Walt Disney World News May 2023

A poster featuring Walt Disney in a suit representing the show One Man's Dream at Hollywood Studios

Walt Disney World continues to make a slow comeback. With the return of Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, guests can once again enjoy the beloved, nightly firework show. The Disney 100 celebration kicked off at Disneyland in January but Disney World has a more casual approach. After the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World celebration ended, Disney 100 balloons swiftly popped up in bunches. We’ve seen a scattering of merchandise celebrating the 100 year anniversary of The Walt Disney Company and also got some more news on what to expect for that.

With continued reopenings, regular refurbishments and new rides and restaurants, there’s so much more to know! We’ve got it all for you here each month. Whether you’re planning your next vacation or hoping to be inspired to book one, we hope this Walt Disney World news and updates roundup helps to keep you in the know. Here on the blog, we aim to keep DVC Members and Disney fans up to date with information that can enhance their next Disney World vacation. So what else is going on these days at the most magical place on earth? Let’s see what else Walt Disney World news May 2023 has in store for us. If you’re planning one, have a magical trip!

A special note for all Disney Vacation Club Members who have an October use year. This is your reminder to bank points by May 31st! For more information see: What Does Disney Vacation Club Use Year Mean?

Disney Dates to Remember

Here we have some dates related to Disney World news and recent updates you’ll want to remember. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival takes place through July 5th. The new Roundup Rodeo BBQ is open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Narcoossee’s is open at the Grand Floridian after refurbishment. The nighttime shows at Magic Kingdom and Epcot are Happily Ever After and Epcot Forever again. TRON Lightcycle / Run is open at Magic Kingdom via virtual queue and Lightning Lane. As of April 18th, Annual Passholders can enter the parks after 2:00 p.m. with no reservations, except for Magic Kingdom on the weekends. We always have much more in terms of what may be closed for construction or freshly remodeled in our DVC resort refurbishment schedule.

May 2 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets on sale

May 5 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in theaters

May 14 Characters return to Pixar Place in Hollywood Studios

May 26 The Little Mermaid in theaters

Continued Reopenings At Walt Disney World Resort

We’ve been covering reopenings in depth for a long time now. When Disney originally opened after the 2020 closure, people were just happy to walk down Main Street U.S.A. again and see the castle. Now, as three years have passed and many parts of the experience have still not returned to normal, it’s good to know what to expect on your visit. Things do continue to improve, though very slowly at points. We’re staying hopeful and expect Disney Parks to offer the full experience again at some point. If you’re driving on your trip, you’ll want to know up front that trams still haven’t returned to all of the parks. The Disney Dining Plan hasn’t returned yet either. Some DVC related things that still have not reopened, and have not even been mentioned in quite some time, are restaurants like 1900 Park Fare and the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian. We know there are big refurbishments going on at the Grand overall. The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage has not returned to Disney’s Contemporary Resort either. All of the spas and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques have yet to open and convenient services like having your purchases delivered to the front of the park or directly your room are still paused. These specifically directly affect Disney Vacation Club Members and we want to keep you informed.

Garden Grill Offers Breakfast Again

The Garden Grill restaurant, located in The Land pavilion at Epcot, is a favorite character meal for many guests. It’s unique location in side the Living with the Land attraction makes it an exciting place to dine. But wait, there’s more! Garden Grill rotates! So there’s a lot going on here at this family style dining, character meal option.

Garden Grill will resume offering breakfast again on June 14th, 2023. Reservations can be made online or in the My Disney Experience app. If you’re going before then, lunch and dinner are available now. Lunch and dinner are both $36 per child and $55 per adult. This is an exciting post pandemic era return. There aren’t as many breakfast options in the parks and character meals are always something to consider. If you have little ones in your travel party, or just want to includes characters, these meals can help you get more in on your trip.

Cultural Representatives Return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

You’ll get to experience extra authentic magic on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The Cultural Representatives have returned! Disney has a program where people from around the world can come work here for a limited amount of time. Places you may meet Cultural Representatives around Walt Disney World Resort include this hotel and the many World Showcase pavilions. The idea is to create a more rich atmosphere by including people from different cultures.

I’ve had amazing conversations with people out in the animal observation areas at Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you see a far off place on a name tag, ask them about their home country! These kind of interactions can be so meaningful and bring so much to Disney Parks and resorts. Disney Vacation Club Members staying at Kidani Village or Jambo House can enjoy this neat detail once again. Cultural Representatives haven’t been at the resort since before the pandemic.

Characters Return to Pixar Place 

Entertainment is a major part of the experience for guests at Disney Parks. Over a year ago, Disney shared that character meet and greets would return to normal by the summer of 2022 much to the delight of fans. At the time, characters appeared far from guests due to the pandemic. Even as restrictions eased, many interactions only happened from an awkward distance. For example, Donald and Daisy would wave from a second floor balcony near the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studio. It is taking much longer than expected but we continue to see improvements in these kinds of experiences at the parks.

Disney has now shared that Pixar Place will soon be alive with your favorites again. This was formerly the entrance to the Toy Story Mania attraction but was transformed into a character area not too long before the pandemic. If you remember way back, characters like Woody used to meet here. For a themed overlay, this space started to be used for a celebration of The Incredibles that included new art, streetmosphere and games. All of that didn’t stick but the meet and greets did. At least until 2020. The space has been used sparingly since as a back up area for lines when needed or as a quiet place to sit. As of May 14th, 2023 Edna Mode, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Frozone and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. will also meet guests here. This replaces Sulley’s popular meet and greet within the One Man’s Dream walk through exhibit.

Disney says it will be a reimagined Pixar Place. At this time it’s unclear if the space will be re-themed again away from the Municiberg style or not. Some of these characters were recently reintroduced in the middle of the park. We can plan on this being their permanent new meet and greet location. Whether you enjoy character photos or hugs on your trips or don’t, this is great news for the general guest flow in the parks. When there’s more to do, we all win.

Annual Shareholder Meeting News

Bob Iger and other company leaders hosted the annual shareholder meeting for the The Walt Disney Company last month. The meeting kicked off with a sizzle reel, then a presentation with the CEO at Walt Disney World showcasing new additions like TRON Lightcycle / Run and upcoming attractions like the Moana walk through experience at Epcot.

Bob Iger mentioned the Moana experience would complete Epcot’s multi year transformation. You may remember these plans originally included a Mary Poppins attraction, a redo of Spaceship Earth’s narration and the addition of the special effects and the Play pavilion which would replace Wonders of Life pavilion. All of these, and other updates that have been added like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and the Ratatouille attraction, were once showcased in a walk through presentation that highlighted the park’s future. This seems to confirm anything that hasn’t been built as of now, has been officially scrapped.

Dwayne Johnson then announced a Moana live action film where he will reprise his role as Maui. Moana screenwriter Jared Bush also tagged Auli’i Cravalho in a post, leading us to believe she will play Moana again.

A shareholder asked if the Premier Pass will return and, surprisingly, Bob Iger said no because of its low demand. This was a favorite among the biggest Disney fans but apparently not popular enough to warrant sticking around. 

Regarding the ongoing battle between the governor of Florida, Bob Iger said a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do. Iger went on to state the company was being retaliated against “for its exercise of a constitutional right.” In with this, the CEO stated the company plans to invest 17 billion in Walt Disney World in Florida in the next 10 years. This could mean another theme park, and more, is coming to Disney World depending on how things go.

DeSantis vs. Disney Continues

The Governor of Florida has been determined to retaliate against The Walt Disney Company after it voiced an opinion that opposed his own. The ongoing battle resulted in the Governor taking some authorities away from Disney and instead putting a board of individuals he appointed in charge. To the board’s surprise, before the change, Disney worked within the law to make sure they would not lose power to make important decisions regarding the vacation kingdom property. This included a clause giving Disney power to continue to be in charge until years after the death of the last descendant of the newly throned King Charles. DeSantis has now launched an investigation. This whole thing reads like a soap opera. The board DeSantis appointed has been proud to tout how many lawyers they are hiring to continue to meddle with Disney’s business. These legal fees are being covered by.. Florida taxpayers. 

On the most recent stockholder call, Bob Iger was very strong on Disney’s right to free speech and to conduct their business in a way that aligns with their values. We’ll have to see how this plays out but neither side seems to be backing down. Disney was ten steps ahead of the governor and has lawyers who strategized proactively. As the state continues to confront The Walt Disney Company, Iger reminded listeners that Disney loves Florida and plans to continue to invest in the community, bringing millions of visitors to the state. The plan all along may have been to rise this battle above Florida so Disney can bring attention to the governor’s unfair punishment for Disney disagreeing with him.

The next update includes the governor threatening to add tolls and taxes to Disney property. Then joking about using the land to build a prison. This is really an ongoing, very detailed saga. When the governor took action to null Disney’s move to stay in control, Disney immediately sued the governor and new board. We’ll continue following this story and breaking it down into bite sized bits. There is a lot riding on the outcome. 

Cinderella Castle and Other Post 50th Changes

With the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World behind us, the decorations are slowly coming down and the merchandise may or may not be around on your next trip. In the past, Disney would have some incredible overnight transformations to and from a season or celebration. These days, things take more time.

The Disney Parks Blog shared what we can expect to see changed and when. The biggest deal is probably Cinderella Castle which had the most altered for the celebration. The 50th medallion that covered the iconic clock has been removed. The ribbons and jewels that adorned the park icon are also being removed though not at a fast pace.

As for the castle colors? Disney was open about different details except for that. There was no mention of the current castle colors being changed. On the updated digital park map, the pink upper and dark blue roofs are present, even without the 50th decor. So it seems this color scheme is the new normal for now.

For the golden statues found around Walt Disney World property, they will be exiting but at a slower pace. The Enchantment poster in the front of the park was changed in a timely manner to welcome Happily Ever After back. The magical unlock the magic poster for Happily Ever After now shines in the Magic Kingdom entrance tunnels once again. You may have noticed the My Disney Experience app has been updated with a different icon. If not, make sure to update the app before your next visit.

Narcoossee’s Open at the Grand Floridian

Members who call The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa home now have another dining location open at their home resort. Narcoossee’s sits right on the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon, facing Magic Kingdom with a perfect view of the fireworks. The menu has been refreshed but some popular items remain.

Live Action Ariel to Meet Guests at Disney World

The Little Mermaid live action film swims into theaters May 26th. Around that time, no specific date shared yet, Ariel from this version of the film will meet guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Walt Disney Presents walk through attraction also known as One Man’s Dream. The meet and greet space has been home to Sulley from Monsters, Inc. who will relocate to Pixar Place. This summer is an exciting time for fans of the mermaid princess who can meet her two different places at Walt Disney World for the time being. The spirited teenager from the animated classic also meets in Ariel’s Grotto in Magic Kingdom daily.

TRON Lightcycle / Run and Extended Evening Hours

Guests staying at deluxe tier properties, including Disney Vacation Club resorts, have an additional opportunity for a virtual queue signup for TRON. The Extended Evening Hours signup for TRON is similar to Cosmic Rewind over at Epcot. Guests can try to sign up at 7:00 a.m. from anywhere, 1:00 p.m. from in the park and then also 6:00 p.m. from anywhere if they’re staying in a deluxe resort. At this time, in order to ride TRON, guests must have a park ticket, park reservation (or park hop to Magic Kingdom) and then either secure a spot in the virtual queue or buy an individual Lightning Lane. There is no standby line for the new attraction. See more about how to ride Tron.

Walkway from Polynesian to Grand Changed Again

The walkway between the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian resorts has been closed as the new DVC tower is built at the Polynesian. The building is going up, and fast, where the Spirit of Aloha dinner show was. The path between the two resorts was first moved partially across the street from the properties. Guests would have to cross a busy road twice on the trek. The updated pathway stays on the same side of the road as the resorts and offers a more direct and safer route. 

Also note that the walk way from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom is currently closed as the Sago Cay building is renovated. During this time, guests can just walk between the two resorts and the monorail or boat service can take you to Magic Kingdom. 

Star Wars Celebration Disney Parks Updates

Star Wars Celebration is just what it sounds like. A celebration of all things Star Wars. Fans attend this convention in different places around the world, wearing costumes, meeting talent from the films and more. In 2023, the celebration took place in London with lots of Disney+ content and Disney Parks announcements. For the parks, Imagineers hinted at more characters coming to Galaxy’s Edge. The Mandolorian and Grogu walk around characters made their debut this year with great fan fare. While Galaxy’s Edge is thrilling, many fans have echoed the same sentiment: the land needs more entertainment to truly bring it to life. 

Also announced, new adventures are coming to Star Tours next year. The destinations were not shared but the locations in recent films and Disney+ series would be very fun to experience. With Mando in the land, can you imagine riding through some destinations from the show? That would, no doubt, be a huge hit among guests. Disney can sometimes be strict on making sense with who appears in what timeline. As a fan, that can feel restricting. I think many visitors would be okay with, and most wouldn’t even know, if characters appear in a way that doesn’t align with the overall Star Wars universe timeline.

Disney World Annual Passes On Sale Again 

On April 20th annual passes went on sale again to the general public. However, Disney Vacation Club Members who are eligible for Membership Extras were able to purchase the Sorcerer Pass as of April 13th. Leadership at DVC noted in an email to Members that this type of pass will be available to DVC Members more frequently than passes are available to others. 

Disney has claimed to be listening to the feedback of their guests. This proves that to be true. As a Disney Vacation Club Member, not being able to purchase annual passes is more than an inconvenience. For many it has felt personal. DVC Members invest a lot of money at Disney. Committing to the Disney timeshare but then not being able to purchase an annual pass just didn’t make sense. DVC has finally come around on this. Giving DVC Members the option to purchase annual passes should always be a given.   

As of early May, annual passes are still for sale for everyone.

My Disney Experience App Updates

The My Disney Experience app has been updated with a new generic icon, not the 50th celebration anymore as noted above. This update also includes changes to how mobile dining orders are made. The new interface includes a lot more data but, once you get used to it, can be more convenient. Dining locations are now filtered by parks, resorts and Disney Springs. 

If you’re ready to mobile order lunch at Magic Kingdom, you can tap on the plus on the bottom of the home screen, then select Order Food. When you tap on Magic Kingdom you’ll see the number of dining locations offering mobile ordering and the Next Arrival window. You can also filter dining options by tapping Available Now up top to see what will be the fastest option at the time. If you have Location Services turned on, you can select Nearby up top to filter options to only show those near you. After you spend a few minutes playing with the new features, you’ll probably find the changes are very helpful for mobile ordering meals.

Florida Resident Can Get 2 Day Water Park Tickets For the Price of One

We’ve seen Disney start to introduce a wave of deals again from dining incentives to discounted hotel stays for select groups. Now a water park visit is being offered to Florida Residents at a discounted rate. And during peak water park season! Basically, the deal includes paying one day water park ticket prices for two days of access. Right now this only includes Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park as Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park is closed.

Prices depend on the dates the ticket can be used. A 2 Day Disney Water Park Ticket valid for use April 18th through June 30th is $69 for guests ages 10 and up and $63 for guests ages 3 to 9. A 2 Day Disney Water Park Ticket valid for use April 18th through May 27th is $5 less at $64 for guests ages 10 and up and $58 for guests ages 3 to 9.

A New DVC Resort is Taking Over the Cabins at Fort Wilderness

This is meant quite literally! The Cabins at Fort Wilderness – A Disney Vacation Club Resort will replace the current cabins at the property. This will be the seventeenth Disney Vacation Club Resort. Fort Wilderness is home to many campsites for both RV and tent camping. It’s also favored as one of the most dog friendly places to stay at Walt Disney World. Some cabins will be designated as dog friendly. Does that make this the first dog friendly DVC resort? Is this being built instead of Reflections? Will anything else be built to bring this legacy property up to DVC resort standards? We have all the information you want to know, including Disney’s official announcement, in our article about The Cabins at Fort Wilderness – A Disney Vacation Club Resort.

Note that as of now we anticipate The Cabins at Fort Wilderness – A Disney Vacation Club Resort to work similar to Disney’s Riviera Resort in terms of resale restrictions.

2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival Dates Announced

The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival will return starting July 27th and run through November 18th in 2023. Traditionally a fall event, we’ve seen this event start earlier every year, working its way up to mid July for a few years even. Note the start is a little later than we’ve seen recently, now towards the end of the month. It usually kicks off with a decent line up of offerings but fully opens in the fall with additional food booths.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Dates Announced

Continuing along with sharing details for fall offerings, Disney celebrated the halfway to Halloween point with some frightfully good news. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will return this August, starting quite early this year! Prices depend on the date of the party and range from $109 to $199. The Halloween party goes from 7:00 p.m. to midnight but guests can get in at 4:00 p.m. with their ticket. Everyone can dress up, trick or treat and enjoy attraction overlays, the festive parade and themed fireworks. It’s a classic Disney event, back for its second year after a few years off. Event dates:

August: 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29

September: 1, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29

October: 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31

November: 1

Select resort guests can purchase tickets starting April 27th. Tickets go on sale for everyone May 2nd. 

Hatbox Ghost Debuting at Disney World

Disney also shared a teaser for the Hatbox Ghost coming to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction later this year. This ghoulish character is favored by fans as an original concept for the attraction who made his way permanently to Disneyland in 2015. Now in 2023, Walt Disney World will get the same, or similar, ride enhancement including this character. Adding celebrated features to attractions without changing what we love about them is a way to keep the magic fun and exciting. More of that, please!

DVC Resale Experts Can Help

DVC Resale Experts is a licensed real estate broker with a team that specializes in resale DVC. Whether you’re adding on points, buying or selling Disney Vacation Club, the Experts can help you find the right price to place a bid with or list your contract for. Our independent, licensed real estate agents are former Disney Vacation Club Guides. They have decades of pixie dusted experience selling DVC and take pride in providing excellent service to their clients. The Experts have seen it all and are happy to answer your questions throughout the process.

DVC resale prices can pleasantly surprise potential members. See our resale DVC listings for a look at real time availability and pricing. If you don’t see the contract you’re wishing for, join the DVC Resale Experts Buyer Wish List to be contacted when one magically appears on the market. Ready to sell DVC? Get in touch for a complimentary valuation of your specific contract today.

Disney Blogger Nicole and Disney CEO Bob Iger

Sparkly Nicole

Nicole is a native Floridian who attended the University of Central Florida and decided to call the land of theme parks home. She’s been sharing magical tips, tricks and Orlando travel and tourism favorites online for over a decade.

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