Walt Disney World has announced the return of several shows and one nighttime spectacular in August 2021 at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this post, we’ll share dates and details, and offer commentary about the additions.
It’s been a busy few weeks for things returning to Walt Disney World. It seems like there’s pretty much a press release every week with return dates for several table service restaurants and snack spots. (Part of us would love to hear reopening dates for Boma and some of our favorite Signature Restaurants–but the other part fears what that might mean for those menus.)
Entertainment news has been a much slower trickle. The last big announcement was for the return of the Happily Ever After and Epcot Forever fireworks at the start of July. While it’s great to hear and see pyro on our evening walks, more is desperately needed to satisfy current attendance levels and absorb some of the high “feels like” crowds.
When it comes to stage shows, the only thing we’ve gotten in a while is the return of Harambe Theatre at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which has been running “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” for a few months now. That was great addition back at the beginning of summer, but more is needed–and has been since at least May.
Still dark are Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Fantasmic, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Hall of Presidents, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Finding Nemo: the Musical, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360, Turtle Talk with Crush, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple, and other stage shows that I’m probably forgetting.
Well, good news as Walt Disney World has announced that a few of these will return next month.
In Magic Kingdom, you’ll soon be able to visit those monsters of comedy in Monstropolis in Tomorrowland. Mike Wazowski will begin welcoming humans to the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Magic Kingdom on August 8, 2021.
No word yet on whether this means the seasonal overlays will return that debuted during the last Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but Walt Disney World did quietly indicate there would be attraction overlays for Disney Very Merriest After Hours. Here’s hoping!
Over at Epcot, kids will be able to chat with a certain turtle at the Seas with Nemo & Friends. Little dudes and dudettes will be able to get their most pressing questions answered during Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot beginning on August 21, 2021.
For what it’s worth, Turtle Talk with Crush also exists at Disney California Adventure. The DCA show has been operational since day one of reopening back in April.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a tale as old as time will return to Theater of the Stars on Sunset Boulevard with “Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage” next month.
The heartwarming tale of Belle and Beast will once again swirl to life in this lush stage performance, with colorful costumes, gorgeous scenery and the songs you know and love starting on August 15, 2021.
Finally, a nighttime spectacular is also returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 1, 2021!
No, it is not Fantasmic. (It’s looking increasingly likely that Fantasmic won’t be back until 2022. Walt Disney World is undertaking a fairly significant refurbishment project to the amphitheater and its infrastructure, which might be necessary due to weather damage from the show not running for so long.)
It’s also not Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, which is the park’s headliner pyro & projection show.
Instead, we’re getting the “Wonderful World of Animation.” This cinematic nighttime experience leverages projection mapping technology to transform the park’s iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theater on a magical journey through more than 90 years of Disney animation.
Many of you have probably never seen the “Wonderful World of Animation” as it ran for less than a year prior to the closure of Walt Disney World. Even then, it was part of a rotation of three different projection & pyro shows, making it fairly easy to miss if you didn’t specifically plan to see it.
As the name suggests, the “Wonderful World of Animation” is a montage of Disney animated films arranged in themed sequences around magic, family, adventure, villains, romance, etc.
Editor’s note: what follows is a condensed version of my contemporaneous review of the Wonderful World of Animation from its opening night. I only saw the show 2-3 times in full, and barely remember it. While I *probably* stand by this review, all of these projection shows started blurring together at some point.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Wonderful World of Animation. Its runtime is nearly 13 minutes, which is a few minutes longer than Disney Movie Magic. However, between the longer runtime and the use of pyro, this feels almost like a standalone nighttime spectacular. The editing and sense of polish also suggests that this is more than ‘just a pre-show.’
For better or worse, the “Wonderful World of Animation” feels like “Happily Ever After: B-Roll.” That’s not necessarily meant as praise or a knock. How you interpret that will depend upon how you feel about Happily Ever After and other projection shows.
The “Wonderful World of Animation” is bookended by Walt Disney-era Mickey Mouse, which is a nice touch. This nod to the past is appropriate both to the ‘Old Hollywood’ area of the park, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater, specifically. It also makes it fit well with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
I also appreciated the deeper cuts in “Wonderful World of Animation.” The Emperor’s New Groove segment received the biggest reaction from the crowd, and other films that aren’t staples of the Walt Disney World entertainment lineup were also well received.
Conversely, the lack of a unifying theme song or narrative through-line reduce the show’s cohesiveness. Likewise, the soundtrack is also on the weak side and it completely lacks emotional weight in that regard.
Unlike Happily Ever After, I don’t think this will really make you feel anything outside of the opening and closing.
However, “Wonderful World of Animation” is an enjoyable and well-produced, with enough nods to Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse to resonate. It’s a solid third-string offering that gives Disney’s Hollywood Studios a deeper bench for nighttime entertainment–with this, Fantasmic, and the Star Wars fireworks–than any other park at Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, we probably shouldn’t complain about several pieces of entertainment returning to Walt Disney World in August 2021, but it’s very overdue. There are undoubtedly a lot of pieces to the puzzle and Walt Disney World is a behemoth operation. As we’ve said repeatedly, you can think of Walt Disney World like an ocean liner: you turn the wheel slowly, and the big ship pivots gradually. Everything takes time from decision to implementation.
However, the extent of pent-up demand at Walt Disney World was clear months ago, and other Central Florida theme parks have been much quicker to restore their full slate–or close to it–of shows and nighttime spectaculars. At this point, regular attendance and crowds are back and Disney has had ample time to staff up. There might be excuses for why more hasn’t yet returned, but none of them are good–especially given that Walt Disney World is charging full price and there’s no longer any reduced capacity upside.
Are you excited for the return of Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Turtle Talk with Crush, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, or the Wonderful World of Animation? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of Walt Disney World’s slow pace at restoring entertainment? 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!