The 10 Big Changes That Disney World Prepares For Its 50th Anniversary

In October 2021, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida will be turning 50! And apparently, the iconic theme park will be doing something special to celebrate this massive anniversary as they prepare to open new rides, attractions, restaurants and resorts in anticipation of the big birthday.

There are dozens and dozens of new projects happening at Disney World pretty much all the time, but few will have the impact of these 10 massive changes and additions. New meet-and-greets, photo opportunities, dining experiences and snacks roll out with little-to-no fanfare. But a project like Disney’s new transportation system the Skyliner and the new Star Wars-themed land in Hollywood Studios are going to change the entire theme park world, even beyond Disney.

New resorts, lands and rides are just a few big changes happening at Walt Disney World. Here are 10 ways this favorite theme park will be a whole new world by 2021.

Disney Skyliner

Disney Skyliner

Walt Disney Company

Location: various
Opening: 2019

Disney is finally starting to implement long-simmering, long-debated plans on how to improve transportation at the resort. The visitors have actually known about the new gondola system since February 2017, thanks mostly to permits being filed for construction work to commence, but the theme park has managed to surprise its visitors with a look at the final ride vehicles’ designs and the new transportation system’s official name: the Disney Skyliner.

According to Click Orlando, the Skyliner will connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the new Riviera Resort (under construction) and Pop Century/ Art of Animation. Insiders expect the first cables to be strung before the holidays, with early tests following soon.


Space Restaurant

Space Restaurant

Walt Disney Company

Location: Epcot
Opening: 2019

Epcot has long been known for its exquisite dining, and now Disney wants to extend that dominance even further–into Future World.

This new, still-unnamed restaurant will be positioned next to Mission: Space and Test Track, and will use that attraction’s premise as its theme, placing diners high in orbit above the Earth in order to allow guests to enjoy “great meals and an even greater view.” It will be operated by the Patina Group, which already oversees several establishments on Disney World property, including Epcot’s own Tutto Italia and Via Napoli.


Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Mickey & Minnie Runaway Railway

Disney Parks

Location: Hollywood Studios
Opening: 2019

There must be a lot of Disney rides from your childhood you didn’t know were gone. The latest one is The Great Movie Ride that first opened in May 1989. The centerpiece attraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios went on one last adventure through film history on August 13, 2017. It’s set to be replaced by another movie icon: Mickey Mouse!

Enter Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The first-ever theme park ride to star Mickey Mouse is themed to the new Mickey shorts that are currently making the rounds on The Disney Channel, with the premise specifically being that guests get swept up into the cartoon world when Goofy, the conductor of a train that both Mickey and Minnie hop on, messes up and crashes the boundaries between our two realities.

Disney boasts that it’ll be the first 2½D ride, using projection mapping to make a flat world pop up in front of–and around–the ride vehicles.


Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Location: Hollywood Studios
Opening: late summer 2019

There are a lot of small new things coming to Walt Disney World before the resort’s 50th anniversary, but nothing will change the landscape of the theme park quite like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This is actually one of the reasons Disney wants the Skyliner up and running ASAP. The long-awaited “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” is entering the final stages of construction at Disneyland and is making visible, regular progress at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The fully immersive new land will feature a Millennium Falcon ride, a battle between guests and the First Order, a brand new restaurant and a Star Wars-themed hotel just outside Hollywood Studios’ gates.


The Incredibles At Pixar Place

Location: Hollywood Studios
Opening: 2019

With the opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the future of Pixar Place was called into question. At least for 2019, the area will be saved by The Incredibles and turned into a Municiberg city block. In this area, superhero fans will be able to meet Edna Mode, play a scavenger hunt while looking for Jack-Jack and go to a dance party starring Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible and Frozone. This reinvention of Pixar Place will start in early 2019.


Star Wars Hotel

Star Wars Hotel

Walt Disney Company

Location: Hollywood Studios
Opening: late 2019 to early 2020

It’s hard to not overstate the potentially revolutionary nature of the Star Wars-themed hotel, even considering what will likely be its exorbitant prices.

The premise behind this boutique property goes a little something like this: guests will reserve multi-day packages, which will see them stay in a room that is themed as a cabin on a starliner–including views out into space. While they wait for the vessel to “dock” at an alien planet, which will more than likely be the fictitious location of Galaxy’s Edge’s trading outpost. They can dress up as a character from that galaxy, select exclusive “missions” to take on, and interact with a cast of employees who never break character. Disney calls this the very first product of its new “Disney 36” line of vacation experiences.


Ratatouille Ride

Location: Epcot
Opening: 2020

There are a lot of international Disney rides we want in America, and soon we’ll be getting one of them. This 4D trackless ride is coming to Epcot via Disneyland Paris, and it uses sights, sounds, smells and sets to make you truly feel like an unwanted rat in a Parisian kitchen. There’s no exact opening date for this yet, but it’s expected to open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.


Guardians Of The Galaxy Roller Coaster

Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster

Disney Parks

Location: Epcot
Opening: 2021

Inspired by the films, the “Guardians of the Galaxy”-themed attraction will expand on the original vision of Epcot’s Future World, with an epic storyline being developed by Walt Disney Imagineering in close collaboration with the original filmmakers. And it will be a roller coaster!

While the themed attraction is currently set to debut at Epcot just in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, guests don’t have to wait too long to get a “Guardians” fix at Epcot. As a part of Walt Disney World’s “Incredible Summer,” Star-Lord and Gamora will take guests on a musical journey through the cosmos in “Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live!” at the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot.


Future World Makeover

Future World Makeover

Disney Parks

Location: Epcot
Opening: 2021

Plans to update the heart of Epcot’s Future World, from the entrance to the “Fountain of Nations” are in the works, but aren’t settled.

What is (mostly) settled in the new space-themed restaurant that just started construction behind “Mission: Space,” expanding the footprint of a never-used and never-finished corporate lounge. It promises “out of this world” dining (and prices) courtesy of the Patina Group, which already operates Via Napoli and Tutto Italia at Epcot and Morimoto Asia and Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante at Disney Springs. Think the Coral Reef Restaurant at Living Seas, but staring at space instead of fish.


“TRON Lightcycle Power Run”

Walt Disney Company

Location: Magic Kingdom

Opening: 2021

Space Mountain won’t be the only roller coaster in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland come 2021. Yes, the marquee attraction from Shanghai Disneyland will be in Orlando in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The ground has already broken for the Walt Disney World version of this attraction, which has guests boarding a two-wheeled light cycle and zipping through the digital world of “Tron.” All we know is that once Tron Lightcycle Power Run opens in the Magic Kingdom, it will be easier to complete your ultimate Disney rides bucket list.

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