By Carlye Wisel
September 26, 2016
WDW Changes That May Surprise You
Credit: Courtesy of Disney

You likely know about banner Disney news like the opening of Star Wars Land and the addition of Frozen-themed boat rides, but the smaller stuff? It doesn’t always trickle its way into your consciousness, despite the fact that some small changes will directly impact your family vacation

Ensure you won’t be taken aback the next time you visit Magic Kingdom and its surrounding parks by getting ahead of changes that will affect your family photos, how you’ll enter the park, and even the way your relatives decide what food to order. Technological advances, under-the-radar attractions, and a final taste of nostalgia, up ahead:

Princess Jasmine looks completely different

The Agrabah-raised royal began sporting a more conservative full-sleeved gown at meet-and-greets earlier this month, which is significantly less revealing than her previous bikini-topped outfit. Though the redesign is in line with other princess costume updates over the past couple years, Disney die-hards have been up in arms about the hotly debated change, arguing that it could make the character unrecognizable.

Your kids will hold tickets like adults

No, they won’t be paying top-dollar for admission, but children as young as three are now required to scan their fingers upon entering Walt Disney World parks in an effort to curb resale and exchange of used park tickets. The biometric sensor is not technically a fingerprint reader, but will require some extra finesse upon entering, as the same finger needs to be used each time.

WDW Changes That May Surprise You
Credit: Courtesy of Disney

There is finally—yes!—bus transportation between the parks and Disney Springs

The internal bus system shepherding guests across Walt Disney World property has at long last added direct service from its four theme parks to the reinvigorated downtown district. Instead of enduring a time-wasting transfer between a Disney hotel, parkgoers can now head directly from their favorite attractions to dine, shop, and eat from 4 p.m. until two hours after park closing. The only caveat: There are no direct buses back to the parks from Springs’ famed eateries and souvenir shops, so plan accordingly.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster received a tiny tweak

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has edited out a questionable hand gesture of Steven Tyler’s in the introduction video to the ride. The seemingly inappropriate hand movement has been digitally replaced with an open-faced palm, but what’s even more, ahem, shocking is that it took over 15 years for it to be censored. Better late than never?

Your favorite food may be harder to find

Disney’s Hollywood Studios shuttered Toluca Legs Turkey Co. earlier this summer, the park’s only vendor of turkey legs. The oversized fan favorite was phased out at Animal Kingdom as well, leaving Magic Kingdom and the American pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase as the only two theme park locations left offering the snack.

Beachside resorts now offer a slightly different view

To take precaution against future alligator attacks following this past summer’s tragedy, permanent rope fences have been erected outside the Polynesian Village Resort and Grand Floridian Resort, with rows of boulders added at its shoreline. Caribbean Beach Resort, which offers multiple small beaches across its grounds, has added similar precautions as well.

The Muppets are back in a big way

Between Hollywood Studios’ demolition clearing the way for new lands and low ratings for the gang’s prime-time show, fans were concerned The Muppets would be erased from the parks completely. Instead, Disney has doubled down on the lovable Jim Henson creatures with PizzeRizzo, Disney’s first Muppet-themed eatery (currently under construction), as well as an American history-themed comedy show in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square beginning in October.

WDW Changes That May Surprise You
Credit: © Disney / Lucasfilm

Prep for sticker shock from numbers that aren’t prices

Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have begun experimenting with posting calorie counts on restaurant menus, forcing visitors to contemplate just how irresponsible indulgences like chicken nuggets and cupcakes really are. Knowledge is power...but isn’t everyone powerless to a Mickey Bar?

Nighttime activities will be trickier to plan

With the Main Street Electrical Parade ending its run at the Magic Kingdom in October, The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic at Animal Kingdom wrapped and that park’s Rivers of Light show still to debut, there are fewer evening experiences than ever. Add to it that Hollywood Studios’ awe-inspiring Star Wars fireworks display will no longer be nightly and that Animal Kingdom is rumored to return to 6 p.m. closures and your after-hours options this fall may be severely limited.

Tomorrowland has a new look

Tomorrowland has been undergoing a refresh, seeing its brown entryway rocks covered in chrome blues and striking purples as well as a new retro pattern covering outside the Carousel of Progress building. All the attention to detail is only fueling the rumors that an update—and possibly new attractions—may be coming Tomorrowland’s way.

Zika warnings are in full force

It’s tough to damper the idyllic magic of the parks, but the looming threat of the virus is strong enough that insect repellant is now being offered throughout Walt Disney World for absolutely free. Keep an eye out for small tables with pump dispensers of lotion repellant throughout the resort grounds.

You may never get lost again

The official My Disney Experience app has now included an updated offering easy-to-follow instructions both inside the parks and between them, ensuring you never underestimate how long it’ll take to arrive at that breakfast reservation on time.

Take a visit to Universe of Energy...before it’s too late.

This one’s pre-emptive, but word has it that Ellen’s Energy Adventure may be shuttering in the near future to make way for a Guardians of The Galaxy thrill ride. It’s not just the rumor mill churning, either—Disney even lifted test height balloons, which tends to signal they’re serious about a project. It may very well be hearsay, but if you love the ride, get there before Groot does!