We’re back with our first Walt Disney World news round-up of 2021! This covers a range of stories, from another restaurant opening to a rumored park capacity increase from 35% to 40% of normal attendance limits. Most significantly, we have updates on construction at EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, and Wilderness Lodge–including projects pausing and resuming ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary this year!
Let’s start with the construction progress report. Over the holidays, we stayed at Wilderness Lodge and intended upon doing a stay report that included a look at the resort renovations that have picked up steam and moved to the lower levels of the hotel. That report didn’t end up happening, and Christmas-centric content is now stale.
Nevertheless, construction is moving along at Wilderness Lodge. The top three floors are now finished, which is evident from the refreshed hallways and lack of garbage bags or tarps blocking them off from the lobby (see the floor above Whispering Canyon Cafe in the photo above). Meanwhile, we observed a flurry of activity on the lower two levels. If the present pace is any indication, everything should be finished well ahead of the June 6, 2021 reopening date of Wilderness Lodge. Here’s hoping that there’s sufficient guest demand for Disney to justify opening it back up!
In more consequential construction news, a new USA Today article has given credence to rumors of timeline delays on various Walt Disney World projects. Normally, we wouldn’t put much stock in something like this–but the story features an interview with Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products and the story was shared by Disney on social media, suggesting it was written with the company’s involvement and the info is accurate.
That story indicates that TRON Lightcycle Run “isn’t expected to open during the park’s 50th birthday year.” This is not a huge surprise, as we’ve been reporting for months that after the gravity building is fully enclosed and canopy installed, TRON Lightcycle Run construction will pause until at least the next fiscal year starts in October 2021. Given this story and that the building has been sealed with walls around the roller coaster track opening, a pause on the project in the near future now seems highly likely.
That article also indicates that Moana’s Journey of Water will “probably open after 2021.” The big story here is not that the walk-through trail and interactive water feature is delayed until next year (it never even had an opening date/year/season before), but that it hasn’t been cancelled.
In recent weeks, we’ve observed demolition work resume on the Innoventions building that Moana’s Journey of Water will replace, after months of nothing happening with it.
In general, it appears that work has gained momentum on EPCOT’s Central Spine project.
We’ve noticed a lot more construction equipment between the Innoventions buildings, and crews have been actively working–even over the holidays.
New staging tents have popped up, and crews can be seen working on the old MouseGear and Electric Umbrella buildings.
In fact, construction teams have installed floor-to-ceiling windows on the exterior of MouseGear. The interior is still totally gutted (and you can see through the building if walking back by Test Track), but this would seem to bode well for MouseGear hitting its target reopening of late 2021. Having just a little less construction in Future World would certainly be nice.
As reported earlier this week in our 2021 Park Hopping Guide to Walt Disney World, we’ve had the chance to ride the Skyliner several times this year between EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, being treated to views of a completed Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Streets of Paris area in the process.
While no opening date has been set for this expansion or attraction, as we discuss in our Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Opening & Info post, it could debut literally whenever. It’s all about what’s most advantageous for Walt Disney World at this point. Hopefully that means soft openings this spring, even if the grand opening doesn’t happen until summer.
It’s not exactly construction news, but the refurbishment of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has been extended through the end of this month. While we don’t think that’s actually the end date for the ride closure, it’s been reassuring to see maintenance teams actively working on the track, and doing push tests on the ride vehicles. It’d be a tragedy for the PeopleMover to be abandoned in Florida, too.
In more positive news, after being closed for five days of unscheduled maintenance to start 2021, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith has once again been operational at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the last two days.
For a limited time, you can get two full days of PhotoPass photos and videos for the price of one when you activate Memory Maker One Day now through March 11, 2021.
Additionally, any activated Memory Maker purchase from now through May 19, 2021, will receive a free photo and video expiration extension through June 18, 2021. (As opposed to the standard 30-day window.) Other terms and conditions are on Disney’s Memory Maker purchase page.
On a related note, Sarah and I have been “collecting” PhotoPass shots since Walt Disney World reopened, as there initially were some questions about whether Memory Maker is still worth the money right now. Those inquiries have since fizzled out, but we’re nonetheless curious if there’s interest in such a post. Fair warning: many of the photos involve awkward poses, there’s a ton of us and Olaf for some reason (seriously, he’s everywhere), and a bunch of weird “mask to mask” photos.
Next, the newest bakery has opened at Disney Springs with the debut of Everglazed Donuts and Cold Brew.
This shop is located between Splitsville and the AMC Theater in the former home of Pop Gallery near the exit of Orange Garage on the West Side of Disney Springs.
Everglazed just released their official menu, and it’s shockingly extensive (perhaps “bakery” isn’t quite apt) and expensive, with an array of gourmet donuts, plus sandwiches, fries, flavored milks, cold brew, spiked coffee, and beers.
We’ll review Everglazed in the next week or so. I probably first should publish our draft Voodoo Doughnuts review that I’ve left unfinished for months so I have an excuse to keep ordering more there “for the sake of research.” I’m a sucker for doughnuts, and am really looking forward to giving Everglazed a try!
In a bit of a housekeeping note, we’ve been neglecting our “duty” the last couple of weeks, but Walt Disney World has posted more hours to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com through March 20, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates:
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 addition to this, Walt Disney World has extended hours for January 10-23, 2021. Now, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are staying open an hour later, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are opening an hour earlier each of those dates.
Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s nice to see extensions–especially since crowds most definitely justify the longer hours thus far in January 2021.
Finally, two insiders are reporting on wdwmagic that Walt Disney World has increased park attendance limits from 35% to 40% of full capacity. This reportedly changed on January 1, and was part of the Park Hopping rollout.
Additionally, all four parks now allow same-day reservations beginning in the afternoon at around 1:30 pm, regardless of what the Disney Park Pass calendar indicates in terms of availability. Even before this unpublished policy change, we’ve found this often to be the case with afternoon availability when the Disney Park Pass calendar showed a park as fully booked.
Anecdotally, we’ve noticed higher “feels like” crowds in the parks this week (even as several attractions have had efficiency improvements), so the capacity increase to 40% wouldn’t surprise us. To the contrary, it would be more surprising if capacity caps have not been increased at Walt Disney World.
Prior to the holiday season, CEO Bob Chapek announced that Walt Disney World increased capacity from 25% to 35%. Even before that, we stated that data from fully booked days over the course of the previous months indicated a capacity increase had already occurred prior to the official announcement. We suspect the same is true here. Disney will discuss fiscal first quarter 2021 financial results on February 11, so perhaps we’ll get official confirmation during that webcast…who knows, the parks might be up to 45% or 50% in another month!
Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? If you’ve been in the parks since Park Hopping returned, have you noticed heavier “feels like” crowd levels? Thoughts on the construction progress and pausing at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Wilderness Lodge? Excited to try Everglazed, or does it look overpriced/uninteresting to you? 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!