Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 21-27, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 21-27, 2021

 News & Writer's Note

As is often our lot here in the Tuesday MousePlanet publication slot for our Walt Disney World Resort Update, quite a few news items broke just after we published last week. I try to go back and add comments or, occasionally, edits to the Updates when that happens, but not all of our readers get to see the "final" edition of a week's Update. This week, we had quite a few announcements in the hours after publication.

Finding Nemo – The Musical: The Next Version Coming in 2022

Following last Monday's social media's spread of the sad news that cast of Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom had received end-of-show notice, after our Update published last Tuesday, Disney Parks Blog announced that an "updated" and "reimagined show, based on the same beloved characters will debut in 2022." According to Disney, the new show will include fan favorite songs such as "In the Big Blue World" and "Go with the Flow," as well as incorporating new story material. The original show was written for the park and was the first non-musical film that Disney Parks built a musical show around. The songs for the show were written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who also subsequently wrote the songs for Disney's animated films Frozen and Frozen II (as well as the Frozen animated shorts and Broadway stage production).

Theater in the Wild at Disney's Animal Kingdom was home to "Finding Nemo: The Musical" and the building has been closed to guests since the park's temporary closure in March 2020. The previously open-air theater was enclosed in 2006 for show's debut. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Candlelight Processional Returns to EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays on November 26

Though Walt Disney World Resort began its phased reopening of the theme parks long before last year's Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, the global pandemic still led to the cancellation of the long-standing tradition of Candlelight Processional at EPCOT—the nightly celebrity narrator retelling the story of Christmas accompanied by a full orchestra and massed choir. On Tuesday, Disney Parks Blog announced that Candlelight Processional is returning November 26 to December 30 with a live orchestra, a celebrity narrator, and a choir consisting of only Disney cast members rather than including participants from community and school groups. All performers will be required to be fully vaccinated. Dining packages and the schedule of celebrity narrators are expected to be announced in coming months.

"Enchanting Extras" Resuming

Several years ago, Disney started applying the label Enchanting Extras to many recreation and entertainment options around the Resort, including the dessert party options and other packages for enjoying nighttime spectaculars. With Disney Enchantment (the new fireworks show at Magic Kingdom set to debut on October 1 along with Harmonious at EPCOT), a bunch of Enchanting Extras are coming back soon as well. On Tuesday, Disney Parks Blog highlighted several. The full list, including starting prices, can be found here on DisneyWorld.com. The fireworks dessert parties generally start at $99 per person plus tax.

  • Celebration at the Top: 50th Flavors and Fireworks at Disney's Contemporary Resort – Debuting October 2 (reservations available now), the private Sonoma and Napa Rooms at California Grill will offer specialty drinks, sushi, and small plates that pay homage to the original menu of the Top of the World when it opened in 1971. Outdoor fireworks viewing will be available from the observation deck with synchronized music followed by indoor petit fours, cordials, and coffee.
  • Dessert Parties at Magic Kingdom return October 3 (reservations available now).
    • Disney Enchantment Pre-Party at Tomorrowland Terrace with 50th anniversary-themed desserts, cheeses, and beverages (including beer and wine selections). Fireworks viewing from a reserved standing location in one of the Central Plaza gardens.
    • Disney Enchantment Treats & Seats featuring the same sort of menu as above at Tomorrowland Terrace but with fireworks viewing from dedicated reserved seats at the restaurant.
    • Disney Enchantment After-Party – Like the Pre-party, but watch the fireworks from the reserved plaza garden first then head over to Tomorrowland Terrace for the food and beverage offerings.
  • Rose & Crown Fireworks Dining Package starts October 1 (reservations start Thursday, September 23). Dine on the patio at EPCOT's Rose & Crown and enjoy Harmonious with a prix-fixe menu with an appetizer, entrée, dessert platter, and unlimited beverages.
  • Spice Road Table Dining Package starts October 1 (reservations start Thursday, September 23). Dine in the covered, outdoor dining area and enjoy two Mediterranean small plates, a dessert platter, and unlimited beverages.

There has been no recent news about the daytime fountains that use the hardware aboard the barges installed in World Showcase Lagoon for the new Harmonious nighttime spectacular. Occasional daytime fountain testing can be seen on World Showcase Lagoon. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise has already resumed sailings from the Transportation and Ticket Center aboard one of the Disney ferryboats on Seven Seas Lagoon. The event includes bite-size sweets and specialty beverages with and without alcohol, an ultraviolet scavenger hunt for kids, and a view of the fireworks from the Lagoon outside the park.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Pausing Virtual Queue

Starting this Thursday, September 23, you can put aside all that strategy you have gathered about trying to get a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In the words of Disney Parks Blog, the park "will pause the use of virtual queue" and use a traditional standby queue.

Many folks online have speculated about whether and how this "pause" is connected to the rollout of Disney Genie, with its Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane paid attraction access options, which are the next generation of Disney's digital theme park planning tools and revenue growth strategies. As individual commented on the Disney Parks Blog item that it's sort of odd that this was the attraction given as the example of one that would continue to have a virtual queue when Genie debuts. Of course, the simple answer may be that Disney Parks intended that to be the case at Disneyland only.

In a Walt Disney World Resort Update last month, I discussed my experience of riding completely alone, which highlighted what I think are some of the failings of the implementation of Virtual Queue system for Rise of the Resistance. In recent weeks, I also saw reports that the standby queue at the attraction was, in fact, open from time to time in the afternoon and evening on slower days in the park, and I also heard first-hand accounts of friends who had visited the park in the afternoon and were able to get boarding groups in the virtual queue late in the day and then just walk on the attraction. Say what you will about Disney operations policies, the parks often do learn from their mistakes or, at least, try to learn.

In any event, the virtual queue for this attraction may return "at a later date, or from time to time" according to Disney. Now more than ever, you will need to have a look at the My Disney Experience smartphone app often to see whether there's a virtual queue for an attraction, merchandise launch, a grand opening, or something else you's like to visit.

EPCOT Transformation Continues

The "historic" transformation of EPCOT continues to show signs of progress. In recent weeks, we've been able to report on previews of the soon-to-open Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and its surrounding area at France Pavilion.

Last Wednesday saw the opening of the park's new flagship merchandise destination named Creations Shop and its neighbor, the new location for the Coca-Cola space known as Club Cool. These two venues are located in part of the refurbished CommuniCore East building (most recently home to MouseGear) in a part of the park that is being renamed "World Celebration."

Yesterday, nearby, in the part of the park that will become known as "World Discovery," we were invited to witness the debut of Space 220 Restaurant and sample the launch and lunch experience (my term, not Disney's or Patina Restaurant Group's). More on each of these below along with more views of EPCOT, as the preparations for "The World's Most Magical Celebration" enter their final days.

Creations Shop is Now Open

Located in the space last known as MouseGear inside the former CommuniCore East building, the Creations Shop is now the "flagship" merchandise location inside the park. Like the reimagination of the World of Disney store at Disney Springs, the merchandise location is now mostly open with only a few walls, and departments of the store are labeled with large graphical signs like "Jewelry," "Fashion," "Hats," and so forth. Windows line the outside walls of the store running nearly from floor to ceiling and providing some great views of Spaceship Earth. The handful of inside walls feature lots of Mickey Mouse-inspired designs (including new images of the corporate icon).

As noted last week, the store's opening was mentioned almost as an aside to the fact that the store opens with an exclusive collection named "EPCOT Light & Color Collection." Disney Parks Blog describes the collection as "an assortment of futuristic gear inspired by EPCOT's historic transformation. In the same way that Disney Imagineers implemented color, materials and light throughout the design of Creation Shop, the EPCOT Light & Color Collection explores the story of EPCOT through the whimsical application of light, the playful use of bold color and iconic EPCOT landmarks and characters."

Disney says that Creations Shop will feature unique merchandise dedicated to EPCOT. Walking around the store a few times since its opening last Wednesday, I've seen quite a bit of merchandise that pays homage to Spaceship Earth and its iconic exterior's outer skin (you know, that geodesic triangle pattern). Opening day social media had reports of guests leaving the store with bags and bags of new merchandise. So far, I haven't purchased a thing. I'll let the photo captions tell you the rest.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

The New Club Cool is Now Open

The Coca-Cola Company has a long-standing business relationship with Disney. In fact, as Disney Parks Blog shared earlier this month, it dates all the way back to 1942 when Walt Disney himself appeared on the Coca-Cola radio program entitled, "The Pause That Refreshes on the Air." Coca-Cola has also been a sponsor at Disneyland since it opened in 1955, and, not surprisingly, it has been a participating sponsor at Walt Disney World since the very beginning too.

At EPCOT, Coca-Cola also has been a participating sponsor in one way or another since it opened in 1982. Most recently, Coca-Cola presented Club Cool in Innoventions West, featuring its free tastes of some of its international beverage offerings, including the infamous Beverly from Italy. That location closed to make way for the demolition of Innoventions West as part of EPCOT's transformation in 2019, with Disney's statement that a new retail location would open in the park in the future.

The new Club Cool opened on Wednesday next door to Creations Shop. It includes new complimentary international beverages to sample, as well as some Coca-Cola-branded retail merchandise, bottled beverages, fountain beverages, and ice cream floats available for purchase. The new venue has a posted maximum capacity of only 67 people, so a queue is set up outside in the breezeway. On opening day, queue times often exceeded 40 minutes to enter the venue, and then longer inside to get an opportunity to sample beverages. Yesterday, around mid-day, I waited just over 10 minutes to enter and sample beverages.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Space 220 Restaurant Debuts

From its opening in 1982, EPCOT's Future World East never had a table service dining option. The Land and The Sea have each had a table service restaurant since their respective openings in Future World West. Yesterday, Disney and its operating participant Patina Restaurant Group opened Space 220 adjacent to Mission: Space in Future World East, an area that is being transformed into a land that will be known as "World Discovery" as EPCOT's transformation continues. (Patina also operates restaurants at EPCOT's Italy pavilion, Disney Springs, and Disneyland Resort.)

As Disney describes it:

The out-of-this-world dining experience will take diners on a journey from Earth to the stars, a simulated 220 miles above Earth’s surface, for an immersive experience that will delight all the senses. This experience is unique to EPCOT, where the magic of human imagination and possibility come to life.

Serving upscale, contemporary fare, Space 220 Restaurant offers a two-course prix fixe menu for lunch and a three-course prix fixe menu for dinner. Guests will enjoy a selection of "lift-off" appetizers, "star course" main entrées, and a choice of "supernova sweets" for dessert. "Satellite sides" will also be available à la carte.

As of yesterday's restaurant opening, the two-course lunch is $55 per person, and the three-course dinner is $79 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Through September 26, all seating is walk-up only. The space is divided into an upper bar and lounge area, and a lower dining area. The bar and lounge area will remain a walk-up seating area that serves the lunch menu all day. Lower dining area reservations for September 27 opened today, and reports suggest that slots filled quickly out to at least November (though, of course, it never hurts to check multiple times online for cancellations or walk-up availability).

I was invited by Patina Restaurant Group along with other members of the media to view the grand opening dedication ceremony and sample the lunch menu (for publicity photos of the food, check out "Disney Parks Blog). My observations and commentary are provided in the photo captions below. On the whole, the description by Disney and Patina, that this is an "experiential dining" venue, is appropriate. I found the food at this table-service restaurant tasty, but as a local that often visits the park solo, I don't believe I'll visit often (and, as you might guess, the price point makes frequent visits unlikely for most guests). Whether it's appropriate for a special meal experience for you and your party depends on your menu tastes and interest in an imagineered visit to near-Earth space.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka (except those noted as Courtesy Disney Parks).


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Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

If anyone asks in a comment below or on our social media, I can share images of some of the beverages on MousePlanet Instagram.

Golden Statues Installed at EPCOT

As preparations for "The World's Most Magical Celebration" reach their final days with October 1 coming up quickly, this week, I spotted some of the Disney Fab 50 golden statues installed at EPCOT. Disney has shared some views of those installed in Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios, which are included in this section as well. Last week, I shared my Magic Kingdom golden views.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


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Disney Fab 50 golden statues are starting to appear at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney Fab 50 golden statues are starting to appear at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

More EPCOT Views

A new popcorn stand opened on Wednesday along with Creations Shop and Club Cool. It also uses the new but retro EPCOT font, and its color scheme seems to be drawn from the "World Celebration" palette. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney shared a first look of the Beacon of Magic lighting effect that is to debut at October 1. Light fixtures have been attached at points all over the exterior of Spaceship Earth and those devices look capable of emitting many colors each for all sorts of different effects. Unlike the Beacons of Magic debuting at the other three parks on October 1, this effect is to be a permanent addition to EPCOT. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

The Usual Writer's Note

As always, be sure to check the "experience updates" page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before you visit. We are still in a global pandemic, and Disney's policies remain in flux. With Annual Passes on sale, it remains unlikely the Resort will shutdown again in the near-term, but Disney may very well impose guest restrictions that are stricter than those imposed by the State of Florida. Disney has also reserved the right to suspend the sale of new Annual Passes again in the future.

Disney Parks continue to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. At Walt Disney World Resort, everyone ages 2 and up are required to wear face coverings in all indoor locations. Outdoors, face coverings are optional in most locations for vaccinated guests, and required for unvaccinated guests. All guests continue to be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails, and on Disney Skyliner. Walt Disney World Resort encourages guests to get vaccinated, and has mandated vaccination for new hires and existing cast members in most roles. With its most recent agreement with its unions, on-site employees must be fully vaccinated and provide proof by October 22.

Know before you go. Screenshot from My Disney Experience.

In case you missed the news, this summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for full licensure. The vaccine, which is one of three approved for use in the U.S., is the first to receive full approval for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

I got vaccinated and the best available information is that it's the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19. If you haven't been vaccinated and are eligible to be, I recommended you discuss with a physician the risks to both yourself and those you come into contact with as the global pandemic continues to spread in your community and those places you visit. Flu vaccine for the season is also becoming available, and that is something else to consider.

And, with regard to the weather, as always, if you're heading this way (or live in the regions impacted by storms), please stay informed of the latest weather and tropical forecasts too. Be prepared. Fortunately again this week, as of publication, while there are tropical systems being monitored in the Atlantic Ocean, none are forecast as headed toward Central Florida. It's the height of the tropical storm season, so it is very important to stay informed.  

This & That & Reminders…

…With new Annual Passholder sales now underway, existing Passholders (like me) have started to see the new-style Passholder magnets arrive in the mail.

The new Annual Passholder magnets feature the "pie-eyed" Mickey Mouse in a cut-out "D" shaped similarly to the "D" in the old-style Walt Disney World logo.

…Magic Kingdom did get a pink-ish cake after all for its 50th Anniversary. Unlike the 25th Anniversary where Cinderella Castle became the pink cake, a smaller one is now located in the park's entrance plaza along with topiaries of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

…Last week, Disney Parks Blog shared news that a baby white rhino was born backstage at Disney's Animal Kingdom to first-time mother Jao. The baby rhino was born as a result of Jao's pairing with Dugan, the bull of the herd, through a Species Survival Plan overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure the responsible breeding of endangered species. This is the 12th rhino born at Disney World, and the second rhino born in the last year. Another first-time mom, Lola, is expected to give birth this fall. Rhinoceros have one of the longest gestation periods of any mammal – approximately 16 to 18 months.

A baby white rhino was born to first-time mom Jao backstage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney Parks Blog published the menu for the limited-time prix fixe three course meals that will be offered at California Grill atop Disney's Contemporary Resort starting October 3 for "The World's Most Magical Celebration." Reservations open this Thursday, September 23, on this page of DisneyWorld.com (and, presumably, in the My Disney Experience app).

…Steven Miller continued his series on Walt Disney World Memories on Disney Parks Blog by sharing memories of the music of the parks.

…Magic Kingdom dedicated a Main Street, U.S.A. window to George Kalogridis. Among his many roles in the Walt Disney Company, he recently served as President of Walt Disney World Resort and, in his current role, will serve as Global Ambassador for the resort's 50th Anniversary.

…Beyond Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Parks Blog shared last week that McDonald's restaurants are offering 50 unique Happy Meal toys in connection with the World's Most Magical Celebration too. The toys are only available for a limited time. From September 25 through October 1, McDonald's is giving guests opportunities to enter for a chance to win one of 25 vacations for four to Walt Disney World Resort to experience the celebration. Automatic entry happens when you purchase a Happy Meal via McDonald's digital app.

50th Anniversary Happy Meal Toys
Happy Meal Toys celebrating Walt Disney World Resort's 50th Anniversary are available for a limited time. Image courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…REMINDER: Disney Parks Blog shared the news that, through October 31, teachers can enter to win a trip to Walt Disney World Resort to attend the Disney Imagination Campus 50. Yes, there is an essay writing requirement…

…REMINDER: Visit Orlando's Magical Dining program is back and has been extended through October 17. Guests at popular Orlando restaurants can enjoy a three-course prix-fixe dinner for $37/person with $1 from each meal served benefiting Pathlight HOME and IDignity, combatting homelessness in Central Florida. Disney Springs restaurants participating in the program this year include JALEO, Paddlefish, STK, Terralina Crafted Italian, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. For more details and more participating restaurants, visit MagicalDining.com.

…REMINDER: Disney-owned ABC News is teaming up with Disney Parks to present "The Most Magical Story on Earth: 50 Years of Walt Disney World," hosted by Disney Legend Whoopi Goldberg, airing on Friday, October 1, from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC-TV, and (thankfully, for those of us without an active DVR or Cable-TV subscription), the next-day on-demand and on Hulu, and later in the month on Disney+. The show will musical performances from Christina Aguilera and Halle Bailey in front of the legendary Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom accompanied by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, interviews with iconic actors, actresses, and athletes, Walt Disney World cast members, Disney Imagineers and executives past and present who have all been part of the Resort. Celebrities including Anthony Anderson, John Stamos, Marsai Martin, Gary Sinise, Melissa Joan Hart, and Candace Cameron Bure; NFL athletes Tom Brady, Phil Simms, and Doug Williams, and creative forces Kevin Feige, Pete Docter, and James Cameron; Walt Disney World Imagineers including Bob Weis, Mark Kohl, and Ann Morrow Johnson; and Disney executives past and present including Bob Chapek, Bob Iger, and Michael Eisner, are all scheduled to appear.

…REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic returns 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. Menus for the event are now available here.

The Swan Reserve, the new tower at The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, joins the Swan as a visible sight in EPCOT's skyline. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village announced the return of its highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" for its second annual showing, November 12, 2021 through January 2, 2022. Tickets are already available at www.gktw.org/lights for timed entry for the 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. nightly opportunity to visit the 89-acre nonprofit resort with a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays, one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops, as well as a guided storytelling tour of 100 lit villas from the comfort of a tram. Enhancements this year will also include a 360-degree dancing lights show encompassing 21 buildings set to music with six three-minute holiday vignettes playing each hour, a holiday marketplace with upgraded food and beverage experiences, holiday merchandise, and an opportunity for children to meet Santa in an elaborately designed Florida home. VIP packages are available, as are discounts for groups of 25 or more. Proceeds support Give Kids the World Village (located at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida), which provides critically ill children and their families with weeklong wish vacations at no cost.

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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.

The Summer hotel rate offer for Florida Residents ended on September 4. The Summer Florida Resident ticket offer expired Friday, September 17.

NEW Annual Passholder and Florida Resident offers are now available for stays most nights from December 12-24, 2021. We have not heard whether there will be more offers this Fall/Winter.

This page of DisneyWorld.com features all the offers the Resort has publicly announced.

Final days: 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.

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 to Friday 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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

NEW Get Away Today recently launched a sweepstakes with Universal Orlando Resort including hotel, theme park tickets and airfare. Your chance to enter closes tomorrow, September 23, so head over to its Sweepstakes Page for your opportunity!

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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.