Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th Anniversary: Everything You Need to Know

On Oct. 1, the Walt Disney World Resort began its 18-month celebration of its 50th anniversary since the creation of the Magic Kingdom theme park, along with its opening day hotel resorts — Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. With the start of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” the destination resort opened new attractions, kickstarted new nighttime spectaculars and unveiled new technologies in development for release in 2022.

50th Anniversary Enhancements for Two Original Hotels

Two resort hotels in the Disney Resorts Collection — both originals that opened with Walt Disney World in 1971 — are reimagined as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” honoring the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

As part of the ongoing evolution of the Disney Resorts Collection at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL., all nine floors of guest rooms in the A-frame tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are being completely reimagined. These rooms will blend a Monorail motif with some favorite characters from Pixar Animation Studios’ Incredibles films, including Jack-Jack, Frozone and Edna Mode. Photo credit: Kent Phillips
Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Currently all guest rooms in the tower are being refurbished, blending a Monorail motif with some favorite characters from Pixar Animation Studios’ Incredibles films, including Jack-Jack, Frozone and Edna Mode. New custom artwork in guest rooms and along corridors will be modern, futuristic and complement the resort’s architecture while putting the Supers on display.

In the lobby, guests see a collection of modern art pieces as well as historical, behind-the-scenes photographs of Disney’s Contemporary Resort in development and under construction.

The resort’s lobby restaurant has been renamed Steakhouse 71, offering a reimagined dining experience in time for the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebration. And once the tower guest rooms are complete, work will begin on the rooms inside the Garden Wing out on the shore of Bay Lake.

Reimagined guest rooms inside Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL, feature details, patterns and textures from the Walt Disney Animation Studios film “Moana,” including characters and other references to the story. © Disney Photo credit: Kent Phillips
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are recently reimagined with a color palette inspired by the Pacific Ocean and its necklace of islands. Their new look draws on the details, textures and patterns found in “Moana,” the blockbuster film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Sands of the ocean floor inspired the bathroom tiles and the vanity’s carved details.

The resort also features a new porte cochere experienced by guests upon arrival as they pull up to the Great Ceremonial House. The design features a high-pitched, open-truss roof covered in a thatch style with pops of color. The area’s new open and airy vibe is anchored by four chandeliers inspired by glass floats, fishing nets and oversized bamboo elements mirroring the chandelier inside the lobby. In addition, the Monorail station located above the porte cochere features new wooden screens with geometric patterns in tropical colors.

Electrical Water Pageant

A 50-year tradition, the Electrical Water Pageant sails nightly across Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, entertaining guests at nearby Disney Resort hotels — including Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — with music and lights in a floating parade. For the 50th anniversary celebration, the show will add a new portion with a towering castle, swirling pixie dust and a version of the celebration anthem “The Magic Is Calling,” recorded in the pageant’s electro-synth-magnetic sound.

Beacons of Magic

During the 50th anniversary celebration, icons at Walt Disney World theme parks transform at night into Beacons of Magic, coming to life with their own EARidescent glow.

  • Cinderella Castle illuminates Magic Kingdom Park with a dazzling radiance and pixie-dust sparkle.
  • At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light emanates from the Tree of Life as fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
  • The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
  • And at EPCOT, new lights shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another like stars in a nighttime sky and creating a symbol of optimism. The iconic structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the park.
New lighting shines from a Monorail train as it travels through EPCOT. In honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary celebration, each train received a lighting color matching its painted stripe. © Disney Photo credit: David Roark
Walt Disney World Transportation Features New Magic

Many of the forms of complimentary Walt Disney World transportation receive special 50th anniversary décor during the celebration. New artwork was added to select Disney Skyliner cabins, Disney Transportation buses and a golden Monorail train. Also, each Monorail train receives special nighttime enhancements for the 50th anniversary with the addition of glowing lights that match each train’s specific color.

Disney Enchantment, the new nighttime spectacular illuminating Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Paul Williams, IPM
Disney Enchantment

“Disney Enchantment” adds its own new chapter to the 50-year history of nighttime entertainment at Magic Kingdom in a spectacle of Disney music, fireworks, enhanced lighting and immersive projection effects that extend for the first time from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A., which plays out above and around guests.

Immersive projection effects down Main Street, U.S.A. © Disney Photo credit: David Roark

“Disney Enchantment” features characters, moments and music from films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. The show’s soundtrack is anchored by an original song, “You Are the Magic,” written and performed by multiple GRAMMY winner Philip Lawrence, whose musical career began as a Disney cast member performing in Walt Disney World shows.

France Pavilion Expansion

EPCOT officially opened an expansion to its France pavilion in World Showcase. Anchoring this expansion is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new family-friendly attraction inviting guests into the world of “Ratatouille.” Joining the attraction is La Crêperie de Paris, a new restaurant offering authentic French cuisine in both table- and quick-service options and a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.

The art nouveau-style archway evokes a Paris Metro station before rounding a corner to the expanded France pavilion. © Disney Photo credit: Harrison Cooney

The France expansion more than doubles the size of the existing pavilion. Guests enter this new area of the park down a waterside pathway near the EPCOT International Gateway. Under an art nouveau-style archway, guests round a corner and enter a French market street called Alleé des Marchands (“Alley of the Merchants”).

A cast-iron arcade serves as a transition from real-world France to the fantastical vision of Paris from “Ratatouille.” © Disney Photo credit: Matt Stroshane

Imagineers worked with Pixar to design buildings in the pavilion that evoke the whimsical, handmade architectural style seen in “Ratatouille,” where lines become a bit less straight, colors are bolder and other exaggerated details create the feel of an animated film.

Centered in front of the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction is a fountain with water spraying from bottles like champagne. Photo credit: Paul Williams, IPM

The theme continues with a “Ratatouille”-inspired fountain as the focal point of this area of the pavilion; the three-basin structure features rats holding bottles and flutes of champagne as water shoots out of the bottles toward the top basin. There Remy stands atop the fountain wearing his classic French toque (hat) and holding a cooking spoon.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is a family-friendly attraction where guests, shrunk to the size of a rat, race through Gusteau’s restaurant. The attraction’s entrance, located at the end of the pavilion’s new plaza, looks like a Parisian theater and features a classic marquee with hand-laid golf leaf and nearly 200 lights.

After entering the theater, guests queue through the rooftops of Paris where Gusteau invites them to join Remy for a special meal the “Little Chef” is creating. They board colorful rat-shaped vehicles and then don 3D glasses to begin their adventure.

From falling through a skylight to scurrying through Gusteau’s kitchen to hiding out in the restaurant’s pantry, guests ride memorable scenes from the film. The trackless vehicles travel in groups of three and move forward and backward while spinning and tilting.

Offering both table- and quick-service options, the restaurant’s menu will feature sweet crepes, savory buckwheat galettes (naturally gluten friendly) and authentic French hard cider. © Disney Photo credit: Matt Stroshane
La Crêperie de Paris

La Crêperie de Paris is a traditional creperie with a menu from chef Jérôme Bocuse inspired by the Brittany region of France. The table-service restaurant serves savory galettes and sweet dessert crepes, along with some of Brittany’s famous hard ciders.

La Crêperie de Paris, France pavilion at EPCOT. Photo credit: Martin Palicki, IPM

La Crêperie de Paris offers thin galettes cooked at a high temperature to allow the outside to crisp while warming the various fillings. The gluten-friendly galettes are made with buckwheat imported from France and feature classic fillings with special twists. The sweet crepes are similarly thin and made from scratch.

La Crêperie de Paris completes its French dining experience with traditional Brittany hard ciders that pair with both savory and sweet crepes. From the sweet doux to the less sweet brut and demi sec, these ciders are imported from France and made with apples from the Brittany region.

Crêpes A Emporter at La Crêperie de Paris, France pavilion at EPCOT. © Disney Photo credit: Harrison Cooney

Crêpes A Emporter at La Crêperie de Paris is a quick-service location at the front of the restaurant, located along the new plaza’s promenade. The walk-up window serves three savory galettes, four sweet crepes, soft-serve ice cream and an assortment of ciders and wines.

Space 220 Restaurant aims to lift guests to a new “height of dining” by allowing guests to experience a culinary adventure 220 miles above Earth. This new dining offering is located next door to EPCOT’s Mission: SPACE attraction. Photo credit: Paul Williams, IPM
Space 220 Restaurant

Patina Restaurant Group’s Space 220 Restaurant in EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort is now open. The restaurant concept promises to virtually lift guests to a new “height of dining.”

“At Space 220, we hope to take guests on a culinary journey with our signature prix fixe menu that will let them customize the perfect meals for their crew and expedite their trip to space and back, allowing them ample time to enjoy all that EPCOT has to offer,” said Patina Restaurant Group Marketing Director Kyle Collins.

“With Space 220, we now have a fine dining experience in our World Discovery neighborhood of the Park and a chance for our EPCOT guests to experience a restaurant that is truly out of this world!” added Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Tom Fitzgerald.

Upon entering, guests are “transported” 220 miles above Earth to the Centauri Space Station — they will see EPCOT drop away under their feet and look up to see the rapidly approaching station. Once they step off the space elevator, diners walk past a Grow Zone of spinning produce representing the fresh ingredients on the menu, while they’re guided to their table by a Space 220 crew member. Once seated, all guests will have panoramic views of Earth as the backdrop to their dining experience.

With Executive Chef Marc Kusche at the helm, the restaurant serves upscale, contemporary fare, featuring a two-course prix fixe menu for lunch and a three-course prix fixe menu for dinner.


Launching with “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” honoring 50 years of Walt Disney World Resort, “Harmonious” shines a light on 15 favorite Disney songs reimagined by a culturally diverse ensemble of 240 artists from around the globe, including musicians, composers, arrangers, vocalists and more. In total, the music was performed and recorded through more than 110 sessions in nine different countries.

“Harmonious” takes EPCOT guests through new interpretations of classic Disney songs, inspired and influenced by cultures and people from around the world. The music plays amid choreographed moving fountains and lights, lasers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics bursting above and around World Showcase Lagoon.

Fifty golden sculptures sprinkle the Walt Disney World Resort in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the destination resort and the iconic Disney characters it celebrates. Photo credit: Martin Palicki, IPM
Disney Fab 50 Character Collection

New “Disney Fab 50 Character Collection” golden sculptures are spread across the four Walt Disney World theme parks in honor of the 50th anniversary. Fifty characters are featured in total, and beginning in 2022, guests will be able to use the new MagicBand+ to interact with these statues in fun and surprising ways as part of the 50th anniversary celebration.

MagicBand+ will debut in 2022 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL. The next-generation wearable retains popular features from the original MagicBand and adds new functionality to unlock magical moments throughout Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts. © Disney

In 2013, Walt Disney World Resort introduced the MagicBand, the hands-free wristband that grants access and conveniences to guests, including park and guest room entry, retail and dining, Disney PhotoPass and more. The next-generation MagicBand+ will retain those features and add new functionality to unlock experiential moments throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts.

MagicBand+ will feature multiple designs celebrating the Disney Parks and characters. © Disney

After a guest enters a theme park, MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations and gesture recognition. The wearable will allow guests to engage with Disney moments in new ways and discover new interactive experiences, including:

  • Play like a bounty hunter in a galaxy far, far away and find virtual bounties throughout Black Spire Outpost in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Interact with the “Disney Fab 50 Character Collection,” the golden sculptures spread throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks.
  • Experience nighttime spectaculars in a new way as they see their bands light up and complement the magic in the skies, including the new “Harmonious” at EPCOT and “Disney Enchantment” at Magic Kingdom Park.
© Disney © Disney/Pixar © & TM Lucasfilm
Hey Disney!

Called “Hey Disney!”, this voice assistant will work alongside Alexa to respond to vocal prompts, bringing Disney characters and stories to life to make guest stays more convenient, engaging and enjoyable.

“Hey Disney!” will begin rolling out in Disney Resort hotel guest rooms across Walt Disney World in 2022 as part of the vacation destination’s 18-month 50th anniversary celebration. Access will be offered as an optional, complimentary feature during guest stays.

Hey Disney! will be available as an optional, complimentary feature for Disney Resort guests in 2022 and will also be available for purchase for Amazon Echo devices through the Amazon Alexa Skills store for fans to enjoy at home. © Disney © Disney/Pixar © & TM Lucasfilm

“Hey Disney!” will be available for purchase for supported Amazon Echo devices via the Amazon Alexa Skills store. In addition, Amazon is announcing the availability of two new exclusive Mickey-inspired stands for the Echo Show 5; these durable OtterBox Den Series stands feature the iconic Mickey ears in designs inspired by either Mickey’s 50th anniversary celebration outfit — which will be found in Disney Resort hotel rooms — or his classic red shorts.

Both innovations will debut in 2022 at Walt Disney World Resort as part of the vacation destination’s 50th anniversary celebration. These innovations continue to build upon the Disney “theme park metaverse,” where technology is part of the magic — integrating the physical, digital and virtual worlds to help guests navigate Disney properties and platforms.

Disney KiteTails, the newest daytime entertainment offering at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, opened on Oct. 1 during the Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary. Photo credit: Paul Williams, IPM
Disney KiteTails

New daytime entertainment arrives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, as “Disney KiteTails” performs several times daily beginning Oct. 1 at the Discovery River Theater. Performers fly windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water elaborate three-dimensional kites — some stretching to 30 feet long — depict Disney animal friends, including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will invite guests aboard the Halcyon, a starcruiser known throughout the galaxy for its impeccable service and exotic destinations. When they arrive onboard, guests will step into the ship’s main deck Atrium to begin their journey through a galaxy far, far away. © Disney © & TM Lucasfilm
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

The inaugural voyage of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort will depart March 1, 2022. General bookings for this immersive adventure open Oct. 28, 2021.

Guests arrive at the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal at Walt Disney World and check in for their two-night experience. They then will enter a Launch Pod and, through viewports, they’ll see themselves leave their world behind as they jump to hyperspace and draw closer and closer to the Halcyon starcruiser. When the Launch Pod docks with the starcruiser and the airlock opens, guests will step into the ship’s main deck Atrium.

A visit aboard the Halcyon starcruiser plunges guests into a multi-day, interactive story that interweaves with members of the crew, other passengers, droids and Star Wars characters such as Rey, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. Guests may also encounter new characters, such as the starcruiser’s strong and charismatic captain, the ship’s plucky mechanic, or heroes of the Resistance, among others, as they choose alliances and chart their courses.

Guests experiencing Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will have meals in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, seen in this artist concept rendering. The supper club is a bright and welcoming hall offering menus of both otherworldly and familiar origins. One night’s dinner will feature a live performance from a galactic superstar. © Disney © & TM Lucasfilm

Guests will find refreshment each day in a supper club known as the Crown of Corellia Dining Room. This hall will offer breakfast and lunch to passengers before transitioning each evening into a multi-course menu of both otherworldly and familiar origins. One night’s dinner will feature a live performance from a galactic superstar by a purple Twi’lek.

© Disney Photo credit: Matt Beard
Drawn to Life

After more than a year of waiting, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products are excited to announce that Drawn to Life is scheduled to open on Nov. 18, 2021. The highly anticipated, new family-friendly show coming to Walt Disney World Resort is a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering and will take residency at Disney Springs.

“We are so looking forward to unveil this beautiful, long-awaited creation to the public,” said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “We were moments away from opening night in March of 2020 when performances were paused. Intermission is now over and we cannot wait for Cirque and Disney fans to experience the joy of this love letter to the art of Walt Disney animation.”

Drawn to Life, written and directed by Michel Laprise with Fabrice Becker as Director of Creation, is a live acrobatic journey telling the story of Julie, a determined girl who discovers an unexpected gift left by her Disney animator father: an unfinished animation. As she dives into the inner world of animation guided by a surprising pencil, Julie embarks on a quest filled with her childhood Disney memories.

Developed in partnership with Michael Jung, Executive Theatrical Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, the story is driven by 10 unique acrobatic acts alongside animation from Disney films as well as all-new animation created by Disney artists led by Eric Goldberg, best known for characters such as the Genie in the animated classic, “Aladdin.”

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