What’s New for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

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When Walt Disney World opened on Oct. 1st, 1971, it changed the landscape of Central Florida both literally and figuratively. What once was mostly swampland at the headwaters to the Everglades quickly became the “Vacation Kingdom of the World.” Now, 50 years later, Disney World has only grown, both in size and popularity, and the park is celebrating this major milestone with an 18-month-long party across all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the on-site resort hotels. Here’s what you can experience during The World’s Most Magical Celebration at Disney World.

An “EARidescent” Makeover
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and pals welcome guests to Magic Kingdom during the 50th anniversary welcome show.

An “EARidescent” Makeover

No matter where you stay or which parks you visit, you’ll encounter magical touches everywhere you look. Mickey and friends have sparkly new costumes in hues of blue, purple, and gold that match much of the 50th-anniversary decor around the resort. You can see them up close during performances of Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade and the Let the Magic Begin opening ceremony, both held daily in the Magic Kingdom. During both shows, you’ll hear the 50th-anniversary anthem, “The Magic is Calling.”

There’s also a collection of 50 golden character statues spread amongst the four theme parks, 50th-anniversary buses and monorails, and even blue and gold doormats welcoming you to your hotel. If you arrive at Disney World via Orlando International Airport, the party starts as soon as you land with photo ops and decor throughout the main terminal.

Beacons of Magic
Each night at dusk, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT glows with colorful lights.

Beacons of Magic

At night, the decor at Disney’s theme parks becomes even more radiant when the icons at each park transform into Beacons of Magic. Around dusk, each evening, Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios glow with colorful lights and enchanting animations that bring each icon to life in a whole new way.

New Nighttime Shows
“Disney Enchantment” at Magic Kingdom blends fireworks, projections, and music.

New Nighttime Shows

Disney has been at the front of the nighttime spectacular game for decades and the two new shows that debuted for the 50th prove why. At Magic Kingdom, Disney Enchantment inspires guests to find the magic within each of us with fireworks, projections on Cinderella Castle and all the way down Main Street, U.S.A., classic Disney music, and an original song entitled “You Are the Magic.”

If you’re lucky enough to catch the Electrical Water Pageant floating down the Seven Seas Lagoon on your way out of the park, you can catch a new 50th-anniversary segment in the show.

EPCOT’s new nighttime show, Harmonious, takes place on the World Showcase Lagoon and uses a collection of massive floating showpieces to display the pyrotechnics, colorful projections, and lasers. The show is set to songs performed by artists from around the globe in more than a dozen languages, signifying the show’s message that our differences should be celebrated and that we are all more alike than we are different.

If you want to guarantee a good viewing spot for either of the new nighttime shows, Disney World is offering dessert parties at Magic Kingdom and dinner packages at Epcot that get you into a reserved viewing area. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made on Disney World’s website.

New Daytime Show at Animal Kingdom
Disney KiteTails at Animal Kingdom uses kites and windsocks of all sizes and shapes.

New Daytime Show at Animal Kingdom

There’s no nighttime show at Animal Kingdom (sleeping animals and fireworks don’t really mix), but there is a new daytime show at the Discovery River Theater between Asia and DinoLand U.S.A. Disney KiteTails uses kites of all types and sizes (some as large as 30-feet-long and pulled by jet skis!) and alternates between two shows throughout the day. One has music and kites themed to “The Lion King” and the other to “The Jungle Book.” It’s a fun, light-hearted show with lots of audience engagement.

A Major EPCOT Expansion
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be Disney World's first reverse launch coaster.

A Major EPCOT Expansion

EPCOT is in the midst of a multi-year overhaul that includes new attractions and experiences and an entirely new park layout. The park is now divided into four neighborhoods, World Nature, World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Showcase. Portions of each have already opened, while others, like the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster, will open later in the celebration.

A new gift shop called the Creations Shop opened in late Sept. in World Celebration and, adjacent to it, the Coca-Cola sponsored Club Cool where guests can sample sodas from around the world. In World Discovery, you can dine 220 miles above Earth at Space 220, a new dining experience with a space elevator, out-of-this-world views, and an interstellar menu with items like Starry Calamari and a Galactic Lobster Globe.

The France pavilion in World Showcase recently doubled in size to make way for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a family-friendly 4D dark ride based on the 2007 Pixar film, “Ratatouille.” The new La Crêperie de Paris opened along with the ride, serving up sweet crêpes and savory galettes to round out your visit to France.

Shimmery Sweet Treats and More
The Cheers to 50 Years! sundae is available at Plaza Restaurant at Magic Kingdom.

Shimmery Sweet Treats and More

It’s not a party without cake…and cheese fries served with chili (Walt Disney’s favorite food)…and sparkly drinks…and an ice cream sundae topped with cookies, cupcakes, and a giant Mickey pretzel. There are special menu items at almost every dining location at Disney World, as well as collectible popcorn buckets and sipper cups.

50th Anniversary Merchandise Collections
This spirit jersey from the EARidescent Collection features shimmering sequins.

50th Anniversary Merchandise Collections

For a celebration this big, you can’t just drop a few t-shirts and call it a day. Disney World designed six collections to mark the occasion. Most are available now (a couple will be here later this year) and you can get everything from home goods to Mickey hats to dresses and, yes, t-shirts. Some items are only available at certain retail locations so if you have your eyes on something specific, do some research beforehand or speak with a Cast Member so you know exactly where to go.

And There’s Still More to Come...
Performances of Disney and Cirque du Soleil's Drawn to Life Will Begin at Disney Springs in Nov. 2021.

And There’s Still More to Come...

You didn’t think that was all, did you? Disney kicked off the 50th anniversary with a slew of announcements about what’s to come during the next 18 months. A new Cirque du Soleil show called Drawn to Life is coming to Disney Springs on Nov. 18th, 2021, and the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel is slated to open on March 1st, 2022. Also in 2022, Disney World is introducing two pieces of technology that will enhance the magic of a Disney vacation.

MagicBand+ will be the next generation of MagicBand, with all the same capabilities of the current version, along with the functionality to interact with fireworks shows, the golden statues placed around the parks for the anniversary celebration, and more. Also next year, all Disney resort hotel rooms will be outfitted with touch-screen Amazon Echo devices in Disney-themed stands. The devices will come preloaded with the new “Hey, Disney!” Alexa skill that serves as your own personal Disney assistant. You can interact with Disney characters, play trivia games, ask about bus times, and check park operating hours.

With as many new experiences, attractions, and entertainment options as Disney has already announced, we have a feeling there’s even more news to come so stay tuned.

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