Walt Disney World’s official 50th Anniversary kicked off on October 1, 2021. But, the celebration of the 1971 opening of the Walt Disney World Resort lasted much, much longer than that.
Even though the 50th is now over, here’s the what the celebration consisted of.
When was the 50th Anniversary for Walt Disney World?
Although the official anniversary date for the opening of Walt Disney World is on October 1, the 50th Anniversary Celebration lasted a lot longer than that.
Billed as “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration lasted for a whopping 18 months, from October 1, 2021 until March 31, 2023.
What new things happened for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?
Disney had a *lot* of cool things planned, including…
Disney Enchantment (final performance: April 2, 2023)
As described by Disney, the new nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom created for the 50th took “you on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment.”
We also saw lots of our favorites in this brand-new fireworks show, including Tinker Bell flying through the sky.
Disney Enchantment also included music, enhanced lighting, fireworks, and for the first time projections extending from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.
A new original song was also created by GRAMMY winner Philip Lawrence for the show. You can listen to the song, “You Are the Magic,” in this clip.
Harmonious (final performance: April 2, 2023)
Unsurprisingly, after the original opening was delayed by over a year, Disney officially debuted the new Epcot nighttime spectacular “Harmonious” on October 1.
This new show replaced Illuminations and the temporary show called “Epcot Forever,” and as described by Disney, “It’s a grand, powerful tribute to the stories and songs that unite us, embracing new technical magic that incorporates pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting and media in new ways.”
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Harmonious.
Disney KiteTails (final show: September 27, 2022)
After the short-lived Rivers of Light was scrapped, we thought that the Discovery River Amphitheater at Animal Kingdom would remain empty. But, we were wrong!
This new daytime show incorporated performers flying windcatchers and 3D kites, with some stretching to 30 feet long. They depicted beloved characters, like Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie.
There were two different shows, one featuring Jungle Book kites and the second with kites inspired by The Lion King. The shows alternated.
Unfortunately, KiteTails ended earlier than anticipated and had its final performance on September 27, 2022.
Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade (final performance: March 31, 2023)
At Magic Kingdom, a new cavalcade debuted for the 50th called “Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade.”
It ran several times daily and featured Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale in all-new EARidescent costumes.
The cavalcade featured the new 50th celebration anthem “The Magic is Calling.”
This new song was also included in special live entertainment across Walt Disney World, including the Main Street Philharmonic, the Dapper Dans, the Discovery Island Drummers, and Voices of Liberty.
Mickey, Minnie, and pals went EARidescent
Who doesn’t love a new party outfit?
Mickey and Minnie, along with their six of their closest friends (Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale) wore shiny new looks for the celebration.
Described as “EARidescent,” these costumes were extremely glamorous and perfect for a 50th anniversary:
Pluto and Goofy went EARidescent
Characters at the resorts are one of our new favorite things, and you can expect the characters to continue popping up at the resort hotels for the foreseeable future.
During the 50th, Pluto and Goofy (and possibly some of the other Fab Five characters) would pop up at onsite Disney hotels making surprise appearances in their EARidescent costumes.
Disney Fab 50 golden sculptures (at all 4 theme parks)
As first revealed by Disney, “Across all 4 theme parks, 50 characters cast in gold wait to be discovered during The World’s Most Magical Celebration!”
There were a variety of characters molded into gold statues at each theme park, including:
Cinderella Castle Hub Area
- Chip ‘n’ Dale
- Dumbo and Timothy
- Winnie the Pooh & Piglet
- Gus & Jaq
- Lady and the Tramp
- Cogsworth and Lumiere
- Cheshire Cat
- Mad Hatter
- Orange Bird
World Showcase Plaza
- Pua and Heihei
- Rocket and Groot
- Olaf and Bruni
World Showcase Walkway from Future World
Planters on Hollywood Boulevard (Near Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway)
- Woody and Bo Peep
- Joe Gardner
- Flounder and Sebastian
In Front Tree of Life
- Timon and Pumbaa
- Nemo and Dory
- Bambi and Thumper
Special 50th seasonal and entrance decor (Magic Kingdom)
Along Main Street and around the main hub, there were 50th banners and even seasonal decor with gold accents for the anniversary.
The Magic Kingdom entrance also had some 50th anniversary additions, including Mickey and Minnie topiaries, a cake, and a “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” sign with a “50” crest in the garden in front of the train station.
Cinderella Castle update (Magic Kingdom)
Cinderella Castle had two different looks: one during the day and another for the evening as part of the “Beacons of Magic” transformation that happened at all 4 of the park icons.
During the day, you’d see golden bunting and a 50th anniversary crest.
But the real magic arrived at nighttime, when the castle transformed into a sparkling piece of magic with a dash of pixie dust.
Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
The Tower of Terror also had some additional enhancements for the 50th.
Tree of Life (Animal Kingdom)
Already gorgeous at night, the new enhancements on the Tree of Life invoked the feeling of “enchanted fireflies” that have gathered to call forth the magic of nature.
At times, it wasn’t dark enough for the Beacon of Magic to show due to earlier closing hours at Animal Kingdom compared to the other parks.
Spaceship Earth (continuing post-50th)
The most significant changes are on Spaceship Earth at Epcot, which now has a dazzling display of lights and are a permanent nighttime display that continue beyond the scheduled 18 month celebration.
Spaceship Earth’s Beacon of Magic was the best (in our opinion).
Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours (continuing post-50th)
While not as exciting as a new attraction or fireworks show, the 50th also kicked off the start of a couple of other resort-wide changes.
First, the previously announced Early Theme Park Entry debuted on October 1.
This new on-site benefit lets all guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels (and other select hotels) enter all 4 theme parks 30-minutes early. This replaces the now retired Extra Magic Hours that were a staple of the Walt Disney World theme parks for years.
In addition to Early Theme Park Entry, guests of Disney Deluxe, Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts, and other select hotels (Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green) have an additional opportunity to enjoy the parks outside of normal operating hours.
These new extended evening hours will be available on select nights, and at select parks.
50th Scavenger Hunts at Disney Resort Hotels
There were 50th-themed scavenger hunt at hotels featuring clues about different attractions at Magic Kingdom.
The scavenger hunt could be found at select resorts on property, including Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
There were new 50th-themed wraps on buses, the Monorail, and the Disney Skyliner. We loved them!
Electrical Water Pageant
Special 50th anniversary scenes featured a towering castle and swirling pixie dust were part of the Electrical Water Pageant, along with a version of the celebration anthem song, “The Magic is Calling” bookending the full traditional show as it sailed nightly across Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
Orlando International Airport Decor (ran through March 2022)
For anyone flying into Orlando, they were greeted with 50th decor right in the Orlando International Airport.
There was wide-spanning art installation in the terminal train stations featuring the Fab 50 characters, along with a photo opportunity with a golden teacup inspired by the Mad Tea Party attraction.
On the ground outside the Magic of Disney Store in the East Hall, there was a glow of projected EARidescent light patterns.
Disney held nothing back when it came to 50th Anniversary merchandise. There were several collections to shop.
Here were some of the highlights:
This collection was released before the official celebration began. It included things like mugs, Spirit Jersey’s, shirts and t-shirts, as well as Passholder exclusive items.
The Celebration Collection was where you could find fun things like mommy-and-me coordinating apparel, Dooney and Bourke purses, and the oh-so-popular Mickey-head foaming soap dispensers!
Disney Castle Collection
With lots of gold and sparkle, the Disney Castle Collection just screamed “elegance”.
There were touches of Cinderella Castle in all the items in this collection!
We called this one the “Just-take-all-my-money” collection.
Retro stuff is just so fun, and this collection consisted of items inspired by the Walt Disney Archives – the ultimate source for vintage Disney stuff!
Speaking of the Vault Collection, The Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs also received a special overlay inspired by the Vault Collection that transported guests back to 1971.
There were nostalgic museum-like displays that invite shoppers to learn about original Walt Disney World attractions and resorts.
There were also special photo opportunities with vintage props including carousel horses from the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, replicas of the Orange Bird and the Tiki sculptures, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride vehicle.
Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Cinema also received a retro-inspired overlay themed to the Vault Collection.
You could find vintage photos, colors, and details including photo-worthy backdrops and props inspired by beloved attractions from Walt Disney World Resort history.
You could shimmer like Cinderella Castle thanks to the EARidescent Collection.
This collection housed popular items like Loungefly mini-backpacks, t-shirts, Minnie Mouse ears, and of course – a Spirit Jersey.
Food & Dining
There were more than 150 food and beverages at Walt Disney World for the 50th. That’s right — more than 150!
They weren’t all released at once, but the limited-time offerings were available throughout the 18-month celebration.
Per Disney, “Walt’s personal recipes, Walt Disney World Resort attractions (past and present), beloved Disney Characters, and nostalgic dishes from 1971 were inspirations for the tasty offerings created for this anniversary celebration. “
There was also a limited time three-course menu at California Grill that offered as part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.”
What attractions opened during the 50th at Walt Disney World?
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially opened on October 1 as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Plus, the France pavilion saw the opening of a new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris. This new restaurant offers both a quick & table service option (reservations not required for either).
In addition, there was one other attraction that opened during the 18-month party: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
As for TRON Lightcycle / Run, the ride held previews and a soft open during the 50th. It officially opened on April 4, 2023.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic got spruced up for the 50th with a brand-new scene based around Disney’s popular animated movie Coco, which officially debuted on November 12, 2021.
Were you able to visit during the 50th celebration at Disney World? What did you love the most? Tell us in the comments!
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