Disney's 50th anniversary celebration underway: What to expect

Photos from Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration on Friday, dubbed ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration.’

Festivities started on October 1st, the same day the theme park company opened its first Florida park in 1971, and go for 18 months as new experiences debut across the resort.

 

RELATED: Disney World giving 50 people free trip to parks for 50th anniversary

Here are some highlights of what we know is coming to the Walt Disney World Resort for its 50th anniversary celebration.

A NEW LOOK AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

At the centerpiece of the anniversary magic at Walt Disney World Resort is Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. It underwent months of renovation, donning a new color and decor. For instance, jewels and royal blue ribbons adorn the castle as gold draping and turrets surround its towers.

"The entire castle will shimmer with pearls and jewels, and the turrets and towers will be wrapped in iridescent gold and royal blue ribbons," George Adams of Walt Disney Imagineering previously said. "Above the castle gate, a 50th-anniversary crest will warmly welcome guests to join the festivities."

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Disney Parks Blog

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Disney Parks Blog

Not far from Cinderella Castle is ‘Disney’s Main Street Confectionery,’ which also has a new look for the theme park resort’s 50th anniversary. The store, known for its sweet smells and tasty treats, has an expanded layout with more room to shop and interactive opportunities to customize your confections like never before, Disney said.

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(Disney Parks Blog)

Then, at night, Disney said that Cinderella Castle illuminates Magic Kingdom with lighting enhancements, creating "a dazzling radiance that sparkles with pixie dust." Nighttime lighting enhancements are also used at the other parks. For example, fireflies inhabit the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, special new touches bring the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Hollywood Studios to life, and lights resembling stars in the sky shine across the reflective panels of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.

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Cinderella Castle illuminates with a dazzling radiance and pixie-dust sparkle when it transforms into a Beacon of Magic at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, as part of the resorts 50th anniversary celebratio

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A warm light emanates from the Tree of Life when it transforms into a Beacon of Magic at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, as part of the resorts 50th anniversary celebration. (Photo from Wal

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The Hollywood Tower Hotel is awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure when it transforms into a Beacon of Magic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, as part of the re

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New lights shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another like stars in a nighttime sky and creating a mesmerizing symbol of optimism when it transforms into a Beacon of Magic at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in

Throughout all four parks are 50th anniversary decorations with a royal blue and gold color scheme, like seen on Cinderella Castle.

For example, right at the entrance of the theme park resort are roadway archways with all-new colors. Disney previously said that "these refreshed gateways will continue to set the tone for all the stories you’ll tell and the memories you’ll cherish long after your visit."

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Even the monorail entrance for Epcot has donned the new blue and gold look, as spotted in late April. The legs are shown to be dark blue, with the rest of it light blue. The word 'Monorail' is in white against the blue, with the top portion of the archway -- including the park name 'Epcot' -- in gold.

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Photo from Walt Disney World News Today

The monorails at the parks have donned a new look for the 50th anniversary celebration too. Disney said that they have a special nighttime enhancement with glowing lights that match each train's specific color.

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New lighting shines from a Monorail train at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as it travels through EPCOT. In honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary celebration, each train received a lighting color matching its painted stripe. (Ph

Across all four parks are the 'Disney Fab 50’ statues. These are a collection of 50 golden sculptures honoring iconic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and more.

The first statues debuted by the theme park company were actually Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Disney explained that "the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse sculptures are also being dedicated to Disney cast members of the past, present, and future. After all, our cast – along with Mickey and Minnie- are truly considered the heart of the upcoming anniversary celebration."

RELATED: Disney's 'Fab 50' character sculptures unveiled at Magic Kingdom

Disney has debuted the sculptures in the parks. Other examples include icons like ‘R2-D2’ from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise and the ‘Mad Hatter’ from ‘Alice in Wonderland.'

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R2-D2 and BB-8 from Star Wars (Photo from Walt Disney World)

Finally, Disney cast members even look a bit different as their name tags take on the new ‘EARidescent’ look debuted by the theme park company for the 50th anniversary celebration. This term, ‘EARidescent,’ was coined by Walt Disney World as a way to describe what guests will experience during the anniversary festivities.

"This milestone is such a big deal, we’ve even coined a new word – "EARidescence" – to describe what you’ll see when you visit. Our Disney teams are creating all sorts of new decorations that will shimmer and sparkle all day and into the night," they previously explained.

On the name tags, Disney’s 50th-anniversary castle logo appears above each cast member’s name, along with gold accents and a ‘touch of pixie dust.’ 

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"Whether in costume or professionally dressed, nametags are an essential part of every cast member’s look and are worn over the heart with pride," Disney added.

NEW ATTRACTIONS COMING SOON

For many, Walt Disney World is all about the rides and certainly, the theme park company is bringing out the best for its 50th anniversary celebration.

For example, Disney said that ‘Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’ opened at Epcot on day one of the anniversary festivities, previously stating that "Chef Remy will help us kick off 'The World’s Most Magical Celebration' in Parisian style."

RELATED: 'Squeak' peek! Inside Epcot's new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

The new attraction is based on Disney and Pixar’s beloved Academy Award-winning animation, ‘Ratatouille.’ Riders are transported to a version of Paris that feels straight out of the animated film, especially as the attraction is located in the newly-expanded France pavilion inside Epcot. Those onboard reportedly feel like they have been shrunk to the size of Chef Remy as they scurry through Gusteau’s famous restaurant on a wild adventure.

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Also open inside Epcot’s France pavilion is ‘La Crêperie de Paris,’ a restaurant that offers table-and quick-service options, Disney said. The menu includes sweet crepes, buckwheat galettes, and French hard cider.

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The opening of ‘Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’ is just one of several new additions coming to Epcot’s multi-year expansion.

RELATED: New details on Disney's upcoming 'Princess and the Frog' attraction revealed

Disney announced in August 2019 that the park would undergo the "biggest transformation of any Disney park in history" over several years, bringing in new attractions, restaurants, and experiences. In addition, starting October 1st, 2021, Epcot will be unified by four neighborhoods: World Showcase, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration.

Another attraction that is a part of this massive expansion is the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind’ coaster. Disney said the ride will debut sometime in 2022. They described the attraction as a "family-friendly ‘storytelling coaster’ that will feature a groundbreaking ride system with vehicles that rotate 360 degrees and can even do a reverse launch."

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Photo by DisneyParks Blog

Disney explained that riders will begin their adventure in the ‘Galaxarium,’ a planetarium-like exhibition that explores Earth’s galaxy and Xandar, a planet from Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films. From there, riders will go on to learn about the treasures found on the planet but are interrupted when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive.

RELATED: Details on Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival

They said that each individual cab in the attraction’s OmniCoaster ride system will direct your eyes to the story happening around you. Instead of whizzing by the action, the system will fully immerse you in the story from the minute you take off."

Also coming to Epcot is ‘Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.’ The experience is said to be an exploration trail where guests can interact with "magical, living water." It is the company's first park experience based on the hit animation.

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Journey of Water, Inspired by "Moana" at Epcot will be the first attraction inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. (Photo by Disney Parks Blog)

"Just like Moana’s friend the ocean, water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way," Disney said.

While an opening date has not yet been released, Disney did confirm that it is coming to the ‘World Nature’ neighborhood of the park. 

NEW SHOWS ON THE HORIZON

While the rides are thrilling, Walt Disney World is also known for spectacular shows and several are debuting during ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration.’

At Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, the ‘Disney Enchantment’ firework show began on October 1st, lighting up the night sky and kicking off the 50th anniversary fun. Disney said that the show features fireworks, Disney music, enhanced lighting, immersive projection effects that extend for the first time down Main Street, U.S.A., and an original song, entitled ‘You Are the Magic,’ by seven-time Grammy-winner Philip Lawrence. 

"Since opening day in 1971, dazzling fireworks shows have provided that perfect exclamation point at the end of a fantastic day at Magic Kingdom Park," said Mark Renfrow, Show Director, Disney Live Entertainment. "From ‘Fantasy in the Sky’ and ‘Wishes’ to holiday spectaculars and ‘Happily Ever After,’ each new show has raised the bar, and the best is yet to come! I can’t wait for everyone to see what we’re creating with ‘Disney Enchantment.’"

Featured in the show are reportedly iconic Disney characters, moments, and music from both Disney and Pixar films. For instance, spectators will join Tiana, Rapunzel, and ‘Onward’ brothers Ian and Barley as they set out on a journey with adventurers like Moana, Raya, and Judy Hopps. 

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek (left) and Executive Chairman Bob Iger (right) re-dedicate Walt Disney World Resort in front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sept. 30, 2021, on the eve of the vacation destination’s 50th ann

"Joe Gardner from Disney and Pixar’s ‘Soul’ takes us into ‘the zone,’ where we discover 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," Disney explained. "Everything builds to a climactic moment, as Tinker Bell takes flight, spreading shimmering gold pixie dust and empowering us all to believe in ourselves and the magic all around us."

RELATED: Disney World changes face mask policy: What to know before you go

Then, at Epcot, another stunning show debuted on October 1st: ‘HarmonioUS.’ Described as the "largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park," the show will celebrate Disney music and feature familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by artists from around the world. Massive set pieces, custom-build LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, and lasers will bring the spectacular to life.

"This new show will bring the globe together at World Showcase Lagoon in a celebration of Disney music that inspires people worldwide," Disney added. They said that the show will "invite you to travel the globe through new interpretations of classic Disney songs as you’ve never heard them before, reimagined in more than a dozen languages by a diverse group of 240 artists."

For those looking for some daytime excitement, Disney said that the ‘Disney KiteTails’ show debuted at the Discovery River Amphitheater at Animal Kingdom on October 1st as well. Several times a day, performers fly windcatchers and kites in a gala performance set to original, worldbeat arrangements of favorite Disney songs. The show features a collection of colorful oversized props and kites. Some moments will even take place over water, as kites up to 30-feet-long of Disney's animal friends fly.

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"Disney KiteTails" coming to Animal Kingdom (Disney)

Other kites to expect are of characters from ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘A Bug’s Life,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘The Lion King,’ and ‘The Jungle Book.’

"From one performance to another, you may see Baloo the bear dancing in the sky or Zazu the red-billed hornbill chasing after Simba. These remarkable kites, some as large as 30 feet in length, are inflated by moving through the air, allowing characters like King Louie or Timon and Pumbaa to soar like never before," Disney explained.

RELATED: Disney mural celebrating 50th anniversary at Orlando International Airport

Over at Disney Springs, a new Cirque du Soleil show will debut at the iconic white tent theater on November 18th, 2021. Titled ‘Drawn to Life,’ Disney said that the show is a live acrobatic journey that tells the story of Julie — a girl who discovers that her Disney animator father left behind an unfinished animation. She dives into the world of animation, guided by a pencil, and embarks on a quest that features ten acrobatic acts, pieces of iconic Disney films, and all-new Disney creations.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

The show is said to be family-friendly and takes inspiration from Disney’s 100-year heritage of animation. It brings innovative design, acrobatic performances, choreography, musical scores, and animation together for a magical experience. It was created through collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Imagineering. It features 64 cast members performing Tuesday through Saturday.

In addition, the show was written and directed by Michel Laprise, will have Fabrice Becker as the Director of Creation, and features art led by Eric Goldberg — the man best known for characters like ‘Genie’ in the animated classic, ‘Aladdin.’

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Photo from Walt Disney World

"I think guests will be amazed to see how the magic of Cirque du Soleil and the art of Walt Disney Animation Studios have come together to bring life to classic and current characters like Baloo, Baymax, and Cinderella in ways that no one has ever imagined," Goldberg explained.

Tickets for Drawn to Life are on sale now at cirquedusoleil.com/drawntolife.

THE HOLIDAYS AT DISNEY

The holidays at Walt Disney World provide an experience unlike anywhere else in the world and this year, festivities will be extra special as the 50th anniversary celebration will be going throughout it all.

Spooky season at Magic Kingdom has already begun with their all-new Halloween event, ‘Disney After Hours Boo Bash.’ It is a special-ticketed, after-hours event that operates on select nights until October 31st. Attendees get to enjoy Magic Kingdom to themselves from 9 p.m. to midnight. However, they can enter the park as early as 7 p.m.

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This Halloween season, something special is brewing for Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "Disney After Hours BOO BASH" will be a three-hour event that begins when the park closes on select nights from Aug. 10 t

Those who visit the park will notice that Main Street U.S.A. is decorated with colorful foliage, Halloween decor, and frightful tunes to mark the season.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Throughout the park, guests can trick or treat and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages. Other specialty food and drinks will be available for purchase. For example, at Sleepy Hollow, the ‘Foolish Mortal Funnel Cake’ can be purchased. It is a funnel cake topped with chocolate cookie crumbles, purple vanilla ice cream, caramel drizzle, and milk chocolate M&M’s.

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Disney Parks Blog

Select attractions at Magic Kingdom will operate during the event with shorter wait times. Some of the rides that guests can expect to see open are the ‘Seven Dwarfs Mine Train,’ ‘The Haunted Mansion,’ ‘Jungle Cruise,’ and ‘Space Mountain.’ There will also be special cavalcades moving through the park, including ‘Mickey’s Happy Halloween Cavalcade,’ ‘Disney Villains Halloween Cavalcade,’ and ‘Jack’s Nightmare Cavalcade’ featuring Jack Skellington, Sally, and Oogie Boogie riding down the parade path to ‘This is Halloween.’

Tickets are on sale now for ‘Disney After Hours BOO BASH’ on the Walt Disney World website. You can also make a purchase by calling 407-939-4240. Tickets for several dates are sold out. Prices start at $129 per person.

RELATED: Disney to relocate 2,000 jobs from California to Florida at Orlando's Lake Nona community

Then, for the winter holidays, Disney said that the merry season will officially begin at the resort on November 12th, adding that "festive entertainment, whimsical décor, seasonal food and drinks, and holiday-themed merchandise will all be a part of this very special season at our theme parks, Disney Resort hotels, and Disney Springs."

Over at Hollywood Studios, Disney said that the ‘Hollywood Tower Hotel’ will transform into the ‘Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel,' showcasing holiday projection effects with music for guests to view from Sunset Boulevard. Expect to see sights from Frozen's Arendelle, the Muppets, Toy Story, and Mickey's Christmas Carol. The show will alternate with the tower’s nightly transformation into a Beacon of Magic.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Throughout the streets of Hollywood Studios will be vintage-themed holiday decor. Down Hollywood Boulevard, Disney said that Santa Claus will bring cheer through a motorcade. Guests can also enjoy "For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration" with ‘Olaf’ making an appearance.

Finally, at the park’s ‘Hollywood & Vine,’ Minne Mouse will reportedly host a festive meal with her friends.

RELATED: Polynesian Village Resort reopens at Walt Disney World with 'Moana' theme

Disney said that seasonal decor will fill Animal Kingdom as Disney character flotillas sail down Discovery River to holiday sounds. At the centerpiece of the park, the 'Tree of Life' will become another ‘Beacon of Magic’ during most nights of the 50th anniversary celebration. However, for the holidays, there will be a festive edition of the ‘Tree of Life Awakenings’ on most nights.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Park guests at Epcot can enjoy holiday music, treats, and family-friendly experiences during the park’s ‘International Festival of the Holidays,’ Disney said. The event will operate from November 26th to December 30th with holiday kitchens around the park, performances from the ‘Voices of Liberty,’ and the return of the ‘cookie stroll.’

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Finally, Magic Kingdom will once again be lined with holiday decorations once again this year, the theme park company said. When the sun sets, special holiday projections will appear most nights on Cinderella Castle, alternating periodically with the castle's transformation into a Beacon of Magic.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

In addition, Disney said that they also have a Christmas-themed after-hours event at Magic Kingdom, titled ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours.’ It operates on select nights from November 8th through December 21st between 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. However, just like with Boo Bash, guests can choose to enter the park as early as 7 p.m.

The special-ticketed event will include the nighttime spectacular ‘Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks’ and the holiday-themed parade ‘Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.’ Disney added that during the parade, "Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will be joined by pals from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and many other favorite Disney characters, including the very popular Toy Soldiers. This festive parade will, of course, also feature Santa Claus himself."

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(Courtesy: The Disney Parks Blog)

Disney said that iconic characters will be dressed their holiday best, magical snowfall will come down on Main Street U.S.A., and Tomorrowland will have a dance party for those ready to boogie. Attractions open during the night will feature shorter wait times given the event’s limited capacity. The ‘Jungle Cruise’ ride will transform into the ’Jingle Cruise’ and the ‘Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor’ show will get new jokes for the season.

Attendees will be treated to complimentary snacks like ice cream, popcorn, seasonal treats, and select bottled beverages. There will also be special holiday food and drinks available for purchase. 

Tickets are on sale now for the ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ event on the Walt Disney World website. You can also make a purchase by calling 407-939-7947.  Prices start at $169 per person.

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Meanwhile, Disney Springs will reportedly transform into a winter wonderland, with sparkling lights, holiday decor, and more for guests to see. The ‘Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll’ will return with Disney-themed trees – some old, some new, and some inspired by the park's 50th year anniversary. In the Town Center, magical snowfall will bring wonder to guests. Many of the stores and restaurants will feature holiday items, food, and beverages.

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Disney's resort hotels will be decked for the holidays too with trees and seasonal items, they said. Gingerbread displays at the resorts will return this year as well. Some resort restaurants will even offer holiday food and drinks.

NEW 50TH ANNIVERSARY MERCHANDISE

Disney said that they will sell several collections of 50th anniversary merchandise during The World's Most Magical Celebration.

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(Courtesy: The Disney Parks Blog)

The ‘Pre-Celebration Collection’ debuted in August and featured limited-time items like a tumbler, several long-sleeves, button-ups, t-shirts, and more. These already went on sale in the parks and online at shopDisney.com.

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There are two other collections directly inspired by the ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration,’ titled the ‘Celebration Collection’ and the ‘Disney Castle Collection.'

RELATED: PHOTOS: 50th anniversary merchandise drops at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Items in the ‘Celebration Collection’ include more shirts, long-sleeves, and exciting new accessories such as festive headwear, photo frames, and soap dispensers. The ‘Disney Castle Collection’ is inspired by Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom and includes items like collectible ornaments, a castle-themed mug, and a light-up Minnie Mouse headband.

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Sometime in October, Disney said that the ‘EARidescent Collection’ will hit the shelves online and at the parks. The collection is themed to match the EARidescent celebration and includes items like a mini-backpack by Loungefly, a spirit jersey, and sparkling Minnie Ears. Then, in November, the ‘Luxe Logo Collection’ will go on sale. It includes upscale pieces for collectors.

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(Courtesy: The Disney Parks Blog)

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Disney also said that there is also the ‘Vault Collection,’ composed of favorites for long-time fans. It has retro-themed designs inspired by items from the Walt Disney Archives. They pay tribute to the 50 years of Walt Disney World and include items like a 2021 rendition of the original Mickey Mouse ear hat, throwback t-shirt styles, and vintage-inspired plush toys. As the festivities go on over the 18-month celebration, other items will debut. This collection is already on sale as well.

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Visitors will notice one-of-a-kind retail displays throughout the Walt Disney World Resort too, the theme park company said.

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(Courtesy: The Disney Parks Blog)

For example, Disney said that the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs has a special overlay inspired by the Vault Collection that takes you back to 1971 the moment you walk through the doors. Inspired by the 1970s, there is a nostalgic museum-like display that invites shoppers to learn about original Walt Disney World Resort attractions and resorts.

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Vault Collection displays coming to Disney Springs (Photo from Walt Disney World)

They also said that there are photo opportunities available so guests can get shots with vintage props, including carousel horses from the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, replicas of the Orange Bird, and Tiki sculptures. In addition, there are engaging spaces where guests can learn more about Walt Disney World’s history.

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Vintage props (Photo from Walt Disney World)

RELATED: Sneak peek: Disney's 'Vault Collection' coming for 50th anniversary

Then, at Magic Kingdom, Disney sid The Emporium and the Main Street Cinema have undergone a makeover. It has a retro-inspired overlay themed to the Vault Collection, filled with vintage photos, colors, and other details like backgrounds and props inspired by beloved Disney attractions.

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Vault Collection displays coming to Magic Kingdom (Photo from Walt Disney World)

Over at Epcot, shoppers will notice that the park's flagship merchandise destination has opened just in time for The World's Most Magical Celebration. The store celebrates the park’s past and future by using one-of-a-kind art installations, meaningful souvenirs, and a contemporary architectural design.

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Creations Shop at Epcot (Photo from Walt Disney World)

For example, Mickey Mouse, who has served as a symbol of creativity at Disney for decades, can reportedly be seen in a number of homages throughout the space, like in murals or as a sculpture.

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Creations Shop at Epcot (Photo from Walt Disney World)

The merchandise sold at Creations Shop includes unique items sold only at Epcot. For instance, Disney said that the ‘Epcot Light & Color Collection’ is exclusive to this store specifically. It showcases futuristic designs inspired by the park’s historic transformation.

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EPCOT Light & Color Collection (Photo from Walt Disney World) 

NEW DISNEY EXPERIENCES

Several new experiences will be available for Disney fans during the theme park company’s 50th anniversary celebration.

For example, debuting on October 19 is ‘Disney Genie.’ Disney describes it as "a complementary and convenient new digital service" to help park guests better plan their day. It is built right into the My Disney Experience app and helps enhance the park experience for both first-timers and pros.

When users launch the My Disney Experience app and open the Disney Genie service, they will have the opportunity to share what they would like to do while at the parks that day.

"You can plan specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, and special interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more," Disney said.

From there, Disney Genie will provide a personalized itinerary that maps out the day ahead. It will be updated for the user throughout their park visit.

Some of the features launching on Tuesday include:

  • Tailored recommendations: Disney said that users will receive attraction and dining recommendations inspired by the interests selected for the day. For example, it will display what times to go to an experience and an idea of the forecasted wait. Recommendations can be swapped out and new suggestions will appear throughout the day.
  • A personalized daily itinerary: In the "My Day" tab will reportedly be Disney Genie recommendations and any plans made, including dining reservations, Disney Resort hotel reservations, and activity bookings. Users can also chat with a cast member about questions they have.
  • A custom tip board: This is a new feature that is said to let users see estimated wait times for top attractions, entertainment, and dining options. Users can order food, make dining reservations, check into a restaurant, request to join a virtual queue, and for those who purchase the Disney Genie+ service, book arrival times for new Lightning Lane entrances at select experiences.

Disney Genie itself is a complimentary service, allowing users to get the most out of their day through recommendations, a personalized itinerary, and other tips for free. However, there are paid features that can enhance the park experience even more, like the Disney Genie+ service.

Disney Genie+ costs $15 per ticket per day and it allows guests to go through ‘Lightning Lane’ entrances at over 40 attractions and experiences throughout the four Walt Disney World parks.

Disney said that only one selection can be made at a time throughout the day. Users will choose from a range of Lightning Lane arrival windows at the park — or parks for those with park hopper tickets — that they are visiting that day. Those using Disney Genie+ can make their first selection at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit.

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However, some of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World are not included in the $15 Disney Genie+ service and must be purchased a la carte in order to use the Lighting Lane entrances. Users can only make two a la carte purchases per person per day. Prices vary by date, attraction, and park, but range between $7 to $15 per person per ride.

Disney said that individual Lightning Lane purchases can be made on the day of the user’s visit at the regular time the park they are visiting opens. Those staying at Disney Resort hotels and select other hotels — Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and Shades of Green — can make their first a la carte purchase at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit.

The attractions included in the $15 Disney Genie+ service are:

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Haunted Mansion
  • "It’s a small world"
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Splash Mountain
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
  • DINOSAUR
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • The Animation Experience Feathered Friends in Flight!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
  • Disney Jr. Play and Dance!
  • Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (opening December 19th)
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Muppet*Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Mania

EPCOT

  • Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE (Green and Orange)
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

The Walt Disney World attractions that have individual Lightning Lane entrances that must be purchased a la carte are:

Magic Kingdom 

  • Space Mountain
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

EPCOT

  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • Frozen Ever After

Disney confirmed that users do not need to purchase the Disney Genie+ service to take advantage of Lightning Lanes at attractions that can be purchased a la carte. 

For example, if a user just wants to purchase Lightning Lane access for ‘Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance,’ they do not need to pay $15 for the Disney Genie+ service. They can just pay a one-time fee for that individual attraction.

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RISE OF THE RESISTANCE -- Disney guests will traverse the corridors of a Star Destroyer and join an epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance – including a face-off with Kylo Ren – when Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens Dec. 5, 201

Note that Disney said that once users make an individual ride reservation, they will not be allowed to modify, change, or cancel it. This means that if they miss their time slot for an attraction, they will not be refunded.

Those who pay for the Disney Genie+ service can also take advantage of the new Disney PhotoPass Lenses and Audio Tales. The Disney PhotoPass Lenses are said to allow users to explore new augmented reality effects on their phones. Meanwhile, the Audio Tales feature gives fun facts and behind-the-scenes insights to users while they explore the parks.

Remember: The Disney Genie+ service is optional and the traditional Disney Genie service, which does not grant access to Lightning Lane entrances, can be used free of charge. Attractions across the Walt Disney World Resort will continue to offer traditional standby queues or virtual queues at certain rides like ‘Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.'

RELATED: Disney World announces holiday season hours for first week of November

Another innovative experience coming to Walt Disney World soon is the ‘MagicBand+.’ The new wearable technology will keep the popular features that guests already love from their current MagicBands while adding in new features to make the experience even better.

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"MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations and gesture recognition," Disney said.

Some experiences that guests wearing a MagicBand+ will get to take advantage of are:

  • Play like a bounty hunter at ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ in Hollywood Studios and find virtual bounties throughout Black Spire Outpost.
  • Interact with the "Disney Fab 50 Character Collection," the golden sculptures spread throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks.
  • Experience nighttime spectaculars in a new way as you see your band light up and complement the magic in the skies.

Disney said that these will go on sale at the beginning of next year. Disney resort hotel guests and new and renewing annual passholders will be eligible for a discounted, pre-arrival price.

Disney fans at home or at resort hotels can soon utilize a new project between Amazon and Disney called ‘Hey, Disney!’

"We’ve created our own custom assistant, using Disney stories, characters and more – all built on Amazon’s Alexa technology," Disney said. "Whether you’re at home or in one of our Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms, soon you’ll be able to use an Echo device to interact with your favorite Disney, Pixar or Star Wars characters."

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While more details are expected later, Disney explained that the resource will make your vacation "easier, more meaningful, and more fun."

MORE NEWS: Look Inside: Walt Disney's World's top-secret test kitchens

A new experience that debuted at Walt Disney World just prior to the start of ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ is the ‘Space 220’ restaurant at Epcot. It opened on September 20th and is located next to the ‘Mission: SPACE’ ride and features a panoramic view of Earth from space.

"Your immersive experience begins as you check in to the Space 220 Departure Lounge in Future World," Disney explained. "From here, you’ll board one of ‘Space Elevators’ that will transport you in what seems like 220 miles above Earth to Centauri Space Station. As you begin your ascent, you’ll look down through a viewport to see Epcot shrink away; looking up you’ll see the Space Station come into view."

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Space 220 restaurant (Photo from FOX 35's David Martin)

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Space 220 restaurant inside (Photo from FOX 35's David Martin)

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Space 220 restaurant (Photo from Jean Yves Etienne)

The space-themed restaurant serves fine dining on a whole new level. Prix fixe menus are used and feature upscale, contemporary dishes inspired by ideas from far beyond Earth. Fine wine and ‘atmospheric cocktails’ are also available for purchase.

RELATED: 'Space 220' restaurant opens at Epcot: Menu and how to visit

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Space 220 restaurant (Photo from FOX 35's David Martin)

Then, opening to the public on March 1st, 2022, will be the 'Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser' hotel — a one-of-a-kind experience aboard a Star Wars ship for two nights. Guests arrive and depart together, similar to a cruise ship.

Disney explained that when guests get to the resort, they will enter a terminal and "blast off" from a launchpad onto the ship. Inside, they can gaze into space and meet some of their favorite characters from the iconic film franchise. When it is time to visit the parks, they will be transported to 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' at Hollywood Studios. The Galactic Starcruiser will also have all kinds of activities onboard, like lightsaber training and droid racing.

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Photos from Disney Parks Blog

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Photos from Disney Parks Blog

The resort is said to look like a spaceship and each "cabin" can sleep up to five people. Every window of the galactic hotel is said to have "a view of the galaxy beyond, with ever-changing vistas as the ship progresses from place to place." There are 100 cabins onboard and three categories of cabins to choose from: the Standard Cabin, the Galaxy Class Suite, and the Grand Captain Suite.

Disney said that prices vary by departure date, the number of guests in your cabin, and your cabin type. They listed the following sample prices:

  • 2 guests per cabin: $1,209 per guest per night or $4,809 voyage total
  • 3 guests per cabin (2 adults, 1 child): $889 per guest per night or $5,299 voyage total
  • 4 guests per cabin (3 adults, 1 child): $749 per guest per night or $5,999 voyage total
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Photo by DisneyParks Blog

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Photo by DisneyParks Blog

Also included in your purchase is admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, valet parking, an exclusive ‘Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser’ MagicBand, and food and beverages on the Galactic Starcruiser and at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo or other select locations at Hollywood Studios. Alcoholic drinks and specialty beverages are excluded from this.

Itineraries can be viewed in the ‘Star Wars: Datapad’ in the Play Disney Parks app 30 days before your voyage departure date. Disney encourages guests to dress their galactic best with Star Wars clothing. Themed apparel will also be available in advance from shopDisney or on the ship.

General bookings for the ‘Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser’ hotel will open on October 28th, 2021.

RUNDISNEY EVENTS

During the coronavirus pandemic, in-person was racing on hold and Disney held virtual races for its popular running events.

For the first time since before the pandemic, Disney will hold in-person events again with runDisney's 2021- 2022 season. It kicks off officially this fall with the ‘Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend’ between Friday, November 4th, and Sunday, November 7th, 2021.

"After a year of virtual meetings, virtual visits and… yes, virtual races… we are in the early planning stages to once again welcome back our runDisney family to the Most Magical Place on Earth," the runDisney website said. "And it’s just in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort."

Participants can choose between in-person or virtual races and register on the runDisney website. There are several in-person races, including the ‘Disney Wine & Dine 5K,’ the ‘Disney Wine & Dine 10K,’ the ‘Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon,’ and ‘Disney’s Two Course Challenge.’

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Photo from Walt Disney World

Three other races will occur during the 2021- 2022 season: the ‘Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend,’ the ‘Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend,’ and the ‘runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend.’

The 'Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend' takes place between Wednesday, January 5th, through Sunday, January 9th. In-person events include the ‘Walt Disney World 5K,’ ‘Walt Disney World 10K,’ 'Walt Disney World Half-Marathon,' ‘Walt Disney World Marathon,’ the ‘Goofy Race and a Half Challenge,’ and the ‘Dopey Challenge.’ Registrations are open on the runDisney website.

Registrations are also open on the runDisney website for the ‘Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend’ too, which takes place from February 24, 2022, to February 27, 2022. In addition to virtual races, there are several in-person events, including ‘Disney Princess Sunrise Yoga,’ the ‘Disney Princess 5K,’ the ‘Disney Princess Enchanted 10K,’ the ‘Disney Princess Half Marathon,’ and the ‘Disney Fairy Tale Challenge.’

RELATED: Disney World History: 'Preview Center' welcomed guests prior to first park's opening

Just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration, Walt Disney World has brought its Annual Passholder program back. 

There are four new annual pass options on sale:

  • Disney Pixie Dust Pass: For $399 plus tax, or $19 per month with a $205 down payment, Disney said that Pixie Dust passholders can visit one or more Walt Disney World parks on the same day with an advance park reservation. The pass is valid on most weekdays but is subject to blockout dates including peak and holiday periods. Up to three park reservations can be made and held at a time. Standard parking and discounts on dining and merchandise are included.
  • Disney Pirate Pass: For $699 plus tax, or $45 per month with a $205 down payment, Disney said that Pirate passholders can visit one or more Walt Disney World parks on the same day with an advance park reservation. The pass is valid most days but is subject to blockout dates including peak and holiday periods. Up to four park reservations can be made and held at a time. Standard parking and discounts on dining and merchandise are included.
  • Disney Sorcerer Pass: For $899 plus tax, or $63 per month with a $205 down payment, Disney said that the Sorcerer passholders can visit one or more Walt Disney World parks on the same day with an advance park reservation. The pass is valid most days but is subject to blockout dates during select holiday periods. Up to five park reservations can be made and held at a time. Standard parking and discounts on dining and merchandise are included.
  • Disney Incredi-Pass: For $1,299 plus tax, or $99 per month with a $205 down payment, Disney said that Incredi-Pass holders can visit one or more Walt Disney World parks on the same day with an advance park reservation. No blockout dates apply. Up to five park reservations can be made and held at a time. Standard parking and discounts on dining and merchandise are included.

Passholders can add on Disney PhotoPass downloads for the year at the cost of $99 plus tax. For the same price, passholders can also add on access to the Disney water parks and sporting experiences. 

RELATED: First-ever Walt Disney World license plate in Florida revealed

New to the Annual Passholder program at Walt Disney World, the theme park company said that there will be access to bonus reservations, meaning that from time to time, passholders can make an additional park reservation without it counting against their applicable reservation hold limit.  In addition, passholders who stay at Disney resort hotels or other select hotels will be eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their stay in addition to the reservations they can hold based on their pass type.

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Walt Disney World Annual Passholder (Photo from Walt Disney World Resort)

Current passholders can continue to use their existing passes but come time to renew, they must choose one of the new pass options at a special renewal price, Disney said.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for what’s to come during Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration.