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News and Views

Birthdays do matter, but only if there's something to celebrate — After we remarked that park execs had completely ignored the second birthday of Disney's California Adventure in February, a reader from Florida told us to “get used to it” — Epcot's 20th anniversary celebration a few months prior had been overlooked as well.

Yet the fifth anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom was heralded last week with a party described in a Disney press release as “an eye-popping celebration fit for a lion king.” What's the difference? Disney had a few announcements to make:


The entrance to Mission: Space.
Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

The countdown has started – Mission: Space opens for previews starting Friday, August 15. The official grand opening celebration is slated for October.

Epcot's newest attraction launches visitors into a simulated mission to Mars. Walt Disney Imagineering developed Mission: Space in association with former NASA advisors, astronauts and scientists, and calls the ride the most technologically advanced ever created by Disney. The ride was described in a press release sent to travel agents:

  • Pre-Show: The setting for the attraction is several decades into the future at the International Space Training Center. As the “crew” selected for this ultimate space mission, guests head to the dispatch area and then move to the Ready Room where they receive a history of astronaut training and are given the role they will assume during the mission — as the commander, pilot, navigator or engineer.
  • Countdown… Lift-off: Then it's on to the preflight corridor to load into the spacecraft, receive final briefings from CapCom and buckle in for lift-off. When the countdown reaches zero, the most unique and exhilarating ride experience ever begins. The earth begins to rumble, white clouds of exhaust start to stir as the ascent toward the sky starts and guests are rocketed into the galaxies. Guests hear from CapCom and are asked to perform vital tasks that land their spacecraft safely on Mars. Each guest assumes the role of commander, pilot, navigator, or engineer. But there is no mission without surprise as guests encounter unexpected twists, turns and other challenges that test every astronaut. Quick thinking and fast reactions are needed by each guest to successfully complete the mission.
  • Post Show: Training is not complete when the capsule lands. Guests can proceed to the Mission: Space Post Show, powered by HP. In this Advanced Training Lab, guests of all ages have an opportunity to explore interactive space experiences, which include:
    • Space Race – Two teams compete against each other in a race to send their rocket from Mars back to Earth. Nearly 60 people can play the high-energy game at one time.
    • Space Base – For junior astronauts, Space Base provides a fun, interactive crawl space for exploration.
    • Expedition: Mars – A joystick and a jet pack button help guests explore the surface of Mars.
    • Postcards from Space – Guests can e-mail a video of themselves with one of the space-themed backgrounds and create a great souvenir of their Mission: Space experience.

Did everyone remember to act surprised? Even though Michael Eisner confirmed the project at the Annual Meeting last month, Disney treated the announcement of their newest ride as a big surprise at last week's press event.

Expedition Everest is based on the legend of the Yeti, otherwise known as the abominable snowman. Visitors board an old mountain railway for a ride to the foot of Mount Everest. The trip begins tamely enough, as the train climbs through scenic terrain.

As with most Disney stories, something goes terribly wrong — the track ends abruptly, apparently destroyed by the Yeti. The train races through the mountain, traveling both forward and backward, towards the final showdown.

Animal Kingdom's new E-ticket ride will be located in the Asia section of the theme park. At nearly 200 feet high, it will be the tallest mountain in Florida. It is scheduled to open in 2006.

The Pop Century begins in December — The first phase or Disney's much-delayed Pop Century Resort opens on Sunday, December 14. The 2880-room hotel is inspired by 20th Century American popular culture. The grounds are decorated with icons such as Big Wheels, bowling pins, Rubik's Cubes, and cell phones.

Pop Century Resort is located near Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, and includes two 5,000-square-foot arcades; Disney's first integrated food, beverage and shopping area; eight courtyards; six pools; two playgrounds; and recreational paths for riding surrey bikes around Hourglass Lake.

Better double-check your schedules — WDW has revised the operating calendars for Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks. For a brief time beginning Sunday, April 27, Blizzard Beach operates Sundays through Thursdays, and Typhoon Lagoon operates Wednesdays through Saturdays. The duration of this reduced schedule has not been announced, and the official WDW Web site still lists both parks as operating sevendays a week.


The entrance to Port Orleans French Quarter.
Photo by Brian Bennett.

Port Orleans worries — Port Orleans French Quarter closes in May for a two-year remodel, during which the rooms will receive new paint, carpeting and furniture. Work has already begun, and travelers who have reservations at the resort have begun to wonder if they should switch their reservations to a different hotel to avoid the construction noise and mess.

Disney's Relocation Team is actively working to move visitors to other rooms — some to rooms in the Riverside section of the Port Orleans resort, others to different hotels entirely. The team is offering attractive “upgrade” rates to those willing to pay a bit more to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, or the Yacht Club and Beach Club. If you have not been contacted by the Relocation Team, you can call the Central Reservations Office, or your travel agent, for assistance.


Current Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is closed for refurbishment April 25 - June 27.

The Theater in Epcot's China Pavilion is closed for refurbishment March 26 through May 22. The gallery, merchandise shop and restaurants continue to operate.

Great Movie Ride at Disney-MGM Studio closed for refurbishment on February 24. The ride was scheduled to return on April 13, but the closure has been extended through June 29.


Park Events

Upcoming events

April 25 through June 8 – 10th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

May 10 – Mickey's Superstar Trading Team at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

May 15 through 18 – 5th Annual Celebration of Walt Disney Art Classics cruise and mini-convention aboard the Disney Wonder.

May 18 – 5th Annual Celebration of Walt Disney Art Classics Public Day at Bayview Gifts in Disney's Contemporary Resort.

May 16 through June 15 – Star Wars Weekends. Get more information at the Official Web site, or in Brian Bennett's WDW Trip Planning Guide on Star Wars Weekends.

June 3 through June 9 – Gay Days 2003. This unofficial event is not sponsored by Disney. Event information can be obtained from the event sponsor.

June 14, 2003 – Mickey's Toon Town of Pins at the Magic Kingdom.

September 19 through 21, 2003 – Disney's Pin Celebration at Epcot.

September 5-6, 2003 - 21st Annual Night of Joy at Magic Kingdom. Every year, this musical event brings together some of the biggest names in Christian music. This is a hard-ticket event held after park closure.

November 16 through 20, 2003 – Trading Under the Sea aboard the Disney Wonder.


Current Discounts & Promotions

The Radisson Resort Parkway, a MousePlanet sponsor hotel, is offering great rates to MousePlanet readers through December, 2003. Sample rates for selected dates and rooms are listed below. To take advantage of these special rates, make your reservations using the link found on this page.

Date

Courtyard View
Weekdays
(Sun - Thurs)

Courtyard View
Weekends
(Fri, Sat)
Pool View
Weekdays
(Sun - Thurs)
Pool View
Weekends
(Fri, Sat)
4/27 - 6/4
$63
$73
$73
$83
6/5 - 6/7
$109 (all days)
$119 (all days)
6/8 - 8/9
$73
$83
$83
$93
8/10 - 8/30
$63
$73
$73
$83
8/31 - 10/2
$59 (all days)
$69 (all days)
10/3 - 11/1
$73
$83
$83
$93
11/2 - 12/18
$63
$73
$73
$83
12/19 - 12/23
$83 (all days)
$93 (all days)
12/24 - 12/31
$99 (all days)
$109 (all days)

Planning a school trip or family reuinion?

WDW is offering summer group rates from $58 per night** for groups booking 10 rooms or more. For more information, contact Walt Disney World Group Sales, 800-327-2989

**Rates are valid for per night, per room for groups arriving between 7/6/03-8/24/03 at Disney's All-Star Resorts. The number of rooms available at this rate is limited, rates are subject to sales tax, based on a maximum of two adults and two children per room. Additional nights, rates and room categories available upon request at selected hotels.

MouseSavers.com reports some great rates for travel to Walt Disney World:

  • Annual Passholder hotel discounts may save you up to 45% at Walt Disney World resorts for trips Monday, April 28 through Thursday, July 3. Rates start at $59 at the All-Star Resorts. Book using the discount code from MouseSavers.
  • Florida residents can get these same rates at WDW resort hotels. Proof of residency, and a discount code, required.
  • Disney's Visa cardholders can purchase specially priced Dream Maker packages for check-ins most nights from Monday, May 26 to Sunday, August 3. You do not need to use your Disney Visa to book Disney Visa Summer packages, but you must provide your account number to qualify.
  • Florida residents can buy a “Play 4 Days” Pass for just $116 per person. The park hopper pass is good for any four days between Tuesday, April 1 through Tuesday, September 30, excluding Friday, July 4.
  • Cruise Deals – MouseSavers has a list of Disney Cruise Line Magical Rates, available for departures through January 2004, and early-booking discounts for Fall 2003 itineraries.

If you are itching to break in your new Disney Visa card, you can receive a $50 on-board credit when you book a Disney Cruise Line vacation and pay with your Disney Visa. The offer is good for sailings through the end of this year. Pay no interest for six months when you charge your cruise to your Disney Visa.

Annual Passholders can receive 10% off the price of their lunch meal at select Walt Disney World Resort hotel restaurants, and the discount is good for up to three guests. The offer is valid Mondays through Fridays. Call 407-WDW-DINE for locations and reservations.


Park Hours

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
4/28
4/29
4/30
5/1
5/2
5/3
 

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 9a-6p
TL Closed
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 9a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 99a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB Closed
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB Closed
TL 10a-6p
5/4
5/5
5/6
5/7
5/8
5/9
5/10
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed

MK 9a-9p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB Closed
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-9p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB Closed
TL 10a-6p
5/11
5/12
  • MK = Magic Kingdom
  • EF = Epcot, Future World
  • EW = Epcot, World Showcase
  • MGM = Disney-MGM Studios
  • AK = Animal Kingdom
  • BB = Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • TL = Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL Closed


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 4/28

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 8:45p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Fantasmic 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Tuesday 4/29

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

Illuminations! 9p

 

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Fantasmic 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Wednesday 4/30

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Fantasmic 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Thursday 5/1

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00p

SpectroMagic 8:30p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 9:15p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Fantasmic 8:30p,

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Friday 5/2

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Saturday 5/3

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:00p

Fantasmic 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Sunday 5/4

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

 

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9:00p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Monday 5/5

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3:00pm

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9:00p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p


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(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)

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.