Walt Disney World Resort Update for October 5-11, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for October 5-11, 2021

 News, Views & Writer's Note

Happy 50th Anniversary Walt Disney World Resort! The World's Most Magical Celebration officially got underway on October 1 and continues for the next 18 months. In fact, this 50thh anniversary celebration will likely evolve over those 18 months, as Disney's preparations were clearly hampered by the global pandemic, including the unprecedented full closure of the Resort from March to July in 2020, and its phased reopening in the time since.

We know from the Disney D23 Expos in 2017 and 2019 that Disney intended to have more new attractions open and more of the EPCOT transformation completed in connection with the start of this celebration. Kudos to those who put in many sleepless nights, as we recognize all the hard work of all those involved to get the celebration started on time with as many operating elements as it has.

Having said that, is the celebration all that Disney—and more specifically Walt Disney World Resort—fans wished it was? No. There's a part of me that would like to say, "How could it be?" Perhaps Disney would agree with that, but none of its spokespeople talked in those terms.

In terms of the pieces of the celebration that are in place, critical reaction on social media outlets has been mixed to poor. Indeed, Disney's fan-friendly decision to provide live stream coverage of the media previews of the new nighttime spectaculars "Harmonious" at EPCOT and "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom, may have made the noise even more severely negative as the multi-media and fireworks shows inevitably can't provide the same impact on video as they do in person. While being negative on social media seems to be a national (or even international) pasttime, and negative comments seem to circulate wider than positive, some of the criticism of the new nighttime spectaculars seems fair to me: in my opinion, neither of the shows after my first in-person viewing exceeded those shows they are intended to permanently replace in storytelling, emotion, or impact. I'll talk more about this later in this Update.

Thanks to the media event for the celebration that Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix and I were both invited to last week, we have more content to share than can possibly fit in a single Update or article. We'll have more coverage in the days and weeks to come. While I've embedded some key posts from our social media coverage in this Update, you can also find a whole lot more on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Regular readers probably recognize that merchandise, and food and beverage coverage are not my forte, but with Adrienne in town for the event, we shared a good deal on social media and plan to share more on those subjects. In the meantime, Disney Parks Blog has the Foodie Guide for the celebration.

If you have about 45 minutes to spare, and want to learn many of the details of what is to come at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney released the full video of the presentation shared with the media Thursday morning ahead of the start of The World's Most Magical Celebration. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

Finally, before I take you around all four parks and beyond this week, one more big picture note about the Celebration: Disney has written many times about how The World's Most Magical Celebration is dedicated to the cast that have brought and bring the Walt Disney World to life for guests everyday. From a fan perspective, certainly, the cast are the ones that "make the magic" day to day.

There are parts of the company's dedication of the anniversary celebration to the cast that, nonetheless, feels a bit forced in the face of the number of furloughed cast who haven't been recalled, and the multitude of complaints (legitimate or otherwise) you may read or hear about in mainstream media, on other fan sites, or on social media. But there are also many ways that dedication appears genuine, from the company's commitment to higher wages, to the Disney Aspire program providing educational benefits, and more. Every time I've personally seen Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro interacting with frontline cast from the time he was President of Walt Disney World Resort and into his current role as Chairman, I see him demonstrate genuine interest in the well-being of the cast.

Before Thursday night's rededication of Walt Disney World and the preview of "Disney Enchantment," Josh D'Amaro paused to chat with a frontline cast member working on crowd control on the bridge from Tomorrowland to the Central Plaza Hub. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

At publication, we were experiencing some technical issues with how we usually display photos in the Update. You can still view the larger version of each of the photos included here by clicking on the photo, but each will open in a separate tab without a caption rather than a slideshow-type gallery.

Magic Kingdom is 50 Years Old

Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. In fact, back before there was any other park at Walt Disney World Resort, many people thought of Magic Kingdom as "Disney World," just as, on the West Coast, Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom there was named Disneyland. When you listen to some guests talking in the other Disney Parks even today, they will say that they will soon be visiting "Disney World" when they mean Magic Kingdom Park.

It should come as no surprise that the park and its iconic Cinderella Castle is the center of The World's Most Magical Celebration. The Castle has received a paint color makeover plus anniversary "Earidescent" bling that I've previously written about. At night, new lighting and projections add to the "Earidescence" and, several times nightly, it becomes a "Beacon of Magic."

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Cinderella Castle is lit as a Beacon of Magic. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Executive Chairman Bob Iger were joined by Disney Legend Christina Aguilera for the rededication of Walt Disney World Resort in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration. Following the rededication, the park had its first public showing of the new "Disney Enchantment" nighttime spectacular. While I was positioned with most of the attending media guests very close to the Castle, I couldn't see the new projections down Main Street U.S.A.—fortunately, Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix was on Main Street, and was able to share what she experienced.

Ahead of the rededication of Walt Disney World, Disney Legend Christina Aguilera performed live for the invited audience and those watching on the Disney Parks live stream. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The new fireworks show is approximately 15 minutes long, and Disney has said that it's a permanent replacement for the Happily Ever After show. As a neighbor of the park, I can tell you that the fireworks are significantly different in their launch pattern, as I can now see them from places around and near my home that I hadn't been able to see either Wishes, Happily Ever After, or any of the holiday or special fireworks shows over the years. So far, at my home, the firework shells have also made more noise. Inside the park, close to the castle, none of these changes seemed to make a lot of difference. In future weeks, I'll see the show from other places and will have further reports.

The video projection quality on the Castle is better than previous shows. While I generally enjoyed the show, it didn't have the sort of "wow" impact on me that I remember feeling when Happily Ever After replaced the long-running Wishes show a few years ago. The show's content leans more towards recent Disney and Pixar films and less on those from the 1990s or earlier, though they aren't entirely absent. I don't recall any specific references to Magic Kingdom or its attractions in the show. As a guest who's older than the park, the absence of park nostalgia and reliance of the newer material meant that I connect with it less—but I think this show may grow on me.

At Magic Kingdom, Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Executive Chairman Bob Iger were joined by Disney Legend Christina Aguilera for the rededication of Walt Disney World Resort in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration. The video also includes the first public performance of new nighttime spectacular “Disney Enchantment.” Video courtesy Disney Parks.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix shared views of Disney Enchantment from Main Street U.S.A., where the projections were added to the buildings for the first time during a nighttime spectacular.

Main Street Confectionery Reopened at Magic Kingdom

Following its long refurbishment, Main Street Confectionery reopened at Magic Kingdom on September 29. Now "hosted by" Mars Wrigley, the store features a new layout and new interactive opportunities to create customized treats. Guests can still see confections made by hand by the cast, including candy apples and Mickey crisped rice cereals treats.

A colorful candy wall in the shop features 38 varietes of M&M's and Skittles. Popcorn treats can now be personalized in multiple combinations, including four popcorn flavors—caramel, rainbow fruit, buttery, cheddar—with M&M's or Skittles toppings or chocolate drizzle in the expanded shop space previously home to The Chapeau.

Disney says that there are more than 30 new items available in the new store that won't be available elsewhere. The shop also offers four new limited-time treats for The World's Most Magical Celebration.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka (ASD) and Disney Parks, as indicated.

Finally, A Journey Aboard the Reimagined Jungle Cruise

While its the reimagination was completed some weeks ago, I finally had an opportunity to ride the Jungle Cruise. To my ear, the narration didn't seem significantly different or any less pun-filled than prior journeys, but maybe its denial.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

EPCOT Transformation Milestone Reached on the Park's 39th Anniversary, October 1

Eleven years after the opening of Walt Disney World Resort, EPCOT Center opened its gates to the public. Now named just "EPCOT" (and, once again, usually in all capital letters after more than a decade of just an initial capital "E"), the park's historic reimagining continues following a milestone marked on October 1 with the retirement of "Future World" and its division into three new areas: World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature.

EPCOT maps distributed on October 1 and forward no longer label the northern part of the park "Future World." Instead, the areas are World Discovery (on the east), World Celebration at the entrance and the center, and World Nature (on the west except for Imagination! pavilion which is considered part of World Celebration). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

October 1 also marked the official opening of Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and the expanded France Pavilion, including La Crêperie de Paris, which we have written about in prior Updates. The "countries" area of the park remains named, "World Showcase," and the addition of Remy's gives guests an additional family-friendly attraction in a part of the park that in the opinion of many needed one. As of publication, to visit this new attraction guests must obtain a boarding group via a virtual queue. The system works just as it previously did in the My Disney Experience app for guests attempting to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios: the virtual queue opens to guests with EPCOT park reservations and valid tickets at 7 a.m. until available boarding groups are full; the virtual queue opens to guests that have not obtained a board group but have used their EPCOT park reservation and ticket to actually enter the park again at 1 p.m. until available boarding and backup groups are full. When a boarding group is called, guests have a specified time (usually an hour) to scan in to the actual queue at the attraction.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Now Scheduled to Debut in 2022

Back in the World Discovery area of the park, the still under construction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction is now being billed as the park's first "Other World" pavilion. Announced back at D23 Expo 23 2017, it was originally expected to debut in time for the 50th anniversary Celebration. Delayed by the pandemic, it will share the culture of the planet Xandar and take guests on an intergalactic chase through space and time guests when it debuts at some point in 2022.

Disney announced that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will open in 2022. Image courtesy Disney Parks.

As part of the invited media event, Adrienne and I had an opportunity to step inside the huge building that houses what Imagineers told us was about half of the attraction. When completed, it will be Disney's longest indoor roller-coaster type attraction, and one of the longest indoor coasters in the world. It will use a new type of ride vehicle that Disney describes as an "omni-coaster" which, like the omni-mover vehicles on many of Disney's dark rides, can be turned 360 degrees to show scenes and tell the story. Notwithstanding some of the really banked track we saw, and the fact that this will be Disney's first "reverse-launch" attraction, Disney still says that the it will be rather family friendly: more aggressive than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but much less aggressive than Rock'n'Roller Coaster.

Later in the day, Adrienne noted her accidentally tweeting Josh rather than Zach Riddley.

The "family-friendly" story-telling coaster car developed for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has lap-bar restraints for individual seats that appear similar in size and shape to those on Expedition Everest. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Harmonious Debuts on World Showcase Lagoon: Social Media Reaction Is Not Harmonious

The nearly two-decade run of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth concluded at the end of September 2019. It was replaced with the temporary show "EPCOT Forever," which paid homage to the park's past and present with a bit of a look to its future (with the song "A Whole New World"). Illuminations was much beloved, notwithstanding what some believed were its shortcomings (the extended sequence without fireworks featuring the digital globe and the surrounding fountains only). Though EPCOT Forever was a temporary show, parts of it seemed to really resonate with fans because of the extensive musical homage to the park's history.

Harmonious is billed as "one of the largest" nighttime spectaculars Disney has ever created. Unlike previous shows, its installation has added fixtures permanently on World Showcase Lagoon—a nearly six-story tall ring structure and four flanking curved digital screen barges. The permanent installation is to become a fountain by day, but that aspect of the installation has not yet debuted. The digital screen barges have displayed an image of the 50th Anniversary logo alternating with a blue/EARidescent color scheme during the days since the September 29 preview performance we saw.

The large ring and the digital display barges remain a permanent fixture on World Showcase Lagoon. At some point in the future, they will be part of a daytime fountain. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The September 29 preview performance was not enthusiastically received by the crowd, which included both invited guests and ordinary park guests who were in the park that night. At potential applause points in the show, the audience responses could be considered, at best, polite "golf claps." The show's ending is not particularly well-defined, and, like Disney California Adventure's World of Color show, includes a long exit music section that includes more fountain and lighting effects with additional music.

The debut was also streamed on social media where, from what I've seen, negative responses out-numbered positive responses by a sizable margin. Of course, like Disney Enchantment, the video stream-viewing experience probably wasn't as visually an interesting experience as watching it in park, but unlike Disney Enchantment, the in-park audience response was rather unenthusiastic. Unfortunately, the stream of Harmonious is no longer available for replay to be able to further understand what the home audience saw.

From my perspective, the show's biggest failing is that it doesn't top Illuminations in quality storytelling, emotion, or impact. It relies exclusively on newly arranged and recorded versions of music from Disney and Pixar animated films, which, like Disney Enchantment, lean heavily toward the most recent productions. The technology of the show was very impressive: the fountains do things that I haven't seen fountains do before; pyrotechnics fire from many different angles; the digital projections are crisp and easy to see from a prime viewing location (though this is likely a negative too since it means that if you are not in a prime viewing location, you may miss visuals). The songs are recorded in numerous languages as seems fitting for World Showcase, yet, at the same time, my lack of familiarity with the lyrics of many of the songs (especially the newer ones) means that their meaning was lost on me and probably much of the audience. A constant refrain amongst those I spoke to after the show was that the story of connection that Disney says the show is intended to convey just does not come through.

The visuals at the center ring are impressive when viewed straight-on from World Showcase Plaza where we were invited to view the show at the preview on September 29. Viewing the show from the side has to miss a significant amount of the visuals here.

Back in 2016, then Disney Parks Chairman (now Disney CEO) Bob Chapek started talking about the historic transformation of EPCOT, he talked about the park becoming more true to its original vision, more timeless, more relevant, more Disney, and more for the whole family. He continued these themes when he talked about the transformation at D23 Expo in 2017, and again in 2019. I've written about that several times over the years since.

From my single viewing of Harmonious, I think the new show only really scores on the "more Disney" element. There is no denying that the show was all Disney in the sense that it made such heavy use of its intellectual property library. More than that, it made use of technology in ways that, really, in the themed entertainment business, is the sort of thing we expect Disney to do. I said to Adrienne and several other folks that it seemed kind of like Disney California Adventure's World of Color show on steroids (and Adrienne ran with that comment on Twitter). As noted above, that was sort of heightened by the exit music mini-show.

The fireworks fill the sky over World Showcase Lagoon during parts of the nearly 20 minute long show.

But using so much modern content and, in particular, content that is not long-associated with either Walt Disney's vision of EPCOT or the park the company actually built doesn't make the show timeless: it's too soon for modern content to be "timeless." That the content of the show didn't resonate with lots of middle-aged folks like me (and, based on social media reaction, other age groups, too) means it's not particularly more relevant either, and not for the whole family. Adrienne's initial thoughts are in the following Twitter thread that starts embedded here and continues on Twitter. She will add to those comments in a future post here on MousePlanet.

Beacon of Magic: Spaceship Earth

After the preview of Harmonious, the park also debuted the new Beacon of Magic lighting package at Spaceship Earth. This enhancement to the park was much more positively received and, indeed, combined with the surprise new lighting on the monorails causing them to glow on the beam in a color corresponding to their stripe, was my favorite addition to the Resort in connection with the anniversary. The new lighting package at EPCOT, unlike the beacons at the other parks, is a permanent addition.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Adrienne captured the Beacon of Magic mini-show on Spaceship Earth and posted it on Twitter. It is shown multiple times after dusk nightly at EPCOT.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom hasn't been ignored by the anniversary celebration. With the permanent closing of Rivers of Light during the temporary closure of the park, Discovery River Amphitheater was again empty both day and night. As part of the celebration, the park now presents the 10 minute-long "Disney Kite Tales" show numerous times daily.

Floating character cavalcades continue along Discovery River. During the previews, their timing was such that all of them passed by the amphitheater before Disney Kite Tails began. In fact, the drummers introduce the show from aboard their watercraft on their way "backstage."

There are two different versions of the show, each featuring performers in the aisles of the amphitheater for about another 10 minutes ahead of the show. One version of the show features music and moments inspired by Disney's The Lion King, and the other is inspired by The Jungle Book.

The shows are not particularly elegant, as Discovery River amphitheater doesn't easily provide for a place to land the huge kites representing characters from these Disney animated classics (there are pedestrian bridges over the water that necessarily means that boats and jet skis pulling kites cannot head backstage to land their kites, they have to land within view of the audience). But having said that, I found the new musical arrangements fantastic and both versions of the high energy show very cute.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

The golden Disney Fab 50 sculptures at Disney's Animal Kingdom are centrally located near Tree of Life on Discovery Island. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Tree of Life becomes a Beacon of Magic at night at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge still pretty much brand new and Toy Story Land not far behind, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that Disney's Hollywood Studios isn't a major focus of The World's Most Magical Celebration. Like the other parks, it has received golden Disney Fab 50 statues of characters fairly relevant to the park (Star Wars and Pixar, predominantly). At night, the Hollywood Tower Hotel (AKA the Tower of Terror) is lit as a Beacon of Magic as well.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Hollywood Tower Hotel transforms into a Beacon of Magic several times at night at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to Open March 1, 2022

The immersive two-night hotel/experience named the "Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser" officially welcomes its first guests "aboard" on March 1, 2022. General public bookings will open on October 28, with Disney Vacation Club members, Passholders, and Disney Visa Cardmembers receiving opportunities to book in advance of that date. "Voyage planning" information is on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventures are set aboard the "Halcyon" starcruiser in a galaxy far, far, away on the way to the Outer Rim. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The two-night adventure gives guests a role-playing opportunity set in the time frame of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Guests can choose whether to be a member of the Resistance or to be loyal to the First Order, or—according to the Imagineers—be as active or as passive as they want as the theatrical and interactive experience unfolds. Guests will visit Batuu (the planet setting for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) inside Disney's Hollywood Studios as part of their adventure, where they can experience both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millenium Falcon: Smuggler's Run. Things that happen in Batuu can have consequences in the experience back aboard the starcruiser (guests also may wander into the other areas of Disney's Hollywood Studios if they so choose, though they will still need to get back to Galaxy's Edge for a transport back to the starcruiser by a deadline like a cruise line's tender).

Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson provided a first look at the starcruiser's bridge during the media event's virtual presentation (which is embedded in full at the top of this Update). I had the opportunity again to speak with her (albeit at Disney's Contemporary Resort not aboard the starcruiser), and I will share more in the future. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Next Tech Coming to the Resort

Although exact timing in the next year was not specified, Disney announced this past week of two more next-generation pieces of technology that will become available to guests. First, even ahead of the media event, Disney unveiled a partnership with Amazon for the new "Hey, Disney" service coming to the Amazon Echo smart device. All Disney hotel guests rooms will be equipped with the Echo Show with the "Hey, Disney" service. The device will be set to inactive by default, allowing guests the opportunity to opt-in to using its complimentary services in their room.

The in-room "Hey, Disney" service will feature a new Disney character created just for the service and, as it is built on the Alexa service, it will be able to answer some questions relevant to a guest's stay like, "When is the next bus to EPCOT due to arrive?" It will also include entertainment and storytelling features. A version of the "Hey, Disney" service will also be available for purchase as an at home skill. Details have not been announced.

The complimentary "Hey, Disney" service will be available as an option in guest rooms at Disney hotels. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

During the media event, Disney also announced the 2022 release of the next-generation of MagicBands named MagicBand+. The new, rechargeable MagicBand+ (charging cable included) will include the functions of the existing 2.0 MagicBands plus unlock new interactive experiences around the parks. For example, they will interact with the Fab 50 Character Collection golden sculptures, and they will light up and respond to nighttime spectaculars.

MagicBand+ will be available for purchase in 2022, with a discounted pre-arrival price for Disney Resort hotel guests as well as renewing Annual Passholders. Current MagicBands will continue to be available, as well as the Disney MagicMobile service that was recently introduced that extends some of the MagicBand features like the park ticket to smart devices.

MagicBand+ will debut in 2022. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's Contemporary Resort's New Lobby and Steakhouse 71 Have Debuted

One of the original Walt Disney World Resort hotels, Disney's Contemporary Resort has been undergoing a major refurbishment. Just in time for the anniversary celebration, the reimagined lobby and the new Steakhouse 71 debuted. The lobby takes its inspiration from the works of Disney Legend Mary Blair who, among many other things, designed the mosaic in the Contemporary's Grand Canyon Concourse. Steakhouse 71 also takes some of its design from her work, and also contains copies of archive photos and concept art for Walt Disney World (for those interested in the restaurant's food and beverage, Adrienne and I were invited to dine there and we shared photos on social media, and, I expect, Adrienne will share more information soon).

The art in the lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort reflects the style of Disney Legend Mary Blair.

Mary Blair's mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse includes fanciful animals, include a goat that has five legs (though no one seems to quite know whether that was a design element or an installation error, but here in the lobby it is quite deliberate as an homage). Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Inside Steakhouse 71, there are several works of art representative of 1970s concept and promotional images for iconic Magic Kingdom attractions, like this one for Space Mountain, an attraction that debuted in 1975.


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Cirque Du Soleil and Disney Present "Drawn to Life" Starting November 18

The new Cirque du Soleil-Disney collaboration, "Drawn to Life," is on track to premiere on November 18 at Disney Springs, and tickets are on sale now. As I noted last week, Cirque has launched a weekly web series with unprecedented behind-the-scenes looks at the show's creation on the show's Facebook page.

I had an opportunity to talk with a representative of Cirque Du Soleil during the media event and will provide more information soon. The story of the new show, as we previously reported, is the tale of Julie, who discovers one last gift left by her animator father: a sequence of unfinished drawings. Guided by a magical pencil and a quirky troupe of imaginative muses, she embarks on an inspiring quest filled with her childhood Disney memories.

A magical pencil guides Julie through a quest in the new show by Cirque Du Soleil and Disney coming to Disney Springs later this Fall. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…REMINDER: The new "Un Poco Loco" scene from Disney and Pixar's Coco will debut in Mickey's PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom on November 12. Its score was produced by Coco's original composer, Germaine Franco, and will feature Miguel and his friends joining in on the fun.

…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 per 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: 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.

…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.

…REMINDER: Also beyond Walt Disney World Resort, another Central Florida Resort is celebrating an anniversary this fall too. LEGOLAND Florida Resort commemorates ten "awesome years" with a month-long party-packed October featuring a new attraction opening, a birthday celebration day, the reopening of MINILAND, and the return of fireworks at Brick or Treat. Brick or Treat is celebrated Saturdays and Sundays all month long. The new attraction and new version of MINILAND with shade structures open and the birthday bash will be celebrated October 15. More information and tickets are available at LEGOLAND.com/florida.

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.

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. 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. We are just past the height of the tropical storm season, and it remains important to stay informed.

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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.

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.

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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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.



  1. By wdwchuck

    Hey Alan, Thank you for the masterful job you have done describing the lead up and actual implementation of the WDW 50th Anniversary Celebration. I enjoyed reading all your posts the last couple weeks and it help me visual what was going on. You did a ton of work and we appreciate that. We had some friends who are there and they said it was PACKED. So good news things are back to normal.

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