Magic Kingdom Update: Higher Crowds, New Tomorrowland, Human PhotoPass Returns!

For our October 2019 update, we return to Magic Kingdom in the heart of Halloween season for another Walt Disney World progress report. We’ll cover the roller coaster crowds, new Tomorrowland sign, and the return of human PhotoPass photographers at Mickey Mouse’s meet & greet.

Images for this update were captured over a few recent visits to Magic Kingdom, including while attending our first sold out Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of the year. It’s been a while since our last post about MNSSHP, so we’ll probably do another recap later this week–it was an interesting evening.

In the meantime, our 2019 Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the best resource if you’re planning on attending MNSSHP in the near future. Also check out our Review & Photos: 2019 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Fall Snack & Food Guide to Walt Disney World posts…

For this Magic Kingdom update, let’s start with crowds. I’ll keep this brief because it’s probably worthy of a stand-alone post as we’re now in the heart of October, a time when Walt Disney World gets noticeably busier than the off-season lull of September. By and large, that has been our experience thus far this month.

However, Magic Kingdom crowds have not been as consistently heavier as we would’ve expected. Weekends and most non-event nights have seen a visible uptick, but before around 5 pm on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party evenings remain a solid time to visit. We’ve noticed other, more sporadic windows of low crowds, too.

Of course, first thing in the morning remains the optimal time to visit. Our Empty Magic Kingdom Morning: Extra, Extra Magic Hours Report & Tips from last month remains entirely applicable, even as daytime crowds have picked up.

Ditto our recent Why You Should Visit Disney World RIGHT NOW! post. I doubt we’ll ever see anything like Extra, Extra Magic Hours again–at least, not anytime soon.

A few weeks ago, we posted about the New Automated Cameras at Mickey & Minnie Meet in Magic Kingdom, which replaced human PhotoPass photographers. This story garnered a lot of attention and resulted in a lot of outrage among Walt Disney World fans.

Well, in a plot twist worthy of the next Terminator reboot (hey, it can’t be any worse than the current script–have you seen that trailer?!), we have the Rise of the Humans. More specifically, the return of human PhotoPass photographers to the Mickey Mouse meet & greet in Town Square.

Before you all go taking a victory lap, I don’t know if this is permanent. As noted in that post, our pictures taken by the robot didn’t immediately show up in our account. (They eventually did, nearly a week later…and were predictably awful.) This could be a matter of humans being an interim solution until the robots are better trained. We’ll continue monitoring the situation.

Now let’s move along to “things Walt Disney World fans could not save.”

Sadly, the Muppets Present Great Moments in American History took its final bow over the weekend. We were there for the second to last performance, which drew a huge crowd.

Hopefully new entertainment is announced soon, because all these cuts are not a good look…unless Walt Disney World is also on the precipice of announcing a huge price cut, which I somehow doubt.

Now we’ll turn to this update’s other most upbeat topic: the new Tomorrowland sign. The response I’ve seen to this is almost universally positive. Likewise, we both really like the new Tomorrowland sign.

The Googie look with its clean, swooping lines is eye-catching and imbued with a sense of retro-futuristic optimism. It’s a nice nod to the original Tomorrowland’s Space Age style, which (ironically enough) would now look more appropriate for Tomorrowland than any subsequent incarnations of the land.

Mid-century modern is hot right now (and has been since at least the peak of Mad Men), and the Space Age style that’s still at the core of Tomorrowland is a novel and engaging look that I’d love to see Walt Disney World re-embrace.

We discussed this at great length in our The Trouble with Tomorrowland post earlier this year, so I won’t rehash all of that here.

If this sign is any indication, that’s the direction Imagineering is going with Tomorrowland. (It probably doesn’t hurt that California-centric WDI has great examples of Googie and Space Age design all over their own backyard.)

Renewing that aesthetic, along with a restored Carousel of Progress finale, would be pretty much the perfect 50th Anniversary ‘gift’ for Tomorrowland.

However, there are a couple of impediments to this happening. First, we’ve already seen a lot of paint applied throughout Tomorrowland. It’s one thing when walls are repainted–it’s another thing when ornamentation like the fins overhead the main walkway are simply painted white.

That’s not an actual solution. While I grew up with and loved it, all of the Tomorrowland ’94 adornments need to be removed if the next incarnation of Tomorrowland is going to be anything other than a visual hodgepodge. A crisp, modern style only works if Walt Disney World goes all-in on it. Otherwise, the new paint only amplifies the imperfections of the aesthetic–it’s like watching a VHS tape on an OLED television.

The second problem is that we already know TRON Lightcycle Run will not embrace this retro-futuristic style, instead having a very different organic design and biomimicry features. On the plus side, at least it’s somewhat isolated from the rest of Tomorrowland and wouldn’t be terribly jarring if some design cues are used in both styles.

My fear remains that this Tomorrowland placemaking project will be a half-measure, and the end result will be one that never goes all-in on a singular architectural vision.

Tomorrowland ’94 was due for an overhaul, but that needs to actually happen before we start lauding the current, ongoing incremental changes. A mess of visual styles is far worse than one that is largely consistent but dated.

To put it more succinctly: don’t be distracted/satisfied with the ‘shiny new object’ of an entrance sign. It’s a nice first step, but it’s just that–a first step of many more than needed to be taken with the visual identity of Tomorrowland.

Sticking with Tomorrowland, here’s a look at construction on TRON Lightcycle Run. Progress continues at a brisk pace on this.

Not much else to say here, as aside from that, there are few visible differences since our recent TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom: New Concept Art & Construction Photos update.

Contrary to last year’s rumors, I guess this area is not going to house any dinosaurs.

At least the landscaping looks nice.

Continuing outside the park, here’s a look at the Magic Kingdom entrance redesign.

More ground has been torn up since the last time we checked in on this, but I’m not sure how much progress has been made.

Continuing around on Walt Disney World’s Highway in the Sky, work continues on the walkway between Magic Kingdom and Grand Floridian.

The swing bridge is sitting out in this area, staged and ready for installation!

As you can see on the right side of the photo above, the pivot point has also been placed into the edge of the canal.

Hopefully this is finished in time for the holidays, when it’s actually pleasant to walk from the Grand Floridian or Poly to Magic Kingdom!

Speaking of which, a lot of the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights are now installed.

It may seem like Halloween season just started and Christmas is still in the distant future, but in terms of Walt Disney World seasonal events, Halloween is winding down and Christmas is only a few weeks away.

The crane is still behind Cinderella Castle, installing more of the lights after hours each night.

Every time I express my excitement for the coming holiday season, Sarah reminds me that I shouldn’t “wish my life away.” I’m actually just ready to wish away the humidity and heat, which is actually starting to happen. It’s downright pleasant at night right now!

We’ve bounced around a lot in this update, but we started with a Haunted Mansion photo, and we’ll end with another. All in all, it’s a beautiful time to be at Magic Kingdom. Even though the daytime and evening crowds can be significantly higher than in September, the weather is also significantly nicer.

Personally, we’ll take better weather and higher crowds–especially when the latter is still easily avoidable via Extra, Extra Magic Hours. In any event, that’s it for this Walt Disney World update. We’ll see you soon for another Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party update and, soon, for our first Christmas photo report!

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 the new Tomorrowland sign? Satisfied with just this, or do you agree that a more significant aesthetic overhaul of the land is necessary? Excited that PhotoPass has returned to Mickey’s meet, and optimistic about the ‘Rise of the Humans’? Thoughts or insights about any other current construction projects in Magic Kingdom? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts here? 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!

27 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Update: Higher Crowds, New Tomorrowland, Human PhotoPass Returns!”
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