Disney World News: Trams Returning, Holiday Zombie Show, More Mobile Checkout – Disney Tourist Blog

It’s time for another Walt Disney World news roundup! This one covers the latest changes to park hours, more sold out ticket dates, the overdue return of parking lot trams, more zombies for Christmas (finally), an official Orlando holiday celebrating WDW, and more.

As usual, we’ll start with the latest release of new and modified operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours. The current calendar now runs through February 12, 2022. Here are the hours for most dates that are newly-added through the end of this year and into Winter 2022:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 8 pm
  • Epcot: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

The only noteworthy thing to report with the new hours is that Magic Kingdom has added a second 4:30 pm closing to the calendar on February 8, 2022. As you may recall, the park is also closing at that time on January 25, 2022. Both dates are to honor Cast Member service milestones, with the second night added due to a ‘backlog’ of recognition to be bestowed since an evening was missed during the phased reopening. This is the best possible reason for an early closure of Magic Kingdom and Cast Members deserve it after the last year-plus. (Even if you have an entirely selfish outlook, this is great for morale, which benefits guests.)

There are also some extensions to park hours. Magic Kingdom will now close at 1 am on December 30 and 31, with both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios still closing at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Additionally, Epcot’s opening time has moved forward from 11 am to 10 am December 4-6, 10-12, 18-31, and January 1, 2022. Animal Kingdom now has longer hours several dates in December, with a bunch of new 8 am openings and 8 pm closing times. (We highly recommend evenings in Animal Kingdom during the Christmas season!)

Let’s start the substantive news with a brand new holiday: Happy Walt Disney World Day to those who celebrate!!!

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will be joined by city commissioners, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and other elected officials to present an official proclamation to Walt Disney World, honoring the 50th Anniversary and declaring December 3, 2021 as Walt Disney World Day. Dyer will also participate in a service project alongside Disney VoluntEARS to support Second Harvest’s mission to help feed those in need in the community.

“For 50 years, Walt Disney World Resort has served as a beacon of hope and happiness in the Central Florida area, bringing the beloved magic found across the resort to children and families in our neighboring communities,” a press release states.

“After kicking off the 50th Anniversary celebration with $3 million in grants, Walt Disney World Resort is continuing the celebration with the community and is being recognized by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings with a special proclamation as December 3, 2021, will now be known as Walt Disney World Day.”

In other important news, “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” is returning for a second year with ZOMBIES stars Milo Manheim, Kylee Russell, Meg Donnelly and Trevor Tordjman competing in a high-stakes holiday adventure featuring new epic challenges. The quest will take place inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World after dark, as part of The World’s Most Magical Celebration that honors the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

Actress and comedian Yvette Nicole Brown will host as the stars navigate a series of new challenges and obstacles through a variety of Walt Disney World attractions. “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” airs Friday, Dember 3, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST/PST on Disney Channel and will be available to stream on Disney+ starting December 10, 2021.

In this year’s “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” Maleficent has stolen the holiday star from atop the Holiday Tree (Disney’s term, not mine), and its pieces have been hidden throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ZOMBIES stars are tasked with finding the missing pieces and reassembling the star to restore the magic to the theme park. They’ll complete missions in Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, at the Tower of Terror, and more.

Above is a trailer for “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” so you can determine whether it’ll be your cup of tea. As an avid fan of “Resident Evil” and “Walking Dead” (until that show got tedious), I’ve long felt Christmas could use more zombies. So I’ll definitely be tuning in to check out the carnage.

Since last year, Walt Disney World has been testing a new mobile checkout option at select merchandise shops throughout the parks & resorts, available through the My Disney Experience mobile app. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the company is expanding this feature to a few more locations.

Mobile checkout is currently available or coming soon to the following gift shops at Walt Disney World:

  • World of Disney at Disney Springs
  • Creations Shop at Epcot
  • Emporium at Magic Kingdom – New
  • Mickey’s of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Coming soon
  • Island Mercantile at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – Coming soon

Given that we are quick to criticize Disney IT, we want to pause here briefly to applaud the technological enhancements made during the last year-plus at Walt Disney World. Merchandise Mobile Checkout, Table Service To-Go, and Walk-up Waitlist are all solid improvements to the guest experience and they work well. (In fairness, we’ve used mobile checkout like once or twice since we don’t buy many souvenirs–but it saved us a long wait for 50th Anniversary stuff!)

I have concerns about the societal ills of over-automation and how it’ll lead to more impersonal and isolating experiences, those are more generalized. Walt Disney World is less worrying in that regard since you have so many interactions with Cast Members throughout the day. That hasn’t changed even with features like this added to My Disney Experience, and hopefully the company will exercise restraint and not take automation too far to the point that it dehumanizes the parks.

Rather, we view these app additions as unequivocal enhancements to the guest experience. Since waiting in line is such a significant component of visiting Walt Disney World (and will be regardless), the parks & resorts benefit from automation like this that eliminates added waits and friction points.

Speaking of friction points, Walt Disney World announced via social media that parking trams will be returning to Magic Kingdom Park in December 2021 and the other three theme parks “throughout 2022!”

On the one hand, it’s good to see the long overdue return of parking lot trams to the Transportation and Ticket Center. That walk can be brutal on busy days and weekends, and that has been the case since at least this spring when crowds started picking up. Parking trams are definitely needed at the TTC more than anywhere else at Walt Disney World, so that’s a good place to start.

On the other hand, throughout 2022 is a concerning word choice. It’s not “early 2022” or “Spring 2022.” Heck, even just an “in the new year!” might’ve been better than throughout, which suggests it could be a more drawn out process.

I don’t know what can be written here that hasn’t already been said. The bottom line is that it’s inexcusable that Walt Disney World still hasn’t brought back the trams and the company should be embarrassed by the negative media attention, and being made a punchline on late night shows.

On multiple occasions since spring, there have been credible rumors of the parking lot trams’ return, and Cast Members were training on the trams before ultimately being reassigned. I’d love to know the full story behind those abandoned plans. Was it cost cutting? Not enough drivers? A deliberate decision to pad sales of preferred parking?

We’ve been fairly forgiving of Disney’s slow restart during the phased reopening, recognizing that labor shortages and supply chain disruptions are impacting businesses around the country–not just Disney. We know that a lot of Walt Disney World’s moves (or lack thereof) are largely beyond their control and a symptom of larger, far-reaching problems.

In other situations, Disney is pretty transparent about using current circumstances as a pretext for cuts they’ve long desired to make or feel they can get away with in the short term. It’s unclear where the lack of trams falls. On its face, it sure seems like a cost-cutting situation, but I also know there’s a shortage of CDL drivers in Central Florida.

On top of that, the grueling TTC walk is an awful first and last impression, so the tram hiatus doesn’t seem like a savvy move from a guest satisfaction perspective. But that also hasn’t stopped plenty of recent cuts or decisions, many of which are focused disproportionately on the short term.

Consequently, we’re disinclined to give Walt Disney World the benefit of the doubt on things like parking lot trams being absent for so long. If there were a good justification for this, the company could’ve indicated as much in an update or one of Josh D’Amaro’s interviews with business publications (if discussing logistics and business headwinds were deemed too wonkish for a guest-facing update).

Perhaps I’m in the minority with this sentiment, but I’d love if Walt Disney World communicated with me as if I’m an adult–or at least a teenager. If you can afford a multi-thousand dollar vacation or Annual Pass, there’s about a 0% chance you’re 8 years old; it thus strikes me as odd for that to be the intended audience of the company’s communications. I’m not asking for total transparency or bluntness, but a little more of that might go a long way in setting expectations–and even having consumers be more receptive to otherwise unpopular decisions, changes, or circumstances.

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!


What do you think about all this Walt Disney World news? Excited for the holiday zombie game? How will you be celebrating Walt Disney World Day? Thoughts on parking lot trams returning to Magic Kingdom this month and the rest of Walt Disney World throughout 2022? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!


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