Putting a grade on Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration updates

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T1011DISNEY50TH3_TS_HR [credit: Tom Stieghorst]
Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom has been redecorated for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary, and a new light and fireworks spectacular has been created. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

ORLANDO -- Until 1982, admission to Walt Disney World came with a book of ride tickets, with the more modest A-ticket rides at one end of the spectrum and the blockbuster E-ticket attractions at the other.

Changes that rolled out on Oct. 1 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Disney World's debut are a bit like that. Some of the enhancements are routine -- costumes, custom nametags, an anniversary cocktail -- while others are truly spectacular. 

So in the spirit of nostalgia that celebrations like this evoke, let's rate some of these latest experiences as if they were ticket book items.  

• The Magic Kingdom and Epcot have new evening fireworks shows that serve as candles on the anniversary birthday cake for the next 18 months. 

Epcot's "Harmonious" is a water-based show on the central lagoon in Epcot's World Showcase section that is themed around new interpretations of Disney movie songs by a multicultural choir of 240 artists from around the world. 

T1011DISNEY50TH4_TS_HR [credit: Tom Stieghorst]
As part of the new light and fireworks spectacular for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration, the Main Street area of the Magic Kingdom for the first time is included in the light show. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

In addition to fireworks, the 20-minute extravaganza includes colored jets of water shooting from eight moving mechanical arms, surrounding four giant LED panels and one five-story water curtain, all illuminated.

The Magic Kingdom show updates the extravaganza at Cinderella's Castle, which has received a makeover for the 50th. Also, for the first time, projections light up the Main Street area leading to the castle, giving visitors crowding its sidewalks their own magic to ogle. Both experiences: E-tickets.

T1011DISNEY50TH2_TS [credit: Tom Stieghorst]
For the 50th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World, the Spaceship Earth attraction at EPCOT has a new lighting scheme. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

• Cinderella's Castle itself looks fresh in its new livery of pink, blue and gold. It is one of four centerpiece attractions, one at each park, that have been improved for the 50th. C-ticket.

I didn't see the evening fireflies at Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life, nor the Hollywood Tower Hotel illuminations at Disney's Hollywood Studios. But the new light scheme on Spaceship Earth at Epcot is a knockout -- so much so that Disney plans to keep it after the 18-month anniversary observation ends. E-ticket.

• Several planned improvements to the parks are being folded into the 50th celebration. The most significant is the addition to the France pavilion at Epcot. Disney built a whole new street block as an approach to its Remy's Ratatouille Adventure ride, which originated at Disneyland Paris in 2014. There's also the new La Creperie de Paris restaurant, which offers both sit-down service and a window for takeout. D-ticket.

• Also at Epcot, the new Space 220 restaurant opened Sept. 27. Its premise is an elevator ride 220 miles into space for an out-of-this-world meal.

"There's a lot going on with space tourism, and we think this is what space tourism might look like in the future," Disney spokesman Seth Rose said. C-ticket.

T1011DISNEY50TH1_TS [credit: Tom Stieghorst]
Bambi and Thumper are two of the Disney characters depicted in bronze sculptures as part of anniversary celebrations. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

• All around the park, from the merchandise to lighting and more, you'll find the 50th anniversary iridescent color scheme, notably in the swirling patterns on Spaceship Earth.

Visitors could also sample the EARidescent Croissant Doughnuts at Epcot or the EARidescent Ice Dream Cone at the Blizzard Beach waterpark. A-tickets across the board here.

No EARidescent crepes, though. Quel dommage.

• Finally, look for 50 large bronze statues of classic and contemporary Disney characters around the four parks, such as Bambi with a butterfly on his tail in Animal Kingdom. B-ticket.  

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