How Disney World Has Become Unrecognizable in the Past Two Years

Disney World has seen an inordinate amount of change in the last two years!

Disney World has seen some big changes recently!

The pandemic shut down the parks and when things reopened, they were very different than what we’d seen before. We’ve seen health and safety measures, operational changes, and old features and offerings disappear in the past several months — so much so that Disney World is almost unrecognizable!

Health and Safety

When the Disney World parks and resorts first reopened in mid-2020, there were quite a few new health and safety measures in place. For a while, we had things like social distancing ground markers and mandatory temperature screenings.

Animal Kingdom Face Mask Signage

Now, there aren’t as many health and safety measures around — it’s mostly just modified offerings and suggestions to wear a mask indoors. But if you’d asked any of us a few years ago about “health and safety” in the parks, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to predict the way that things are now!

Old health and safety signage in Disney World

Resort Perks

Before the pandemic, there were several perks to staying onsite at Disney World, including Extra Magic Hours, an early FastPass booking window, Disney’s Magical Express, free MagicBands, and the opportunity to book the Disney Dining Plan. Now, all of those offerings are unavailable or suspended.

Early Theme Park Entry for Resort Guests

Now, free MagicBands, FastPasses, Extra Magic Hours are no more, and Disney’s Magical Express are no more. Instead, Disney Resort guests get perks like Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours (for guests of Deluxe Resorts), as well as first choice at Individual Attraction Selections with the new Disney Genie+ system. One day we’ll see the return of the dining plan, but so far no date has been announced.

You will be missed, Magical Express!

Entertainment Options

One of the ways that the parks look the most different now is in the entertainment division. Some shows haven’t yet reopened, and those that are open currently look pretty different than they did before the closure. Performers are socially distanced when on the stage, which requires smaller casts and altered versions of choreography.

Finding Nemo the Musical

This is particularly noticeable at Festival of the Lion King, where the formerly 30-minute show is currently missing fan-favorite segments like the tumble monkeys and the flying birds. 

Festival of the Lion King

Besides the altered performances, we also haven’t seen the comeback of some daytime parades or castle stage shows like they were pre-COVID. 

Hi Mickey!


If you’re heading to Disney World soon and you haven’t been in a few years, you may be surprised by the way that planning for your day has changed. Now, you’ll be doing a lot more digital navigating ahead of and during your trip, and the park hours may not be quite what you were used to before the closures.


Disney Genie and Genie+ just launched recently and brought with them an entirely new list of features to navigate. The free Genie feature in the My Disney Experience app will help you with planning your day in the parks, as long as you tell it your preferences ahead of time. Genie+ is the paid replacement for FastPass, and it’s a bit more complex to navigate, but is very similar to the old MaxPass system in Disneyland Resort.



Another thing that has seen some BIG alterations in Disney World is dining! Nowadays, you’ll make dining reservations 60 days in advance instead of 180, Mobile Order is less of a perk and more of a necessity, and restaurants may have lower capacities than what was previously available.

Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

Regular character meals are also not back yet, with modified versions instead where characters keep a safe distance. And meals with “face characters” haven’t returned in any fashion, except for the small appearance that Cinderella makes at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Some buffet restaurants are serving food family style instead.

Enjoy a character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace in Disney’s Riviera Resort!

On top of that, multiple new restaurants have opened up in the past few months. The highly-anticipated Space 220 is accepting guests in EPCOT, along with the new La Crêperie de Paris in the France Pavilion. And Steakhouse 71 has replaced The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Space 220 Dining Room

50th Anniversary Offerings

Disney World kicked off its 50th Anniversary on October 1st, and it has been heralded by celebrations of varying proportions across all four parks. New entertainment has come to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom in the form of two new fireworks shows and a daytime show that you definitely don’t want to miss!

Disney Enchantment

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened officially with the expansion of the France pavilion, making a great new addition to EPCOT! And around all the parks, you can find more than 150 new snacks and treats to celebrate the special occasion, as well as unique decor, like the Disney Fab 50 character statues.

50th Anniversary in Magic Kingdom


Last but not least, let’s discuss construction. If you haven’t been the parks in a while, you’ll be noticing more construction walls than you did on your last visit!

Construction at EPCOT

EPCOT is in the middle of a massive park-wide transformation, and the center of what used to be Future World is now demolished. There are some new additions in the form of the France expansion, the new Creations Shop, and the reimagined Club Cool location.

The NEW Club Cool

The Tron coaster is currently under construction in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, with no set opening date on the horizon. We will, however, be getting a new coaster at EPCOT on May 27, 2022 with the addition of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in the former location of Universe of Energy.

TRON construction

And many resorts have seen refurbishments recently, with new guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian Resorts, as well as updated rooms at some of the Value Resorts. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort got a whole new look to go with the Moana rooms, including a brand-new monorail station!

Moana-themed rooms at the Polynesian

There have been quite a few changes in the last couple of years at Disney World, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! If Disney weren’t constantly trying to improve the parks and resorts, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Animal Kingdom

If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World soon, stay tuned to AllEars for the latest news and updates on all the things you need to know — we’ve got you covered with every big change that comes!

35 Ways Disney World Will Be Different Next Year — Click Here!

What changes have been the best in Disney World? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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6 Replies to “How Disney World Has Become Unrecognizable in the Past Two Years”

  1. I just returned from a 10day stay. If this doing change I don’t see that happening again. It was the most expensive okayest vacation I have ever been on! I remember “Magical Moments”, I remember lunch at “Be Our Guest”, food and snacks so good I couldn’t get enough. The Disney World I just left is not the Disney I remember. I really believe that the powers that be have forgotten what/who Walt built the parks for. It wasn’t for the cash, it wasn’t for only the rich it was for memories and families. I have never been so angry as I was when I was standing in line waiting for the Little Mermaid Adventure in Magic Kingdom as I was when the dad of a family right in front of me said very loudly I can’t wait until it reach 9pm when all the “common people” have to leave so we can finally enjoy the park! Is that what Walt wanted? To create and environment of looking down on others?? I will have you know I spent almost $4000 just myself for my trip not count the other 3 family members that were with me. Yet, no perks were seen by us “common people”. Maybe the powers that be need to visit Marceline, MO and tour the museum there and listen to Walt tell you what he was thinking when he came up with and created the parks. I’m so disappointed. I do not see another trip for me or my family anytime soon. It breaks my heart I love Disney but what I experienced was not the Disney I know. What I experienced shows it’s all about the CASH not about the Mouse 😞

  2. We had annual passes but didn’t renew last year and won’t be back any time soon. We would pop over for dinner and to walk around the parks just to relax but now you have to plan every second. Who wants to plan your vacation in that way when your every day life is already so structured?

  3. You know what else is unrecognizable? The fact that Chapek and Disney have lost touch with their fan base and families. Disney’s never ending price increases and benefit/perk cuts to DVC, AP holders and even the cast members has reached all time highs. My family and I have been DVC members since 2007 and we have opted to bank or sell our points until things change for the better. Sadly, based on the current leadership (looking at you Bob Chapek) I don’t see things getting better any time soon.

  4. Just returned from ten days in Disney World. All the parks were a lot of fun, yet memories of a few short years ago abound. Food is crazier(yes I ate a chicken sandwich on a donut). Many people wearing shirts that champion alcohol, drinking, wine, etc. I wonder if Disney can tape off areas for a calvalcade, why not a parade? I was shocked at all the Epcot construction as seen from the monorail. Completion seems far away, yet, Disney can move into high gear to get things done when they want to. People who must walk from parking lots to main gate are crazy. That’s such a distance! There must be a shortage of tram drivers. We visited the Animal Kingdom on a Monday. Attractions were available, yet the park felt flat. Bird show was canceled right in the middle of the performance because of a few raindrops. It never rained. There was no music, no dancing, no Giant Kevin bird walking about. And why does the safari have so many empty water areas? Drivers seem to be adding comedy to their commentary. It’s like jungle cruise/ safari. Not a bad idea. At Hollywood Studios, we enjoyed a performance of Beauty and the Beast. It was a shorter version with fewer performers. Gaston was great! Keeping performers six feet apart was awkward. Imagine Belle comforting the dying Beast from six feet away. And dancing far apart. At least they tried! At Hollywood Studios, Rise of the Resistance was shut down. Just as we walked by, it reopened! We jumped in line and enjoyed that attraction very much. No cash needed! Overall our vacation was so much fun! Each visit brings us closer to a 100% full functioning Disney World. Keep moving forward

  5. I went the year Disney world opened. And have gone every year since except for COVID year.

    I will never return. They have messed it up so bad it can never be the same magical experience. Sorry Disney.