Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 20-26, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 20-26, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

On Thursday, the 129-day long EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival got underway. I'd like to think of this edition of the Festival as the next-phase of last year's "Taste of" version of the Festival. Though the name has been restored to the full "Festival," it is a more measured and evolving one than what folks who visited in 2019 or earlier experienced. There are at least 20 Global Marketplaces now open during park hours. (I say "at least" because it really depends which kiosks you or Disney counts toward the Festival's total versus the usual park operations with some menu changes.) Another 10 Global Marketplaces join the Festival on October 1; when you walk around the park, you can spot many of them. Disney Parks Blog's Foodie Guide and the official TasteEPCOT.com can give you the full menu information this year and, indeed, there is a digital version of the Festival Passport in the My Disney Experience smartphone app as well.

So far, there are no scheduled celebrity chef or beverage specialist presentations. There are no scheduled up-charge tastings or parties (like Party for the Senses). runDisney has scheduled the return of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November and, perhaps, as October 1 approaches, there will be more pieces of the Festival returning.

In the meantime, like the "Taste of" Festivals, there are daytime performances by Voices of Liberty and Mariachi Cobre on the America Gardens Theatre stage. This Festival brings back more live music in the form of "America Gardens Bandstand" presentations on Friday nights through Monday nights featuring local Central Florida Bands playing pop songs of yesterday and today. The "Jammin' Chefs" again perform over on the Old Mill Stage at Canada pavilion, and there are other offerings, like the EPCOT Musician at the United Kingdom Gazebo (often friend of MousePlanet, long-time Disney Performer Carol Stein). The World Showplace Pavilion which has been part of all of the "Taste of" Festivals is currently not open for the Food & Wine Festival.

As for the "Bandstand" performances, those are only scheduled through September 30. With the 50th Anniversary celebration getting under way on October 1, we expect to hear news of some other new entertainment offering starting on that day, as the additional Global Marketplaces open, and, over at France pavilion, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and the creperie addition are due to open as well. Stay tuned.

Inside Odyssey, a display case includes a model of the ride vehicle for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. In the story line, we guests are shrunk down to Remy's size to experience his world from his vantage-point. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Speaking of Remy's, I was invited to Media Day for the Food & Wine Festival on Friday morning and was invited just beyond the construction wall into the courtyard in front of the new attraction where I was able to see the exterior of the new Paris as interpreted by Pixar and the imagineers to appear from Remy's point-of-view addition to the pavilion. While photos were not allowed, you're in luck, because Disney Parks Blog shared on Instagram almost everything I got to see, including Veronica from Walt Disney Imagineering.

In the "Views of EPCOT" below, I will share more of the Festival—as I not only attended the Media Day on Friday Morning, but I returned to EPCOT on Sunday afternoon and night, and visited quite a few Marketplaces. I do have to admit, the food I sampled at the Media Day event and at the Marketplaces was all tasty and I am looking forward to trying some more food and beverages over the next 120-some-odd days. Of course, as I note regularly at this time of year, it is the rainy season here in the neighborhood of Walt Disney World Resort. Fortunately, the Tropical Storm season has temporarily gotten quiet; let's hope it stays that way! On Sunday night, thunderstorms seemingly surrounded EPCOT, but my friends and I never witnessed a drop fall. Of course, it was humid and got more so after sunset. Be governed accordingly here in Central Florida's summer!

Remember, as for the past year, Walt Disney World Resort is still in a "phased reopening." While more is open than was true a year ago, not everything operates like it did before the global pandemic, and not everything is open at all. Rules and policies remain in flux, so be sure to check this page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before your visit. As I have noted before: 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." As of publication, all guests are still required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails and on Disney Skyliner. 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. This delta variant is taking a high toll among the unvaccinated, and it could yet mutate and threaten those of us that are vaccinated.

Even with some light and color adjustments, this photo does not do justice to the spectacular golden light at sunset that bathed Spaceship Earth and much of EPCOT on Sunday night. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Hall of Presidents Reopens in August

As has been the tradition, around when the United States inaugurates a new President, it closes The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom, an attraction that debuted with the park back in 1971. A revised show, including an Audio-Animatronic figure of the new President then debuts sometime after the Inauguration Day for each new President, and, since the Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President, each of the actual U.S. Presidents has recorded dialogue for their Audio-Animatronic counterpart that has been part of the show during their term in office. With the installation of each new President, the animatronic figure of the predecessor takes a place among the other former Presidents on the stage for a roll call.

Yesterday, Disney Parks Blog announced that the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, will debut to guests in a revised show debuting in August. President Biden, like his predecessor, President Trump, has recorded the presidential oath of office at the White House which will be spoken by his animatronic. On the table next to the newly installed animatronic, Imagineers have included peach blossoms to represent his home state of Delaware and a pair of aviators as a nod to his proclivity for the sunglasses. The President Trump animatronic will have a place on stage among the rest of the former Presidents.

Hall of Presidents to reopens with President Biden in August 2021.
An Audio-Animatronic version of President Biden debuts to the public in The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom this August. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

I wrote in the final 2020 Walt Disney World Resort of my hope that the Imagineers take the opportunity of a new administration to remove the polarizing nature of having any current sitting president speak: Magic Kingdom is a park that celebrates the past, the future, fantasy, and tomorrow—but not today. Perhaps the fact that the announcement only says President Biden recorded the oath and not a longer speech like Presidents 43 through 45 had done, means that the show is further moving in the direction I hoped. The narration of the last show, the 2017–2021 version, was heavy on the notion that the show was one that Walt Disney envisioned. In announcing the new version, Disney Parks Blog says the show is "the story of liberty's leaders [which] continues to be told and retold to new generations as Walt Disney originally envisioned."

Views of EPCOT

EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival got underway Thursday, July 15, expands further on October 1, and concludes on November 20. Its Global Marketplaces can be found all over the park, as it continues to undergo its historic transformation. On Sunday, at long last, the EPCOT Monorail line reopened for the first time in the Resort's phased reopening. Of course, not only does it provide convenient transportation to connections to the Magic Kingdom and its area resorts, but the loop from the Transportation and Ticket Center to EPCOT includes a circle tour of (what remains of) Future World and thus, views over some of the construction walls! I intend to post a fun video of the circle tour later today on our social media channels.

2021 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival (Phase One Debut – Pre-October 1)

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Some Global Marketplaces and Food of the Festival

In addition to new marketplaces, there are quite a few new locations to stand or sit while you eat and drink your Festival purchases. Several are in air conditioned spaces, and they would be great places to be during the "occasional" summer rainstorms as well.


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Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


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Also, Emile's Fromage Montage is the eat-your-way around the park challenge that earns you a special prize at Shimmering Sips for purchasing five cheese dishes at five specific marketplaces. Collect the stamps in your Festival Passport to redeem (and, no, they do not all have to be purchased during a single park visit).


I am providing an entire section here to Morocco, as it was not only the host location for the Media Day event, but, with Disney's take-over of the pavilion following the departure last year of its operating participant, it has received a bit of a refresh in places worth pointing out in the photos. Personally, I really have missed the Tangerine Café quick-service counter and especially its shawarma platters. The reopened building is Tangerine Café: Flavors of the Medina and has a limited-time Festival menu. (I would like to see the venue operate permanently again, and the building has received some extensive refurbishment!) Restaurant Marrakesh is open, but only as a large, air conditioned seating area, not as a food service location.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Festival Merchandise

Several merchandise collections are available during the Festival. According to the spokespeople I asked, there will not be additional collections added later in the Festival. The additional merchandise that will be available this Fall will be part of the Resort-wide 50th Anniversary celebration. Port of Entry has the widest selection of Festival merchandise.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


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Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak returns as well. Purchase the scavenger hunt map, look for Remy statuettes all over the Festival kiosks, and complete the hunt by turning in the map at the designated spot for your prize.


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More Views of EPCOT

With the Monorail finally running at EPCOT again, there are some new views available. In fact, even outside EPCOT (but not shown here), the monorail beam itself has been cleaned so thoroughly that it practically looks brand new along its entire length.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

The animatronic Three Caballeros are once again entertaining in the Mexico pavilion. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

And, after the park closes, EPCOT Forever lights up the sky for a little while accompanied by newly recorded versions of music from attractions, parades, and fireworks shows of the park's past. This is a 15-second exposure of some of the pyrotechnic display; interestingly, the search lights that were part of the show last week, were not operating during Sunday night's show. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomed two new animal additions last week. On Monday, a Nile hippopotamus calf was born in the Safi River on Kilimanjaro Safaris, joining the nine other hippos in the bloat. On Tuesday afternoon, backstage, a new western lowland gorillas was born, and was later introduced to the rest of the family troop onstage at Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The newborns are both the results of the park's participation in the Species Survival Plan, a program overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure the responsible breeding of vulnerable or critically endangered species and help create healthy, genetically diverse populations for years to come.

…Last week, Disney Parks Blog revealed the first of the "Disney Fab 50" series of golden Disney character sculptures that will be displayed around the theme parks as part of "The World's Most Magical Celebration." The first reveal, not surprisingly, was Mickey Mouse. With October 1 being just over 70 days (or 10 weeks) away, Disney will probably start making these announcements regularly as the beginning of the celebration approaches.

…Condolences on the passing of retired long-time Disney musician Pam Brody. She is best remembered by park-goers for her guest-friendly performances at the Rose & Crown Pub at EPCOT's United Kingdom pavilion. Dewayne Bevil in Orlando Sentinel provides her obituary along with tributes and as well as kind words from fellow long-time Disney performer Carol Stein. (By the way, if you'd like to see Carol Stein performing in upcoming months at EPCOT, you'll find her playing the keys at the gazebo at United Kingdom pavilion, mostly on Mondays through Thursdays in the afternoon - look for the posted schedule for the EPCOT Musician.)

…REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club Members that are interested in D23: 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.

…Speaking of D23, it's holding The Magical 50th Celebration Sweepstakes offering up a chance to win a trip for two to Walt Disney World Resort. See its Instagram post and follow the links there for the rules and opportunity to enter. (U.S. D23 Members only, at least 18 years old.)


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…In foodie news beyond the parks at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney's Polynesian Village reopened Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace yesterday. That resort has been undergoing a refurbishment creating reimagined guest rooms inspired by the Pacific Ocean and its islands, with details inspired by the Disney animated film Moana. Until yesterday, the resort had only been open for Disney Vacation Club accommodations, but now the newly reimagined hotel rooms are available as well. The Polynesian's monorail station and main entry are still undergoing reimagination and are not yet open. As yesterday was also "DOLE Whip Day," in honor of the hotel's reopening, a special Tamatoa-inspired Dipped Cone (raspberry swirled with Dole Whip orange in a white chocolate-dipped waffle cone coated with shiny gold sugar) for Moana fans is now available at Pineapple Lanai through tomorrow, July 21.

…Masquerade Ball returns to The Edison at Disney Springs Friday, August 20, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Live entertainment will be accompanied by trays of passed appetizers, food stations, and a dedicated menu of exclusive masquerade themed-cocktails. Tickets are $150 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and guests must be 21 or older to attend. VIP booths and couches are also available for an an additional $250 for guaranteed seating and a dedicated server. VIP information is available by emailing OrlandoEvents@patinagroup.com or calling (407) 560-8155.

…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 per person (including tax and service fees). Reservations are also available in the resort's new tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

…Speaking of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, it confirmed this week that when "The World's Most Magical Celebration" begins on October 1, its guests (including those staying at Swan Reserve when it opens later this summer) will be eligible for the 30-minute early theme park entry offered to the Disney-operated hotel guests. Its guests will also be eligible for the extended evening theme park hours that will be offered on select nights to Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Disney-operated resort guests. Guests will need a valid park ticket, a park reservation, and a Resort ID for these perks.

…The folks at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin also want you to know that when the new tower at the resort, Swan Reserve, opens later this summer, it will offer an indoor and outdoor event space "perfect for an unforgettable wedding overlooking Walt Disney World Resort." The Vue ballroom, at nearly 4,000 square feet, will seat up to 160 guests, features floor-to-ceiling windows, and a 1,000 square foot outdoor terrace offering views of the Swan and Dolphin, EPCOT, and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Vue will offer fireworks views as well. The Vue at Walt Disney World Swan Reserve is taking wedding reservations for late summer 2021. For more information, visit SwanDolphin.com/weddings or call (407) 934-1883.

On Disney+…

…UPDATED REMINDER: Sometime between the original announcement of the series in Disney Parks Blog, and this past week, Disney+ changed a few things about the debut of what will now be only five episodes available for streaming tomorrow, July 21, 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, and directed by Brian Volk-Weiss (whose credits include the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us), with a roster of producers including Dwayne Johnson (who does appear in the "Jungle Cruise" episode as well as the upcoming movie), offers "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 Attraction
"Behind the Attraction" series now debuts on Disney+ on July 21 with only five episodes. Five more will be released for streaming at a later date. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

There were 10 episodes produced, and I was able to preview all of them. Reviews and articles about the series were embargoed until July 17, and, interestingly, a number of the reviews I have read said that those reviewers only saw seven (and some fewer than that) of the 10 episodes. Disney+ has said five more episodes will be released later, but it may mean that some of the episodes that I previewed will be changed before public streaming becomes available. In any event, I don't normally review TV series (well, except among discussions with friends). I thoroughly enjoyed the information about parks and resorts presented in this series, but I did not personally care for the style of presentation. The presentation in the 30- to 45-minute episodes is very fast-paced, and edited with pop-up graphics and numerous cutaways that may appeal to some viewers, but I tend to enjoy the tone and presentation of things like the Disney+ "The Imagineering Story" series. Nevertheless, the episodes did contain information I had not seen or, at least, had not known Disney to publicly discuss before: like how so many guests can fly the Millennium Falcon simultaneously, archive footage of interviews with imagineers, archive footage of Walt Disney, photos, schematics, and more. I will rewatch the episodes at some point in the future, no doubt, notwithstanding my feelings about the style.

"Behind the Attraction" the series begins streaming tomorrow, July 21, on Disney+. Video trailer courtesy Disney+.

The five episodes available on Disney+ starting tomorrow, July 21 are: "Jungle Cruise," "Haunted Mansion," "Star Tours," and "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." Each episode not only explores the creation of the original of each attraction, but the later versions opened at other Disney Parks, and the revisions and other attractions that can trace some of their origins to the main subject of the episode. The episodes do not need to be watched in any particular order.

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