Walt Disney World Resort Update for March 15-21, 2022by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for March 15-21, 2022
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.
Writer's Note, News & Views
Beware the Ides of March, indeed.
Astronomical Spring is less than a week away. We’ve already changed the clocks for Daylight Saving Time, and Meteorological Spring is already underway. While my experience in Central Florida over the years has led me to believe that it tends to be drier here than the Midwest at this time of year, it’s still Florida, and that means weather can be unpredictable and change in a matter of minutes. In fact, it can change a number of times in a single day.
This past week saw Central Florida hit by nearly all the different types of weather it usually experiences over the course of a typical year: heat near 90, high humidity, severe thunderstorms, strong winds (possibly tornadoes), windchill advisory (where temperatures reached down to the mid 30s), and some beautiful stretches. As I have advised in prior Updates going back across the years, if you're heading this way, get familiar with some weather apps for your smartphone and bring along ponchos (I prefer the disposable kind that are about $1 and come folded up so small that they fit in a pocket) and umbrellas.
I had booked a Disney Park Pass reservation for Magic Kingdom for March 9 back during the winter when the park announced that the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade would return on that date. When I left my home around noon to drive over to Magic Kingdom’s parking lot, the forecast was for rain to form late in the afternoon—but by the time I got to the Resort entry road behind Magic Kingdom (roughly 3 minutes from pulling out of my driveway), it started raining. It rained all the way to parking. Then it stopped. It started again while I was on the monorail to Magic Kingdom. Then it stopped. Then I got inside the park and took this photo.
The weather in Central Florida can change rapidly and even can change multiple times in a single day. See those vertical lines in the distance? That was probably where it was raining, too. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
I headed to Tomorrowland. I planned to ride the PeopleMover since it’s covered. As I wound my way through its queue, it became clear I wasn't going to make it under the covered part before the next downpour, so I headed over to the Carousel of Progress. The rain started again and, just as the doors to the rotating theater were closing, a loud thunder crash sounded right outside the door. A lighting tracker app I use showed that lightning struck along the perimeter roadway just beyond Tomorrowland (a football field or three from where I was sitting). By the time the show ended, the rain had stopped again and the area in front of the PeopleMover was so sufficiently flooded that I chose to head back to the central hub to try to catch a showing of the recently relaunched “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire" on the Castle stage.
I decided to stick around the area in front of the Castle and hoped that the 2:30 p.m. scheduled running of the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade wouldn't be cancelled by rain. I watched the stage crew dry the stage and awaited the arrival of MousePlanet’s Gregg Jacobs who had also made a park pass reservation (on a side note here, neither Gregg nor I were aware that Magic Kingdom was running an 11:30 a.m. debut of the parade until around that time and that’s when we both learned that rather than being a “3 o’clock parade,” it was going to step off at 2:30 p.m.—yes, we should have checked My Disney Experience the day of our park visit, but when I had checked a few days earlier, the listed parade time was its traditional 3 p.m.).
With the sun shining and quickly drying the parade route, and with crowd-control cast members becoming more frequent in the hub, it seemed likely that the parade would happen. And, as you’ll see below, it did and I got nice blue-sky photos while the parade passed in front of the Castle. Not 20 minutes later, it was raining heavily again and we took cover at Tomorrowland Terrace. The weather changed a few more times, but, somewhere in there, I caught a showing of Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire, too. In any event, perhaps by now you get the reason for this week’s lengthy Writer’s Note intro: be prepared for changing weather in Central Florida!
Did you know that you can eat your lunch on a balcony overlooking Fantasyland at Pinocchio Village Haus? It requires walking up a flight of stairs while carrying your food, but look at the view! I’m always surprised how few guests (and even friends) know about this. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
It was a quiet news week, and, as I noted last week, we should be close to an official announcement of an opening date this summer for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Walt Disney Imagineering shared that it’s about to begin guest-visible testing of the ride vehicles for TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom—note, however, that in the released video (embedded in the Magic Kingdom section below), the Imagineer says “months” of testing, which probably means that we shouldn't expect an opening date announcement for the attraction anytime soon.
2022 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival Is Underway Through July 4
A billboard on FL-535 near Disney Springs near the just-off Disney Property Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress advertises the 2022 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival is now underway through July 4. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
In last week's Walt Disney World Resort Update, I took you through the sights I saw on opening day of the 2022 edition of the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, on March 2. As I mentioned in that Update, with the Festival set to run all the way until July 4, MousePlanet was invited to a Media Day at the festival last Friday, and I had the opportunity to take along MousePlanet's Gregg Jacobs, who's now (temporarily) living in Central Florida.
MousePlanet Contributor Gregg Jacobs (left) joins Alan Dalinka at the 2022 invitational Media Day at the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Mickey and Minnie made a special appearance at the invited media garden party at the United Kingdom pavilion.
So, as promised last week, we have more extensive coverage of the food and beverage offerings, and merchandise available at this year's Festival to share this week. Since Gregg has a deep love and knowledge of Disney Parks merchandise, it's only appropriate to hand over the next part of this week's Update to him.
I had a lot of fun being Alan’s sidekick as we attended the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival media event. Being in the area for a long stay, I got to meet some really nice folks from the Disney community (fellow social media and cast members) and get a great behind the scenes view of the festival.
You know I’ve got to talk about the goods, and Disney had a really nice set up to show off festival merchandise, and friendly cast members to take us through what was available.
At the invited media day, I got an overview of the merchandise collections available at the 2022 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Video by Gregg Jacobs.
The items this year are currently grouped into three different categories: Orange Bird, Mickey Mouse Home Garden and Spike the Bee, who I don’t remember from previous years. Each has different themed items. Overall, I found a pretty wide variety of merchandise, so anyone can find a souvenir, though for the more interesting stuff (to borrow a Chris Barry phrase), it definitely helps if you’re into the subject matter.
A quick aside about one of my personal favorites, Orange Bird. I love the story of Orange Bird and how the imagineers brought him back to life. Long story short, Orange Bird was the mascot of the Florida Orange Growers, the original sponsors of Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room when it opened. In the late 1980’s, the sponsorship ended, and he was then retired and not used for almost 20 years.
In the early 2000s, the Japanese picked up on Orange Bird at Tokyo Disneyland, and he became popular again. The original figure was found in a crate in the archives somewhere, and it was decided to bring him back in the U.S. as well. He was restored and assumed his original location in the Magic Kingdom at the Sunshine Tree Terrace, where he stands today. Sensing a gold mine, Disney then started branding merchandise to our little bird friend, and now he’s one of the mascots of the festival.
As far as the merchandise, itself, if you just want a general festival souvenir (and there’s nothing wrong with that), there are the usual collection of spirit jerseys and mugs, though maybe a little less variety than in year’s past. If you want something more interesting or if you're very into gardening, I’ll call out a few of the newer and more interesting items.
Bucket hats are big this year (and I actually have seen more and more of them out in the world in general). This collection has two of them: one themed to Orange Bird (there’s also a baseball cap) and one to Mickey and Minnie’s Garden. The Orange Bird hat says "Squeeze Me" (so you’re taking your chances wearing it), and the Minnie hat says "Plant Lady." These are each yours for $29.95.
Disney also has a partnership with Corksickle, and there are a number of different branded items. They specialize in “reusable” thermal drinkware that’ll keep your beverages hot or cold. There are several of those. There are actually a lot of drink holders in general, also including water bottles and the aforementioned mugs.
New this year are a pair of galoshes, subtly Mickey themed with a hidden (sort of) Mickey plant and other symbols of the festival like daisies and butterflies. These go for $59.99.
If you like Spike the Bee, there’s a matching tea set (mug and spoon) along with a matching bowl.
If you're actually interested in gardening or giving it a try, there’s a set of garden tools (watering can, gloves, apron, hoe and pick) for sale.
There are a few important notes on this collection. It's not available online at shopDisney.com or at any other official sale locations, only at Epcot during the festival. Also, like all Disney merchandise, it’s available while supplies last, so follow the rule of if you want it, grab it, because it might not be there next time.
Also important, due to the length of the festival (a whopping 4 months from March 2nd through July 4th), there will be new merchandise added over time. The festival passport shows two additional collections, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and Figment’s Garden, and marked them as “coming soon”, so keep checking back.
There’s maybe not as much as I’ve seen in the past, but overall, there’s an interesting group of very colorful merchandise that’s worth checking out, especially the gardening and home goods.
Hopefully, with Gregg "in town" for at least a few months, he'll be able to provide our readers with even more of his Disney Parks merchandise insights than he has in the past. If there are collections you would like to read more about, let us know in the comments.
As for food and beverage offerings, with the festival running all the way to July 4, and with seasonal tastes and availability of seasonal ingredients varying across that time, some of the menus during this year's festival will change. The Outdoor Kitchens are located mostly around World Showcase Lagoon, but, for Media Day, I had an opportunity to speak with EPCOT's Chef Kevin and beverage host Will about some of this year's highlights. Full menus are available in the printed Festival Passport at the park (in the racks at the entrances and also available at many of the Outdoor Kitchens) and are also on online at FreshEPCOT.com.
Outdoor Kitchens around the park offer numerous food and beverage options during the Festival, and some of the items will change with the seasons. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
With the Flower & Garden Festival crossing through three of Central Florida’s weather "seasons" during its extended run, the horticulture team told us that they now have to use three varieties of flowers around the park to keep everything blooming during the Festival. In the past, if you happened to be in the park when the teams are getting ready to change or were changing out the flowers, you may have noticed the change, but, not long after, you probably would not notice the differences in the gardens unless you closely inspected the flowers and knew the different varieties on sight. It will be interesting to see what else they have planned as the festival continues.
The "Fantasia" topiary display in World Showcase Plaza features Sorcerer Mickey Mouse with a new internally lit hat. Since most guests were standing around World Showcase Lagoon, I took the opportunity to photograph the topiaries during the nightly showing of "Harmonious." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
And, before leaving the topic of the festival gardens, with the major success of Encanto, there's a garden inspired by just that film. It’s located adjacent to La Isla Fresca Outdoor Kitchen (between France & Morocco pavilions), which features a menu also inspired by the cultures of Central and South America.
While the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts featured The Muppets singing "Rainbow Connection" to a new nighttime "Beacon of Magic" on the outside of Spaceship Earth, the Flower & Garden Festival now features an instrumental version of "Colors of the Wind" accompanying a rather abstract display of colors. Interestingly, the Imagineering team has managed to create some lighting effects on Spaceship Earth that are in pastel colors.
I will certainly visit the festival a few more times during its long run. Before moving on from EPCOT this week, though, just a couple of new views of the park's transformation still underway plus a post from Imagineer Zach Riddley who also separately announced the closing of the EPCOT Experience inside the Odyssey pavilion as of March 14 (he provided nothing specific about what may be next or when). As I have noted before, if you really want to know the latest official word about what's changing at EPCOT, follow @TheZachRiddley on Instagram, as that was the only place that news was released.
Some exterior construction is underway just beyond the Guest Relations portion of the building formerly known as Innoventions East/CommuniCore East. The former Innoventions West/CommuniCore West building was torn town as the EPCOT transformation got underway a few years ago. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Connections Café & Eatery is replacing Electric Umbrella as a quick service restaurant location in the part of the park now known as "World Celebration" and was formerly Future World East. It's expected to open this spring. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Magic Kingdom: More Live Entertainment Returned and TRON Testing to Begin
The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade made its return to Magic Kingdom’s parade route for the first time in almost two years on Wednesday, March 9. As of publication of this update, it's scheduled at noon and 3 p.m. daily. As you may recall, the parade route also hosts a new huge character cavalcade, Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, which was recently added to the park’s entertainment line up (running at least a couple of times daily). The updated Cinderella Castle stage show, "Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire" also recently started making multiple daily performances.
Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
As I mentioned in the Writer’s Note, on the morning of the parade’s scheduled return, I was unaware that it was stepping off at 11:30 a.m. (again, I should have checked the My Disney App that morning, but didn't do so; the last time I checked the app, it said 3 p.m.). In that inaugural showing, the Walt Disney World Resort Ambassadors along with selected cast members celebrating milestone work anniversaries served as grand marshalls. Social media reports I saw said that the Maleficent parade unit did not “breathe” fire during that early run; I was fortunate to see it during the 2:30 p.m. showing.
It will be interesting to see when or whether this parade takes its prior form. There seemed to be fewer performers in the parade compared to when it last made its way down the parade route in early 2020. It’s possible that this is a casting issue; it’s also possible that it's a social distancing measure. For example, the princesses on the first parade float were not accompanied by their “princes" (or, in Queen Elsa’s case, her sister Anna); Peter Pan and Wendy traveled the parade route separately; Mickey and Minnie were not both in the “balloon” float.
The “Lost Boys” dance energetically accompanied by Wendy, who in early 2020, rode the pirate ship float with Peter Pan.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire
The Cinderella Castle show returned earlier this month, renamed “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” and updated with a new opening and closing song and new costumes for Mickey and friends (and the dancers) in honor of Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary. The show otherwise seemed unchanged from its last performances in early 2020, and, indeed, unlike the parade, there was no noticeable distancing or reduction in cast size.
Weather permitting, Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire is performed multiple times each day on the Cinderella Castle Stage.
Mickey and Friends and the dancers all have new costumes in honor of The World’s Most Magical Celebration.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
TRON Lightcycle / Run Construction Continues With Ride Vehicle Testing To Begin
While the park hasn't announced when the attraction will debut, outdoor construction progress continues to be more evident with more of the roof covering in place for the outdoor portion of the ride track. This week, Walt Disney Imagineering shared that guests will be able to see ride vehicle testing on the outdoor portion of the track. The attraction was originally expected to open “in time for the 50th Anniversary” of the park and resort.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Ride vehicle testing is getting underway, though it will take “months.” Video courtesy Disney Parks.
This & That & Reminders…
…FINAL UPDATED REMINDER: The Mighty St. Patrick's Festival has returned to Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs for a week-long celebration this year. Underway since Friday, March 11, and running until St. Patrick's Day, March 17, the Festival features top Irish bands flown in for a celebration that Raglan calls "The most authentic Irish festival in America." On the street outside Raglan Road, there will be five outside bars, St. Paddy's merchandise, and more. According to Raglan Road:
This year's Mighty Festival musical lineup will shine with top bands flown in from Ireland including Jig Jam, known for their captivating brand of CeltGrass; and the Lisa Canny Band, blending pop and hip-hop with traditional Irish rhythm. Rounding out the lineup will be: Emerald Shore, rocking the house with their vibrant trad music; Men of Aran, charming audiences with electric energy and sublime musicianship; and Blain Curtis, a talented Dublin songwriter/guitarist mixing Irish ballads and modern Irish songs. The Raglan Road Irish Dancers, plucked from the casts and stages of the world's greatest Irish dance shows, will perform throughout the festival.
Reservations are encouraged for guests who plan to celebrate at Raglan Road. On St. Patrick's Day only, March 17, Raglan Road will open at 10 a.m. with a $20 cover charge for guests 18 and older; (first-come, first-served—no reservations on this day only); younger patrons may enter free of charge. Raglan Road invited MousePlanet to sample some of the highlights of this year's Festival, and you can see them on our @MousePlanet Instagram Story Highlights.
The Mighty Festival is underway, with entertainment on the main stage in the dining room (shown here), and on outdoor stages.
The highlight for me of the food samples for The Mighty Festival: “Now We’re Talkin’ Chicken.” More photos on our Instagram Highlights.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
…Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, Disney Parks Blog has published a Foodie's Guide to the holiday that includes both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.
It’s your lucky day! 🍀 The Foodie Guide to St. Patrick’s Day is here and filled with all the tasty treats worth a trip over the rainbow. Find them all here: https://t.co/dD35uMQaIv pic.twitter.com/YQxXGy4pFv— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) March 11, 2022
…Changes are coming to Disney's BoardWalk Resort's lobby and dining experiences. Unfortunately, the Disney Parks Blog post is rather light on timeline or details. The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers, a new table service restaurant and bakery is expected to open in 2023. A coffee bar will open on the Inn side of the lobby, and the BoardWalk Bakery will become a sandwich shop.
New dining options and enhancements are coming to Disney’s BoardWalk at @WaltDisneyWorld Resort! ✨ See how your waterside strolls will become more dreamy: https://t.co/ipD9klWmse pic.twitter.com/5a9hDh5DRp— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) March 11, 2022
…Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort has announced that its Food & Wine Classic returns on Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12 in 2022. Tickets are now on sale at FoodandWineClassic.com. The Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is "a street party festival" with unlimited tastings of culinary selections from the hotel's award-winning restaurants plus bottomless wine, beer, and beverage samplings from around the world. It all takes place amidst a backdrop of live entertainment on the hotel's causeway featuring several themed areas such as a beer garden, carnival corner and bubble lounge. The 2022 event will also feature the return of the interactive food and beverage seminars lead by the hotel's expert team.
…UPDATED REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club announced the return of its Moonlight Magic events in 2022. Like before the pandemic, eligible DVC Members can get complimentary after-hours access to these in-park events on select nights by advance registration. Eligible DVC Members with resort reservations get earlier registration access and the possibility of more complimentary admissions based on the number of guests on a qualifying resort reservation. In the past, the balance of the eligible membership has had an opportunity to register as well though capacity sometimes filled quickly. The 2022 announced events are:
- EPCOT: March 17 and 31 – registration filled.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios: May 24, June 16, July 14 – registration details to be announced.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: July 26, August 31, September 28 – registration details to be announced
For those visiting the parks hosting a Moonlight Magic Event on the night of an event, be aware that the parks tend to get busier in the hours approaching closing, as those that have registered for the event start to mix in to the park. Guests without wristbands during an event will be asked to leave.
For those DVC members interested in attending the Disney's Hollywood Studios or Disney's Animal Kingdom events, be aware that the EPCOT events filled very quickly. For members without hotel reservations, the remaining event registration slots became available at 11 a.m. on March 8 and were gone by 11:30 a.m.
…REMINDER: The Walt Disney Company's annual meeting of shareholders was last, Wednesday, March 9, and was streamed via webcast at disney.com/investors. As of this posting, the video is available for replay. During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged that the Mary Poppins-inspired attraction announced back at D23 Expo 2019 for the United Kingdom pavilion is on hold, but that it is his hope to get that attraction "refunded" when Disney's cash-flows improve coming out of the global pandemic.
…AdventHealth broke ground last Tuesday, March 8, on its Emergency Room located at Flamingo Crossings Town Center, which will bring emergency care and an enhanced patient experience for Walt Disney World Resort guests, cast members and the Central Florida community. During the event, AdventHealth and Disney sealed a time capsule containing items that tell the history of their alliance, as well as mementoes from The World’s Most Magical Celebration, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. The new ER, an approximately 19,000-square-foot facility, will have 24 private patient rooms; respiratory therapy; diagnostic imaging including CT scans, X-ray and ultrasound; and a full-service laboratory. The site is located at the western gateway to Walt Disney World Resort, and it will be staffed by a comprehensive clinical team including board-certified emergency physicians and emergency nurses. Under a renewed alliance announced last year, AdventHealth became the Official Health Care Provider at Walt Disney World Resort, as well as the Official Virtual Health Care Provider at Walt Disney World Resort. AdventHealth ER at Flamingo Crossings Town Center is expected to open in 2023.
In recent years, AdventHealth's sponsorship has been turning up more and more frequently around the Resort. During the invited media day at EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival this week, we were treated to a food item at the Outdoor Kitchen it has sponsored.
The Usual Writer's Note
The health and safety protocols in the State of Florida remain unchanged: there is no statewide vaccine mandate, COVID-19 testing, face covering requirements or business capacity restrictions. The State repeatedly has blocked enforcement of municipal and county-imposed restrictions as well during the course of the pandemic. Private property owners, like Walt Disney World Resort, set requirements for visiting their property that you must be aware of if you decide to visit.
If you're traveling to or from overseas, be sure to check with the places you're visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Though the United States government loosened international travel restrictions for entering the U.S.A. at the end of 2021, it remains important to check on and abide by the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements for entering the United States whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or visitor (and be aware of who needs a visa).
As for visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Park Pass reservations are required for admission in addition to a valid ticket. If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, Park Hopping only becomes available after 2 p.m. daily, and only after you have first visited the park for which you have made a reservation that day. There have been instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers, and Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.
Sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes continue to be 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 regardless of the pause in new sales. We have not heard any suggestion, as yet, that new pass sales will resume. As we noted earlier this winter on MousePlanet.com, Florida Residents can purchase discounted two, three, or four day tickets for weekday theme park visits (with additional restrictions and, yes, reservations are not included but still required).
As of publication, face coverings are optional for all guests in outdoor locations around Walt Disney World Resort. As of February 17, face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated guests in most indoor locations; non-vaccinated guests are expected to wear face coverings indoors (though, as previously noted, Florida does not permit businesses to ask customers to prove their vaccination status). Face coverings remain required on enclosed transportation such as buses, monorails, and Disney Skyliner per Federal mandates. Walt Disney World Resort encourages eligible guests to get vaccinated.
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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.
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