Walt Disney World Resort Update for October 12-18, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for October 12-18, 2021

At publication, we were still experiencing some technical issues with how we usually display photos in the Update. Like last week, 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.

 News, Views & Writer's Note

As the World's Most Magical Celebration is underway and we're now in the final quarter of 2021, we're starting to get a sense of what a Walt Disney World Resort visit for the foreseeable future will be: Disney Park Pass Reservations required and, starting October 19, the Disney Genie Service guiding your days in the parks, complete with opportunities to pay more to wait less. As one of the kinder readers commented on our social media when we shared the Disney Genie Service launch date information this past week, that MousePlanet is "just the messenger."

Balancing guest satisfaction, crowding, price, value, and profit certainly can't be easy. Layer on a global pandemic and the noise of all forms of modern media (social, mainstream, alternative, etc.) and, yes, perhaps, it's time we're aware, in the words of the Sherman Brothers, "it's a small world after all."

With that in mind…

Disney Genie Service Launches October 19

The previously announced Disney Genie service launches at Walt Disney World Resort next Tuesday, October 19. The service was first announced back at Disney D23 Expo 2019 by then Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek. Disney Genie will be part of the existing My Disney Experience app, offering new complimentary planning features and two different opportunity to purchase the sort of shorter attraction wait times previously provided by the complimentary Disney Fastpass+ service which was "paused" when the parks temporarily shutdown and then later permanently "retired" during the phased reopening of the parks.

Disney Genie Service launches on October 19, 2021, at Walt Disney World Resort.

While social media reaction has been extremely negative on the Disney Genie service ahead of its debut, the negativity that I have seen has been focused on the "pay-to-play" aspects of the service—Disney Genie+ and Individual à la carte Lightning Lane entrance—that now requires guests to pay for the privilege of shorter attraction wait times rather than receive them as a complimentary perk of park admission as was true before the temporary closure of the parks back in March 2020. For those who aren't aware of those details, I will recap them below.

But, first, the new complimentary part of Disney Genie service merits a bit of discussion. At the launch of Disney Genie, all attractions/experiences will continue to have standby queues for guests or a virtual queue. The only attraction that currently has a virtual queue at Walt Disney World is Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance pausing its virtual queue and opening its standby queue for the first time this fall (note: Disney has said it may resume use of a virtual queue during peak days or otherwise in the future).

With that in mind, Disney says that the new service includes tools to help you "create your best Disney day." The main tool is a new personalized itinerary creator that maps out a day's visit to your park or parks of choice and, unlike older ways of making a touring plan, dynamically updates during the day based on actual and forecasted conditions like weather, snack and restroom stops, and attraction downtime. In other words, when you provide your party's priorities for visiting, behind the scenes the service evaluates possible park itineraries trying to meet those priorities and reducing time in standby lines, providing a reasonable pace, and building the itinerary around reservations you have made and whether you intend to park hop.

Disney Genie attempts to balance actual park operations with the priorities guests input plus the reservations they have made.

The complimentary part of Disney Genie gathers together in My Disney Experience the personalized planning service, a real-time tip board, standby time forecasts, dining information, and more.

The complimentary Disney Genie service includes a continually updated "Tip Board" that shows current standby times for attractions and the next Lightning Lane availability for guests that have purchased Genie+. Guests looking for walk-up table service dining options will also find that information consolidated on a tip board rather than having to search restaurant-by-restaurant as in the past.

Information guests provide about their preferences helps generate the information under the "My Day" tab, while the "My Tip Board" updates attraction and dining availability.

The pay-to-play purchase options that the online park fans overwhelming are complaining about are the two different ways the former complimentary Fastpass+ service have been permanently replaced. The primary replacement is the Disney Genie+ service which is the most like the old version of Fastpass in place long before MagicBands and the Disney Fastpass+ service (and for those who have visited Disneyland in recent years, its akin to the paid MaxPass service available just before that resort's temporary closure). More than 40 attractions/experiences across the four Disney Parks now have a designated Genie+ Lightning Lane Entrance. Guests that purchase Genie+ may reserve one attraction/experience at a time for the next available return time shown in the app (and, in the case where that next available return time is more than 2 hours away, the guest may make another selection after 2 hours has elapsed).

At launch, guests may purchase Disney Genie+ for $15 per guest per day in the app in advance, or on the day of visit, and may buy it for any number of days desired. In other words, guests are not required to purchase Genie+ for the number of days of their selected admission ticket. At launch, there's no option for guests to purchase a "length of stay" Genie+ access, and there's no Annual Passholder year-long version. Genie+ service also includes new augmented reality lenses for photos, some of which are exclusive to locations in the park and some of which can be accessed anywhere (and for a limited time after the day of purchase). It also includes audio experiences, which I've yet to see demonstrated.

More than 40 attractions/experiences across the four parks now have Genie+ Lightning Lane entrances that may be reserved by guests that purchase Genie+ each day. Genie+ purchase doesn't provide access to the two individual à la carte Lightning Lane entrance attractions in each park.

At launch, each park also has two individual à la carte Lightning Lane entrance attractions. Whether or not a guest has purchased Disney Genie+ service, folks that want to take advantage of the Lightning Lane on these attractions will be required to pay an additional fee per guest, with a limit of two different attractions per day (no matter how many parks the guest visits). Disney Resort hotel guets may make these purchases as early as 7 a.m. on the day of visit, all other guests may make these purchases when the park opens.

The only published pricing information for this option right now is as follows:

Prices will vary by date, attraction and park. For example, the Lightning Lane entrance to Remy's Ratatouille Adventure will be $9 per person on October 19 and $11 per person on October 23. As another example, on both those dates, Lightning Lane entrance to Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain will be $7 per person, while Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be $15 per person. Throughout the year, prices may be lower on some days and higher on other days. This option may be purchased at up to 2 different attractions each day.

Keep an eye on MyDisneyExperience starting October 19 for more details, and I will keep you updated that day on what I observe about the service. Disney's guide to the service is available at DisneyGenie.com.

More Live Entertainment Returning

As Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening continues and The World's Most Magical Celebration is underway, additional live entertainment experiences and character interactions are returning this fall. As you may have seen from social media, as of October 1, Magic Kingdom again opens with a mini-show featuring Mickey and Minnie and friends on the Cinderella Castle Stage, "Let the Magic Begin." In addition, the ragtime piano player again performs at Casey's Corner on Main Street U.S.A. and at EPCOT Alberta Bound has returned to the stage at Canada pavilion, the Taiko drummers of Matsuriza have returned to Japan pavilion, and Sergio has returned to Italy pavilion.

This week at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Chakrandi has returned to Asia, and Kora Tinga Tinga has returned to Harambe in Africa. The Tam Tam Drummers return to Africa early next month.

Performers return to Disney's BoardWalk Resort soon. Starting October 14, Yeehaw Bob returns to River Roost Lounge at Disney's Port Orleans Resort–Riverside.

In addition to the sort of character appearances in cavalcades and other socially distanced locations, some new more-individualized character experiences will soon return to the parks as well. These will not yet be "hugs and autographs" opportunities, but they will be located in themed locations with photo opportunities starting in November. At Magic Kingdom: Mickey Mouse will be "backstage" at Town Square Theater on Main Street U.S.A. in his new "EARidescent" attire and Princesses return to Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland. At Disney's Hollywood Studios: Minnie Mouse will be at Red Carpet Dreams and Disney Junior stars will appear in Animation Courtyard.

On November 7, Disney's Hollywood Studios will also return the "Disney Movie Magic" projection show celebrating Disney live-action films and adding a new sequence from 2020's Mulan. On December 19, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is due to return as well (though we have not yet heard what modifications may be made because of the ongoing pandemic).

Views of Disney's Animal Kingdom

I visited Disney's Animal Kingdom last week, primarily to get a view of its "Beacon of Magic" at Tree of Life after sunset. I was rather disappointed with this park's one minute-long Beacon moment. At least the lions were awake when I rode Kilimanjaro Safari just before its pre-sunset closing time.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…Want a chance to win a Walt Disney World vacation during The World's Most Magical Celebration? Disney is having a sweepstakes. See the details to enter through October 24, 2021, on Disney Parks Blog.

Disney Parks Blog has published a "Souvenir Guide" to some of the 50th Anniversary merchandise.

…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…

…Disney+ subscribers: If you are a Muppets fan and a fan of one or more of the different versions of The Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney Parks around the world, you should check out the all-new original Halloween special, "Muppets Haunted Mansion." Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang, along with lots of celebrity appearances, visit a version of Haunted Mansion inspired by all of them. I thought this nearly hour long special was one of the best long-form Muppet Studios productions in a very long time and very much in the "spirit" of the old TV classic, "The Muppet Show."

…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. Mickey's PhilharMagic is now closed for refurbishment until then.

…Another new feature available in the My Disney Experience app is the new mobile #CastCompliment. Good cast members making magic for guests always deserve every shoutout you can give!

…You can now check out the Disney Springs Fall 2021 Foodie Guide from Disney Parks Blog.

…FINAL REMINDER: Visit Orlando's Magical Dining program concludes 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.

NEWYou can now register for Give Kids The World’s 2021 Gingerbread Run, taking place at the Village on Saturday, November 6, beginning at 7:30 a.m. For the first time ever, participants can get a sneak peek of the Night of a Million Lights holiday lights spectacular while completing a one-lap fun run, or a full 5K course. In addition, fundraisers have the option of creating their own unique challenge and participating virtually, from anywhere in the world. All funds raised will help GKTW create the happiness that inspires hope for wish families during magical dream vacations at its whimsical nonprofit resort. The deadline for fundraising is Wednesday, November 3. To register to participate, and to view a list of the 2021 fundraising incentives, please visit this page of GKTW.org.

…FINAL 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.

…And, finally, also beyond Walt Disney World Resort, but with Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wish soon to be embarking regularly from Port Canaveral, Florida, DCL has announced more details this week about the kids, tweens and teens spaces on the new ship.


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. I got mine.

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 immediately headed toward Central Florida. While we are past the peak of the season, the local weather forecasters remind us that some of the strongest storms of the past have struck in October and November. Please 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.

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.

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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.