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Disney World: 50 Years of Magic

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the happiest place on Earth.

Written by: Andrea Brazis

“Welcome to the most magical place on Earth!” Hint: it’s not Cleveland.

The classic story of Disney began with a man, a mouse, and a dream. This simple but strong foundation led Walt Disney to create what would turn into one of the most popular tourist spots to ever exist.

Now, Disney World is officially celebrating 50 years of bringing magic to life. This magical celebration began on October 1, 2021, which was exactly 50 years after it officially opened in 1971.

One of the most fascinating changes for the celebration was the theme parks’ transformations into “beacons of magic.” The “beacons of magic” serve as celebratory 50th masterpieces that represent the beauty of Disney and showcases the magic of the Imagineers. Shimmering lights and iridescent colors encapsulate the four park icons: Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios.

Amongst these four icons, Spaceship Earth is by far the most impressive, featuring reflective panels that create a starry night illusion. An article by DisneyTouristBlog says “unlike the other Beacons of Magic, these are the only permanent new lighting that will continue beyond ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ as a defining feature of reimagined Epcot.”

A variety of new attractions and experiences hit Disney’s celebration last year — and more are still on their way, as this 18-month celebration continues through all of 2022 and a few months into 2023.

Disney Enchantment is a brand-new nighttime spectacular firework show that debuted in Magic Kingdom, taking the place of the beloved Happily Ever After show. Dazzling new lights, fireworks, and projections illuminate the Castle Courtyard and Main Street, U.S.A, accompanied by an original song by 7-time Grammy award-winning songwriter Philip Lawrence.

Harmonious is another firework show that earned a spot in the 50th Anniversary Celebration. It features floating set pieces, choreographed fountains, lasers, lights, original soundtracks and so much more. The artistry of this show is nothing short of phenomenal; it’s a beautiful tribute representing many of the beautiful countries featured on the World Showcase. Projected scenes from animated Disney movies beautifully showcase pieces of world cultures using: “Beauty and the Beast” (France), “Brave” (Scotland), “Coco” (Mexico), “Mulan” (China), and “The Lion King” (Africa).

Entertainment aside, there’s still a wide variety of attractions and entities that have recently emerged.

After what’s felt like a lifetime, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has finally opened in Epcot. This 4D ride takes guests on a trip through Gusteau’s restaurant, from Remy’s point of view; the cute animation and low intensity makes it perfect for guests of all ages. Die-hard “Ratatouille” fans are sure to adore this ride.

Another unique experience has been created called the “Disney Fab 50 Character Collection.” Fifty golden sculptures of various Disney characters are located throughout all four theme parks, with each sculpture paying homage to the past, present and future of Disney World.

Eventually, some of these sculptures will be interactive for guests using the new versions of the Disney MagicBands. An article by DisneyParksBlog dives into more detail regarding this addition and all the magical chaos attached.

Disney World is based around the ideas of imagination and dreams. So yes, you can imagine that the prices are cheap; you can dream of having a loaded wallet — but this doesn’t make it reality. Following your dreams is expensive.

There’s a million and one things that you could spend a wad of money on in Disney, and believe it or not, food can put one of the biggest dents in your budget . Disney has undoubtedly upped the ante with their food and snack selections, in addition to the amount of festivals and celebrations within the 50th, including the Festival of the Arts and the Flower and Garden Festival.

New menu items include: Walter’s chili-cheese dogs and fries, Mickey Mouse Dome cakes, the EARidescent Firefly Mocktail, the 50th Celebration Ice Cream Sandwich, the Shimmer Over the Moon cocktail, the EARidescent Croissant Doughnut, and the 50th Anniversary Dessert.

In addition to the menu items, a new restaurant has also made way into the Disney theme parks: Space 220. This stellar experience is out-of-this-world! Space 220 doubles as both a restaurant and an immersive experience. From the moment you step in, you are transported to the space station, where you will board an elevator and travel “220 miles into outer space.” Reservations go quickly and are difficult to secure, so make sure to check this one out ASAP.

Unfortunately, all the magic in the world can’t battle the villains of reality. In 2020, the coronavirus struck violently, creating a worldwide panic. On March 15, 2020, Disney World shut down for the first time since 2015. According to an article by WFTV9, Disney lost nearly $7 billion due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

When Disney reopened in July of 2020, it was like no time had passed at all. Crowd numbers quickly surged and slowly but surely, pieces of the park came back to life.

Since the start of this pandemic, Disney has made every effort to make guests feel comfortable and safe when visiting the parks while still enjoying the magic. Masks and vaccinations have been strongly encouraged, in addition to social distancing markers and new virtual ride queues. Although these changes were initially made as a result of the pandemic, they’ve proven to be permanently helpful.

As CDC guidelines are constantly shifting, Disney is continually doing their best to adjust accordingly. The well-being of their guests is Disney’s top priority.

The magic of Disney World has lived on for 50 fantastic years. It caters to people of all ages, from 5-year-old kids to adults who simply want to unleash the freedom and imagination of their inner child. Disney is undoubtedly the perfect fantasy getaway for people who are willing to let their imagination take flight and believe in the magic of Disney.

Walt Disney once said, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” It’s the dreams of the guests and the magic of the cast members that make Disney one-of-a-kind, in the best way.


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