Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 13-19, 2021

 Writer’s Note, News & Views (Combined)

It is definitely the rainy season here in the neighborhood of Walt Disney World Resort. Fortunately, after a busy start to the tropical storm season and Elsa blowing past, it looks to be a quiet week on that front, but oh the rain! Back when I used to provide tips in the Updates, I pointed out how important it is to have several weather apps on your smart device of choice. That tip remains particularly usefull if you are visiting Central Florida at this time of year, as our weather changes almost moment-to-moment, and it is not just a matter of staying dry, it is a matter of avoiding lightning strikes too!

Here’s a tip taken from experience, if you see a rainbow to the east in the Florida sky in the early evening, and a radar app shows storm cells moving east to west (unlike most of the rest of North America’s weather), there is a shower coming toward you. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The good news is that many Florida summer showers are quick moving, and enjoying a full showing of The American Adventure can keep you dry, as it did for me on Sunday night. Yes, when I came out of the theater, all the park surfaces were very wet and plenty of guests were carrying wet ponchos, but the rain had passed. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Remember, also, that Walt Disney World Resort continues to be in a “phased reopening,” which means that not only is not everything operating like it did before the global pandemic, but that the rules and policies remain in flux. Be sure to check this page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before your visit. As I have noted before, the State of Florida does not permit businesses to request proof of vaccination, and Disney honors that by stating: “While we do not require proof of vaccination, we expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation.” As of publication, all guests are required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails and on Disney Skyliner. Sure, I may sound like a broken record on this point, but if you have not been vaccinated and you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, do yourself and the rest of us a favor: get vaccinated.

As a photographer, I could not pass up the opportunity to take a photo of famed photographer Mathew Brady during The American Adventure. Is there something in a public area around Walt Disney World Resort you would like me to share photos of in a future Update? Let me know in the comments or on social media! Many days, it is easier than it had been to get a last-minute Park Pass Reservation to visit the parks as an Annual Passholder. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

It’s Halfway to the Holidays and Some of the Celebrations Will Return This Fall

Yesterday, Disney Parks Blog kicked off a “Halfway to the Holidays” celebration since we’re halfway through 2021. For Walt Disney World Resort, that means it is time to start announcing what guests will find when the visit during the “season” that will begin November 12 this year. The Resort, now operating in its “phased reopening” mode for just over a year, will offer up more than last year’s celebrations, but less than in recent pre-pandemic years. There is certainly time for the Resort to announce more, but here is what was announced yesterday.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom will begin its Holiday transformation as usual, right after the Halloween celebrations end. The official kick-off of the “season” will be November 12, but expect the park to be fully decorated even before that. During the celebration, special holiday projections will appear most nights on Cinderella Castle, alternating periodically throughout the night with the castle’s transformation into a Beacon of Magic as part of the park’s 50th anniversary celebration. Disney has not mentioned any return of the “Dreamlights” (the icy frozen lights) this year and the odds are against it given the Beacon of Magic transformations.

Holiday projections will decorate Cinderella Castle during the evenings at Magic Kingdom, alternating with the Beacon of Magic transformation. Image Courtesy Disney Parks.

Following in the footsteps of the Boo Bash After Hours offering for Halloween on select nights in August through October, Magic Kingdom will once again forgo Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and, instead, launch a new hard-ticketed “Disney Very Merriest After Hours” on select nights starting November 8 (ahead of the official resort-wide “season”). Unlike other “After Hours” offerings, this one promises four hours of festivities and “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks.” The event will also feature Disney characters around the park (though it is not yet clear whether they will be meet-and-greet or distanced), plus holiday music and decorations, and treats. The announcement makes no mention of the return of the holiday-themed stage show or parade. More than 20 attractions will be available with “lower wait times” and the event, as its name suggests, will be held after regular park operating hours. Tickets will go on sale next month, with an advance window for guests of select Walt Disney World Resort hotels.


As usual, Disney’s second oldest Florida park will be last to the celebration of the holidays, as the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival which starts July 15 this year will run all the way until November 20. The EPCOT  International Festival of the Holidays will run November 26 through December 30, featuring Holiday Kitchens and performances of Voices of Liberty. The announcement makes no mention of the return of Candlelight Processional, and we have reached out to a Disney representative for an update. So far, there have not been local rumblings of cast members auditioning for the usual spots in Candlelight’s choir, but it is too soon to know whether the EPCOT (and Disneyland) staple will remain on hiatus for another season.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel (projections) will return to Sunset Boulevard for the holiday season, transforming the exterior of the Tower of Terror into scenes from Arendelle, a Toy Story toy hotel, a Dickensian village inspired by Mickey’s Christmas Carol and a Muppets gingerbread creation (the holiday tower transformation will alternate with the tower’s nightly “Beacon of Magic” presentation). Santa Claus will again be in a Hollywood Boulevard motorcade, and the Frozen sing-along will add its holiday tag featuring Olaf. Minnie Mouse will host her festive meal at Hollywood & Vine, and she and her friends will be in holiday attire along with Santa Goofy. As you may have noticed from our prior Updates, fireworks have not returned to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as of publication, so, perhaps, it is no surprise that the holidays announcement does not mention whether “Jingle Bells, Jingle BAM!” will return to the Chinese Theater facade (which, indeed, may be complicated by the crowds that queue for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway).

The Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel projections return this holiday season, and will alternate with the Beacon of Magic transformation. Image Courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Disney character flotillas that have been popping up on Discovery River since the phased reopening began, will take on a holiday theme at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, along with songs of the season. The Tree of Life will feature the holiday edition of Tree of Life Awakenings on most nights. The Tree will also be a Beacon of Magic most nights during the 50th anniversary celebration.

Holiday Tree of Life Awakenings will alternate with the Tree’s Beacon of Magic transformation on most nights during the holiday season. Image Courtesy Disney Parks.

Disney Springs

The Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll will return to Disney Springs, with Disney-themed trees decorated throughout the neighborhoods, including some new ones and some inspired by the 50th anniversary celebration. Disney snow will fall in Town Center. Themed food and beverage will be offered at a number of spots, including Jock Linsey’s Hangar Bar which will once again be transformed into Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar.

Disney Resort Hotels

Some of the gingerbread displays will return to Disney Resort Hotels this year. All the hotels will be decked for the holidays with trees and other seasonal touches. Restaurants will feature holiday menus and specialty food and beverages.

EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival Begins July 15

It is once again that rare time at EPCOT while the park is in between Festivals. Starting with the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival which begins this Thursday, July 15, it may be noteworthy that the park has dropped the “Taste of” moniker it added starting with the phased reopening last summer. So far, however, the announced offerings at the Festival are not as full as the pre-pandemic Festivals. So far, the calendar shows no Eat to the Beat Concerts scheduled; no up-charge tastings or parties; no celebrity chef talks; or the like. We do know, that the Festival will enlarge starting October 1 with the Resort-wide kick-off of the 50th Anniversary celebration, so, perhaps more announcements are yet to come.

Last week, Disney Parks Blog posted its 2021 Foodie Guide to the Festival which runs 129 days, though November 20, 2021. More than 20 global marketplaces open with the Festival this week, and more open in the fall. Two new indoor spaces will host marketplaces this year: The Rotunda Bistro inside the rotunda at American Adventure, and Tangerine Café: Flavors of Medina will occupy the former Tangerine Café; quick service location that closed last summer when Disney took over operation of the Morocco Pavilion from its former operating partner. Full menus can be found on the TasteEPCOT.com website. The Festival is presented by CORKCICLE, and there are a number of places around the park to find its products available, including at Shimmering Sips near Port of Entry, where CORKCICLE is the host.

The Hawai’i Marketplace opens with the Festival on July 15; it is located near World Showcase Plaza.

The Kenya Marketplace, located at the Outpost, will be one of the new options this year; it opens October 1.

The American Adventure will host the new Rotunda Bistro inside the pavilion featuring seafood and produce; it opens with the Festival on July 15.

Though the Regal Eagle Smokehouse operates in the American Adventure pavilion as well, Hops & Barley Marketplace will once again open at the other end of the plaza during the Festival, offering American craft beer, wines, New England Lobster Roll, a hot beef sandwich, and fresh-baked carrot cake.

The Greece Marketplace will open with the Festival near Morocco pavilion this year.

Tangerine Café: Flavors of the Medina will open with the Festival in the former Morocco quick service location and will feature kebabs and falafel.

Canada Far-and-Wide in CircleVision 360 has temporarily closed as its theater will again be used as the Appleseed Orchard Marketplace.

Earth Eats hosted by and featuring Impossible Foods products will open along the walkway between Imagination Pavilion and World Showcase Plaza with the Festival.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Emile’s Fromage Montage is the eat-your-way around the park challenge that earns you a special prize at Shimmering Sips for purchasing five cheese dishes at five specific marketplaces. Collect the stamps in your Festival Passport to redeem (and, no, they do not all have to be purchased during a single park visit).

Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak returns as well. Purchase the scavenger hunt map, look for Remy statuettes all over the Festival kiosks, and complete the hunt by turning in the map at the designated spot for your prize.

EPCOT: A Park In Transition

The entry flowerbed at the park’s main gate has no particular theme following the conclusion of the Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival and before the start of Food & Wine Festival.

Behind the EPCOT pylons, Spaceship Earth is dotted by new lighting fixtures that will play a role in the park’s participation in the Resort’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

Over the weekend, some of the ponds around Future World West were dry.

The fountain at Imagination pavilion also was not operating.

With the topiaries removed, the “center” of Future World is also now neutrally themed. In the distance at the right, the former Mouse Gear exterior now has a color scheme similar to CommuniCore’s exterior look during the park’s early years.

Sunset in the west provides beautiful views behind Imagination pavilion. Expect that the Flower & Garden flower beds will soon be replaced with lawns.

World Showcase Plaza is also neutrally themed in between the festivals. The hardware for Harmonious looms large (and off-center) in the Lagoon ahead of the new nighttime spectacular’s October 1 scheduled debut.

This Remy figure is not hidden in front of the walkway to the new addition to the France pavilion which is home to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (scheduled to open October 1).

Impressions de France continues to play in the evenings in the France theater which, by day, is home to the Beauty and the Beast sing-along. It’s been 50 years since Impressions was filmed: am I the only one that wonders what happened to that couple that got married and the kids in the film that are now all 50-plus years old? Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Nighttime provides a bit of a view inside the former Mouse Gear location which will become home to the new Creations Shop sometime this summer. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

With the previously announced Spaceship Earth refurbishment still on hold (and the attraction operating), it is unclear whether these construction walls will remain when Spaceship Earth becomes a Beacon of Magic as part of the Resort’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Views of Fireworks Return to EPCOT

As we have mentioned in recent weeks, as of July 1, both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT once again have nightly fireworks displays. This past Sunday night, I got over to EPCOT to see the revised nightly presentation of EPCOT Forever. It currently is scheduled to begin nightly at 10 p.m., as the park closes. As I noted last week, the towed kites are no longer part of the show filled with music from EPCOT attractions past and present. The show now clocks in at around 11 minutes. The hardware installed in the World Showcase Lagoon for the upcoming new nighttime show “Harmonious,” which is scheduled to debut on October 1 looms large.

EPCOT Forever launches fireworks over World Showcase Lagoon nightly through September 30, accompanied by musical tributes to the park’s attractions past and present. The show closes with a nod to its future (which many say is awkwardly done) with the song “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin.””

While the park is open nightly until 10 p.m., I found large parts of World Showcase Promenade with only scattered guests in the half an hour before EPCOT Forever. By contrast, on World Showcase Plaza near Future World and the nearby Canada and Mexico pavilions, crowds gathered ahead of the fireworks.

The post-show’s search lights highlight just how much smoke the fireworks created during the show.

On a night with minimal wind, 10 minutes after the show, International Gateway (and the Disney Skyliner tower just beyond) were enveloped in post-show smoke.

At various points in the evening, the hardware for Harmonious had its fountains tested.

Additional fountains were tested after the conclusion of EPCOT Forever.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…Disney Cruise Line shared more details about Disney Wish, its new ship setting sail in 2022.

The Marvel cinematic dining adventure will be named the “Avengers: Quantum Encounter.” The exclusive adventure is billed as “more than a meal and more than a show,” and will follow Ant-Man and The Wasp on “their first public speaking engagement on behalf of the Avengers.” Captain America, Captain Marvel, and you and your fellow diners will be called on to help save the day; the screens around the room will show off lots of “iconic scenes” from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The menus are still in development, but DCL says it will be offering food inspired by African Wakanda, Eastern European Sokovia, and, of course, the Avengers’ home base of New York City.

Kevin Feig, President Marvel Studios and Chief Creative Officer, Marvel, shares a first look at the new Avengers: Quantum Encounter dining experience debuting aboard the Disney Wish cruise ship. Video Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

Two of the quick casual dining options aboard the Disney Wish cruise ship were revealed this week as well. Marceline Market, named for Walt Disney’s early childhood hometown in Missouri, is a “free-flow food hall” (probably appropriate to think of it as ship’s buffet, like Cabanas on the other DCL ships) featuring American classics, international specialties, comfort foods, seafood, soups and salads, vegetarian and plant-based fare, baked goods, and desserts, across 10 food stalls and a beverage bar, each “owned” by Disney characters and themed to animated films. In the middle of the upper decks, Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods will feature the quick-bite locations (lunch, dinner, or in between), from the expected DCL soft-serve ice cream, to new venues featuring barbecue and Mexican-inspired fare for the first time on a DCL ship: the five uniquely themed food stalls are “Mickey’s Smokestack Barbecue, Donald’s Cantina, Daisy’s Pizza Pies, Goofy’s Grill, and Sweet Minnie’s Ice Cream.”

…DCL also shared that its Very Merrytime Cruises will be back aboard its sailings from early November through December. Festive holiday decor and a special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus are part of the merriment. Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, will also be decked out with a Christmas tree, holiday island music, and Disney “snow” flurries.

…Continuing on with the “Halfway to the Holidays” theme, Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company at The Landing at Disney Springs is offering up its special Peppermint Mocha Latte now through July 18. And, if you want to get a headstart on this year’s holiday shopping, Disney Parks Blog has provided a first look, including items that will be available on shopDisney.com.

…Walt Disney World Golf is offering new 20-ounce Titleist insulated tumblers featuring Disney character-inspired images for hot and cold beverages, in its pro shops. Eight character designs are available: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Jiminy Cricket, Grumpy, and Chip ‘n Dale. Purchase of a tumbler $39.95 plus tax includes a complimentary sleeve of three matching Disney character-inspired Titleist TruFeel golf balls. For a limited time, purchase five character-inspired tumblers, and receive a complimentary sixth tumbler and golf balls! More information on this page of the Walt Disney World Golf website.

…FINAL REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club Members need to be aware that some technology system upgrades will cause downtime for Member-facing systems (online and telephone) starting at 10 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, July 17 and continuing until the project’s expected completion on Tuesday July 20, 2021. Members will not be able to book reservations, bank points, make dues/loan/escrow payment, start or finalize ad-on membership purchases, or access other areas of the DVC website that require logging in, including the Member Dashboard. Members should still be able to check-in or out of previously booked rooms, access the DVC Lounge at EPCOT, purchase park tickets and make theme park and dining reservations online. Guests who rely on a digital Member Card for benefits should download a new version prior to July 17, 2021 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

…REMINDER: Speaking of DVC Members, if you are one and are interested in the official Disney fan club, be sure to check your DVC Member Mail email this month. Eligible Members can get 30% off a new D23 Gold Membership with the personal code provided in the email through July 31, 2021. Tickets go on sale in July for the D23 Gold Member Event Destination D23 coming to Disney’s Contemporary Resort November 19-21, 2021, celebrating 50 years of Walt Disney World Resort and offering sneak peeks of some of the company’s upcoming offerings.

…FINAL REMINDER: Starting July 16, Disney+ subscribers can view all ten episodes of “Behind the Attraction,” a new original series looking behind the scenes of attractions and destinations at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world. The series, narrated by Paget Brewster, promises “archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs” of the development and refinement of attractions over the years from The Jungle Cruise to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The series also includes rare interviews with Walt Disney, Disney Legends, and past and present Imagineers including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, and Joe Rohde.

Disney+ Behind the Attractions

The full 10-episode “Behind the Attraction” series debuts on Disney+ on July 16. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic will return Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30 offering an outdoor festival featuring unlimited food tastings from the resorts culinary team and wine, beer and other sips from around the world. Overnight packages and event-only tickets are now available at FoodAndWineClassic.com. Overnight packages start at $580; event-only ticket options are $165/person (including tax and service fees). Reservations are also available in the resort’s new tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

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Resort Reservations, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

Walt Disney World Resort continues to offer Florida Resident ticket specials with savings up to 40% on 4-day, 1-park tickets. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for more information and availability (which varies by date). Florida proof of residency required, and there is now a way to provide it electronically.

Walt Disney World Resort Summer Room Offer for Select Disney Resort hotels provides savings up to 25% on rooms for stays most nights through September 29, 2021.

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By Harriet