Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 23-29, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 23-29, 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

As we head into the busy Thanksgiving weekend, we have lots of news to recap. As Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro shared at this past weekend's Destination D23 event, Disney plans to bring back lots of the "little things" that make visiting Walt Disney World Resort special. No specific timeline was provided for most of what Disney plans to open or return to the parks in 2022, but it's interesting to note that the welcome announcements were followed Monday morning with the news that, like Disneyland before it several weeks ago, Disney has decided to "pause" the sale of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes in all categories but the highly limited Pixie Dust Pass available only to Florida residents. There are already quite a few dates between now and the end of the year where Passholder Park Pass reservations are unavailable for specific parks on specific days, even for the top-tier Passholders who have no blockout dates. Existing Passholders in all tiers may continue to renew them notwithstanding the pause.

Josh D'Amaro
Josh D'Amaro, Chairman Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, told Destination D23 attendees and those watching the live stream that Disney knows the importance of the "little things" in its parks and resorts and said, "We are committed to bringing back experiences." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney hasn't said what triggered the "pause," but clearly, operating capacity in the parks remains an ongoing issue. The parks generally have felt busy to me when I've visited this fall, and posted attraction standby times have often seemed rather high to my eyes. As I've often reported, there are still plenty of attractions that used to "eat" guests that haven't yet reopened (for example at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular—scheduled to reopen on December 19—and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which wasn't mentioned as something to be reopening in 2022 during either Josh D'Amaro's or Disney Live Entertainment's presentations at Destination D23). Likewise, there are shops and merchandise kiosks that haven't reopened or that have reopened with limited hours. There are restaurants and other food and beverage locations that are still idle or aren't operating on a schedule that approaches park operating hours. Neither Disney's Typhoon Lagoon nor the parking lot courtesy trams have an announced service resumption date.

So I'll turn first to something around Walt Disney World Resort that we do have to be thankful for: the successful debut of Drawn to Life by Disney and Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs. Then I'll recap the news around the Resort, and share a few looks at the holiday decor at Magic Kingdom, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. For Disney Cruise Line fans, I'll touch on some of its latest Disney Wish details and recap the rundown of Disney D23's return to live events in 2022. Since I expect the balance of the week will be rather quiet on the news front, next week in the Update, I'll share some more of the fun highlights of Destination D23 that relate to the history of the Walt Disney World Resort and some of the other highlights that I do not have space for this week.

Josh D'Amaro
Michael Vargo, Head of Disney D23, greeted attendees to the closing "Ugly Sweater" Party with a selection that he told me he purchased at a Kohl's store which, he said, has a large selection of merchandise from the Disney+ show, "The Mandalorian." The closing party, by the way, was presented by Disney+. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

And, yes—before I get to the news, Disney did reveal at Destination D23 that a fully orchestrated version of Pinar Toprak's new EPCOT Anthem is being produced. With EPCOT turning 40 years old on October 1, it seems fitting that it should debut by then, but we haven't heard any specific date announced for that yet, either.

Cirque du Soleil is Back

Drawn to Life, the new collaboration between Disney and Cirque du Soleil made its grand opening debut last Thursday evening at Disney Springs. I was invited to cover the event, and thoroughly enjoyed the show. To me and many of the other attendees I spoke with, it was just the right amount of a uniquely Cirque du Soleil show (and I've seen many of its shows across the United States) mixed with a Disney production.

Cirque du Soleil describes the show as a "love letter to the art of Disney Animation [that] celebrates life in all of its motions and emotions." Combining the talents of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, the new show tells the story of a girl named Julie "who discovers one last gift left by her animator father: a sequence of unfinished drawings." She's joined on her journey by a magical pencil and a quirky troupe of imaginative muses (including an animator's desk, discarded drawings, and even several trash cans), and she revisits many of her childhood Disney memories.

The approximately 90-minute show, consisting of 10 acrobatic acts connected by a story and further illustrated by classic and new Disney animation, is performed without an intermission starting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays at the theater on the West Side of Disney Springs. Tickets start at $85: Adult tickets are for ages 10 and above; Children are ages 3-9; and those under 2 years old are free if they sit on a parent's lap. Parents should be aware that the show, like many (most?) Disney stories involves the death of a parent and contains a segment featuring Disney villains, though it is not a particularly "scary" segment, I note it since some kids are frightened by the presence of any villain or slightly ominous music and lighting. Visit the Drawn To Life section of CirqueDuSoleil.com for more information and tickets. Shows the rest of this week are sold out; starting December 10, shows will also be performed at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.

Before the show, I had an opportunity to chat with several members of the creative team. I also heard further from the creative team at a panel at Destination D23 and at a press conference, and will post more to MousePlanet social media in the coming days. Originally set to debut at the end of March 2020, the premiere of Drawn to Life was delayed by the global pandemic and the temporary closing of The Walt Disney World Resort. Fittingly, Cirque du Soleil's CEO Daniel Lamarre, officially introduced the grand opening performance by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the intermission is over!"

Long-time Disney Animator, Eric Goldberg, perhaps best known for his work on Disney's "Aladdin," lead the team at Walt Disney Animation Studios that contributed to this production. He told me he was most excited to animate Baloo from Disney's "The Jungle Book" for a sequence in this show.

On the night of the grand opening, Michel Laprise, the writer and show director, wore a hand-drawn tie in the style of the magical pencil from the show.

Fabrice Becker, Creative Director, has been a part of Cirque du Soleil for over 20 years.

Stephane Roy was the set designer for "Drawn to Life," and is a veteran set designer and artistic director of over 100 productions, including several other Cirque du Soleil productions.

Disney super-fan, actor John Stamos, welcomed the audience to the grand opening of "Drawn to Life."

The cast, crew, and creative team received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the debut performance of "Drawn to Life" last Thursday night at Disney Springs.

The grand opening performance of "Drawn to Life" at Disney Springs included a mix of invited and ticketed audience members. A post-show reception was held at Disney Springs for the invited members of the audience, creative team, cast and crew.

In attendance at the opening of "Drawn to Life" were some of the global Disney Ambassadors in town for the Destination D23 event, including The Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador Team, The Disneyland Resort Ambassador Team, The Disneyland Paris Ambassador Team, and the Aulani Resort Ambassador. Here, they took some photos with Disney super-fan John Stamos outside the theater after the show.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Destination D23: A Fan-Tastic Disney Celebration

D23: The Official Disney Fan Club returned to live, in-person events with Destination D23: A Fan-Tastic Disney Celebration at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Convention Center last weekend (November 19 21, 2021). When they tickets went on sale earlier this year to D23 Gold Members, the nearly 2,000 tickets to this event sold out in minutes rather than the months of past Destination D events. MousePlanet was invited as media to attend the event and, as the local Florida staff member, that privilege fell to me once again. D23 also live-streamed many of the presentations to give those unable to travel (or unable to get tickets) an opportunity to share in some of the festivities, and the D23 leadership told me that they expect to continue to live-stream many of its future in-person events to continue to reach that broader audience, even after COVID-19 restrictions ease. In keeping with Walt Disney World's current health and safety practices, attendees were required to wear proper face coverings indoors (except when actively eating or drinking).

As was true of past Destination D events, Disney used the fan-focused event to make announcements promoting current offerings and about what's planned. With Walt Disney World Resort celebrating its 50th anniversary, the overall theme of the event was focused on the Resort itself, and Josh D'Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, took the stage to update fans on what the parks have brought back, what they plan to bring back in 2022, and some additional details about some of the projects already in development for the parks. Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix already provided a summary of those details relevant specifically to Disneyland Resort yesterday. In short, Josh D'Amaro told attendees and those watching the live stream that Disney knows the importance of the "little things" in its parks and resorts and he said, "We are committed to bringing back experiences."

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Back at the media event for Walt Disney World Resort's 50th anniversary celebration, we learned that the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction coming to EPCOT would open at some unspecified time in 2022. Well, at Destination D23, Josh D'Amaro provided a bit more clarity by announcing that it will open in the summer. He also shared that the new "family-friendly" storytelling coaster attraction will include an appearance by actress Glenn Close, who will reprise her Guardians of the Galaxy role as Nova Prime, the leader of Xandar and commander of the Nova Corps.

As you may recall, the part of the park that will be home to the new attraction is now named "World Discovery." The pavilion was described to us at the media event as the park's first "other world pavilion," and Josh D'Amaro elaborated a bit more on that point by talking about how the pavilion will introduce gusts to more information about the Xandarians and their advanced technologies that they are showcasing here on Earth. He shared renderings of the Xandar Gallery. Embedded below are two posts by Imagineer Zach Riddley that include a promotional video from Glenn Close, the newly released renderings, and the new attraction poster.

Attendees at Destination D23 also had opportunities to sit in the ride vehicle for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. At the media event for the 50th Anniversary earlier this fall, we saw it and were told by Imagineers that it was going to be a rather comfortable seat. I sat in it and found it surprisingly roomy—and if you look around on social media, you will see that it really does seem designed to fit many body sizes.

Guardians ride vehicle
Destination D23 attendees had opportunities to try out the seats of one of the ride vehicles for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Before I leave the subject of EPCOT for this Update, I should note that Josh D'Amaro also revealed the name of the new quick service restaurant being constructed in the space formerly known as The Electric Umbrella. The new Connections Cafe Eatery will be located in the "World Celebration" area of the park across the breezeway from the Creations Shop and Club Cool. Since Electric Umbrella closed, the only quick service dining option in what was formerly Future World as been Sunshine Seasons at The Land pavilion on the west side of Spaceship Earth. This new option is located east of Spaceship Earth and is fairly close to the site of the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction. Disney has not announced an opening date.

Dream Catcher
But what has left EPCOT is the Dream Catcher that most recently was displayed atop one of the walls inside MouseGear that originally was part of Journey Into Imagination attraction. It was the centerpiece of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit during Destination D23, and will be heading back to California for some restoration and storage in the extensive collection maintained by Walt Disney Archives.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

As you may recall, Disney is now accepting reservations for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the new 2-day and 2-night immersive hotel/themed experience that Disney repeatedly has said will be unlike anything that has come before in themed entertainment, hotels, or, perhaps, otherwise. It opens on March 1, and this past week, Disney revealed additional details in several places, including at Destination D23 where the highlight of Josh D'Amaro's presentation on the subject had to be where he showed off the "real" lightsaber that has been developed for the lightsaber training activity during the experience.

Live on stage, Josh D'Amaro demonstrated the "real" lightsaber Walt Disney Imagineering has developed for Star Wars: Galactic Star Cruiser at Destination D23. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Josh D'Amaro and Imagineer Scott Trowbridge, who was the leader of the team that developed Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios (and Disneyland), shared that Make-A-Wish families will be among the first guests to experience Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. During Destination D23, Disney shared that Star Wars: Galaxy's already includes Easter Eggs and other details that tie in to the Galactic Starcruiser experience, and that they have been there since the land opened back in 2019. Starcruiser guests will visit Batuu during their experience and Disney says that what happens there will have consequences back on the Starcruiser (and vice versa).

Ahead of Destination D23, Disney Parks Blog shared a first look at several of the new characters guests will meet aboard the Galactic Starcruiser: Captain Riyola Keevan, Cruise Director Lenka Mok, an astromech droid SK-620, Sammie the Mechanic, and others. Josh D'Amaro and Scott Trowbridge also introduced the diva who is also a smuggler and provided a few other tidbits that I will defer to our Star Wars reporter, Todd King, to more fully explain. If you did not already know, the Galactic Starcruiser was designed in conjunction with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and all of these new Disney Parks editions (on both coasts) are considered to be "in canon" for the entire Star Wars Universe - meaning that what goes on here in the parks and resorts is part of the "official" Star Wars story being told in films and television.

Josh D'Amaro and Imagineer Scott Trowbridge introduce a diva that will play a substantial role in the adventure aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Starcruiser guests can purchase and dress up in specialty costumes that fit within the Galactic Starcruiser story.

Disney has also developed specialty souvenirs that Starcruiser guests can purchase.

And Disney's culinary team is developing specialty food and beverage from Earth ingredients but designed to look like they came from the Star Wars Universe.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

More Live Entertainment Returning to Walt Disney World

At Destination D23, Josh D'Amaro announced that the "little things" that help make the Disney Parks experience what we expect it to be are coming back. He mentioned many elements of live entertainment that have already returned and I have previously written about them, so I won't recap that here. Among the "things" coming back to Walt Disney World in 2022, he announced that Fantasmic! will return to Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will return to Magic Kingdom, and an updated Mickey's Friendship Faire castle stage show with enhancements for 50th Anniversary of Magic Kingdom will return as well. Later during Destination D23, Tom Vazzana from Disney Live entertainment provided a bit more detail about what's coming up in 2022 at Walt Disney World Resort (but no specific dates) and was joined by his colleague Tara Anderson when sharing the Magic Kingdom-specific details.

Tom Vazzana from Disney Live Entertainment provided additional details about what's coming up around Walt Disney World Resort in 2022.

Joined by Tara Anderson, Tom Vazzana announced that Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will return in early 2022.

Disney Live Entertainment also announced character cavalcades will continue even after the parade returns, and that a new "Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade" will debut with the most characters yet, including both Disney and Pixar characters from "Zootopia," "The Jungle Book," "Coco," "Moana," "The Incredibles," and more.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

When it returns, the castle show will be renamed "Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire," and will feature a new original song, "Magic Feels Like Home" as its opening and closing number. Mickey and friends will appear in their 50th Anniversary attire, and some of the other performers will have new costumes as well.

Tom Vazzana shared that when Fantasmic! reopens in 2022, one entire scene will be replaced with a new scene featuring live performers, stunts, special effects, and more. He didn't share which scene. I could speculate, but it would be just that, since he provided no hints.

Finally, Disney Live Entertainment shared a few more details about the reimagined version of Finding Nemo: The Musical that will open at Disney's Animal Kingdom at some point in 2022. The updated show will be named, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! It's set in the timeline of the movie Finding Dory and at the Marine Life Institute from that film. The fish from Dr. P. Sherman's office in Finding Nemo have found their way across the ocean to California, and they will tell the story of Nemo and how they all got there, including many of the songs and production numbers from the prior show.

D23 Announces 2022 Scheduled Events

As mentioned above, in 2022, D23: The Official Disney Fan Club is bringing back fan-favorite, in-person events, and plans to continue some of the popular virtual experiences Disney fans have enjoyed over the past two years. As fans probably know, the name "D23" pays homage to the fact that in 1923, Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 offers its Disney twenty-three publication to its Gold Members, the D23.com website featuring members-only content, member-exclusive offers, discounts, and special experiences. Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Duo Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at its website.

D23 Expo 2022 – The Ultimate Disney Fan Event returns September 9–11 to the Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from Disneyland Resort in California. Fans will see the latest from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel including a first look at the incredible plans for the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. Plus, more panels and presentations than ever will be livestreamed for fans across the globe. D23 Expo is the largest Disney fan event in the world, with all the wonderful worlds of The Walt Disney Company under one roof across film, television, streaming, theme parks, products, digital, music, live entertainment, and more. Tickets go on sale January 20.

Walt's Marceline – Walt Disney frequently cited this charming Missouri town where he spent his early childhood as one of his greatest influences. In fact, its lovely main thoroughfare was an inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. D23 members will have a chance to explore Marceline's Walt Disney Hometown Museum, enjoy local treats, and mingle with special guests during this limited-capacity, full-day event.

Dave Smith Window Dedication – On January 24, celebrate the life and legacy of Walt Disney Archives founder and Disney Legend Dave Smith on the day of his Disneyland window ceremony with a special presentation for Gold Members during park hours.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks Diamond Anniversary – On January 29, D23 celebrates the 50th anniversary of Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the very place it was made—The Walt Disney Studios lot—with special screenings and the chance to see items on display from the Walt Disney Archives.

Galactic Member Mixer – D23 heads to a galaxy not-so-far-away for a special member mixer during Star Wars Celebration in May at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The Walt Disney Studios Official Tour – Presented by D23 – D23 looks forward to welcoming guests back to The Walt Disney Studios lot soon, giving members the opportunity to visit the world-famous studio. These tours offer fans a unique perspective on historic moments from Disney films, television shows, and theme parks—along with the chance to look inside The Walt Disney Archives and draw inspiration from Walt's office suite.

Fan-Favorite Milestone Anniversaries – D23 celebrates milestone anniversaries for popular films with virtual and in-person events, including favorites such as Lilo & Stitch (20th), Hercules (25th), Aladdin (30th), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (30th).

D23 Nights with Disney Theatrical – The fan club returns with more special D23 nights than ever before at two spectacular musical productions. The North American tours of Disney's The Lion King and Disney's Frozen are offering members special ticket packages and post-show Q&As with members of the cast. The first locations for these special events are Austin and St. Louis for The Lion King, and Atlanta and Orlando for Frozen.

More Magic with Walt Disney Imagineering – D23 continues its rich collaboration with Walt Disney Imagineering, giving fans a direct connection to the creative minds behind favorite Disney Parks. The D23 x Walt Disney Imagineering Magical Milestones virtual event series celebrates the past and future of parks around the world. This year, D23 x WDI celebrated Disney California Adventure, Shanghai Disney Resort, and Walt Disney World Resort, and next year, members can look forward to a special in honor of the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris.

Signature Events – Following incredible events at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and Graceland in Memphis, fans can look forward to Gold Member Previews of Walt Disney Archives traveling exhibitions across the country. D23 Gold Members will enjoy advance and opening night screenings at locations such as the El Capitan, AMC Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort, and more theaters across the country. Walt Disney Imagineering's exclusive merchandise store, Mickey's of Glendale, will open its doors to members. And as always, D23 will celebrate the holidays in style with a special Halloween event (with a Hocus Pocus twist) and—as part of D23 Season of Magic—the return of the holiday favorite Light Up the Season in December 2022!

Views Around Magic Kingdom and its Area Hotels

The Mickey floral bed at Magic Kingdom's entrance has a bit of holiday color mixed in with The World's Most Magical Celebration signage.

Magic Kingdom's traditional Christmas Tree is in place for the holiday season in Town Square on Main Street U.S.A.

The holiday season trellises, garland, and wreaths adorn a busy Main Street U.S.A.

Like the Halloween "season" at Magic Kingdom, most of the holiday decor is located around Main Street U.S.A., though there are touches of decor in other parts of the park as well.

For example, the Jingle Cruise holiday overlay is back in Adventureland and operates both during regular operating hours and during the hard ticket After Hours events.

Unfortunately, during my brief time at Magic Kingdom on Friday, the posted Jingle Cruise standby time was 65 minutes, so I did not have an opportunity to hear the seasonal puns.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

With Destination D23 held at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Convention Center, I had an opportunity to see its holiday decor and I took the monorail over to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort to see the return of its life-size Gingerbread House. Earlier last week, I joined some friends for dinner at Disney's Wilderness Lodge and not only had a look at its holiday decor, but finally had a chance to see the 50th Anniversary enhanced edition of the Electrical Water Pageant.

Disney's Contemporary Resort's main Christmas Tree stands along the driveway of the Convention Center and can easily be seen when driving along World Drive.

A bit harder to see is the Mickey floral bed that stands between the Christmas Tree and the main A-Frame tower of the Resort. You may be able to spot this flowerbed from aboard a monorail while it passes through the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Resort.

Disney's Contemporary Resort does not have a gingerbread display this year, but guests can purchase a kit at the Contempo Cafe.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort's lobby is decorated for the holiday season, and, this year, has returned its life-size gingerbread house which also includes a counter that sells holiday treats.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge's main Christmas tree stands tall in the center of its lobby.

A new 50th Anniversary overlay plays before and after showings of the Electrical Water Pageant, with audio customized for its performance location. This viewing was at Disney's Wilderness Lodge; it also has showings at Magic Kingdom and the other resorts on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

"The Magic Is Calling," the theme music of The World's Most Magical Celebration was interpreted in the same electronic style as the rest of the Electrical Water Pageant. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

And, while visiting Magic Kingdom, I had a chance (thanks to a posted standby time of only 10 minutes) to see the new way that Mickey Mouse is greeting guests in his Town Square Theater space. Princess Tiana and a visiting princess are making similar appearances in the Fantasyland Princess Fairytale Hall. Minnie Mouse is making similar appearances over at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Meet Mickey
Guests may again visit with Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater, but the greetings are still distanced. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Mickey Mouse is available for selfies that guests take from the other side of a rope. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Casey's Corner
And, in another bit of restored entertainment over at Casey's Corner, a live musician performs regularly once again. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Finally, while The Walt Disney World Railroad remains closed during the ongoing construction of TRON Lightcycle Run in Tomorrowland, Disney fully refurbished Engine 1, The Walter E. Disney recently in anticipation of its return.

Views of Disney Springs

The Destination D23 event included an opportunity to see an advanced screening of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 60th film, Encanto, which opens in theaters November 24. It features songs by Lin Manuel Miranda. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and especially its songs and score written by Germaine Franco. Disney asked that those attending the advanced screening not spoil the film (and, of course, I'm not the MousePlanet entertainment reporter), so I will leave the rest to others.

"Encanto" opens in theaters, including the Disney Springs AMC Dine-In Theater, on November 24. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

It would not be a Disney Springs holiday season without these metal penguins for some reason that even Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline included a photo of them in her Destination D23 presentation entitled "Weird Disney." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…During this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, the first of the Disney Parks holiday specials, The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration, will be broadcast on ABC-TV on Sunday, November 28, from 7–9 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific Time), hosted by Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Ariana DeBose. It will be available for streaming the following day on Hulu. Then, coming up on Christmas Day, the Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade will air on ABC-TV on Saturday, December 25, from 10 a.m. until noon (Eastern and Pacific Time), with Derek and Julianne Hough from Walt Disney World Resort, and Trevor Jackson and Sherry Cola from Disneyland Resort. It will also be available for streaming the next day on Hulu. In addition to the musical acts (which are listed in this Disney Parks Blog post), Disney promises that the specials will provide peeks at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Wish, Walt Disney Animation Studios' Encanto (which opens November 24), and Steven Spielberg's new film, West Side Story. Of course, it doesn't say which special will show which peeks.

Disney Parks Blog announced that new Disney PhotoPass Augmented Reality Lenses are now available in the My Disney Experience mobile app for those that purchase the Disney Genie+ service. The latest version of the My Disney Experience app is required.

…FINAL REMINDER: 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.

…FINAL REMINDER: Thanksgiving is this Thursday. 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.

…REMINDER: 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.

…REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village's highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" has returned for its second annual showing. Last year's edition attracted over 90,000 visitors to the Village and USA Today named last year's event 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. 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.

Night of a Million Lights
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. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Beyond Walt Disney World Resort, Destination D23 also provided a few more details about entertainment aboard Disney Wish when the new Disney Cruise Line ship sets sail in 2022. The first day sailing show "Disney Seas the Adventure" will be the first to star Captain Minnie Mouse. The new Broadway-style reimagined version of "The Little Mermaid" will join the ship's entertainment lineup as well.

…REMINDER: 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 believe that we are seeing a further uptick in attendance in the parks 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 continues to be that the COVID-19 positivity rate is again climbing, with health experts warning that it could get worse again as we head into winter.

As noted atop this week's Update, sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes have been paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers notwithstanding the pause in new sales. Even with this pause and the uptick in COVID-19 positivity rates, it remains unlikely the Resort will shutdown again in the near-term. Remember, however, 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. We now approach the very tail end of the usual storm season, and, fortunately none are forecast as headed toward Central Florida. For those that do not visit at this time of year, be aware that while we often get some of our best weather, temperatures can range significantly during the day (a 30° to 35° swing across a day or two is not unprecedented). Today's forecast: high of 64° and low of 48°; highest temperature forecast this week is 76° and the lowest is 40°.

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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.

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. to 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.