Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 16-22, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 16-22, 2021

You can view a larger version of each of the photos included in the Update by clicking on the photo. Each photo will open in a separate tab without a caption rather than a slideshow-type gallery like we had in the past.

 News, Views & Writer's Note

Back to our usual Tuesday Walt Disney World Resort Update this week.

Thanksgiving is just over a week away. Before that, though, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo is underway at nearby Orange County Convention Center, with Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro already having made some news there by announcing Disneyland's plan to refresh Toontown, between March 2022 and the 2023 debut of its version of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. More Disney Parks-related news could be ahead from there this week, and we also have Thursday's debut of Drawn to Life by Disney and Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs, and then Disney's Destination D23 event to provide news opportunities.

This past week, I took a daytime look at the holiday decor at Disney Springs, and I visited Disney's Hollywood Studios on Disney+ Day and got a daytime look at the holiday decor there, too. If all goes as planned, this week, I'll get a look at the decor at Magic Kingdom and its surrounding Resorts to share next time.

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Starts the Day After Thanksgiving

As we approach the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which runs November 26 to December 30, Disney has published the full roster of scheduled Candlelight Processional's celebrity narrators.

  • November 26–28: Auli'i Cravalho
  • November 29 – December 1: Chita Rivera
  • December 2–4: Jodi Benson
  • December 5–7: Alton Fitzgerald White
  • December 8–10: Bart Millard
  • December 11–13: Lisa Ling
  • December 14–16: Andy Garcia
  • December 17–19: Ana Gasteyer
  • December 20–22: Courtney B. Vance
  • December 23–25: Steven Curtis Chapman
  • December 26–28: Blair Underwood
  • December 29–30: Pat Sajak

This year, the Voices of Liberty will form the "living Christmas tree" at center stage, flanked on either side by a choir of Disney cast members. As in past years, the songs are played by a full orchestra with the traditional Christmas story told by the celebrity narrator. We assume that, as in the past years, the show will be performed three times nightly—but so far, neither the website nor My Disney Experience lists show times. As we previously noted, a limited number of venues are offering dining packages with guaranteed seating. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for details.

"JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season" returns this year to the Showcase Plaza Stage, with their music celebrating Christmas and Kwanzaa. Canadian Holiday Voyageurs return to the Old Mill Stage. At China pavilion, the Chinese Lion Dance returns. Other holiday entertainment around World Showcase includes Italy's La Befana and France's Père Noël, while Santa Claus makes regular appearances at The American Adventure through Christmas Eve, December 24. Inside the rotunda of The American Adventure, the EPCOT pastry chefs have recreated the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and The American Adventure building in miniature gingerbread versions for this year's Festival.

And, as for foods you can buy to eat, this year's Festival will include fourteen "Holiday Kitchens" around World Showcase and beyond, with returning fan-favorites and classic holiday dishes and festive beverages. The Holiday Cookie returns: stamp your Festival Passport by purchasing the featured cookie at five official Holiday Cookie Stroll locations, and then bring your completed Festival Passport to the Holiday Sweets & Treats Holiday Kitchen to receive a 50th anniversary celebration cookie. The Holiday Cookie Stroll can be completed at any time during the Festival, and it does not need to be completed in a single visit.

Give Kids The World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular is Underway

Give Kids The World Village's highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" has returned for its second annual showing. MousePlanet was invited to the pre-opening media preview on November 9, where we learned that last year's edition attracted over 90,000 visitors to the Village. USA Today named the event last year as the "Number One Thing To Do In Orlando In December."

Night of a Million Lights enables guests to immerse themselves in an exquisitely decorated fairytale neighborhood which wish families call home during their stays. Guests can enjoy a 360-degree dancing lights show set to music; explore a sparkling tree trail; view larger-than-life holiday displays; take photos at one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops; visit Santa in his elaborately decorated summer house inside a holiday marketplace; and enjoy a guided storytelling tour of dozens of magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram, included in the price of the ticket. A majority of the lights were donated by Walt Disney World. For those that miss the Osbourne Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this display is very reminiscent of that, especially back in the time that Residential Street was still standing on the park's Backlot.

Give Kids The World Village Night of A Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida. Proceeds benefit the Village's not-for-profit mission of providing free wish trips to critically ill children and their families in Central Florida.

Pamela Landwirth, President and CEO of Give Kids the World Village, told the invited guests at the media preview that when they organized the event last year, they had hoped for attendance of around 15,000, but had approximately 90,400 guests.

In addition to donating many of the lights, Walt Disney World Resort decorated one of the villas.

Sea World Orlando also decorated one of the villas again this year.

Universal Orlando Resort also decorated one of the villas and provided a walk-in photo opportunity.

The event has a Christmas Tree trail.

One portion of the Village includes a 360º light display surrounding a pond. Another portion of the Village which, unlike last year, has reopened to wish families, may be visited by event attendees by taking a tram tour narrated by Disney Legend Jodi Benson, best known as the voice of Princess Ariel, The Little Mermaid.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Night of a Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with entry times staggered to prevent crowding. Tickets are available at www.gktw.org/lights Note: some dates already sold out, including December 5 and 12. 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.

Volunteers ages 12 and up are needed to fill shifts at the event through January 2. Volunteers are required to be fully vaccinated, and those ages 12-15 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. Volunteers will help out with a range of activities while getting a unique behind-the-scenes look at the event – including serving food, assisting with ticket scanning and parking, helping with merchandising and providing guest service. To register to volunteer, interested groups and individuals can visit https://www.gktw.org/volunteer/apply.php.

Views of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios is decorated for the holiday season.

Traditional garland is strung over Hollywood Boulevard.

Santa appears in his bright red convertible in one of the cavalcades.

The park's large Christmas Tree is once again in the center of Echo Lake, and the kitschy decor is located around Echo Park.

The ornament dangling from Gertie's mouth has the World's Most Magical Celebration-stylized "50" on both sides.

The video screen has returned to Sunset Boulevard to accompany the nightly "Sunset Seasons Greetings" projections on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

The tinsel stars again line Sunset Boulevard for the holiday season.

Preparations are underway for the mid-December reopening of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Inside Walt Disney Presents, Disney Cruise Line displays models and art featuring its next new ship, "Disney Wish" that is scheduled to launch next year.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

On November 12, Disney's Hollywood Studios rolled out the "Blue Carpet" to celebrate Disney+ Day, the second anniversary of the launch of the Disney subscription streaming service. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Guests in the park on Disney+ Day received a complimentary button. Early arrivers in the park received a Disney+ Day hat, too, but those were fully distributed by midday. The Day also featured a Disney+ themed cavalcade and some Disney PhotoPass photo opportunities. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Views of Disney Springs

The central Disney Springs Christmas Tree is located in the Town Center area.

The Christmas Tree Stroll's themed trees are dispersed throughout all the neighborhoods of Disney Springs. One of the new ones this year on the West Side is this one themed to "Raya and The Last Dragon."

Jock Linsey's Hangar Bar has a "Holidays" overlay to its theme and menu for the season.

These characters are kind of nuts. That's the best description I can come up with after their appearance each of the past several years.

The M&M Store's outdoor photo opportunity window now has a holiday theme.

Hanukkah, the eight night festival of lights, starts at sundown on November 28 this year and World of Disney has about a half a dozen themed items available.

World of Disney has dozens and dozens of Christmas themed items available, with just five weeks left for holiday shoppers.

Mickey, is that you in the window of Disney Style?

Marvel Studios' Eternals is playing at the Disney Springs Dine-In Theaters and is the theme of the photo backdrop near the Orange Garage escalators.

All of the signage has been removed from the former NBA Experience and retail store. Disney has provided no details about what to expect in this custom-built structure in the future.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Inside the Marketplace Co-op, the Walt Disney World Vault Collection has taken over the space previously occupied by Twenty-Eight & Main. One of its displays features the Resort's pre-opening Preview Center.

Another Vault Collection display pays tribute to Magic Kingdom's Opening Day Attractions.

Merchandise available from the Vault Collection include merchandise based on items originally sold at the Preview Center and homages to Opening Day Attractions (especially those no longer at the park like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…Are you a comedic actor "with strong voice characterizations, quick wit, and comedic improv skills" who is also adept at learning new technology? Have you wanted to join the Monsters world? Magic Kingdom's Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is casting for Buddy/Betty Boil and Marty. Visit this page of DisneyCareers.com for online audition details. Auditions are open until November 26 at 3 p.m. Eastern. The Laugh Floor Reopened this summer, but has not always had show hours that match the park hours.

…Long-time Walt Disney World Resort cast member Steven Miller continued his Disney Parks Blog memories series with a visit with Disney Legend, retired Imagineer Bob Gurr.

…Pixar's Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, whose directing credits include UP, paid a surprise visit to some of the Disney's Animal Kingdom cast members that keep that movie's Wilderness Explorers story alive in the park.

…For those that are seeking out those high-end headbands, the latest release from the Disney Parks Designer Collection debuted yesterday at Ever After at Disney Springs, and debuts today at The Dress Shop at Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort. Disney Parks Blog said it was also debuting at shopDisney.com, but I couldn't find it by searching for it last night.

…Collectors of Disney fine art take note, McCullough Art will be selling its works and signing them at Art of Disney at EPCOT in The American Adventure pavilion from December 1 to 12. They will also be back during the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. Follow their full schedule on their Facebook page.

…UPDATED REMINDER: Drawn to Life, the new collaboration between Disney and Cirque du Soleil makes its debut on Thursday at Disney Springs. We've been invited to cover the event, so be sure to keep an eye on our social media Thursday night. In the meantime, the collaborators shared a behind the scenes video about the music of the new show on Disney Parks Blog this week.

"Drawn to Life" debuted on November 18, 2021, at Disney Springs. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

As mentioned last week, the Cirque du Soleil Store reopened last week ahead of this week's debut of "Drawn to Life." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Merchandise available in the store includes pieces related to Disney animation history, pieces tied to the show and characters of "Drawn to Life," and Cirque du Soleil logo merchandise. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…UPDATED REMINDER: This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, MousePlanet has been invited to cover the Destination D23: A Fan-tastic Disney Celebration, at Disney's Contemporary Resort Convention Center, November 19-21. Watch our social media accounts for news and views. While tickets are sold out, Disney D23 will offer free livestreams of many of the presentations on D23.com, Facebook.com/DisneyD23, and YouTube.com/DisneyD23. Walt Disney World Resort Passholders considering purchasing a Gold Membership with D23 can take advantage of a 30% discount through November 21 - visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for that and other current Passholder perks.

…REMINDER: Thanksgiving is coming up quickly. Raglan Road Irish Pub at Disney Springs has published its all-day 2021 Thanksgiving Menu: Butter & herb roast turkey, roast garlic mashed potatoes, duck fat roasties, honey glazed carrots, bacon braised Brussels sprouts, sausage meat & walnut stuffing, red wine jus with cranberry sauce. The price is $35 for adults and $17.50 for kids 9 and under (plus tax and gratuity), or guests can order from the all-day Raglan Road menu as well, and its usual live Irish music and dance entertainment will be performed during the evening dinner hours (no entertainment charge or cover). For more information and menus, visit RaglanRoad.com, and reservations are suggested by calling (407) 938-0300. (Christmas Day menus are also available now.)

…Enzo's Hideaway Tunnel Bar at Disney Springs also announced its special Thanksgiving menu that combines traditional Italian flavors with the holiday:

Start with Frittelle di Zucca (Pumpkin ricotta fritters), and then savor Porchetta di Tacchino with heritage Turkey breast, crispy pancetta, brussels sprouts, polenta "dressing" and butternut squash. Plus, don't miss the Autumn Spiced Panna Cotta for dessert.

…The North American Tour of Disney's "Frozen: The Musical" is getting underway. It starts performances this Friday at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre, through January 22. For those visiting Florida this winter or spring, you can catch the show here in Orlando at Dr. Phillips Center For the Performing Arts from February 24 to March 6, in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from March 9 to 20, or in Tampa at the Straz Center from March 23 to April 3. Full tour details and tickets available at FrozenTheMusical.com.

…And, finally, MousePlanet's own Jim Korkis has announced the release of his latest book, The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Quiz Master Challenge: 500 Verified Questions & Answers PLUS Historical Highlights, Fun Facts and More. It's available on Amazon.com for $17.95. Topics range from the individual parks, to the resorts, to things outside the parks and resorts as well as WDW history. Additional sections feature lists of fifty years of historical highlights, fun facts and more. Because Jim was responsible for writing many trivia quizzes and fun fact media sheets for Walt Disney World Resort over the past 30 years, the information he relied upon for the book had to go through scrutiny of several Disney departments including the Disney Archives for final approval.

The Usual Writer's Note

The U.S.A. has opened its borders to more international visitors who are fully vaccinated as of last week. With Walt Disney World Resort historically attracting guests from well beyond North America—especially from Europe and South America—we could see yet a further uptick in attendance in the parks in the coming weeks and months as we head into the holiday season. 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. And the particularly bad news this past week, however, is that COVID-19 is again making a resurgence throughout Europe in particular, with health experts warning that it could happen here as we head into winter.

In any event, Walt Disney World Annual Passes are on sale, and have not paused in any categories, though Disney reserves the right to do so. 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 Park Pass reservations are still required to visit the parks in addition to valid admission.

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.

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. On October 29, the FDA also authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

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. Fortunately, as we head toward the tail end of the usual storm season, none are forecast as headed toward Central Florida, but stay aware that some of the strongest storms of the past have struck in 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.

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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.