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Update for May 21 – 26, 2013

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News and Views

Magic Kingdom pepares for 24-hour party to kick off the summer season | Disney World tests online review and question forum | D23 announces free memberships and a redesigned website | Cutting lines at Walt Disney World | Quick takes | Crowd update
Note: The weekly Walt Disney World Update is now published on Tuesdays.

Magic Kingdom pepares for 24-hour party to kick off the summer season

Are you ready to pull an all-nighter at the Magic Kingdom? This Friday, Walt Disney World kicks off the summer season with the Monstrous Summer All Nighter at the Magic Kingdom. The party starts at 6 a.m. Friday mornign with a special "opening moment," and carries on until 6 a.m. Saturday morning when weary visitors head back to their homes or hotel rooms, and cast members work to prepare the park to reopen in just three hours.

Disney has posted a partial list of the entertainment planned for the party, with Mike and Sully making a special appearance in the the "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It!" Street Party, and serving as including a Grand Marshalls of a Monsters U pre-parade before the "Celebrate a Dream Come True" Parade.

The Tomorrowland Rocket Tower Plaza Stage hosts a "Monster Mania" DJ dance party from 4 to 9 p.m., followed by screenings of Monsters, Inc., with appearances by Mike and Sulley. Disney's Up All Night Dance Party wraps up the event from 2:00 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. in front of Cinderella Castle.


Disney World will debut new Monsters University-theme merchandise at the 24-hour party. Photo © Disney.

Special merchandise created for the event, including this logo shirt, will be available on both coasts during the event, and also at the Disney Store website from May 24 to 27.

With the park open 24 hours, Magic Kingdom restaurants have a few special dining options planned. The focus seems to be on sweets, with a special cupcake at Gaston's Tavern, two ice cream sundaes at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and Randall’s Suds and Mike’s Punch at the Launching Pad in Tomorrowland.


The Magic Kingdom will offer special treats for the 24-hour party, including this cupcake from Gaston's Tavern. Photo © Disney.

While Disneyland has released loads of pre-arrival and parking instructions for the crowds expected at their event, Walt Disney World seems less concerned about capacity issues for the Florida event. Still, the Disney website warns that the event is subject to capacity restrictions, and that "only select attractions, entertainment and services will be available" for the whole 24 hours. If you're planning to visit the party, be sure to follow MousePlanet on Twitter and Facebook, and share your experiences—we'd love to hear from you.

Disney World tests online review and question forum

Disney has launched a beta testing-phase version of a new Walt Disney World Ratings and Reviews site, expanding the company's social media presence into territory previously occupied by online travel reviewers and "fan site" discussion boards. The new site has two major sections where registered users can write a review of a Walt Disney World resort hotel, restaurant or attraction, or ask a question of the "community." The first time you post a review or ask a question, you can select a "nickname," which will appear on all future posts you make. Each time you post, you can identify yourself as Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club members or cast member, and the corresponding badge(s) will appear on your post. There are also fields to indicate how many people were in your travel group, including the number of children, when you visited, how long you stayed, how many times you have previously visited Walt Disney World, and if you used the Disney Dining Plan.

There is also a box to check to indicate if you are currently on vacation—this might be a way for Disney to move a question higher in the display to generate a more rapid response.

Restaurants recieve an overall rating on a scale of one to five "Mickey ears," plus individual ratings on areas including food quality, cleanliness, service, and how well the location met the dietary needs of the patrons. Hotels receive an overall rating, with individual rankings for cleanliness, service, recreation and overall value.


Disney's new review system includes user-generated reviews, and lists the TripAdvisor rating for each hotel. Screen capture by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

With the site still in beta and just now opened up for outside users to test, there are usually just one or two reviews posted for each location. Most of these early reviews were written by Disney employees or members of Disney's Moms Panel (both of whom are identified with a unique user badge). Not surprisingly, these reviews all give ratings of "4" or "5" in all categories. Some reviews carry a Featured Review icon, which Disney says means they "really liked" the review.

Disney also displays the overall rating from TripAdvisor.com on hotel pages, but we discovered this may not match the actual rating on the TripAdvisor site. Disney's site displays a perfect 5-point TripAdvisor rating for the All Star Sports Resort, but the actual TripAdvisor ranking is 3 1/2 points. We found similar inconsistencies across almost all of the hotels, with the actual ranking and/or the number of reviews off from what was displayed on the actual TripAdvisor site. This is likely the result of a bug (common with beta versions), and not shenanigans on Disney's part, but it's something readers should be aware of when using the Disney site.


Disney's site displays a perfect TripAdvisor rating for the All Star Sports Resort, but the TripAdvisor website shows a lower score. Screen capture by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The questions section of the site is divided into four sections: General, Resort, Attraction, and Dining. Each section is further divided into topics, like "First Aid & Wellness" or "Pin Trading," though these appear to be created using a search function rather than actually tagging the posts when they are created. For example, browse through the "Shopping" section, and you'll find where someone asked "What is the best quick service restaurant?" This question was "sorted" into the shopping section because someone replied, "We also always stop at Earl of Sandwich when we are shopping at Downtown Disney" in the comments.

Like the reviews section, there isn't a lot of content in the community section yet. Many of the questions currently on the site are fluff posted by Disney cast members, including "Where can I buy Vinylmation at Downtown Disney," and "What is your favorite Disney resort?" The answers are equally fluffy, but this is clearly just part of the testing process. From the delay between submitting a post and having it appear on the website, it seems that both questions and responses are moderated, though it is unclear if the posts are individually reviewed or if Disney uses a keyword filtering program. The Disney terms of use includes prohibitions against, " 'flaming,' 'spamming,' 'flooding,' 'trolling,' and 'griefing' as those terms are commonly understood and used on the Internet," and it will be interesting to see how Disney handles these issues that are all too common to online discussion forums.

D23 announces free memberships and a redesigned website

by Bryan Pugh

D23, the official Disney fan club, is making some big changes come June. D23.com is being completely redesigned to provide its members with access to new content. The new content available will include celebrity interviews, vintage film clips, rarely seen artwork and photography, treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, behind-the-scenes previews of new movies and theme park attractions.

The new D23.com also features new "departments" and sections as well: Weird Disney will look at the more unusual pieces of Disney's past. Characters will profile the most beloved characters from television, film and comics with concept art and biographies. The Quotable Walt Disney will contain a digitized version of the out-of-print book featuring Walt quotes. Ask a Legend will be a video feature where Disney Legends such as Marty Sklar will answer fan questions. First Look will give members a look at new, upcoming releases. And the current video series Armchair Archivist and Disney Geek will return with new episodes.

In addition to the new and redesigned website, D23 also announced a free membership level which will include access to the members only content on D23.com, exclusive merchandise access, a subscription to the weekly D23 FanFaire e-newsletter and discounted tickets to the 2013 D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. The free membership is in addition to the existing gold and silver levels.

The redesigned D23.com and free D23 memberships become available on June 17.

Cutting lines at Walt Disney World

A New York Post article published last week sparked a heated discussion on our message boards and put an Orlando-area tour operator on the defensive by claiming the company offers clients the ability to cut the lines at Walt Disney World by hiring a disabled person as an unofficial tour guide. According to the article, a $130-and-hour VIP tour sold by Dream Tours Florida has become popular with wealthy Manhattan moms looking for a way to take advantage of Disney's programs for guests with disabilities. Using a motorized scooter to navigate the parks, the tour guide—and their clients—use the accessible entrances intended for guests with disabilities.

For its part, the company denies abusing Disney policy, and has removed the VIP tour from its website, citing "inaccurate press, libel, and harassment," but an archive of the page shows that the company once advertised that, "Your guide will provide significantly reduced wait times through the parks. Know how, time management and special entrance to fast pass lines." The company has also deleted its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and has revised its website to more prominently feature its group tour service for guests with disabilities.

The company has a donation button on every page and offers sponsorship packages starting at $500, with donations described as tax-deductible, but CBS affiliate WTKR reports the company lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file tax returns for three years. The owner of the company declined to speak to the WTKR reporter who visited his home.

A Disney spokesman told the station, "We are thoroughly reviewing the situation and will take appropriate steps to deter this type of activity."

Quick takes…

...Universal Orlando raised ticket prices last week, with a one-day, one-park ticket now $92. With taxes and fees, the ticket breaks the $100 mark for the first time. Walt Disney World has previously raised their ticket prices shortly after Universal does, so we'll keep an eye out for any changes.

...Reader Austen Leger submitted two photos from the opening days of the 2013 Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studio. Austin and his family (sporting excellent Star Wars costumes I must say), met the Rancor and posed with Mickey and Minnie. Thanks for sharing your photos!


Austen Leger meets the Rancor during Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo submitted by Austen Leger.



Shane, (as Obi-Wan Kenobi), Austen, (as Luke Skywalker), and Alisha Leger, (as Ewok village Leia), meet Mickey and Minnie during Star Wars Weekends. Photo submitted by Austen Leger.


This time-lapse video shows the construction of the Rancor figure at Star Wars Weekends. YouTube video © Disney.

…Have you tried the new breakfast beignets at Tomorrowland Terrace? MousePlanet reader tankdad wants to know how they compare to those sold at Port Orleans food court. Come share your opinion on the MousePad discussion boards.

...Disney has released a nearly complete schedule for the 2013 Eat to the Beat concert series, part of the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot:

  • Sept. 27-29 – Starship starring Mickey Thomas
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 1 – Go-Go’s
  • Oct. 2-4 – Air Supply
  • Oct. 5-6 – Sister Hazel
  • Oct. 7-9 – Sugar Ray
  • Oct. 10-11 – Edwin McCain
  • Oct. 12-13 – Manhattan Transfer
  • Oct. 14-15 – Wilson Phillips
  • Oct. 16-17 – The Pointer Sisters
  • Oct. 18-20 – Night Ranger
  • Oct. 21-23 – Boyz II Men
  • Oct. 24-25 – Survivor
  • Oct. 26-27 – 38 Special
  • Oct. 28-30 – Smash Mouth
  • Oct. 31-Nov. 1 – Spin Doctors
  • Nov. 2-3 – Christopher Cross
  • Nov. 4-5 – Hanson
  • Nov. 6-8 – Dennis DeYoung
  • Nov. 9-11 – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

We're Hiring!

Are you interested in writing for MousePlanet? We're currently looking for columnists to bring cover new areas of the Disney universe. We're especially looking for Florida locals to provide photos and information for the weekly Walt Disney World Update

If you are interested in contributing to the weekly Updates, or you have an idea for a great new column, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!

Crowd Forecast

Advertisement

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."

Mid level crowds leading up to a busy All-Nighter on Friday night. TouringPlans.com can 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, May 21, 2013 5 / 10
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 4 / 10
Thursday, May 23, 2013 6 / 10
Friday, May 24, 2013 7 / 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!

  • Tuesday is the best day to visit the Magic Kingdom.
  • The resort crowd level on Saturday 7 out of 10.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or Smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.

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Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Adrienne here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Resort Events

2013

2014

runDisney events

2013

2014

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 9–12, 2014) – Sold out: WDW 10K, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Dopey Challenge, Runner's World Challenge. Registration is open for the Walt Disney World Marathon, Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Family Reunion Breakfast, Pasta in the Park Party.
  • Disney's Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 21–23, 2014) – Registration opens on Tuesday, June 11. Events include Disney's Princess Half Marathon individual and team events, Disney Royal Family 5K, Kids Races, post-5K Breakfast, and Pasta in the Park Party. runDisney has announced a special achievement for those running both the Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons.

Do you participate in (or are considering signing up for) runDisney events? Visit our Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion board, where you can join our community of health-minded readers and staff.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed permanently for conversion to Princess Fairytale Hall.
  • –closed through May 21 for refurbishment.
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – closed May 28 through June 10 for refurbishment.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – closed June 17–20 for refurbishment.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall – opens 2013.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opens 2014.

Epcot

  • Fountain View Ice Cream – closed through early August for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • France pavilion ice cream shop – scheduled to open June 2013 at site of the former bakery.
  • New restroom between America and Japan pavilions – scheduled to open Fall 2013.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No known refurbishments, but both parades (Disney Channel Rocks and Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade) have ended their run. No new parades have been announced.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known refurbishments.

Resorts

  • Disney's Contemporary Resort – California Grill closed through late summer for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach area closed through mid-June for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach pool slide closed May 27 to June 1 for refurbishment, and the entire Beach pool area closed May 30 to June 1. The Courtyard pool remains open.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Spa closed through summer for conversion to Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. The spa at the Grand Floridian remains open during this time.

Water Parks

  • No known refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. Will not be performed on the following dates in 2013:
    • May 14–18
    • May 21–25
    • July 23
    • September 17–21
    • November 5–6

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free Dining in September

First Disney announced a new Free Dining offer for U.K. residents, then an offer for Disney Visa cardholders visiting selected dates this September. Now the September Free Dining offer is available without using a Disney Visa card. Check in at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel from September 2 to 25 and stay three to 14 nights, and everyone in your party gets free dining. Stay at a:

  • Value Resort – receive the Quick Service Dining plan for free. You can upgrade to the Standard or Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference.
  • Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort – receive the Standard dining plan. You can upgrade to the Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference.
There are some restrictions:
  • You must purchase a 2-Day (or longer) Magic Your Way ticket for very member of your party.
  • You must book your travel by July 31.
  • You must book the same tickets and dining plan for every member of your party.
  • Children ages 3-9 must order from the children's menu where offered; children under age 3 are not eligible for free dining.
  • This offer excludes the campsites at Fort Wilderness, the Little Mermaid rooms at the Art of Animation Resort, and all 3-bedroom Villas.

For full details, visit the Disney special offer site

2014 Free Dining offer for UK residents

2014 Free Dining offers for UK residents have been released. From the information posted on the Virgin Holidays website, it appears the 2014 program offers free Quick Service Dining Plan plan when booking at a Moderate resort, and free Dining Plan when booking at Deluxe resorts, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs. There are also offers for a free $200 Disney Gift Card and/or a 14-day ticket for the price of a 7-day ticket depending on travel dates. These particular offers are valid for UK residents only.

Disney Visa cardholder room discounts for June 13 through August 14

A Disney Visa cardholder discount is available for most dates June 13 through August 14. The new promotion offers discounts of 5 to 30 percent off room-only bookings, with the option of adding non-discounted tickets and dining plans if desired. Rooms must be booked by June 14 to qualify.

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. Suites, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date. Discount percentages shown below are on room only. You can add non-discounted tickets and dining.

Resort Category Resort Name Discount
Value Resorts All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation Suites – 15% 15%
All-Star Movies 5%
Art of Animation Suites only (Standard Mermaid Rooms are not included) 15%
Moderate Resorts Disney's Riverside, Coronado Springs Caribbean Beach 20%
Disney's French Quarter 15%
Disney's Coronado Springs Suites 5%
Deluxe Resorts Disney's Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge 30%
Disney's Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level 5%
Disney's Deluxe Resort Suites – limited availability 5%
Disney Vacation Club Resorts Disney's Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas 30%
Disney's Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani and Jambo House) 5%
Disney's Villas at the Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas are not included 0%

Thanks to MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the information.

Passholder room discounts for April through early June

A discount for annual passholders is available for most dates through June 3. 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. Suites, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7926 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Florida residents get special discount tickets through June

Florida residents can get discounted three- or four-day tickets through early June. The Discover Disney ticket provides three days of base admission for $119 plus tax, or four days for $129 plus tax. The Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun & More Options can be added for just $28.50 each, plus tax. The tickets are priced the same for adults and children.

Tickets are available for purchase from now through June 3, and may be used through June 7. Passes may not be used during the Easter peak weeks from March 23 through April 5.

For more information or to purchase tickets, check out the special deal website or call (407) 939-1283.

Florida resident hotel offers

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida resident offer website.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida Resident offer website.

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 more than 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 are 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 might 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, 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. Blockout dates are March 24 through April 4 at all ticketed locations, and July 4 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 four-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.

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.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Adrienne here.


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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix (@MousePlanetAVP) is an original MousePlanet staffer and manages to find time for all of this while running two retail stores, MouseShoppe and CharmingShoppe.