LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - On Friday, October 1st, 2021, Walt Disney World kicked off ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration,’ an 18-month commemoration of the last 50 years of operations at the Florida resort.
FOX 35 marked the milestone anniversary with a look back at history, diving into what Central Florida was like before the Disney parks debuted, how much tickets cost when Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, how things have evolved at the resort throughout the last five decades, and more.
This is just the start for Walt Disney World. There are still many attractions, shows, and experiences coming to the Florida resort and we are taking a look at what comes next.
From running through the streets of Paris, to exploring planets in space, or heading down to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras celebration, Walt Disney World plans to open several new attractions in the coming years that will immerse guests into rich environments full of fun and fantasy.
For example, Disney said that ‘Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’ opened at Epcot on the first day of the 50th anniversary celebration. The new attraction is based on Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animation, ‘Ratatouille.’
They said that riders are transported to a version of Paris that feels straight out of the animated film, especially as the attraction is located in the newly-expanded France pavilion inside Epcot. Those onboard will feel like they have been shrunk to the size of Chef Remy as they scurry through Gusteau’s famous restaurant on a wild adventure.
That is just the first of several new attractions slated to come to Epcot. Disney announced in August 2019 that the park would undergo the "biggest transformation of any Disney park in history" over several years, bringing in new attractions, restaurants, and experiences. Starting October 1st, 2021, Epcot will be unified by four neighborhoods: World Showcase, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration.
Another attraction that is a part of this massive expansion is the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind’ coaster. Disney said the ride will debut sometime in 2022. They described the attraction as a "family-friendly ‘storytelling coaster’ that will feature a groundbreaking ride system with vehicles that rotate 360 degrees and can even do a reverse launch."
Riders will reportedly begin their adventure in the ‘Galaxarium,’ a planetarium-like exhibition that explores Earth’s galaxy and Xandar, a planet from Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films. They will go on to learn about the treasures found there but are interrupted when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive.
Disney explained that each individual cab in the attraction’s OmniCoaster ride system will direct your eyes to the story happening around you. Instead of whizzing by the action, the system will fully immerse you in the story from the minute you take off."
Also coming to Epcot is ‘Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.’ The experience is said to be an exploration trail where guests can interact with "magical, living water." It is the company's first park experience based on the hit animation.
"Just like Moana’s friend the ocean, water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way," Disney said.
Journey of Water, Inspired by "Moana" at Epcot will be the first attraction inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. (Photo by Disney Parks Blog)
While an opening date has not yet been released, Disney did confirm that it is coming to the ‘World Nature’ neighborhood of the park.
Then, over at Magic Kingdom, a classic Disney attraction is being reimagined: ‘Splash Mountain’ is being re-themed to ‘The Princess and the Frog’ — a Walt Disney animation that features Princess Tiana and her friends. The change was announced in 2020 and an opening date has not yet been released.
Disney explained that the ride, which is set in 1966 New Orleans, will pick up after the final kiss of the film. Naveen and Louis will join Tiana on her latest adventure and host a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration. Original music inspired by the songs from the film will be used as riders encounter both old and new characters.
Princess and the Frog art (Photo from DisneyParks Blog)
"Tiana invites us as her guests to go on an adventure with her in the bayou," said Charita Carter, Senior Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "We as the guests are active participants in this adventure. She acknowledges us and being the witty person she is she takes us on this amazing journey where we get to discover not only characters we know and love from the film but this is an opportunity to be introduced to some new characters."
Carter added, "the adventure ends with the ultimate Mardi Gras party because if Tiana is throwing a party, it's the ultimate party."
Also coming to Magic Kingdom is ‘Tron Lightcycle Power Run.’ The attraction is currently being built inside Tomorrowland, right next to Space Mountain. It is based on the original version of the ride at Shanghai Disneyland.
A thrilling, Tron-themed attraction will be added in a new area near Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom. (Photo from Disney)
The ride vehicles are said to be ‘Lightcycles’ instead of rockets. One person sits on a Lightcycle but they are linked together so that riders sit next to each other. They face forward and are sent on a thrilling journey.
Tron Lightcycle Power Run, Shanghai Disneyland (Photo from Disney)
Tron Lightcycle Power Run, Shanghai Disneyland (Photo from Disney)
While the rides at Walt Disney World are thrilling, the Florida resort is also known for its spectacular shows. Several new ones will debut in the coming years, many of which debuted on the first night of ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration.’
At Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, the ‘Disney Enchantment’ firework show began on October 1st, lighting up the night sky and kicking off the 50th anniversary fun. Disney said that the show features fireworks, Disney music, enhanced lighting, immersive projection effects that extend for the first time down Main Street, U.S.A., and an original song, entitled ‘You Are the Magic,’ by seven-time Grammy-winner Philip Lawrence.
"Since opening day in 1971, dazzling fireworks shows have provided that perfect exclamation point at the end of a fantastic day at Magic Kingdom Park," said Mark Renfrow, Show Director, Disney Live Entertainment. "From ‘Fantasy in the Sky’ and ‘Wishes’ to holiday spectaculars and ‘Happily Ever After,’ each new show has raised the bar, and the best is yet to come! I can’t wait for everyone to see what we’re creating with ‘Disney Enchantment.’"
Featured in the show are reportedly be iconic Disney characters, moments, and music from both Disney and Pixar films. For instance, spectators will join Tiana, Rapunzel, and ‘Onward’ brothers Ian and Barley as they set out on a journey with adventurers like Moana, Raya, and Judy Hopps.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek (left) and Executive Chairman Bob Iger (right) re-dedicate Walt Disney World Resort in front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sept. 30, 2021, on the eve of the vacation destination’s 50th ann
"Joe Gardner from Disney and Pixar’s ‘Soul’ takes us into ‘the zone,’ where we discover a whimsical world inspired by the style of legendary Disney artist Mary Blair and filled with beloved characters from classic stories like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to contemporary tales including ‘Luca’ and 'Wreck-It Ralph," Disney explained. "Everything builds to a climactic moment, as Tinker Bell takes flight, spreading shimmering gold pixie dust and empowering us all to believe in ourselves and the magic all around us."
Then, at Epcot, another stunning show debuted on October 1st: ‘HarmonioUS.’ Described as the "largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park," the show will celebrate Disney music and feature familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by artists from around the world. Massive set pieces, custom-build LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, and lasers will bring the spectacular to life.
"This new show will bring the globe together at World Showcase Lagoon in a celebration of Disney music that inspires people worldwide," Disney added. They said that the show will "invite you to travel the globe through new interpretations of classic Disney songs as you’ve never heard them before, reimagined in more than a dozen languages by a diverse group of 240 artists."
For those looking for some daytime excitement, Disney said that the ‘Disney KiteTails’ debuted at the Discovery River Amphitheater at Animal Kingdom on October 1st as well. Several times a day, performers fly windcatchers and kites in a gala performance set to original, worldbeat arrangements of favorite Disney songs. The show features a collection of colorful oversized props and kites. Some moments will even take place over water, as kites up to 30-feet-long of Disney's animal friends fly.
Other kites to expect are of characters from ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘A Bug’s Life,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘The Lion King,’ and ‘The Jungle Book.’
"Disney KiteTails" coming to Animal Kingdom (Disney)
"From one performance to another, you may see Baloo the bear dancing in the sky or Zazu the red-billed hornbill chasing after Simba. These remarkable kites, some as large as 30 feet in length, are inflated by moving through the air, allowing characters like King Louie or Timon and Pumbaa to soar like never before," Disney explained.
Over at Disney Springs, a new Cirque du Soleil show will debut at the iconic white tent theater on November 18th, 2021. Titled ‘Drawn to Life,’ Disney said that the show is a live acrobatic journey that tells the story of Julie — a girl who discovers that her Disney animator father left behind an unfinished animation. She dives into the world of animation, guided by a pencil, and embarks on a quest that features ten acrobatic acts, pieces of iconic Disney films, and all-new Disney creations.
Photo from Walt Disney World
The show is said to be family-friendly and takes inspiration from Disney’s 100-year heritage of animation. It brings innovative design, acrobatic performances, choreography, musical scores, and animation together for a magical experience. It was created through collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Imagineering. It features 64 cast members performing Tuesday through Saturday.
In addition, the show was written and directed by Michel Laprise, will have Fabrice Becker as the Director of Creation, and features art led by Eric Goldberg — the man best known for characters like ‘Genie’ in the animated classic, ‘Aladdin.’
Photo from Walt Disney World
"I think guests will be amazed to see how the magic of Cirque du Soleil and the art of Walt Disney Animation Studios have come together to bring life to classic and current characters like Baloo, Baymax, and Cinderella in ways that no one has ever imagined," Goldberg explained.
Tickets for Drawn to Life are on sale now at cirquedusoleil.com/drawntolife.
To go along with the rides and shows, Disney has several new experiences for park guests to enjoy.
For example, debuting on October 19 is ‘Disney Genie.’ Disney described the new service as "a complementary and convenient new digital service" to help park guests better plan their day. It is built right into the My Disney Experience app and helps enhance the park experience for both first-timers and seasoned pros.
When users launch the My Disney Experience app and open the Disney Genie service, they will have the opportunity to share what they would like to do while at the parks that day.
"You can plan specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, and special interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more," Disney said.
From there, Disney Genie will provide a personalized itinerary that maps out the day ahead. It will be updated for the user throughout their park visit.
Some of the features launching on Tuesday include:
- Tailored recommendations: Disney said that users will receive attraction and dining recommendations inspired by the interests selected for the day. For example, it will display what times to go to an experience and an idea of the forecasted wait. Recommendations can be swapped out and new suggestions will appear throughout the day.
- A personalized daily itinerary: In the "My Day" tab will reportedly be Disney Genie recommendations and any plans made, including dining reservations, Disney Resort hotel reservations, and activity bookings. Users can also chat with a cast member about questions they have.
- A custom tip board: This is a new feature that is said to let users see estimated wait times for top attractions, entertainment, and dining options. Users can order food, make dining reservations, check into a restaurant, request to join a virtual queue, and for those who purchase the Disney Genie+ service, book arrival times for new Lightning Lane entrances at select experiences.
Disney Genie itself is a complimentary service, allowing users to get the most out of their day through recommendations, a personalized itinerary, and other tips for free. However, there are paid features that can enhance the park experience even more, like the Disney Genie+ service.
Disney Genie+ costs $15 per ticket per day and it allows guests to go through ‘Lightning Lane’ entrances at over 40 attractions and experiences throughout the four Walt Disney World parks.
Disney said that only one selection can be made at a time throughout the day. Users will choose from a range of Lightning Lane arrival windows at the park — or parks for those with park hopper tickets — that they are visiting that day. Those using Disney Genie+ can make their first selection at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit.
However, some of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World are not included in the $15 Disney Genie+ service and must be purchased a la carte in order to use the Lighting Lane entrances. Users can only make two a la carte purchases per person per day. Prices vary by date, attraction, and park, but range between $7 to $15 per person per ride.
Disney said that individual Lightning Lane purchases can be made on the day of the user’s visit at the regular time the park they are visiting opens. Those staying at Disney Resort hotels and select other hotels — Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and Shades of Green — can make their first a la carte purchase at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit.
The attractions included in the $15 Disney Genie+ service are:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Haunted Mansion
- "It’s a small world"
- Jungle Cruise
- Mad Tea Party
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Splash Mountain
- The Barnstormer
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
- Kali River Rapids
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Na’vi River Journey
- The Animation Experience
- Feathered Friends in Flight!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- Disney Jr. Play and Dance!
- Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (opening December 19th)
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Toy Story Mania
- Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Living with the Land
- Mission: SPACE (Green and Orange)
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
The Walt Disney World attractions that have individual Lightning Lane entrances that must be purchased a la carte are:
- Space Mountain
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Frozen Ever After
Disney confirmed that users do not need to purchase the Disney Genie+ service to take advantage of Lightning Lanes at attractions that can be purchased a la carte.
For example, if a user just wants to purchase Lightning Lane access for ‘Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance,’ they do not need to pay $15 for the Disney Genie+ service. They can just pay a one-time fee for that individual attraction.
RISE OF THE RESISTANCE -- Disney guests will traverse the corridors of a Star Destroyer and join an epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance – including a face-off with Kylo Ren – when Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens Dec. 5, 201
Note that Disney said that once users make an individual ride reservation, they will not be allowed to modify, change, or cancel it. This means that if they miss their time slot for an attraction, they will not be refunded.
Those who pay for the Disney Genie+ service can also take advantage of the new Disney PhotoPass Lenses and Audio Tales. The Disney PhotoPass Lenses are said to allow users to explore new augmented reality effects on their phones. Meanwhile, the Audio Tales feature gives fun facts and behind-the-scenes insights to users while they explore the parks.
Remember: The Disney Genie+ service is optional and the traditional Disney Genie service, which does not grant access to Lightning Lane entrances, can be used free of charge. Attractions across the Walt Disney World Resort will continue to offer traditional standby queues or virtual queues at certain rides like ‘Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.'
Another innovative experience coming to Walt Disney World soon is the ‘MagicBand+.’ The new wearable technology will keep the popular features that guests already love from their current MagicBands while adding in new features to make the experience even better.
"MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations and gesture recognition," Disney said.
Some experiences that guests wearing a MagicBand+ will get to take advantage of are:
- Play like a bounty hunter at ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ in Hollywood Studios and find virtual bounties throughout Black Spire Outpost.
- Interact with the "Disney Fab 50 Character Collection," the golden sculptures spread throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks.
- Experience nighttime spectaculars in a new way as you see your band light up and complement the magic in the skies.
Disney said that these will go on sale at the beginning of next year. Disney resort hotel guests and new and renewing annual passholders will be eligible for a discounted, pre-arrival price.
Disney fans at home or at resort hotels can soon utilize a new project between Amazon and Disney called ‘Hey, Disney!’
"We’ve created our own custom assistant, using Disney stories, characters and more – all built on Amazon’s Alexa technology," Disney said. "Whether you’re at home or in one of our Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms, soon you’ll be able to use an Echo device to interact with your favorite Disney, Pixar or Star Wars characters."
While more details are expected later, Disney explained that the resource will make your vacation "easier, more meaningful, and more fun."
Then, opening to the public on March 1st, 2022, will be the 'Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser' hotel — a one-of-a-kind experience aboard a Star Wars ship for two nights. Guests arrive and depart together, similar to a cruise ship.
Disney explained that when guests get to the resort, they will enter a terminal and "blast off" from a launchpad onto the ship. Inside, they can gaze into space and meet some of their favorite characters from the iconic film franchise. When it is time to visit the parks, they will be transported to 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' at Hollywood Studios. The Galactic Starcruiser will also have all kinds of activities onboard, like lightsaber training and droid racing.
Photos from Disney Parks Blog
The resort is said to look like a spaceship and each "cabin" can sleep up to five people. Every window of the galactic hotel is said to have "a view of the galaxy beyond, with ever-changing vistas as the ship progresses from place to place." There are 100 cabins onboard and three categories of cabins to choose from: the Standard Cabin, the Galaxy Class Suite, and the Grand Captain Suite.
Disney said that prices vary by departure date, the number of guests in your cabin, and your cabin type.
They listed the following sample prices:
- 2 guests per cabin: $1,209 per guest per night or $4,809 voyage total
- 3 guests per cabin (2 adults, 1 child): $889 per guest per night or $5,299 voyage total
- 4 guests per cabin (3 adults, 1 child): $749 per guest per night or $5,999 voyage total
Photo by DisneyParks Blog
Photo by DisneyParks Blog
Also included in your purchase is admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, valet parking, an exclusive ‘Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser’ MagicBand, and food and beverages on the Galactic Starcruiser and at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo or other select locations at Hollywood Studios. Alcoholic drinks and specialty beverages are excluded from this.
Itineraries can be viewed in the ‘Star Wars: Datapad’ in the Play Disney Parks app 30 days before your voyage departure date. Disney encourages guests to dress their galactic best with Star Wars clothing. Themed apparel will also be available in advance from shopDisney or on the ship.
General bookings for the ‘Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser’ hotel will open on October 28th, 2021.
The World’s Most Magical Celebration began on October 1st, 2021, and goes for 18 months. New experiences will debut throughout the entire theme park resort. For more of what you need to know, check out ‘What to expect during Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration’ by FOX 35.
In addition, watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest theme park updates.