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Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Hits & Misses

“The Most Magical Celebration on Earth” kicked off today for the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort with lots of classic Disney magic, high (and then low) crowds in the theme parks, surprise freebies, new food and entertainment, and largely mixed reviews from Guests. Let’s unpack what the celebration has been like so far…

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The 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World brought with it two new nighttime spectaculars, Harmonious and Disney Enchantment. Harmonious, in EPCOT, was live streamed by the Disney Parks Blog and left many fans with incredibly mixed reviews. What was marketed as the biggest nighttime spectacular Walt Disney World has ever pulled off fell flat for some Guests who were expecting more from the show, especially with the barges that many consider to be a real eye sore in World Showcase Lagoon. On the positive side, some of the music (which features artists from all over the world covering classic Disney songs) was quite good, the show as a whole however did not seem impressive to a fair number of fans.

The following night the Disney Parks Blog live streamed Disney Enchantment, the new fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. Reviews from fans were mild compared to Harmonious, but many were still on the fence at best about whether these fireworks were an adequate replacement for Happily Ever After, which fans generally loved. Fans cited the lack of cohesive storytelling and emotion in Disney Enchantment, especially when compared to Happily Ever After or its predecessor, Wishes, for the mixed reviews.

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Disney KiteTails debuted as a daytime activation in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it was met with lots of memes and many fans’ declarations that the show was essentially hilariously bad. The show features kites of classic Disney animals pulled by jet skis, plus live music and performers in front of the theater, and after a series of rough landings (and an overturned jet ski) as well as characters that vary wildly from their concept art, fans were once again…mixed.

There have been lots of positive new experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort so far in terms of the 50th anniversary openings and offerings– For one, LOTS of entertainment is coming back around the Walt Disney World Resort. Returning entertainment includes the Matsuriza Taiko Drummers, Sergio, and Alberta Bound in EPCOT, and the piano player at Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom, plus a brand new Magic Kingdom cavalcade for the 50th anniversary.

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New merchandise, especially the 50th anniversary collection and the Vault collections has been a hit, too, and Guests in the Magic Kingdom are enjoying this year’s extra magical pumpkin decorations along Main Street U.S.A. In EPCOT, Space 220 Restaurant recently opened, as well as the Creations Shop and Club Cool, all of which are generally receiving more positive Guest feedback. We also received some updates on the new Genie+ platform that is coming soon.

We were also recently given a vague opening timeline for the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction, new details on booking first stays aboard the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, but a variety of 50th anniversary dining options and the Fab 50 character statue collection. Guests visiting the park today were also treated to free Disney PhotoPass downloads of pictures taken today only.

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While it may seem underwhelming (and we were honestly expecting more announcements to be made throughout the day today), we think it is important to remember that the 50th anniversary though obviously a meaningful celebration was preceded by an unprecedented global pandemic that surely put a wrench in some of the expected offerings. As the parks recover some more, and society continues to reopen, we do expect to hear more exciting announcements from Walt Disney World.

And in the meantime, we are so looking forward to celebrating this year! We can’t wait to see Disney Enchantment in person and to try some of the unique 50th anniversary menu items. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on “The Most Magical Celebration on Earth” so far on Facebook!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."