So, you’ve been to Walt Disney World before, but the last time that you’ve been there was years ago. Most Disney fans can tell you that the Disney Parks are constantly changing, so, in other words, you probably missed a lot. This article will highlight the Top 10 major changes that were made from 2012 to present, just to prepare you in case you walk in trying to find a ride that no longer exists, for example.
(Note, I know I just said Top 10, but these aren’t really in any particular order)
1) The Park Entrance
*Photo credit: Disney Parks
Long gone are the days of the traditional turnstile-entrance. Today, all four of the Walt Disney World Parks have these turnstile-free entrances, as pictured above. I believe Disney had said that they made this change in order to “give the parks a much more open and welcoming feel” (that’s not a direct quote, but it’s pretty much what they said). How these new entrances work is you take your ticket (which is now a card rather than a paper ticket) or your MagicBand and hold it to the Mickey. Then, you simply scan your fingerprint and you’re in!
2) MagicBands and MyMagic+
Speaking of MagicBands, I am brought to the next notable change. In 2013, Walt Disney World unveiled MyMagic+, a new system that included things like MagicBands (pictured in the above two pictures), Fastpass+ and the MyDisneyExperience app. It’s quite a lot to talk about, but I won’t write it all here. Instead, I invite you to check out my full article on it, MyMagic+ 101: A Useful Tool For Your Next Trip.
3) New Fantasyland
*Photo credit: Disney Parks
In late 2012, Magic Kingdom opened the expansion of Fantasyland known as New Fantasyland. This expansion was built over where Mickey’s Toontown Fair used to be. This expansion includes a series of smaller, themed lands for Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and a new area called Storybook Circus. This expansion in included two new rides (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid) , two restaurants (Be Our Guest and Gaston’s Tavern) and reboots of two classic attractions (Enchanted Tales With Belle and Dumbo: The Flying Elephant). Although not part of the newly-expanded area, along with this expansion came Princess Fairytale Hall, a meet and greet location for the Disney Princesses which now stands where Snow White’s Scary Adventures used to be.
4) New Princess Looks
*Photo credits: Kenny the Pirate (Old Aurora), Adventurously Aleisha (New Ariel), lebeauleblog.com (Old Ariel), DisneyFoodBlog (New Belle), Couponing to Disney (Old Cinderella), Unknown (Old Belle, Old Aurora, New Cinderella)
If you were to go visit Princess Fairytale Hall, you’ll notice that the Disney Princesses might look a little different to how you last saw them. Many of the Princesses have gotten some major makeovers, including costume changes that are both drastic (*cough* Jasmine *cough*) and subtle. Generally, you can expect less extremely vibrant colors and more pale, pastel colors. Above are just some of the princesses comparing their old and new looks.
5) Parade Changes
*Photo credit: Disney Parks
Even more change can be found in the Magic Kingdom, especially with their new parade. Magic Kingdom has had a few different parades over the years, but the current one is the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. This parade was introduced in 2014 and includes characters from Frozen, Tangled, Brave, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and more. As for Nighttime Parades, Magic Kingdom no longer has one. Up to last year, Magic Kingdom hosted the Main Street Electrical Parade. Today, that parade has been moved back to Disneyland in California, leaving Magic Kingdom without a nighttime parade.
6) New Interactive Games
The last time that you visited, you probably would have seen Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in Epcot (or, perhaps when you visited, it was still called Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure). Since then, Magic Kingdom has now become the second park to host an Interactive Game. in fact, they now have two: A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (pictured above). If you’d like to learn more about these, I invite you to read one of my other blog posts Interactive Games 101: The Hidden Gems of Walt Disney World.
7) New Stage Shows
*Photo Credit: Orlando Sentennial
Since we’re on the topic of Magic Kingdom, I’ll start with their stage show. Throughout the day, the stage in front of Cinderella Castle hosts a live stage show featuring various Disney Characters. The last time you visited, you probably saw Cinderellabration or Dream Along With Mickey. The current show, as of last year is Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. This show features Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, along with characters from The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Frozen. Over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there is now a new stage show called Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. This show features various characters from each of the Star Wars films, now including Rogue One.
8) Major Changes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios
*Photo credit: travelandleisure.com
Speaking of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, if you were to visit today, you would notice that it’s a little bit smaller. This is because Hollywood Studios is going to be home to two new immersive lands: Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. In order to make room for these two, some of the areas of Disney’s Hollywood Studios have been closed. Unfortunately, this area does include the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show (In case you don’t recognize the name, this was a stunt show with cars and explosions).
Downtown Disney Disney Springs
*Photo Credit: Disney Wiki
If you can recall Disney’s major shopping center, Downtown Disney, you might be surprised to hear that it’s gotten a huge makeover. Downtown Disney has now been renamed to Disney Springs. Along with the name change, many new restaurants have been added and it’s overall look has been changed to reflect the more contemporary outdoor shopping centers you’d see today.
10) New Attractions
*Photo Credit: Disney Parks
This final one is pretty much a given. Almost every time that you leave a Disney park and don’t return for a year or two, there’s bound to be a new attraction. Here are some of the new attractions that have come to Walt Disney World since 2012:
- The Barnstormer
- Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track
- Soarin’ Around the World
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Star Wars: Path of the Jedi
- Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
- For the First Time in Forever : A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
11) Nighttime Show at Magic Kingdom Changed
Photo credit: Disney Parks
After a showing nightly in the Magic Kingdom for 14 years, the fireworks show “Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams” has been replaced with a brand new fireworks show titled “Happily Ever After”. Similar to the previous fireworks pre-shows “Celebrate the Magic” and “The Magic and The Memories and You!”, “Happily Ever After” uses projections on the castle while still including the fireworks behind. The new show also features sections from both Disney classics and more recent stories like Moana and Big Hero 6. Accompanying the new show is Once Upon a Time, a smaller, separate show that plays at different times throughout the night.