You can never get enough Mickey Ears and there is a new set coming to…
Get ready for the biggest party you’ve ever seen as we’ll soon be celebrating the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary! This is going to a celebration like non-other and we’re excited to see what Mickey and friends have in store for us!
Can you believe that almost 50 years have already passed since Walt Disney World opened up on October 1, 1971?? Since that day, the resort has become one of the most visited vacation destinations on Earth with tens of millions of visitors annually.
When Disney does a celebration, they do it BIG, so we can only imagine everything that’s in store when they celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom and Disney World starting October 1, 2021.
Even though we still have some time before the festivities start, you need to start planning now for all the new attractions, entertainment, merchandise, and food you will find there.
In this post, we have a complete guide to the Disney World 50th Anniversary where we will explain everything you need to know. We’ll cover the 50th Anniversary dates, when it starts, how long it will last for and all the confirmed changes coming to the parks for the celebration.
We’ll also go over a touring strategy including when is the best time to go during the 50th Anniversary and all the rumored changes we might see by that time.
Sadly, there might be a change in plans to the festivities after the Disney parks closure, so we’ll go over what all that means and how it affects the celebration.
In order to bring you up to speed on what you might find in Disney World for the 50th, make sure to read our guide on the Next Best Disney World Rides and Attractions coming in 2021 & 2022.
If you are planning your trip during that time, make sure to consult our post on the Best Times to Visit Disney World where we cover the basics, plus a ranking of our favorite months to go to the parks.
Hopefully, this article gives you a head start in planning your trip for Disney’s 50th Anniversary. As more information comes out, we’ll update this post so you always have the latest information! Now let’s see the biggest celebration at the most magical place on earth!
(UPDATE) Disney World 50th Anniversary New Entertainment Details Announced
Disney has just announced a bunch of new details about The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration including new entertainment and shows coming to the theme parks, a new character cavalcade, new lighting packages for park icons, costumes, and more!
The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration is starting on October 1, 2021, and will last a full 18 months. The celebration will run through March 2023.
The length is about what we expected since most big Disney anniversaries run a least 14-16 months. This one is the biggest celebration we will see in the park for quite some time so it makes sense Disney wants to make it last.
The fact that it starts on October 1, 2021, the exact date when the Magic Kingdom originally opened also makes sense from Disney’s point of view and for guests. Disney originally planned on starting the event earlier, but since many guests are putting off their trips because of the current health crisis, it gives them more time to plan a trip.
It also gives Disney more time to prepare since they are running behind in the scheduled refurbishments they want to do to the park attractions.
New Entertainment and Shows
Here are some of the new entertainment options you can expect to see when the celebration begins:
New Magic Kingdom Firework Show ‘Disney Enchantment’ – There were rumors of a special show coming to the Magic Kingdom for the 50th anniversary, but this is even more than we were expecting.
Disney has announced the brand new fireworks show ‘Disney Enchantment’ which will use the latest technology in pyrotechnics, lighting, fireworks, and an enhanced projection lighting package that will project images not only on Cinderella Castle but all down Main Street U.S.A. as well.
New EPCOT Fireworks Show ‘Disney Harmonious’ – We already knew that this new nighttime show was coming to EPCOT, but now Disney finally announced the opening date.
Starting September 29, 2021 guests will be able to gather around World Showcase Lagoon for one of the biggest and most impressive fireworks shows they have ever created.
New Animal Kingdom Daytime Show ‘Disney KiteTales’ – As you know, the Rivers of Light nighttime show is now closed at the Animal Kingdom, and for now they have announced a new daytime show with elaborate three-dimensional kites flying through the air.
These kites are as big as 30 feet long and shaped to some of your favorite Disney characters.
50 Golden Disney Character Statues – Another announcement we were not expecting is that 50 of your favorite Disney characters will be embodied in golden sculptures throughout the Disney World theme parks.
You can see Mickey and Minnie in the concept art in front of Cinderella Castle but many more of the “Disney Fab 50” have been scattered in locations in all 4 parks. The full list of characters will be announced soon as well as new and exciting ways to interact with these amazing sculptures.
Disney released some new artwork for the 50th Anniversary logos that will be throughout the parks. The logo features the celebration’s iridescent and rainbow colors, and a big art deco-style “50”.
Projection Lighting Packages
We also found out that park icons in all 4 Disney World theme parks are getting special projection lighting packages for the nighttime shows. This includes lighting for Cinderella Castle (Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth (EPCOT), the Hollywood Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios), and The Tree of Life (Animal Kingdom).
Disney released some new artwork for them and we have to say they look amazing!
Cinderella Castle will illuminate Magic Kingdom with a dazzling radiance that sparkles with pixie dust.
And at EPCOT, new lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky. The iconic structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the park.
The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light will emanate from the Tree of Life as magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
This confirms the new lighting package rumored for Spaceship Earth. We also really like the ornaments, special anniversary crest and gold bunting on Cinderella Castle. It will be worth a trip to each of the parks at night to see these changes.
Of course, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are going to be front and center for the celebration and we have new images of them along with other Disney characters showing off their 50th Anniversary costumes.
Their costumes are a shade of what Disney is calling “EARidescent” purple and teal.
As you can see in photo above, their friends such as Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale are all sporting their own custom-made EARidescent looks too. Disney has made it clear that these 8 Disney characters will be in the spotlight throughout the entire celebration.
That is a brief overview of the new details we just found out. Stay tuned in the coming days as we continue to add new information for you. In the meantime, continue reading below for a more detailed look at the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World and what to expect.
What Does Disney Have Planned for the 50th Anniversary Celebration?
The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary will be one of the biggest celebrations Disney has ever had, and rightly so. October 1, 2021, will be the 50th anniversary of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and the entire Walt Disney World Resort as a whole. This was the beginning of the vacation capital of the world!
The Magic Kingdom celebrated its 10th, 15th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries with milestone celebrations, the later called “Remember the Magic” which lasted a full 15 months long!
What Disney World is planning for its 50th Anniversary is going to outdo all previous celebrations and is something you absolutely will not want to miss. Disney has stated that each of the 4 theme parks in Orlando is getting updates for the celebration, so if you haven’t been in a few years, this might be a good time to go.
For the 50th anniversary, Disney is working on new attractions, entertainment options, merchandise, food, and a plethora of updates and refurbishments to the theme parks and existing attractions. Like has been done in the past, everything will be decked out and themed to the 50th, including character costumes and decorations for the buildings.
Besides the new, Disney is sure to bring out some old fan-favorites such as rare characters for this one-time event. And as always is to be expected, you will probably see some attractions or shows retire as well, so it might be your last chance to see so some of your favorite things in the park.
Because of all of these changes, Disney is expecting millions of extra guests to make a visit to this historic event!
Whatever Disney does to pull it off, it’s going to be incredible, unlike anything that has ever happened to the Walt Disney World Resort before! We’ll be updating you on all the changes here so stay tuned!
Disney World 50th Anniversary Dates – When Does it Start? How Long will it Last?
The biggest question on peoples’ minds is when will the 50th anniversary celebration actually start. Thankfully, after waiting months for the answer, we now have confirmation of all the dates.
The official day of the 50th Anniversary for Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom is October 1, 2021. The actual Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration is also starting on October 1, 2021.
That doesn’t, however, mean that the festivities are only going to last one day. Whenever Disney celebrates a big anniversary, it always lasts months, and oftentimes up to one year or more.
The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration will last a full 18 months from the start date. That means we can expect the celebration to last through March 2023.
This is similar to the Disneyland 60th Anniversary which lasted almost a full 16 months from start to finish. The plan for Disney World’s 50th is going to top even that.
If this was a normal time when all the parks were fully operating, the 50th Anniversary would start around August, a couple of months before the actual anniversary date in October, or maybe even a bit sooner.
Again looking to Disneyland’s 60th, we see the festivities started in May 2015 when the actual anniversary date wasn’t until July.
That, however, was most likely Disney’s original plan, which had to be modified some, as attraction enhancements are now behind schedule and not might be ready in time.
We think waiting until October 1, 2021, to start the 50th celebration is the smart move on Disney’s part. It would have been nice to start a few months earlier to create some buzz and excitement for guests to return back to the parks, but that just isn’t possible in the current climate.
There are too many uncertainties at the moment, and it looks like Disney is going to need all the time they can get to be ready for the 50th.
Pushing it off until October 2021 makes more sense.
At that point, they won’t have everything ready for the start of the event, but at least some of the new rides will be ready in time. Disney will open the rest of the new attractions currently under construction in 2022 while the celebration is still going on.
It also makes sense for guests since many people are still nervous about traveling. Giving them a few more months means the parks are closer to returning to “normal” conditions without all the safety guidelines.
Disney has already said this is likely in 2022, which means that will be the case for the majority of the anniversary.
When Will it End?
Especially since the Disney World 50th Anniversary is getting off to a later start than originally planned, Disney is making it last longer on the backend to make up the difference.
From our calculations, the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary will end in March 2023.
Our original guess was that the 50th celebration would last until the end of 2022, but 18 months from October brings us to March 2023, which should include the entire month.
Disney is spending millions on the preparations for this party, and you can be sure they will use those costumes and keep the decorations up as long as they reasonably can. At 18 months, this is going to be the longest anniversary celebration Disney has ever put on.
If you were waiting to hear the dates before booking your trip, you no longer have to do so. I would start making plans immediately since the hotel rooms are going to fill up very quickly.
Changes to 50th Anniversary Plans Since Park Closures
Since the Walt Disney World closure happened back in 2020, you may be wondering: “How does this affect the 50th Anniversary celebration?” Are they still going to have the celebration as scheduled? Will it get delayed? Will the attractions originally planned for the 50th get built-in time, or even built at all?
First of all, we want to ease your minds, at least to a degree. Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is still going to happen, though it’s true some things might be a little different than how the company originally planned them to be.
This closure couldn’t have come at a worse time for the company and it has put a huge financial strain on management. Not only were all the domestic parks closed, but all Disney theme parks in the entire world were forced to shut down for months. Because of these closures, the company lost tens of millions of dollars each day by not being open.
The problem isn’t only the short-term loss in revenue, but many analysts are predicting it could be up to two years before attendance is back to normal in Disney World.
Because of this, Disney has had to reduce their budget for current and future construction projects in the parks right now. This includes many new attractions they were hoping to have ready in time when guests arrive at Disney World for the 50th Anniversary.
The first change then is that some of the new upcoming attractions are going to be delayed. Disney hasn’t announced the exact opening dates of most of the projects planned for 2021 and beyond. Nevertheless, all projects are now months behind schedule in comparison to where they should be, and this means that some of those new rides will just not be ready in time for the 50th.
That’s not the worst of it though. When companies meet tough economic times, often they are forced to put projects on the back-burner, or even shelve some altogether. In fact, Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently revealed that the company spent $700 million less on construction and refurbishments in 2020 because of the lack of revenue across the company.
Chapek also recently announced Disney is also spending significantly less money on new projects in 2021.
Some of the new attractions will be built with much less budget than originally planned and other upcoming attractions that Disney has already announced will not even get built. We go more in-depth in a recent post about the Disney Rides Most Likely to be Canceled or Delayed due to the park closures.
The good news is that Disney is going to need to give guests an incentive to bring them back to the parks, and just saying you are throwing a big party is not going to cut it. People are going to be nervous about traveling for some time, and only amazing new attractions and experiences for the 50th Anniversary is going to make that happen.
The great majority of projects that are far along in the construction process (TRON, Ratatouille, and Guardians for example), have already recommenced construction and are full-steam ahead. Those are going to be the calling cards that start to bring guests back to the parks and a sense of normalcy. Some of the other ones that are still in the planning stages have instead been postponed or cut.
We also have heard that Disney might be reallocating some of the budget away from new projects and instead for enhancements to the existing attractions. They can refurbish these to make them as nice as possible for the 50th and have a broader impact. There is just so much up in the air right now and management is still deciding the right course to take.
Disney has already invested millions of dollars into the preparation of this event, and you can be sure they are going to do everything possible to recoup that investment. It may take longer than expected, but most of the attractions will get built.
At least Disney World is now open again, and Disney is finally getting some revenue flowing to the parks once again. It will take some time to get back to normal, but at least it’s a start.
Right now it may seem like Disney’s 50th Anniversary is happening at the wrong time, but we may find it’s the perfect medicine to get people back to the parks and help the company correct its finances sooner than would have otherwise happened in a different year.
New Logo and Theme
Along with any anniversary celebration comes a new logo and overall theme. Disney’s World’s 50th Anniversary is called: “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.”
We also got a sneak peek look at the 50th Anniversary logo, which features Cinderella Castle upfront and center with iridescent and rainbow colors, and a big art deco-style “50” in the middle of it.
We love this look and think it is a fitting representation of the celebration going on. Disney will most certainly release logos for the other theme parks in the same style, and it should be a seamless fit for all of them.
Disney released an image showing some of the new offerings and decorations based on the 50th-anniversary logo and color pattern including drinks, banners, cupcakes, MagicBands, and even the castle itself looks like it has those rainbow colors in it:
Expect banners to go up all around Disney World property in the same color scheme and style as we get closer to the start of the event, as well as lots of similar merchandise and food and beverage options.
This is sure to be one magical celebration!
Confirmed Changes for the 50th Anniversary – Park by Park
Ok, so now that we know what it’s going to look like, just exactly what changes and new additions are coming to Walt Disney World for the 50th Anniversary celebration?
We’re going to go park-by-park and look at the confirmed additions we know about so far. Things are probably going to be added to this list, and maybe a few taken off too as we get closer to the start. Things will also change greatly once we find out more about the construction schedule for the new attractions.
Not all of these changes and additions will necessarily be open at the beginning of the 50th Anniversary, but they should be open at least at some point during the celebration.
- TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster
- New Fireworks Show ‘Disney Enchantment’
- Tomorrowland Makeover
- Walt Disney World Railroad refurbishment
- Cinderella Castle Refurbishment & Projection Lighting Package
- Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade
- New Entrance
As of now, Disney hasn’t announced too many of the additions coming to Magic Kingdom Park for the 50th, but you can bet there will be a lot of them considering this is the anniversary of this very park. Something really incredible has to be done to wow visitors and a few things are already in progress.
Tomorrowland is going to see the majority of the changes in the Magic Kingdom. Already a makeover has begun throughout the land, slowly transforming it from a steam-punk futuristic style with harsh metal theming, to a more classic and modern future with white accents. These are most noticeable by looking up at the decorative columns of the PeopleMover.
Staying in the future, Disney has also recently updated the Tomorrowland Speedway, refreshing the track and making room for the attraction we are the most excited about, the TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster.
This is the crown jewel of the 50th Anniversary celebration and a clone of the guest-favorite ride of the same name in Shanghai Disneyland. The TRON coaster will be the biggest addition to Tomorrowland since Space Mountain and will breathe new futuristic life back into what has always been a troublesome land.
Right now, it looks like Disney is behind schedule with TRON, and will not be open by October 2021. If that’s the case, Disney will use it as one of the attractions opening in intervals during the remaining 18 months of the celebration.
We also know that the Walt Disney World Railroad will be back up and operational at some point in 2021 and it will look newer than ever.
We know that the Character Cavalcades have been a popular addition to the parks since reopening and now get ready to see Mickey and all his friends ride down Main Street U.S.A. in their shiny new costumes on the brand new Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade.
Something not quite as attractive as the rides is the new entrance coming to the Magic Kingdom. This will streamline the entrance process between the various transportation methods and will make it easier to get those 50th Anniversary crowds into the park.
New Fireworks Show ‘Disney Enchantment’
The 50th Anniversary celebration is getting off to a bang at the Magic Kingdom with an all-new nighttime fireworks show called ‘Disney Enchantment‘.
Expect some new technology to be worked into the show as it will include a new and enhanced lighting program, music, and fireworks. It also will for the first time, include new immersive projection effects that travel all the way from Cinderella Castle and onto Main Street U.S.A., much like at Disneyland Park.
We are quite surprised by this news, but couldn’t be more thrilled to see what Disney can do with these new projections. Maybe they will eventually get worked into Happily Ever After when the 50th is over.
Will the Castle Change?
One common question people want to know is if Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom is going to change for the 50th anniversary. This is valid considering what’s happened in the past. Let’s just say that Disney World management and the fans have a rocky history when it comes to anniversary celebrations and Disney Park icons.
While Disney has had backlash over some pretty poor decoration choices in the past like the Birthday Cake Castle, putting a magic wand next to Spaceship Earth, or Sorcerer’s Hat in front of the Chinese Theater, Disney is not making the same mistake again and has much more modest plans for Cinderella Castle.
Disney has in fact done a refreshing to Cinderella Castle, and the work is now done and visible to guests in the Magic Kingdom.
The colors on Cinderella Castle are now more brilliant than ever with the top portion of the castle getting a subtle rose pink color and the roofs a much more vibrant blue. We also love the gold trim around the castle’s features, honoring the “golden anniversary” of 50 years.
Again, this makeover is already finished, so it will be perfect by the time the festivities start.
You can read more about the Cinderella Castle refurbishment in our updates post dedicated to it.
Disney has also announced new nighttime projection lighting packages for each of the 4 theme park icons, and that means Cinderella Castle is also getting new projections. Cinderella Castle will be decorated with ornaments, a special anniversary crest, and gold bunting.
Seeing the castle in person, the roof at times looks like it’s projecting the same iridescent rainbow colors that are in the actual 50th Anniversary logo. It’s a really cool effect and changes depending on the lighting outside.
We’re excited about the changes coming to the Magic Kingdom and this will make the Resort’s most famous icon even more beautiful than ever!
- Future World transforming into 3 New Neighborhoods
- Spaceship Earth Refurbishment
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Coaster
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Moana: Journey of Water
- France Pavilion Expansion
- Space 220
- Play Pavilion
- Disney Harmonious Fireworks Show
- Dreamer’s Point
- “Awesome Planet”
- “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 3D”
- “Wonderous China”
- New Entrance
While the Magic Kingdom is the park actually celebrating its 50th Anniversary, it’s EPCOT that is getting the Resort’s biggest overhaul. In fact, this is the most extensive project ever done to a Disney World park and something that was greatly needed since it was ignored for so many years.
We are afraid of things getting cut from the plans after Disney’s recent comments, let’s just hope they don’t neglect the park and still give it the care and attention it needs in the long-term, just to save money in the short term.
Starting out upfront, the new Epcot Entrance is almost completed and will have a new fountain to greet guests. Future World will be no more, instead, being replaced by 3 new neighborhoods, World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature. The new entrance should be ready in time, but the overall transformation of Future World will take more time and might not be ready for the 50th.
The super ambitious new festival center for example has already been put on hold and rumors are that it won’t get built for another 3-4 years minimum, if at all.
The biggest addition and one that will be a big draw for guests coming to the 50th Anniversary celebration is the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride taking over the old Universe of Energy building. This attraction is definitely going forward, but might not be ready in time for the start of the 50th Anniversary in October 2021.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will also be a big draw as it’s an IP that’s popular with Disney guests and adds a new family attraction to EPCOT. That and the France expansion will both be ready in plenty of time for the 50th on October 1st.
Disney had already announced the Spaceship Earth refurbishment would be starting in May 2020 and it was believed they were hoping for a target opening of 2022, putting it in the middle of the 50th celebration. Those plans have since changed and the Spaceship Earth refurb has been put on hold. No word yet on when or if those plans will move forward.
While the new EPCOT fireworks show Disney Harmonious was supposed to debut in 2020, that didn’t work out, but it will be ready for the 50th when it debuts on September 29, 2021.
Even though it seems like we’ve been waiting forever for the Space 220 restaurant, that finally opened on September 20, 2021 and it has been the hottest advanced dining reservation in Walt Disney World since.
We aren’t quite as sure however about the Moana: Journey of Water attraction or Play Pavilion, both of which Disney has been silent about since their announcements at the D23 Expo. I supposed Disney could cut some costs and postpone both attractions if need be.
Sadly, the Cherry Tree Lane addition to the U.K. pavilion and the Mary Poppins attraction have now been shelved and will not be built for the 50th Anniversary. It’s disappointing to see, but not surprising that things ended up this way with all the budget cuts.
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Mickey Shorts Theater
Thankfully, most of the improvements needed in Hollywood Studios for the 50th Anniversary have already been finished, and to rave reviews.
Biggest of all is the amazing new Star Wars land: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge which has lived up to most of the hype we heard for the 5 years before it was built. It has amazing and realistic theming, wonderful restaurants and shopping options, but most of all, two incredible new attractions.
The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride will have you living out every childhood dream of riding this iconic spaceship. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance though, takes things to a completely other level and is probably the best ride in Walt Disney World at this time. Both attractions plus Galaxy’s Edge as a land, are valid reasons to visit Disney World during the 50th celebration.
In 2020 we saw the debut of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a charming new attraction filling in some big shoes for the Great Movie Ride. While it isn’t a reason in-of-itself to come all the way down to Disney World, it’s a must-do once you are there.
- New Show – Disney KiteTales
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the park that will see the fewest additions for the 50th Anniversary, this is mostly because of more urgent attention in the other three parks.
The Animal Kingdom is doing well thanks to the huge success of Pandora: The World of Avatar with its two rides: Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Both are incredible additions and Flight of Passage is definitely one of my favorite rides anywhere. Think of it as a souped-up version of Soarin’.
We are however getting a new daytime show at the Animal Kingdom called ‘Disney KiteTales.’ Starting October 1, this show will be performed several times daily in the Discovery River Amphitheater.
Elaborate three-dimensional kites as large as 30 feet will take to the air in the shape of your favorite Disney animals including Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie. They will dance through the sky to the beat of classic Disney songs that will be fun for the whole family.
Like the Magic Kingdom, one addition we can be sure of at the Animal Kingdom for the 50th is the new entrance. This will make it easier for visitors coming from the buses or parking lot in this expanded area.
You can read more detailed descriptions about all the new rides and attractions coming to Disney World in the next few years in a recent post.
Disney World 50th Anniversary Rumors – “50 Magical Enhancements”
Even though there are many plans for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary we already know about, there are plenty that are rumored that Disney has yet to announce. In fact, the biggest rumor is that Disney is planning “50 Magical Enhancements” for the 50th Anniversary.
Most of these enhancements won’t be completely new attractions but renewing and refurbishing existing ones so they are in top shape for the celebration. Enhancements that beautify the Magic Kingdom and the other parks will also be included, as well as special 50th Anniversary-specific entertainment and shows.
It looks like Disney has shifted some focus away from making new attractions for the 50th, and instead wants to emphasize the existing attractions by bringing them up-to-date as much as possible. Some of the budget has now been moved into the “improvements” category.
In fact, it looks like Disney has already given a nickname to their infrastructure improvements and are calling it “Project Nugget.” This is a catchall for all the various construction and refurbishments related to the 50th Anniversary.
It’s important to note that we still don’t know which of these projects are getting the green light and which ones will have to way. Many were on the table before the closure of the parks and now might not go through due to a lack of time and money, and the many changes of leadership within Disney recently.
In any event, let’s look at some of the most talked-about rumors and what we potentially could see coming to the parks for the 50th.
- Cinderella Projection Lighting Package
- New Nighttime Parade
- Special Fireworks Show
- Big Thunder Mountain – special effects additions
- Jungle Cruise – scene updates
- Walt Disney World Railroad – scene enhancements
- Carousel of Progress – scene change
- It’s a Small World – Disney character addition
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – refurbishment
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – refurbishment
- Astro Orbiter – refurbishment
Since it is the Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary, and there is only one new attraction coming, Disney will take some time to refurbish some of the fan-favorite ones to make sure they are in the best shape possible.
They’ve been talking about adding special effects to the final show scene in Big Thunder Mountain with projection mapping effects like in the Disneyland version.
The Jungle Cruise, on the other hand, may get an update to reflect the new film with Dwane Johnson, though the film release has not got pushed back, so we are doubtful this will happen in time for the 50th.
More scene enhancements could be added to the Walt Disney World Railroad once it finally opens back up, and would be an easy addition since it will still be closed for at least most of 2021.
Both the Swiss Family Treehouse and Enchanted Tiki Room have been talked about, but we don’t have any specifics at this time about what could realistically change. The same with any updates to the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland.
The Carousel of Progress is one of our all-time favorite attractions and well-deserving of some much-needed attention. For years they’ve talked about updating the final show scene and bringing it more up-to-date technology-wise, so we’ll keep an eye on that.
One that I’m surprised hasn’t been worked in already since it’s already in Disneyland is adding the Disney characters to show scenes in It’s a Small World. As controversial as it was in Disneyland, we think it’s a good fit and a way to involve guests a bit more in the ride.
Maybe the biggest rumor, however, is a new nighttime parade for the Magic Kingdom. The park hasn’t had one since 2016, and 5 years is way too long for the premiere park in the biggest theme park destination in the world to not have a nighttime parade. Disney was supposedly seriously considering this before the closure, but now that probably isn’t going to happen.
As an alternative to a brand new nighttime parade in the Magic Kingdom, it looks like we might be getting “Paint the Night” to come over from Disneyland instead as a temporary option. The only snag is the “Mack” float from the Cars franchise, as it can’t do the Magic Kingdom parade route. Either a new float needs to be made, or they can just drop him from the show.
Disney has confirmed that Cinderella Castle is getting a new projection lighting package that will add ornaments, a special anniversary crest, and gold bunting, along with special effects.
Lastly, there have been two 50th Anniversary-specific shows announced, one at the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. In similar past celebrations, Disney has included a new fireworks show to celebrate and the same thing has happened here.
Disney Enchantment and Disney Harmonious have now permanently replaced Happily Ever After and EPCOT Forever. These two shows will hopefully last well beyond the 50th anniversary and into the rest of the decade.
More possibilities are new stage shows or a new dance party. We’ll have to see what develops in the coming months.
- Spaceship Earth Projection Lighting Package
- New World Showcase Country
- Journey Into Imagination Overhaul
Most of the updates coming to EPCOT for the 50th Anniversary have already been announced. The most common two you always hear are an update to the Journey Into Imagination ride and a new country finally coming to World Showcase.
At this point, I think both of these are off the table and won’t be built in time for the celebration. Out of the two, I think there was more of a chance to see a new country in World Showcase, but again, time and money are limiting factors and it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer.
The same goes for a Journey Into Imagination refurbishment. A re-do is definitely needed, but it just isn’t going to happen at this point. Besides these two, we aren’t hearing much else as EPCOT needs to just concentrate on the Future World overhaul and the new rides they are already building. Those should be more than enough if they are able to be done in time for the 50th.
- Tower of Terror – New Projection Lighting Package
- Tower of Terror – Ride Special Effects.
With all the enhancements to this park over the last few years, Hollywood Studios should be relatively quiet leading up to the big event. The only one that is definitely happening at this point is the new projection lighting package for the show on the outside of the Tower of Terror building.
We are also hoping for the rumored new special effects in the elevator shafts of the Tower of Terror ride, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
- New Daytime Show ‘Disney KiteTales’
- Tree of Life – New Projection Lighting Package
- Expedition Everest – Fixing the Yeti
When is Disney going to fix the Yeti? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. This one always gets talked about, but there are more pressing issues on hand and they won’t have the budget to get this one done by Disney’s 50th Anniversary.
What is confirmed is the new projection lighting show on the Tree of Life, similar to the projection lighting on the other park icons.
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge
With potentially fewer guests coming to Disney World in the next few years than originally planned new resort hotels would seemingly be at the bottom of the list for Disney to build. Already we’ve heard of one of these hotels is not going to be built in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration.
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel is the most anticipated one of the group, and we’ll have to see if the market is there for such a high-end experience. The plan is to open it in Spring 2022, during the 50th if everything goes well.
There is plenty of work going on right now at Disney’s Contemporary Resort as all the guest rooms are being reimagined to The Incredibles theme. Also, The Wave restaurant is being re-themed to a casual dining concept called Steakhouse 71.
The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve recently got a new name change, and the construction is moving forward as well. Technically not owned by Disney, we think it will be ready in Sumer 2021.
The construction on Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge is a mystery as Disney hasn’t come out and said officially that the project has been canceled the project. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to go forward since Disney won’t need more hotel rooms for a while.
The situation is strange since it was one of the only construction projects in Walt Disney World that continued during the park closures. It will probably get built eventually, but maybe not until 2023 or later.
Even if it’s not built, if you are coming down for Disney World’s 50th, there will still be plenty of new places to choose from!
Special Food for the 50th
Disney always does special event-themed food for whatever kind of celebration they are doing, and this might be the biggest and best they have ever done. In fact, there will be 150 themed food and beverage offerings for the 50th once the celebration kicks off.
Expect to see the iridescent rainbow colors on cupcakes, cookies, pastries, cakes, churros, pretzels, ice cream, dole whips, and just about any other Disney food item you can think of!
Click here for the full Disney World 50th Anniversary Food & Drink Guide.
50th Anniversary Merchandise
If you thought there is going to be a lot of food offerings, wait until you see all the Disney World 50th Anniversary merchandise that will be for sale in the parks!
You’ll see that same 50th Anniversary rainbow design and the logos on sweaters, t-shirts, hats, pants, mugs, sipper cups, MagicBands, and more. There is likely to be a lot of limited-edition merchandise too, which will make this event a Disney collector’s dream come true!
Disney will be revealing more info about the 50th Anniversary merchandise collection on August 6. In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of some of the items:
Possible Guest Promotions
Seeing as Disney will need something extra to get visitors to the parks for the 50th Anniversary, it’s not out of the question we see some kind of special promotion aimed at the guests which could enhance their time while visiting.
Remember when Disney ran the “Year of a Million Dreams” that ran from late 2006 all the way through 2008? It was a special promotion in which Disney World and Disneyland guests were randomly selected each day and given special privileges and prizes to make their trip even more magical.
The prizes included extra FastPasses, being the Grand Marshall in the parade, and even a night’s stay in Cinderella Castle or a free Disney vacation. That promotion brought a ton of buzz to the guests and it would be very smart on Disney’s part to do something similar for Disney World’s 50th.
I have no insider info on this and maybe they haven’t even thought of it yet, but it would be a great incentive for guests, offering them some “extras” to make their trip feel as special as this type of celebration should feel. Let’s hope Disney comes up with something similar here.
Disney World 50th Anniversary Touring Changes
With all these additions for the 50th coming to Walt Disney World, there are going to be some changes to how guests tour the parks as well.
Touring Disney World for the 50th Anniversary starts even before you leave for the airport. At the last D23 Expo the Disney Genie was announced, a digital vacation planning tool that will help guests make the most out of their trip.
It helps you create itineraries for the parks including attractions, food, etc, all based on your likes. That means you will get different suggestions based on if you are an adult, teenager, or have small children, and also the type of attractions and shows that appeal to you.
One big change is how you will get around to two of the theme parks on the Disney Skyliner Gondola system. This fun new Disney World transportation system brings guests to and from EPCOT and Hollywood Studios and directly connects them with 4 resort hotels. After many rides, this is now the most magical ride in the sky!
Once you get to the parks, there are going to be a lot of things that are different you will have to learn. The first up is the Disney Virtual Queuing System and Boarding Groups. Disney launched this with Galaxy’s Edge back in 2019, and it will be crucial now with guests having to keep distances from each other.
The Virtual Queue allows you to hold a place in line for an attraction, while not having to actually wait in the line all that time. Disney will most likely be rolling this out to many different attractions and it will help when the parks get fuller during the 50th Anniversary celebration.
Guests will also have to be aware of other safety measures that could be in place during the 50th. Such things include facial recognition at the park entrances instead of fingerprint scanners, using face masks, and finding hand sanitizer stations in Disney World.
Read our post about the Disney World Reopening for all the potential changes guests will have to be aware of as they are visiting.
When Can I Book Disney Hotels for 2021?
Of course, there will be plenty of deals to get visitors to visit Walt Disney World again during the Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration, so you may be wondering: “When can I book Disney hotels for 2021?”
The good news is the answer to that question is: NOW! Walt Disney World vacation packages and hotel rooms are now available for booking through December 31, 2021, which is in time for the start of Disney’s 50th celebration.
Typically, you can book a Walt Disney World Resort hotel room 499 days before the desired booking date. That means if you are planning to be in Disney World during the celebration on October 1, 2021, normally you would be able to start booking your trip around Late-May 2020. Those looking to book Disney World Vacation Package would usually be able to shortly after that.
This time, however, Disney waited a bit longer to release reservations, and getting the plans straight took longer than normal.
Now that you can start booking, the best advice I can give you is to not delay in making your reservation. Hotel availability is already disappearing quickly for the Disney World 50th Anniversary, especially in October close to the actual date.
Make these reservations as soon as you can.
If you need help planning your Disney Vacation you can contact René from Show You the World Travel for all your trip planning needs. All of the agents there are certified Disney Travel Agents and are super helpful with all your planning needs. I highly recommend them and the best part about it is they are FREE to use!
Disney Park Passes Selling Out for 50th Anniversary Day Celebration
The problem is not only hotel availability, but also park reservations are hard to get.
Disney Park Pass reservations came online not too long ago for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, but you better book yours soon as celebration day availability is already filling up.
While the 50th celebration will be an event lasting many months, if you planned on going to the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021 (the day of the actual celebration) you might not be able to get in depending on what type of ticket-holder you are.
Right now park passes for all guests are 100% sold out, which you need to get into the park that day. That’s not to say that Disney won’t make more available in the future. They have already added more park pass inventory multiple times for October 1. This happens as they increase park capacity, which could happen more between now and October 1.
If you are planning to go during the 50th Anniversary, especially during the actual week of the anniversary, we suggest you start booking your hotel today as we are expecting hotel capacity to increase by then and most likely sell-out.
If you want to go to the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021, you will have to be patient and wait for more availability to possibly open up. We suggest booking your trip for that week as well as a different park for October 1. Then, keep checking for availability at Disney’s Magic Kingdom and see what happens.
We’ll update you soon with more info. In the meantime, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
When is the Best Time to Go During the 50th Anniversary?
The only thing left to figure out is when the best time to go to Disney World during the 50th Anniversary is. Again, the actual date of the 50th Anniversary is October 1, 2021. That doesn’t mean however that you HAVE to plan your trip around that date. The festivities are going to last for 18 months, so there is plenty of time to visit and you aren’t locked into one date.
You will find useful one post that we wrote recently which covers the best year to go to Disney World and what it will look like in 2021, 2022, and beyond.
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself if you are more interested in the 50th Anniversary for the celebration and history of the event, or for the new attractions and additions that will be happening around the resort during that time.
If you are a life-long Disney fan and care about the history and meaning behind the event, then I would suggest you be in Disney World for the actual anniversary on October 1, 2021. There will be plenty of fanfare, an amazing ceremony, and probably plenty of Disney celebrities will be in attendance for the event. It will be an incredible moment to be a part of in Disney history.
There are a couple of downsides though if you plan your trip around Late-September/October 2021. The first is the crowds around that time are going to be insane. You will probably see “Christmas-like level” crowds (as long as park capacity is increased) which means expensive prices and long waits for attractions in every park you go to, not just the Magic Kingdom.
The second is that many of the new attractions we talked about and are looking forward to might not be ready by October 1, 2021, which means you won’t get to see them until your next trip. Now, that might be alright for you if you come to Walt Disney World on a regular basis, but if it is your first visit or you only come every few years, you might want to think about waiting until some of the bigger attractions are ready.
Sure, waiting means you’ll miss out on the ceremony, but if it means avoiding higher prices and record crowds, it might be worth it to go later during the anniversary. All the entertainment, shows, etc will still be around in 2022, so you won’t be missing too much.
Now, if the history of the whole thing doesn’t really interest you and you are looking to go to the 50th Anniversary just at the best overall time, your strategy will be different.
Best time for Price and Crowds – There is no doubt that the 50th Anniversary celebration is going to be busy, but there are some times that are good both for price and crowds. After all, finding the Cheapest Time to Go to Disney World is important to many guests.
Similar to any year, if you go to Disney right after the Thanksgiving holiday is over, into the beginning of December it should be good since there is a slight pause between the two holiday periods.
Lastly, if you can wait all the way until August or September 2022, that should be another low crowd time during the 50th Anniversary celebration. The weather will be hot, but you are bound to find some good deals compared to the rest.
Best time for the New Attractions – Right now there is so much up in the air about the new Disney World attractions currently under construction that we can’t say with any certainty when they will be ready. We will say that the later you go, the more likely new rides are to be open.
If you go in October 2021, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be open, but none of the big roller coasters are guaranteed right now. In that case, we think going in 2022 is your best option. Most of the major new rides that have been announced already should be open by Summer 2022 in our estimation, and if you can wait until September 2022, even better.
To help you figure out the best time to go to Disney World during the 50th Anniversary, you should read our Disney World Crowd Calendar. There, we tell you when the most and least crowded times of the year are and do a month-by-month comparison.
Planning to Go on October 1st?
Going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom for the official anniversary on October 1, 2021, is the ultimate Disney fan’s dream. You will be able to buy a whole bunch of limited 50th Anniversary merchandise and even see the dedication ceremony live and in person. Though it sounds amazing, there are some things to consider if you decide to go.
Be prepared to get up early and deal with heavy crowds throughout the whole day. First, you’ll have to decide if you want to go to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
Long-time Disney World-goers will want to be in the Magic Kingdom on this most special of days and to celebrate in all the festivities there. On the other hand, EPCOT has a new ride opening up plus more new marketplaces at the Food & Wine Festival. Oh, did I mention each park has a brand new extravagant fireworks show starting on October 1?
All this means both parks going to be packed to the limit. This will be like Christmas Day crowds but to a whole other level and the park will close to capacity early in the day.
Now, it’s not impossible, but you’re going to have to wake up early to get inside either one. At the Magic Kingdom, I would plan on arriving no later than 5:00 a.m. to be on the safe side since Disney will most likely open the gates much earlier than will be publicized due to the high crowds that will be waiting outside.
Next, you’re going to have to decide what your priority is when visiting each park. At the Magic Kingdom, the two main reasons you’ll want to be there are for the special 50th Anniversary merchandise or to see the ceremony in front of Cinderella Castle. You won’t be able to do both most likely, so you’ll have to choose.
In EPCOT you’ll want to get in line immediately for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure since lines could potentially get as long as 4-5 hours or more.
Whichever, park you choose, make sure to finish off your night watching one of the fireworks shows, either Disney Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom or Disney Harmonious in EPCOT.
In general, because of the massive crowds, it won’t be a good day to ride the attractions. If that is your priority, you are going at the wrong time of the year and we suggest you pick another date. If you, however, want to experience a piece of Walt Disney World history and maybe bring some home with you, then you want to be in the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021.
We are really looking forward to Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and even though there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding it right now, it still will be an amazing event, and a great time to visit the parks.
We look forward to seeing what Disney has in store and how the park closures will affect the event. Even if it won’t be exactly how it could have been, we are sure there will be some amazing food, merchandise, entertainment options, new attractions, and a few magical surprises along the way.
Stay tuned as we fill you in as soon as Disney reveals more about the celebration!
If you are going to Disney World soon, make sure to read our Disney World Planning Guide for all the tips and info you will need to cover everything! Also, check out our Disney World Crowd Calendar so you know when the best time to visit is!
I want to know what you think about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration…
- Which changes are you most looking forward to?
- Are you going to Disney World during the 50th Anniversary?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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