Since the announcement that Walt Disney World’s theme parks would begin to reopen on July 11, it’s been one seismic change after another, from shortened hours to a reservations system for park entry.
The biggest of which has undoubtedly been that All Reservations Will Be Cancelled–Free Dining, Restaurants, FastPass+ & Dining Plan. Unsurprisingly, that was just the first of many ‘modifications’ for the upcoming Walt Disney World theme park experience.
Walt Disney World has now shared an update regarding special events for this summer and fall season at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Let’s start with the good news, which concerns the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival…
For this year, Epcot is introducing a modified festival experience, which will be Walt Disney World’s longest festival ever: “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival!”
This new take on the foodie festival will debut July 15, 2020 (same date Epcot reopens) and continue through the fall (no end date has been set), offering over 20 signature global marketplaces like Hawaii, Hops & Barley, and Islands of the Caribbean, spaced out around World Showcase and Future World.
If you’ve ever imagined a world where the floral fun of Flower & Garden is sprinkled in with the global goodies of Food & Wine, here’s your chance. In addition to Food & Wine Festival cuisine, guests will be able to see Walt Disney World’s newest topiary, Remy, in the France pavilion and find Flower & Garden merchandise.
For scavenger hunt fans, Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt returns. And stay tuned as Food & Wine merchandise joins the fun later on after the festival begins.
Unfortunately, in an effort to accommodate proper physical distancing, Walt Disney World will not be able to host the “Eat to the Beat” concerts this year (or “Garden Rocks,” for that matter).
There will be plenty of music to enjoy at America Gardens Theatre with local EPCOT entertainment such as Mariachi Cobre, the JAMMitors and more. These fan favorites will spread out their performances throughout the day, giving audiences more options to enjoy them.
While assessing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, it was determined that many of that special event’s iconic entertainment–including stage shows, parades, fireworks, and meet & greets–are unable to take place in this unprecedented environment with proper physical distancing and without significant modifications.
With that in mind, Walt Disney World has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Additionally, Disney H2O Glow Nights, the nighttime special ticket event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, will not take place for the remainder of 2020. Guests who have already bought tickets to these events will be assisted with refunds over the coming weeks.
Looking ahead to the holiday season, this may spark questions about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which includes the Candlelight Processional. Both of those events will likewise need to accommodate physical distancing, which will be a tough task.
Walt Disney World is monitoring health developments and the current environment closely, and will make a decision on these events as more is learned from government and health officials. Walt Disney World’s goal is to explore every option and look at ways in which we can still host events and festivals full of Disney magic, while still operating responsibly with the health and safety of our guests and cast members in mind.
In terms of commentary, there’s not a ton to add here. “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival” comes as a surprise to us, but it shouldn’t.
Prior to the reopening announcement, we made several comments about Epcot potentially not reopening until the start of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival; that’s the most lucrative time of year for the park and the summer is slow by comparison. We were, frankly, shocked that Epcot would reopen in mid-July.
It never dawned on us that Epcot might simply opt to not take down the decorations and food booths from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, switch up the branding and menus a bit, and effectively extend that event.
It’s probably a bit disingenuous to call this “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival” and not “Epcot Flower & Garden Festival: Midsommar Edition” but it’s also a really savvy move on Walt Disney World’s part. Major props to whoever thought of this. (Knowing my luck, the menus will be all new, and those Outdoor Kitchen booth reviews I wrote right before the parks closed will remain obsolete.)
As for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, it’s disappointing news but an inevitability and the right move for guests. With only one month between the Magic Kingdom reopening and the first Halloween Party, this was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
We anticipate a lot of negative feedback in response to this decision. However, the guest satisfaction would’ve taken a more serious hit if Walt Disney World cut all of the major entertainment but still sold $100+ tickets to an event that almost certainly would’ve been a shadow of its normal self.
While we were intrigued about what Walt Disney World might offer as replacement entertainment, that’s us speaking as diehard fans who have attended dozens of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties over the years.
For first-timers or guests who simply don’t know what to expect, cancelling is without question the right thing to do here. Before getting too upset, just consider how mad you’d be had you paid money to attend what probably would’ve ended up being a cash-grab event. Hopefully the event will be able to return bigger and better in 2021.
As for the Christmas events, we’d expect Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to be cancelled unless things change in a hurry. The same things that make the Halloween Party a non-starter–stage shows, parades, fireworks, and meet & greets–are also what makes the cancellation of that likely.
On the plus side, time is in Walt Disney World’s favor here. Things could change dramatically between now and November (as unlikely as that might seem right now) or Walt Disney World’s creative minds could start working overtime on alternative entertainment that better spreads out crowds and is of a high caliber. We’re not holding our breath, but it’s definitely a possibility.
As for Candlelight Processional, we fully expect that to happen–even if at 33% of normal capacity–because those dining packages are such a money-maker. (EDIT: Totally forgot about the mass choir when making this “prediction” and was only thinking about the audience. With that in mind, it seems less likely.)
On the other hand, they cancelled another big money-maker in the Disney Dining Plan, but that seemed like more of a panicked decision while scrambling to iron things out for reopening. With several months between now and Candlelight Processional, there might be sufficient time to come up with a suitable plan to make that work. That’s just our prediction, though. We’ll keep you posted on further developments as we hear them!
If you have questions about the closure, including policy changes and what we know thus far, please consult our Walt Disney World Reopening FAQ & Info, which should answer most inquiries. See our other WDW Closure & Reopening Updates for the latest news. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
What do you think of ‘A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival’? Lame that they’re essentially extending Flower & Garden and rebranding it, or a clever and fun hybrid of the two events? Are you disappointed by the cancellation of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, or do you think it’s the right decision? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or will you hold off until 2021 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!