Walt Disney himself was a big fan of change. He liked to talk about change for progress, and We have many dating walls around Disney World to remind us.
Walt saw Disney Parks as a living experience; to keep up with the changing times, he hoped the parks would adapt and grow to stay relevant. But 2021 has been * quite * the year of Disney’s changes. And some changes really caught us off guard, for better or for worse.
Much of the change we have seen throughout 2021 has been a direct result of the 2020 shutdown and reopening. Security measures and new rules took root to protect guests and at the same time restore that Disney “magic” that many lost. (Speaking from personal experience, of course.)
So even though there have been so many changes at Disney World lately, we will focus more on the BIG changes that occurred in 2021 as a direct result of the subsequent shutdown.
How it will affect the 10 biggest Disney World changes of the year on your next trip
Mask warrants and social distancing have been lifted while Park Pass reservations remain
Disney World closed its doors to the public from March 15, 2020 and remained closed until its gradual reopening in July 2020. – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom reopened on July 11, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT reopened on July 15.
But Disney World was not the same. Upon reopening, masks were required for all cast members and guests 2 years or older.
Social distancing was also mandatory. Attractions, attractions, and queued fast service locations had social distance markers to help guests stay 6 feet away from other guests who were not part of their travel group. Any guest you’ve visited during these moments will probably have fond (or not so grateful) memories of making the awkward mix of “keeping your distance” online so you don’t run into other guests ’area!
In addition, Disney’s trips enforced social distancing as it only seated guests in the other rows of attractions. Plexiglas barriers were also placed at attractions and queues to take additional precautions.
Many of these security protocols have been downsized since the initial reopening, but with Delta’s COVID variants and now Omicron, we’re still watching to see if those guidelines could return.
NEWS: New facial mask rules announced for Universal Orlando
To help regulate the flow of crowds and manage and control the capacity of the park, Disney also implemented a park pass reservation system. Now, after purchasing your Disney Park pass, you will need to make a reservation for the day you wish to visit.
If you tried to make a reservation on a day that was already booked, you should try to book one for a later date. But, even if you bought a ticket earlier, you will not be allowed to enter the park unless you have made a reservation.
Nearly a year later, on June 15, 2021, the warrant was lifted for fully vaccinated guests EXCEPT while traveling with Disney transportation. (ie: Skyliner, buses and monorail). However, in July 30, 2021, after the CDC updated its guidelines by suggesting that everyone wear masks inside, Disney World began requiring masks inside again.
Social distancing measures were also relaxed. We started to see all the rows of attractions full and the plexiglass barriers started to disappear, although they are still maintained in many guest service places.
Instead of a 6-foot social distance, Disney had all the light reduce distancing. The seemingly long queues that stretched WELL beyond the entrance to the attractions (due to forced spacing) were no longer, for the most part!
That said, not * everything * started to be the same again. Today, guests still have to make a season ticket reservation at the park after purchasing a ticket to the park. Park pass reservations will remain in force in 2022.
Click HERE for a step-by-step guide to booking a pass for Disney World!
Hotels, restaurants and shows reopen
Although Disney reopened last year, we still lacked much of what made these parks our “happy places.” A selection of experiences was kept closed or limited / modified for guest security.
But in 2021 we saw these experiences to start come back. Happily Ever After and EPCOT Forever returned to dazzle guests with their spectacular nightly fireworks on July 1 – Just in time for July 4th! But these celebrations were only until October 1st. Then they were replaced by ALL new fireworks shows for the 50th anniversary of Disney World!
On May 8 we were able to see A Festival of the Lion King return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – in a modified way. Now renamed to A celebration of the Feast of the Lion King to illustrate that this is not the full version of the show. That said, the cast members and puppets of the lion king bigger than life are as entertaining and talented as ever.
Turned on August 15th, Beauty and the Beast – Live On Stage returned to Hollywood studios at the Teatre de les Estrelles. And December saw the return of the Indiana Jones Stunt Show.
Preliminary shows for walks also started to reappear! Now, we can hack into computer systems with Dr. Seeker at Dinosaur !, experience the stretching room next to the Ghost Host at Haunted Mansion, design our own cars to compete on the test track, plus so many other experiences we didn’t realize. we would miss them a lot until they disappeared.
Almost all Disney resorts are also in operation, except Disney’s All-Star Sports – This reopening has been delayed and will not reopen until the spring of 2022.
Some of our favorite restaurants are up and running too! We were delighted to return to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village on July 9th and try these delicious Ohana noodles again. (We were worried about never seeing them again …)
Sebastian’s Bistro at Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Cape May Café at Disney’s Beach Club reopened with Prix-set menus which still feature tasty classics.
And let’s not forget Casey’s Corner reopening at Magic Kingdom on June 30th! (Sure we can’t forget. Oh, corn puppies, how we missed you!)
I and I we have to see Plaza Ice Cream Parlor also reopens at Magic Kingdom! July 7th, we got to know each other again with that sweet and delicious ice cream. (And peanut butter sauce! Mmmm …)
The 10 most important changes that will come to Disney World in 2022
Returning the extra magic hours (sort of) and Disney Genie
Before the break, Disney World parks had a little thing called Extra Magic Hours.
On certain days for certain parks, Disney Resort guests could enter the parks an hour earlier or stay in the parks normally two hours later at no additional cost. When reopened, however, these benefits were suspended.
Disney regained early access to the theme park for guests at the resort from October 1st. (But this time it’s different.)
If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can enter ANY of the parks 30 minutes before the parks open. The downside? Disney has reduced the time! We used to be able to get in and eliminate at least two high-priced attractions before the crowds arrived during that first hour.
The rise? This advantage of the resort is not for certain days in certain parks. You can enter ANY park 30 minutes in advance whenever you want. (Of course, this is subject to change depending on the circumstances, but this is the main thing).
But what about overtime? Disney has returned them too – but they are much more limited than they were before.
If you want to stay in a Disney park after it is closed, note that:
- These extended schedules will be the same as the old system. (Select days for selected parks)
- Only those staying in luxury resorts or villas will have access to this extended hours.
We’re not going to lie, folks. That was a bit of a shock (but also … not really). We’ve been seeing a lot of Disney doing this lately. Overall, it seems the more guests are willing to spend on parks and resorts, the more benefits they receive. And that is mostly understandable. If you want to spend more money to stay in a luxury resort, do it!
However, experiences that were previously free are beginning to become “paid perks” rather than “perks included” for Disney guests. (We’re watching you, parking lot of the resort.) So now, let’s talk about it Disney Genie, Disney Genie + and selection of individual attractions – and this was probably the biggest change we’ve seen at Disney World! These are the programs that have basically replaced the old FastPass and yes, you have to pay for this FastPass access (now called Lightning Lane) now.
The genius of Disney is a planning tool for the My Disney Experience app that helps you organize your daily itinerary at Disney World (learn more about using it here). Despite this, Disney Genie + is a service for which you pay a surcharge ($ 15 a day at Disney World) that allows you to reserve access to Lightning Lane at certain attractions. But this daily charge does not include ALL trips, because some of the most popular trips use the Individual selection of attractions Genie feature, which carries a separate cost per trip (with a maximum of two per day, per person) and this cost may vary.
It may sound a little confusing or overwhelming, but we’re here to help and we’ve done our best to break it down, so be sure to check it out! And as we said, this was the biggest change of the year, if not the decade, so there is still a lot to process here!
Check out the most expensive Disney World stuff that’s still worth doing HERE!
These big Disney changes may have even taken Walt Disney by surprise. But, as we quote the same man over and over again, “Let’s move on …” And as we do, we’ll keep you posted on all the changes so you can be ready for your next Disney World vacation. !
What Disney World change has had the most impact on you this year? Let us know in the comments below!