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Disney World News & Rumors: 50th Projection Show, Distancing & Mask Rule Tweaks

We’re back with another weekend Walt Disney World news and rumor roundup. This one covers the a potential projection show at Magic Kingdom for the 50th Anniversary, further tweaks to the physical distancing and face mask rules, a temporary attraction closure, and more park hours for late August 2021.

As always, let’s begin with an update on new hours for the Walt Disney World theme parks. All four theme parks, Disney Springs, and Blizzard Beach have had hours for another week added to the DisneyWorld.com park hours calendar. These hours encompass the week of August 15-21, 2021. This set of dates is what’s typically the first week of off-season as school districts start to go back into session. Despite that, the new hours are identical to the previous weeks of summer season:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 8 am to 6 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 11 am to 6 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 10 pm (11 pm on weekends)

With that said, note that Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. These are simply placeholder or “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World hours–the minimum operating hours for those dates. It’s thus entirely possible that July and early August hours end up being further extended, while these hours will be close-to-final…

Next, we have a couple of “stealth updates” to the language of Walt Disney World’s health safety protocol. We already shared one of these in Disney Park Pass Summer Refill, but have some new details and on the ground experience to share.

Following Orange County ending all face mask and physical distancing updates, Walt Disney World made two tweaks to its rules.

First, Disney further relaxed its face mask policy, changing the rules from requiring masks in “all theaters” to “all indoor theaters.”

In practice, this is a fairly insignificant change right now, as most outdoor stage shows are still on temporary hiatus. However, if you want to enjoy Voices of Liberty, Vintage Vinyl, or whatever that modified bird show is called at Animal Kingdom, you can now do so sans face masks.

Second, physical distancing has been relaxed slightly. Pictured above is the old verbiage from DisneyWorld.com, which stated: “Temporary adjustments are still in place to promote physical distancing. While we will reduce physical distancing measures for Guests across many areas with a gradual, phased approach, six-feet distancing measures will continue in all dining locations, merchandise stores and in areas where Guests can temporarily remove their masks.”

Pictured below is the new physical distancing policy from DisneyWorld.com, which states: “Adjustments are still in place to promote physical distancing for Guests. These measures will be reduced in a gradual, phased approach.”

We speculated that Walt Disney World might start reducing physical distancing in restaurants and stores since they are no longer mentioned specifically as being exceptions. That’s exactly what we experienced today at Geyser Point, with another couple seated at a table directly adjacent to us, no more than a couple of feet away. (While I want to see restaurant capacity increase, I’m not looking forward to Disney returning to uncomfortably close table spacing.)

Obviously, one example is not indicative of a larger trend. Geyser Point is particularly conducive to a rule relaxation since it’s a small outdoor venue, is incredibly popular, and appears to have sufficient staffing to accommodate many more guests. I guess we have no other choice but to make a ton more ADRs for this week to “research” where else there have been policy changes. Next stop, Whispering Canyon Cafe!  

In EPCOT news, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 will be quietly closing on June 27, 2021.

It’s our understanding that this is not permanent nor is it an actual refurbishment. (Keep in mind, the new film just opened last year.) Instead, the theater will be converted temporarily into EPCOT Food & Wine Festival space, as was the case a couple years ago for Appleseed Orchard.

We haven’t heard definitive confirmation yet, but our belief this is likely happening because World ShowPlace will return to being a private events space. With conventions and Food & Wine special ticketed events both likely to make a return this fall, that seems probable.

Still, a tough break for the Canada pavilion, which is already a veritable ghost town due to its shops still being closed. If World ShowPlace is out of commission, this leaves us wondering whether other unused venues around World Showcase might be temporarily converted to indoor food booths.

Speaking of tough breaks, Disney Vacation Club has once again raised the minimum number of points that must be purchased directly in order to receive and DVC Membership Card and thus qualify for Membership Extras. New Disney Vacation Club Members must now buy at least 150 points directly from DVC in order to access discounts on merchandise, dining, select theme park tickets, Moonlight Magic, and whatever other extras are introduced down the road. (Existing DVC Members are grandfathered in.)

This is the fourth time that Disney Vacation Club has increased the minimum in the last three years or so, during which time the threshold has doubled. This is undoubtedly due to increased competition from, and awareness of, the resale market. As always, we encourage you to read our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide to determine whether membership is right for you (it’s not for everyone!), if you should buy directly or via resale, the best home resort, etc.

Finally, BlogMickey.com is reporting a rumor that Magic Kingdom will be getting a projection show on Main Street for the World’s Most Magical Celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. While we cannot independently corroborate it, we view this rumor as credible.

We had recently received word about a new Magic Kingdom projection show for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, but not on Main Street. As I understood it, the rumored new offering would be more akin to Once Upon a Time; effectively a pre or post-show for Happily Ever After. There have also been rumors of a 50th Anniversary tag and a fully-fledged limited run fireworks show a la Disneyland Forever or Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland.

Fear not, Happily Ever After fans; in every (recent) incarnation of this rumor, that massively popular nighttime spectacular either runs during or returns after Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

It’s hard to assess the veracity of these rumors. There are a lot of people, departments, and external contractors involved with the production of nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World. It’s entirely possible that there are competing concepts or incomplete morsels of accurate info floating around.

It’s also possible October 1 will roll around and the only nighttime entertainment in Magic Kingdom will be Happily Ever After. Nothing is official until Walt Disney World announces it, and there’s understandably more fluidity to plans than normal right now. (But less so than only a few months ago–things are starting to firm up.)

Regardless, the Main Street projections make a lot of sense. It’s also something that could happen without regard for the “status” of the nighttime spectacular, be it Happily Ever After or a limited engagement 50th Anniversary show. (It should go without saying, but there will be nightly fireworks by October–likely well before then.)

Personally, I think a Main Street projections “show” is a brilliant idea. It’s also not a new one. Disneyland has been doing this since that park’s 60th Anniversary, with the Diamond Celebration fireworks having projections up and down Main Street. More recently, Mickey’s Mix Magic carried forward the legacy, often times minus pyro. Disneyland Forever and other fireworks have also since been modified to have a “B-mode” with projections and other effects only when it’s too windy for pyro, and this is pretty well received among California’s guests.

It’s a similar story at both Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.

At the latter, projections in World Bazaar have become standard beginning with the 35th Anniversary. Following that, seasonal shows were created for seasonal events, like Halloween and Christmas. In Japan, the projection mapping is more like a “magical moment,” a brief vignette that happens every so often throughout the night.

One unquestionable upside of the Main Street projection mapping is that it spreads out crowds during fireworks. This is hugely advantageous at Disneyland, where congestion in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle began hours before fireworks time.

The introduction of projections up and down Main Street helped spread guests out more, as there were many more interesting viewpoints and visuals. (Not relevant to Walt Disney World, but projections were also added to water screens on the Rivers of America and the facade of “it’s a small world” that helped tremendously.)

A more unsupported upside–my personal theory that I’ll share with you–is that projection mapping vignettes on Main Street throughout the night could increase per guest spending. (A metric over which Disney obsesses.)

One thing we noticed at Tokyo Disneyland after the introduction of the “Celebration Street” projection show was that a lot more guests congregated in World Bazaar throughout the night, as opposed to at the end of the evening. More guests in World Bazaar meant a steady flow of guests in and out of shops. It’s safe to assume that meant more merchandise sales. I’d be willing to bet that, whatever the cost of projection mapping on Main Street, it would more than pay for itself via Emporium receipts.

Ultimately, I’m just ready for something official about nighttime entertainment for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. As you can probably tell, the rumors have been a particular fixation of mine–but I’m not alone on that. “When will Fantasmic/Happily Ever After/fireworks at EPCOT return?” is an incredibly common reader question.

While that wasn’t the point of all the above commentary, signs continue to point to the next month or so for 2-3 of those nighttime offerings. Everything I’ve personally heard has put the return date shortly after July 4, but I’ve seen more recent rumblings elsewhere suggesting late June as a possibility. This is one time when I’d absolutely love to be wrong, as I’m personally very eager to see the return of fireworks at Walt Disney World. Just the fleeting glimpses of tests from our house in the last week have been fantastic. A whole show from inside the park is going to, as the kids say, “melt my mind.

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 latest roundup of Walt Disney World news & rumors? Optimistic or pessimistic about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Thoughts on the rumored Main Street projections? What about nighttime spectaculars returning and/or debuting for the World’s Most Magical Celebration? Feedback or opinions on anything else covered here? 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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