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News and Views

Stitch to Escape at Magic Kingdom: Goodbye Alien Encounter

It appears that the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland will close for good at the end of the day on October 11. On October 12, work begins to convert the space over to a new attraction called “Stitch Escape!” which is expected to open some time mid- to late-2004. No word yet on whether they will open the Carousel of Progress and/or Timekeeper to handle visitors during the closure.

Mission: Space Race goes online

An addition to the Mission: Space post-show attraction, Mission: Space Race is under construction. Mission: Space Race Online will function in a similar fashion to the existing post-show, but there will be four teams, and some competitors will be working via Internet. It is scheduled to open late 2003/early 2004.

Hurry up for a chance to run

Registration for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon closed in a record eight days back in March. The demand was so strong that organizers increased the registration limit from 5,000 to 8,000, and as soon as word got out, those extra spots were snapped up just as quickly. If you are ready to handle the extra challenge, there are still spots open in the full Marathon (link) — but they're going fast. Registration has passed the 95% mark, with over 14,700 already registered. Both races will be run on January 11, 2004, and a number of our own MousePlanet staff (as well as some MousePad members) will be participating.

…or lace 'em up to skate around the world

Registration is now open for the Walt Disney World Inline Marathon, Inline Half Marathon, and All-Star Kids Inline Classic. The kids' race (link) will be held on May 1, 2004, with the adult marathon and half-marathon (link) on May 2, 2004.

Magical Gatherings to kick off

Julia Elzie of MouseEarVacations.com has posted the following information to our message boards:

This fall, the Walt Disney World® Resort will kick off Magical Gatherings™, a celebration of the special magic that happens when family and friends gather together. Offering something for everyone, the Walt Disney World® Resort is the most magical place there is to vacation with extended family and friends. It is, quite simply… “Magic Multiplied.”

Magical Gatherings will be celebrated across property and include a lineup of highly-anticipated attractions and a fantastic new resort. Walt Disney World will also launch a variety of unique products and services designed to make it easier for larger parties and multiple households to vacation together.

Grand Gatherings debuts at Walt Disney World® Oct. 6, 2003 for travel beginning Nov. 16, 2003, offering special products and services designed specifically for parties of eight or more traveling together as a group onsite, such as family reunions, extended family and friends, and leisure travel groups.

Number of Brazilian tour groups falling?

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Walt Disney World has closed its travel office in Sao Paolo, Brazil, after being open for seven years (link). The number of Brazilian visitors to Orlando dropped more than 50 percent from 2001 to 2002, compared to a drop of 22 percent for all international visitors. Looks like we'll see fewer of those large groups of brightly colored shirts following a flag around the Magic Kingdom.

Disney's Pop Century Resort prepares for a grand opening

Pop Century Resort, Disney's newest value resort draws its inspiration from pop icons of the 20th Century. The 2,880-room first phase, “The Classic Years,” is themed to the 1950's through the turn of the 21st Century. The second phase, “The Legendary Years,” will pay homage to the decades from the dawn of the 20th Century through the 1940s when it eventually opens.

From an old tabletop jukebox (topping out at 40 feet) from the 1950s through early-model cellular telephones from the 1990s, the resort takes “whimsical” to yet another level. This resort has a similar decorating theme to the All-Star Resorts, in that it makes use of oversized icons and unusually-shaped pools to dress up standard budget hotel rooms.

With a themed food court (including a Fluffernutter station for the kids) and a memorabilia-filled lobby area, the resort really takes things to the extreme. And that's just how they like it.


A four-story Rubik's Cube and a giant Mr. Potato Head greet visitors to Disney's Pop Century Resort. Photo © 2003, The Walt Disney Company.

Icons include bowling pins, Duncan Imperial Yo-Yos with strings attached, a 40-foot Big Wheel tricycle, a Rubik's cube, and a laptop computer. The pools are themed to a bowling pin, a computer complete with spongey keyboard, alphabet-filled pool deck area, and the flower-shaped Hippy Dippy Pool.

The Resort is targeted to bring visitors onto Disney property from the hotels in the surrounding area, and will probably lead to further shakeout in the local hotel industry, as first reported in last week's update. It opens on Sunday, December 14, and is said to be already sold out for the first three nights.

Disney Cruise Line premieres new stage show

The Disney Cruise Line's latest production, The Golden Mickeys, is the most technically-advanced stage show afloat. It's themed to an awards show, greeting guests with a red-carpet reception before a show featuring live and taped performances (Tim Allen speaks to guests via video), elaborate sets, fog effects, and animated backdrops, as well as a few character appearances. The show premiered aboard the Disney Wonder in August, and will begin performances in December on the Disney Magic.

Control of Celebration passes to residents

As originally planned, control of the Celebration Resident Owners Association (CROA) has passed to the residents of Celebration (known as Celebrants), the town owned and planned by Disney, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinel (link). Three of the five members of the board are residents, including the president, vice-president, and treasurer. The Celebration Company president Perry Reader is a director with no specific office. New CROA president Charlie Eldredge doesn't see many immediate changes, and thinks that they just need to concentrate on keeping things on track. “It's trying to keep Celebration a good place,” he said. “It whole reason we're all on the board.”

Disney veterinarians go on the road to help native birds

TV station KUAM in Guam reports (link) that Disney veterinarians have traveled to the island to assist in the recovery of the native Guam Rail (or Koku Bird) by performing health assessment tests. The article also reports that there is a Marianas exhibit being prepared at Walt Disney World for display in the upcoming months.

Ears to the ground

…We don't have all the details yet, but it appears that they have decided to reopen the Main Street Gallery in the Magic Kingdom on Wednesday, October 1.

…The Yankee Trader store in Liberty Square has temporarily been converted to Halloween merchandise.

…The speeder bike that was outside of Star Tours for photo opportunities has been removed, possibly for rehab.

…The rockwork at the entry to Tommorowland is being repainted.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain is closed for refurbishment through Saturday, November 22. Of course, in light of the tragedy at Disneyland, this date may change.
  • The Swiss Family Treehouse will be closed for refurbishment through Friday, October 24.
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic is slated to open on Wednesday, October 8. Cast Member previews took place on September 18-19, Annual Passholder previews were held on September 20-21, and a soft opening is expected on September 30.
  • Wishes: a Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams, the new fireworks show for the Magic Kingdom, will debut on Thursday, October 9 at 9:00 p.m. The final showing of Fantasy in the Sky will be Monday, October 6 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress and TimeKeeper are closed for the season, and will most likely next open for the holiday rush.
  • The Liberty Belle Riverboat will be closed for refurbishment from Sunday, September 21 through Saturday, September 27.
  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter will close for good on October 12. It will then undergo a major rehab and reopen in mid- to late-2004 as Stitch Escape!

Epcot

  • Mission: Space is now in soft opening status, with the official Grand Opening slated for Thursday, October 9. Epcot will close to the public at 3:00pm on that day.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Magic of Disney Animation closes for refurbishment September 30 to November 23.
  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and is undergoing demolition to prepare the site for a new “E-ticket stunt-show attraction” believed to be an American version of the popular Moteurs… Action! stunt show from the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris.
  • Due to the loss of Residential Street, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights will not be presented this holiday season. It is expected to return in some form for 2004.
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror receives a lot of rehab work from September to November—reportedly on the ride control system and cable replacements—but will only be closed from October 13 through 18. One side of the tower will be closed from September 18 to October 12. Both sides will be down from October 13 to 18, and the Tower opens again running one side only from October 19 to November 17. Capacity will be decreased during the rehab, but should be offset by smaller off-season crowds smaller crowds.
  • Sets from the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie are scheduled to open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage on October 6.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known current closures.

Resorts

  • Pop Century Resort – officially opens on December 14.
  • Port Orleans Resort – A two-year extensive rehab of this resort's rooms is ongoing. For Phase I, French Quarter closed May 4, 2003. Phase II will involve Riverside going down in sections. We have not yet heard a date for completion of Phase I.
  • Polynesian Resort – is seeting the longhouses refurbished one by one. Each longhouse under rehab is walled off and isolated during its rehab. There are only a couple of longhouses remaining. Hawaii is currently in rehab thru October 17, 2003. Concierge has been moved to Tahiti during this period. Tonga is scheduled for rehab September 14-December 20, 2003. Niue is the only other longhouse currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and is tentatively scheduled for January 18 - May 2, 2004. Rarotonga has not received a rehab yet, but is not on the current schedule.
  • Shades of Green – Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this military-run resort. It is currently expected to reopen in March, 2004.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (a Disney Vacation Club resort) has a tentative grand opening date of May 1, 2004.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – undergoes refurbishment beginning November 1.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – undergoes refurbishment beginning in late December.
  • Both water parks – return to fall/winter hours on Sunday, September 28. They will be open from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

Elsewhere

  • The All Star Cafe at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex is now closed Monday-Wednesday. It is open Thursday-Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Park Events

September

  • 22nd Annual World Airline Road Races (link) [September 24 - 27]
  • Tri-America Triathlon Series Finale (link) [September 27 & 28]

October

  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom [October 3, 5, 10, 14, 16, 19, 24, 26, 30 and 31]
  • Disney's 10K Classic (link)[October 12]
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival [October 18-November 16] – Included with park admission, sample wine and food from 25 countries (link)
  • The Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort [October 23-26] will feature many of the world's top golfers, including Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Scott Hoch, Lee Janzen, European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, PGA champion Shaun Micheel, 2003 Hall of Fame inductee Nick Price and Scott Verplank. Tiger Woods is also expected, though he has not formally committed yet. The tournament will take place on the Magnolia and Palm courses.
  • 999 Happy Haunts Ball at the Magic Kingdom [October 27, 28, and 29]

November

  • Festival of the Masters [November 7-9] – 150 artists and their creations on display at Downtown Disney's West Side
  • ABC Super Soap Weekend at the Disney-MGM Studios [November 8-9]
  • Pin Trading Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder [November 16-20]
  • Festival of the Seasons [November 28-December 24] – at Epcot featuring lighting displays, fun window displays, and more
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot [November 28-December 30] – lets you celebrate holidays in the style of the World Showcase countries
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom [November 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19] – Order by phone at (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639)

December

  • Doll & Teddy Bear Weekend [December 7]
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort opens [December 14]

January 2004

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo (link) [January 9 & 10]
  • FamilyFun Magazine Family Fun Run (link) [January 10]
  • Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon [January 11]
  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Magic [January 25, 2004]

April 2004

  • Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival [April 16 – May 30]

May 2004

  • Walt Disney World Inline Marathon (link) [May 2]

Current Discounts & Promotions

Winter Dream Maker Package

Today is your last chance! Walt Disney World is offering the “Winter Dream Maker” package starting at $99 per adult per night. The package includes a room at a Disney Value resort and an Ultimate Park Hopper ticket. For example, you can save about $230 on a three-night stay for two adults at the All-Star Movies resort, specially priced at $661 (including taxes). The package is good Monday, November 10 through Wednesday, February 11. Blackout dates are November 25 to 27 and December 27 through January 1. Call 407-939-7843 and ask for code ZXMJ, or book at the Disney World Web site (link). You must book by September 22.

Mousesavers.com is also reporting that there is a special Disney Visa Winter Dream Maker package that is basically identical to the Winter Dream Maker package above, but covers different dates and includes a $50 bonus in Disney Dollars. Dates are November 2 through December 25, with blackout dates of November 25 to 27, and you must book by October 14. To book this package, contact a Disney Specialist travel agent and ask for booking code ZXBL for a Value resort or ZXBM for Moderate, Deluxe or Home-Away-From-Home resorts.

Free continental breakfast at Celebration Hotel through MouseSavers

Mousesavers.com has an exclusive offer (link) of a free daily continental breakfast for two at the Celebration Hotel, along with special rates, for stays from now through December 31. Reservations must be booked by October 15.

Great rates at the Swan and Dolphin

Are you planning a trip this fall? Check out this offer from the Swan and Dolphin:

  • WDW Annual Passholders can book rooms as low as $139 per night, plus tax and resort fee, through the end of 2003, including a FREE upgrade! Rates include a free upgrade, and are subject to availability.

Get more details and the discount codes at MouseSavers.com.

Cruise discounts

MouseSavers maintains a Magical Rates list, updated with the lowest fares each week. Current specials on three-night cruises start at just $379 per person.

Disney Cruise Line is offering special savings for Florida residents on select cruise vacations for late summer and early fall dates. Florida resident rates start at $349 for three-night cruises, $399 for four-night cruises and $599 for seven-night cruises.

Special rates for Florida residents apply to most three-night itineraries departing between August 28 and October 2, most four-night itineraries departing between August 31 and September 28 and seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries departing between August 30 and September 20.

Itinerary
Rates
Dates
3-Night $349 9/11-10/2
4-Night $399 9/21, 9/28
7-Night $599 8/30-9/20

Rates are per person, based on double occupancy and subject to availability. Government taxes and fees are not included. At least one adult guest per stateroom must be a Florida resident. Proof of residency is required.

Free 5-day Park Hopper for Active Military

Disney is offering a special for active duty military — a free five-day park hopper ticket, as well as discounted companion tickets. Offer valid through December 19, 2003 and includes all active military personnel, including Coast Guard, as well as activated National Guard and Reservists. See their official Web site for more information.

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.

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 nontransferable, 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 expires 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 (link).

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

Annual Passholders

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 Mondays through Fridays. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) for locations and reservations.


Park Hours

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
9/22
9/23
9/24
9/25
9/26
9/27
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/28
9/29
  • 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-8p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

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


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 9/22

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Tuesday 9/23

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 9/24

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Thursday 9/25

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Friday 9/26

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Saturday 9/27

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic! 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 9/28

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

 

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Monday 9/29

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4:30p

Fantasmic 8p

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.