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Everything you need to know to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary

by Attractions Magazine Staff

On Oct. 1, 1971, Walt Disney World Resort officially opened to guests for the first time. Five decades later, guests are now celebrating The Most Magical Place on Earth for its 50th anniversary.

walt disney world

“It is a thrill to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World and the extraordinary cast members and Imagineers who bring the resort to life every day and create magical moments for our guests,” said Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company. “As we look to the next 50 years and beyond, we are inspired to continually reinvent the way we tell stories, and to use technology to immerse guests deeper into the story worlds they love so much.”

The 18-month celebration is bringing new attractions, nighttime spectaculars, and other magical experiences to the resort:

Expanded Epcot France pavilion serves up a new attraction and restaurant

Epcot’s newest attraction, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, invites guests into the flavorful world of Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning film “Ratatouille.” On the family-friendly attraction, guests will “shrink” to the size of a rat and scurry through Gusteau’s famous restaurant.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot – FULL Queue and Front Row POV 4K
Remy's Ratatouille Adventure Merchandise Overview

Also new to the France pavilion is La Crêperie de Paris, a restaurant which offers both table- and quick-service options. The menu features sweet crepes and savory buckwheat galettes alongside authentic French hard cider.

Full Walkthrough Tour of New Ratatouille France Pavilion Expansion

Nighttime spectacular ‘Harmonious’ reimagines Disney music at Epcot

Harmonious,” one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park, debuted on Oct. 1 at Epcot. The new show brings the countries of World Showcase together in a celebration of Disney music, combined with new technical magic that incorporates pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting, LED panels and media. “Harmonious features new interpretations of classic Disney tunes in more than a dozen languages, performed by a diverse group of 240 artists from around the world.

New Harmonious Nighttime Spectacular Debuts At Epcot

‘Disney Enchantment’ lights up the night at Magic Kingdom

Joining “Harmonious” is a new nighttime spectacular for Magic Kingdom, titled “Disney Enchantment.” Created to launch with “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” this show features fireworks, music, enhanced lighting and — for the first time ever — projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A. The show is anchored by the new song, “You Are the Magic,” written and performed by multiple Grammy winner Philip Lawrence, whose career began as a cast member performing in shows at Walt Disney World.

Disney Enchantment Fireworks and Projections on Main Street at Magic Kingdom

Beacons of Magic shine at Walt Disney World’s theme parks

During the 50th anniversary celebration, the park icons at Walt Disney World will transform at night into “Beacons of Magic,” coming to life with an “EARidescent” glow.

Sparkling Beacon of Magic at Magic Kingdom for #DisneyWorld50
Beacon of Magic Spaceship Earth Show at Epcot
Tower of Terror Beacon of Magic Projections at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Tree of Life Beacon of Magic at Disney's Animal Kingdom for Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary

‘Disney KiteTails’ takes flight at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

New daytime entertainment has taken flight at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with “Disney KiteTails.” Performing several times daily at the Discovery River Theater, the show features performers flying windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes; out on the water, elaborate three-dimensional kites — some stretching to 30 feet long — depict Disney animal friends like Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie. These colorful creations dance through the sky to the best of iconic Disney songs in a fun experience for the whole family.

Disney KiteTails — Pre-Show and Full Show Debuts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Electrical Water Pageant adds 50th anniversary shimmer

A 50-year tradition, the Electrical Water Pageant sails nightly across the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. For this milestone anniversary, the show has added new whimsy with a towering castle, swirling pixie dust and a version of the celebration anthem “The Magic Is Calling,” recorded in the pageant’s iconic electro-synth sound.

50th Anniversary Intro and Finale Added to Electrical Water Pageant at Walt Disney World

Space 220 Restaurant brings ‘the height of dining’ to Epcot

A new culinary experience has expanded upon the Mission: Space pavilion at Epcot. Named for its distance of 220 miles “above” the Earth, Space 220 Restaurant offers a simulated space dining experience complete with view s that are out of this world.

Space 220 Restaurant Opening Moment with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Epcot
All Views from the Space 220 Elevator at Epcot, Walt Disney World
Space 220 Full Restaurant Experience at Epcot

Original Walt Disney World Resort hotels add new pixie dust for the 50th

As Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary, Walt Disney Imagineering is continuing to enhance the destination’s two original resort hotels. All guest rooms in the A-frame tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are being completely refurbished, blending a Monorail motif evoking Tomorrowland with characters from Disney and Pixar’s “The Incredibles.” In the lobby, guests will see a collection of modern art pieces and historical, behind-the-scenes photographs of the resort in development and under construction. The resort’s lobby restaurant is now known as Steakhouse 71, and offers a reimagined dining experience.

'Incredibles' Themed Room Tour at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney's Contemporary Resort Debuts New Lobby and First Look at Steakhouse 71's Entrance

Guest rooms were recently reimagined at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort with a color palette inspired by the Pacific Ocean and its islands. The new look draws on details, textures and patterns found in Disney’s “Moana,” with references to the characters and storytelling in the film. The resort also has a new porte cochere, enhancing the arrival experience at the Great Ceremonial House.

Brand New 'Moana' Themed Rooms At Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

‘Drawn to Life,’ presented by Cirque du Soleil and Disney, premiering this winter

Drawn to Life,” the new Cirque du Soliel show coming to Disney Springs, will premiere on Nov. 18, 2021 as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The show, which is a collaboration between Cirque, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, tells the story of Julie, 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 pencil, Julie embarks on a quest filled with her childhood Disney memories, brought to life through Cirque du Soleil’s design and performances.

Preview of Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn to Life at Disney Springs

Golden Disney Fab 50 Character Collection statues appear across the resort

The new Disney Fab 50 Character Collection golden sculptures are spread out across the four Walt Disney World theme parks to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Fifty characters are featured in total, and starting in 2022, guests will be able to use the new MagicBand+ to interact with these statues.

Fab 50 Golden Character Statues – All Characters and Locations – Walt Disney World

Mickey, Minnie and friends dress for the occasion

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale have all received new looks, custom-made for this milestone anniversary. Highlights of the new outfits include embroidered impressions of Cinderella Castle backed by fireworks, a brocade in multi-toned, EARidescent fabric, and pops of gold. In addition to being seen at Magic Kingdom, these characters will also make appearances at Disney Resort hotels in their EARidescent outfits.

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary EARidescent Character Costumes Revealed

Celebratory food and drinks look to the past for new inspiration

During its 50th anniversary celebration, Walt Disney World will offer new menu items that nod to the resort’s past will pushing culinary adventures to new places. These include theme park classics and some of Walt Disney’s own favorite items, along with novel dishes and sips full of fun.

Of the more than 150 new items, examples include:

  • Cheese Fries with Walt’s Chili at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Filet Mignon with Walt’s Hash at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Mission to Mars burger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Magic Kingdom
  • EARidescent Croissant Doughnut at Epcot
  • EARidescent Ice Dream Cone at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • 50th Celebration Ganache Chocolate Bar at The Ganachery in Disney Springs
  • 50th Celebration Soufflé at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Magical Beacon Cocktail, found at many table-service restaurants, lounges and pool bars at Walt Disney World

Novelty items like popcorn buckets, mugs and sippers will continue to roll out across the resort throughout the celebration.

Signature Limited Time Food and Beverage Offerings for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebrat

Take the magic home with 50th anniversary merchandise collections

Guests will find new merchandise collections launching in October and November 2021 as part of the anniversary celebration. These new items include apparel, accessories, plush, homeware, keepsakes, collectibles, and more.

Collections include:

  • The Celebration Collection includes a wide-ranging assortment of commemorative merchandise for the whole family.
  • Drawing inspiration from Cinderella Castle, the Disney Castle Collection features everything from collectibles – such as ornaments and charms – to castle-inspired attire and a light-up, 50th anniversary-edition Minnie Mouse ear headband.
  • Disney fans and those who love all things vintage will be eager to unlock the Vault Collection that pays tribute to 50 years of Walt Disney World magic with an assortment of retro-themed designs right out of the Walt Disney Archives.
  • In line with new décor seen across Walt Disney World during the 50th anniversary celebration, the EARidescent Collection features a shimmering array of themed fashions and accessories.
  • As the name implies, the Luxe Logo Collection offers a range of upscale pieces for the Disney collector.
New Creations Shop opens at Epcot

‘The Magic Is Calling’ during 50th anniversary celebration

The Magic Is Calling,” a new song written especially for the 50th anniversary, can be heard in a variety of ways during the 18-month celebration. The new song calls guests to join in the celebration, including at night when the theme park icons transform into “Beacons of Magic.” The song is also used in special life entertainment moments across the resort, like “Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade” at Magic Kingdom, or performances by the Dapper Dans (Magic Kingdom), Discovery Island Drummers (Disney’s Animal Kingdom), and Voices of Liberty (Epcot).

Walt Disney World transportation features new magic

Many of the forms of complimentary transportation at Walt Disney World have received special anniversary décor during the celebration. Guests can ride in sparkling style with new artwork added to select Disney Skyliner cabins, Disney Transportation buses and a golden Monorail train.

Each Monorail train has also received special nighttime enhancements in the form of glowing lights that match each train’s specific color.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind set debut dates

Two highly-anticipated experiences coming to Walt Disney World are set to debut in 2022 as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. On March 1, 2022, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will welcome its first official guests in a galaxy far, far away for a first-of-its-kind vacation experience. General bookings begin later this month on Oct.28.

New Details Revealed For Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel during Imagineer Interview

Also opening in 2022 is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a new “story coaster” experience at Epcot. This new experience will be the park’s first “other world” showcase pavilion, offering a glimpse at the treasures Xandar has to share — until the moment the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive and take guests on an intergalactic chase through space and time.

Imagineer Interview Reveals New Details For Epcot's Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster.

MagicBand+ unlocks new interactive experiences in 2022

In 2022, the next-generation MagicBand+ will debut at Walt Disney World Resort, adding new functionalities and experiential moments of magic to the guest experience.

After a guest enters one of the Disney parks, MagicBand+ will come to life at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations and gesture recognition. The wearable tech 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.

More details about MagicBand+ will be shared at a later date. Current MagicBands will continue to be available, along with the complimentary Disney MagicMobile service that extends MagicBand features to smart devices.

Magic Band+ Coming To Walt Disney World in 2022
Hands-on with MagicBand+ at Walt Disney World Resort

‘Hey Disney!’ adds magic to Amazon Alexa and Echo in 2022

Disney is teaming up with Amazon to create its own voice assistant using Alexa technology for supported devices. Called “Hey Disney!,” this new offering will work alongside Alexa to respond to vocal prompts, bringing Disney characters and stories to life in magical new ways to make guest stays at Walt Disney World Resort more convenient, engaging and enjoyable.

“Hey Disney!” will begin rolling out in Disney Resort hotel guests rooms across Walt Disney World in 2022. Access will be offered as optional and complimentary. The voice assistant features the services Alexa users know well — weather forecasts, timers, alarms and more — made magical with Disney characters. It also features an all-new character, the Disney Magical Companion, who will help guests discover more than a thousand interactions. Disney Resort hotel guests will be able to learn helpful information about their vacation, order room amenities and more.

The voice assistant will also be available for purchase for supported Amazon Echo devices via the Amazon Alexa Skills store.


Walt Disney World 50th Re-Dedication with Bob Iger and Bob Chapek

“The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” honoring 50 years of Walt Disney World Resort, is happening now. To learn more, visit DisneyWorld.com/50.

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