Guide to Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration: New Rides, Fireworks, Shows

The World’s Most Magical Celebration for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is now underway! This 18 month special 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 October 12, 2021.)

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, joining the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure virtual queue, and more.

Unfortunately, many of the major planned additions for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary have been postponed until 2022, but a lot is ready to roll. We’ll cover all of that, plus details about new attractions, entertainment, and other enhancements during the World’s Most Magical Celebration…

The World’s Most Magical Celebration 50th anniversary event is now underway, and will be celebrated at all four Walt Disney World theme parks throughout the rest of this year and 2022. As always, special events are subject to extension “by popular guest demand,” but for now, the World’s Most Magical Celebration for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World is scheduled to end April 1, 2023.

Walt Disney World’s Most Magical Celebration includes new entertainment activities, attractions, decorations, and enhancements in all four parks. Let’s start with one such thing–the Beacons of Magic…

Beacons of Magic

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.

While the Beacons of Magic exist in all four parks, they are by far the best at Epcot. In fact, the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth are a Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Highlight! 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:

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Donald Duck
  • Daisy Duck
  • Goofy
  • Pluto
  • Chip ‘n’ Dale
  • Lumiere & Cogsworth
  • Orange Bird
  • Mad Hatter
  • Cheshire Cat
  • Dumbo & Timothy Mouse
  • Stitch
  • Pooh & Piglet
  • Pinocchio
  • Jaq & Gus
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Abu
  • Tinker Bell

Epcot

  • Figment
  • Dante & Miguel
  • Rocket Raccoon & Baby Groot
  • Pua & Hei Hei
  • Olaf & Bruni

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Joe Gardner
  • Edna Mode
  • Frozone
  • R2-D2
  • BB-8
  • Woody & Bo Peep
  • Flounder & Sebastian

Animal Kingdom

  • Simba
  • 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 debuting throughout October and November 2021 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.

For all of the details and a sneak peek at dozens of items that’ll be released in the coming months, see our Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Merchandise & Souvenirs Preview!

One specific souvenir that we love is Walt Disney World: A Portrait of the First Half Century. The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary coffee table book is now available for order via Amazon.

As huge collectors with a massive library of Walt Disney World books, we are ecstatic about this. Since the World Began: Walt Disney World’s First 25 Years is still one of favorite titles, and this lives up to that legacy. Additionally, another title in the Delicious Disney lineup, a new adult coloring book, and pair of Birnbaum official guide books have been released that pay tribute to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

New Entertainment

First up is “Disney KiteTails” at Animal Kingdom. 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?

Next is 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.

Turning to evenings, 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.

For thoughts on the show and a ton more photos, read our Harmonious at Epcot Review. Need help choosing the right location to watch Epcot’s new fireworks? Check out our Harmonious Viewing Guide: Best & Worst Locations.

Next, there’s Disney Enchantment, the 50th Anniversary Fireworks Show at Magic Kingdom. 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.

For thoughts on the show and a ton more photos, read our Disney Enchantment Magic Kingdom Fireworks Review. Need help choosing the right location to watch the new 50th fireworks? Check out our Disney Enchantment Fireworks Viewing Guide: Best & Worst Locations.

New Attractions

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 Resort in 2021.” Keep in mind, 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 officially announced as debuting in 2021 is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot.

We share thoughts and photos of the Streets of Paris area and attraction in our Spoiler-Free Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Ride Review. Note that this uses a virtual queue and boarding group system and not a regular standby queue. For what you need to know, see How to Ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot & Virtual Queue FAQ.

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.

We’ve dined here a couple of times, and have already shared Photos & Video Inside Space 220 Restaurant as well as our Space 220 Lunch Review that looks at whether the food is worth the $55 price tag.

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 Review for thoughts and food photos.

Up at California Grill, a new dining experience is being offered during the World’s Most Magical Celebration. Read our California Grill 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner Review for thoughts, food photos, and dining reservation tips.

Additionally, there’s “Celebration at the Top: 50th Flavors & Fireworks at Disney’s Contemporary Resort” special party. Reservations are available for this on a rolling basis, but very difficult to book.

Other planned 2021 opening dates are entirely off the table. Although Walt Disney World has not officially confirmed as much, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at Epcot and TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom will not open in 2021. Our expectation is that one or both of these headliner attractions will launch in mid-2022, with the other debuting in early 2023.

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.

There’s also uncertainty around other upcoming additions. The Play Pavilion at EPCOT was previously announced for 2021, but Disney has been silent as to its status for a while. The Play Pavilion could debut this year, but its interactivity casts uncertainty on that. Same goes for the DuckTales World Showcase Adventure.

Another interactive experience, Moana’s Journey of Water, is likely to arrive in late 2022. 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 2022 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 2021 & Beyond for a full rundown.

WDW 50th Anniversary Commentary

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 last year-plus has derailed a lot of plans, and it’s impossible to know with complete certainty what will be practical and possible by 2022.

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 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.

Then there are the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary rumors. For the last few years, there have been rumblings of Magic Kingdom receiving a new 50th Anniversary fireworks (these have now been officially announced–see above!) daytime parade, stage show, and light parade. Understandably, nothing has been announced yet on that front.

It also should go without saying, but it’s been a rough year, and projects that were previously planned for development last year might’ve been paused or cancelled. So anything that was rumored before March of last year might’ve gotten the axe, or might be running behind in its development timeline.

The first of two parade rumors is that Magic Happens will make its way from California, where it debuted only two weeks prior to the closure of Disneyland. This is plausible, but it’s also difficult to believe Disneyland would be so quick to give up Magic Happens. It’s still brand new there, where around 99% of potential guests probably have not seen it.

Beyond that, Walt Disney World has Festival of Fantasy, which remains highly popular among guests. (However, that didn’t stop them from replacing Happily Ever After!) There are also unused floats in Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong if Walt Disney World wanted to assemble its own unique 50th Anniversary parade.

Another similar rumor 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. Again, we expect a “soft reboot” of the World’s Most Magical Celebration in mid-2022. Debuting new rides and entertainment then makes sense.

Finally, there’s the issue of crowd levels. For the first three months of the World’s Most Magical Celebration, expect them to be varying degrees of very high. On-site hotel rooms are already sold out for parts of October through December 2021 (see What’s Up with Sold Out Hotels at Walt Disney World?) and Park Pass reservations for some dates are already booking up.

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.

If you’re looking for the best times to visit during the 50th Anniversary, see our “Now v. Normal? 2021 v. 2022 at Walt Disney World.” That offers 4 specific weeks to visit in late 2021 and early 2022.

Additionally, for those visiting in the fall, the Disney After Hours Boo Bash is a Halloween-themed event that promises low crowds and short waits. It’s pricey, but potentially worth it given the likelihood of heavy attendance during daytime hours. Likewise, there’s Disney Very Merriest After Hours for those taking Christmas trips to Walt Disney World.

For more in-depth crowd analysis beyond that, see our 2021-2022 Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World and/or our 2021 Crowd Calendars for Walt Disney World. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of new entertainment, attractions, and other offerings to help offset those crowds and make Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary a momentous and memorable event!

Ultimately, we hope this offered a fun guide of everything there is–and there still might be–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 for 2022, as right now there’s not a ton to what should be a monumental celebration. Nevertheless, 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!

YOUR THOUGHTS

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!

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