As a Disney Travel Agent, I am often reminded how soon in advance people plan their Disney vacations, years! That’s why I want to give you one of the first looks at Disney 2021.
So what’s up with Disneyland, Disney World, and maybe even the Disney Cruise Line in 2021? The amount of changes that are coming to both the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort is literally insane. Let’s dive right into every single planned or announced change coming in the year 2021 to Disney. So, here is a list of all the changes you need to know about Disney 2021.
Note: This is all subject to change as an effect of the coronavirus pandemic, so some alterations and additions within the parks and other factors might be postponed or cancelled. I will keep you updated!
Disney World 2021
The year 2021 is actually the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort — well, the Magic Kingdom to be exact. Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World was the first theme park at Disney World. It opened on October 1, 1971. Of course, The Walt Disney Company is going to throw a huge celebration for the fiftieth anniversary year.
In order to make the celebration extra magical though, there are a lot of changes that need to be made first. This means that the year 2020 might mean a lot of construction around the parks, but it definitely is worth it to see all the new attractions, shows, and developments when the year 2021 finally rolls around! For additional details all about Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2021, check out this article I wrote!
Here are the planned and already announced Newest Additions:
- Star Wars Hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort (probably 2021..?)
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort (opening 2020)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort (opening 2021)
- Epcot’s new Play! Pavilion in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort (opening 2021)
- Awesome Planet in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort (opening 2020)
- Journey into Water (a Moana themed attraction and show) in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort (opening 2021)
- Harmonious Nighttime Spectacular in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort (debuting 2020)
- Changes to Spaceship Earth in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort
Star Wars Hotel (Star Wars: Galactic Star Cruiser)
This new Walt Disney World resort hotel, which will be called Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser, will be unlike anything is ever done before. It will be a two-day long, extremely immersive experience.
Guests will be faced with decisions and interactions with characters around the hotel. Whatever they chose will actually impact what happens during their experience. One of the best parts is that every guest, regardless of age, will get to train with a lightsaber just like Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been in development for several years now. It is replacing the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Chinese Theatre.
While many are claiming that it will feature the very first Mickey and Minnie audio-animatronics ever, that is actually not true! The, now defunct, Mickey Mouse Revue show in Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World was the first to feature a Mickey Mouse and a Minnie Mouse animatronic.
Regardless, I am still so excited to see the new versions of animatronic Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in this completely brand-new attraction!
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a cool new roller coaster coming to Epcot. Cosmic Rewind has also been in construction for a while. It will be the very first Disney roller coaster to use a reverse launch system. This means the ride will launch from zero miles per hour to a really fast speed in a matter of seconds, just like the Incredicoaster at Disney’s California Adventure or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
However, unlike those roller coasters, riders will be facing the opposite direction that they will be launching. The individual coaster cars will also spin independently from the rest of the train, similar to how the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train cars swing independently from the others. However, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster cars will spin 360 degrees throughout the ride.
The new Play! Pavilion will occupy the building where the Wonders of Life Pavilion once stood. The Play! Pavilion is supposed to be themed like an interactive city.
Guests can interact with and meet their favorite Disney characters. It is going to be unlike anything else that has ever been made before, by Disney or any other theme park company. You also will not be able to find anything like this in any other Disney Park. The Play! Pavilion will be completely unique to Epcot. This part has not been confirmed, but my assumption is that it will be heavily based on Walt Disney’s vision for “Progress City,” which was also the inspiration for Epcot.
Guests can see the actual model for Progress City that Walt Disney built while riding the Peoplemover through the tunnel above Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom Park. I cannot wait to see what the new Play! Pavilion will be like.
The new Awesome Planet show will be placed in the Land pavilion at Epcot. The show has recently debuted with amazing reviews from guests. Awesome Planet is an awesome hit among Walt Disney World visitors.
The new Awesome Planet show educates guests about the planet earth with high tech visuals and effects. The story of our beloved planet begins with the beginning of time, all the way to the present. Guests feel inspired to help the environment after learning about the drastic impacts of climate change and environmental devastation. The entire show is very cool.
Journey into Water
Journey into Water is inspired by Moana and will be located near the Seas with Nemo and Friends. Guests will get to interact with kinetic, living water. Guests will be able to interact and control the living water, just like Moana does in the movie. It will take the place of Innoventions West.
While guests have fun with the water and nature, they will also be learning all about water and nature all at the same time. However, they will probably be having so much fun that they will not even realize how much they are learning, which is the whole point of Epcot, right?
HarmonioUS will be the largest nighttime spectacular in Epcot’s history. In fact, it is the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for any Disney Park, not just for Epcot.
It will celebrate music and the magic of Disney movies. I, for one, am super excited to see it! For now, Epcot Forever is a temporary nighttime spectacular playing every day (well, every night) for now until HarmonioUS debuts.
The new show will be a celebration of how music and Disney inspire people all around the whole world (the real world, not just the World Showcase!). Each Disney song will be remade and performed by famous artists from every corner of the world (again, the real world, not just the World Showcase!).
Yes, Spaceship Earth is scheduled to get a major refurbishment with a good amount of changes. But do not stress, most of the scenes in Spaceship Earth are supposed to remain pretty much the same. However, instead of focusing solely on science and technology, the ride will now also highlight the importance and growth of storytelling throughout history.
Phew! That was a lot to unpack. At least there are not really any changes coming to Disney Cruises in 2021 for me to write about, not yet anyway.
Let’s talk more about some of these cool new things coming soon to Disney Parks in 2021. With the changes coming to Disney’s California Adventure park like the new Avengers Campus and Spider-Man ride that will be like anything ever before created, Disney’s California Adventure Park may finally fix its reputation as a “half-day park.” Not only that, but that park has been slowly but surely getting a major facelift. It will likely become more and more popular in the coming years.
I am definitely excited to see how the next couple of years go for Disney’s California Adventure park. With those changes to Disney’s California Adventure, plus the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge addition to Disneyland park, the Disneyland Resort will only become more magical than ever before!
Walt Disney World is probably getting a much bigger refurbishment. Let’s talk about all of that. One of the coolest new additions to the resort will probably the new resort hotel Star Wars: Galactic Star Cruiser. It will be an experience, unlike anything we have ever seen before. Now obviously, Epcot is getting a huge overhaul and refurbishment. Almost everything in the current Future World is changing. Walt Disney World will almost be completely different.
Here are the planned and already announced Newest Additions:
- “Avengers Campus” in Disney’s California Adventure Park (opening 2020)
- “Magic Happens” Parade at Disneyland Park (debuting Spring 2020)
- Rise of the Resistance ride at Disneyland Park (opened January 2020)
The new Avengers Campus coming to Disney’s California Adventure Park will be completely unique. The Avengers are looking to recruit the next generation of superheroes.
It will be located behind Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT! This means it will be a completely new expansion of the park, just beyond Hollywood Land. According to Disney, there will be several different “addresses” (probably individual buildings). These addresses will each represent an Avenger and have a personality and feel just like that Avenger’s character and vibe.
The new Avengers Campus will also have a brand new, motion simulator, interactive Spider-Man ride which The Walt Disney Company claimed at the 2019 D23 Expo will be unlike anything that has ever been done before. It will also be the very first Disney Parks Spider-Man attraction!
Magic Happens Parade
The new Magic Happens parade will be replacing Mickey’s Soundsational Parade.
Magic Happens will feature a new song written and recorded by famous musical artist Todrick Hall. There will be floats featuring Moana, Coco, Disney Princesses, and many more.
The parade will spotlight some of the most magical moments in the history of Disney films. Disney Parks parades, like their films, are famous for bringing people to tears.. So, I think it is safe to assume that this new Magic Happens Parade that is supposed to be all about the best moments in Disney movies will also make us all shed a few tears.
Rise of the Resistance
Rise of the Resistance is a brand-new ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park. It is record-breaking in so many ways. For example, Rise of the Resistance is the longest Disney dark ride attraction ever. It is also the first in the Disneyland Resort to use a trackless ride system. Rise of the Resistance is also basically three to four different attractions all packed in one giant, super immersive experience!
In Rise of the Resistance, we are recruited by the Resistance to help with a special mission. At first, we embark on a flight with the best pilot of the Resistance himself, Poe Dameron!
Unfortunately, though, we are quickly captured by the First Order and then we are Force interrogated by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. We then have to figure out how to escape from the First Order.
Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that we thankfully escape, but not without a fight and a lot of stress and drama. Along the way, we get to see some amazing, state of the art audio-animatronics of Kylo Ren, General Hux, Finn dressed as a Stormtrooper again, and even BB8!
Riders also get to experience what it is like to be caught in the crossfire of laser blasters, lightsabers, Stormtroopers, droids, good guys, and bad guys. I promise, you have never ridden anything like it before in the whole world.
What will be different at Disney after reopening?
Walt Disney World officially plans to reopen at the beginning of next month, but expect a lot of changes to the experience. Disney has fully adapted to the situation in order to make the Disney experience safe and enjoyable for everyone. This can already be seen at work at Disney Springs, with cast members in masks, and signs and markings on the ground to maintain space between visitors. Along with that, there is now a digital queue for visitors to certain stores to limit capacity.
Currently, Walt Disney World plans to reopen Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11th, with EPCOT and Hollywood Studios to open on July 15th. There’s no word on when the water parks will reopen. As they plan to limit the number of park visitors, Disney will be using a new park reservation system, and new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations are temporarily paused. They have also cancelled FastPass+ reservations into 2021, with many wondering if this is an indication of a change to the current FastPass+ system.
Face coverings are required for guests ages 2 and up, and there will be temperature screenings at some locations. Some attractions and experiences will be modified or not available in order to maintain safety requirements, and they haven’t released all details yet. There will also be shorter park hours, and limited monorail and ferry boat transportation, with the status of the bus and Skyliner system unclear.
With the park closures, Disney was forced to stop construction on all their upcoming changes and additions, so some are bound to be postponed, or possibly cancelled. As of right now, Disney has made no announcements about changes regarding these projects, and most of them are restarting construction this month or soon.
Would there be Free Disney Dining in 2021?
When Walt Disney World closed down, they were forced to cancel many people’s reservations. In order to accommodate guests affected, Disney began offering a special vacation package, which included a free dining plan for those who booked a Disney Resort reservation and park tickets.
Now that they’ve unveiled their reopening plan, Disney announced that they will be cancelling guests’ Disney Dining Plan through September 2021, as they rework their dining experiences and reservation systems. This includes the Free Dining that they offered guests rebooking cancelled trips. For those guests, they’ve given them a 35% discount on the accommodations instead.
Disney has also cancelled all reservations, and they’ve announced that character dining will be temporarily unavailable when the parks and resorts reopen. This means that it’s likely Disney will only allow walk in meals for the time being, making it easier to manage the capacity of guests. It’s unclear when or if they will reinstate the dining plan system.
Regarding the Free Disney Dining that Disney has consistently offered as a promotion, we won’t know if they are offering it until they provide details about what they plan to do for dining in the wake of these cancellations. Given that they’ve cancelled those through September 2021, it seems unlikely that Disney will be offering the Free Disney Dining promotion for the coming year.
When can I start booking 2021 Vacation Packages?
Usually, Walt Disney World vacation packages go on sale in early summer the year before, and this year’s no different. Historically, packages have gone on sale around the June 20 date, so keep an eye out for next year’s Disney World vacation packages!
Should I visit Disney in 2021?
If you are thinking of visiting Disney in 2021, you shouldn’t wait for things to be back to “normal,” as we have no idea what the future will look like. The Disney World experience might never go back to how it was, and that’s okay. But there are some things to consider when thinking about planning a trip to Walt Disney World in 2021.
The later in 2021 you visit, the better Disney’s altered system will be, as they get more accustomed and practiced with the changes. The benefit of waiting and instead visiting in 2022 or 2023 is that the new system will hopefully be more settled, or Disney World will have moved back to normal operations. Along with that, if some of the construction projects end up being delayed to later dates, you might want to wait for that!
All in all, I think 2021 will still be a wonderful time to visit, and might even be better if there are less visitors. Make sure to consider all factors in your situation as you plan your Walt Disney World vacation!
Be sure to let me know what you are most excited about in Disney 2021–whether it be about Disneyland 2021, Disney World 2021, or anything else regarding Disney in 2021–in the comments below!