Creations Shop Opening this Summer at EPCOT

Walt Disney World announced today that the new flagship merchandise location at EPCOT will be called “Creations Shop” and will replace the former Mouse Gear.  The new shop is scheduled to open this summer.

Creations Shop will feature a bold, sleek design that creates a perfect showcase for large variety of items you’ll find as part of the guest experience at EPCOT.

The new store will include a Mickey Mouse mural along the side wall and homages to him throughout the shop. These large dynamic murals will showcase the global, contemporary icon that Mickey has become for generations around the world.

According to Imagineer Zach Riddley –

Creations Shop features a bold, sleek design that creates a perfect showcase for the rich variety of items you’ll find as part of your EPCOT experience. It will be an open, bright, welcoming environment with huge glass walls that allow sunlight to pour in and make you feel like you’re in touch with nature even while indoors. We are using color, materials and light in new ways with some unique EPCOT touches that connect back to this park’s storied past while looking to the future.

Adjacent to the shop will be a revitalized Club Cool Hosted by Coca-Cola, which will also open this summer.

According to Disney –

This will celebrate Coca-Cola in a fresh new way, while keeping the fan-favorite experience that invites you to explore tasty drinks from around the world. This space will also have some new magic to bring the global experience of Coca-Cola to life for you.

Walt Disney World Updates Mask Policy

Walt Disney World has just announced that it will be modifying its mask policy to slightly loosen the requirements for when masks must be worn at the theme parks.

The latest update will begin on  April 8th.  The update will allow guests to remove masks when they are taking photos outdoors while physically distanced.

Specifically the new policy states –

Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may temporarily remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking an outdoor photo, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing during this time.

It is important to note that masks must be worn at all other times, in accordance with the original guidelines for the park’s reopening back in July of 2020.

Walt Disney World Updates Resort Hotel Opening Timeline

Since Walt Disney World re-opened to guests last July following the closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney has gradually been re-opening its resort hotels.

The following resort hotels are now open and accepting new reservations:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

With the opening of these hotels, Disney has taken a measured and deliberate approach to implement a number of health and safety measures based on guidance from various governmental authorities and health agencies.

Disney Resort Hotels Scheduled to Reopen—and Currently Accepting Reservations

Walt Disney World is planning to open the following resort hotels to booked Guests on the following dates. These Disney Resort hotels are currently accepting reservations.

May 30, 2021 Disney’s Beach Club Resort
June 6, 2021 Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Late July 2021 Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

While a re-opening date was previously shared for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, it will remain closed until further notice, as the re-opening timeline continues to be re-evaluated.

Everyone needs to remember that future re-opening dates are subject to change and Guests’ reservations could still be modified to other Disney Resort hotels if needed.

Disney has stated that given the current situation, there are some Disney Resort hotels and other areas that are not, as of this time, being scheduled for re-opening yet.

Disney also has stated that they will continue to monitor the constantly changing environment and its impact on the state of Florida as they find the right time to welcome back even more Guests and Cast Members.

The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival for 2021 to Begin July 15th

Walt Disney World announced today the dates for the 2021 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival.

This year’s festival will begin on July 15th  and run through to November 20th, which is about the same length as last year’s event.

Most notably absent is that Disney is not assigning the “Taste of” title to the festival, meaning that perhaps we may see  return of a full scale festival for the first time since 2019.

This year’s event will return with Global Marketplaces, including the return of many favorites such as Canada, Greece, Germany, Hops and Barley, Appleseed Orchard and many others.

There will be many ways for guests to enjoy this year’s event, beyond just eating lots of great food:

  • Sample all sorts of delicious cheeses served in fun ways as part of Emile’s Fromage Montage – if you collect a stamp from five different Global Marketplaces, you’ll earn a prize!
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak will send you on a savory scavenger hunt in search of Remy statuettes hidden all over the park.
  • Take a tasty souvenir home from the new merchandise collections, including a festival collection featuring a spirit jersey, baseball cap and so much more.
  • Listen to musical favorites performed by Voices of Liberty, Mariachi Cobre and the Jammin’ Chefs.

Disney MagicMobile Launches on Apple Devices for All Guests

Today Walt Disney World announced on the Disney Parks Blog that beginning today, all guests with Apple devices will be able to enjoy  the new convenient and contactless option for entering the theme parks and more, as part of the rollout of Disney MagicMobile service!

The new service is now available on the iPhone and Apple Watch and coming soon to other smart devices.  Disney MagicMobile service will be an easy-to-use new way for guests to experience Walt Disney World.

It is important to note that the new service will not be replacing the MagicBand, but will offered in addition to other options such as the MagicBand.

Disney put out a few helpful tips to get started with Disney MagicMobile service:

  • Create A Customized Digital Pass: Guests can create a Disney MagicMobile pass through the My Disney Experience app and add it to the Wallet app on iPhone or the digital wallet on other smart devices. You can customize your pass by choosing from several Disney-themed designs that animate upon use (including special designs just for Annual Passholders and DVC Members)! For added ease, you may also store multiple passes on a single device, a great option for families.
  • Easily Enter the Parks and More: Simply hold your iPhone, Apple Watch, or other smart device near an access point when entering the parks or using other available features, just like you do with a MagicBand. With Express Mode on iPhone and Apple Watch, guests do not even need to wake or unlock their Apple device, or open up the app, to use their Disney MagicMobile pass. As a reminder, valid park admission and a park reservation are required for park entry and must be linked to your account.
  • Discover Other App Enhancements: We’ve also added a new feature in the My Disney Experience app that allows you to automatically link your Disney PhotoPass attraction photos and videos to your profile through your smartphone. Just confirm your settings in advance of riding at participating attractions. The My Disney Experience app also enables Disney Resort hotel guests to unlock their room door using our current digital room key feature.

Guests may use Disney MagicMobile service, a MagicBand or a card interchangeably.

MagicMobile is not currently available at the parking lot entry booths, but it is anticipated that it is going to happen in the near future.

Walt Disney World Begins Test of Facial Recognition for Park Entrance

Today Walt Disney began testing at the Magic Kingdom a new way for guests to enter the theme park through facial recognition.

The test is optional and will be conducted from today until April 23rd.

The new system employs a touchless system that is designed to eliminate the need for the fingerprint scanners that have been used for many years at the Walt Disney World.

The technology captures an image of a guest’s face and converts it into a unique number, which is then associated with the form of admission being used for park entry.

Courtesy of WDWMAGIC

Children under 18 will need to be in the presence of their parents or guardian and have consent before participating in the test.

When visitors enter the park, they can enter through the lane designated for the test program. They must remove accessories, including hats, visors or sunglasses, and have their face mask on.

Courtesy of WDWMAGIC

Here is Disney’s statement on how the data will be collected and how the information will be used –

At Walt Disney World Resort, we’re always looking for innovative and convenient ways to improve our Guests’ experience—especially as we navigate the impact of COVID-19.

With the future in mind and the shift in focus to more touchless experiences, we’re conducting a limited 30-day test using facial recognition technology (length of test subject to change).  The technology we’re testing captures an image of a Guest’s face and converts it into a unique number, which is then associated with the form of admission being used for park entry.  Participation in this test is optional. For those interested in volunteering to participate in this effort, please make sure you arrive with valid theme park admission and a Disney Park Pass reservation.

Disney Legend Jim Cora Dies at Age 83

Disney Legend, who began his Disney career at Disneyland in 1957 as a part-time attractions host polishing 3D glasses at the Mickey Mouse Club Theater and retired 43 years later as chairman of Disney International, passed away on March 21st at the age of 83.

Cora’s influence at the company was vast,  stretching around the globe from Disneyland to Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, so much so that it took multiple windows dedicated in his honor on Main Street U.S.A. to capture all of his contributions.

According to the Orange County Register, Cora credited his rapid rise to company founder Walt Disney who set his career path in motion with a promotion into a training and development role. The boss sent the teenager over to the Disneyland administration building to find Disney University founder Van Arsdale France with the admonition: “Tell him Walt sent you. I think he may have something for you.”

Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and former Disneyland resort president Josh D’Amaro called Cora one of the company’s last connections to Walt Disney.

Very few people have a Disney legacy that reaches as far and wide as Jim Cora,” D’Amaro said in a statement. “His dedication to bringing Disney magic to people around the world was only matched by the passion he exuded throughout his career and for the many years that followed. I always loved hearing Jim’s thoughts about our business. He was one of our last connections to Walt Disney and he will be missed dearly.

In 1971, Cora instituted the “Disney Way of Leadership” program at the Magic Kingdom with the opening of Walt Disney World.

Prior to the 1983 opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Cora was named managing director of operations for the that theme park.  He was then promoted to vice president of Walt Disney Productions Japan, overseeing Disney’s operational and design standards.

After Tokyo Disneyland, Cora was put in charge of master planning and site research for Euro Disneyland, which would later became known as Disneyland Paris.

In the 1990’s, Cora was responsible for the creative direction of Tokyo DisneySea. He retired as chairman of Disney International in 2001. Cora was named a Disney Legend in 2005.

Walt Disney World to Start Phasing in Disney MagicMobile Service

Earlier today Walt Disney World announced the next evolution of Disney MyMagic+ and the successor to the MagicBand, Disney MagicMobile.

Disney Magic Mobile will be launching in phases starting later this year.  The service will be a convenient and contactless way to access MagicBand features like theme park entry through the power of your iPhone, Apple Watch or other smart device.

Guests will be able to create a Disney MagicMobile pass through the My Disney Experience app and add it to their smart device’s digital wallet. Most features will be available by just holding up the smart device near an access point, just like you do with a MagicBand.

Disney said that the service and its features will roll out first on Apple devices.

Guests may choose to use Disney MagicMobile service or a MagicBand, and can alternate between the two for added flexibility.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Get’s Opening Date

During today’s virtual Shareholders Annual meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the grand opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT will be October 1st.

Chef Remy will help kick off “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” in Parisian style.

In this new attraction, guests will feel like they’ve shrunk to the size of Chef Remy as you scurry through Gusteau’s famous restaurant on a wild adventure for the whole family.  I’m sure all parents will appreciate, this attraction will have no height requirement! Based on Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning “Ratatouille,” the experience will be part of a newly expanded France pavilion inside EPCOT that will also open Oct. 1.

Walt Disney World Updates Mask Policy for Table Service Dining

As of today, Walt Disney World has implemented a stricter new rule for table service restaurants. The language of the old rule on the webpage was that face masks “must be worn in all public areas of the restaurant—including while entering and exiting—and can be removed while eating or drinking.”

The new rule states:

“Face coverings for each Guest age 2 and up, which must be worn in all public areas and can only be removed while actively eating or drinking. Face coverings must be worn while standing, waiting or sitting in dining locations.”

The previous rule was enforced so that guests could remove their face masks upon being seated, and leave them off for the duration of the meal, so long as they were at their table.

Even with this rule, some guests chose to leave their masks on while waiting or when interacting with Cast Members.

In my opinion the change is pretty minor. The new rule, would appear that with this clarification Disney will now require guests to stay masked except while actively eating their food or drinking, which is consistent with the regular in-park signs and announcement. I don’t think that the change will necessarily mean putting the mask back on in between bites, but it probably does mean being masked while ordering and waiting for drinks and appetizers or entrees to be delivered, and when waiting for the bill.