Disney’s 100th Anniversary officially starts in September 2023 at Walt Disney World, and EPCOT will be the center of the celebration in Florida. The company has now shared new details & dates for the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration, and this covers those–plus commentary about what WDW has not announced for Disney100.
Walt Disney World has now shared that the Disney100 celebration will “ramp up” beginning in late September 2023. According to the company, they’ve already been “celebrating the fans and storytellers who have sparked the joy that is Disney over the last century” with special surprises, while helping fans and families relive beloved Disney memories and experience new, heartwarming stories.
EPCOT will be the center of the Disney100 celebration at Walt Disney World, marking not only a century of magic and innovation, but also ushering in the future as the multi-year transformation of the park wraps up. Here’s what’s in store for the limited-time celebration at EPCOT, which will start on September 22, 2023!
Disney100 backdrops are already out at all four theme parks and Disney Springs. Beginning on September 22, you’ll also be able to snap a selfie with a new platinum Mickey Mouse sculpture in World Celebration with Spaceship Earth in the background. (They got the quote right on this version. Great work, team!)
In addition, you’ll be able to check out the all-new mural at the heart of World Celebration to see how many of the 100 Disney characters you can find in the scene. This mural located along the walkway to World Showcase will feature fan-favorite characters hidden throughout the various neighborhoods of EPCOT. The rest of World Celebration will also be decked out in Disney100 platinum banners and décor.
Mark your calendars because you’ll be able to meet, hug, high-five, and snap a photo with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their platinum best in the Imagination pavilion.
They won’t be the only ones sparkling in honor of the celebration. Spaceship Earth will light up each night with special colors and lights accompanied by the Disney100 anthem, a unique rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Sip and savor the tastes of the Disney100 celebration with limited-time food & beverage locations during both the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
That’s not the only exclusive food and beverage you’ll be able to enjoy during the Disney100 celebration at EPCOT. Among other things, there will be a purple metallic Mickey Balloon Premium Popcorn Bucket available only at EPCOT during Disney100.
Finally, Walt Disney World has shared that the Disney100 celebration will happen at Walt Disney World from September 22 to December 31, 2023.
That’s it. That’s all of the details shared today. Frankly, you might be wondering why this warranted a blog post rather than just an update to our existing guide. We do owe you an explanation, so let’s turn to the commentary for that…
In our full guide to Disney100, we predicted that the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration would be relatively short-lived at Walt Disney World. Our main reasons for this prediction were a mix of ‘anniversary fatigue’ and that Disney100 seems like an afterthought at EPCOT. Kind of like a way to put a bow on the overhaul and filling in the Giant Dirt Pit, but that’s really about it.
That guide was published a few months ago, and we’ve also since noticed just how much interest in Disney100 at Disneyland has absolutely fallen off a cliff. Even at the home park of the event, fans are ready to move on–and have been for a while.
Despite that, I never would’ve guessed that Disney100 would only be a ~3 month celebration at Walt Disney World. (Maybe it still won’t…I guess they could extend “by popular demand” into early next year? I’m guessing that will not happen here, though.)
That really underscores just how much of an afterthought Disney100 is at Walt Disney World, and it probably also speaks to disinterest at Disneyland in the event. If it were hugely popular in California, it wouldn’t be 3 months long in Florida. For those who are upset about “missing” Disney100 at Walt Disney World, let me assure you that you are not missing anything.
Honestly, I’m pleased to hear 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!)
The Disney100 merchandise has already rolled out, so people could stock up on purple and platinum stuff (and will likely be able to continue that well into 2024). That’s probably the ‘highlight’ for a lot of Walt Disney World fans who are excited about this. Otherwise, 3 months is about the right duration for the Disney100 event. There’s no there there to justify anything longer.
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.
It’s premature to make predictions about the potential special event that Walt Disney World and Disneyland debut in 2024, but my bet is that they pull a page from the Summer Nightastic playbook. I’ve been bringing that Great Recession event up more and more recently, which is because I think the current circumstances are starting to mirror those. (Albeit to a far lesser degree–attendance is still way up as compared to then, and will remain so barring an absolute disaster.)
Right now is the first time in a while that neither coast has any major new additions under construction. Yes, there’s Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and we remain optimistic that ride reimagining will be fantastic. However, that isn’t coming until late 2024 (hopefully!) at the earliest, and it’s unclear whether it’ll move the needle on vacation bookings to the same degree as an all-new attraction.
Even so, there’s a whole spring and summer season before it debuts, not to mention at least 2 years after it opens with no major marketable new attractions. Given Disney construction speeds, there’s a whole lotta nothing outside of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure between now and 2026 (the earliest a new land or attraction could conceivably open if announced today).
The solution will likely be entertainment. After years of rumors and wishful thinking, perhaps 2024 will finally be the year that a night parade returns to Walt Disney World. I’d be inclined to bet on at least one coast getting a night parade–both Paint the Night and Main Street Electrical Parade are sitting in storage in California.
In addition or alternative to that, other spectaculars are possible. This is post is about Disney100 at EPCOT, but Disneyland still hasn’t said anything about the return of Fantasmic and whether it’ll actually happen by this Labor Day. My bet is that it either will not or, if it does, will be an interim production, with a fully reimagined Fantasmic in 2024.
At Walt Disney World, it’s conceivable that as-yet unannounced entertainment comes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and/or Magic Kingdom. That could mean a parade, parades (plural), or a parade and a projections/fireworks show.
Then there’s the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT. That was a conspicuous omission from today’s press release about Disney100. It wasn’t even teased or hinted at. That could’ve been purely coincidental, but my guess is that’s not coming by late 2024, as previously announced.
We currently know almost zero details about EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular, not even its name! The above piece of concept art is really the only thing of substance we have for it. For reference, the original announcement for Harmonious (then unnamed) came at D23’s Destination D in November 2018. The first concept art and show name were revealed at D23 Expo in August 2019, with the nighttime spectacular slated to debut in 2020 at that time. (Harmonious ended up opening in October 2021, partially due to COVID and partially due to it being strategically advantageous to hold it back.)
Walt Disney World normally opts for a slow-trickle approach, and by now, they would’ve typically shared the name–several months ago–followed by behind the scenes recording session videos and various pieces of concept art. I guess it’s possible they’re opting for a different approach after hyping up Harmonious and Enchantment only to have them fall on their faces, but I doubt it.
This announcement also doesn’t say anything about Moana’s Journey of Water or CommuniCore Hall & Plaza. We know that Moana’s Journey of Water is done and ready to open, with Cast Member previews starting next week and running through late August.
After that, it seems safe to assume there will be Annual Pass and Disney Vacation Club previews throughout September. That would set the stage perfectly for an official opening date of October 1, 2023. After today’s news, it wouldn’t surprise me if that moves forward to September 22 to coincide with the start of Disney100. (If so, it’s a smart move–get locals out to EPCOT at least twice before the always-popular October 1 merchandise day!)
Moana’s Journey of Water is “big” enough that it’ll get a standalone announcement for its opening date, so it not being mentioned today is hardly a red flag. Unlike the upcoming EPCOT nighttime spectacular, Walt Disney World has offered a slow trickle of updates on this walkthrough trail already. It also was not previously “attached” to the Disney100 celebration at EPCOT, whereas the nighttime spectacular was prior to the radio silence about it.
Then there’s CommuniCore Hall & Plaza. Nothing was mentioned about this in the Disney100 press release, but there is some indirect news. Minnie & Mickey Mouse are coming to the Imagination pavilion in their Disney100 outfits in September 2023, which is notable since CommuniCore Hall has a “Mickey & Friends” meet & greet space.
Progress has been moving fast on CommuniCore Hall in the last several months, but this announcement would strongly suggest that Walt Disney World is not confident that space will not be finished by fall. If CommuniCore Hall were ready to open on October 1, why debut the meet & greet a week earlier in the Imagination pavilion? They wouldn’t.
It’s difficult to gauge how much work still needs to be done in the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit and how long it’ll take. From the monorail, it still looks like a mess, but as we’ve seen before, landscaping and placemaking can come together pretty quickly. So there’s still hope that the outdoor portion–CommuniCore Plaza–will be ready by September 22, and some walls will be down. But we wouldn’t count on it.
Ultimately, my bet is that Disney100 serves as a time of transition for EPCOT, with the front of the park overhaul wrapping up and walls coming down over the course of the celebration, but no longer in time for the start of it. Nevertheless, the 3-month stop-gap will be used as a way to celebrate the new-look front of EPCOT while also moving on from it.
Frankly, I think this is the right approach. It’s not like what’s behind those construction walls is anything special that will generate much sincere excitement or enthusiasm from most Walt Disney World fans. Outside of the diehards who get excited about everything, I think most normal people will feel a sense of relief that the walls are finally down. Not exactly the ideal reaction after 4 years of construction, but they’ve managed to exhaust us with this one.
Nevertheless, ending the EPCOT overhaul and concluding Disney100 quickly also allows the opening of a new chapter in 2024. Saving the new EPCOT nighttime spectacular for that is also the smart move (regardless of whether it’s on purpose or because it’s delayed). Personally, my hope is that 2024 kicks off phase 2 of the EPCOT overhaul, with the overdue Spaceship Earth reimagining getting underway after the Disney100 celebration ends. I’d also love to finally have the also-overdue Journey into Imagination overhaul start, another new country in World Showcase and/or another new attraction in one of the existing pavilions. Perhaps all will be revealed at Destination D23 in September!
Are you looking forward to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Walt Disney World? What excites you the most? Surprised that this will only be a 3-month celebration, or do you agree with our assessment that this is basically just a stop-gap celebration? Looking forward to the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT? What about the Giant Dirt Pit being filled in and CommuniCore Hall & Plaza debuting? Planning a trip specifically for the new entertainment or Disney100 offerings? 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!