Walt Disney World Resort kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations on Oct. 1 with a magical lineup of new attractions and special events that will span 18 months.
Shining at the centre of it all is Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park, welcoming guests with gleaming gold bunting, sparkling golden embellishments, a 50th anniversary crest and other enhancements inspired by the art of Disney Legend Mary Blair.
"It is a thrill to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World and the extraordinary cast members and Imagineers who bring the resort to life every day and create magical moments for our guests," said Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, on Friday. "As we look to the next 50 years and beyond, we are inspired to continually reinvent the way we tell stories, and to use technology to immerse guests deeper into the story worlds they love so much."
Expanded EPCOT France Pavilion
The Oct. 1 grand opening of Remy's Ratatouille Adventure invites guests into the world of Disney and Pixar's Academy Award-winning film "Ratatouille."
In this family-friendly attraction, guests feel as if they shrink to the size of Chef Remy and scurry through Gusteau's famous restaurant.
They discover Remy's Ratatouille Adventure in World Showcase as part of a newly expanded France pavilion, where the real is made fantastic in a reimagining of Paris inspired by the film.
Also debuting Oct. 1 in this expanded section of the pavilion is a delicious new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris, offering both table- and quick-service options.
The attraction, restaurant and pavilion expansion are all part of the transformation of EPCOT currently underway.
Nighttime spectacular "Harmonious"
"Harmonious," one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park, debuted Oct. 1 at EPCOT.
This new show brings the globe together at World Showcase Lagoon in a celebration of Disney music that inspires people worldwide.
"It is a grand, powerful tribute to the unifying power of story and song, embracing new technical magic that incorporates pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting, massive LED panels and media in new ways," the company said.
"Harmonious" features new interpretations of classic Disney songs in more than a dozen languages, performed by a diverse group of 240 artists from around the world, including Luis Fonsi, Joy, Danny Gokey, and the Ndlovu Youth Choir.
"Disney Enchantment" lights up Magic Kingdom Park
Joining "Harmonious" with an Oct. 1 debut is another new nighttime spectacular, "Disney Enchantment," at Magic Kingdom Park.
Created to launch with "The World's Most Magical Celebration," this evening extravaganza takes guests on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment. Inspiring everyone to believe in magic, "Disney Enchantment" features stunning fireworks, powerful music, enhanced lighting and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.
The show's stirring soundtrack is anchored by an emotional original song, "You Are the Magic," written and performed by multiple Grammy winner Philip Lawrence, whose musical career began as a Disney cast member performing in Walt Disney World shows.
Beacons of Magic
During the 50th anniversary celebration, icons at Walt Disney World theme parks transform at night into magnificent Beacons of Magic, coming to life with their own EARidescent glow.
- Cinderella Castle illuminates Magic Kingdom Park with a dazzling radiance and pixie-dust sparkle.
- At Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light emanates from the Tree of Life as fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
- The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney's Hollywood Studios is awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
- And at EPCOT, new lights shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth. The iconic structure's permanent new lighting will continue beyond "The World's Most Magical Celebration" as a defining feature of the park.
"Disney KiteTails" takes flight
New daytime entertainment is stirring at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, as "Disney KiteTails" comes alive several times daily beginning Oct. 1 at the Discovery River theatre.
Performers fly windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water elaborate three-dimensional kites – some stretching to 30 feet long – depict Disney animal friends, including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie.
These colourful creations dance through the sky to the beat of favourite Disney songs in an uplifting, vibrant experience for the whole family.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Two of the most highly anticipated new experiences at Walt Disney World Resort will debut in 2022.
On March 1, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will immerse its first official guests in a galaxy far, far away by going beyond anything Disney has created before. Guests become the heroes of their own stories during a two-night adventure where they see, feel and live Star Wars. General bookings for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser begin Oct. 28, 2021.
Also opening in 2022 as part of the historic transformation of EPCOT, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be the park's first "other-world" showcase pavilion.
The family-friendly adventure features a new storytelling coaster that rotates 360 degrees to focus guests on the action, including the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. Guests will learn more about the treasures Xandar has to share – until the moment when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, and guests go on an intergalactic chase through space and time!
In 2013, Walt Disney World Resort introduced the MagicBand, a revolutionary way to make the guest experience in its theme parks and resorts more convenient and hands-free.
The next-generation MagicBand+ will debut at Walt Disney World in 2022, adding new functionality to unlock experiential moments of magic.
After a guest enters a Walt Disney World theme park, MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with colour-changing lights, haptic vibrations and gesture recognition.
The wearable will allow guests to engage with favourite Disney moments in new ways and discover new interactive experiences, including:
- Play like a bounty hunter in a galaxy far, far away and find virtual bounties throughout Black Spire Outpost in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- 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 they see their bands light up and complement the magic in the skies, including the new "Harmonious" at EPCOT and "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom Park.
Current MagicBands will continue to be available, as well, along with the complimentary Disney MagicMobile service that extends MagicBand features, such as park entry, to smart devices.
"Hey Disney!" adds magic to Amazon Alexa & Echo
Disney is creating its own custom voice assistant using Alexa technology for supported Amazon Echo devices.
Called "Hey Disney!", it will work alongside Alexa to respond to vocal prompts, bringing Disney characters and stories to life in magical new ways to make guest stays at Walt Disney World Resort more convenient, engaging and enjoyable.
"Hey Disney!" will begin rolling out in Disney Resort hotel guest rooms across Walt Disney World in 2022.
Access will be offered as an optional, complimentary feature during guest stays.
"Hey Disney!" will make the services Alexa users know and love – weather forecasts, timers, alarms, etc. – magical with the help of popular characters such as Mickey Mouse, Olaf, C-3PO and many more.
"Hey Disney!" also features an all-new character, the Disney Magical Companion, who will help guests discover more than a thousand magical interactions. Disney Resort guests will be able to learn helpful information about their vacation, order room amenities and more.
"Hey Disney!" will also be available for purchase for supported Amazon Echo devices via the Amazon Alexa Skills store, inviting Disney fans to make every day at home more magical.
In addition, Amazon is announcing the availability of two new exclusive Mickey-inspired stands for the Echo Show 5; these durable OtterBox Den Series stands feature the iconic Mickey ears in playful designs inspired by either Mickey's 50th anniversary celebration outfit (which will be found in Disney Resort hotel rooms) or his classic red shorts.
Golden "Disney Fab 50" sculptures
New "Disney Fab 50 Character Collection" golden sculptures are spread across the four Walt Disney World theme parks in honour of the 50th anniversary.
Fifty characters are featured in total, including Miguel and Dante from Disney and Pixar's "Coco" at EPCOT; BB-8 and R2-D2 from Star Wars at Disney's Hollywood Studios; Simba, Timon and Pumba from "The Lion King" at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park; and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse – dedicated to Walt Disney World cast members – at Magic Kingdom Park.
And beginning in 2022, guests will be able to use the new MagicBand+ to interact with these statues in fun and surprising ways as part of the 50th anniversary celebration.
Celebratory food & drinks
During its 50th anniversary celebration, Walt Disney World once again demonstrates how food and drinks can be key ingredients for a fun day at The Most Magical Place on Earth.
New menu items for the celebration offer nods to the resort's past while pushing culinary adventures to exciting new places.
These include theme park classics and some of Walt Disney's favourite items, along with novel dishes and sips full of colour, whimsy and a touch of EARidescent shimmer.
Of the 150-plus new items available, examples include:
- Cheese Fries with Walt's Chili at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
- Filet Mignon with Walt's Hash at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Mission to Mars burger at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Magic Kingdom Park
- EARidescent Croissant Doughnut at EPCOT
- EARidescent Ice Dream Cone at Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park
- 50th Celebration Ganache Chocolate Bar at The Ganachery in Disney Springs
- 50th Celebration Soufflé at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Magical Beacon Cocktail, found at many table-service restaurants, lounges and pool bars at Walt Disney World
Novelty items developed for the celebration, including popcorn buckets, mugs and sippers, are now available and continue to roll out across Walt Disney World throughout "The World's Most Magical Celebration."
Guests will discover new merchandise collections launching in October and November 2021 as part of the celebration.
These new items include apparel, accessories, plush, homeware, keepsakes, collectibles and much more, in several different collections:
- The Celebration Collection includes a wide-ranging assortment of commemorative merchandise for the whole family.
- Drawing inspiration from Cinderella Castle, the Disney Castle Collection features everything from collectibles – such as ornaments and charms – to castle-inspired attire and a light-up, 50th anniversary-edition Minnie Mouse ear headband.
- Disney fans and those who love all things vintage will be eager to unlock the Vault Collection that pays tribute to 50 years of Walt Disney World magic with an assortment of retro-themed designs right out of the Walt Disney Archives.
- In line with new décor seen across Walt Disney World during the 50th anniversary celebration, the EARidescent Collection features a shimmering array of themed fashions and accessories.
- As the name implies, the Luxe Logo Collection offers a range of upscale pieces for the Disney collector.
"Drawn to Life" premiers Nov. 18
Drawn to Life, the new family-friendly show coming to Disney Springs, is an original creative collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering.
Premiering Nov. 18, 2021, during "The World's Most Magical Celebration," Drawn to Life is a live acrobatic journey telling the story of Julie, a determined girl who discovers an unexpected gift left by her Disney animator father: an unfinished animation.
As she dives into the inner world of animation guided by a surprising pencil, Julie embarks on an inspiring quest filled with her childhood Disney memories, brought to life through Cirque du Soleil's innovative design and dazzling performances.
Tickets are available at cirquedusoleil.com/drawntolife.
Space 2020 Restaurant at EPCOT
In an expansion of the Mission: SPACE pavilion at EPCOT, the new Space 220 Restaurant is a culinary experience offering the celestial panorama of a space station, including daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles above the planet's surface.
Guests board a space elevator for a simulated journey to the Centauri Space Station, where they experience the "height of dining." Once they arrive, guests enjoy meals and drinks while taking in views that are truly out of this world.
Original Walt Disney World Resort add new pixie dust
Walt Disney Imagineering is continuing to enhance the storytelling at the vacation destination's two original Disney Resort hotels, part of the Disney Resorts Collection.
All guest rooms in the iconic A-frame tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort are being completely refurbished, blending a sleek Monorail motif evoking Tomorrowland with some favorite characters from Pixar Animation Studios' Incredibles films. In the lobby, guests see a collection of modern art pieces as well as historical, behind-the-scenes photographs of Disney's Contemporary Resort in development and under construction.
The resort's lobby restaurant is aptly renamed Steakhouse 71, offering a reimagined dining experience just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration.
Guest rooms were recently reimagined at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort with a colour palette inspired by the Pacific Ocean and its necklace of islands.
Their fresh new look draws on the details, textures and patterns found in Disney's "Moana," with characters and references to the film's rich storytelling.
The resort also boasts a dramatic new porte cochere to enhance the arrival experience as guests pull up to its Great Ceremonial House.
"The Magic Is Calling"
"The Magic Is Calling," an inspiring new song written especially for the 50th anniversary, can be heard in a variety of ways during the 18-month celebration.
Platinum-selling songwriter and music producer Alana Da Fonseca and Nashville-based songwriter and producer Bobby Studley created the original song, collaborating with award-winning composer Emily Bear and singing phenom Journi.
Da Fonseca and Studley's pop-music style, Bear's soaring orchestrations and Journi's magical vocal performance come together to create a song that is at once nostalgic, inspirational and contemporary.
The new song calls all guests to join in the celebration, including at night when icons at each theme park transform into Beacons of Magic.
"The Magic Is Calling" is also included in special live entertainment moments across Walt Disney World, such as during "Mickey's Celebration Cavalcade" at Magic Kingdom Park, or performances by the Dapper Dans (Magic Kingdom Park), Discovery Island Drummers (Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park) and Voices of Liberty (EPCOT).
"The Magic Is Calling" is available on the Walt Disney World playlist through Disney Music Group beginning Oct. 1, 2021.
Many of the fun and convenient forms of complimentary Walt Disney World transportation receive special 50th anniversary décor during the celebration.
Guests may ride in sparkling style with new artwork added to select Disney Skyliner cabins, Disney Transportation buses and a golden Monorail train.
Each Monorail train also receives special nighttime enhancements for the 50th anniversary with the addition of glowing lights that match each train's specific colour, spreading magic everywhere the Monorail runs across Walt Disney World.
Electrical water pageant adds 50th anniversary shimmer
A 50-year tradition, the Electrical Water Pageant sails nightly across Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, delighting guests at nearby Disney Resort hotels with music and lights in a floating parade.
For the 50th anniversary celebration, the show will add new whimsy with a towering castle, swirling pixie dust and a version of the celebration anthem "The Magic Is Calling, recorded in the pageant's iconic electro-synth-magnetic sound.
Mickey, Minnie & friends dress for the occasion
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale – otherwise known as the "EARidescent 8" – dress in sparkling new looks, custom-made for this special occasion.
Highlights of these celebratory designs include beautifully embroidered impressions of Cinderella Castle backed by fireworks, as well as a brocade in multi-toned, EARidescent fabric – all punctuated with pops of gold. Disney characters will also make appearances at Disney Resort hotels, dressed in their EARidescent best.
Mickey and Minnie are the hosts of "The World's Most Magical Celebration," joined by Walt Disney World cast members at the heart of this event.
For more information about Walt Disney World Resort and "The World's Most Magical Celebration," visit WDWNews.com.