Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 27 - August 2, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 27 - August 2, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

This week's Walt Disney World Resort Update is filled with the dates of entertainment offerings returning to the parks, the final dates to catch "EPCOT Forever" and "Happily Ever After," views of Disney's Animal Kingdom, and lots of "This & That..." featuring everything from the latest details of Destination D23 coming to Disney's Contemporary Resort in November (with tickets going on sale to D23 Gold Members this week), to views around Disney's Polynesian Village Resort and its recently reopened Trader Sam's venues, and more.

Beyond Walt Disney World, there's now official news of Disney Cruise Line setting sail from Port Canaveral again in August, and continuing with the nautical theme, the christening of Serendipity at Give Kids the World Village, the all-inclusive resort that provides no-cost wish trips to critically ill children and their families.

Before I get to all that, my usual reminders. While we had a few days break this week thanks to something less than a tropical depression off the Atlantic Coast of Central Florida, it is the rainy season here around Walt Disney World Resort, and we're about to move into the possibly more-active part of tropical storm season, which runs until the end of November. The message here is, as always, please remain alert because it's a Central Florida's summer!

Of course, as has also been true for the past year, Walt Disney World Resort is still operating in what it calls a "phased reopening." That continues to mean that not everything operates like it did before the global pandemic, and not everything is even open, though the Resort continues to reopen more venues and entertainment. Like other employers around the country, Disney seems to face some struggles filling roles around the Resort, and that, in turn, keeps the pace of the reopenings less than what some folks may hope.

Rules and policies evolve around the Resort, so be sure to check this page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before your visit. Increasingly, as the COVID-19 infection rate is on the rise again with the spread of the apparently more contagious delta variant, some national voices have been calling for reinstating mandatory face covering rules, particularly in indoor spaces. So far Disney has not moved in that direction, but please remember that Disney has a history of taking a more cautious measured approach when it comes to guest safety and has and can make rules and policies stricter than the State of Florida imposes (Florida has tended to have more lax policies than many other states during the pandemic, and particularly California). As of publication, and as has been true for several weeks, 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." Guests are still required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails and on Disney Skyliner.

If you haven't been vaccinated and you're 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 who are vaccinated.

Last Thursday night, Magic Kingdom added the final 50th anniversary celebratory bling to Cinderella Castle ahead of the upcoming 18-month celebration starting October 1, "The World's Most Magical Celebration." Disney calls the bling "EARidescent magic." For those who were still hoping for a castle cake like the 25th anniversary, well, maybe you can try to persuade Disney to do that for the 75th anniversary in 2046.

Those flying into and out of Orlando International Airport will get their first taste of Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary EARidescent bling this fall on the terminal "trains" and with immersive photo opportunities and other decor. Last we reported on Disney World decorations at the terminals, the train loading areas had been decorated to celebrate the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge back in 2019.

More Entertainment Phases Back To The Parks in August

Following last week's Disney Parks Blog announcement that the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents will make its return in August, on Wednesday, Disney Parks Blog announced additional entertainment returning next month.

August 1 – the nighttime projection show "Wonderful World of Animation" returns to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The show takes place on the facade of the Chinese Theater and when it was last shown, it included some fireworks. We expect some of the pyrotechnics to return based on the photos in the announcement, but most of the show's prior run took place before Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway opened inside the Chinese Theater, so it's possible that operation of the attraction and particularly its queue could limit the fireworks. The show highlights elements of the more than 90 years of Disney animation.

August 8 – "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor" at Magic Kingdom returns. Guests can again join host Mike Wazowski and the "monsters of comedy" in Monstropolis in the interactive show where guests in the audience are entertained by and interact with live monster performances on video screens in the large theater, attempting to generate enough laughter to provide the power needed to open the exit doors.

August 15 – "Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage" returns to Theater of the Stars at Disney's Hollywood Studios' Sunset Boulevard. The musical show features singers, dancers, and costumed characters performing an abbreviated version of the Disney animated feature. Disney hasn't announced whether the show has been modified for its return, as has been true of "A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King" over at Disney's Animal Kingdom. At that show, the health and safety protocols in place at the time the show returned resulted in some changes in choreography that kept the performers apart from one another, and eliminated the popular tumble monkey performers and aerial performance during "Can You Feel The Love Tonight."

August 21 – "Turtle Talk with Crush" resumes performances at The Seas with Nemo and Friends at EPCOT. Like the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, guests in the small theater (and especially the younger ones) have an opportunity to talk live with Crush in the "people tank" via video screens.

The same announcement also made clear that "EPCOT Forever" is ending its limited-time run on September 28, and that the final opportunity to view "Happily Ever After" at Magic Kingdom is September 29. On October 1, EPCOT debuts the long-anticipated "Harmonious" nighttime spectacular and Magic Kingdom debuts the just-announced "Disney Enchantment" fireworks and projection show that extends down Main Street U.S.A. for the first time in Florida.

Give Kids the World Village Christens "Serendipity"

On Thursday, I was invited to the "christening" of the new pirate ship (which is a themed, accessible stage) at the pool of Give Kids the World Village. I shared some views of it on our social media (embedded below).

Give Kids the World Village issued the following press release to mark the day:

Give Kids The World Village just became even more magical with the addition of its new Serendipity themed pirate ship stage. Joining snoring trees, an enchanting castle and the world's largest game of Candy Land, Serendipity is one of many ADA-accessible storybook attractions that help spread happiness and hope at the Village—an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children and their families from around the world with joy-filled, weeklong wish vacations at no cost.

The Serendipity project was made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, a nonprofit that supports organizations focused on education, healthcare, children and veterans. The grant brings the total amount donated to Give Kids The World by the Foundation to $5 million. The ship was designed and built by a remarkable team of caring partners including SteamLabs Design Group, Icarus Exhibits Orlando, Electrosonic AV Design and SNA Displays.

"We cannot begin to thank our wonderful friends at the Don & Lorraine Freeberg Foundation for their gift," said Give Kids The World President & CEO Pam Landwirth. "Because of their generosity, this amazing pirate ship will bring immeasurable joy to the precious children and families we serve. This is just the latest in a series of incredible gifts that they have given us, helping to create a Village where happiness truly inspires hope."

Built to withstand the humid subtropical climate of Central Florida, Serendipity was constructed with a 100% aluminum frame and cladding, with a Poly Gem coating to create the look of real wood. Spanning more than 90 feet, the ADA-accessible ship was built off-site during a year-long, labor-intensive process, disassembled, and then delivered to the Village for a two-day installation with the use of a crane. The ship is highlighted by a 16-foot by nine-foot SNA Displays LED screen; fun photo op features, including an animated parrot and an interactive ship's wheel; and a masthead figure that is the maritime cousin of the seahorses on Give Kids The World's accessible Enchanted Carousel. Due to the proximity of the Village to Kissimmee Gateway Airport, the 74-foot masts had to be approved by the FAA due to their height.

Located at the Park of Dreams Pool, the state-of-the-art, interactive ship will serve as a stunning centerpiece to the Village's weekly Once Upon A Village party featuring pirates, mermaids and princesses. The venue will also host special events, feature film screenings, dive-in movies, sports broadcasts, and more.

Rated Four Stars by Charity Navigator for 15 consecutive years, Give Kids The World Village's mission is to create joy and inspire hope for wish families. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit Central Florida, Give Kids The World fulfills the wish. Each child and his/her family receives an unforgettable weeklong stay at absolutely no cost, including transportation; accommodations in one of the Village's 166 storybook residential villas; all meals and snacks; nightly entertainment; donated theme park tickets; daily gifts; and priceless interactive experiences at the Village, a spectacular destination of its own – featuring an array of accessible rides, attractions and creative learning experiences. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 176,000 families from all 50 states and 76 countries.

Give Kids The World Village is located at 210 S. Bass Road in Kissimmee, FL. For more information, visit www.gktw.org or contact CindyE@gktw.org.

The annual Give Kids The World Black & White Gala, its signature fundraising event of the year, will be held this year at the Village for the first time ever. On September 18, 2021, GKTW celebrates 35 years of serving critically ill children and their families with entertainment (which is scheduled to include performances by several former cast members from the musical Hamilton) and dining at this black-tie optional event. For more information and donation opportunities, visit this page of GKTW.org.

Views of Disney's Animal Kingdom

A few weeks ago, I asked what sights around Walt Disney World Resort our readers would like to see that I haven't covered or, at least, haven't covered lately. One reader suggested the "Feathered Friends In Flight!" show that replaced "Up! A Great Bird Adventure" at the Anandapur Theatre at Disney's Animal Kingdom during the park's phased reopening. This past week, I finally got to see this entertaining and educational show, which includes the birds and live hosts discussing them, but none of the characters from Up! or the other story elements from the previous bird shows at the theater. Honestly, I enjoyed this more than the themed-shows.


Anandapur Theatre has been running "Feathered Friends In Flight!" during the phased reopening of Disney's Animal Kingdom.


The show includes quite a variety of birds (and occasional other creatures) but no costumed characters or actors.


As has been true of many past shows in this theater, a bald eagle is one of the birds that participates.


Macaws appear in the show.


In a moment of unplanned comedy, a toucan decided to remain on stage well-beyond the end of the show I saw.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

As you might imagine, the park was quite crowded on a summer afternoon. The safari had a posted standby-time between 60 and 75 minutes while I was in the park, so I chose not to try to ride. Over at Gorilla Falls, I did get a quick look at the baby gorilla born in recent weeks, but mama was not showing it off in a way I could get a photo, and, indeed, according to cast members she had not shown the baby off enough to keepers that, as of my visit, its gender was not yet known.


While valid tickets and Disney Park Pass reservations are required to enter the parks, it is again becoming increasingly common to see guests queued at ticket booths at parks. Cast at the booths are able to assist with several sorts of transactions, including renewing annual passes (though new passes for those without a valid annual pass are not currently available), selling Magic Bands, and more, in addition to tickets.


Although queues are no longer physically distanced, they can still be quite long. During my visit, the standby queue for Expedition Everest ended over outside Theater of the Wild (the posted time was 45 minutes).


Primeval Whirl, which closed (probably permanently) before the temporary closure of the park is increasingly looking badly weathered.


The Animation Experience continues to be offered at Rafiki's Planet Watch inside Conservation Station featuring lessons on drawing Disney characters based on animals (ask at the check-in desk which characters are offered in which timed sessions).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…This week, Disney provided a first look at the poster for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the first-of-its-kind "all-immersive" hotel experience that is now expected to open at Walt Disney World (conveniently near Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Disney's Hollywood Studios) in 2022. The poster gives away some clues about the experience and if you would like to be walked through the handful of "Easter Eggs" about what's to come, head on over to Disney Parks Blog. There has not yet been an announcement of when reservations for the unique 2 night/2 day experiences will open or pricing.

…Update: Tickets go on sale via a virtual waiting room at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific 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. The event's schedule now includes a welcome presentation with Disney CEO Bob Chapek; a Disney Parks, Experiences and Products update from Chairman Josh D'Amaro; a look at what's new and next from Disney+; The Art and Imagery of Walt Disney World featuring Imagineering Art and Photo collections; The Magical Musical World of Encanto with members of the team behind Disney's 60th animated feature; Weird Disney World with Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives; How the (Disney) World Began with authors Kevin Kern and Steven Vagnini, and Disney Legend Dick Nunis; Park Stars: Original Characters of Walt Disney World; plus an exhibit curated by Walt Disney Archives featuring 50 years of merchandise, Mickey's of Glendale (the Imagineering campus store's pop-up shop), a film screening at Disney Springs, and a Disney+ finale party. Unlike the D23 Expos in Anaheim, Destination D23 guarantees all attendees seats at all panels and presentations (plus a gift). General Seating is $249 (plus $7 processing fee); limited Preferred Seating is $399 (plus $7 processing fee). Only D23 Gold Members may reserve a ticket for themselves and one guest; D23 Members must log in with their membership to reserve tickets (and those who are currently Gold Family Members, you may transition to the new Gold Duo Plan so that each Gold Member on the account can purchase a ticket for themselves plus one guest.) More details and, when available, the ticket purchase link on this page of D23.com, the website of The Official Disney Fan Club. Some segments of the event will be live-streamed on D23.com and D23 social media channels.

…Reminder to DVC Members interested in becoming D23 Gold Members, look for your personalized email from earlier this summer for a personal code for 30% off Gold Membership if purchased by July 31.

…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.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Disney D23 (@disneyd23)

…Last week, Disney's Polynesian Village reopened Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace. As you may recall, the hotel 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. The newly reimagined hotel rooms are now open, and the Polynesian's monorail station and main entry are still undergoing reimagination and are not yet open. Over the weekend, I met up with some friends for a beverage at the Tiki Terrace and a showing of Magic Kingdom's "Happily Ever After" fireworks in the distance.


The reimagined porte cochere at the Grand Ceremonial House appears nearly complete, with the neighboring monorail station still looking rather incomplete.


Inside, the lobby remains largely unchanged since its last reimagination several years ago.


On the second level of the lobby, at the entrance to the currently closed monorail station, there is an artist's concept of the completed reimagined entrance of the Grand Ceremonial House.


I spotted signs with Mickey Ears and a single letter (which differed from sign) around the grounds of Disney's Polynesian Resort on Sunday, but never found out what they were for. Anyone know?


The grassy knoll approaching the Disney Vacation Club bungalows provides a nice view of Cinderella Castle across Seven Seas Lagoon. Several of the bungalows are currently closed for refurbishment.


Also beyond the bungalows across Seven Seas Lagoon, the canopy of TRON Lightcycle Run now appears just to the side of Space Mountain.


Sunset is a beautiful sight at Seven Seas Lagoon.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


Trader Sam's Grog Grotto reopened earlier this month.


The small bar is filled with artifacts tied to Adventureland and the South Pacific.


It was nice to take a quick look at the details again, but there was quite a wait for one of the few seats the venue has to offer.


An easier place to get a seat and a beverage is the now-reopened Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace, just outside of the Grog Grotto.


While it is rather minimally themed with decor, it offers the same themed menu of beverages and small bites.


The Tiki Terrace does provide a slightly obstructed view of Magic Kingdom's fireworks, and the soundtrack for "Happily Ever After" played clearly on the area's speakers during the show. It also provides a partially obstructed view of the Electrical Water Pageant when it performs for Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

…REMINDER: 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.

…Speaking of Disney Springs, you might have heard, Disney's Jungle Cruise based on the theme park attraction and starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt opens July 30 in theaters and becomes available via Premier Access on Disney+ (additional fee beyond monthly subscription). The Disney Springs AMC 24 Dine-In Theater is already decorated for the new film and I had a chance courtesy of a friend that is a D23 Gold Member to see an early screening last week. Disney asked that we not share spoilers, so I'll just share a photo of some of the theater's decor.


The area outside the AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theaters is decorated for the upcoming release of Disney's "Jungle Cruise." Additional photo opportunities are available nearby as well as at the other theater entrance near the Orange Garage escalators. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Also on the West Side of Disney Springs, as we reported earlier this summer, Salt & Straw, which has a popular location in the Downtown Disney District, is opening in 2022 in the space that previously had been undergoing transformation into Ample Hills Creamery which ended its relationship with Disney during the resort's temporary closure.


Construction walls on the West Side now advertising the future Salt & Straw location expected to open in 2022. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…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.

…Finally, beyond the Resort, Disney Cruise Line announced this week that it will begin Disney Dream three and four night sailings to the Bahamas from nearby Port Canaveral starting August 9. The voyages will include a visit to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. Sailings include enhanced health and safety measures, character encounters, Broadway-style musicals, and the DCL's fireworks at sea. More details on Disney Parks Blog.


There is not yet news regarding "Disney Fantasy" sailings, but a model of the ship is in the lobby of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…For those that have gotten this far, you may have noticed that I emphasized many of the relevant dates in this week's Update in bold type. Now that the phased opening has progressed to the point that operations are starting to look more like they did before the pandemic, should I return the sections at the end of the Update with the lists of relevant event dates and other dates of significance? Please let me know in the comments here or on MousePlanet social media channels if you find that useful. I revised the format of the Update when operations shut down completely back in March 2020, and am considering what the next phase of the Update should look like as Resort operations start accelerating toward The World's Most Magical Celebration starting October 1.

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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.

Summer Florida Resident ticket options available through September 17 allow Florida residents to visit the parks for $54/day (plus tax) with the $215 (plus tax) 4-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Ticket. The ticket is one park per day and Florida proof of residency is required. Specially priced two and three-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Tickets are also available. All tickets can be used either on consecutive or non-consecutive days. Add-ons, like Park Hopper are also available. Park reservations are also required to visit a park in addition to a valid ticket.

Florida Residents hotel rates for bookings through September 4, 2021, are available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

For everyone, 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.

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