Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 24–30, 2021
Writer’s Note & News (Combined)
Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. Florida continues to be among the leaders in the counts of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations spurred by the Delta Variant. The number of young people becoming seriously ill and requiring hospitalization continues to be significant as well.
Orlando Sentinel also reported last night that Disney reached an agreement with unions representing its workers requiring all on-site employees to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination by October 22. Disney Parks continue to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. At Walt Disney World Resort, everyone ages 2 and up are required to wear face coverings in all indoor locations. Outdoors, face coverings are optional in most locations for vaccinated guests (now, including outdoor queues and theaters); face coverings are required outdoors for non-vaccinated guests. All guests continue to be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails, and on Disney Skyliner. Walt Disney World Resort encourages get vaccinated, and has mandated vaccination for new hires and existing cast members in many roles.
I got vaccinated and the best available information is that it is the best protection against serious COVID-19 caused illness. If you have not been vaccinated and are eligible to be, I recommended you discuss with a licensed physician the risks to both yourself and those you come into contact with as the global pandemic continues. The Delta Variant, Delta Plus Variant, and others continue to spread in your community and those places you visit.
No matter your vaccination status, always be sure to check the “experience updates” page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before you visit. The policies are in flux, and while it remains unlikely the Resort will shutdown again in the near-term, Disney may very well impose guest restrictions that are stricter than those imposed by the State of Florida. If emergency and hospital services become too scarce, I would expect Disney to curtail some activities, as Safety is its paramount operational Key.
As always, you are heading this way (or live in the regions impacted by storms), please keep yourself informed of the latest weather and tropical forecast too. Be prepared. Fortunately, no tropical systems headed toward Central Florida at the moment.
FastPass+ Service Will Not Return, Instead, Disney Genie is the New Way to Plan Your Visit (With or Without Paid Upgrades)
Last week the Walt Disney Company unveiled the new Disney Genie program. If you have read our Disneyland Resort Update posted yesterday, what follows is largely the same except for the variations that are applicable to the Walt Disney World Resort version coming this Fall.
Disney Genie is the next generation of digital planning tool, which the company says “takes the guesswork out of ‘what’s next,’ so that visitors can spend less time in line and more time having fun with friends.” The core Disney Genie functionality is free to use, and adds new features to the existing My Disney Experience mobile app to help visitors plan a customized itinerary for their visit.
With this new offering, Disney officially confirms that the FastPass+ service at Walt Disney World Resort theme parks will not return. Attraction entrances that bypass the standby line will now be known as a “Lightning Lane,” with a shorter wait time, but no longer without price. Time for the new terminology lesson which will help you understand the two types of paid access to the Lightning Lane offerings around the parks.
Disney Genie+ is the next generation of the FastPass+ service formerly offered at Walt Disney World Resort. Those that have visited the Disneyland Resort in recent years will have previously experienced its close cousin MaxPass that is now also retired in favor of Disneyland’s version of Disney Genie+. Guests that purchase the service will be able to reserve a digital return time at a participating attraction. When it is time to ride, users enter the attraction through the Lightning Lane. Most of the attractions that were previously available through FastPass+ can be reserved through Disney Genie+, but Disney has yet to release a complete list.
Guests can make their first Disney Genie+ selection each day at 7 a.m., and they can hold one attraction reservation at a time throughout the day. Users make a new reservation once they have used or canceled the previous one.
The cost for Disney Genie+ at Walt Disney World Resorts is $15 per person, per day and can be used at multiple parks on the same day if the guest has a ticket with the Park Hopper option. (At the Disneyland Resort, the price is $20 per person, per day). Guests can purchase Disney Genie+ for any number of days: just one day or for an entire visit. Annual Passholders can also add Disney Genie+ by the day; at present, there’s no option to add the service for the length of the pass. Walt Disney World Resort visitors can also play with new augmented-reality lenses through the app, and see Disney characters animate in their photos
The second premium offering is akin to the the Disney Premier Access service introduced earlier this month at Disneyland Paris that replaced that resort’s FastPass service. The domestic version doesn’t have a fancy new name—Disney refers to it as Individual Attraction Selections—but the idea is the same: Pay to play.
Disney Genie+ users can choose to purchase access to the Lightning Lane for up to two “high demand” attractions per day, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney only said that rides available as Individual Attraction Selections are not be the same rides as are available through Disney Genie+, but they may include attractions that currently use a virtual queue. If you’re not lucky enough to get into a virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance, for example, now you may be able to pay to get into a boarding group.
More details are yet to be announced. So far, we know that pricing for these Individual Attraction Selection pricing will be dynamic: they will vary by date, attraction, and park. Disneyland Paris now uses dynamic pricing for their offering, and it even changes throughout the day depending on the length of the standby line. These passes can run up to $20 in U.S. Dollars, and it’s not hard to image that happening here, too.
Even with these changes, it’s still possible to visit Walt Disney World theme parks without paying for premium access. Disney will continue to offer standby lines for most attractions, just as they did when FastPass launched. And, like the early park days of ticket books, we’re back to having five tiers of attractions:
- Standby only – the types of rides which never offered FastPass
- Virtual Queue (free) only – no standby line
- Standby (free) OR Disney Genie+ reservation (paid)
- Standby (free) OR Individual Attraction Selection (paid)
- Virtual Queue (free) OR Individual Attraction Selection (paid)
It’s this last tier that our CEO/West Coast Staff Writer Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix says gives her pause (and I concur). When the virtual queue for rides like Rise of the Resistance fill up in seconds, there’s clearly a capacity issue. Disney will have to divert some of that already-inadequate capacity to offer paid Individual Attraction Selection access. How Disney manages that—and how much inventory they divert from free virtual queue to paid Lightning Pass—remains to be seen, but it’s not a stretch to expect the virtual queue to become much more difficult to join once this new system rolls out. As I wrote in a recent Update, the current Virtual Queue system also has operational inefficiencies – like when I got to ride completely alone earlier this month because not enough guests remained inside the attraction late in the day.
You can read more about the Disney Genie service, including how the program will work at the Disneyland Resort, here on MousePlanet.
Adrienne and I also took a deep dive into the topic last week on MousePlanet Live, along with Todd Pickering, and you can watch our entire discussion here. As I noted during our discussion, at minimum, the new system could put strain on the Resort’s WiFi network, the area’s cell towers, and the My Disney Experience app itself if guest demand for Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection access each day is high (Disney hotel guests get to purchase the Individual Attraction Selection access at 7 a.m.; all other guests may only purchase after park opening inside the park). Since the introduction of virtual queues at Rise of the Resistance, for example, even cast members recommend guests turn off WiFi on their phones when attempting to join boarding groups when the in-park window opens.
More Details Revealed of “The Princess and the Frog” Attraction Being Developed to Replace Splash Mountain
Yesterday, to kick off the celebration of World Princess Week with a focus on Tiana, Disney Parks Blog shared more details of the new The Princess and the Frog-themed attraction under development to replace Splash Mountain at both Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland in California. As Disney Parks Blog says:
Tiana is an ambitious and resilient woman, who proves that success comes through a connection to her family and community and has learned to never lose sight of what’s really important – giving back to others through great food and inspiring them to achieve their full potential.
As seen in this latest rendering of the attraction, the story will take place after the final kiss as Naveen and Louis join Tiana on her latest adventure, hosting a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome – during which some original music inspired by songs from the film will bring guests into the story. Tiana is leading the way and fans will be able to encounter old friends and make new ones along the way as well!
Last year, Disney announced that a new “The Princess and the Frog” attraction would replace Splash Mountain at both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom at some unspecified time in the future. Concept Art courtesy Disney Parks.
Some of the Disney creative team recently gathered at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. The restaurant’s founder, Leah Chase, was an inspiration for Princess Tiana. The team discussed Tiana’s impact over the past decade and the creative process behind the new attraction.
The Disney creative team sat down with Stella Chase Reese, owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant (and daughter of Leah Chase), and ABC News National Correspondent Kenneth Morton to talk about Tiana and the new attraction. Video courtesy Disney Parks.
In creating the story for the new attraction, Walt Disney Imagineers did in-depth research into the culture of New Orleans to tell a story that’s as authentic to that region as it is to the characters’ stories. To celebrate these developments, love and appreciation for New Orleans, and a commitment to arts education, Disney announced a $50,000 donation to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). NOCCA is a regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers students intensive instruction in culinary arts, dance, media arts, classical instrumental music, jazz instrumental music, classical vocal music, drama, musical theatre, theatre design, visual arts and creative writing.
Tiana is already celebrated aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder with Tiana’s Place restaurant, a New Orleans-inspired dining and entertainment venue. The Wonder is scheduled to return to New Orleans in February 2022 for four- and six-night Western Caribbean voyages. Later in 2022, when the new Disney Wish makes its debut, it will include The Bayou, an informal lounge also themed to The Princess and the Frog.
To further celebrate Tiana, EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival opened a new Tiana-themed playground yesterday. Over at Disney Springs, Amorette’s Patisserie has a Tiana Petit Cake available as well. For even more princess-themed sweet treats for the celebration, check out Disney Parks Blog:
This & That…
…Cirque du Soleil’s collaboration with Disney, “Drawn to Life” is NOW, in fact, officially scheduled to debut November 18 at Disney Springs and tickets are now on sale. Last week, we noted that Cirque had published and withdrawn that news, but right after we published last week’s Update, Disney and Cirque made the news official. As you may recall, I had the opportunity to preview a few scenes from this new collaboration in early March 2020 just before the global pandemic temporarily closed down Walt Disney World Resort and Cirque shut down its Central Florida operations. Visit the show’s page on Cirque’s website and on the show’s page on the Disney Springs website for more details and tickets. Disney Parks Blog shared a brief look at the new show embedded below.
…The Re-plugged Great Irish Hooley 2021 Music Festival Runs September 3-6 at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant in Disney Springs. The long Labor Day weekend marks the return of the intimate music experience featuring top Irish bands after the pandemic caused its cancellation last year. “Hooley” is a Gaelic term for a lively party with music, entertainment and fun for the whole family. The Re-plugged Great Irish Hooley will include Hooley-crafted cocktails plus creative new bites by the pub’s inventive culinary team. The pub also will feature a new local craft beer and will serve the delicious Rollicking Raglan Brunch Saturday through Monday, September 4-6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the regular menu will be available for the Hooley from 3-10:30 p.m. There’s no cover charge to join the Hooley fun, which begins at 4 p.m. Friday, September 3 and continues into the wee hours of Labor Day, September 6. Reservations are recommended. Visit RaglanRoad.com or call (407)938-0300.
…Corkcicle’s sponsorship of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival this year is just the tip of the new marketing relationship between the “premium drinkware” brand and Walt Disney World Resort. More to come.
…Speaking of EPCOT, Imagineer Zach Riddley showed off more details of the “Beacon of Magic” coming to Spaceship Earth on October 1 that will remain a permanent part of the park’s new lighting scheme after The World’s Most Magical Celebration concludes.
…And combining EPCOT talk and Corkcicle, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival provided a bit of surprising news on August 15, it opened seven additional marketplaces earlier than the previously announced October 1 debut. The latest additions are Ireland, Spain, The Alps, Kenya, Lobster Landing, Mac & Eats, and India. Menus on Disney Parks Blog. For table dining, Nine Dragons Restaurant at China pavilion is now open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday as well.
…Speaking of food, Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom will start serving breakfast again on August 27 (reservations open today, August 24), Dockside Diner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopened on Saturday, and three buffets are on the way back: Boma-Flavors of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge reopened on Friday with breakfast and dinner available; starting August 29, Biergarten Restaurant at EPCOT’s Germany pavilion will offer buffets for lunch and dinner; starting September 12, The Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom will open its buffet for lunch and dinner as well.
…And before we leave the topic of food, this week, Disney revealed that the reimagination of The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort that is due to be completed in time for the start of The World’s Most Magical Celebration on October 1 will result in the new “Steakhouse 71” in its place. Atop the hotel tower, California Grill is also preparing a new dining experience.
We’re cooking up new experiences at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for “The World’s Most Magical Celebration!” Steakhouse 71 will be a casual dining concept that gets its name from the resort’s opening year, plus, a new dining experience is coming to California Grill. pic.twitter.com/TvC5wUm5jl
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) August 20, 2021
…Disney Parks Blog also shared some additional details this week about “Disney Enchantment,” the all-new nighttime spectacular that will debut with the start of The World’s Most Magical Celebration at Magic Kingdom Park on October 1. The new fireworks show will include enhanced lighting, immersive projection effects that extend for the first time down Main Street, U.S.A., and “an emotional original song,” entitled “You Are the Magic,” by seven-time GRAMMY-winner Philip Lawrence. The story of the show will follow “dreamers” like Tiana, Miguel, Rapunzel, and brothers Ian & Barley from Onward “on an incredible journey with adventurers” such as Moana, Raya, and Judy Hopps, Joe Gardner from Disney and Pixar’s Soul and into a “whimsical world inspired by the style of legendary Disney artist Mary Blair and filled with beloved characters from classic stories like Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland to contemporary tales including Luca and Wreck-It Ralph.” Tinker Bell will again take flight at a climatic moment, “spreading shimmering gold pixie dust and empowering us all to believe in ourselves and the magic all around us.”
…As Disney continues to share unveilings of the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection on various social media, this week it shared a behind the scenes look at the making of the sculptures that will decorate the parks during The World’s Most Magical Celebration starting October 1.
…Disney Parks Blog also shared a brief Q&A with Designer Desma Thompson about the merchandise collection for The World’s Most Magical Celebration.
…The latest collection of Disney-themed costumes for Halloween are now available on shopDisney, and includes an expansion of its wheelchair cover options introduced last Halloween.
…REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic returns Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30, offering an outdoor festival featuring unlimited food tastings from the resorts’ culinary team, and wine, beer and other sips from around the world. Overnight packages and event-only tickets are now available at FoodAndWineClassic.com. Overnight packages start at $580; event-only ticket options are $165 per person (including tax and service fees). Reservations are also available in the resort’s new tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.
…REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village announced a return of its highly popular “Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular” for its second annual showing, November 12, 2021 through January 2, 2022. Tickets are already available at www.gktw.org/lights for timed entry for the 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. nightly opportunity to visit the 89-acre nonprofit resort with a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays, one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops, as well as a guided storytelling tour of 100 lit villas from the comfort of a tram. Enhancements this year will also include a 360-degree dancing lights show encompassing 21 buildings set to music with six three-minute holiday vignettes playing each hour, a holiday marketplace with upgraded food and beverage experiences, holiday merchandise, and an opportunity for children to meet Santa in an elaborately designed Florida home. VIP packages are available, as are discounts for groups of 25 or more. Proceeds support Give Kids the World Village (located at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida), which provides critically ill children and their families with weeklong wish vacations at no cost.
…And, finally, Give Kids The World Village is also the beneficiary of 2021 DIS Family Reunion, a one-of-a-kind expo celebrating all facets of the wonderful world of Disney – from Disney, Marvel and Pixar animation to film, television, theme parks, music and memorabilia. Tickets are still available for the September 9-10, 2021 event at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on this page of GKTW.org, as well as the special AFTER HOURS exclusive time in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on September 11.
Some of the panelists scheduled include: Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle, Give Kids The World President & CEO Pamela Landwirth, Celebrity chef Art Smith, Attractions Actor Panel (with Ron Schneider, David Danipour, Kat Cressida and more), Tom Nabbe, Bill Hoelscher and Bill Sullivan, Actress Linda Larkin, John Morris, Lee Cockerell and Dan Cockerell, Pat Sajak, and more!
Give Kids the World Village has given us a some tickets to give away to the panels (not the park) – if you can attend and want one or two of these tickets, please comment below or on the Twitter or Facebook post for today’s Update (do not use the email link atop this update) and a pair will go first come, first served (individually or as a pair based on the times the platforms show the responses from commenters that can be reached on the platform where they comment). If no one responds on Tuesday, I’ll distribute in some other way.
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Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.
Summer Florida Resident ticket options available through September 17 allow Florida residents to visit the parks for $54/day (plus tax) with the $215 (plus tax) 4-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Ticket. The ticket is one park per day and Florida proof of residency is required. Specially priced two and three-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Tickets are also available. All tickets can be used either on consecutive or non-consecutive days. Add-ons, like Park Hopper are also available. Park reservations are also required to visit a park in addition to a valid ticket.
Florida Residents hotel rates for bookings through September 4, 2021, are available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.
For everyone, Walt Disney World Resort Summer Room Offer for Select Disney Resort hotels provides savings up to 25% on rooms for stays most nights through September 29, 2021.
Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages can now be booked up to 500 days in advance on a rolling calendar, and a package can be held for just a $200 downpayment with final payment due 30 days prior to travel.
Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. More details are here. With Get Away Today’s complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it’s not a better deal, they will leave everything as is, and keep their eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.
You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. (Responses provided in 1 to 3 business days.) You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!
Be sure to check out Get Away Today’s Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.