Disney World 50th anniversary
Disney World's Anniversary Celebration

Walt Disney World Resort is marking its 50th anniversary with an 18-month-long celebration called "The World's Most Magical Celebration." The resort first opened to the public Oct. 1, 1971. In the years since, Disney World has grown from just one theme park (Magic Kingdom) and two resort hotels (Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort) to four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs complex and more than 30 resort hotels.

For its anniversary celebration, Disney World will debut new shows and attractions across theme parks. 

At Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle has received a makeover for the celebration. The castle, now with a rose gold paint job, has received gold bunting, golden ribbons, royal blue jewels and other enhancements. The park is also getting a new nighttime show called "Disney Enchantment," which will feature music, enhanced lighting, fireworks and projections that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A. 

At Epcot, a new show called "Harmonious" will take center stage on the World Showcase Lagoon. The show will feature a soundtrack of classic Disney songs that have been reinterpreted by a group of 240 artists from around the world. It will also have pyrotechnics, fountains, dazzling lights. 

Over at Animal Kingdom, there will be a new daytime show called "Disney KiteTails" inside the Discovery River Ampitheater. The show will feature performers operating kites of all shapes and sizes. Some kites will depict various Disney characters such as Simba, Zazu and more. 

The icons at each Disney World theme park will also become "Beacons of Magic" during the evening hours. Projection mapping and other other special effects will be used to transform Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.


As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Disney World will have gold character statues on display in all four of its theme parks. The statues are part of what Disney is calling the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection. Here's a list of characters and where you can find them. 


  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Goofy 
  • Daisy Duck
  • Donald Duck
  • Dumbo and Timothy Mouse
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Lumiere and Cogsworth
  • Cheshire Cat
  • Mad Hatter
  • Orange Bird
  • Chip and Dale
  • Stitch
  • Abu
  • Gus and Jaq
  • Pinocchio
  • Pluto
  • Tinker Bell
  • Winnie the Pooh and Piglet


  • Dante
  • Figment
  • Miguel
  • Pua & Heihei
  • Olaf and Bruni
  • Rocket and Groot


  • BB-8
  • Edna Mode
  • Flounder and Sebastian
  • Frozone
  • Joe Gardner
  • R2-D2
  • Woody and Bo Peep


  • Bambi and Thumper
  • Timon and Pumbaa
  • Nemo and Dory
  • Simba

Disney World: A Look Back

Walt Disney World Resort first opened to the public Oct. 1, 1971, with just Magic Kingdom and two resort hotels--Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Village. In the decades since, the resort has grown to include four theme parks, two water parks, the Disney Springs entertainment complex, multiple golf courses and more than 30 resort hotels.

As Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary, let's take a look back at some key milestones throughout its history in Central Florida: 

  • Nov. 15, 1965 – Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney held a news conference with then-Florida Gov. Hayden Burns to announced “The Florida Project,” The Walt Disney Company’s plans to build a Disneyland-style resort in Central Florida.
  • May 30, 1967 – Disney breaks ground on construction of Walt Disney World.
  • Oct. 1, 1971 – After years of planning and construction, Walt Disney World opened to the public. A few weeks later, the resort had its official grand opening ceremony on Oct. 25
  • March 22, 1975 – Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opens at Disney World with more than two doezen shops and four restaurants. Over the years, it would expand and have different names including Downtown Disney before transforming into Disney Springs in 2015
  • Oct. 1, 1982 – Epcot opens to the public with a few attractions and nine World Showcase pavilions, including Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada.
  • May 1, 1989 – Disney-MGM Studios opens to the public. The park would later be renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008.
  • June 1, 1989 - Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park opens.
  • April 1, 1995 - Disney's Blizzard Beach water park opens. 
  • Oct. 1, 1996 – Disney World kicks off its 25th anniversary celebration. 
  • March 28, 1997 - Disney's Wide World of Sports opens. 
  • April 22, 1998 – Disney's Animal Kingdom opens to the public. 
  • May 5, 2005 – Disney World joins the "Happiest Celebration on Earth," a salute to the 50th anniversary of Disneyland Resort in California.
  • Dec. 6, 2012 – Fantasyland expansion opens at Magic Kingdom.
  • May 27, 2017 – Pandora - The World of Avatar opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • June 30, 2018 – Toy Story Land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
  • Aug. 29, 2019 – Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios.