New rides, restaurants, entertainment, and more is coming to Walt Disney World in 2022. Here’s what’s next during the 50th Anniversary celebration–construction info, expansion plans, and opening dates so you know what to expect when planning your WDW vacation. (Updated December 16, 2021.)
While a lot has already opened, some of the big additions for the beginning of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration have been delayed until 2022 or 2023.
The good news is that many of the biggest construction projects are finished or don’t impact the guest experience. This includes the massive Disney’s Hollywood Studios overhaul, Disney Springs redevelopment, Animal Kingdom expansion, and more.
In fact, 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are looking good and mostly wall-free. There’s not nearly as much construction at Walt Disney World right now as there has been in the last few years prior to the opening of Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and other major additions.
The lone exception to that is Epcot, which is a sea of construction walls right now, and will be for the foreseeable future–likely through 2023. Nevertheless, work will continue throughout Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which will likely see a soft reboot or second push in Summer 2022, right around its halfway point.
Here’s a park by park look at everything new and coming soon to Walt Disney World…
At Epcot, the front of the park is looking good as the reimagined park entrance project is finished. Redesigned landscaping, flags, topiaries, and an iconic prismatic pylon fountain in front of Spaceship Earth have all been installed. These are further enhanced at night by an upgraded lighting package, including the Beacons of Magic discussed below.
Behind Spaceship Earth, the central spine of Future World between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase has more walls. Through 2022, there are temporary walkways acting as a bypass around the center of the park. The work here is currently the largest construction project at Walt Disney World, which results in a lot of visual blight to the front of Epcot. Basically, the entire center of Future World is enclosed by construction walls right now.
This massive redesign at the front of Epcot eliminated Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods. This has already resulted in a sea of construction walls at the front of the park. Walt Disney World hasn’t announced a timeline for this project, but Disney recently announced it won’t be “done” until 2023.
It’s worth noting that the closure of Walt Disney World resulted in this overhaul being paused for most of last year, with Imagineering going back to the drawing board. Many elements have been scaled back, cut entirely, or reworked. Basically, the concept art above is no longer an accurate view of the Epcot overhaul. Disney has yet to release accurate art.
Moreover, Walt Disney World has indefinitely delayed or cancelled a handful of Epcot projects. In Future World, there’s the Spaceship Earth Overhaul & Enhancements. The “story light” component of this has been delayed indefinitely.
Other upgrades have debuted with Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, including “Beacons of Magic” and an all-new projection mapping effect on the outside of the geodesic sphere. For Christmas 2021, a quick holiday segment was added that paid homage to the past, including the extinct Lights of Winter.
Right behind Spaceship Earth, the Creations Shop and Club Cool are both now open. These were built in the former Innoventions building, where MouseGear was previously located.
On the other side of the building, Connections Cafe & Eatery is being built in the space that used to house Electric Umbrella. There’s no specific opening date for that yet, but visible work is moving quickly. We’d expect the restaurant to debut around Spring 2022.
Nearby in Future World, Space 220 Restaurant adjacent to Mission: Space is now open after being delayed several times over the course of the last 2 years.
At Space 220 Restaurant, guests board a special space elevator that ascends to the stars. Upon arrival, you enjoy a celestial panorama from the space station, with the ability to peer out and enjoy daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up.
Harmonious, a new nighttime spectacular has debuted in World Showcase Lagoon. This is one of the biggest entertainment spectacles Walt Disney World has ever created. We’ve seen it several times and find Harmonious to be a mixed bag.
Moving deeper into World Showcase, the newest E-Ticket attraction to open at Epcot is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. This family-friendly trackless dark ride is part of an expansion of the France pavilion. This was supposed to debut last summer, but was delayed by over a year to the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
In addition to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, this expansion to the France pavilion includes a variety of retail and restaurant additions, most notably La Crêperie de Paris. This crêperie offers both table and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.
Turning to what’s coming next, the biggest addition for Epcot is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is a hybrid roller coaster. This is the biggest-budget project currently being built at Walt Disney World. Originally, Cosmic Rewind was slated to debut “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.” However, that did not happen.
Additionally, the Play Pavilion will replace Wonder of Life. At one point, this was also intended to open “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.” An official date has not been announced for this, but we’d anticipate this pavilion will open at some point in 2022.
It would make sense for the Play Pavilion to debut alongside Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. That would mean the World Discovery neighborhood would be finished, leaving “only” the work in World Discovery and Nature left.
A smaller scale addition coming to the front of Epcot is Moana: Journey of Water. This is the first-ever attraction based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film, Moana. This water maze will be a lush environment where guests can interact with living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.
Construction is now vertical on Moana: Journey of Water, and it’s reasonable to expect that it will debut in late 2022 or early 2023. However, Walt Disney World has not offered an official update on Moana: Journey of Water or opening date/year.
Along those lines, Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will debut…at some point. Supposedly. If all went according to plan, it would’ve by now. Disney confirmed late last year that it’s still coming despite the show being cancelled, but there haven’t been any other updates in a long time.
Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will be the next iteration of the interactive scavenger hunt around World Showcase that previously featured Kim Possible and currently Phineas & Ferb. It should be a good way to engage kids in an area of Epcot they often find “boring.”
Continuing the uncertainty train, we arrive at the Festival Center. This pavilion was described as follows: “the perfect place for live events, and the home base for Epcot’s signature festivals. It will provide a stunning elevated view of the entire park and an ideal spot to witness Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. This beautiful three-level structure will have one of the most remarkable architectural designs at any Disney park, featuring a plaza level, a middle expo level, and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.”
Last summer, Walt Disney World announced it would “take a different approach” with the multi-story festival center and removed all concept art and the model from the Epcot Experience. Now, it’s described by Walt Disney World as “newly reimagined festival area that will be home to ever-changing events in a unique new environment.” Here’s hoping they don’t throw down mulch & soil, add some food booths, picnic tables & umbrellas, and call it a day.
Next up is Magic Kingdom. In terms of work that’s finished, there’s the Cinderella Castle Royal Makeover.
The Magic Kingdom icon was repainted with a more vibrant color scheme last spring and summer, and given ornamentation for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary this year.
Speaking of Cinderella Castle, it’s the centerpiece of Disney Enchantment, a new nighttime spectacular that debuted for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Disney Enchantment is an evening extravaganza that features songs mostly from recent movies, and purports to take guests on a journey filled with adventure, wonder, and empowerment. It’s a fireworks show with enhanced lighting, stunning pyro and projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street.
Two more recently-finished Magic Kingdom projects are the refresh to Hall of Presidents that added Joe Biden and the Reimagining of Jungle Cruise . The changes to Hall of Presidents and their motivations are presumably clear.
As for Jungle Cruise, the goal was to add more humor, wildlife, and skipper heart, while also reflecting and valuing the diversity of the world around us. Gone are some antiquated stereotypes; added are a ton more monkeys.
Magic Kingdom’s next big project on the horizon is the TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster being built in Tomorrowland behind Space Mountain. This is another attraction that was planned to open in time for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
It is likely that TRON Lightcycle Run will not debut until Fall 2022 at the earliest. While this attraction is an expansion to the park outside its existing berm, its construction has resulted in closures to the Walt Disney World Railroad through at least early 2022.
Following that, there’s the Princess and the Frog reimagining of Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It’s unclear when this project will begin and end. The project is not very far along–conceptual design work is underway and Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the transformation can start to take shape.
We doubt that Splash Mountain will close before late 2022 or early 2023 at Walt Disney World. It’s entirely plausible that Disneyland’s overhaul starts first, conceivably finishing prior to work on the Magic Kingdom incarnation even beginning. Meaning this might not even start at Magic Kingdom until 2023 or 2024.
There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For the 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World added “Disney KiteTails” to the Discovery River Amphitheater.
Performers fly wind catchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water with elaborate three-dimensional kites– some stretching to 30 feet long–depict Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie. These colorful creations dance through the sky to the beat of favorite Disney songs in an uplifting, vibrant experience for the whole family.
What’s next for Animal Kingdom is unclear. Last year, Primeval Whirl permanently closed and there have been rumors and speculation, of varying degrees of credibility, that what’s currently Dino-Rama is the next big expansion site at Walt Disney World. The demolition of Primeval Whirl has added fuel to the fire, with fans hoping an official announcement comes at the 2022 D23 Expo. Rumored replacements have ranged from Indian Jones to Zootopia to a revival of the Excavator roller coaster plans (or something similar).
Pessimistically, Walt Disney World has slowed and stretched out construction timelines, and already has projects lined up between now and 2023 or 2024. The company’s conservative approach and lethargic pace doesn’t instill confidence that anything with Dino-Rama is happening in the next 5 years. But we shall see! (While all of those ideas sound fun, Animal Kingdom could really use another family-friendly dark ride more than anything else.)
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all major projects are now finished. The final piece of the puzzle in the relaunch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway. It’s inspired by the recent cartoon shorts and brings guests through the screen to take a ride inside a zany cartoon world.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is also now open–and is now a couple years old. This themed universe is the biggest addition to Walt Disney World in years. The first phase included all shops, dining, and the Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run ride.
Toy Story Land has now been open for several years. Due to its popularity and crowds, Toy Story Land is already receiving an expansion.
Then there’s Disney Springs. This is the entertainment and shopping district previously known as Downtown Disney. Producing a comprehensive list of what has opened here in the last ~5 years would be daunting, as around 75% of this area has been overhauled.
Cirque du Soleil: Drawn to Life is the most recent thing to debut, beginning its run for Christmas 2021. This is the successor to “La Nouba,” which ran for almost two decades in the iconic white circus tent on the Westside before closing.
A lot of the big Disney Springs additions have been quietly cancelled or postponed indefinitely. This includes Ample Hills and Beatrix neighborhood restaurant. On a positive note, Disney Springs got a Gideon’s Bakehouse.
Aside from that, the re-imagining of Disney Springs is pretty much finished. These changes have made fans of both of us big time with solid additions such as the Boathouse, Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, the Edison, 4 Rivers Cantina, and more. Jaleo by José Andrés and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill have also recently opened.
Two resorts opened at Walt Disney World relatively recently. The first of these was Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
Next, Disney’s Riviera Resort is the latest DVC Resort. This property is adjacent to Caribbean Beach and offers direct Skyliner access to Epcot.
This DVC resort, along with Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation are connected to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the recently-added Disney Skyliner gondola system, which opened a couple of years ago.
Throughout 2022 and beyond, several resorts are undergoing refurbishment, construction, and expansion projects. In particular, there are a lot of room renovations, particularly at Value Resorts and DVC properties.
In terms of new projects, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort is now under construction behind Galaxy’s Edge. Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort will offer an immersive visit that further enhances what guests experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
As you can probably tell, there is a lot that’s new and coming soon to Walt Disney World in the next few years. After years of relative stagnation, Disney has kicked expansion at its Florida properties into high gear, resulting in the biggest construction boom in decades. With that said, don’t fret too much about the construction–even with an unprecedented amount, must of its out-of-the-way of guest areas, and there are still a ton of attractions to do at Walt Disney World no matter when you visit!
News Source: disneytouristblog