Walt Disney World celebrates 50 years of magic and memories on Oct. 1. And for its golden anniversary, Disney has planned 18 months of celebrations, special shows, nighttime spectaculars and new outfits for its most beloved characters.
For Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary in 1996, Disney famously decided to transform Cinderella Castle into a giant, pink birthday cake – candles and all. Guests who had been looking forward to getting their picture taken with the iconic castle were furious, and fans still talk about the “pink monstrosity” today. Disney seems to have learned from the past with their 50th anniversary Cinderella Castle makeover, which just adds some extra magic to this beloved Disney landmark.
Fresh off a new paint job from last year, Cinderella Castle has been decorated with a series of golden ribbons wrapping around its blue turrets. An iridescent medallion emblazoned with the golden number ’50’ hangs above the front balcony. It’s a great way to celebrate the anniversary without covering the castle in icing and gumdrops.
The other park icons are also getting new looks with nighttime light displays. The Tower of Terror, Tree of Life and Spaceship Earth are all getting their own nighttime projections to celebrate. Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror will transform from its normally foreboding exterior into an iridescent dream hotel at night, while Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life will invite magical fireflies into its branches. Epcot’s Spaceship Earth will be making a more permanent change, with the addition of new lights that will connect across the geodesic sphere to resemble stars in the night sky.
Mickey, Minnie and the gang are sporting new “EARidescent” anniversary outfits, complete with sparkles and embroidery of Cinderella Castle. Cast members across the parks will also have their own iridescent name tags to match.
A new nighttime spectacular, “Disney Enchantment,” debuted in the Magic Kingdom on Oct. 1, featuring fireworks, music, light displays and projections that stretch from Cinderella Castle all the way down Main Street. This is the first time projection mapping has been used on Main Street to coincide with a nighttime show, and it’s bound to be a breathtaking experience.
Epcot will also have a new nighttime spectacular to offer. “Harmonious,” which has been in development for years, also debuted on Oct. 1 at the World Showcase Lagoon. “Harmonious” is one of the largest nighttime spectaculars that has ever been seen at a Disney park, and it definitely has enough razzle dazzle to fill up all of World Showcase. The show, which celebrates how music can bring people together, features pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, light displays and classic Disney songs that have been reimagined and recorded in over a dozen different languages by a group of 240 artists from around the world.
Animal Kingdom has unveiled a brand new daytime show, “Disney KiteTails” at the Discovery River Amphitheater on Oct 1. This show features performers flying windcatchers and kites in the shapes of your favorite Disney animals. Some kites stretch up to 30 feet long!
Due to the ongoing pandemic, Disney is still using a reservation system to keep their park capacity below 35% for the foreseeable future. Reservations are already completely booked for the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021, but don’t worry, the celebration will be going on for 18 more months. You have plenty of time to participate in this magical milestone.
This announcement comes amid some other changes at Walt Disney World. In January, Disney announced that it would be discontinuing Disney’s Magical Express, which ferries guests from the airport to their Disney hotel, in 2022. They have also halted sales of new annual passes, though current passholders are still able to renew theirs. Extra Magic Hours have now been replaced with early theme park entry for hotel guests. Epcot itself is in the middle of a massive renovation.
Walt Disney World has also made several changes to their mask policies over the past few months. At time of writing, vaccinated guests are not required to wear masks while they’re in the parks, but masks must be worn on transportation like Disney buses, monorails and the Disney Skyliner. Due to Florida ordinances, Disney does not require proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated guests are encouraged to continue wearing their masks whenever they are inside a building.
Perhaps the most significant change has been the introduction of Disney Genie, which is sure to affect how guests experience almost every aspect of the parks.
It will be interesting to see the ongoing changes to Walt Disney World as they celebrate their anniversary during these turbulent times. With more people getting vaccinated and a possible end to the pandemic in sight, I have no doubt that even more changes will be coming to the parks.
Will you be visiting Walt Disney World during its 50th anniversary celebration? Let us know in the comments below!