Walt Disney World Changes for 2021: The 50th Anniversary

Walt Disney World Changes for 2021: The 50th Anniversary

 If you haven’t been to Disney World in the last few years you are in for some big changes! There are supposed to be 50 Changes implemented at Walt Disney World by the 50th Anniversary. This includes things as big as new lands, and as small as new character meet and greets. Apart from all the planning now needed to make the most of your trip, you’ll also see new Disney Rides, Disney Restaurants, Shows and Lands. Plus, you’ll also see some of your favorite things retire. With Walt Disney World making significant changes every year to meet demand and continue challenging Universal Studios, even more changes are coming in preparation of the anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021. Here’s the list so far!

Changes Coming to Walt Disney World

New Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Logo Reveal

The New Walt Disney World Logo encompasses sparkles alongside strong purple, blue and pink hues no doubt honoring some of the more recent color trends at Disney. Imagination pink, Purple potion, and Unicorn colors have been merchandise darlings this past year and are clearly represented in the new mood board for the Anniversary.

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Logo Disney 2021

We’re breaking this down by park, in list style. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of EVERYTHING happening at all 4 Disney Parks, Resorts and property-wide.

Magic Kingdom Bucket list Best Rides, Best Food

Magic Kingdom Changes for 2021

  • Disney Characters added to It’s a Small World Ride by 2021. Similar to Disneyand’s Version.
  • Introduction of the Hub Grass in front of Cinderellas Castle, for lounging and dessert parties.
  • Wreck it Ralph Attraction to replaces Stitch’s Great Escape by 2022
  • Skipper Canteen Jungle Cruise Restaurant comes to Adventureland
  • Happily Ever After Fireworks Show replaces Wishes
  • Not So Spooky Spectacular Halloween Fireworks debut 2019 at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • PeopleMover Refurbishments coming, including new areas and scenes within the ride
  • Tomorrowland Re-imagining to match white and blue Tron Lightcycle theme and new Entrance sign.
  • Carousel of Progress Updates
  • Instagram darling, The Purple Wall, is refreshed with geometric graphics.
  • Tron Lightcycle Roller Coaster completion by 2021 in Tomorrowland

No longer at Magic Kingdom

  • Royal Merry Makers are cut
  • Move it Shake it MousekeDance it Parade finishes late 2019
  • Muppets: Great Moments in History cut
  • Hallowishes Fireworks Show Retires
  • Wishes Fireworks Show Retires
  • The Main Street Electrical Light Parade retired 2018
  • Stitch’s Great Escape Closed 2018
  • Magician Mickey Character Meet and Greet no longer includes a “talking Mickey”
  • Move it, Shake it, Dance it, Play it Parade retired 2019
  • Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial retired 2018

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Hollywood Studios Changes for 2021

Hollywood Studios has been under construction for about two years. With quite a bit still to do,Hollywood Studios and Epcot are the parks that will have the biggest changes going into the 50th Anniversary in 2021.

  • New park logo debuts in 2019 for 30th anniversary
  • “Studio” Parking lot names are replaced by character names, preparing to remove studio theming of park. 
  • Fantasmic is refreshed 2017
  • Meet and Greet with Toy Story 4 Bo Peep arrives at Toy Story Land Summer 2019
  • New Mike and Sully Meet and Greet in the One Man’s Dream building opens 2019
  • Additional Star Tours storylines added for a possibility of 26 different ride experiences
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular refurbishment and new storylines 2020
  • Star Wars Land open Aug 29,2019. Land will open in phases.
    • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Ride: A new ride with simulations similar to Star Tours that allows guests to “control” the ride.
    • Rise of the Resistance Ride opens Dec 5, 2019
    • Galactic Datapad App is planned for immersion experience
    • Galaxy’s Edge New Restaurants and Shops
  • Toy Story Land opens June 30 2018
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway takes over the Chinese Theater Spring 2020
  • Star Wars Galactic Nights show debuts 2017
  • Grand Avenue is created as walkway to Galaxy’s Edge
  • Baseline Tap House added on Grand Avenue
  • Introduction of Sunset Seasons Greetings show at Christmas
  • Wonderful World of Animation Nighttime Show debuts for 30th Anniversary

No longer at Hollywood Studios

epcot changes at walt disney world

Epcot Changes for 2021

Epcot is getting a major overhaul, so we won’t be able to cover all of it here, but here’s some of the ones currently completed or in process. The biggest news to come out this years D23Expo 2019 was that Epcot would be getting an overhaul that would demolish Innoventions West and create new spaces aligned with four new areas of the park; World Celebration, World Discovery World Nature and World Showcase. This new four sections of Epcot create experiences aligned to different universal themes.

  • Choza de Margarita, a permanent outdoor food kitchen, is added to Mexico
  • Interactive Play Pavilion in Wonders of Life Building
  • Addition of Journey of Water with Moana based theme to include waterfalls and interactive experiences in World Nature
  • Regal Eagle Smokehouse Craft Drafts & Barbecue replaces Liberty Inn, late 2019
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is an indoor “storytelling” Rollercoaster that catapults guests into space backwards and allows 360 control of the coaster car. Completion by 2021
  • Authentic French Creperie is announced for Epcot France 2019
  • Awesome Planet, a new movie arrives at The Land Pavilion replacing Circle of Life in 2020
  • Frozen Ever After replaces Maelstrom
  • Takumi Tei, an artisan Japanese restaurant, opens 2019
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France, opening May 2020
  • Space 220 Restaurant opens in Future World (soon to be World Discovery), Fall 2019
  • The Spike the Bee Pollen-Nation scavenger hunt game is introduced at Flower and Garden Festival 2018
  • Epcot Forever is in interim evening digital show over the lake in World Showcase, opened Oct 1, 2019.
  • Epcot evening show Harmonious debuts in 2020 to replace Epcot Forever.
  • Wondrous China, is the new China CircleVision film to replace old film in China, Epcot.
  • Canada Far and Wide, CircleVision is the new Canade 360 film to premiere with Festival of the Arts 2020
  • Mary Poppins Attraction to open in Epcot in UK by 2021
  • Soarin’ Update happened in 2016 changed to Soaring Around the World
  • Beauty and the Beast Sing Along planned for Epcot France to open January 2020
  • International Festival of the Arts debuted in January 2017, now an annual art festival at Epcot
  • World Celebration is the planned entrance name for Epcot to transition before 2022

No longer at Epcot

  • Innoventions West to be demolished
  • Ellen’s Universe of Energy closes. 
  • Leave a Legacy walls came down at Epcot Spring 2019
  • Liberty Inn Restaurant in America, Epcot closes July 8, 2019
  • Circle of Life with Timon and Pumba closes at The Land building
  • Maelstrom is refurbished with Frozen theme
  • Spaceship Earth not closing BUT will close for 2 years once Epcot entrance construction starts
  • Starbucks in Epcot Plaza and Club Cool not closing but relocated during renovation
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth night time show retires 2019

up a great bird adventure animal kingdom

Animal Kingdom Changes for 2021

If you haven’t gotten to Pandora: World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom yet, know that this lands popularity has ranked Animal Kingdom in the #2 most popular theme park spot, second to Magic Kingdom. Lots of people, lots of awesome, lots going on.

  • Pandora, World of Avatar Opens Spring 2017
    • Flight of the Banshee
    • Na’vi River Ride
    • Satuli Canteen Quick Service
    • Pongu Pongu Counter Service
  • Rivers of Light We Are One night show debuts in 2019.
  • Up! A Great Bird Adventure opens 2018
  • Tiffin’s Restaurant opens in 2017
  • Tree of Life Awakenings evening digital show opens, with seasonal overlays
  • Introduction of Kevin, from Up as wandering character at Animal Kingdom
  • Donald Duck’s Birthday Bash takes on a potentially permanent setup in Dinoland

No longer at Animal Kingdom

  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch Conservation Center closes 2018. Intermittently open.
  • Flights of Wonder Closes, replaced by Up! A Great Bird Adventure.
  • Animal Kingdom’s parade is removed from the programming schedule
  • Primeval Whirl set to intermittent operations. 

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Disney Resort Changes for 2021

One of the biggest ways Disney is meeting the needs of more guests is by upgrading current resorts and establishing new resorts. Disney resorts are and have been going under refurbishment or scheduled to before the 2021 deadline.

  • Refurbishments begin at Saratoga Springs 2020
  •  Victoria and Albert’s Bistro, replaces Citrico’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian may complete by end of 2021. 
  • Enchanted Rose Lounge: A Beauty and Beast inspired Bar and Lounge at Grand Floridian opens Fall 2019
  • The Coronado Springs Gran Destino Tower Refurbishment completed in 2019
  • Disney Riviera Resort and Villas will open as a new DVC property Dec 16, 2019
  • Topolino Terrace, a rooftop restaurant atop Riviera set to open Fall 2019. 
  • Star Wars Immersion Resort 2-night, 3 day experience on the Galactic Starcruiser under construction
  • Caribbean Beach Resort construction completes December 2018
  • Sebastian’s Bistro opens as Caribbean Beach’s new Table Service Restaurant.
  • Coronado Springs adds Toledo’s Restaurant, on the rooftop, set to open Summer 2019
  • Three Bridges Waterside Bar and Grill at Coronado Springs opens Summer 2019 
  • Magic Kingdom to Grand Floridian Bridge The broken walkway from Magic Kingdom that leads to the Grand Floridian is set to be connected providing another option for walking guests to avoid the monorail or buses.
  • Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge resort begins construction on River Country Water Park site, located between Fort Wilderness campgrounds and Wilderness Lodge 2022
  • Princess and the Frog Restaurant to open at Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge

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Walt Disney World Changes Park Wide

At all four parks Disney has done things to connect, make things easier and offer new experiences. The transportation efforts have been to offset huge crowd increases. See our 5 rules to keep from getting locked out if the parks it maximum capacity.

  • Dessert Parties and special viewing areas are added for most evening shows, available at an additional cost.
  • Park to Park Bus Service begins at Walt Disney World late 2019
  • New Bus Fleet arrives, with usb charging ports in the seats
  • Disney Skyliner Gondola stations will be available at Disney’s Art of Animation/ Pop Century Resorts, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Epcot International Gateway, and Hollywood Studios Main Gate.
    Disney Skyliner Gondola Transportation System open September 29, 2019 
  • Club 33 locations are being built in all four parks. See where!
  • All 4 Disney Parks now serve alcohol with meals 
  • Minnie Van Service available for guests at all Disney Resorts
  • Disney Genie App debuts in 2020 to help streamline planning experiences including both Dining and Fast Pass Reservations, offering a complete Disney Vacation experience crafted specifically for you.

disney cruise line Disney Wish

Disney Cruise Line Changes

  • Eleuthera in the Bahamas Islands is purchased as the 2nd Port island for Disney Cruises. This island will be referred to to as Lighthouse Point and join Disney’s other private island, Castaway Cay. 
  • Disney Cruise Line adds the Disney Wish to as the 5th ship in the fleet January 2022

Disney Springs Changes

Disney Springs has been morphing ever since it stopped being Downtown Disney. Now a fairly upscale shopping and restaurant experience Disney springs is continually adding amazing things to the non-park day experience. We love that you don’t have to pay admission or have a ticket to the parks to enjoy Disney Springs. And that the Disney buses still bring you there! Here’s some of the new things. 

  • Cirque de Soleil announces Disney collaboration highlighting Disney Storytelling and a familiar score to immerse guests in Disney Magic at the Cirque de Soleil location in Disney Springs
  • Cookie Dough Food Truck opens by September 2019
  • Beatrix, neighborhood restaurant, coffee house and market open by 2020
  • Ample Hills Creamery Disney Springs location set to open by 2020
  • Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill opens
  • Jaleo, a new Spanish restaurant featuring tapas opens
  • City Works Eatery and Pour House featuring craft beers is set to open Winter 2019
  • Chicken Guy, Guy Fieri’s quick serve restaurant opens
  • Pepe by Jose Andres opens
  • Sunshine Churros Kiosks opens Aug 2019
  • World of Disney store is refurbished
  • New Mac and Cheese Food Truck
  • NBA Experience opens Aug 12, 2019

Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Changes

If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in the last few years you may not have gotten a chance to do your own DIY planning via the My Disney Experience app, have a go at fast pass booking ( p.s. its not on paper anymore), or experience the joy of magic bands! Here’s the big planning changes we’ve seen. And if you need a fresh look at how to do the whole planning thing check out our 12 step post.

  • Introduction of Magic Bands as identifier for park ticket, resort key, and fast pass band.
  • Introduction of more streamlined Fast Passes. 
  • A stricter Disney Planning Timeline for Restaurant and Fast Pass reservations.
  • The My Disney Experience App gets an overhaul in summer 2018 with interaction between family members planned, as well potentially being able to unlock your resort room with the app.

To see all the main upcoming changes see Disney’s website here. We’ll be sharing all the new things as they pop up so stay tuned! If you’re interested in some of the changes over at Disneyland, check out the Disneyland section of our blog.

If you got questions, reach out! A lot is happening!

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9 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Changes for 2021: The 50th Anniversary”

  • Great list! With all the new changes when do you think it best to take a second trip – I like to go at the least busiest times

  • Typically the best times are around Jan-Feb and again August-October. Both of these times in 2019/2020 should be OK crowd wise, because a lot of people are either going to wait for Star Wars Galaxy Edge to open late November and go then, or skip 2020 altogether and just plan their “big trip” in 2021 when the anniversary festivities are in full swing and all the new stuff is open.You never can tell with the crowds, but these months do tend to be the lowest each year.

  • Looking at a family holiday for the anniversary 2021. Dilemma.. Do I being them over in the April May when it’s good weather and the crowds are not manic or wait till the Oct when the anniversary kicks in but the crowds will be UNBEARABLE??

  • Hey Paula! We think the whole year of 2021 is gonna be pretty busy! Celebrations actually start late 2020 in preparation for the 50th Anniversary, so we’d say base it on the weather or the ride you most want open. Waiting until October 2021 may not get you more of an advantage than going in May. We don’t know exact open dates for the big rides like Ratatouille, or Tron, but by May 2021 Runaway Railway will be open, Star Wars Land will be complete and the Guardians of the Galaxy Ride will be done. Ratatouille is slated for a late 2020 opening rumored right now. The only ride you may have to wait until October for will be Tron. Hope that helps!

  • Hi, you said Star Wars was three months behind schedule – does that mean we’re still looking at a Fall 2019 opening? We’re planning our first ever trip for Feb 2020 and Star Wars is high on the list of must-dos!

  • Hey Adele! So at this point, Galaxy’s Edge has been pushed back to open in “late” fall, which leaves it pretty vague. We anticipate it will open after a series of soft openings, so by your trip in February 2020, we’re guessing the crowds will be a tiny bit lower than the first couple of months after opening and hopefully they will have a lot of the bugs worked out by then!

  • Congratulations on your future and first ever trip. Regardless of when you go you going be amazed. Don’t rush and just let yourself sink into the Magic!!

  • I apologize if this has been answered already, but planning on going for the big 50th celebration in May, would that be too early? I keep hearing October. Are the celebrations starting in October? Or year round?

  • Hey Amanda, the 50th Anniversary Celebrations for Walt Disney World will most likely start October 2020, run through 2021, and then maybe even stay a little into 2022. So as long as your trip falls anytime in 2021 you will get to be part of the anniversary celebrations.

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