Disney World News: 2021 Hours, Travel Optimism, EPCOT Announcement?

We’re back for another Walt Disney World news round-up! This one begins with a virtual event that could result in announcements for EPCOT, more park hours for January 2021, some optimism for the travel outlook in Spring 2021, charitable opportunities this Christmas season, and more.

Disney has released the full lineup of virtual events and presentations for the D23 Fantastic Worlds Celebration, which has gone digital. You can experience a week of virtual events, articles, and merchandise releases celebrating the wonderful worlds of Disney. We’ve done several D23 Expos and Destination D events (among other things) and really enjoy those. This is less parks-centric than the panels we attend, but we’d encourage you to check out some of these if you’ve never had the chance to do an in-person event.

For the purposes of this Walt Disney World news round-up, the most interesting panel is “EPCOT – The Magic of Possibility.” D23 indicates that it’ll showcase “how this park is transforming today and building toward the future. You’ll hear about the making of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and what it takes to bring this animated favorite to life in the France pavilion.”

Our expectation is that although Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is being highlighted in the blurb (it is the next big addition to open, after all), much more will be discussed. After all, EPCOT is a veritable construction zone, a park in the midst of a colossal transformation, albeit with a lot of unknowns.

There has been a flurry of activity in and around EPCOT lately, with more construction/demolition in the Central Spine, backstage in the Harmonious staging area, Play Pavilion, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Space 220 Restaurant, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

There also have been new permits filed for the Harmonious barges (specifically, the massive Stargate that’s visible from the Skyliner) and Project Gamma (likely the replacements for Electric Umbrella and MouseGear replacements). These are two big projects that are unlikely to change in scale or scope, with scant concept art or details released.

Walt Disney World has also filed a permit for and commenced unannounced work on a “new food vending building” adjacent to the Italy pavilion. That last development isn’t noteworthy in and of itself, but it’s good to see Disney moving forward with new projects, even if smaller scale ones.

While D23 events often are when Disney reveals opening dates, we’d caution against expecting that from “EPCOT – The Magic of Possibility.” It could conceivably happen–that’s the magic of possibilities!–but seems pretty unlikely to us.

The timelines for both Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Harmonious are dictated not by construction progress, but by when it’s most logical to debut them. Until Walt Disney World has a better idea of when operational normalcy will be able to return, we’re not expecting opening dates to be set or announced.

As for what to expect, the main thing is behind the scenes footage of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and other content to hype that up. That’s pretty much a given. Our hope is that we’ll also see new concept art for the Central Spine, showing the full extent of what’s been cut or changed.

We already know Disney is taking a “different approach” with the three-level Festival Center, but we don’t know the fate of Moana’s Journey of Water, the various interactive elements, or anything else. Even more details about the Central Spine redesign is potentially premature; it’s possible that Walt Disney World will pump the brakes on reworking those plans until more is known about the travel and economic recovery.

Next, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products has released a heartwarming three-minute animated short entitled “From Our Family to Yours.” This highlights festive traditions and shared experiences that connect generations and make lifelong memories.

“From Our Family to Yours” introduces two new lovable characters, Lola and her granddaughter, and offers another starring role for Mickey Mouse. The short also features the new “Love Is A Compass” single performed by Griff, a 19-year-old British singer-songwriter.

“From Our Family to Yours” celebrates the 40-year anniversary of the Disney and Make-A-Wish partnership, and a new Mickey Mouse Vintage Holiday Plush is being released alongside the short. Given the emotional gut-punch delivered by “From Our Family to Yours,” we’re guessing many of these Mickey plushes will be sold.

After Disney noted lower sales of Mickey and Minnie Mouse merchandise in an earnings report earlier this year, perhaps the company is trying to increase awareness and popularity of its most iconic character. We can totally get behind anything that raises Mickey Mouse’s profile–he should always be Disney’s Big Cheese! We’re curious as to how, if at all, this new short will find its way into the parks.

In addition to the Make-A-Wish initiative, Disney is partnering with Toys for Tots for the third year in a row to help bring joy to children in underserved communities this holiday season.

Now through December 13, 2020, you can donate a new, unwrapped toy at the World of Disney stores in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, or any U.S. Disney Store, and Disney will donate an additional $1 to Toys for Tots. In addition to donating toys, guests can support Toys for Tots by purchasing a special Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Gingerbread pin.

While we’re on the topic of charitable giving this holiday season, we want to once again thank everyone for the outpouring of support in response to our Help Give Back to Disney Cast Members & Community initiative…and also plug the fundraiser again given that furloughs and layoffs are continuing throughout the Orlando area, and help is still needed.

Many of you have contributed, and we’ve now raised over $62,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. We also wanted to give an update with the tangible results of the fundraiser: a distribution consisting of two trucks filled with 60,000 pounds of food to feed families in need, with another still to come. We are incredibly humbled and heartened by all of your support—DTB readers proving yet again that you are all the best!

Another week, another park hours update. More hours were recently posted to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com for January 17-23, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates that week through January 23, 2021:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 7 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 10 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm

When it comes to these hours, note that Walt Disney World has returned to its normal, pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours “far” in advance. Those hours are then later extended based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections closer to the dates.

In short, these initial “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World park hours are a placeholder, and serve as a minimum baseline for what the ultimate hours will end up being, with hours only extended and not reduced. These will almost certainly end up being longer, but probably not as long as during the holiday season. Unlike the last several years, January 2021 should end up being actual off-season due to no runDisney races, youth sporting events at ESPN Wide World of Sports, conventions, and other events.

Additionally, Walt Disney World has extended hours for EPCOT the first three weeks of January. Previously, the hours for those dates were noon to 8 pm. Now, EPCOT is open from 11 am until 8 pm. (You’ll also note the new hours for the fourth week of January reflect an 11 am to 7 pm schedule.)

New Year’s Eve now sticks out like a sore thumb on the schedule. It’s the only date of the holiday season still using the boilerplate hours and it was skipped over for these latest extensions. There is no chance whatsoever that the busiest day of the year at Walt Disney World ends up having the shortest hours, but we suspect that Walt Disney World will wait as long as possible before locking the New Year’s Eve hours and entertainment into place.

Finally, by now you’ve probably seen the announcement by Pfizer that its experimental vaccine was more than 90% effective in a late-stage clinical study, raising expectations of a breakthrough in the ongoing fight. Pfizer is expected to apply for an emergency use authorization later this month after collecting further safety data. Health officials believe distribution could begin before the end of the year to vulnerable groups, with it being widely available by Spring 2021.

Obviously, this alone does not put at end to all of this. To the contrary, there are still steps in the process and we’re likely in for a tough winter with Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings ahead. It’s an odd dichotomy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and cause for optimism. We definitely don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but this news has us making tentative travel plans for next spring, and imagining “regular” visits to Walt Disney World, with much of what’s missing restored. (We’re not alone on that–the news sent Disney and other travel industry stocks soaring!)

More certainty on this front is also what it likely takes for Walt Disney World to set and reveal 50th Anniversary plans, opening dates for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Harmonious, and future plans for other previously-announced projects that are in limbo or on hold (like the aforementioned EPCOT Central Spine redesign). Suffice to say, this news could be exactly what’s needed to get the ball rolling on resuming normalcy…even if that doesn’t happen immediately. At this point, I think we could all use a few rays of optimism!

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!


Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? Are you expecting any EPCOT announcements during the D23 event? Think it’ll include opening dates, or just some new nuggets of info about the upcoming additions? Did you enjoy the “From Our Family to Yours” animated short? Think it’s part of a renewed emphasis on raising Mickey Mouse’s profile? Looking forward to extended holiday hours? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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!

28 Responses to “Disney World News: 2021 Hours, Travel Optimism, EPCOT Announcement?”
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