Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is now underway! The World’s Most Magical Celebration 18 month event features new rides, fireworks & entertainment at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom & resort hotels. This guide covers everything you need to know, plus crowd predictions, rumored additions, and more. (Updated August 28, 2022.)
During these festivities, there are new rides, nighttime spectaculars, projection mapping, character costumes, Cinderella Castle overlay, and more. We’ve already been in the parks numerous times for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and also have reviews and recommendations for fireworks viewing, doing Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure with minimal wait, and more.
Unfortunately, many of the major planned additions for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary were postponed until 2022. We’ll cover which of those are coming soon, plus details about new entertainment and other enhancements during the World’s Most Magical Celebration–and when the event will end.
August 28, 2022 Update: Walt Disney World has confirmed that the World’s Most Magical Celebration for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World will end March 31, 2023. Of course, announcing an official end date begs the question that Walt Disney World ever started celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
Joking side, it’s no surprise that the 18 month so-called celebration won’t be extended “by popular guest demand.” The Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary is happening in 2023, and Disney has already started teasing that. While details are unknown about how that milestone will be celebrated in the parks, the company has indicated that details will be released at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, occurring September 9-11, 2022.
Announcing the end date for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is one way of transitioning from one milestone anniversary celebration to another, preparing to close one chapter and open another. (Here’s hoping this chapter isn’t just more blank pages.) The groundwork has arguably already started to be laid for this, with a new intro debuting in front of the Disney Enchantment nighttime spectacular. That repositions those fireworks as “the 50th Anniversary” show, making Enchantment likely to conclude its run in March 2023.
In all likelihood, everything else of substance that’s discussed below will outlast the World’s Most Magical Celebration. With that said, here’s a rundown of the new entertainment, attractions, decorations, and enhancements in all four parks for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Let’s start with the biggest reason why people plan trips to theme parks–new rides!
At the last two D23 Expos, Disney announced a number of new attractions that would debut “in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.” These Expos were 2 and 4 years ago–long before things went bonkers and theme parks closed for several months. The only one of those attractions that officially opened for the actual kick-off of the anniversary is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Epcot.
Although it’s not really an attraction, another addition that is now open is Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, otherwise known as the “Star Wars Hotel.” It’s not really a resort, either. Disney describes it as a “revolutionary new 2-night experience where you are the hero…a first-of-its-kind Star Wars adventure that’s your own…the most immersive Star Wars story ever created.”
Speaking of space, Walt Disney World’s blockbuster addition for 2022 is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Experiencing the new ride is a bit complicated, so be sure to check out our How to Ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind & Virtual Queue Speed Strategy to improve your chances of success for joining the free virtual queue. (Note: this virtual queue might be retired by some point in September 2022.)
Another alternative is buying line-skipping access via the Individual Lightning Lanes. Those posts explain each option, their pros & cons, and everything else you need to know. Suffice to say, do not just show up to EPCOT expecting to join the standby line–as there isn’t one.
Magic Kingdom’s next big addition is the TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster being built in Tomorrowland behind Space Mountain. Construction has accelerated on this, but it’s unlikely the ride will debut before the Christmas 2022 season. The opening date could be another D23 Expo announcement.
Drawing out these openings and scattering out additions during the World’s Most Magical Celebration makes sense from a practical perspective. It gives Walt Disney World the chance to do something of a soft reset about halfway through the 50th Anniversary, “amping up” the festivities with new attractions and entertainment. This would entice fans who already experienced the first half of the celebration to plan return trips, and will also lure new guests to Florida.
One such upcoming addition could be the Play Pavilion at Epcot. This was previously announced–and should’ve debuted by now–but Disney has been silent as to its status for a while. The Play Pavilion could debut this year, but we’re skeptical of that. Same goes for the DuckTales World Showcase Adventure.
Another interactive experience, Moana’s Journey of Water, is likely to arrive in 2023. Similar timelines for all three would make sense. In fact, there are several lower-profile additions on the horizon for Walt Disney World that could open towards the end of this year or be pushed into 2023 as circumstances dictate. There are also a lot of other additions on the horizon that won’t be part of the celebration. See our What’s New & Next at Walt Disney World in 2022 & 2023for a full rundown.
New Guest Perks
For the start of the 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World launched operational changes. Calling them “new guest perks” isn’t entirely apt, as one is a replacement for Extra Magic Hours and the other is a paid FastPass replacement. In fact, some of these are arguably downgrades to the guest experience rather than perks.
First is Early Theme Park Entry allows all on-site resort guests and those staying at select third party hotels to enjoy 30-minute access to any Walt Disney World theme park, every day before normal operating hours begin. Learn more strategy in our Guide to Early Entry at Walt Disney World.
Second, there’s Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. This benefit is exclusively for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas (Disney Vacation Club units), or other select hotels. See our Guide to Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney Worldfor taking advantage of this perk, eligibility, and more.
Finally, there’s the highly-controversial paid FastPass service you can purchase in the app for $16 per day. This provides priority access to ~40 attractions among the 4 parks via Genie+ Lightning Lanes. Along with this, there are separate Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) selections for the most popular ride in each park, which can be bought at variable price points based upon demand.
Confused yet? We have been using and testing Genie+ and Lightning Lanes a ton, as this is a seismic shift in the way you’ll the parks. Everything you NEED to know, including ride priorities, where it’s NOT necessary to buy Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, and much more is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World.
Before and after the stage show, you can see numerous character cavalcades, the newest of which is Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade. Soon, the full Festival of Fantasy Parade returns, too.
There’s also the new “Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade” in Magic Kingdom, which is performed several times throughout the day. This features Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale sporting their sparkling new EARidescent fashions for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
This is just like all of the other brief character cavalcades that perform in Magic Kingdom. It’s short and the floats are rudimentary–it’s basically just a conduit for giving kids a chance to see characters, who are now wearing the new costumes.
To conclude your day in Magic Kingdom, there’s Disney Enchantment, the 50th Anniversary Fireworks Show. This features music, enhanced lighting, fireworks, and projections that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street. Music and projections include Tiana, Miguel, Rapunzel, Raya, Judy Hopps, Ian & Barley from Onward, plus Joe Gardner from Soul. Other films featured include Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland, Luca, Moana, and Wreck-It Ralph.
Sticking with fireworks, there’s the Harmonious nighttime spectacular at Epcot. This is one of the largest ever Walt Disney World nighttime spectaculars, and celebrates how the music of Disney inspires people the world over. Held on World Showcase Lagoon, it features massive floating set pieces that house a variety of show effects, including custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, colorful lights, lasers, pyrotechnics and more.
Finally, Animal Kingdom gets into the anniversary fun with Disney KiteTails. This comes alive several times daily at the Discovery River Amphitheater. As you make your way into the outdoor amphitheater, you’re joined by a team of performers bringing with them a colorful collection of oversized props and kites.
Performers fly wind catchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water with elaborate three-dimensional kites depict Disney animals, including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie. These colorful creations dance through the sky to the beat of favorite Disney songs in an uplifting, vibrant experience for the whole family. It’s also “downlifting,” as the kites crash in spectacular fashion. Read more about this polarizing show in our Review: Actually, Disney KiteTails is Good?
Turning to dining, the new Space 220 Restaurant is now open. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Space 220 Restaurant is located between Test Track and Mission: Space. It’s reminiscent of the upcoming Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort and like Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot–but with views into space, instead of an aquarium.
This fine dining experience begins as you check in to the Space 220 Departure Lounge in Future World. From here, you’ll board one of two “Space Elevators” that transport you in what seems like 220 miles above Earth to Centauri Space Station. Inside the dining area, you’ll experience a panoramic view of Earth below, and a variety of things taking place beyond the windows of the Space Station-themed restaurant.
Additionally, a short walk from Magic Kingdom over at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, there are two new dining options to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Steakhouse 71 is a casual dining concept that gets its name from the resort’s opening year, and pays tribute to the rich history of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Read our Steakhouse 71 Lunch Reviewfor thoughts and food photos.
Icons in the four Walt Disney World theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios transform into “Beacons of Magic” by coming to life with their own special lighting about once every 15 minutes.
These Beacons of Magic happen while playing “The Magic is Calling,” the new 50th Anniversary anthem that you’ll also hear throughout the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
The big difference between Epcot and the other parks is that special, physical lighting was actually installed on Spaceship Earth with the intention of this addition being permanent and outlasting the celebration.
Everywhere else, the Beacons of Magic occur via projection. You’ll also see brief animations on Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
However, these “transformations” are so subtle and brief that it’s easy to miss them–or see them and not realize you witnessed anything special. By contrast, Epcot’s is an absolute showstopper!
Cinderella Castle 50th Anniversary Decor
In Magic Kingdom, you’ll also see various decorations for the 50th, including Cinderella Castle decked out with 113 pieces of jabots & swag, blue bunting, golden swirls, and a 50th anniversary crest as part of its Royal Makeover for the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
Beyond this, there are 50th banners throughout the park (and everywhere), as well as Pumpkin Coaches on the lampposts that merge the celebratory and Halloween decor. Expect something similar for Christmas on Main Street.
Disney Fab 50 Statues
Additionally, there are 50 special golden character sculptures at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Here’s the full list of Disney Fab 50 statues:
Chip ‘n’ Dale
Lumiere & Cogsworth
Dumbo & Timothy Mouse
Pooh & Piglet
Jaq & Gus
Lady and the Tramp
Dante & Miguel
Rocket Raccoon & Baby Groot
Pua & Hei Hei
Olaf & Bruni
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Woody & Bo Peep
Flounder & Sebastian
Timon & Pumbaa
Bambi & Thumper
Nemo & Dory
EARidescence Character Costumes
This milestone is such a big deal, Walt Disney World has created a new look with an “EARidescence” color and quality. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse 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.
50th Anniversary Merchandise
Naturally, a variety of merchandise is being sold in this EARidescent color trend style, so guests can match Minnie and Mickey Mouse. There are also EARidescent cupcakes, balloons, and all sorts of other offerings during Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Beyond the EARidescent offerings, there are six merchandise collections for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. These offer something for everyone, from fun and creative celebration-themed items to an entire line of products inspired by Cinderella Castle. There are also throwback and retro-themed pieces and even a pre-celebration product line that’s now available.
In addition to the merchandise itself, there are a ton of displays throughout retail locations. You probably won’t care about these if you’re a first-time or casual guest, but these include many fantastic nods to the past, extinct attractions, fan-favorite characters, and more. Definitely be sure to check out the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs and Main Street Cinema at Magic Kingdom to see the highlights.
Finally, there’s the issue of crowd levels during the World’s Most Magical Celebration. Expect them to be varying degrees of very high. On-site hotel rooms are already sold out for many travel dates, and peak season dates have seen elevated attendance.
The forecast of heavy crowds is partly due to the anniversary celebration, partly due to the relaxation of health protocol, and partly due to the pent-up demand and phenomenon of “revenge travel” at Walt Disney World. All of that could create a perfect storm for big crowds.
Even though Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration is now underway, what we’ve seen so far isn’t the full version of the event. The closure and slow reopening derailed a lot of plans, and it’s impossible to know with complete certainty what will be practical and possible before it ends.
Nevertheless, in this section of the post we’ll offer some rumors and speculation about what might come next, plus commentary beyond what’s covered in the above-referenced reviews for Harmonious and Disney Enchantment (neither of which were big hits with us) and other specific pieces of entertainment.
For starters, we like the divisive Royal Makeover of Cinderella Castle. I wouldn’t want it to be the permanent look for the Magic Kingdom icon, but it isn’t.
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.
Then there are the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary rumors. For the last few years, there have been rumblings of Magic Kingdom receiving enhancements and entertainment for the 50th Anniversary. Aside from fireworks, not much has happened on that front.
It should go without saying, but it’s been a rough couple of years, and projects that were previously planned for development might’ve been paused or cancelled during the closure and slowly phased reopening. So anything that was rumored before March 2020 might’ve gotten the axe, or might be running behind in its development timeline.
The biggest rumor that still could conceivably happen concerns Magic Kingdom receiving Paint the Night, the light parade created for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. This one makes more sense, as Magic Kingdom does not have a night parade and Disneyland Resort wasn’t using this even pre-closure. It’s one of two night parades simply sitting in an off-site California storage facility.
Regardless of which it is, if the plan were to bring a parade from California to Florida, it would need to happen very soon, as refurbishing floats and costumes, plus hiring and training performers takes time. At this point, any new-to-Florida parade would like arrive next year. (Update: none of this is going to happen for the 50th…perhaps for the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary?)
Ultimately, we hope this offered a fun guide of everything there is for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. While we don’t love everything about the World’s Most Magical Celebration, it’s an enjoyable event that brings with it a lot of decor, fanfare, entertainment, and two new nighttime spectaculars to the parks.
Here’s hoping Walt Disney World still has more tricks up its sleeve, as right now there’s not a ton to what should be a monumental celebration. While we’re pleased to see something–it really feels like much of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary was an afterthought. The entire event has been more about Disney+ and hot IP than celebrating the rich history of Walt Disney World and its visionary creator.
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 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!