Disney World News: Entertainment Returns, Muppets Mania, Water Pageant 50th Finale

We’re back with a weekend Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup. This update shares the latest look at returning entertainment, Electrical Water Pageant getting 50th Anniversary enhancements, Muppets Haunted Mansion coming to Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, added hours, and all of the big changes from the past week!

As usual, we’ll start with the latest release of new and modified operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. The current calendar now runs through December 6, 2021. Here are the hours for most dates that were newly-added for December 2021:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 10 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

Note that Magic Kingdom closes at 8 pm on Disney Very Merriest After Hours dates, with that Christmas party running from 9 pm until 1 am. Additionally, Epcot’s opening time continues to be 11 am in December 2021. This change continues to confound us, especially given the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Harmonious, and the Christmas season…

Our expectation is that these are simply boilerplate hours and will be extended closer to those weeks. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing that Epcot wouldn’t revert to a 9 am opening as its normal time, especially given the projected attendance for the last 3 months of the year. Additionally, Animal Kingdom is scheduled to open at 9 am instead of 8 am for this new batch of December 2021 dates. There’s no excuse for scaled back operations at this point.

While hours were previously extended for the opening week of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, there are no earlier openings or later closures with the latest calendar update. Barring a same-day extension, this means what we’re seeing now is likely the final park hours for October 1st and that weekend. Even with all that has happened in the last year-plus, a 10 pm closure of Magic Kingdom on the park’s 50th Anniversary is not something I would’ve predicted.

Walt Disney World has also released more dates for the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours that will allow eligible guests of Deluxe Resorts and select other hotels to experience select attractions, shops, and dining after regular park hours–in select theme parks on select nights.

Below is the current Extended Evening Theme Park Hours schedule:

Date Theme Park Extended Hours
Monday, Oct 4 Epcot 10:00 PM to midnight
Wednesday, Oct 6 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Monday, Oct 11 Epcot 10:00 PM to midnight
Wednesday, Oct 13 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Monday, Oct 18 Epcot 10:00 PM to midnight
Wednesday, Oct 20 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Monday, Oct 25 Epcot 10:00 PM to midnight
Wednesday, Oct 27 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Monday, Nov 1 Epcot 10:00 PM to midnight
Wednesday, Nov 3 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Monday, Nov 8 Epcot 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Nov 10 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Nov 15 Epcot 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Nov 17 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Nov 22 Epcot 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Nov 24 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Nov 29 Epcot 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 1 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Dec 6 Epcot 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 8 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Again, this differs from Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World, which soft opened today.

Aside from the obvious that this occurs at night and that happens in the morning, there are differences with duration, eligibility, and parks.

Another week, another update that not a single night has sold out for Disney Very Merriest After Hours. Tickets have now been on sale for over a full month. By this point, most Disney After Hours Boo Bash dates had sold out.

Normally, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party sees higher demand than its Halloween counterpart with tickets selling faster for the holiday event. Hopefully Disney has finally pushed the limit of price increases too far, and guests are voting with their wallets. There’s still a lot of time between now and when that event begins, so it’s premature to declare “victory” or anything.

We are counting down the days until “Muppets Haunted Mansion” makes its Disney+ debut on October 8, 2021. Disney released the trailer above and has us even more excited.

As a reminder, “Muppets Haunted Mansion” takes place on Halloween night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend the night in the Haunted Mansion. The Muppets’ first-ever Halloween special will feature three new original songs: “Rest In Peace,” “Life Hereafter” and “Tie The Knot Tango.” Plus, a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity guest stars, and special appearances–including Imagineer cameos.

As part of the “Muppets Haunted Mansion” promotional push, Walt Disney World and Disneyland are doing several things to celebrate the Muppets.

At PizzeRizzo in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find four different eclairs, inspired by the Muppets stretching portraits featured in “Muppets Haunted Mansion.” While I normally would abstain from publicizing PizzeRizzo, I’m willing to make an exception here as I want to see “Muppets Haunted Mansion” be a huge hit that leads to more Muppets everything–even mediocre restaurants. (Well, I’d prefer them to be good, but a mediocre Muppets restaurant is arguably better than a good non-Muppets one.)

Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, exclusive content from “Muppets Haunted Mansion” will be added to the pre-show for Muppet*Vision 3D beginning October 1, 2021.

This is the most iconic pre-show at Walt Disney World and past Muppet movie tie-ins to the pre-show have been mediocre, but I’m hoping for the best here. Even if it’s bad, anything that gets more people to watch “Muppets Haunted Mansion” is worth the temporary sacrifice. (Or so I’m telling myself!)

Over at Magic Kingdom, there will be a special Magic Shot that the Disney PhotoPass photographer in front of the Haunted Mansion can add to your photo–Madame Pigota floating in your photo! The Madame Pigota Magic Shot debuts on October 8, 2021.

I’m excited for all of this, but mostly “Muppets Haunted Mansion” itself. If this is good and/or a big hit on Disney+, it has potentially huge implications–but I’ll stop myself there as that’s assuming a lot and I don’t want to get prematurely hyped.

Sticking with Magic Kingdom, the Main Street Confectionery hosted by Mars Wrigley is reopening on September 29, 2021.

One new thing you’ll notice in the Main Street Confectionary is the colorful candy wall, which offers 38 varieties of M&M’S and Skittles to purchase. Additionally, the signature Magic Kingdom shop will offer limited-time treats for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. These four new sweets will be available starting on October 1, 2021.

Switching gears, here’s yet another reminder that Harmonious will soft open on September 29, 2021 with another ‘preview performance’ on September 30, 2021.

While it still says “Harmonious — Opening October 1, 2021” on the official entertainment title, this soft opening is official. You can find it on the entertainment schedule and calendar on DisneyWorld.com.

If you’re visiting Walt Disney World this week and are strategizing which Harmonious performance will be less busy, our bet would be September 29.

First, because that’s the last night of Happily Ever After, which was announced months ago by Walt Disney World. Locals will turn out to see the final night of their favorite fireworks at Magic Kingdom. Second, because it takes time for word to spread (hence this third ‘heads up’ in the span of as many days), and many fans/locals won’t even be aware that Harmonious is soft opening until it actually happens.

If you’re not at Walt Disney World, you can catch streaming performances of both new nighttime spectaculars on the Disney Parks Blog:

  • Wednesday, September 29 — LIVE: Harmonious at EPCOT at 9:00 p.m. ET.
  • Thursday, September 30 — LIVE: Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom at 10:15 p.m. ET.

In addition to the new Magic Kingdom fireworks, Disney Parks Blog is promoting a “special celebratory moment” during the Disney Enchantment live stream. This occurs often with anniversaries, or when new lands, attractions, or nighttime spectaculars debut. It’ll probably be worth seeing.

Unlike Harmonious, there will be no public soft opening of Disney Enchantment. Magic Kingdom closes to guests at 8 pm on September 30, which is an hour earlier than the days before. If you’re visiting the park that day, don’t expect to be able to linger after closing. Magic Kingdom will likely be cleared quickly that night.

A reminder that going forward, the newly-opened Space 220 Restaurant moves from its same-day virtual queue to Advance Dining Reservations. In terms of demand, we’re anticipating this being the #1 ADR at Walt Disney World for at least the next year–probably longer.

You can check out our Photos & Video Inside Space 220 Restaurant and Space 220 Lunch Review that looks at whether the food is worth the $55 price tag. Suffice to say, we’re fans of Space 220. It’s one of the most EPCOT Center things added to the park in ages.

In other positive news, more atmospheric entertainment is returning to Walt Disney World!

The latest official development is that the “Let the Magic Begin” welcome show on the newly-redone Cinderella Castle forecourt stage will returning to Magic Kingdom beginning October 1, 2021. It’ll be performed daily 5 minutes before the official park opening time. (The calendar has an am/pm mix-up.)

Likewise, the Casey’s Corner Pianist will return on October 1, 2021. Both of these updates are per the entertainment schedule and calendar on DisneyWorld.com.

In addition to that, we have reason to believe even more will be back for the Christmas season. Walt Disney World already made a delayed announcement that Candlelight Processional will return.

Now, there are job postings for Holiday Storytellers at Epcot. These normally appear throughout World Showcase in Epcot, there are international storytellers (most of whom are that country’s version of Santa Claus) who share traditions and tales from their native country. Even pre-closure, every year we feared that these would be cut. They must either have a fierce advocate high up within Walt Disney World, or score surprisingly well on guest satisfaction surveys. Either way, expect them to return after Thanksgiving (assuming Disney is able to hire performers).

In an equally surprising rumor, it also appears that the Merry Menagerie will return to Animal Kingdom for Christmas 2021. These are puppeteers with winter animals that include reindeer, foxes, polar bears, penguins, birds, seals, and accompanied by serenading live musicians who mingle amongst guests.

Merry Menagerie debuted in 2019 and didn’t return last year. We effusively praised Merry Menagerie, calling it Walt Disney World’s best new thing for the Christmas season in years, and recommending everyone check out the underrated gem. If this rumor turns out to be true, we’ll be over the moon. We feared Merry Menagerie would never come back–becoming a one and done lost to Walt Disney World history.

Finally, sticking with entertainment, Walt Disney World has announced that the Electrical Water Pageant joins the fun of the World’s Most Magical Celebration with “new celebratory scenes featuring a version of the celebration anthem song, ‘The Magic is Calling,’ bookending the full traditional show as it sails nightly.”

I am absolutely ecstatic for this, but also totally shocked. If you gave me 50 guesses as to things that would happen for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, I wouldn’t have picked this. Even if you limited the parameters to things on water, I probably would not have guessed this.

For years, we’ve joked that the only reason Electrical Water Pageant still exists is because the “team” behind it is a dude named Earl who Walt Disney World management forgot was on the payroll 3 decades ago. He hauls the floats around behind his 1970 Sears fishing boat every night, hoping none of the hotshots wise up.

Honestly, Electrical Water Pageant’s recent history has been one surprise after another. It survived the addition of a new bridge over its waterway, the closure of Walt Disney World, and deep cuts to entertainment. Despite all of that, it was one of the first things to return last fall. Walt Disney World doesn’t have a proper parade, but we’re getting an upgrade to Electrical Water Pageant?! Never would’ve guessed that back a year ago at this time.

Even before all of this, Electrical Water Pageant’s existence defied logic in the era of Walt Disney World’s “modern” management and entertainment cost-cutting “ideologies.” That it has not only survived all of this but is returning before almost any other nighttime entertainment is downright baffling. Perhaps Earl is one of the behind the scenes power brokers at Disney, wielding his influence with impunity. No matter why it’s happening, I’m incredibly excited. While I would’ve loved a light parade in Magic Kingdom for the 50th Anniversary, this is a pretty decent consolation prize!

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!


What do you think about all this Walt Disney World news? Excited for Muppets Haunted Mansion? What about the returning entertainment? Optimistic that the rumors are right about Merry Menagerie and the Holiday Storytellers? Are you anxiously awaiting another few days of announcements with the World’s Most Magical Celebration before the big day? Hope WDW adds more hours for October through December? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!

29 Responses to “Disney World News: Entertainment Returns, Muppets Mania, Water Pageant 50th Finale”
  1. Jamie October 1, 2021
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