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Update for December 17 – 23, 2012

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News and Views

New Fantasyland opens | New Test Track debuts | Splitsville readies for December 19 opening | Next Generation technology starts its full roll out | All Disney Cruise Line ships to sail from Florida in early 2014 | Night of Joy lineup for next year announced | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd Update
[Ed. Note: My apologies for the lack of an Update last week, and my thanks for the concern expressed by those who reached out to me following that. The media event and subsequent events in my personal life left me with nothing in my tank to handle writing last week, but I'm back this week. Expect shorter park updates than usual next week and the following week while I go on vacation with my family. Enjoy your holiday celebrations! – Mark]

New Fantasyland opens

"To all who believe in wishes and dreams, to all those who are young and young at heart, and to always believing that 'once upon a time' will end with 'happily ever after,' New Fantasyland will always be yours."

With those words, actress Ginnifer Goodwin (from ABC's Once Upon a Time) officially opened New Fantasyland on Thursday, December 6 at a celebration on the Cinderella Castle stage.


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The festivities started an hour earlier in Belle's Village, as Goodwin and singer Jordin Sparks held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mickey Mouse and Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs with only the press in attendance. Day guests were held back by the central hub during the opening ceremony, to allow the media to get in and out of the area in front of the stage as necessary.


Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs, Mickey Mouse, actress Ginnifer Goodwin, and singer Jordin Sparks cut the ribbon to open New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. MousePlanet video by Mark Goldhaber.

During the public ceremony, Goodwin first introduced Sparks, who performed a medley of Fantasyland-related songs while Disney dancers and characters performed around her. Goodwin then returned and introduced Staggs.

During his remarks, Staggs stated:

"Walt Disney once said that 'Disneyland' and by extension, all of our parks, 'would never be complete as long as there's imagination left in the world." That was a promise that he made to all of you, our guests. At the same time, he was charging all of us at Disney Parks to stay true to our legacy, to continue creating experiences that bring our characters and stories to life, helping friends and families to make memories that last a lifetime. I think it's clear from the stunning work that's gone into every aspect of New Fantasyland that there's plenty of imagination left in our world, and I think Walt would be extremely proud of the thousands of cast members and Imagineers whose tireless efforts made New Fantasyland a reality."

Following Staggs, Goodwin then dedicated the new land.


Actress Ginnifer Goodwin, Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs, singer Jordin Sparks, and Mickey Mouse participate in a ceremony at the Cinderella Castle Stage to open New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. MousePlanet video by Mark Goldhaber.

As previously reported here, the newly opened expansion of the land includes the Enchanted Tales with Belle enhanced meet-and-greet experience, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston's Tavern quick-service location, Bonjour! Village Gifts merchandise location, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid attraction. In addition, the Storybook Circus area is officially part of the expansion, though the area had previously been its own land, Mickey's Toontown Fair. That area now hosts the expanded Dumbo the Flying Elephant double-spinner attraction, the rethemed Barnstormer Featuring Goofy as The Great Goofini roller coaster, Pete's Silly Sideshow themed meet-and-greet, Big Top Souvenirs merchandise location, Casey Jr. Splash 'n' Soak Station wet play area, and the improved Carolwood Park Train Station. Still to come are Princess Fairy Tale Hall meet-and-greet in 2013 and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in early 2014.

The new space is extremely well-themed, and the placemaking by the Imagineers is truly impressive. I plan to discuss the expansion some more in future articles, including a great video interview with the project's Creative Director, Chris Beatty.


At the media preview party in the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland on Wednesday night, December 5, months of preparations and weeks of promotion paid off as a dragon soared over the crowd, drawing oohs and aahs. We captured most of the flight on video, and then got a follow-up commentary from the man behind Disney's dragon promotion, Gary Buchanan. It appears that this was a one-night-only appearance for now. It worked so well, though, that it would be a shame not to have it make a return engagement. MousePlanet video by Mark Goldhaber.


More coaster track continues to be installed on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


New cutouts in the construction walls allow guests to "peek" through holes to view the construction in progress. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Paving stones are being installed along the walkways at new western Fantasyland Tangled-themed restrooms. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Rapunzel's tower at the new western Fantasyland restroom area is clearly visible from Frontierland along the Rivers of America. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


The Yankee Trader is starting to emerge from its exterior refurbishment. The building sports a new, more intense blue color scheme. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

New Test Track debuts

On the evening of December 6, the re-Imagineered Test Track was officially opened by Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Operations, U.S. & France, and Alan Batey, General Motors Vice President of U.S. Sales & Service during a Grand Opening "Ac-Celebration." The evening event featured pyrotechnics, plenty of food and drink, a DJ and dancers, and a performance by pop rock band One Republic.

"We're here to celebrate a reimagination of the future of transportation: Test Track Presented by Chevrolet," said Crofton. "This attraction is truly an exciting experience, and one that we couldn't have created without our great partners and General Motors."

"The reimagined Test Track attraction is a collaborative effort which showcases the best of Chevrolet design and truly the best of Walt Disney Imagineering by artfully telling an intimate automotive story that authentically reflects the personality and the values of Chevrolet design," noted Batey. "Now we together attached the best talent from our organizations to create the ride experience that will truly give Walt Disney resort guests a deeper look at an iconic global brand through a first-of-its-kind virtual experience in automotive design. The result is a truly unique experience that gives a genuine inside-the-studio look at Chevrolet's expressive design processes while providing guests the opportunity to truly create their own Chevrolet, which we hope—perhaps—will generate and inspire the next generation of automotive designs."


Disney Parks President of Operations Meg Crofton and GM Vice President US Sales & Service Alan Batey preside over the opening of the re-Imagineered Test Track at Walt Disney World's Epcot park. MousePlanet video by Mark Goldhaber.

The attraction features an all-new experience, from the pre-show through the ride itself all the way to the post-show. The attraction's focus is on the core design principles of capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and power. Guests design their own cars (with much more time and many more options in the standby queue than in the Fastpass queue), then get to see the performance of their creations as they ride through the attraction, getting a final summary of their vehicle's performance as they transition to the post-show.

The post-show includes the ability to create a commercial for your car, get photographed with your car, and drive your car in a simple driving game similar to a ramped-up version of arcade racing video game Pole Position. You can even email your commercials and photos home to share with friends.

While the attraction has a definite Tron-like feel to it, Imagineer Melissa Jeselnick stated that it was not an intentional choice. "It's really all about what's inside your imagination when you think about being inside a computer. This new story that we're telling is all about digital automotive design and testing, so we wanted you to be able to experience that virtual proving ground, and so I think some of those same glowing elements we might have in common with some other experiences that put you inside a computer, but it was not an intentional tie-in in the least."

We'll have more about the new attraction in a future story that will include video interviews with Tecla Rhoades, General Motors Director of Global Industrial Design, and with Jeselnick.


At Epcot, the Jammitors are doing their new Christmas show. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Meanwhile at the Disney's Hollywood Studios, Mulch, Sweat & Shears perform their Christmas show. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Disney's Hollywood Studios now offers a "Treasure Chest with Chocolate Cupcake" for $9.50 at a stand across from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. There are brown and pink chests, stereotypically for boy and girl pirates. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Splitsville readies for December 19 opening

The new Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling alley hosted a media preview on Friday, December 7, to show off the look and feel of the newest tenant of the Downtown Disney West Side location that was previously home to the Virgin Megastore, the traveling Princess Diana exhibit, and Ridermakerz. The location has received a complete makeover and appears to be poised to grab a big share of the "rainy day activity" crowd among resort guests; it's got a good shot at becoming a hangout for locals, as well.


Senior Vice President Disney Sports Enterprises & Downtown Disney Ken Potrock, Splitsville co-founders Guy Reville and Mark Gibson, Vice President of Downtown Disney Keith Bradford, and Sports Goofy open Splitsville to the media. MousePlanet video by Mark Goldhaber.

Splitsville has 20 lanes upstairs and 10 lanes downstairs, with bars on both floors, balcony seating upstairs, lots of tables, pool tables upstairs, and a small shop downstairs. With music blaring throughout the complex, it definitely has a feel of a nightclub as well as that of a hip bowling alley. The lanes are set up in groups of four or six, and are separated throughout the location, helping to avoid the airplane hangar vibe that most bowling alleys feature.

There's a wide variety of food and drink, with everything from pizza to sushi, and you don't have to bowl to stop in for a meal. Check back with us for more on the location, including a video interview.


The traffic pattern for the Osborne Lights is different this year, with entry only from the far end of New York Street. This view of the San Francisco Street canopy is only available as you queue to enter the main display. You can exit here, but you cannot re-enter. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


This year, the manger scene has been moved to the end of the building just before you enter the square at the end of the street. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


At the former site of the manger scene, Santa Goofy holds forth at his meet-and-greet. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


A Hidden Mickey seemingly floats in mid-air near the basketball hoop. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


The lights and colors on the street are as wonderful as ever. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Send us your menu photos

Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated.

Next Generation technology starts its full roll out

Walt Disney World has begun rolling out its Next Generation initiative, and it appears that this time it is not just a test. RFID-enabled technology is up and running at all four theme parks. The theme park rollout follows a number of previous rounds of testing, as well as the completed rollout of RFID-enabled door locks at all Disney resorts. The resort rollout made all guest room keys RFID-enabled, and the large percentage of guests who have their park admission media attached to their room keys provides a huge installed base of potential users.

Turnstiles at all parks feature entry points for those using RFID-enabled media (including Key To The World cards) as we profiled during last year's test. It is expected that the cards will eventually be replaced by "Magic Band" wristbands, but have not had any confirmation of that yet.


Next Generation initiative RFID turnstiles are now in use at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


This console in City Hall provides a place for guests using FastPass+ and other Next Gen tools to make changes and updates if they don't have a mobile device. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Themed Fastpass+ stations provide entry to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Walt Disney World shoots a video to help explain the use of Fastpass+. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Select merchandise locations at parks and resorts are now sporting touch-to-pay sensors also keyed to the RFID cards, allowing guests to wave their room key card at a sensor to pay for their purchases. Purchases over $50 will require additional validation beyond the card with the use of a PIN to be entered onto a keypad at the sale location.

Fastpass+ is also in use this week, with guests pre-selecting attractions and experiences and having their virtual Fastpasses attached to RFID-enabled media for use at the attraction itself. It appears that the Fastpass+ system is actually using guests' room key/admission media cards for this rollout, rather than separate cards as in earlier tests.

At the same time, Disney is slowly rolling out access to a new section of the Walt Disney World website. Those seeing and clicking on a banner at the top of the site ("Experience the new Disneyworld.com. Switch Now! ") will see the new site, including a new My Disney Experience menu option at the top of the page. After setting up this section, users can access their reservations, plan their trip, and more.

One thing that hasn't worked well in our initial playing with the site is the option for the site to "Remember Me" when you log in. The site has not been completely stable as of yet, as well. Roughly half the time, the site does not bring up our dining reservations, and we were unable to perform an advance check-in for our resort reservation all day yesterday. This may or may not have been related to the fact that the Disney Vacation Club member site was down all day, as well.

The new website is matched with the new My Disney Experience mobile application that debuted a few months ago, though the linkage is not yet complete. The mobile app at this point does not have linkage to reservations and itineraries, and can not share plans with other members of your party. Still, the new website and the in-park RFID features represent a tremendous step forward in enabling guests to take control of planning their vacation.


New props are being placed for the yet-to-be-announced interactive Pirates of the Caribbean game. This interactive tiki is next to the egg roll cart. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


These interactive props can be found across from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

All Disney Cruise Line ships to sail from Florida in early 2014

Disney's terminal at Port Canaveral will be a busy place in early 2014, as will its private island, Castaway Cay. For the first time ever, all four Disney Cruise Line ships will be based out of Florida. The Disney Magic joins the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream in sailing from Port Canaveral, while the Disney Wonder sails from Miami. The Magic sails 3- and 4-night Bahamian cruises, adding two more days of activity each week at Port Canaveral and Castaway Cay. The Wonder sails three different itineraries, with a 4-night Bahamas cruise and two different 5-night Caribbean itineraries. The Bahamian itinerary and one of the Caribbean itineraries include a stop at Castaway Cay, keeping the island hopping even more.

The arrival/departure schedule at Port Canaveral will be as follows:

  • Sunday – Dream
  • Monday – Magic
  • Thursday – Dream
  • Friday – Magic
  • Saturday – Fantasy

Tuesday and Wednesday will be the only days off for terminal staff.

The docking schedule at Castaway Cay will be:

  • Sunday – Magic
  • Tuesday – Dream
  • Wednesday – Magic
  • Thursday – Wonder
  • Friday – Fantasy
  • Saturday – Dream

This schedule leaves Monday as the only quiet day on the island.

For more information about these early-2014 voyages or to book a cruise, call Disney Cruise Line at (888) 325-2500, visit the DCL website, or contact your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Mouse Ear Vacations, Small World Vacations, and Get Away Today Vacations.


These familiar signs will be disappearing and/or changing by the end of the year as Kodak ends its long-time sponsorship with Disney. Perhaps now we can see the construction of the Mount Fuji attraction at Epcot? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Night of Joy lineup for next year announced

The lineup of performers has been announced for next September's Night of Joy event. The headline performance of the 31st annual event features a joint appearance by Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith on the first night. Here's the full lineup:

Friday, September 6:

  • Steven Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith
  • Mercy Me
  • Skillet
  • Mandisa
  • Matthew West
  • Audio Adrenaline
  • Moriah Peters
  • We As Human
  • City Harbor

Saturday, September 7:

  • TobyMac
  • Francesca Batistelli
  • Newsboys
  • Britt Nicole
  • Group 1 Crew
  • Building 429
  • For King and Country
  • Jamie Grace

Tickets go on sale in the spring.


Refurbishment is under way at Hurricane Hannah's at the Yacht & Beach Club. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Construction update

The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom:
    • Pirates of the Caribbean – construction.
    • Splash Mountain – construction.
    • Swiss Family Treehouse – structural.
    • Pecos Bill Cafe – fire sprinkler construction.
    • Liberty Square – mechanical/valve replacements.
    •  Liberty Square drinking fountain – construction.
    • Be Our Guest Restaurant – construction.
    • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid – construction.
    • Barnstormer featuring Goofy as The Great Goofini – construction.
    • Experience development - PC - Showset Package 1A.
  • Epcot:
    • The Seas pavilion aquarium – installation of sulfur denite backwash line.
    • Japan pavilion – construction.
    • Entrance kennel building – low-voltage wiring.
    • Explore parking lot – electrical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom:
    • Anandapur bus – area development general construction.
    • Kali River Rapids – irrigation.
    • Kali River Rapids – construction.
    • Gorilla building – construction.
  • Transportation & Ticket Center:
    • Toll Plaza – mechanical.
    • Woody parking lot cast gates – electrical.
    • Chip & Dale parking lot cast gates – electrical.
  • STOLport – phone lines.
  • Typhoon Lagoon wave chamber – construction.
  • Winter Summerland Winter Hole #8 – construction.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:
    • Wedding Pavilion – fabrication and installation of directional signage.
    • Gasparilla Island Grille & Arcade – installation of overhead signage.
    • Ivy Trellis Salon – contractor's general conditions.
    • Cast gates – electrical.
    • Fast arm gates – electrical.
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort cast gates – electrical.
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort:
    • Olympiad Fitness Center – contractor's general conditions.
    • Teen pool – contractor's general conditions.
    • Cast gates – electrical.
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge Hidden Springs pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground main docks on Bay Lake – site work.
  • Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts:
    • Hurricane Hannah's – graphics package.
    • Stormalong Bay spa #3 – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Yacht Club quiet pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Beach Club Villas quiet pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Beach Club quiet pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Boardwalk Resort Boardwalk Joe's – marquee glass signs.
  • Disney's Boardwalk Resort quiet pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:
    • The Paddock Grill – electrical.
    • Ranch House – general construction.
  • Disney's Old Key West Resort:
    • Cast gates – electrical.
    • South Point Road pool & spa – contractor's general conditions.
    • Turtle Pond pool area – contractor's general conditions.
    • Miller's Road pool – contractor's general conditions.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge:
    • Animal service gate – electrical.
    • Pool maintenance gate – electrical.
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort:
    • Cast gates – electrical.
    • Fast arm gates – electrical.
  • Disney's All-Star Resorts cast gate – electrical.

Quick takes …

…Wi-Fi connectivity has now been rolled out at Downtown Disney, meaning that all guest areas at Walt Disney World now feature free wireless Internet access. All you need to do is accept the terms of service and away you go!

…If the standard Disney Gift Card just doesn't do it for you, you can now personalize your gift cards. You can upload your own photo and surround it with one of 10 borders for a special touch. In addition to solid-color borders in blue, navy, green, orange, red, or pink, you can also choose from one of four decorative borders. There is a blue Mickey Mouse border, a light blue Minnie Mouse border, a light blue "Celebrate" border, and a green-and-red "Holiday" border. Cards can be ordered online in set amounts from $25 to $500, and can be used like cash in most locations at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Club Penguin, Disney's PhotoPass, DisneyMusicOnline.com, DisneyStore.com, and U.S. Disney Store locations. Cards can also be reloaded at many locations at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and U.S. Disney Stores. Shipping is free when ordered online, but to receive your card by December 25 you must place your order no later than today.

…Don't forget that the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade will be broadcast a week from tomorrow. Walt Disney World segments will be hosted by Nick Cannon and Maria Menounos, while Mario Lopez hosts the Disneyland segments. The parade will be broadcast from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern Standard Time and 9 to 11 a.m. Central, Mountain, and Pacific Standard Time. The show also airs on the American Forces Network around the world, and on the CBC Network in Canada. For more information, check out the special parade website. Disney is encouraging the use of the #DisneyParade hashtag for social media conversations.

…Epcot restaurant Bistro de Paris reopened on December 11 as "Monsieur Paul" with new decor and a new menu. The restaurant is decorated with mementos of Chef Paul Bocuse's culinary career, including his 48 straight years being awarded three Michelin stars for his Auberge du Pont de Collognes restaurant and his being named "Chef of the Century" by the Culinary Institute of America. The new name comes from the nickname used in the kitchen in the 1950s to differentiate Paul Bocuse from his father, Chef George Bocuse. Servers now wear white shirts, purple ties, and long black aprons instead of the tuxedos formerly worn at the restaurant, and the white linen tablecloths are gone as well. The restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. for dinner each night. Reservations are available online or by calling the Walt Disney World Dining Line at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).

…If you've got a circus, you have to have clowns, right? Well, the Storybook Circus Giggle Gang is a trio of clowns named Chuckles Buffoon McMonkeyshine III, Whinny Horselaugh, and Snort. The trio will be joined by the Silly Saxtet musicians, and featured clown Wowzer. You'll only be able to see them at Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland.


Featured clown Wowzer performs for guests at Storybook Circus. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

…The American Heritage Gallery at Epcot's American Adventure pavilion will receive a new display next year. Starting in March, a display of more than 40 pieces from The Kinsey Collection will feature art, documents, books, sculptures, and artifacts of African-American history dating back to the 17th century. There will be previews of the collection during African-American Heritage Month in February.

…Football quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints is launching a high school football academy called the Drew Brees Passing Academy and Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World from June 27-30, 2013. The academy is expected to attract some of the most highly ranked high school players in the country. Proceeds from the academy go to the Brees Dream Foundation, a charitable foundation established by Brees and his wife in 2003 to support cancer patients and families in need. More information on the academy will be available online.

…Congratulations to Adventures by Disney for being named World's Leading Luxury Tour Operator by the World Travel Awards, and for being named North America's Leading Tour Operator for the fourth straight year by the WTA. Also winning in the North America category was Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom as North America's Leading Themed Attraction and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as North America's Leading Resort. Disney Cruise Line also picked up more awards, as it received Editors' Choice nods from Cruise Critic for Best Shore Excursions and Best Inside Cabins (for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships).

…Walt Disney World cast members donated 35,000 toys this year for the Toys for Tots program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. In addition, Disney VoluntEARS gave 7,100 hours of their time to help administer the program, including registering families and sorting and packing toys. The program aims to ensure that every child has at least one present to open during the holidays.

…Registration for the featured events of the January 10–13, 2013, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend are full, including the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, the full Marathon, and the Half Marathon. The Runner's World Challenge is also sold out. The Disney Family Fun Run 5K and the Stroller Walk Division of the 5K are sold out. The runDisney Kids' Races are 63 percent full (Thursday: dashes and Mickey Mile both less than 50 percent full, Friday: dashes 98 percent full and Mickey Mile 56 percent full, and Saturday: dashes sold out and Mickey Mile 51 percent full) and the Pasta in the Park Parties are 70 percent full (Thursday 60 percent, Friday 70 percent, Sunday 80 percent). ChEAR Squad is 63 percent full and the Race Retreat is 80 percent full. Space for the featured races may still be available through Team in Training and other groups with reserved spots.

…Registration for the featured events of the February 22–24, 2013, fifth annual Princess Half Marathon Weekend are full, including the individual and team Half Marathons, the Race Retreat and the ChEAR Squad Platinum Package. The Royal Family 5K is 58 percent full, the post-5K breakfast is 74 percent full, the runDisney Kids Races are 68 percent full (dashes sold out, Mickey Mile 51 percent full), and the Pasta in the Park Party is 74 percent full. ChEAR Squad is 76 percent full overall, with ChEAR Squad Gold 75 percent full and Silver less than 50 percent full.

…Registration is now open for the 2013 Expedition Everest Challenge. Individual registration starts at $105 per person and team registration start at $210 per two-person team. On January 30, those prices go up to $115 and $225 respectively, and they go up again on March 21 to $125 and $240, respectively. The related runDisney Kids Races for kids ages 4 to 10 has a $20 registration cost. Post-race party tickets start at $49 for adults (ages 10 and up) and $25 for kids (ages 3-9). Those prices go up to $59 and $30 on March 21.

…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, go to the MousePlanet main page and enter your email address in the top right box labeled "Join the MousePlanet Newsletter." Click Join, then fill out the fields in the registration page, including your first and last name. The Newsletter is free, but you must complete this registration to receive it, even if you may have signed up for one with us in the past.

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."

Enjoy the last bit of moderate crowd levels before an extremely busy next few weeks. Just in time for the holidays! If you need tips for visiting during the holidays, check out our Disney Holiday eBooks! TouringPlans.com can also help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 5 / 10
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7 / 10
Thursday, December 20, 2012 4 / 10
Friday, December 21, 2012 6 / 10

Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • New Fantasyland is now officially open.
  • The newly refurbished Test Track is now officially open.
  • Magic Kingdom our the Best Park on Tuesday and Friday.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
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Coming up


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed permanently for conversion to Princess Fairytale Hall.
  • Be Our Guest Restaurant – now open.
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle – now open.
  • Gaston's Tavern – now open.
  • Bonjour Village Gifts – now open.
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid – now open.
  • Ariel's Grotto – now open.
  • Splash Mountain – closed January 2 through March 19 for refurbishment.
  • Main Street Bakery – closed January through early summer for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment February 1–7, 2013.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall – opens 2013.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opens 2014.

Epcot

  • Test Track – now open.
  • Bistro de Paris – now reopened as Monsieur Paul.
  • Boulangerie Patisserie – reopens in January in its new location.
  • Fountain View Cafe – closed March through mid-summer for conversion to Starbucks location.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow – now open.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known refurbishments.

Resorts

  • Disney's Contemporary Resort – California Grill closed February 2, 2013, through late summer 2013 for refurbishment.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed October 28 through January 5, 2013 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – January 6, 2013 through March 16, 2013 closed for annual refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
  • Splitsville Lanes & Lounge – opens December 19.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Passholder room discounts through end of year

A Passholder discount is available for most dates through December 24. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Campsites, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts range from 20 to 35 percent and availability varies by date.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7859 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code Q5M. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Room-only discount for January through early March

You can now can book a room-only reservation at select Walt Disney World resorts for 15-35 percent off of standard rates most nights from January 2 through March 7, except January 18-20. Reservations must be booked by December 31.

Guests can receive 35 percent off at all Deluxe and Deluxe Villas Resorts, except for Disney's Wilderness Lodge and the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which both offer 25 percent off..

30 percent discounts are available at most Moderate Resorts, including Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort Cabins.

Guests can also get a 25 percent discount at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, and Disney's Pop Century Resort

Fifteen percent discounts can be had at Disney's Art of Animation Resort, family suites only. Standard rooms in the Little Mermaid-themed section are excluded. Also excluded are Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, All-Star Music Resort, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, and Fort Wilderness campsites.

The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-7661 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Magic Your Way package discount for January through early March

You can now book a room-only reservation at select Walt Disney World resorts for discounts on room, ticket, and dining packages most nights from January 2 through March 7. Value Resort package discounts apply to Quick-Service Dining Plans, while Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas Resorts all offer discounts on the standard Disney Dining Plan. Reservations must be booked by December 31.

Packages are available at all resorts except for the standard rooms in the Little Mermaid-themed section of Disney's Art of Animation Resort, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, and Fort Wilderness campsites.

The discount codes offer are Q8J (for Disney Visa cardmembers) and T64 (for Disney Visa cardmembers) for Value resorts and Q83 (for all guests) Q85 (for Disney Visa cardmembers) for all other resorts. We do not have word on the general-availability codes yet.

The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-7661 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

PhotoPass+ pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $149.95 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests receive a voucher to exchange for a PhotoPass+ card upon arrival at the resort, a Photo Gallery CD with over 400 stock photos ($39.95 value), a unique code to create and order a photo CD upon return from their trip ($169.95 value), print packages at select dining locations ($29.95 value each), and digital photos from select attractions ($14.95 value each). Applicable taxes will be charged to all orders.

This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at (407) 560-4300 before you arrive at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.

The package may take as long as 14 days to arrive, and you must bring your voucher from the package to redeem it, so make sure that you order far enough in advance to allow your materials to arrive.

Attractions currently participating in the program are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur. Current participating restaurants are 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Chef Mickey's, Cinderella's Royal Table, Tusker House Restaurant, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

2013 Military Salute offers

From now through September 28, 2013, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $156 per ticket, plus tax (up from $138 last year), or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $184 per ticket, plus tax (up from $165). No Base ticket is available with this offer.

These tickets expire after September 28, 2013. Blockout dates are December 24 to 31, 2012 and March 24 through April 4, 2013 at all ticketed locations, and July 4, 2013 at Magic Kingdom park only.

Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. Tickets may be purchased by active and retired military personnel for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.

You may upgrade the tickets to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.

In addition, specially priced rooms are available to active and retired U.S. military personnel at select Walt Disney World resorts for stays most nights through September 28, 2013, except for November 24, 2012, December 23–31, 2012, and March 25 through April 4, 2013.

For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets and discounted resort rates, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.


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Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.