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News and Views

Mission: Any space for us? – Walt Disney World cast member Erik M. was among the lucky individuals who got a chance to preview Epcot's brand new Mission: Space attraction last week. He shares the following report:

After much anticipation and curiosity, I had the opportunity to join a number of other WDW Resort guests to experience Mission: Space at Epcot during one of its test-preview sessions. I can only assume that this process will happen more often once more of the pods are handed over to Operations from Imagineering.

The ride experience is unbelievable.

The high-definition screens in the capsules, the interactive quality, the sheer technology that went into this ride, and — let's be quite honest — the launch, make this ride the number-one experience in my book. It is simply unbeatable. It is classy, yet fun. Sophisticated, beautiful and extremely memorable.

The courtyard music plays consistently, yet never seems to repeat. A gorgeous symphony of otherwordly sounding strings and percussion. Once inside the Red Planet, you have a choice of Fastpass, Single Rider or Stand-By.

Also inside the Red Planet is a mock-up of a capsule. Be sure to take note; the space you are confined within is very small. Once inside the attraction, a nice lighting package helps make up for what I thought was a small main queue. The Gravity Wheel is strangely hypnotic.

You then enter the first of four levels of boarding procedure. The first is before you are split into the four pods. Look inside the control area to see a map of the International Space Training Center — it's very accurate of the layout of the building, with ficticious areas for mission control and rocket bays.


Photo by Steve.

You then move into one of four pod “sorting areas,” which reminded me of the pre-load procedure over at Tower of Terror (10 groups of four lined up on the floor). You watch the first of two videos starring actor Gary Sinese, and then move into the third waiting area, which is a circular hallway surrounding the centrifuge itself. There, you are told your specific job (notice the spotlights that focus on you as you are told your job — nice touch) through another video with Mr. Sinese. From there, the doors open and you are loaded into the “capsules,” as they currently call them.

The ride begins — and it's incredible!

The launch was the highlight for me, personally, and from the sounds my other capsule-mates were making, I think they thought so, too. The graphics are a bit unrealistic, but the movement of the capsule and pod itself make the experience even more believable. Once you reach space, you enter hypersleep. This was only for a few brief seconds, but was unnecessary in my opinion, and was just a way to change space coordinates without having to actually take us with them. If the HD screens could have been blacked out more for this, it would have been more believable.

Then it was on to the real mission. We had to land on Mars, and it took each of us performing our tasks to accomplish this. Of course, things cannot go as planned with a crew of novice rocket travellers, but I won't give those things away.

When it is over, you exit and walk toward the center of the centrifuge and exit between two pods into another hallway. It's so extremely well thought out for traffic flow.

The story of the ride itself needs a bit of tinkering though, it seemed like it was abruptly over and we were then dumped into the exit, welcomed by CM's with lines like, “Did you make it back from Mars?” I said, “No! According to the ride, we are still there!” But alas, this is set up as training, so I guess there isn't a need to complete the trip.

The entire experience was well worth the wait and is going to be a big hit for Disney. People will be talking about it for years and years to come — Let the vacation booking begin!

A little breakdown of capacity:

At any given moment, there would be 480 people in the ride. Broken down this way: 40 people in each of four pods. Then 40 more in the circular hallways surrounding the four pods. lus, 40 more in the sorting areas of each pod.

A big thank-you to Erik for his on-the-scene report.

Play 4 Days pass – Florida residents can purchase a new four-day ticket for just $109, plus tax. (That's almost 1/2 the price of a regular four-day park-hopper ticket) The ticket is valid for four admissions from now until September 30, 2003. Unlike the Southern California resident version of this same offer, these tickets are park-hoppers and the only block out date is July 4th, which may explain the $30 price increase over the California offer.

Residents can purchase just one ticket per person, per day, so your out-of-town relatives must buy their own, regular-priced admission. Tickets are non-transferable, and you must show a valid ID each time. These tickets can be applied towards the cost of any Annual Passport, as long as you upgrade by October 31, 2003. (Your annual pass expire one year from the date you first used your Play 4 Days Pass).

You can purchase the Play 4 Days pass at any WDW park ticket window, local AAA offices, Florida Disney Stores, by phone at (407) 939-4329 or on the WDW Web site.

“Are they ever going to get it right?” – wondered one participant in this past weekend's Mickey's Toon Town of Pins event at the Magic Kingdom. WDW pin events seem to run really well, or really poorly, and this latest event was definitely in the latter category. Missing merchandise, too-small event facilities, and a “Toon Town” event that actually happened in Tomorrowland were just some of the complaints. One attendee said, “If I hadn't already registered for the September event, or if I could get a refund, I would not bother to come back.”

A lick and a promise – We hear that Big Thunder Mountain has received enough spot repairs to keep the ride running until its scheduled rehab in August.


The foot guard on this Big Thunder Mountain train will replicate itself this summer to the rest of the rows. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Each of the trains will be cycled out of use this summer, and fitted with new foot guards. One row on at least one train will be fitted with a movable door instead of a guard, to make it easier for riders with disabilities to board the train. Other WDW rides, including Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, have swing-out transfer door for the same purpose.

When the ride closes in August, the queue will be slightly modified, but will still not be wheelchair accessible. Apparently the queue itself is wide enough for wheelchairs, but ramps installed to replace the few stairs would still be too steep to meet ADA requirements.

Time to make plans – Now is the time to make your reservations for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party events. All of the parties are after park closing and require a special ticket. Details of both events are as follows:

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: October 3, 5, 10, 14, 16, 19, 24, 26, 30 and 31; 7 p.m. to midnight each evening.

Guests are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat through the park; the boo-free bash includes a parade and a bewitching fireworks spectacular; advance tickets $29.95 ages 10-and-up, $24.95 ages 3-9; day-of-event tickets $32.95 ages 10-and-up, $27.95 ages 3-9.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party: November 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19; 7 p.m. to midnight each evening.

Holiday festivities fill the park — special shows, a Christmas parade, and fireworks plus treats and a souvenir family photo; advance tickets $35.95 ages 10-and-up, $25.95 ages 3-9; day-of-event tickets $41.95 ages 10-and-up, $31.95 ages 3-9.

Call (407) W-DISNEY to buy your tickets in advance. Same-day tickets can be purchased at the theme parks, but the most popular dates sell out well in advance.

Current Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh will be closed for refurbishment until June 27, 2003. Pooh's Thotful Shop will be open during this refurbishment.


Park Events

Upcoming events

September 5-6, 2003 – Night of Joy. An evening of Contemporary Christian Music at Magic Kingdom. $35.95 for one night (all ages) or $57.95 for both nights. Buy tickets online or call (407) W-Disney.

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

October 3, 5, 10, 14, 16, 19, 24, 26, 30 and 31 – Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.

October 12 – Disney's 10K Classic, starting at 7:00 a.m. at Epcot. Register online.

October 18-November 16, 2003 – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Included with park admission, sample wine and food from 25 countries.

October 27, 28, and 29 – Magic Kingdom's 999 Happy Haunts Ball.

November 16-20, 2003 – Pin Trading Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder.

November 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19 – Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. Order by phone at (407) W-DISNEY.

December 7, 2003 – Doll & Teddy Bear Weekend.

January 12, 2004 – Walt Disney World Marathon and Half-Marathon. Registration still available for the full marathon. Half-marathon registration closed (full).

April 16 through May 30, 2004 – 2004 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.


Current Discounts & Promotions

Free 5-day Park Hopper for Active Military, as well as discounted companian tickets. Offer valid through December 19, 2003 and includes all active military personnel, including Coast Guard, as well as activated National Guard and Reservists.

Play 4 Days pass – Florida residents can purchase a new four-day ticket for just $109, plus tax. (That's almost 1/2 the price of a regular four-day park-hopper ticket) The ticket is valid for four admissions from now until September 30, 2003. These tickets ARE park-hoppers and the only block out date is July 4th.

Residents can purchase just one ticket per person, per day, so your out-of-town relatives must buy their own, regular-priced admission. Tickets are non-transferable, and you must show a valid ID each time. These tickets can be applied towards the cost of any Annual Passport, as long as you upgrade by October 31, 2003. (Your annual pass will expire one year from the date you first used your Play 4 Days Pass).

The Play 4 Days pass can be purchased at any WDW park ticket window, local AAA offices, Florida Disney Stores, by phone at (407) 939-4329 or on the WDW Web site.

Plan ahead and save a few bucks – The Walt Disney World Resort is encouraging visitors to buy their theme park tickets before they even leave home, by offering a slight discount on advance purchases. You can save as much as $22 per adult, per ticket with the 'Advance Purchase Savings' program.

You can also receive these Advance Purchase Savings with packages purchased through AAA.

Multi-Day Tickets
Gate Prices
Advance Purchase Price
Savings
4-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$208
$192
$16
Children ages 3 - 9
$167
$152
$15
5-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$239
$217
$22
Children ages 3 - 9
$192
$172
$20
5-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$269
$247
$22
Children ages 3 - 9
$216
$197
$19
6-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$299
$277
$22
Children ages 3 - 9
$240
$222
$18
7-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$329
$307
$22
Children ages 3 - 9
$264
$247
$17

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)
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)

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

  • New Fairytale Vacation Packages can mean savings of 40% or more when you visit Walt Disney World. Read all about this amazing new offer at MouseSavers.com.
  • Florida residents can stay on property for as little as $59 at the All Stars, $74 at moderate resorts, and $124 at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. These rates are valid for arrivals between April 27 and July 3, 2003.
  • Disney's Visa card holders can purchase specially priced Dream Maker packages for check-ins most nights from May 26 to 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 $109 per person. The park hopper pass is good for any four days between April 1 through September 30, 2003. (July 4 is the only day excluded)
  • 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 onboard 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. When you charge your cruise to your Disney Visa, you pay no interest for six months.

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


Park Hours

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
6/16
6/17
6/18
6/19
6/20
6/21
 

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

MK 9a-9p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-9p
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-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
6/22
6/23
6/24
6/25
6/26
6/27
6/28
MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p

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

MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-11p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-10p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
MK 9a-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-6p
TL 10a-6p
6/29
6/30
  • 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-10p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-6p
BB 9a-6p
TL 9a-6p

MK 9a-11p
EF 9a-6p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-9p
AK 9a-6p
BB 9a-6p
TL 9a-6p


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 6/16

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Tuesday 6/17

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p, 10:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Wednesday 6/18

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p, 10:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Thursday 6/19

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Friday 6/20

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Saturday 6/21

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p, 10:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Sunday 6/22

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p, 11p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p
Monday 6/23

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 5:30p

Fantasmic 9p, 10:30p

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.