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2021 Disney News Recap

2021 was a busy year for Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So much happened, or didn’t, that you might have forgotten. Don’t worry though, we are here to remind you of some of the biggest Disney news stories to hit in 2021.

How many of these stories do you remember from 2021? Take a look down memory lane to see!

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Disneyland Reopened

Do you remember way back at the beginning of 2021 when Disneyland still remained closed? Even though Walt Disney World started welcoming Guests in the summer of 2020, the same wasn’t true at Disneyland Resort.

First Downtown Disney reopened for food and dining, with strict regulations. On April 30, the two Theme Parks reopened, but only to California residents.

Avengers Campus opened on June 4, but still only California residents were allowed to visit. Guests from out of state could finally return to the two Disneyland Theme Parks on June 15.

This was an extremely long closure for Disneyland and the first in history. We were thrilled when Walt’s original Park was full of families and making magic once again.

Disney’s Magical Express to End

Guests traveling to Walt Disney World had relied on Disney’s Magical Express for transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and their Walt Disney World Resort hotel for years.

It was surprising when Walt Disney World announced that Disney’s Magical Express would end the service at the end of 2021.

Disney’s Magical Express was a huge benefit of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. The end of the service might see some families adjusting where they stay in the future.

Although a few companies such as Mears Connect have stepped up to offer a similar service, none of them are free or provided by the Walt Disney World Company.

It will be interesting to see what transportation looks like moving forward in 2022.

Space 220 Restaurant Finally Opened

Fans have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Space 220 Restaurant for years. Finally, 2021 saw this new out of this world dining experience start welcoming Guests, and it has been a hit ever since.

Fans love the whole experience at Space 220; from boarding the elevator to the amazing views to the outstanding food. It is a hit.

We are thrilled that it is finally open, and we are so glad the long wait was worth it.

No More FastPass+

When Walt Disney World reopened, it was without the FastPass+ service. With limited capacity and extremely low crowds, this wasn’t all that necessary.

As crowds grew over time in 2021, we knew that something was needed to help lower Guests’ wait times and help make their experience in the Parks better.

We were surprised when Disney announced the end of FastPass+ altogether and introduced Disney Genie.

Disney Genie is a free planning tool all Guests have access to through the My Disney Experience App on their smartphones.

Disney Genie can provide suggested touring plans and keep Guests in the know with what is going on in the Parks.

Part of Disney Genie is the new Disney Genie+ service. It’s a similar service to FastPass+, but with a cost.

Guests who want a FastPass+ experience now have to pay $15/day/person to get Genie+.  Disney Genie+ gives Guests access to over 40 Lightning Lanes, thus bypassing the standby line and the wait.

This wasn’t the only part of the news story. Along with Disney Genie+ came the news of Individual Lightning Lanes. At each Theme Park, there would be specific rides (such as Rise of the Resistance) that wouldn’t be part of Genie+.

To bypass the standby lines for these specific rides, Guests would have to pay individually (anywhere from $7 to $15 per ride) to access the Lightning Lane.

This was a huge news story and one that we are constantly learning more about as the service is new. Although we aren’t a fan of having to pay extra on our vacation, we are interested in how this system will continue to improve and work in the future.

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Entertainment is Back

One of the biggest pieces of magic that was missing for Walt Disney World when it reopened in 2020 was the live entertainment. It was such a great news story when Disney released that more entertainment will be returning to the Parks.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! is now back entertaining Guests in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We are thrilled to once again hear this show as we walk around the Park.

It was also announced that a new musical called Finding Nemo:  The Big Blue and Beyond will be coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we look forward to having Fantasmic return with new scenes. In Magic Kingdom, the Festival of Fantasy Parade is coming back, as is a new 50th version of Mickey’s Friendship Faire.

It was exciting to hear that more and more entertainment will be coming back to the Parks!

Credit: Tricia Kennedy

Modified Character Meet and Greets

Another part of the magic that was missing was character meet and greets. We love seeing the cavalcades and the random character pop ups throughout the Parks, but there is something magical about some one-on-one time with Mickey Mouse.

We were thrilled when the news dropped that modified character meet and greets would be returning to Walt Disney World once again.

Seeing Mickey Mouse in his festival 50th outfit at Town Square Theater is something that we are thankful we can experience.

Princesses are also back at Princess Fairytale Hall, allowing us to once again chat with some of our favorites.

We look forward to having more and more character interactions in the future throughout the four Theme Parks, as these are truly special experiences.

These are just a few of the big news stories to come out of Disney in 2021. Which story surprised you the most?

We can’t wait to see what exciting and unexpected news we will get in 2022 from Disney.

About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.