Disney World 50th Anniversary: New Castle Decor, Character Costumes, Projection Effects

With the big day just over six months from now, Walt Disney World has finally shared a preview of its 50th Anniversary celebration! This post covers everything revealed today on ABC’s Good Morning America: new projection mapping, character costumes, Cinderella Castle overlay, and more. We also offer commentary about what was hinted and what was missing from the promo.

During its segment, Good Morning America announced that the World’s Most Magical Celebration (on Earth) 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.

Per Good Morning America, Walt Disney World’s Most Magical Celebration will include new entertainment activities and attractions, and to mark the festivities, Magic Kingdom’s iconic Cinderella Castle will be transformed with new sparkling embellishments.

In addition, icons in the four Walt Disney World theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios will transform into “Beacons of Magic” by coming to life with their own magical glow.

Here’s a look at some of the concept art for the projections and lighting effects:

At EPCOT, new lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another and resembling stars in a nighttime sky.

This permanent new lighting on Spaceship Earth will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the reimagined EPCOT.

Above, you can see special new touches coming to life on the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which will be awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of cinema.

Below, a warm light emanates from the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature…

While the other park icons are receiving animated enhancements via projection mapping and nighttime lighting, Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park will also add to its Royal Makeover from last year with physical adornments.

As you can see in the new artist rendering below, Cinderella Castle will feature blue bunting, golden swirls, and a 50th anniversary crest as part of its festive new look for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. (Further down the post is a nighttime look at it.)

This milestone is such a big deal, Walt Disney World has coined a new word – “EARidescence” – to describe what you’ll see when you visit. (A teaser at the D23 Expo nearly two years ago offered brief glimpses of merchandise and food in this style.)

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will have sparkling new looks for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. As hosts of the event, they’ll be dressed for the occasion in custom-made fashions of EARidescent fabric. Highlights of these celebratory designs include beautifully embroidered impressions of Cinderella Castle backed by fireworks, as well as a brocade in multi-toned, EARidescent fabric – all punctuated with pops of gold.

Keep in mind that this preview comes at a time when it’s impossible–even for Walt Disney World leadership–to predict with certainty what will be practical and possible by October. Accordingly, this announcement is deliberately constrained to only the “sure things” that the company is confident will be feasible by then.

Nevertheless, now comes the part where we overanalyze a few seconds of substance with hundreds of words of commentary and speculation. We know better, but we can’t help ourselves…

One popular topic of fan conversation will undoubtedly be Cinderella Castle’s special decor for the anniversary, featuring its blue turrets topped with gold swirls and more. It’s likely that the current construction in front of the castle and the coffer dams in the moat are related to these 50th Anniversary enhancements.

This celebratory overlay will likely be divisive, just like last year’s Royal Makeover that formed the foundation for this (which I admittedly do not care for), the ‘Happiest Celebration on Earth’ gold detailing before that, or the infamous Castle Cake before that.

Cinderella Castle’s 25th Anniversary cake was derided among many fans as the Pepto Bismol Castle. I was 10 years old when I first saw the Castle Cake, and I absolutely loved it. Even today, I remain nostalgic for the Castle Cake as a short-lived overlay for Walt Disney World’s 25th Anniversary.

The Happiest Celebration on Earth marked our first trip back to Walt Disney World as adults, and our first together. It was before we became very serious Disney fans, and we also liked those golden adornments and “pixie dust” encircling the turrets.

This isn’t our attempt to publicly proclaim our poor taste. Rather, illustrating that perhaps kids and casual guests view these things from a different perspective. It’s also possible that some appreciate the novelty or celebratory quality of anniversary overlays.

I will fully admit that I still fall into the latter category. So long as it’s temporary, I’m on board with pretty much any anniversary enhancements to Cinderella Castle. The concept art for the 50th Anniversary looks regal and relatively tasteful, and I’m excited for it.

Then there are the character costumes. I’m no fashion blogger, which is patently obvious from every picture ever posted of me on this site. Accordingly, critiquing style is pretty far beyond the scope of my expertise. When it comes to costumes, I like stuff that’s elaborate and grandiose–like top hats, coat tails, and even bedazzled accessories.

Basically, I just like Mickey Mouse and friends to look fancy in their fun threads. I think these outfits accomplish that, and I’m also a fan of the color scheme, which echoes Cinderella Castle’s new look. Again, I’m excited to see these in person.

Just as significant is what was not featured in Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary preview. While new entertainment and attractions were mentioned, it would’ve been nice to see concept art or hype for a new fireworks show, daytime parade, stage show, or light parade. Understandably, there was nothing on that front.

GMA could’ve even shown video footage of Paint the Night if the plan were to bring that from California to Florida. The absence of these things doesn’t mean they won’t debut at some point during the celebration–just that there’s not sufficient certainty as to if/when they’ll be able to roll out.

Then there are the omitted attractions. It was a bit of a surprise to see Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure not even mentioned, but we still strongly believe that’ll open this year, along with Harmonious at EPCOT.

On the other hand, although Walt Disney World has not officially confirmed as much, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind or the Play Pavilion at EPCOT and TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom will likely not open “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary” as previously promised.

Our expectation is that all of these attractions open at some point during the World’s Most Magical Celebration. In our prior Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Preview, we speculated that Cosmic Rewind and TRON could debut at the halfway point to reinvigorate the event.

We still think that’s entirely possible–if not probable. Although Disney announced the the World’s Most Magical Celebration would last 18 months, it’s also possible the event could receive a “surprise” extension. That happened with the Year of a Million Dreams, and would make sense here given the travel trepidations (etc.) that will likely exist in late 2021 through early 2022.

Then there are two highly-anticipated restaurants, Space 220 at EPCOT and Toy Story Roundup BBQ in Hollywood Studios, that were previously slated to open last year. Both could be rolled into the start of the 50th Anniversary or be pushed into 2022.

In the case of those restaurants, it’s also possible that they’re not high-profile enough to warrant mentioning on Good Morning America. WDW dining is important to hardcore fans, but not so much a casual and mainstream audience. That’s worth emphasizing, as is the fact that this was a very brief teaser segment.

One final thing that stood out to me was that everyone in the teaser spot that aired online was wearing face masks (no guests were shown during the actual GMA segment). This is most likely unremarkable, as face masks are required at Walt Disney World right now when the promo reel aired. Not showing them would amount to mixed messaging in the near term. Moreover, there’s no way Disney knows right now if they might be able to relax the rule by then, so erring on the side of showing masks is appropriate.

Nevertheless, this is a topic about which I’ve speculated at length recently, theorizing that October 1, 2021 might be a target date for loosening health safety policies. By showcasing face masks so prominently, it’s possible this is preparing guests to expect masks this fall. Or, more likely, it’s nothing at all…and just me reading too deeply into things.

Ultimately, it’s an interesting early glimpse at some of what’s coming for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Notwithstanding our over-analysis, a lot still remains to be seen as to what debuts for the celebration–and when. Even though we’ve been expressing optimism in recent weeks, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the coming months, and what will be possible by October 1, 2021.

In other words, think of this more as a “save the date” or vague teaser trailer about Walt Disney World’s “Most Magical Celebration” for general public audiences. It showcases some of what’s definitely coming for the celebration, but is definitely not an exhaustive preview of everything that will debut during the multi-year event. In the end, we’re just happy to see something–it’s a relief that Disney hasn’t forgotten about the big event, and doesn’t plan on glossing over it in light of the circumstances of the last year.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think of the Cinderella Castle overlay, celebratory character costumes, or icon projections? Are you considering a trip for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? What are your expectations in terms of new attractions, entertainment, merchandise, food, and other aspects of the celebration? Think Disney has any surprises for the anniversary up its sleeves? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the Good Morning America preview of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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