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Disney World News: Returning Shows, Earth Day Efforts, Famous People Do WDW

It’s time for another Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup! This one covers a new show debuting at Disney Springs, modified/returning entertainment at Animal Kingdom, restaurant updates at Magic Kingdom, beloved/hated famous people visiting WDW, and more.

This week, Cirque du Soleil announced reopening dates for several shows, ranging from its Las Vegas residencies “Mystere” on June 28 and “O” on July 1 to touring productions “Kooza” on November 25, 2021 in the Dominican Republic and “Luzia” on January 12, 2022 in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

However, there was one conspicuous omission (well, at least for Walt Disney World fans): “Drawn to Life,” which was previously expected to debut at Disney Springs over a year ago. For those who forgot or are new to this, “Drawn to Life” tells the story of a young girl sent on a quest by her late father, with the 90-minute show being a tribute to Disney animation and filled with standard Cirque du Soleil acrobatics.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Drawn to Life” is the successor to “La Nouba,” which ran for almost two decades in the iconic white circus tent on the Westside of Disney Springs. That show has now been closed for over 3 years. The good news is that “Drawn to Life” is still planned to open at Walt Disney World despite the lack of official announcement.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cirque du Soleil President and CEO Daniel Lamarre said of Drawn to Life, that “it’s a tribute to Disney Animation and we felt honored to have the opportunity to do a show with the IP [intellectual property] of Disney…We should be able to open sometime in the fall.”

Don’t be surprised if Cirque du Soleil’s “Drawn to Life” is yet another addition debuting at Walt Disney World on or around October 1, 2021. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Disney is comfortable treading water until then, with that date being a milestone not just because it’s the 50th Anniversary, but also a significant return to normalcy.

Honestly, how Cirque du Soleil handled the last year left a really bad taste with us. The debut of “Drawn to Life” was cancelled at the absolute last minute, well after Walt Disney World announced the closure of the parks and theme parks and travel came to a screeching halt. Even after cancelling all other shows around the United States and Disney Springs’ closure was announced, Cirque du Soleil maintained that the show would somehow go on.

Even more frustrating, Cirque du Soleil denied refunds on “Drawn to Life” tickets well beyond the point it was patently obvious to literally everyone that the show wasn’t happening. This was such a problem that we recommended readers just initiate a chargeback with their credit cards. We feel this is worth mentioning because there are businesses that did the right thing at the start when times got tough (like Jaleo!) whereas others did not. Consumers are free to vote with their wallets and support whichever they feel are deserving of their business.

To be fair, it was also a rough year for the company, with Cirque du Soleil laying off almost the entirety of its workforce, filing for bankruptcy, and subsequently reorganizing under new ownership. However, much of the same executive leadership that would’ve made those decisions remains in place.

Another show is returning to Walt Disney World in the more immediate future: “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” will debut in mid-May 2021. Rehearsals are now underway for that. Judging by the photo above and the “Celebration of” preface, it will be a scaled-back version of the normal show. What will be missing is unclear, but we’re guessing it’ll be physically distanced, meaning no tumble monkeys.

On the one hand, more returning is good news. Mid-May is also earlier than the nebulous “summer” return timeline previously promised. On the other hand, Walt Disney World announced this back in January, and a lot has changed since then. Travel has come roaring back, the parks are booking up with regularity, and highly efficacious vaccines are now widely available to anyone of performer age.

Don’t get me wrong, normalcy being restored is great news. However, this feels like the type of thing to get excited about if it were happening in October of last year, not May of this year. At this point, it feels like a very conservative move that’s out of step with where the United States, travel industry, and consumers are at this point. Here’s hoping more announcements are on the horizon for this summer, but at this point, I’m not holding my breath. Like I said before, it feels like Disney is content treading water until October. Then again, perhaps I’m just bitter about the prospect of being denied monkeys.

On an unequivocally positive note for Earth Day, the Walt Disney Company continues to make tremendous steps towards reducing its carbon footprint at the global parks and resorts with new solar facilities coming online around the world. Steps include installing solar panels atop the roofs of attractions at Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland, and a solar farm in the shape of Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World.

Coming soon are solar canopies in the parking lot at Disneyland Paris that will provide shelter for 9,500 guest vehicles, a facility that will power ~70% of Castaway Cay, and two colossal solar facilities coming to Central Florida. To put all of this into perspective the Disney Parks solar portfolio around the world can produce enough energy to power eight Magic Kingdoms! Disney Parks Blog has much more thorough info and cool photos of these initiatives–that story is worth checking out.

In other very important news, Shailene Woodley and Aaron Rodgers vacationed at Walt Disney World, doing Star Wars stuff and staying at the Grand Floridian. Probably a total coincidence that those are two things Disney wants to market right now. This celebrity news is supposed to be a big deal to you, for reasons unclear to me. All I know is that I’ve received multiple “updates” on it and keep seeing it on social media.

Now, some might say Aaron Rodgers sucks. Not in the traditional sense of the term, but by virtue of being so dominant and playing for Green Bay. However, I can’t find it in my heart to hate him. While it’s true that he’s no Jared Goff (coolest dude ever), Rodgers just seems so likable and down to earth in those State Farm ads. Shailene Woodley, on the other hand, is universally beloved (although admittedly I did not know her name) from her work in Big Little Lies and the Spectacular Now. Not that you care, but we highly recommend both. Then again, you probably didn’t care about this story at all, and if you did, were already aware of it.

I don’t know how we’ll top that colossal and consequential news, but we’ll try with an update on Mobile Order. The service has been expanded in Magic Kingdom to Friar’s Nook, Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, and Sunshine Tree Terrace.

This may seem insignificant…and it is. Unless you’ve baked in the sun in the overflow queue at Sleepy Hollow for those glorious waffle sandwiches. I don’t know what proprietary technology Imagineering developed to make that new walkway pavement extra reflective and hot, but kudos on a job well done if that was the goal. Joking aside, this actually is great news for both Sleepy Hollow and Sunshine Tree Terrace, and we’ll be eating more waffles and Citrus Swirls as a result.

Continuing with dining at Walt Disney World, there have been competing rumors and statements about Beatrix, the replacement for Bongos Cuban Cafe at Disney Springs. Beatrix was/is a neighborhood restaurant, coffeehouse, and grab-and-go market featuring healthy food options including vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan along with fresh-squeezed juice cocktails.

Multiple independent reports indicated Beatrix was cancelled. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based restaurant group that is behind Beatrix claimed that “Disney and Beatrix agreed to delay the start of construction on the project as a result of the pandemic, and that a restart date has not been determined.”

I’m filing this one under I’ll believe it when I see it. Even before the closure, this seemed like a project that had a good chance of not happening due to its remote timeline and lethargic pace. The company’s statement is, at best, a soft denial. Crazier things have happened, but I do not expect Beatrix to be built.

Finally, several new locations have been revealed for the upcoming C Terminal expansion at Orlando International Airport. This project was delayed and scaled back due to events of the last year, but is now powering ahead at full steam, presumably in large part because traffic is up dramatically at MCO.

Above is a look at the 70% completion video from a couple months ago. The latest development is that we’ve learned that this is basically going to be Disney Springs 2.0 (move over, Flamingo Crossings!) with a second Wine Bar George location, Provisions by Cask & Larder from the Polite Pig owners, Sunshine Diner by Chef Art Smith, plus gift shops for Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and a Shake Shack. Okay, those last three locations have nothing to do with Walt Disney World, they’re just generally good news! This terminal is expected to open in 2022, with the Brightline rail station opening in 2023. Here’s more info and renderings from MCO.

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 “Drawn to Life” debuting or “Festival of the Lion King” returning in modified form? Excited for more Mobile Order or an expansion of MCO? Love or hate Aaron Rodgers? 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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