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Disney World News: Character Keys, No MVP Parade, Restaurant Refurb

It’s time for another Walt Disney World news and rumor round-up! We have a range of stories including more park hours for February to April 2021, colorful character Key to the World cards, downfall of Ample Hills, Liberty Belle’s voyage back to Magic Kingdom, and more.

Per tradition, we’ll start with the least interesting update: new and extended park hours. All four theme parks, Disney Springs, and Blizzard Beach have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. Previously, hours were posted through April 17, and now extend to April 24, 2021. Hours are the same for all dates:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 7 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 10 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 10 pm (11 pm on weekends)

As usual, Park Hopping times for those and all dates are 2 pm until park close, which is quite the range given that Animal Kingdom closes at 5 pm and EPCOT closes at 11 pm on some dates. The more interesting change this week is the park hours extensions, which impact mid and late February 2021…

Once again, the most notable extensions are for the week of Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Mardi Gras. Hours for some of these dates had already been extended once or twice, but even more hours have been added. We now have 10 pm Magic Kingdom and 11 pm EPCOT closures. That might seem like good news, but we view it as another red flag.

We’ve been sounding the alarm about that week for a while on our 2021 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars, pointing to it as (by far) the busiest week in the first quarter of the year. We’ve further indicated it could end up being one of the busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World. Mardi Gras, in particular, is a huge wildcard since the cancellation of those events could drive more visitors to Florida. If you have flexibility in travel dates, we’d highly recommend avoiding that week.

Many of you have commented in past posts or on social media that you hope we’re wrong about that week being busy. We do too–and another cold front plus rain in the forecast could help–but you definitely shouldn’t bank on that. If you’re visiting during that stretch, we’d highly recommend arriving to each park 45 minutes before rope drop, doing a table service lunch or taking a midday break, and staying or returning for the end of night. Additionally, we just updated all of our 2021 Walt Disney World 1-Day Itineraries.

The fact that Walt Disney World has now extended hours to this degree lends credence to our predictions. The difference between us and Disney is that there’s nothing for the company itself to reverse engineer–they have access to hotel occupancy, ticket sales, and Park Pass reservation numbers. Walt Disney World doesn’t extend park hours as some “random act of magic;” this is because internal forecasts are calling for that week to be busy.

Walt Disney World has announced that Magic Kingdom won’t host the annual Super Bowl parade down Main Street U.S.A. this year. However, Disney will continue its time-honored tradition of featuring the Super Bowl MVP in the iconic “I’m Going to Disney World!” commercial on Sunday night.

This year’s commercial will be the latest installment in a long-running Super Bowl tradition created by Disney in 1987 when New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms first appeared in the commercial following his Super Bowl victory. Since then, the commercial has featured some of the biggest names in Super Bowl history.

Disney revealed this news on the Parks Blog, and further indicated that the company hopes to be able to bring back other Super Bowl traditions next year, including letting football and Disney fans see and cheer on their favorite player in the park.

It should come as no surprise that Walt Disney World won’t host the normal parade. We attended last year (see above) and called it “one of my 5 worst ideas of the year.” I said then that I won’t do it again until the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl in 2085 and I have a hover-board to get above the crowds. (I’m feeling a bit optimistic after the Stafford trade; thinking those draft picks will help get the Lions to the big game a little earlier–maybe 2077.)

Over at the United Kingdom pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase, Rose & Crown Dining Room will close for refurbishment beginning February 15, 2021 and continuing through “early spring” per the restaurant’s page on DisneyWorld.com. (This year, spring runs March 20 to June 20, so maybe April?)

It’s interesting that the restaurant would close on President’s Day (and wouldn’t have instead been closed for the last month and a half of off-season), but perhaps there’s a good justification for that. During the refurbishment, the Rose & Crown Pub and Yorkshire County Fish Shop will be open and serving a selection of British cuisine and beverages.

Bouncing from World Showcase to Crescent Lake, we have a story that’s not really news, but is nevertheless really fascinating. In the comments to our recent EPCOT Update, reader Chris A. shared a link to “The Shocking Meltdown of Ample Hills — Brooklyn’s Hottest Ice Cream Company.

In addition to explaining the company’s downfall (and beginnings of its hopeful rebirth), this documents the genesis of its relationship with Disney, starting with an ice cream order from CEO Bob Iger. While I feel sorry for the couple who lost control over their creation, their hubris in the second-to-last paragraph does suggest a lack of self-awareness and introspection.

In some fun news, Disney Parks Blog shared photos and behind the scenes info about the Liberty Belle’s dry docking behind Magic Kingdom during the underwater track replacement in Rivers of America the last several months. This included the above video documenting the Liberty Belle’s return to the park and another time lapse preparing the Rivers of America.

Teams worked together overnight this week to sail the Liberty Belle through Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, around Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and crossing in front of Magic Kingdom for her return. Cast Members then towed the Liberty Belle by hand through a narrow water channel before underwater divers reconnected her to the newly refurbished track and brought her home. As noted in our updated 2021 Walt Disney World Refurbishment & Closure Calendar, both the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom reopened yesterday, ahead of schedule.

Finally, Walt Disney World has debuted new Key to the World room keys featuring character art of Minnie & Mickey Mouse, Daisy & Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy. The colorful designs feature the same art style as Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is itself drawn from the new Mickey Mouse cartoons.

As you might recall, Walt Disney World resort hotel guests are no longer receiving free MagicBands pre-arrival or upon check-in, but can still order the MagicBand upgrades before their trip at a discount.

Alternatively, guests can visit their hotel front desk to request a Key to the World card for resort hotel room entry, park admission, and charging privileges to the hotel room with a valid credit card. This is how things worked prior to the debut of MagicBands several years ago.

Neither MagicBands nor Key to the World cards are required for visiting Walt Disney World. Guests can receive standard ticket media and use the My Disney Experience app for unlocking their hotel room door. For those who already have MagicBands, you can still use ones from past visits.

Personally, I hope these colorful character Key to the World cards end up being similar to the roll-out of the new character buses at Walt Disney World a few years ago. Those started out with the Sensational Six designs, and then expanded to a range of other art, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and even Figment. We now have fun driving around property and spotting “rare” designs.

As collectors of Disney ephemera, we’d love to see more of this. We save every monorail pass and room key from Tokyo Disney Resort, where multiple designs are released for every seasonal event and celebration. It’s fun and is a nice touch. Obviously, room keys alone won’t get people to book hotel stays–that’s a massive stretch and would be one expensive collection.

However, all of the “little things” are something fans enjoy and value, and their cumulative impact cannot be overstated. This is something Walt Disney World seems to have forgotten in the last few years, instead chipping away at all of these little things. It would be great to see things start trending in the other direction, with a lot more additions like this. We aren’t holding our breath, but we’ll nevertheless applaud this as a small but positive step.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Thoughts on what another extension to park hours means for that multi-holiday long weekend/week? Excited for the new colorful character Key to the World cards? Still disappointed by the downfall of Ample Hills, or optimistic it’ll return to Walt Disney World someday? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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