Disney World News: Magical Express Change, Off-Season Hours, Fireworks Testing & Permits

We’re back with another weekend Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup. This one covers more changes/cuts to Disney’s Magical Express, fireworks testing and permits filed for Magic Kingdom, an overpriced gift basket, and more.

As always, we’ll start with the latest release of new and extended off-season operating hours. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. These hours encompass the week of September 5-11, 2021. This set of dates encompasses Labor Day, which is not a particularly busy time by holiday standards. Here are the hours for most dates within that week:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 8 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 8 am to 6 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

Keep in mind that Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. These are placeholder or “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World hours—the minimum operating hours for those dates. With that said, we do have some interesting wrinkles to this particular set of hours…

First, the closing time of Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been extended from 7 pm to 8 pm.

This is not particularly noteworthy, as it makes the boilerplate hours consistent with the current closing time of DHS. This later closing time now runs the duration of the calendar.

Second, we have three nights of Magic Kingdom closing early. The first two make sense, with the park closing at 8:30 pm on nights when Boo Bash begins at 9 pm.

The third one is September 11 (the last date for this round of hours), when Magic Kingdom closes at 7 pm. This could be the start of fall hour cutbacks on par with last year, but we doubt it. Subsequent Disney After Hours Boo Bash events in September begin at 9 pm, and it’d be really odd to have Magic Kingdom close to day guests two hours before that begins. This is either due to a park buyout, one-night special event, or it’s a mistake.

Next, Walt Disney World has announced details of “Mickey’s Spook-tacular Halloween Basket,” which is available for delivery to guest rooms from August 1, 2021 until November 4, 2021. It’s available at the bargain cost of $349.99 while supplies last!!!

I’m not sure what about this necessitated an announcement (Disney Floral & Gifts has a ton of other ~$200 to ~$400 gift baskets and has for a while), and I’m absolutely not sharing the basket to encourage you to purchase it. (Unless you’re a big Tostitos fan, then by all means!) To the contrary, I am very much ready for stuff like this to fizzle out.

There’s definitely a lot of pent-up spending occurring right now, which emboldens companies to roll out and promote products like this. I’m hopeful that some of what we’re seeing Disney do right now, beyond this, is temporary and will be brought into check when consumer behavior returns to reality. It nevertheless is mildly concerning as any precedent set now will take time to undo at Walt Disney World. Just a random though I’ve had at times the last few months that was again brought to the fore upon seeing this.

On a much more optimistic note, if you’re staying at a Magic Kingdom area resort starting tonight (June 26, 2021), stay up late to see some fireworks! Residents around Magic Kingdom have been notified that fireworks testing will occur after park closing tonight and June 28. If you opt to watch, be advised that testing sometimes is sporadic and not the full show.

To see Happily Ever After presented as normal, be in the area on Monday, when the “Magic Kingdom Cast Homecoming Ever After” preview night for Cast Members working in Magic Kingdom will happen. That night’s presentation of Happily Ever After will begin at 11:30 pm.

Speaking of fireworks, Disney has filed a new new South Florida Water Management district permit for work behind Magic Kingdom that is almost certainly for new fireworks launch sites around the rear perimeter of the park.

The permit marks areas as C-104, C-101, C-102, and C-105, which not-so-coincidentally align with pyro launch locations and are appropriately-sized for that purpose. If you’re mind immediately jumped to the newly-announced Disney Enchantment fireworks show debuting October 1, 2021 for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, you’re not alone–and probably onto something.

Above is a very rudimentary map overlay I made of the new permanent launch pads, outlined in red. The outside ones are similar to temporary sites used for the last years of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, when construction of TRON Lightcycle Run forced the perimeter bursts to condense a bit.

Expect something similar here, with this feeling like ~120º degrees of pyro rather than 180º if you’re standing in a prime location on Main Street. Not quite as fully immersive, but still pretty good.

This follows Project Nugget last year, which consisted of infrastructure upgrades for Magic Kingdom’s fireworks shows. That doesn’t necessarily result in noticeable improvements for guests (although it might!) in the productions, but modernizing infrastructure is usually a good thing that prevents problems down the road.

It won’t matter to most of you, but I’m hoping this means shorter road closures behind Magic Kingdom. With ever-increasing traffic due to development back there, it’s really not tenable to close the road for so long so many nights from August through December.

On a more exciting note, infrastructure for perimeter bursts–even the quasi variety–is very promising for Disney Enchantment. The last time a regular ops nighttime spectacular featured perimeter bursts was during Summer Nightastic over a decade ago. Anyone who saw that can vouch for how awesome it was!

I understand some people are disappointed about Happily Ever After not running for 18 months or the After Hours event instead of the Halloween (and maybe Christmas) parties. However, nightly showings of Disney Enchantment–for all guests–should vindicate those decisions. Personally, I’m incredibly optimistic about this nighttime spectacular.

Speaking of fireworks (because where else would you eat while waiting for them?!), all signs point to Casey’s Corner reopening on or before July 1, 2021. While this is technically rumor, we’re 98% confident it’ll happen.

We actually expected an announcement about it this past week, and aren’t sure why one didn’t happen. Walt Disney World has quietly opened plenty of counter service and snack spots, but Casey’s Corner is higher profile. A fun announcement would be an easy W to take.

D23 has taken a W with the announcement of Destination D23 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, happening November 19—21, 2021. This will celebrate 50 years of the Walt Disney World Resort and more. D23 promises “exciting announcements and see sneak peeks from the many worlds of Disney–and relive your favorite memories with behind-the-scenes stories, special guests, and so much more at this fan-favorite event!”

We’ve done a number of D23 events (including Destination D for Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary) and have always had a great time. If you enjoy Disney history, they’re truly fascinating events, with candid commentary (at least to the extent a Disney-sanctioned event can have it) from retired Imagineers and Disney Legends. If you’ve ever considered attending one of these, we’d encourage you to do it sooner rather than later. We’ve already lost some icons in the past few years, and the window is closing on hearing the Walt-era Imagineers share their stories.

Finally, we have another change (cutback?) in the ongoing saga of Disney’s Magical Express. As you’re almost certainly aware, Walt Disney World made the bombshell announcement at the beginning of this year that Disney’s Magical Express is ending in 2022.

Following that, the operator of the bus fleet announced its spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express, debuting in January 2022. Reservations for that were supposed to open back in May, but it’s now late June and all we have is the nebulous “Summer 2021” release date for bookings.

Speculation has been rampant, with some fans holding out hope that Mears and Disney are working together to strike a last minute deal to save DME. That is absolutely not what we think is happening. Our view is that Mears is either still working on the infrastructure for the service, or doesn’t want to take bookings just yet given the uncertainty of labor costs amid a bus driver shortage in Central Florida.

As a reminder, the Brightline rail is not a replacement for Disney’s Magical Express. Construction hasn’t even started on the Disney Springs station and line from the airport, and won’t until 2024. The tentative target opening year for that line is 2026. Given the delays to date, we’d bank on it being finished late, not early–and certainly not next year!

Disney's Magical Express Review & FAQ

In any event, Walt Disney World continues to scale back the existing airport shuttle service. Starting July 1, Disney’s Magical Express will no longer mail reservation confirmation materials to guests and travel agents.

Instead, guests are encouraged to use MagicBands or the new Magic Mobile service to check in at the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center. As another reminder, Walt Disney World stopped providing MagicBands to guests with hotel reservations as of this year, and prices on the upgrade options recently increased.

Guests who don’t have MagicBands or MagicMobile can have their reservations retrieved manually by using their IDs. As always, guests are encouraged to make Magical Express reservations and provide round-trip flight information at the time they book their trip.

Personally, I file this one under “mildly annoying” but more so because of peripheral cutbacks that add friction to the process, rather than this change itself. In isolation, this shouldn’t present a problem for anyone. It’s been a while since we’ve used Disney’s Magical Express, but there were many trips when we didn’t even make DME reservations. Traveling last minute or booking via third party deal sites, it was more of a hassle than just showing up at the podium and having them look up our resort reservation–a process that took all of 10 seconds. This should also extinguish lingering hope that Disney’s Magical Express will be “renewed” at the last minute, despite Walt Disney World’s announcement earlier this year. Every move subsequent to that (and even before it) points to that not being the case. Don’t set yourself up for (further) disappointment.

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 of this latest roundup of Walt Disney World news & rumors? Excited about the likelihood of perimeter bursts for the Disney Enchantment fireworks? Optimistic Casey’s Corner and other closed restaurants will return next month? Further thoughts on Disney’s Magical Express changes? Feedback or opinions on anything else covered here? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!

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