Disney World’s 50th Anniversary – “The World’s Most Magical Celebration”
Updated May 2021
Are you planning a trip to Disney World in 2021? If so, you will be in for a really big treat! In 2021 on October 1st, 2021, to be exact, it will be Disney World’s 50th anniversary!! This is a really huge deal! I myself, cannot even believe that the park is already 50 years old. Granted I wasn’t even born yet when the park opened, but still, yet, it is just crazy that this wonderful, amazing place is just now turning 50 years old!
I have been to Disney World during this time …
And I plan on going again. I really wanted to experience what Disney World and Universal Orlando are like during this time with the modified experiences due to the Coronavirus.
I definitely was scared of the entire process. From going to the airport, getting on a plane, being around so many people, etc. But as a Disney blogger, travel agent, and all-around expert I had to be able to provide real and accurate feedback.
To be honest, all in all, I did feel comfortable going to Disney World.
While I was there I felt comfortable at least 90% of the time. The hardest part for me was actually the airport where people I didn’t know were in the seat right next to me.
- You have to reserve the park you would like to access for the day.
- A lot of entertainment and nighttime shows have been suspended.
- There are no character greetings. Instead, characters appear in mini parades throughout the day.
- Dining Plans are temporarily unavailable.
- The parks have modified hours that could change day to day, like 9-7 pm, 11-9 pm, 9-5 pm, etc.
What is the 50th Anniversary All About??
Technically, it is not just Disney World’s 50th anniversary, aka the 50th anniversary of Magic Kingdom. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort, or more specifically, The Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village Resort.
The Magic Kingdom theme park opened up along with these two resort hotels, and this is what started the Walt Disney World Resort. Throughout the course of the Magic Kingdom’s history, the Walt Disney World Resort celebrated many milestones.
October 1, 1981, was the very first big milestone that these two hotels and Magic Kingdom celebrated. The next celebration wasn’t until they celebrated their 10th anniversary, which Disney called the ‘Tencennial Celebration.’
The second big milestone Disney celebrated was the opening of the second Disney park, Epcot, in 1982, which coincidentally, opened on October 1, 1981, alongside the 11th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, and the Polynesian. Four years later on October 1, 1986, Magic Kingdom celebrated a milestone of 15 years! The next major milestone was the 20-year celebration on October 1, 1991, an occasion that Disney called the Surprise Celebration!
The last big celebration Magic Kingdom had was back in 1996 for the 25th anniversary Remember the Magic party, which lasted for a total of 15 months! Since then, the park has not celebrated anything huge. Compared to the monumental events that Disney had to commemorate anniversaries like the 5th, 10th, or 20th, WDW has had celebrations and events, but nothing of that scale. Sure, Disney World has celebrated its anniversary, but only in small ways, nothing compared to the huge events of the past. Thankfully, Disney promises some big changes and events for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, starting on October 1, 2021. This day will be a very significant day, like no other.
Even if you’ve been to a huge milestone celebration in the past, you will be in for a big treat come this October, as this celebration will be the biggest, grandest, and longest celebration ever. It is not just Disney World’s 50th anniversary — aka the 50th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, and the Polynesian Resort — but also the 40th anniversary of Epcot! As this is such a huge deal, you may be wondering, what will Disney be doing to celebrate?
All icons at the 4 Disney theme parks will be converted into “Beacons of Magic”
For 18 months, the Disney World icons will be transformed in celebration of Disney’s 50th anniversary.
Gold embellishments for Cinderella’s Castle starting 10/1/2021.
Epcot’s sphere will get a new permanent lighting scheme.
Animal Kingdom’s tree of light will get animate fireflys and other nighttime projections.
Tower of Terror will get a nighttime projection display.
Disney is calling the theme colors, EARidescence!
How the 50th Anniversary Could Be Affected by COVID-19
I wanted to start off with an update on anything that might be affected by the current situation of Disney World in 2021.
At the beginning of the pandemic, all of the Disney parks around the world were forced to close. This was an unprecedented situation, as the last time any Disney park closed down was in the aftermath of 9/11. This also meant that all of the construction projects for new attractions, resorts, restaurants, and more had to temporarily shut down as well. The company planned for Walt Disney World 2021 to be a year of great change and celebration for everyone. Of course, that’s still the plan. But there are definitely some unexpected alterations and delays as a result of COVID-19.
In response to the current health concerns, Disney has reached a new level of cleanliness and organization to ensure that everyone’s health and safety is maintained. For visiting the parks, you now have to go through a reservation system online, limiting your options a bit, but Disney is slowly reinstating features like Park Hopper and Extra Magic Hours.
When entering the parks, anyone ages 2 and up needs to wear face masks all the time, unless you are staying in one place eating or drinking, and there are temperature screenings at the entrance. There are many markings on the ground to maintain social distancing in lines and public areas, and food is encouraged to be ordered through the My Disney Experience app. The safety precautions extend to managing fastpasses, ride occupancy limits, and similar details of the Disney World experience.
This may seem intense and a little confusing for people who still have trips planned for Disney World 2021, but rest assured knowing that Disney will work as hard as they can to make visitors’ experiences feel as normal and magical as they can!
Disney’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Dates
Disney’s 50th Anniversary will kick off on October 1, 2021, and last for 18 months. The 50th-anniversary event will be celebrated at all four Walt Disney World theme parks throughout 2021 and 2022.
My Favorite Disney Must-Haves
Disney World 50th Anniversary Package
Though Disney’s 50th Anniversary begins October of 2021, the Disney World 50th Anniversary package is for stays in 2022.
You can start booking already, as bookings started 5/20/2021. Talk to your travel agent, if you already have something booked.
The package is valid for select arrivals from 1/1 to 12/31/2022. But you need to stay at a Disney resort for at least 5 nights.
The package also includes:
- Up to $950 Disney Dining Credit
- 14-Day park tickets for the price of a 7-Day ticket
- $200 Disney spending money
- Free Memory Maker, (worth $199)
What Does This Anniversary Party Entail??
We now know some things, and then we don’t know some things. Thanks to a new update from Disney, there are a few new details about what to expect from a visit during Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, or as Disney also calls it, “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.”
Let’s look at Magic Kingdom for instance. Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park just received a royal makeover last year, the paint updated that we have all grown to love. The castle will also now feature golden bunting and a 50th anniversary crest as part of its festive new look. This theming will continue and flow throughout the park, with beautiful decorations in varying shades of purple and blue that match both the new look of Cinderella Castle and the reworked Magic Kingdom entrance sign. This color scheme also extends to Mickey and Minnie Mouse and their special looks for the event, which Disney gave a preview of in an announcement video on Good Morning America.
While Cinderella Castle is the clear centerpiece of Magic Kingdom and will be specially decorated as one of the “Beacons of Magic,” as Disney Parks Blog described it, an iconic feature will be decorated at all three other parks as well. For Epcot this is Spaceship Earth, for Hollywood Studios it’s the Tower of Terror, and at Animal Kingdom it is the Tree of Life.
One of the big projects being worked on is the building of the TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster that will reach speeds of over 60 mph. If you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s a ride that was originally built for Tomorrowland in Shanghai Disneyland and opened with the park in 2016. Believe it or not, the ride was developed and was always going to come to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, but it came to Shanghai first. The ride was initially planned to open in time for the 50th anniversary event, but after the delay because of the pandemic, it’s looking like the attraction will not be open by Fall 2021. Instead, I’d expect a 2022 opening date (hopefully), which would still be when the celebrations are going on.
Alongside the new Tron ride, Tomorrowland appears to be getting some kind of major makeover. This process is in phases and has slowly been going on for the past year or two, but visitors have noticed the changes. The whole theming of the land is slowly shifting from a retro-future Tomorrowland to a more modern-techno future Tomorrowland. The first changes we saw in regards to theming was a complete refresh of the painting of the rock work towards the entrance to the land, as well some painting changes involving certain walls in the area. Specifically, the famous ‘Purple Wall’ has been recently updated with a new color scheme.
Staying in Tomorrowland, the next topic of discussion in terms of the future of the land would be the Tomorrowland Speedway. Currently, there is a love/hate relationship that many guests have with this ride. Personally, I don’t think it goes fast enough. People love it as it is a ride that brings about nostalgia when they rode it for the very first time as kids and then were able to take their kids on it for the first time. Then there are those who hate it. They say it smells horribly from the gas it emits and is very loud, and they have a point.
The ride was closed from January 2 – May 18, 2019, to alter the track slightly so that the addition of the TRON Lightcycle Run could be accommodated. There was a lot of speculation that Disney would be partnering with Tesla to convert gas-powered cars to electric, but Disney quickly debunked this rumor. This isn’t to say the cars won’t be converted to electric in the future, just that they aren’t as of yet. We will have to wait and see just what Disney’s plans are for the attraction going forward.
Over the past few years, Disney has been working diligently to prepare the Magic Kingdom for the upcoming celebration. There have been various refurbishments on attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight to freshen them up, and I’m sure there are many more little details that visitors will notice during the event.
I love visiting Epcot, but I am ready for some more rides there. Thankfully, Epcot is getting many renovations to prepare for this huge celebration.
Epcot’s renovations will “keep it true to the original vision while making it more timeless, more relevant, more family-friendly, more Disney,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts. “Families want a little bit more of that Disney wow factor.”
Spaceship Earth will get new lights that shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, to resemble the stars in the nighttime sky, and this new design will be a permanent feature for the park.
It’s been years (since the ‘90s actually) since Spaceship Earth received a major update. Now’s the time. At the D23 Expo, it was revealed that Spaceship Earth will be getting revamped with new technological effects focused more on storytelling and a new magical addition called a “story light” that will be a guide to guests along their journey on the ride. While the previous speculation had this ride down for 2 years or so, at this time Disney has not provided a time frame as to how long these updates will take.
Because of COVID-19, Spaceship Earth’s reworking was one of the projects postponed and put on the backburner, but many hope that Disney will return to the project soon after the celebration begins. So, stay tuned.
Despite the delays, there have been many different updates completed already in Epcot’s full park rework, including a fantastic new entrance fountain and the relocation and new design of the Leave a Legacy panels.
Disney World will be welcoming a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY COASTER to Epcot’s Future World. I’m very excited, can you tell? The new indoor high-speed roller coaster will be called Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind and will be centered around the mysteries and connections of Earth and Xandar followed by an adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy. It will also feature the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. Unfortunately, this attraction is another project that’s had to be delayed a bit, so we should expect an opening date sometime in 2022.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is scheduled to open between France and Morocco and will honor traditional French cooking. If you’ve been to Disneyland Paris and have ridden the Ratatouille ride there, know that it’s going to be similar. If you haven’t, it is going to be a dark, trackless ride where the riders are shrunk to Remy’s (the rat) size. If you want a sneak peek of that, watch this video. Luckily for visitors coming in Fall 2021, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is on schedule to open sometime in 2021.
Mission Space received an update of more space and seating and fewer computers. The newest addition will be a restaurant called Space 220 that will open sometime in 2021, though an official date has not been announced yet, and it will provide its guests with an unforgettable culinary experience including day and night views of the Earth from 220 miles up.
The China pavilion will get a new 360-degree film to replace “Reflections of China” entitled “Wondrous China”. Disney also announced a Mary Poppins attraction coming which includes expanding Epcot’s the United Kingdom to add Mary Poppins’ charming setting. It will be practically perfect in every way, at least, we hope so. Since the pandemic pushed back so many of Disney’s plans for Epcot and all the other parks, Mary Poppins’ new attraction has either been heavily delayed or completely scrapped. I’m obviously hoping it’s the former, but we will all have to wait and see.
One of the biggest upcoming changes at Epcot is the opening of the new fireworks show called HarmonioUS! There is no set release date, but the project is high priority for Disney. Previously, Epcot hosted the beloved Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show, which ended in 2019 and was replaced by the temporary Epcot Forever show. However, Epcot Forever has been closed since last March, so the park is in dire need of an exciting replacement.
Opening in 1982, Epcot was Disney’s version of the World Fair as well as a celebration of technology and the future, it’s fallen a bit behind so these changes will be very welcome for us all.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened August 29, 2019, and has been a huge success allowing guests to travel through space, board a star destroyer, and fly the Millennium Falcon. Another ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, opened December 5, 2019, at Hollywood Studios and January 17, 2020, at Disneyland, allowing park guests to fight alongside the resistance. Although it’s been open now for over a year, the ride is still extremely popular, and it has its own special online process with a virtual queue to get on the attraction.
Another recent addition, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is now where the Great Movie Ride used to be. The attraction has a new catchy theme song and begins with a Mickey & Minnie short cartoon. It puts you inside the world of Mickey cartoons and is the first ride-through attraction to star the two lovable mice. Though the Great Movie Ride was a fan-favorite for some people, the few visitors who have gotten to experience Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway love the new addition, which opened at Walt Disney World on March 4, 2020.
There is one last thing we absolutely know is going to happen before we dive into speculation. We do know this celebration is going to be huge. Perhaps, this celebration will be the biggest, grandest, and most memorable celebration Disney World has put on to date. In fact, while it is not confirmed, (but is most likely going to be) it is to be a celebration that lasts for at least a year if not a year and a half!
Why have it so long? Well, first off it is to celebrate the 50 years of memories, magic, happiness and smiles the resort has created over the last 50 years. It is also to celebrate the 50th of the Contemporary and Polynesian Resort. Not only that, but the same year Epcot will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. To say there isn’t a lot to celebrate is kind of an understatement. When Disney decides to put on a big party and celebrate, you better be prepared as it is something you do not want to miss out on!
Walt Disney World resorts and Disney Springs
Along with all the new events, decorations, and attractions throughout the parks, Walt Disney World also has a bunch of new changes and additions rolling out outside of the theme parks, including new resorts and shows.
One of the biggest new additions to Walt Disney World outside of the parks is the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort. Described as an immersive experience, guests will book a two-night stay, much like a Disney cruise, and will have a set itinerary for their stay. Unlike with other Disney resorts, a visit to the Starcruiser will consist of two days spent without leaving the resort, as visitors “travel” to stay aboard the Halcyon ship and take part in a narrative adventure that involves interactions with the crew and other characters. Guests will partake in many awesome activities, including training with a lightsaber. The new resort experience is on schedule to open in 2021, but Disney has provided no further updates on an exact date or reservations.
At Disney Springs, the new Cirque du Soleil show will finally be opening sometime this year. Originally scheduled to open in Spring of last year, the production had to be completely shut down because of COVID. The show is called Cirque du Soleil: Drawn to Life, and like a lot of other projects in this article, it doesn’t have an official opening date beyond 2021. So keep an ear out for any updates to come.
Rumors and Speculation Regarding the Big 50
Now it’s time for speculation. These things I am about to share are things that are only rumored currently for the Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration plans. They have not been confirmed in any way, although some of these things are most likely going to happen based on evidence of other celebrations Disney has put on.
When Disneyland celebrated their 60th anniversary, they had special fireworks. It was called Disneyland Forever. That said, it is almost guaranteed that Magic Kingdom will have some kind of special fireworks for the anniversary. No, it is not going to be replacing Happily Ever After, but instead would just be at the Magic Kingdom for a limited-time engagement.
Disneyland also debuted a brand-new nighttime parade for the 60th anniversary which was called Paint the Night. If you go to Magic Kingdom now, you would see that currently there is no nighttime parade. On October 9, 2016, Magic Kingdom held its very last performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade. It’s now 2020, and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has not gotten a new nighttime parade yet. In fact, this is now the longest time in Magic Kingdom history the park has been without a nighttime parade. Will we ever get one back? Well, if Disneyland got a special parade for their big celebration, chances are Magic Kingdom may most likely receive a brand-new parade for its 50th. Hopefully, we do get a parade, as the parades are truly special to see. It was another way for guests to stay at the park later at night. I myself have memories of seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade along with the SpectroMagic Parade many times with my family members. With the technology we have today, I am sure that if and when a nighttime parade comes back, it is sure to be quite the spectacle!
Back on the topic of rides, there are rumors out there about the refurbishment and update of several Disney attractions at Magic Kingdom. Both Tomorrowland Speedway and Peter Pan’s Flight got short refurbishments, but Disney has been working on other attractions as well. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has been under refurbishment for a while now, and it’s unclear both when it will reopen and what exactly Disney is doing with it. Along with that, Disney has been working on an update for Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island.
The other rumored attractions that might receive some kind of update for the 50th include but are not limited to: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Carousel of Progress, It’s A Small World, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Stitch’s Great Escape, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain.
How Should One Prepare for the Big 50th??
With the 50th anniversary on its way, you may be wondering just how you should prepare for this grand occasion? My first piece of advice is to book your vacation as soon as possible. If you haven’t planned a trip for the end of 2021 but you’d like to go, this is the perfect time to book. Prices are low for flights and hotels, and you’re not likely to see these low prices once everything opens up again. The second thing you need to do is plan to arrive at the Magic Kingdom the day of the 50th by no later than 5:30 am. What I mean by arriving by 5:30 is by 5:30 you are all the way at the gate ready and waiting to get in the park. I actually recommend going as early as you possibly can, so if you can get there before 5:30, then great. If not, well, try your absolute best. You are going to want to get there early for a number of reasons.
The first reason is if you do not, loads of people will be in line well before you, and it may take a really long time to get in the park. That being said, you will also miss some things happening in the park right away when it opens, hence the reason you need to be there early. As soon as people are let into the park (and this could be as early as 5:30 am), people will either head straight for the Emporium to wait in line and buy special anniversary merchandise, or they will head right to the center hub in front of the castle and wait for the dedication ceremony that will be taking place.
If you are fortunate enough to make your way through the line of the Emporium and get a great spot for the ceremony, you did really well. My last piece of advice is to be prepared. The crowds and lines will be extremely long. Think about how the crowds are at Black Friday. Then take that energy and double or maybe even triple it. That is how crazy it will be at the park. This day may even be worse than going to the park on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Along with being prepared, you need to have a battle plan. Plan out your day exactly how you want it to go and then stick to that plan.
If you do not have a plan, you may not get to do all the things you want to do during the park’s celebration. So, if you plan, if you prepare, and if you are a crazy person like me who will be at Magic Kingdom at 5:30am on a Friday, then you will have the best time of your life! Either way, this celebration is sure to one to remember and be anything unlike you have ever seen!
Will I see you there? Regarding any changes to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021, keep an eye on my blog and other Disney news sites.