July 21, 2024

Disney World Removes ‘Bonus’ Independence Day 2024 Fireworks & ‘Unextends’ Hours

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Earlier this week, Walt Disney World announced how the parks and resorts would be celebrating Independence Day. This included longer hours on July 3-4, as well as a fireworks shows/tags at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom.




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Earlier this week, Walt Disney World announced how the parks and resorts would be celebrating Independence Day. This included longer hours on July 3-4, as well as a fireworks shows/tags at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom. The company has gone back and quietly edited that announcement to unextend hours and remove the bonus fireworks tag. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s changed.

Let’s start with the before for Magic Kingdom: “At Magic Kingdom, you can dance the night away with DJs mixing tunes at a dance party in front of Cinderella Castle and throughout the park during extended park hours: July 3, 8 a.m.-midnight; July 4, 8 a.m.-1 a.m.”

And after: “At Magic Kingdom, you can dance the night away with DJs mixing tunes at a dance party in front of Cinderella Castle and throughout the park.”

According to the official calendar on DisneyWorld.com, Magic Kingdom is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on July 3, with Extended Evening Hours for eligible guests from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. The park will be open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on July 4, 2024. Early Entry starts 30 minutes prior to the official opening times on both dates.

Of course, as we’ve seen from the above stealth edit (and just the general nature of park calendar updates), this is subject to change. Usually, that means extensions of park hours–not reductions. In this case, I wouldn’t expect further changes. Those hours are fairly long in light of current crowd levels–Independence Day is not that busy of a holiday, historically.

Here are the changes for EPCOT–before:  “Sensational patriotic fireworks display, “The Heartbeat of Freedom,” will follow the new nighttime EPCOT fireworks show Luminous “The Symphony of Us.” Performances will take place July 3 and 4 at 9 p.m.”

And after: “Sensational patriotic fireworks display, “The Heartbeat of Freedom,” will follow the new nighttime EPCOT fireworks show Luminous “The Symphony of Us.” Performances will take place July 4 at 9 p.m.” (Note that the edit still retained the plural of performances. It’s actually just a performance now, singular.)

No park hours changes at EPCOT, which was always scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any park hours extensions whatsoever at EPCOT, so don’t expect any changes there. That’s still kinda wild to me, as EPCOT is a popular spot for locals on holidays like this, and you’d think that the extra food & beverage sales would more than pay for another hour of operations at night. But there’s no festival and this has been Walt Disney World’s approach to EPCOT hours for a while now, so I guess not.

The big disappointment here is the loss of “The Heartbeat of Freedom” on July 3, 2024. This was pretty unprecedented (I thought maybe EPCOT did this during “Limited Time Magic” back in 2013, but it turns out not. We did get a glorious week of Independence Day fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, though!)

In talking to friends and fellow photographers, we couldn’t come up with a time when EPCOT ever did this. If it had ever happened in the past, it was before our time. (Side note: I really hope Walt Disney World brings back something like “Limited Time Magic” or “Year of a Million Dreams” or “Summer Nightastic” for Summer 2025. With nothing new on the horizon, those would be lovely stopgap events!)

Regardless, these bonus fireworks and park hours did seem a bit too good to be true. But then again, Walt Disney World has started doing little things to entice locals and Annual Passholders to visit the parks as pent-up demand exhausts itself, so I thought maybe this was another instance of that. I guess not.

So what did happen that led to the removal of these announcements? Some of you might be inclined to believe that the company read our post that was published a few hours later, Summer (Still) Is NOT High Crowds Season at Walt Disney World, and suddenly realized that the parks aren’t actually busy and these added hours or fireworks weren’t necessary. I’m kidding, of course, but the timing is slightly amusing.

Not only that, but we have seen comments as part of the online discourse that Walt Disney World made these “cuts” as a result of a softer summer. That type of thing is certainly possible and not unprecedented…but this isn’t how that would work. They wouldn’t make an announcement on Tuesday that applies ~2 weeks in the future, and then walk it back 2 days later.

To whatever extent summer is soft, Walt Disney World already knows it–and knew it earlier this week. Their forecasting is slightly more sophisticated than that. They know what occupancy and attendance projections look like months out. Disney isn’t infallible with this stuff–sometimes their forecast misses the mark–but it’s not the kind of thing that changes in the span of 2 days for 2 weeks in the future.

If current forecasts show a slowdown (and they probably do, as discussed in our recent crowds report), we’ll soon see new resort discounts for October through December, fewer park hours extensions in August and September, another ticket deal for Fall 2024, and perhaps another wave of Free Dining or even another round of V.I.PASSHOLDER Days. That’s the standard response to a slowdown…not this.

As for why Walt Disney World hit the “undo” button to unextend hours and delete the fireworks tag extra showing…it’s probably a classic Disney goof-up. No nefarious explanation, ulterior motives, or fun explanation. Probably just one hand not knowing what the other was doing, or simple internal confusion.

At first I thought maybe the park hours thing was someone mixing up regular hours and Extended Evening Hours, but that doesn’t really make sense. Nor does a transcription error. So I have no clue how that happened. With the “Heartbeat of Freedom” tag, my best guess is that someone saw two shows for Magic Kingdom and assumed the same for EPCOT. How mistakes like this get through given all of the eyes on this stuff is beyond me, but they do seem to happen.

Ultimately, just wanted to bring this all to your attention because I’m guessing I just updated our Guide to July 4, 2024 at Walt Disney World, many of you would’ve missed the changes. After all, if you read it once…why read it again? And since Disney itself announced the additions but not the removals, you’re likely not to look back at their announcement again, either.

So rather than having you show up to EPCOT expecting earthshaking fireworks on July 3, not seeing them, and cursing me out for “screwing up the schedule” as a result, I’m giving you this heads up. I didn’t get anything wrong–Disney quietly changed it. Finally, this should cement your strategy/schedule–visit Magic Kingdom on July 3, 2024 and EPCOT on Independence Day. Same as always.

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!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Disappointed that Disney removed the surprise extended hours and unprecedented “Heartbeat of Freedom” tag? Or did you always suspect it was a goof-up? Have you ever visited Walt Disney World for the Fourth of July? Would you ever do it? Have any additional tips for making the most out of the experience, or regarding which fireworks shows to see? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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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