Magic Kingdom Photo Report: PeopleMover Problems, Dining Dilemmas, Short Waits, Etc.
Magic Kingdom has now been open for over two full weeks, so it’s time to head back to Walt Disney World’s flagship park to see how things are going after the pent-up demand has been exhausted during what would otherwise be summer vacation season.
This was our first visit to Magic Kingdom following the reopening of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Our main goals were to see how the park had ‘settled’ into operations during this time of temporary abnormal and if more parks being open meant attendance was further diluted or if more tourists and other guests would be present after hearing glowing health safety reports.
In this photo update, we’ll cover that. We’ll also address a range of random topics from around the Magic Kingdom, including the current status of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Magic Kingdom’s dining dearth, cool new merchandise, walk-on rides, and more. It’s fairly rambling and basically just covers interesting tidbits, illustrative photos (plus ones I like), and other observations.
To that end, we’re not really sure what readers want out of these updates. Is it for vicarious visits to Walt Disney World while you can’t or won’t make the trip yourself? Is it to assess safety, crowd levels, and how the parks ‘feel’ to determine whether you’d feel comfortable going to Walt Disney World? A little of both? Something else?
Normally, we can ascertain this from past comments, but it’s tough to tell. Our reopening reports have been popular, but the why of that is unclear. As such, we’d love feedback so we can tailor these Walt Disney World photo reports to what’s relevant to prevailing interests!
It should go without saying, but we’re not going to do anything that makes us uncomfortable. Sadly and ironically, the things we want to do most at Magic Kingdom are either beyond our risk tolerances–Carousel of Progress & Country Bear Jamboree, dining at Be Our Guest Restaurant & Skipper Canteen–or not currently operational, in the case of the PeopleMover.
Anyway, on with the Magic Kingdom photo report…
Lately, we’ve been arriving late to each park. Usually, we’ll look at the weather forecast to time our visit after or before the summer storms, to the extent that’s possible.
Aside from some brief rain, this day was mostly just overcast. On the plus side, that made the weather cooler and more comfortable.
We did get lucky with a late afternoon break in the clouds, and most of the photos here are from that brief window.
As you can see from the two photos above, Magic Kingdom is still pretty uncrowded.
The ‘paint by numbers’ on the bricks of Cinderella Castle have largely been completed, which means this project is almost done.
A lot of Walt Disney World fans seem to love the new-look Cinderella Castle. I am not one of them, but my opinion isn’t going to change anything here, so I’ll just let those who enjoy it have their fun without my cynicism.
I will say that if you think the new-look Cinderella Castle looks different in virtually every photo, that’s pretty true to life.
They might as well call this Chameleon Castle, because it looks dramatically different in every type of lighting. If you’re seeking the “ideal” look, check it out an hour after sunrise as close as possible to the winter solstice.
Sleepy Hollow is currently the best option for counter service dining in Magic Kingdom due to Columbia Harbour House being closed, Be Our Guest Restaurant not doing its normal lunch, and the toppings bars being dramatically scaled back at Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these waffles and this is a great excuse to switch to an all-waffle diet…but these being the best option for quick service meals in the entire Magic Kingdom is not ideal.
On the plus side, nearly every table service restaurant has a sign out front indicating that seating is available. We dined at Tony’s recently and shared the experience in Tony’s Town Square Restaurant Redemption.
Given the abundant same-day availability, I cannot fathom making an Advance Dining Reservation right now. That flexibility is really nice. We cannot overstate how nice it is to have this much spontaneity when visiting Walt Disney World.
Sticking with the restaurant motif, in response to our 5 Post-Reopening Improvements for Walt Disney World, some commenters reported success in getting water from counter service restaurants. We’ve had recent success at smaller spots in this regard.
However Cosmic Ray’s is the only spot in Magic Kingdom (to our knowledge) with a water bottle refill station. Here, there’s a Cast Member stationed just inside the door lying in wait, ready to shout “WIZARD YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” to anyone who doesn’t have a Mobile Order.
Liki Tikis and other water features are turned off (no spitting Aladdin camel), which is easier for photos.
I hope water play areas can return at some point in the near future, but if not, maybe they could receive some other type of interactivity? (Dancing lights corresponding with their drumbeat would be cool once Magic Kingdom open after sunset.)
Moving on to attractions…we didn’t do any because we instead spent 5.75 hours waving at the Country Bears.
Some might argue that this was a waste of time, but we’ll get the last laugh when the bear insurrection finally happens. We’ve made our alliances known–how will you handle our new oso overlords?!
Joking aside, we were only able to wave at bears for about 30 minutes before their set ended. After that, it was off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
This was about a ~10 minute wait–the longest line of the day.
Pirates of the Caribbean was a walk-on.
While other aspects of the current Walt Disney World experience might be surreal or eerie, I absolutely love walking through empty standby queues. There’s so much you miss when these are full of people, and the empty queues have a ‘heightened senses’ kind of vibe.
Haunted Mansion was also a walk-on.
The lack of a pause between the front door and the load area is the oddest part of this. (I’m also probably used to the Disneyland version, where there is more physical distance–plus an elevator.)
Space Mountain was yet another walk-on.
This was the eeriest attraction experience of the day, and it gave new meaning to “in space, no one can hear you scream.” The ride was totally silent for some reason (well, aside from the creaking of the track), which I guess fits if you’re looking for a dead atmosphere that reinforces the vastness and vacuum of space. Still fun.
Sticking in Tomorrowland, we’ll take a look at some new-to-us merchandise.
I absolutely love the color choices of this new line, especially the t-shirt. I would love a light blue dad hat with the old Walt Disney World logo in lime green text.
I’m not entirely sure this stuff is new, but it’s also cool.
There have been a lot of cool PeopleMover shirts of late, but the slogans on them are always too cheesy for even my cheesy tastes.
Until this one!
I love everything about it–the design, material, and colors. Will probably pick it up before that 30% off merchandise discount expires.
Speaking of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, it’s still down. As you might recall, it has been down since about a week before Magic Kingdom closed back in March.
Sarah asks about this every time we visit, and she’s received a range of different explanations. Distilling those into something consistent, it seems like Disney is awaiting new motors or parts of some sort, and the reason for the delay is a supply chain issue or factory closure. The timeline for this ranges from a few days until several months.
We are perhaps overly apprehensive about all things PeopleMover, especially after what happened at Disneyland. Losing this attraction would be a huge blow for Magic Kingdom.
However, we believe Walt Disney World management knows this. At no point in recent memory have we heard any credible rumors about the PeopleMover being replaced or retired. To the contrary, we’ve been “reminded” that more Magic Kingdom guests do the PeopleMover than any other attraction, and as such, improvements are more likely than anything.
I haven’t the slightest inkling as to what, if anything, that means in the current environment. From a ‘wishful thinking’ perspective, now (or whenever the parts arrive) seems like the perfect time to take the PeopleMover down for long-overdue maintenance, plussing, and a new on-ride spiel. Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary may not offer as much as previously planned, but that’d be a pleasant surprise.
Elsewhere in Tomorrowland, the place-making project has stalled (see above). We still expect this to resume and finish in time for the debut of TRON Lightcycle Run, whenever that might happen.
“THE NEW CASTLE COLORS DO NOT LOOK BETTER, THEY ARE A CARTOONISH OVERCORRECTION THAT DIDN’T EVEN ACCOUNT FOR FLORIDA WEATHER. PLUS THEY DRAINED MY FAVORITE FLOATIN’ SPOT FOR THIS FOOLISHNESS. LEMME BREAK IT DOWN FOR YOU IN 2,000 QUACKS.”
“SIR, THIS IS A WENDY’S.”
Our original plan was to stick around as the Hub and Main Street cleared out, but there was a “huge” crowd–the biggest of the day, by far–still there at 7:30 pm. That makes sense given the early closing time, but with an ugly sunset coupled with more rain in the forecast, we decided to bounce to beat the storm.
Ultimately, it was another good visit to Magic Kingdom. Mask compliance and guest observance of rules remained high–around 98%, which leaves Epcot as the outlier for obvious reasons. Wait times and crowds were short or non-existent. Magic Kingdom has the strongest and most well-rounded attraction lineup of any park at Walt Disney World, but even it doesn’t require a full day right now.
It currently reminds us of a daytime version of Disney After Hours, which is great for guests who want to max out their ride count. We’d personally like to see a bit more balance–even some new snacks would really help improve the overall experience–but it’s really hard to complain about the current experience. Walt Disney World continues to do an exceptional job from a safety perspective, and we’re really savoring these visits, as we’re unlikely to ever experience anything like this ever again (hopefully!). It’s the one silver lining for us amidst…literally everything else…happening in the real world.
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!
Have you visited Magic Kingdom since the park reopened? What was your experience? What would you like to see covered in these park photo reports? Are you eagerly awaiting your next vacation ‘escape’ to Walt Disney World, or still apprehensive about everything going on right now? Do you have any questions about the current modified Magic Kingdom experience? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or are you waiting until 2021 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!
Hi Sarah and Tom:
Reading from Canada, we usually visit either DLR or WDW once annually. We will not be visiting this year regrettably, but hopefully next year. I thought I would contrast why I usually / used to / soon will again read your blog — including trip updates – from why I currently / still do, in general order of ‘priority’. I hope this helps. Even if it doesn’t help, well, I feel like I owe you many many many times over, and you asked… though I am certainly responding with more than you asked for but so anyway…
1. Planning: Whether refreshing my memory on things we may not have done in a while, or staying current on new developments or tips / tricks from the Brickers. Why I particularly value your blog and your opinions is because (a) on the one hand, though you love Disney with a passion, you are not “in the tank” for Disney and call out the bad stuff even if it hurts, where many (most?) Disney blogs are just too Pollyanish (b) conversely, while I get something out of critical thought, strategizing and analytics, I find some pretty darn smart Disney “Analysts” just a little too … I don’t know … joyless seems too harsh, but man, this is about my vacation and time with my family, and some number-crunchers seem to occasionally lose sight of that; you don’t. Even when I may not agree with your opinions, you are always good about disclosing your biases and personal preferences, so I can still get a lot (a LOT) of value. “Value” seems like a too mercenary word. My family gets a lot more out of our shared love of Disney thanks to you is maybe a better way to put it. And I truly do thank you; it is appreciated.
2. Budget /Timing: This is really a subset of planning, I suppose, but this is more “when / where” (* never “if”!*) we should go, not “what will we do when we get there”. We want to get the most out of our trips, which usually includes a non Disney element, and it’s a big time and financial commitment. Sometimes your blog inspires ideas or help us figure out that maybe FLA makes more sense than CA, or vice versa, in any given year.
3. Inherent enjoyment: I plain enjoy your words and pictures. You have some real chops with both, and I dig them.
4. Vicarious Disney enjoyment: Which is usually accompanied with the extra buzz of “We’ll get to do that soon too.” ‘Nuff said!
5. Habit / Familiarity: Not to hit you with a back handed compliment, I hope, but these are reasons too — I read it because I have read it for what feels like forever now, and because it’s nice to hear your “voices” even though I don’t know you at all. Same reasons, good, bad or neutral, we watch long running TV shows, movie Series or wear favourite but worn old clothes.
1. Planning: Still #1! Though we can’t currently commit to a trip, we enjoy thinking and talking about what we will do when we get there. We’ve always done that, of course, but it’s different when there are no concrete steps to take along the way. In a way, “planning” gets converted to a form of vicarious enjoyment these days; but not vicarious enjoyment of your trips, vicarious enjoyment of our own future trip. Or put differently, Planning for the future becomes the opposite: a form of nostalgia for the past. Sad as it might sound, it helps!
2. Budget /Timing: Obviously the biggest factor by far right now is Covid19. You can’t help with that. Subject to Covid19, the biggest Disney factor for us is WDW 50th, including when it starts, how long it will last, and whether there will be some big new attraction that might open mid-stream (I’d hate to go for the start of the 50th and find out Tron or Guardians Rewind opens 3 months later, for example.) Naturally, you can’t make any definitive predictions. Reading your blog, though, still gives some reasonable insight with a healthy dose of reality / critical analysis to help make what few decisions we can make now: mainly how much we think about saving up or booking off for next year, or forego in other possible options.
3. Inherent enjoyment: I still enjoy your words and pictures.
4. Habit / Familiarity: It’s still nice to hear your “voices”.
5. Vicarious Disney enjoyment. The only one that has changed. Actually, this should be on a different list, since otherwise everything else here and on above version represents a positive, even if tinged with melancholy on this second list. That is not true at all for the current moment. I get no joy from your joy, I hate to say. If this was the only, or main, reason I read your blog I would just drop it for the duration. I don’t really enjoy seeing what the park is like these days, or you being there, for reasons that probably include envy (hate to admit, but probably true) and certainly any residual “We’ll get to do that soon.” feels more painful than pleasant at the moment. And I sure don’t like the Disney version of being reminded of the effects of Covid19, and HATE seeing the parks empty; I share the opinion of other commenters here that an empty park is a sad park, and I’d much rather have to line-up or ‘jostle’ for some viewing room (*) than get to walk on everything because no-one else is around. I hope this doesn’t sound mean or directed at you. I am not blaming you, and not saying don’t keep it up. Just saying that this particular sub-factor does not hold up well in 2020. The other 4 reasons are more than enough for me to want you to keep it going, please and thanks!!!!!!
In other words, the reasons for reading haven’t changed all the much. The underlying emotions and motivations accompanying those reasons have though.
(* My one Disney tip I would share with all is that line-ups and crowds are inevitable and can and SHOULD be fun. If you see every other Park visitor as your competition or – worse — your enemy, well how is that fun? Make the most of it; the fact that you are there at all means you OBVIOUSLY will have something in common with the people in front or behind you. I have had some of my best times in the Parks chatting up the people in proximity in a 90 minute line-up, and I have never ONCE worried about losing my spot when my kids suddenly need the bathroom, because we have usually made a bunch of new friends who will happily save it for us!)
Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment–really appreciate the feedback (and no offense taken–I know exactly what you mean!).
Good tip at the end, and something the rest of us should probably take to heart! 🙂
I already commented, but can I just say, I somewhat agree with you on the castle. Especially on the blue roofs on the turrets. That blue looks like shiny plastic toy pieces and seems too bright and vivid to me. I’m okay with the rest of it though.
I would just like to echo the compliments about your blog. It’s a big DITTO from me.