Disney World News: Cookie Construction, 35% Capacity, Magic Kingdom Fireworks Test

We’re back for another Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up! This one covers a testing of the Project Nugget fireworks at Magic Kingdom, extended park hours for November & December 2020, debut of Gideon’s Bakehouse, implications of the increase in park capacity to 35%, and more.

In our Disney Park Pass Update for the 2020 Holiday Season earlier this week, we shared that a large refill to all three buckets in the theme park reservation had occurred during the quieter stretch between the peak Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks.

As a heads up, there’s still a lot of availability from that even several days later, so check it out if you want to make or modify your Disney Park Pass reservations. As discussed in the strategy section of the above article, we recommend ‘stockpiling’ reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s start with another park hours update. Walt Disney World has extended weekend hours for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom for the next several weekends, up until December 19, 2020. It’s a pretty simply and straightforward change–each of these parks now closes an hour later on those weekends in late November through mid-December 2020.

These extensions do coincide with the Disney Park Pass refills dates…but only the weekends. Past large scale replenishments to the Disney Park Pass system were followed by across-the-board expansions of operating hours, which we are not seeing here. Weekday extensions are still possible, though. Walt Disney World has been pretty last minute about recent park hours changes, and they’ll undoubtedly add hours if it allows them to justify replenishing Park Pass reservations again.

Additionally, more hours were recently posted to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com for January 24-30, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates that week through January 30, 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

Once again, Walt Disney World has returned to its normal, pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours in advance. Those hours are then later extended based on Disney Park Pass bookings and hotel occupancy projections closer to the dates.

In short, these initial “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World park hours are a placeholder to give false satisfaction to guests who like to plan. They’re ultimately somewhat meaningless, serving as a minimum baseline for what the hours will end up being, with hours only extended and not reduced.

January 2021 hours will likely end up being longer–especially the long holiday weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day–but definitely not as long as during the Christmas 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.

Speaking of attendance and capacity, we want to revisit something covered in Disney’s Fourth Quarter Financial Results. During the Q&A, CEO Bob Chapek expressed optimism about efficiency gains at Walt Disney World, noting that the operators have been able to increase capacity while staying within CDC guidelines.

Specifically, Chapek said that Walt Disney World was previously at 25% capacity, but has been able to increase that to 35% capacity while still adhering to local health guidance and physical distancing requirements.

Having experienced Walt Disney World theme parks multiple times per week since July, this came as little surprise to us. However, judging by reader comments, it did surprise and worry some of you–especially those with trips planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To allay some of those fears, it’s highly unlikely capacity is going to jump from 35% to 50% between now and then. For one thing, the move from 25% to 35% has been gradual. It was not like Magic Kingdom getting decked out for Christmas, happening magically overnight.

To the contrary, Walt Disney World has been slowly making changes to the parks to increase capacity while maintaining physical distancing, based upon Disney’s industrial engineering estimates. This has meant more physical dividers on popular attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Frozen Ever After, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. It has also resulted in more dining options returning, stores returning, and more queue space being added.

Walt Disney World has surprised us with some of the ways they’ve gotten creative in extending queues, so we hesitate to say that there isn’t much more they can do to further increase capacity. But, the efficiency gains are smaller and more incremental at this point, as the most obvious solutions (and even less obvious ones) have already been implemented over the course of the last 2-3 months.

Stated differently, it’s highly unlikely that Walt Disney World is going to implement any significant changes to park capacity between now and Christmas. We’ve already seen the “fruits” of the increase to 35% capacity, and while attendance will undoubtedly increase, it’s not going to be a colossal jump relative to October or November.

It should also be noted that these efficiency enhancements come with some benefits to guests. Thanks to the newly-added dividers, hourly throughput on several headliner attractions has effectively doubled, which more than offsets the increased attendance limits. Now, this is not at all attractions, but it is at some of the more popular ones.

We’d still take the summer crowds over the current ones, but we’re just pointing out that it’s not all downside. (And if we’re looking for silver linings, the weather is also significantly nicer now and there’s much more and better entertainment. On balance, we’d rather visit in November than July.)

On a totally different–yet equally important–note, Walt Disney World released its Holiday Foodie Highlights for Disney Springs yesterday. Buried at the bottom of that was an update on Gideon’s Bakehouse, which serves the world’s greatest cookies.

That post revealed two limited-time cookies that will be available at Gideon’s Bakehouse through December 31, 2020:

  • Santa’s White Christmas Cookie — White Chocolate Chip Cookie filled with notes of Coconut, Sweet Caramel, Vanilla, and Nutty Flavors with freshly ground locally roasted coffee beans throughout. The cookie elves have also added the crunch of coarse sugar, the Gideon’s signature sea salt, and a pinch of Christmas glitter.
  • Cookie Vom Krampus Cookie — Deep, dark Triple Chocolate Velvet textured cookie filled with Andes Mint and available in its own special packaging.

The significant thing here isn’t the seasonal cookies for December, great as they sound, it’s the morsel of info that Gideon’s Bakehouse will “open soon” at Disney Springs.

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise given that Walt Disney World announced this Gideon’s Bakehouse location would open this year and the construction walls say Coming 2020, but it looks like there’s still a decent amount of work to do. We’ll continue loitering around the location, bringing you an update as soon as Gideon’s Bakehouse opens and bestows its greatness upon Walt Disney World!

Finally, you might recall a few Walt Disney World has filed a flurry of new construction permits for “Project Nugget” fireworks at Magic Kingdom. These pertained to launch point work, with the specific details being unclear and nothing officially announced by Disney.

There’s still some “debate” among insiders as to the scale and scope of Project Nugget. It could be an oblique reference to something for the golden milestone of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, or simply opportunistic infrastructure upgrades occurring while there are not nightly pyro launches.

The latest development is that fireworks testing is scheduled for Magic Kingdom on November 16, 2020 after the park closes, per wdwmagic. (If you’re staying at one of the monorail loop resorts, you should be able to see it.) This could be for the filming of a new show’s promotional footage…or simply mundane testing of new equipment.

As with Project Nugget in general, this is “don’t get prematurely excited” news. This absolutely does not mean Walt Disney World is going to surprise holiday season guests with the return of Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, that Happily Ever After is returning early in 2021, or that a new show is coming soon.

When cancelling entertainment or seasonal offerings, Walt Disney World has repeatedly pointed to physical distancing requirements and health safety as the rationale. Given what we’ve seen with crowds around the Christmas cavalcades and Cinderella Castle projections, this “health safety” claim doesn’t hold water.

However, physical distancing still does…but not in the way Disney is suggesting. As noted above, park capacity is capped due to physical distancing. That means lower attendance levels and, by extension, fewer ticket sales. That is the reason Walt Disney World isn’t going to bring back most of its costly entertainment until physical distancing and, with it, attendance limits, go away. (As we covered previously, Universal already brought back its nighttime spectacular and EPCOT could probably do the same.)

Ultimately, we remain hopeful that fireworks return to Walt Disney World in Spring 2021 or shortly thereafter. We still think there’s a good chance Harmonious debuts at EPCOT next year, and Magic Kingdom also adds new entertainment by October 2021 for the 50th Anniversary. With that said, we’re skeptical that a new Magic Kingdom fireworks show will be one of those offerings.

Happily Ever After is still a relatively recent addition by Walt Disney World standards, it remains immensely popular, and after a roughly one-year hiatus, guests will be ecstatic just to see it. Suffice to say, Walt Disney World doesn’t need new fireworks to draw guests to Magic Kingdom. It could be a nice treat for the 50th Anniversary to have a special show paying homage to Magic Kingdom like “Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland,” and a lot of that show could even be recycled since it was designed for Cinderella Castle and the parks share many of the same attractions. It could also end up like “World of Color — Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney,” which demonstrated why sometimes you don’t mess with a good thing.

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? Does the increase to 35% capacity worry you, or do you think the efficiency gains sufficiently offset it? Excited for the debut of Gideon’s Bakehouse at Disney Springs? Looking forward to extended holiday hours? Think Project Nugget will be a new 50th Anniversary fireworks show for Magic Kingdom, or just an infrastructure update? 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!

36 Responses to “Disney World News: Cookie Construction, 35% Capacity, Magic Kingdom Fireworks Test”
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