated on this page of Walt Disney World. The State of Florida does not permit businesses to request proof of vaccination, and Disney honors 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." So, as I have been saying for months now, 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.

While face coverings are still required while riding, the physical barriers that had subdivided monorail sections into physically-separated pods have been removed. There remains no monorail service between the TTC and EPCOT, and the monorail station at Disney's Polynesian Resort remains closed for refurbishment and the reimagination of the resort's entrance. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Nightly Fireworks Return to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT

As of July 1, both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT once again have nightly fireworks displays. As the schedule stands at publication, Magic Kingdom shows its "Happily Ever After" fireworks at 9:15 p.m. EPCOT shows "EPCOT Forever" at 10 p.m. I was invited to a "Media Night" at Magic Kingdom on very rainy July 1 for the return of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and friends have told me that "EPCOT Forever" returned that night as well but that the towed kites we wrote about last week are no longer part of that show due to the hardware installed in the World Showcase Lagoon for the upcoming new nighttime show "Harmonious."

Some guests gathered in the Magic Kingdom's Central Plaza (hub) hours ahead of the return of Happily Ever After notwithstanding a steady rainfall. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The return of Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks also brought a revised, more inclusive greeting announcement. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

While at Magic Kingdom for the return of fireworks, I also took a ride on the PeopleMover (which is rather unaffected by rain) and walked around some of the mostly covered areas of Tomorrowland.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

More Food & Beverage News Around the Resort

As Walt Disney World Resort continues reopening, additional food and beverage locations are returning to service, and in this past week's Disney Parks Blog Foodie News Disney announced reopening dates for Cítricos and Trails End, the return of Casey's Corner and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor at Magic Kingdom, Eight Spoon Café and Dino Diner at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and that Disneyland Resort's popular Salt & Straw ice cream shop will open a location at Disney Springs next year. There is also a new "Disney Family Night Dinner" offering at Centertown Market at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort and at Gasparilla Island Grill at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: a three-course takeaway meal that serves 3-4 people available through mobile order for pick up between 5 and 10 p.m.

While Cítricos at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort was closed it was reimagined. The new decor of the venue pays homage to Mary Poppins Returns and its animated sequence. The restaurant also features a new menue. It reopens on July 15 and reservations are now available. Trail's End at The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness will reopen on July 17 featuring family-style skillets for breakfast and dinner.

Casey's Corner at Magic Kingdom reopened for service on June 30. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

In yet more "Foodie News" shared by Disney Parks Blog, we learned yesterday that Disney's Hollywood Studios has some new food and beverage offerings too. Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge has new entrees and a new dessert. Nearby, Ronto Roasters has added new plant-based wraps. At the other end of the park, Fairfax Fare (on Sunset Boulevard), has a plant-based "hot dog" salad along with several beef hot dog options. Hollywood Scoops now has a Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion Shake.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

At Disney Springs…

Through August 12, more than 30 restaurants and shops and Disney Springs are celebrating the "Best of the Sunshine State" during Disney Springs Flavors of Florida. Naturally, Disney Parks Blog has published a Foodie Guide featuring many of the treats available. Event guides are available at the Disney Springs Welcome Center and at participating locations. We also heard from The Edison that it will feature new Red Bull Cocktails all month as well.

The Hotel Plaza Blvd. entrance to Walt Disney World leads to Disney Springs. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

A donut that Homer Simpson would appreciate is now atop Everglazed on the West Side near the Orange Garage. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Last week, I was invited to attend an advanced screening at the AMC Disney Springs Theaters of "Summer of Soul," a new documentary now playing in theaters and streaming on the predominantly Disney-owned Hulu service. The documentary is about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, and features never-before-seen performances from Stevie Wonder (who not only sings and plays the keyboard, but plays the drums), Nina Simone, Sly & The Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension, Mahalia Jackson, and many others. It is rather remarkable that these musical performances have remained unseen by the public for five decades, as many of the chart-topping hits included have remained popular through all of these years.

"Summer of Soul" is playing in theaters and is available for streaming on Hulu. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's much-anticipated "Jungle Cruise" opens in theaters on July 30 based on the classic Disney Parks attraction. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…As we shared on social media when the news broke last Wednesday, in-person runDisney Racing is set to return to Walt Disney World Resort for the 2021-2022 race season starting this fall. First up will be the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, November 4-7, 2021. Just after New Year's, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend will be January 5-9, 2022. In late winter, the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend returns February 24-27, 2022. The closing race of the season will be the new runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend March 31-April 3, 2022. Details and registration deadlines are available on runDisney.com. Disney Parks Blog notes that race weekends may not include every element from previous years due to COVID-19 guidelines; health and safety measures that are deemed appropriate may be added, such as face coverings, physical distancing and such. Updates will be provided on the race website.

…Disney Dreamers Academy will return to Walt Disney World Resort March 3-6, 2022, after the 2020 program was cut short and transitioned to virtual during the pandemic. The "outside-the-classroom" event is open to high school students ages 13-19 nationwide who apply at DisneyDreamersAcademy.com for one of the 100 spots in the program. Those selected will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World where the theme parks are the settings for programming "designed to inspire young leaders to dream beyond their imaginations and jump-start their life goals." The application deadline is October 31, 2021.

Disney Dreamers Academy
Disney Dreamers Academy returns to Walt Disney World Resort March 3-6, 2022. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…Later this year, during Walt Disney World Resort's 50th anniversary celebration, Mickey's PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom will add a new animated scene based on Disney-Pixar's film Coco. As Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix noted in yesterday's Disneyland Resort Update the new scened, anchored by the musical number "Un Poco Loco" will debut when the attraction reopens on July 17 at Disney California Adventure and at Disneyland Paris. "Mickey's PhilharMagic" debuted at Magic Kingdom long before the other two parks, and it uses a screen of different (wider) proportions. One of the film's original composers, Germaine Franco, has produced a "Coco" score unique to "Mickey's PhilharMagic." Disney Parks Blog says the new scene will appear "alongside all of the show's current fan-favorite musical numbers."

…REMINDER: 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.

…Speaking of DVC Members, if you are one and are interested in the official Disney fan club, be sure to check your DVC Member Mail email this month. Eligible Members can get 30% off a new D23 Gold Membership with the personal code provided in the email through July 31, 2021. Tickets go on sale in July for the D23 Gold Member Event Destination D23 coming to Disney's Contemporary Resort November 19-21, 2021, celebrating 50 years of Walt Disney World Resort and offering sneak peeks of some of the company's upcoming offerings.

…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.

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  1. By wdwchuck

    "guests staying at one of our Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotels will also be able to enjoy extended evening hours on select nights in select theme parks. Extended evening hours will begin in early October with specific dates and parks to be shared at a later time, so please be sure to check back on DisneyWorld.com for the latest." We cater to the rich folk only!!
    Bad, bad news this report. I was hoping they would do away with that Park Reservation system soon but it looks like the control freaks won out. With this choice and many of the others they have made recently I guess this means we need to spend our time and resources at other vacation spots. Incredibly disappointing news over and over.

  2. By wdwchuck

    Holy Cow! The WDW Update has stayed up on the home page of Mouseplanet since Wednesday!! It usually gets bumped off a couple hours after it is posted.

  3. By Dave1313

    +1 on being very sorry to see the declaration that the Park Reservation system is here to stay.

    That to me, may end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back, but time will tell. I have been starting to get excited about a return trip post-COVID (or at least "dramatically reduced" COVID - technically the world may never be "post" as with many other diseases, even after vaccines, I suppose...).

    I've been seriously thinking about committing to a trip for a week or so spanning the actual 50th anniversary date. I fully understood that the reservation system would still most likely be in place at that time (as well as the fact that MK is consistently shown as unavailable for that date), and I was warming up to being OK with that limitation during my first trip back.

    The reservation system (all IMO) combined with other things we have been enduring for a while makes things just complicated enough to make it no longer fun or a vacation. The previous definition of a Hopper Ticket or AP gave the flexibility to adapt to many of the other little challenges. Changing that to now needing a reservation and also not being able to hop before 2PM eliminates that flexibility and the ability to balance for the other challenges. (and on a side note, how did the "set foot in the reserved park first" mandate make it past the Disney "green" police? That seems wasteful in terms of transportation, whether it be unnecessary personal car, bus, or other method of wasting one's time and transportation to go set foot in a park just to "check the box"?)

    One of those challenges (probably the biggest when combined, IMO) : The virtual queue. Being a huge Star Wars fan, I'd like to someday experience RotR. (I sort of feel they severely screwed up the design of the ride if it can't support a standby line, but that's a side rant...) So being the fan I am, I'd be OK with devoting the start of quite a few days of my vacation visiting DHS in the hopes of winning the MDE lottery and successfully getting assigned a boarding group. I'd even be OK with it if I was not successful for multiple days, though I'd like to hopefully get at least one ride in during my next trip. What I'm not OK with however, is then not being able to go to any other park before 2 PM on any/all of those days I try to get RotR. I do like most of the other attractions at DHS, but not enough that I want to repetitively do them all until 2 PM (at the expense of visiting all the other parks) on every day I try to get a boarding group for RotR. The same will apply to the new Guardians Coaster when that opens at EPC, I'm pretty sure they have made it clear that will also be the virtual queue lottery system when it opens.

    ADR Dining : We all know it can be hard to get some of the most popular restaurants at WDW. However with the huge number of restaurants available (well, someday... a lot still seem to not be re-opened yet), if you were willing to invest the time to park hop, you could easily hop between DHS and EPC or MK and EPC (well, easily for MK/EPC only if/when the Monorail goes back up someday...) to have a meal at the nearby park. Now we also need to consider if it's past 2 PM or not. So no lunch for me at Nine Dragons or Chefs de France, or even Epcot events Food Booths on those reservation days I'm in DHS trying to get on RotR if it's before 2 PM. No thanks!

    Slightly intertwined with the above ADR venting, but not really a direct connection to the park reservation system challenges: the expansion of the Mobile Ordering system at quick/counter service locations to the point where it becomes a requirement such that you effectively have to ask for your dining time as soon as the day starts. I've got no problem with Mobile ordering being offered, but when you need to submit a request for a dining time before breakfast if you want a reasonable time for lunch or dinner, that's nuts. We all understand that there will be lines at the peak meal times. Fact of life. Adding "just one more thing" to need to plan in advance is not a winner, IMO. I get that during COVID it made sense to limit gatherings in a line while waiting to place an order and pick up your food. But we are seemingly moving past the distancing required during the height of the pandemic, so the only reason I can see that they are re-focusing on the mobile ordering as being the primary (or only) option at some locations is to save on needing to employ people to take orders. From a customer perspective, it seems like just trading a potential line at ordering time for the certainty of a line at food pickup time.

    Sorry for the long rant in an update thread. I do appreciate the updates each week! . I was glad to see Sanaa is re-opened, among a few other things.

  4. By wdwchuck

    Thanks for weighing in Dave. I value your opinion and I appreciate the points you made in addition to my rant. My plan going forward is to win the lottery so I can hire the paid guides and hopefully none of these new restrictions apply to that program.
    Of course Walt always just wanted the parks to be for the uber wealthy instead of the average joe/joette with their 4 kids.
    Just kidding. Walt loved America and American families.

  5. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by wdwchuck View Post
    Thanks for weighing in Dave. I value your opinion and I appreciate the points you made in addition to my rant. My plan going forward is to win the lottery so I can hire the paid guides and hopefully none of these new restrictions apply to that program.
    Of course Walt always just wanted the parks to be for the uber wealthy instead of the average joe/joette with their 4 kids.
    Just kidding. Walt loved America and American families.

    Thanks for the feedback, Chuck. I realize my rant was a bit long....

    Tell ya what, I'll play the Mega Millions too, and when I win you can be one of the nine people I bring along to hopefully avoid the new restrictions with one of the Plaid Tour Guides. The other 8 can be any Mouse Padders who are in the WDW area at the time.

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