Disney’s 100th Anniversary officially starts later in 2023 at Walt Disney World, and there will be new things to do at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the resort hotels. This guide to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration offers info, what to see & do, and other assorted tips.
For starters, Disney100 is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the company and not the Florida theme park complex. So if you’re wondering how we went from celebrating Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary to the 100th Anniversary like 2 years later, that’s how. Walt Disney World did not visit a rapid-aging beach from an M. Night Shyamalan film or anything like that.
Diehard Disney fans likely knew that…but not everyone is in our odd little club. If you’re just a normal person (first of all, congrats), you couldn’t be blamed for thinking it’s the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World based on the decorations and marketing…or wondering why the ads on television have gone switched from the 50th to the 100th Anniversary so quickly.
With what the Disney100 Celebration isn’t out of the way, let’s address the threshold question: when will the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration start at Walt Disney World? Honestly, we don’t have the answer to that. Officially, Walt Disney World has indicated that Disney100 will begin “later this year.”
In other announcements, Walt Disney World has suggested that components of EPCOT that are expected to figure into Disney100 will be completed or debut in “Late 2023.” Of course, there is a distinction between the two similar-sounding phrases. Technically, tomorrow is “later this year” as relative to today. By contrast, “Late 2023” suggests the last quarter of the calendar year: October through December.
We also know that EPCOT will be the epicenter of the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Walt Disney World. However, there are no specifics as to what that means beyond a new nighttime spectacular, opening of Moana’s Journey of Water, and filling in of the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit.
Our expectation is that the official start of Disney100 at EPCOT is dictated in dual parts by the conclusion of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary (and not wanting to start another celebration too soon) and the completion of the EPCOT overhaul. Hard to host a house party with your living room and kitchen stripped down to the studs!
Even though it’s not a milestone anniversary for the park, we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Disney100 Celebration start at Walt Disney World on October 1, 2023. Of course, that assumes the park’s metaphorical kitchen and living room (CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, I guess) will be done by then. The pace of those projects has started to move more quickly…at least as compared to the last couple years.
There’s also the question of when the Disney100 festivities will end. It’s customary for Disney’s milestone anniversary celebrations to last at least 18 months–sometimes as long as 2 years. The World’s Most Magical Celebration was 18 month long; the Year (singular) of a Million Dreams lasted about 2 years.
Despite that, I’m going to make a bold prediction: Walt Disney World actively celebrates Disney100 for one year or less. For one thing, it’s not an actual anniversary of the parks. For another, it’s actually centered around Disneyland, and it began in January out on the west coast. Finally, it just feels like a stopgap event.
My guess is that Walt Disney World fans already have ‘anniversary fatigue’ and that this celebration is going to do almost nothing to move the needle on new vacation bookings. It’ll move merchandise, sure, but that’s about it. And fans would’ve bought souvenirs regardless–this just changes what they bought.
Given all of that, my gut says that Walt Disney World will be ready to “move on” by Summer 2024, and launch a new event then. Who knows, though. I could be totally wrong–maybe I’m underestimating the popularity of Disney100 and it’ll last until mid-2025.
Regardless, Walt Disney World has started to announce stuff for Disney100. Some of this has already appeared in the parks and other elements are on the horizon. Rather than inundating you with new posts for every minor little detail, we figured it’d make sense to create this comprehensive guide, so those who are interested in the event can consult this and check back throughout the coming months as more is added.
With that in mind, let’s turn to entertainment and other offerings in the Florida parks & resorts for the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration…
Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth – Introduced as one of the centerpieces of the World’s Most Magical Celebration, the Beacons of Magic were a complete dud, with one very notable exception: EPCOT. This whole offering felt like it was designed around Spaceship Earth, and expanded to the other park icons (albeit without any creative vision).
There are currently 3 different Beacons of Magic shows on Spaceship Earth each night–the permanent one, the rotating festival one, and the EPCOT 40th Anniversary one. Walt Disney World has now revealed that another Beacons of Magic show will light up the night with a dazzling spectacle of colors and lights as Spaceship Earth honors Disney100.
Walt Disney Imagineering has been dreaming up new ways to honor this important milestone by turning to their own cherished memories. “The Show Lighting Team at Walt Disney Imagineering has been amazed at our guests’ reaction to the nightly shows on Spaceship Earth,” said Jason Read, show lighting designer principal for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’ve helped celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, EPCOT’s 40th, and the park’s signature festivals. Now, we’re excited to have Spaceship Earth ring in the biggest celebration yet, the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company.”
“We’re also inspired by many things from the history of the company, its characters, theme parks and shows – even the Disney100 opening logo that plays before our feature films during this anniversary,” Read continued. “You may see homages to everything from the ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ television show opening to Mickey balloons that we sell on Main Street, U.S.A.”
EPCOT Nighttime Spectacular – Basically nothing of substance is known about the upcoming nighttime spectacular that’ll debut on and above World Showcase Lagoon in Late 2023. Show Director Tom Vazzana with Walt Disney World Creative Entertainment said the following about it: “This special show through music, pyrotechnics, lasers, and lighting reflect the commonality in all of us. You can be you, I can be me, and we can all be together in this one beautiful show.” Vazzana added that EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular will feature an original composition and evocative selections from the Disney songbook, all woven together to “remind us that we are more alike than different.”
Our hope is that lessons have been learned from the failure of Harmonious and what casual guests disliked about IllumiNations to create something that works for casual guests and Walt Disney World diehards. Beyond that, build on the success of the Disneyland Paris 30th Anniversary nighttime spectacular additions. There’s definitely a way to do something wow-inducing over World Showcase Lagoon without a bunch of hideous permanent infrastructure causing daytime blight. In a word: drones.
Characters – You may find Minnie and Mickey Mouse plus their pals in platinum-inspired looks designed to reflect the optimism and creativity that are at the heart of everything Disney.
These costumes are classy and elegant. We’ve seen a lot of inventive outfits for Mickey and friends recently, so I’m perfectly satisfied with sharp, straightforward, and stylish looks.
CommuniCore Hall – Speaking of which, Mickey Mouse and friends will also have a new home at Communicore Hall opening later this year as part of the EPCOT transformation. This is a purpose-built location that’ll likely be similar to the old one in Innoventions.
CommuniCore Hall will also be home to festival programming at EPCOT, and will feature a dynamic exhibition space that will transform with each festival throughout the year. Playing with light, shapes and reflections, the architecture of this building was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to celebrate the legacy of EPCOT and the original CommuniCore buildings. Although unconfirmed, our guess is that it’ll open with a Disney100 exhibition.
See our post about CommuniCore Hall and Plaza Coming to EPCOT for more details about this venue as a whole. No other specifics have been shared as to the meet & greets coming to the World Celebration neighborhood of EPCOT.
Character Caravan – The “Caravanning Around the World” RV debuted during the physical distancing era when traditional meet & greets were suspended (maybe around Christmas of that year?) and has been a huge hit since. For Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, the RV and character costumes got a fresh look, and the same is true once again.
Various Disney characters stop by the resorts for impromptu photo opportunities. As the Disney100 celebration ramps up at Walt Disney World, you may run into some of your favorite Disney characters in their platinum best as they pop up at various resort hotels. These stops are supposedly random, but I swear that I see the characters on the BoardWalk lawn more than all other locations combined.
Platinum Decorations – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios will be adorned in platinum-infused décor. Expect to see a surplus of sparkling platinum banners, Disney100 medallions, and other photo opportunities. (Perhaps the Fab 50 statues will be repainted platinum and recycled for Disney100?)
The centerpiece of the decor will be able Disney100 backdrops in front of all four theme parks plus Disney Springs.
Music – This has not yet been announced, but I love this little touch at Disneyland so much that I want to will it into existence at Walt Disney World. It might seem like a minor thing, but there’s a new background music (BGM) loop that plays in the Esplanade and Downtown Disney there that features all-time classic theme park songs.
The new Disney100 loop is surprisingly heavy on EPCOT Center originals, but features a good balance of old and new. Anything that includes Country Bear Jamboree, Journey into Imagination, and IllumiNations is a winner in my book! (Given the 50/50 mix of Disneyland and Walt Disney World music, it’s probably safe to assume this BGM was designed with the intention of using it on both coasts.)
In addition to this, the band and other musical acts around the California parks are also playing new medleys for Disney100. These feature good blends of music from the parks plus animated and live action movies of the past and present. Entertainment is the heart of Walt Disney World, and this will make the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration feel more alive.
Disney100 Food – Beginning May 1, guests can enjoy the Disney100 Petite Cake for a limited time at Amorette’s Patisserie in Disney Springs. This mouthwatering dessert has layers of vanilla chiffon, berry mousse and berry compote, all topped with a celebratory Disney100 Medallion macaron.
The Disney Culinary team has been dreaming up all kinds of delicious dishes to commemorate the milestone, and this is just the beginning. I was lucky enough to learn about the inspiration behind this yummy dessert from Chef Amanda.
“The culinary team has the wonderful opportunity to use food for storytelling,” Chef Amanda said. “We get to make special themed treats that bring guests into the story, letting them feel immersed in a tangible and very delicious way.”
“The inspiration of this cake pulls from the rich purple and platinum colors used for the Disney100 celebration,” Chef Amanda shared. “The drapery on the sides of the cake represents the traditional bunting that adorns Main Street, U.S.A. for special occasions. And of course, Mickey Mouse is proudly represented on the front of the cake because as we all know: ‘It all started with a mouse.’”
Disney100 Merchandise – The Disney100 merchandise is now available at Walt Disney World. In addition to what’s out now, a Disney100 Cinderella Premium Bucket will be exclusive to Magic Kingdom. You’ll also be able to enjoy drinks and popcorn in the new Disney100 refillable cups available now at the Disney Resort hotels and popcorn buckets at all four theme parks and Disney Springs.
Other limited-release merchandise for Disney100 is available across Walt Disney World. Cherish nostalgic memories with the new 40s-themed Disney100 Decades Collection featuring Disney classics such as “Fantasia,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Pinocchio” and “Dumbo.” Other options include the Disney100 Platinum Celebration Collection or the Disney100 Unified Character Collection.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Are you looking forward to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Walt Disney World? What excites you the most? Looking forward to the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT? What about the Giant Dirt Pit being filled in and CommuniCore Hall & Plaza debuting? Buy any of the purple/platinum merchandise yet? Planning a trip specifically for the new entertainment or Disney100 offerings? Do you agree or disagree with our guide? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!