Walt Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021, and let the festivities last for a year and a half, with plans of ending on March 31, 2023. Like most Disney megafans, I was sure to visit the Happiest Place on Earth during The World’s Most Magical Celebration when I vacationed at Disney World in Fall 2022.
Attending the celebration almost a year in allowed me to get a full experience long after the party died down in the parks, and catch some things that won’t be returning after the anniversary while also experiencing a few that will.
Spotting Golden Statues
One of the ways WDW made its 50th-anniversary extra special was by propping up 50 interactive golden statues of various characters throughout all four parks. And while I definitely didn’t find all 50, I spotted a few favorites during my trip.
The details of Miguel’s guitar on his statue in EPCOT really stood out, and spotting Cheshire Cat’s statue up in a tree by the Mad Tea Party was an extra magical touch. Simba’s and Timon and Pumbaa’s statues greeted you on your way to the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom, and I just had to run and snag a photo of Woody and Bo Peep’s statue before leaving Hollywood Studios.
I also had the opportunity to catch the exclusive statues put out during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, including Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald decked out in their Halloween costumes, which made for a unique addition to my first Halloween party.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Opens
The news of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening at EPCOT on WDW’s 50th anniversary was exciting for this Pixar lover, and I finally had the chance to ride it on this trip. It was just a little over an hour wait despite the wait time claiming to be two hours, and I’d say the queue experience is just as fun as the ride, especially the moment you walk past Gusteau’s illuminating sign and get an unexpected surprise.
A perfect addition to the France Pavillion, the ride is everything you’d expect it to be as you shrink to the size of a rat and scurry around the restaurant, running into some 3D familiar faces from the film.
One of the things I was most excited about was seeing Harmonious, especially as someone who regrettably never saw IllumiNations during its 20-year run. But this time, I made sure to ask a cast member for the best viewing spot (which they said was in the American Adventure Pavillion), grab some popcorn, and experience this show that combines world culture with the beautiful music of Disney films.
I’ll admit, I didn’t take a single photo or video during the show, allowing myself to become immersed in the experience and enjoy the fireworks that lit the sky above Spaceship Earth in the distance to the sounds of Miguel’s guitar, Merida’s Celtic classic and the waves of Moana’s favorite place, among many others.
Harmonious is expected to be replaced by EPCOT Forever starting April 3, 2023, so catch this musical celebration while you can!
Saying Hello and Goodbye to Disney KiteTails
Disney KiteTails debuted in Animal Kingdom on the 50th anniversary, but became a shortlived show when the kites to took the sky for a final time on September 30, 2022, just a day shy of its one-year anniversary and Disney World’s 51st anniversary.
The sole reason for going to Animal Kingdom on this trip was to catch KiteTails before it ended, and I had the most memorable experience of saying hello and goodbye to the show. After grabbing some lunch to-go at Flame Tree Barbecue, I ate in the shaded dining spot that overlooks Discovery River Lagoon and watched as cast members prepared for the show amid character cavalcades in the water.
This spot gave the best view of the show as Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa flew by to “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata,” and offered a unique behind-the-scenes peek at the docks where cast members blow up the balloon kites.
Cinderella Castle’s Makeover
The 50th anniversary has been all about the EARidescence, and it all began when Cinderella Castle underwent a glamorous makeover for the occasion, a project that began in 2020. Unlike failed makeovers in the past that included turning the castle into a gigantic, pink birthday cake and wrapping it in toilet paper at the hands of Stitch, this makeover has been a beautiful, eye-catching addition to the celebration at Magic Kingdom.
The royal blue turrets wrapped in streamers pop against the pastel pink castle, and the iridescent 50th emblem perfectly replaces the clock, letting all passersby know that there’s a reason to celebrate.
Ashley Amber is a former Disney cast member who rediscovered her love of writing when the 2020 pandemic ended her time making magic. When she's not bringing the magic to The DIS articles, Ashley works as a writer for Happy Productions and a live-blogger at MJ's Big Blog, and previously published over 300 articles with Collider. Ashley also authored a self-published fantasy/romance series of novelettes, and made her poetry debut in 2021's LGBTQIA+ anthology Deviant: Chronicles of Pride by InkFeathers Publishing. As a former pro ballroom dancer, when she's not writing, you can find Ashley on Youtube and TikTok where she posts dance videos featuring her own choreography and tutorials.