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Theme Park News: On Disney World's birthday, old favorites leave and new updates arrive

By Carlye Wisel
theme park news birthady

Happy 37th Birthday, Epcot! We love you for your pioneering attractions, appreciate your encouragement to party around the world, and adore how you've masked yourself as a millennial with those sherbert-colored Spaceship Earth walls. You seem a bit young for such a major facelift, but we think you'll look quite good with that new look. (Just like Magic Kingdom, who turns 47 today, that ol' dawg!)

Speaking of Epcot, I always thought my peak of poor nutritional consumption came from housing bags upon bags of caramel corn from at the park's Germany pavilion, but yesterday at a chic Rosh Hashanah dinner we ordered a *full loaf of bread* for the table (challah forever!). Anyway, enough of the dumb real world, let's take a trip to the happiest and most magical places on earth for some major changes and a small freakout from yours truly:


With today's sunrise came the ending of a Disney era. Main Street Electrical Parade completed its surprise return run at Disneyland on Sunday while last night, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth took its final bow after two decades of Epcot performances.

Disneyland will fill the spinning turtle void with an afternoon character cavalcade and the short return of Mickey's Mix Magic once Halloween Screams concludes its holiday run at the end of October, but on the other coast, it's crazy that there will soon be something different — possibly very different — coming to Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon next year.


As much as the outspoken fans (my people!!) like to bemoan mass-scale changes, allow the funeral proceedings for this one to be short and sweet because tonight brings the very first night of EPCOT FOREVER, which happens to be my default mood since D23 Expo last month. Out with the old and in with the somewhat possibly old, baby! (I pray for a fireworks-and-effects show that's pure fan service, filled with Figment and featuring a water projection screen of Mickey and Minnie in those iconic vintage costumes. A girl can dream!!)

If this all still seems like a lot to wrap your mind around, this is... kind of the pace we'll be moving at until 2021; lickety-split, the whole way through. From Space Mountain changing its automatic walkway to a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster to Oga's Cantina price increases to a snazzy hotel tower at Disney's Coronado Springs, I've felt inundated with change all day every day for the past two years. Still, somewhere between the Skyliner opening and writing a Star Wars story last night, it hit me that everything happening at once just gives us so much to look forward to.

We have new restaurants coming, new shows, new hotels, new rides. Walt Disney World will zoom straight to the proverbial moon when it opens three trackless ride systems — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, and Remy's Ratatouille Adventure — within less than a year of each other. Three!!! From zero!!! (And don't @ me that Tower of Terror's Fifth Dimension scene is trackless, there's a wire and I already conferred with my Disney writers group chat earlier today okaaay).

Yes, all of the vast changes on the way (and the preview center for said changes) are a lot to take in, but turn to the lyrics that have wafted out over its own country pavilions for the past 20 years:

We go on, through the joy and through the tears. We go on, to discover new frontiers. Moving on, with the current of the years.

I'm not going to say the words from IllumiNations' song are prophetic...well yes, that's exactly what I'm going to say. We are on the precipice of some major changes, people. And if you're not somewhat excited, you're doing it wrong.


There is another side to that coin, though, and it drops at the monorail stop closest to the Magic Kingdom. Guys, I don't want to, but we have to talk about Enchanted Rose, the Beauty and the Beast-inspired lounge coming to the Grand Floridian this fall.

I nearly fell out of my desk chair when I came upon this while watching WDW Prep School's Instagram stories last week:

This is a photo taken from inside Disney's turn-of-the-century Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

I'm torn because the furniture is lovely. I like it! This trickled-down mid-century modern aesthetic is my city-dwelling, Instagram-obsessed style on high. I will eat here, many times over, and enjoy flopping my jort-wrapped butt down on those velvet-wrapped chairs at the end of a brutally long day, even if those jewel-toned beauties should absolutely not be here.

But unlike a storied building juxtaposing modern design for a specific aesthetic like that of Le Bon Marché's famed shoe lounge in Paris, the layering of themes is confounding here at Enchanted Rose. Disney Parks & Resorts understand better than anyone the meticulous difficulty of shoehorning a cinematic property into a theme park, which is why storytelling is at the core of everything — everything — Walt Disney Imagineering creates. It's why Peter Quill had to have traveled to Epcot as a child for the new Guardians coaster to make sense, or the last-minute outdoor fans added to Batuu during the heatwave of Galaxy's Edge's opening weekend needed to be painted and patinated. No one understands that everything has to serve the higher power of story more than the folks at Imagineering.

So why, in the good name of Maurice, are these wildly out-of-theme items sitting on the second floor of the Grand?!

This is a Victorian-style resort hotel harkening back to the 1890s Floridian plantation houses, with delicate touches, maroon turrets, and an unwavering sense of opulence in the air. Grand Floridian is Disney's priciest deluxe resort and with good reason: it's inherently magical. It's one monorail stop away from the flagship park, a quick boat ride from the glimmering lights of Cinderella Castle. There's live jazz in the lobby each night, large-scale floral arrangements abounding, and a 14-foot-tall gingerbread house in the wintertime that sells, wouldn't you know it, shingles of gingerbread. For this dreamy, delightfully vintage-leaning resort to jump about 70 years ahead up two flights of carpeted stairs makes absolutely no sense, thematically.

But, to play devil's advocate, it also doesn't make sense that Mickey runs his own kitchen buffet in the atrium of Disney's Contemporary Resort. I'm almost left itching with the thought — should it matter if a fancy lounge with great food and strong drinks is loosely Beauty and the Beast-inspired? — and here's what it is. This furniture, while beautiful, is neither pastoral France nor turn-of-the-century Florida. It doesn't fit either a Beauty and the Beast theme, nor does it fit Grand Floridian's.

It's entirely something else, an ambiguous third entry that introduces something lovely at the offset of skimming down the core concept. This offset isn't just happening here, either. As a new Princess and the Frog restaurant is slated to open in a new picturesque nature resort instead of Disney's not one but two New Orleans-themed hotels, it makes you wonder about theming's importance. And once you start to question why anything is this way at all, well, it all begins to unravel. I think this bar will likely have great bites, strong drinks, and be the ideal place to crash after a busy day in the parks. But should it look like this? I'm not sure.


Hello and welcome to price increase season, which began today. Disney Food Blog is on the case and covering every single change across Walt Disney World — head there to read through the details — but many of your favorite snacks now cost more than they did yesterday. Well, unless you drink a lot of milk. Then you'll have enough to toss me your spare change to cover the $2 increase for refillable popcorn buckets ughhhhhhh.

Brendon Urie performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango


- The best take on Panic! at the Disco covering songs off the Frozen II album.

- I love this bit about author Ann Patchett being bowled over by Disney Cruise Line.

- You know what rhymes with gratuitous self-plug? My new food guide to Universal Orlando Resort for Eater.

- I have... no idea what's going on here.

- This item is limited to *slowly puts on glasses* 1 per guest.

- My favorite Disney executive is going to run my favorite Disney resort and I couldn't be happier about it!!!!

- Take note: There are some important changes coming to ECV, stroller, and wheelchair rentals at Walt Disney World.

- Lol my job is absolutely rotting my brain.

- Fellow nacho cheese obsessers: I will be on the case the moment I arrive at Orlando next week.

- If you missed the Epcot merch at D23 Expo 2019, well, it looks like the leftovers have landed... at Epcot.