Disney’s 100th Anniversary is officially underway at Walt Disney World, with new things to do at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the resort hotels. This guide to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration offers info, what to see & do, and other assorted tips. (Updated September 22, 2023.)
For starters, Disney100 is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the company and not the Florida theme park complex. So if you’re wondering how we went from celebrating Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary to the 100th Anniversary like 2 years later, that’s how. Walt Disney World did not visit a rapid-aging beach from an M. Night Shyamalan film or anything like that.
Diehard Disney fans likely knew that…but not everyone is in our odd little club. If you’re just a normal person (first of all, congrats), you couldn’t be blamed for thinking it’s the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World based on the decorations and marketing…or wondering why the ads on television have gone switched from the 50th to the 100th Anniversary so quickly.
With what the Disney100 Celebration isn’t out of the way, let’s turn to what you need to know. First, the Disney100 celebration is going to be very short, only lasting about 3 months–from now until December 31, 2023.
Second, EPCOT is the epicenter of the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Walt Disney World. EPCOT being the home of the celebration is dictated in dual parts by substance and the completion of the EPCOT overhaul. With that wrapping up, there’s new stuff debuting at EPCOT over the next few months, and it makes sense to wrap that into the Disney100 festivities, even if they’re actually unrelated.
If you’re surprised that Disney100 is so short, you’re not alone. It’s customary for Disney’s milestone anniversary celebrations to last at least 18 months–sometimes as long as 2 years. The World’s Most Magical Celebration was 18 month long; the Year (singular) of a Million Dreams lasted about 2 years.
Despite that, it makes sense that Walt Disney World is only celebrating Disney100 for a few months. For one thing, it’s not an actual anniversary of the parks. For another, Disney100 is actually centered around Disneyland, and it began in January out on the west coast. For the most part, Disney100 has now ended at Disneyland, with Halloween decorations replacing most of the platinum decor.
Finally, Disney100 just feels like a stopgap event. Walt Disney World fans already have ‘anniversary fatigue’ and that this celebration is going to do almost nothing to move the needle on new vacation bookings. It’ll move merchandise, sure, but that’s about it. And fans would’ve bought souvenirs regardless–this just changes what they bought.
Regardless, Disney100 should be a fun little offering. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in the next few months, here’s the entertainment and other offerings for the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration…
Soarin’ Over California – For a limited time, the OG Soarin’ Over California will replace the newer Soarin’ Over CGI. Although it might seem odd to fly over California while in Florida, this is the original version of Soarin’ that was created for Disneyland Resort and ran in Florida for about a decade.
Most guests visiting EPCOT during the original run (with “Over California” dropped from the name) didn’t even realize the locations were exclusively in California. Unless you’ve visited Anza-Borrego, Yosemite National Park, Tahoe, Malibu, Camarillo, etc., you probably couldn’t identify where the footage was shot. You might’ve just assumed the desert, waterfall, rushing rapids, ocean, orange groves, etc. were simply generic–but stunning–locations.
In our view, Soarin’ Over California is far superior to–and has aged far better than–its newer counterpart. Soarin’ Around the World is perfectly fun, but it uses a lot of CGI, cheesy fake animals, and has a ton of distortion if you’re seated to the side given all of the architecture. Soarin’ Over California doesn’t have those issues–it’s just a relaxed and serene ride above beautiful landscapes.
Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth – Introduced as one of the centerpieces of the World’s Most Magical Celebration, the Beacons of Magic were a complete dud, with one very notable exception: EPCOT. This whole offering felt like it was designed around Spaceship Earth, and expanded to the other park icons (albeit without any creative vision).
There are currently 3 different Beacons of Magic shows on Spaceship Earth each night–the permanent one, the rotating festival one, and the EPCOT 40th Anniversary one. Walt Disney World has now revealed that another Beacons of Magic show will light up the night with a dazzling spectacle of colors and lights as Spaceship Earth honors Disney100.
Walt Disney Imagineering has been dreaming up new ways to honor this important milestone by turning to their own cherished memories. “The Show Lighting Team at Walt Disney Imagineering has been amazed at our guests’ reaction to the nightly shows on Spaceship Earth,” said Jason Read, show lighting designer principal for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’ve helped celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, EPCOT’s 40th, and the park’s signature festivals. Now, we’re excited to have Spaceship Earth ring in the biggest celebration yet, the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company.”
“We’re also inspired by many things from the history of the company, its characters, theme parks and shows – even the Disney100 opening logo that plays before our feature films during this anniversary,” Read continued. “You may see homages to everything from the ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ television show opening to Mickey balloons that we sell on Main Street, U.S.A.”
Moana’s Journey of Water – EPCOT’s newest attraction is currently in previews for Cast Members, and will soon enter open previews for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members. After that, soft openings for the general public are possible. Following that, Journey of Water Inspired by Moana will officially open on October 16, 2023!
Journey of Water is a new walk-through experience located within World Nature – the EPCOT neighborhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world. It’s a lovely little addition that captures the spirit of EPCOT. See more in our Photos & Review: Moana’s Journey of Water Exemplifies EPCOT Edutainment!
Also on October 16, Moana will arrive in World Nature and make her first appearance in her own dedicated meet & greet space near Journey of Water.
Luminous: Symphony of Us Nighttime Spectacular – A new nighttime spectacular called “Luminous The Symphony of Us” will debut at EPCOT on December 5, 2023. “Luminous The Symphony of Us” will feature fireworks, fountains, lasers, lighting effects and music and continue Disney’s long tradition of amazing nighttime entertainment at the park.
Show Director Tom Vazzana with Walt Disney World Creative Entertainment said the following about it: “This special show through music, pyrotechnics, lasers, and lighting reflect the commonality in all of us. You can be you, I can be me, and we can all be together in this one beautiful show.” Vazzana added that EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular will feature an original composition and evocative selections from the Disney songbook, all woven together to “remind us that we are more alike than different.”
Our hope is that lessons have been learned from the failure of Harmonious and what casual guests disliked about IllumiNations to create something that works for casual guests and Walt Disney World diehards. Beyond that, build on the success of the Disneyland Paris 30th Anniversary nighttime spectacular additions. There’s definitely a way to do something wow-inducing over World Showcase Lagoon without a bunch of hideous permanent infrastructure causing daytime blight.
Characters – You may find Minnie and Mickey Mouse plus their pals in platinum-inspired looks designed to reflect the optimism and creativity that are at the heart of everything Disney.
These costumes are classy and elegant. We’ve seen a lot of inventive outfits for Mickey and friends recently, so I’m perfectly satisfied with sharp, straightforward, and stylish looks.
At EPCOT, you’re also able to meet Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse in their platinum best in the Imagination pavilion. The couple meet in the lobby of the Magic Eye Theater, which is home to the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. (You do not need to watch that in order to see them.)
Also in the Imagination pavilion, you’ll once again find Figment. The not-so-little purple dragon is meeting in the ImageWorks area, which is the exit of Journey into Imagination. You can either ride the attraction and see him on your way out, or enter through the gift shop. We highly recommend meeting Figment!
CommuniCore Hall – Speaking of which, Mickey Mouse and friends will also have a new home at Communicore Hall opening later this year as part of the EPCOT transformation. This is a purpose-built location that’ll likely be similar to the old one in Innoventions.
CommuniCore Hall will also be home to festival programming at EPCOT, and will feature a dynamic exhibition space that will transform with each festival throughout the year. Playing with light, shapes and reflections, the architecture of this building was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to celebrate the legacy of EPCOT and the original CommuniCore buildings.
Originally, CommuniCore Hall was supposed to open with the start of Disney100. Unfortunately, it’s fallen behind schedule, so it’s still behind construction walls. While an official date has not yet been provided, Walt Disney World said in mid-September that all of World Celebration would be finished by sometime in December 2023. If the pace of progress is any indication, we wouldn’t be surprised if CommuniCore Hall doesn’t open until 2024. Who knows, though, they might pick up the pace once the new fiscal year starts!
See our post about CommuniCore Hall and Plaza Coming to EPCOT for more details about this venue as a whole. No other specifics have been shared as to the meet & greets coming to the World Celebration neighborhood of EPCOT.
Character Caravan – The “Caravanning Around the World” RV debuted during the physical distancing era when traditional meet & greets were suspended (maybe around Christmas of that year?) and has been a huge hit since. For Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, the RV and character costumes got a fresh look, and the same is true once again.
Various Disney characters stop by the resorts for impromptu photo opportunities. As the Disney100 celebration ramps up at Walt Disney World, you may run into some of your favorite Disney characters in their platinum best as they pop up at various resort hotels. These stops are supposedly random, but I swear that I see the characters on the BoardWalk lawn more than all other locations combined.
Platinum Decorations – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios will be adorned in platinum-infused décor. Expect to see a surplus of sparkling platinum banners, Disney100 medallions, and other photo opportunities. The Fab 50 statues are also being repainted and recycled, but they aren’t getting any platinum touches.
The centerpiece of the decor will be able Disney100 backdrops in front of all four theme parks plus Disney Springs.
Music – This has not yet been announced, but I love this little touch at Disneyland so much that I want to will it into existence at Walt Disney World. It might seem like a minor thing, but there’s a new background music (BGM) loop that plays in the Esplanade and Downtown Disney there that features all-time classic theme park songs.
The new Disney100 loop is surprisingly heavy on EPCOT Center originals, but features a good balance of old and new. Anything that includes Country Bear Jamboree, Journey into Imagination, and IllumiNations is a winner in my book! (Given the 50/50 mix of Disneyland and Walt Disney World music, it’s probably safe to assume this BGM was designed with the intention of using it on both coasts.)
In addition to this, the band and other musical acts around the California parks are also playing new medleys for Disney100. These feature good blends of music from the parks plus animated and live action movies of the past and present. Entertainment is the heart of Walt Disney World, and this will make the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration feel more alive.
Disney100 Food – Beginning May 1, guests can enjoy the Disney100 Petite Cake for a limited time at Amorette’s Patisserie in Disney Springs. This mouthwatering dessert has layers of vanilla chiffon, berry mousse and berry compote, all topped with a celebratory Disney100 Medallion macaron.
The Disney Culinary team has been dreaming up all kinds of delicious dishes to commemorate the milestone, and this is just the beginning. I was lucky enough to learn about the inspiration behind this yummy dessert from Chef Amanda.
“The culinary team has the wonderful opportunity to use food for storytelling,” Chef Amanda said. “We get to make special themed treats that bring guests into the story, letting them feel immersed in a tangible and very delicious way.”
“The inspiration of this cake pulls from the rich purple and platinum colors used for the Disney100 celebration,” Chef Amanda shared. “The drapery on the sides of the cake represents the traditional bunting that adorns Main Street, U.S.A. for special occasions. And of course, Mickey Mouse is proudly represented on the front of the cake because as we all know: ‘It all started with a mouse.’”
Disney100 Merchandise – The Disney100 merchandise is now available at Walt Disney World. In addition to what’s out now, a Disney100 Cinderella Premium Bucket will be exclusive to Magic Kingdom. You’ll also be able to enjoy drinks and popcorn in the new Disney100 refillable cups available now at the Disney Resort hotels and popcorn buckets at all four theme parks and Disney Springs.
Other limited-release merchandise for Disney100 is available across Walt Disney World. Cherish nostalgic memories with the new 40s-themed Disney100 Decades Collection featuring Disney classics such as “Fantasia,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Pinocchio” and “Dumbo.” Other options include the Disney100 Platinum Celebration Collection or the Disney100 Unified Character Collection.
Ultimately, I’m honestly pretty pleased that Disney100 will be put out of its misery after only 3 months. Better than having a substantively-hollow anniversary event that drags on for 18 months, with banners serving as a bitter reminder of what we didn’t get and what could’ve been. (Not that that just happened or anything!)
More importantly, this allows Disney to close one chapter at the end of 2023–wrapping up Disney100 and the EPCOT overhaul–before starting another in 2024. With “revenge travel” finished and a slowdown on both coasts, my hope and expectation is that Walt Disney World and Disneyland get actual, substantive special events starting in spring or early summer of next year. In order for that to happen, there needs to first be a brief pause and reset. Turning Disney100 into a stop-gap event and ending it relatively early allows for that.
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!
Are you looking forward to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Walt Disney World? What excites you the most? Looking forward to the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT? What about the Giant Dirt Pit being filled in and CommuniCore Hall & Plaza debuting? Buy any of the purple/platinum merchandise yet? Planning a trip specifically for the new entertainment or Disney100 offerings? Do you agree or disagree with our guide? 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!