What’s Returning to Disneyland in 2021 & 2022

When will Disneyland bring back Fantasmic, World of Color, parades, FastPass, Annual Passes, or ____?” have become common questions, with fans wondering when things will get back to normal. This post offers a predicted return timeline for Disney California Adventure and Disneyland.

Basically, we’re going to consolidate the answers to all of those frequently asked questions. We’ll start by underscoring the reality that Madame Leota is not employed by this blog, which is to say that we don’t have a crystal ball. Circumstances remain incredibly fluid and evolving at Disneyland. Even the company’s highest-level leaders couldn’t give you definitive answers to some of the questions below.

Months ago, that was due to public health guidance continuing to change. Now, that concern still exists, but has faded into the background. Its place has been taken by woes in scaling up operations to meet pent-up demand, exacerbated by staffing woes. These two things in tandem coupled with a faster-than-anticipated rule relaxation has created something of a perfect storm, with Disneyland playing catch-up…

That isn’t to say predictions are pointless when it comes to Disneyland’s return to normalcy. Just that if you’re looking for definitive answers, you’re embarking on a fool’s errand. In the current environment, nothing is certain until it actually happens. Even an official announcement from Disneyland doesn’t guarantee that, as the company has cancelled and postponed many plans already. (Anyone remember the original reopening date, last July?!)

Basically, we’re trying to manage your expectations, so you understand the nature of what you’re about to read. Nothing is 100%, and some of these predictions have a confidence level far lower than that. While predicated upon reliable rumors, even those can be–and frequently are–wrong. There are competing plans, circumstances change, etc. With that out of the way, let’s turn to the Q&A…

At what point will Disneyland return to full capacity?

Okay, so this is not actually a question many people are asking, or at least, not worded this way. It’s not like anyone is itching to bring back the overcrowding and congestion of the past. However, it is being asked indirectly.

Disneyland has not faced the same type of staffing shortages as Walt Disney World. Many, if not most, locations are shorthanded right now. However, that’s due to Disneyland not recalling all Cast Members rather than due to issues with the labor market or hiring challenges.

The good news there is that Disneyland has recalled significantly more Cast Members as of July 2021 across food & beverage, attractions, hotels, entertainment, and more. This will result in Cast Members returning in weekly waves between now and August 28, 2021.

Accordingly, we would expect Disneyland to be pretty close to back at full capacity and firing on all cylinders by the start of Halloween Time at Disneyland on September 3, 2021.

When will ___ restaurant reopen?

For the status of dining options in the parks and at the hotels, see List of Open & Closed Restaurants at Disneyland Resort.

The good news is that there are only a handful of notable locations still on the closed list. It’s more or less just Carnation Cafe, Carthay Circle Restaurant, and character dining at this point.

When will Fantasmic return to Disneyland?

Likely by sometime in Fall 2021.

As part of the recall process, Disneyland recently brought back several dozen entertainment cast members. This includes backstage support positions necessary to get shows like Fantasmic back up and running, as well as parades. There has also been visible work occurring on the stage and Sailing Ship Columbia during operating hours. Between rumors and the waves of Cast Members being called back between now and August 28, our expectation is that Disneyland is gearing up for a big fall and Halloween season.

When will Magic Happens parade be back? 

Likely by sometime in Fall 2021.

Same story here as with Fantasmic in terms of timing and rumors. Magic Happens was literally brand new when the parks closed–only a couple of weeks old. Its return would be a big draw among the many locals who have not yet had a chance to see it. The bigger question is whether Magic Happens returns to Disneyland or moves over to DCA, which might be in greater need of entertainment (see below).

When will World of Color return to Disney California Adventure?

All signs point to sometime in 2022.

World of Color Villainous was not included in the lineup for Oogie Boogie Bash, which is a sign the show won’t be back by October. Even before then, there were rumors of a major refurbishment project. It’s plainly visible from the park that wood structures rotted, light towers have been removed, and permits have been filed for their replacement. Moreover, there are reports that many features suffered water damage during the closure and will need to be rebuilt.

There’s absolutely no chatter about World of Color returning anytime soon, and it sounds very much like a tentative “sometime in 2022” is the only target for World of Color at this point. We’d be surprised if it’s back before spring break, but that’s entirely a guess.

When will Paint the Night or Main Street Electrical Parade return? 

It’s difficult to say what will happen here and requires far more speculation.

There have been rumors that Disneyland Resort is gearing up to bring back parades (plural), but no details beyond that. Both Paint the Night and Main Street Electrical Parade are still being stored in Southern California warehouses, so it could be either. It would make sense for a nighttime parade to return to Disney California Adventure while World of Color is gone, but Oogie Boogie Bash several nights per week complicates that. It’s also entirely possible that the “parades coming back” rumor we’ve heard encompasses the daytime Magic Happens and the Halloween Frightfully Fun Parade.

All this talk of Halloween…what’s the deal with Christmas? 

Thus far during the Halfway to the Holidays promotional kick, the only thing Disney has announced for Disneyland this Christmas is Haunted Mansion Holiday, which is what happens when two holidays collide. Halloween is the other holiday in that line, so this isn’t really Christmas news.

However, we’re anticipating a largely-normal Christmas season at Disneyland. While we’d hesitate to get specific, we’d expect most of the following to return: Viva Navidad, it’s a small world holiday, Santa’s Holiday Visit, A Christmas Fantasy Parade, Believe…In Holiday Magic Fireworks, Christmas in Cars Land, and more. The biggest question mark is Candlelight Processional, which isn’t aimed at the general public in California, anyway. Additionally, it’s highly unlikely World of Color: Season of Lights will return in 2021 (see above).

Will character meet & greets be back soon?

Disneyland is doing a fantastic job with distanced character interactions, but it’s still likely that dedicated character meet & greet locations will return at some point. We have not heard any rumors about this, and it’s probably not high priority.

Now that Disney is distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated Cast Members and allowing the former to go mask-less, it’s plausible that Disney will likewise assign only vaccinated performers to meet & greet roles. That could pave the way for meet & greets to return this fall. Otherwise, it likely won’t happen until early 2022.

What about character dining? 

Pretty similar story here.

We are somewhat surprised Goofy’s Kitchen hasn’t already returned as a modified meal given that Steakhouse 55 did not and is not reopening. That leaves Disneyland Hotel without a table service restaurant, and Goofy’s Kitchen could fill that role. Maybe it’ll come back this fall once regular meet & greets are given the all-clear? That’s just a guess–we truly have no idea here.

When will Disneyland bring back Annual Passes or launch its membership program?

When locals stop buying park tickets.

That’s a tongue-in-cheek answer, but also partly accurate. The first barrier to Annual Passes or memberships rolling out is park capacity, which still needs to increase closer to 100%. As discussed above, there should be incremental increases between now and August 28, 2021.

The second barrier is pent-up demand exhausting itself, which is derived from a mix of locals and tourists. That should also occur around late August, as Los Angeles and Orange County schools go back into session and California’s tourist season draws to a close.

It would not surprise us if Disney waited a little longer before launching memberships/bringing back Annual Passes, wanting to capitalize on the return of entertainment or Halloween Time, both of which could incentivize locals to purchase (more) park tickets. Conversely, Disneyland did just roll out a summer/fall ticket deal for Californians, so perhaps they’re already seeing demand dry up. Our guess is that Disneyland’s new membership program launches sometime in September 2021.

When will park reservations end for Disneyland & DCA?

Our expectation is that reservations will never really go away, but the current system will evolve so that it’s not as cumbersome for casual visitors.

Reservations will almost certainly be necessary for most tiers of the membership program that replaces Annual Passes. This was the case with the last AP to launch–the Disney Flex Pass, which fans loved and was advantageous to the company. Regular tickets could shift to a date-based system. Regardless, some form of capacity management will stick around at Disneyland Resort, which is a necessary and good thing, as can be attested to by anyone who visited Disneyland during the height of crushing crowds a few years ago.

When will FastPass and MaxPass return…or will they be replaced by something new?

Our expectation is that FastPass and MaxPass will not return as before, but will be replaced by the same system recently announced for Disneyland Paris. This could occur in August or September.

See our extensive commentary about Disney Premier Access & Standby Pass. That discusses implications for Walt Disney World, but they’re largely the same for Disneyland.

When will Park Hopping be allowed before 1 pm?

Park Hopping is dictated by capacity, so those rules could be relaxed literally any time now.

However, loosening Park Hopping rules may not be viewed as a high priority by Disney. Additionally, it might be advantageous for the company to maintain the existing policy to help control crowds and keep attendance for DCA artificially high. It’s also a good way of managing the number of guests attempting to enter the second virtual queues for Web Slingers and Rise of the Resistance.

Ultimately, I think that about covers the big things about which readers regularly ask questions. If there’s anything we missed, please feel free to mention it in the comments and I’ll update accordingly. As a final reminder, the above is all subject to change, and based upon a mix of credible rumors and rampant speculation.

Some of this will end up being pretty close to accurate, other predictions will be wildly wrong. Do not book a trip to California in reliance upon the timelines above. While we think the totality of these predictions paints an accurate picture of the trajectory of Disneyland’s post-reopening progress, individual elements could return much earlier or much later than we expect.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

Are you anxiously awaiting the return of Fantasmic, World of Color, Magic Happens, Paint the Night, Main Street Electrical Parade, FastPass/MaxPass, Annual Passes, or anything else? Have any of your own predictions? Insights based on rumors you’ve heard? Surprised Disneyland is bouncing back comparatively quickly after the much longer closure than Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions? 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!

16 Responses to “What’s Returning to Disneyland in 2021 & 2022”
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