We’re back for another Walt Disney World news round-up! This one begins with new concept art for another royal makeover ahead of the 50th Anniversary, more on Everglazed Donuts, changes to the Morocco pavilion at EPCOT, Halloween at Fort Wilderness, Christmas merchandise, and more.
Growing up, every vacation my family took to Walt Disney World began with a multi-day journey from Michigan to Florida. This was great when I was young as we stayed at Fort Wilderness, which meant driving the camper and me sleeping in the back 95% of the way. When Shades of Green opened and I was a bit older, we took the car and I was expected to read or do whatever school assignments I’d be missing (luckily for me there are no basic literacy requirements for being a Disney blogger), which meant slightly less sleeping.
The highlight of these voyages always came as we left Atlanta, which is when things started to get real. Walt Disney World billboards began popping up, we’d stop at the Florida Welcome Center for free orange juice, AAA Disney Radio (“Florida’s In-Car Welcoming Station“) would come into range, and finally, we’d drive under those arches officially announcing that’d we had arrived on Walt Disney World property!
Walt Disney World has announced that these iconic gateways signifying that guests have arrived on-site are about to receive a redesign with a new color palette that complements the recent royal makeover of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. The rendering below gives you a first glimpse at what the roadway entrances will look like when they’re finished.
Additionally, you’ll see these colors appear on the Magic Kingdom Auto Plaza as that entryway receives a fresh new look. (The fresh coat of paint on the roadway marquee for Magic Kingdom is actually now nearing completion.)
I’m both happy about this change and mildly concerned. Happy because this is at least 5 years overdue. The last time these were modified was for the Year of a Million Dreams promotion roughly 15 years ago. Since then, they’ve become faded and dirty. Beyond that, the new color scheme looks really nice–arguably better on the gateways than Cinderella Castle. I think the blue and golds will really pop in the Florida sunlight, and this will be an eye-catching design on the approach.
Nevertheless, repainting those gateways and the auto plaza marquee is something that should just happen. It doesn’t need concept art or breathless blogging. The fact that a big deal is being made about this reflects a creeping realization that Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is probably not going to be the gala event that it could have been under different circumstances.
The official announcement sort of insinuates this, stating that the refresh gateways are “part of the broad tapestry of new experiences happening across Walt Disney World as part of the resort’s historic transformation that includes expansive themed lands like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, new attractions like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and new places to stay like Disney’s Riviera Resort.”
It doesn’t take a keen eye to spot the common thread: those are all things that have already debuted. Here’s hoping that more announcements are on the horizon, but the recent news for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary has not been particularly promising, and the clock is ticking. Nevertheless, we’ll have more ‘construction coverage’ on the royal makeover of these gateways. Not because it’s necessary…but because there’s one really close to us, making it low hanging fruit! 😉
Next, we have multiple pieces of new concept art for Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew, which is more than can be said for the overhaul of the Polynesian’s Great Ceremonial House or the new plans for EPCOT’s Central Spine redesign. Everglazed is a new specialty food and beverage location opening soon at Disney Springs West Side.
It replaces Pop Gallery, which specialized in demonic Disney art. Even if Everglazed only serves kale and quinoa donuts (unlikely given the photos), it would still be an improvement upon its predecessor. For those unfamiliar with the location, Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew will be located adjacent to Splitsville and near the west entrance and exit of the Orange Parking Garage, around the corner from the main entrance of the AMC Theater (not the Dine-In side).
The overall design of Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew will have a unique spin on a classic donut shop featuring graphic pops of color, iconic signage, and an outdoor seating area in the donut garden. It appears to me that the donut garden will double as an archway range, which should make things interesting.
Before guests enter the venue, they can catch a glimpse of a culinary experience unfolding through the windows of the exposed kitchen where hot and fresh donuts will bake daily.
Everglazed will specialize in hand-crafted donuts featuring yeast and cake donuts with an assortment of cold brew lattes, coffee cocktails, and a few sweet-yet-savory sandwich bites.
We’re big fans of novelty and artisanal donuts, and are really looking forward to Everglazed. This is essentially Walt Disney World’s answer to CityWalk’s Voodoo Doughnut, which is the best option in the area but still overrated. It remains to be seen whether Everglazed is on that level, but we certainly hope so!
Sticking with Disney Springs, a range of Christmas merchandise is now available (as of yesterday) at World of Disney and select other locations around Walt Disney World. Given that I finally touched upon (with only one photo) the “new” Halloween merchandise at World of Disney in this weekend’s Disney Springs photo update, you might want to look elsewhere for photos of the items.
The one thing that caught my eye is the Disney Christmas Crocs. By any objective measure, these are an abomination of good taste. That’s their beauty. The take the familiar formula of Crocs and pair that with a traditional ugly Christmas sweater design. The result is something so bad it’s good–the perfectly self-aware marriage of hideous design and holiday comfort. I write this lovingly, as I’ll almost certainly be picking up a pair.
Turning to more serious and useful Walt Disney World news, a heads up that you might want to check for evening Advance Dining Reservations if you have an upcoming trip in November or December 2020. Several locations have expanded their hours over the last couple of weeks, and released a new slew of ADRs in the process.
With regular extensions to park hours, availability should continue to open up. However, rather than targeting a park-closing ADR, we’d recommend booking late lunches at table service restaurants. That’s when wait times have been peaking, you won’t have to modify your reservation if hours change, and you can enjoy lower end-of-day crowds plus the delightful evening atmosphere.
Speaking of Walt Disney World food news, Walt Disney World and Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant LLC, the operating participant that runs the Morocco Pavilion at EPCOT issued a joint statement:
“After many years of working together, we have a mutually agreed arrangement to begin the process of transitioning operations of the Morocco pavilion to Disney. By the end of the year, Disney will assume operations of this important part of EPCOT and under Disney’s operation, the pavilion will continue to honor the rich traditions and legacy it has since it opened.”
When Walt Disney World reopened, Restaurant Marrakesh was the only dining spot in the Morocco pavilion that did not reopen. Both Spice Road Table and Tangierine Cafe reopened, with the latter being one of the few operational counter service restaurants at Epcot. However, it closed shortly thereafter due to a lack of demand and has remained shuttered since then, even as many other restaurants have reopened.
Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant Group received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $1-2 million to retain 260 jobs, which was seemingly put towards operating other aspects of the pavilion and Spice Road Table, the lone restaurant currently open in Morocco. Over the years, the pavilion’s trio of restaurants have struggled to find an audience, which is at least partially attributable to being too “adventurous” for most Walt Disney World guests. (This is unfortunate, as all three are fantastic.)
While this raises concerns that Disney will “Aladdinify” the Morocco pavilion, we don’t see any danger of that happening in the immediate future. Walt Disney World is unlikely to embark on any substantial projects in the near term and there’s not much space for substantial changes now that the adjacent expansion pad is occupied by Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
About the only change we view as plausible is a concept change for Restaurant Marrakesh. Even that seems unlikely in the near-term. Character dining is unlikely to return in the near future, and even when it does, Akershus is already home to a princess meal. There’s always the possibility of a hijinks-centric “street rat” character meal during which Aladdin and Abu run around the restaurant stealing from guest plates and you have to chase them to get your food back. I’m not sure many families would pay big bucks for that experience, but it is oddly my ideal character meal.
Finally, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be closed to outside visitors for Halloween. Cast Members will be actively checking MagicBands at watercraft and bus transportation to ensure that guests entering the resort have active resort or experience reservations.
Walt Disney World previously announced the Return to Sleepy Hollow 2020 event, trick-or-treating, and the guest golf cart parade were all officially cancelled. Nevertheless, Fort Wilderness remains a popular spot on Halloween and there are some campsites that are literally more decked out for Halloween than Main Street is. It’s worth checking out if you want to take a midday break from Magic Kingdom–just be sure to do so before Saturday!
Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? Looking forward to the refreshed gateways? Concerned that not much is in store for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Excited for Everglazed? Worried about the Morocco pavilion’s future? 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!