Seven Ways Walt Disney World is Transforming the Parks Before the 50th Anniversary

Anniversaries are always treated as a big deal at the Disney Parks. These celebrations have varied over the years, from the massively successful worldwide Happiest Celebration on Earth that marked Disneyland’s 50th birthday in 2005 to the… um… less well-regarded pink “Pepto Bismol” birthday cake overlay that took over Cinderella Castle for Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary in 1996. So far, it seems like Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration, set to commence in 2021, will be closer to the pomp and circumstance of the former without the questionable color choices of the latter.

These are 7 of the biggest ways Walt Disney World is transforming in preparation for its 50th birthday.

Concept Art ©Disney Parks Blog

Epcot Transformed

The largest single transformation occurring at least in part for the 50th is taking place at Epcot. The entire front half of the park, which has been known as Future World since it opened in 1982, is being completely transformed. The area will consist of three neighborhoods: World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration, boasting attractions including the new PLAY! pavilion, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster, a Moana-themed area called Journey of Water, and revamped Spaceship Earth.

Dreamers Point Concept Art ©Disney

World Showcase isn’t being transformed to that degree, however the area will see new films in three countries (China, Canada, and France) and attractions based on Ratatouille and Mary Poppins added to the France and U.K. pavilions respectivelyWe know that some of these new additions will be complete in time for the 50thRatatouille, PLAY!, and Guardians of the Galaxy are expected by 2021. We’ll be watching for more information on the Future World transformation completion date as well.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Do we really have to explain this one at this point? The mammoth Star Wars-themed land opened at Hollywood Studios in 2019, complete with Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, lightsabers, droids, and all the Blue Milk one can drink. As if that’s not enough, Rise of the Resistance – one of the most technically advanced attractions Disney has ever created – is opened at Disney World in late 2019, well ahead of the 2021 anniversary celebration.


Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

In addition to Galaxy’s Edge, Hollywood Studios also saw the opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in March 2020. The Mickey-centric attraction is sure to bring in larger crowds to the Park, especially since it’s taking up residence in the Park icon previously occupied by the Great Movie Ride. The Runaway Railway puts guests inside a Mickey Mouse cartoon world, with guests riding in a train, naturally! 

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Concept Art

Tron Lightcycle Run

With all the changes coming to Epcot and Hollywood Studios coming in preparation for the 50th, it can sometimes feel like the Magic Kingdom is getting the short end of the stick. However, Walt Disney World’s original Florida Park has some major changes of its own coming up. The first, and largest, is the Tron Lightcycle Run coaster currently being built in Tomorrowland. A clone of the attraction at Shanghai Disneyland, the launched steel coaster is sure to thrill guests when it opens in 2021.

Tron Attraction Concept Art ©Disney

A Whole New (Small) World

It’s a Small World has been one of Disney’s best known attractions since it debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair, and it is a cornerstone at nearly every Disney Resort in the world. Leading into the 50th, the Magic Kingdom’s opening day-version is getting an injection of character… Disney character, that is. Representations of Disney characters done in the classic Mary Blair style of the ride’s dolls will be added to the attraction at thematically appropriate points, much as they have been in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and the original version located in Disneyland.

it’s a small world

Disney Skyliner

With all these new attractions being built, it’s no surprise that Disney needed to do something to alleviate the pressure on the Resort’s already-taxed transportation system. Their solution is the Skyliner, a gondola system that links Epcot, Hollywood Studios, the Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, the Caribbean Beach Resort, and the upcoming Riviera Resort. The new system opened in September 2019, and the Skyliner is expected be a major part of Walt Disney World’s transportation system for years to come.

Disney Skyliner Gondola Unwrapped

Disney Genie App

Not much is known about how the Disney Genie app, which was first announced at the 2019 D23 Expo, will work. What we do know is that the app will launch in 2020, just ahead of the 50th, and will “streamline planning experiences including both Dining and Fast Pass Reservations, offering a complete Disney Vacation experience crafted specifically for you.”

D23 Expo 2019

Click here for more information from the D23 Expo!

Which of these changes are you looking forward to the most as Walt Disney World’s 50th birthday draws closer? Let us know in the comments below.

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