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News and Views

Cast members injured during show performance

At approximately 11:30pm on New Year's Eve, human error on the part of a pyrotechnician injured four Walt Disney World entertainers during the Celebrate the Season show in front of Cinderella Castle. All four cast members, who suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns, were treated and released at Celebration Hospital. The low-level pyro timing error took place just before the show's finale. It is unknown when the cast members will return to work, but Walt Disney World spokeswoman Rena Langley said that "we will look into the problem. We don't believe that it will happen again."

SeaWorld ups prices—will Disney be next?

SeaWorld Orlando has raised their prices by $2, effective at the beginning of the year, to $53.95 for adults and $44.95 for children. The park last raised prices $2 in January 2003. SeaWorld's Fun Card, which costs $59.99 for adults and $49.95 for children, allows unlimited visits with no blackout dates. The cards run for a calendar year and must be bought by March 31, but are available for $5.99 per month for up to 10 months.

SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and Walt Disney World often make ticket price hikes around the same time, but there is no word yet from Universal or Disney on whether they would follow suit this time. Universal Orlando last raised its prices by $2 last January to $51.95 for adults and $42.95 for children. Walt Disney World delayed raising prices after the other two parks last year, imposing a $2 increase in June, hiking prices for one-day passes to $52 for adults and $42 for children.

Marathon hosts record number of runners; Reminder: next year's registration opens next week

On Sunday, January 11, the 11th annual Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon will start with a record-setting 24,000 participants—15,500 in the full marathon and 8,500 in the half marathon. If you happen to be there, keep your eyes out for MousePlanet's own Lani Teshima and Alex Stroup!

Also, remember that registration for next year opens on Monday, January 12, the day after this year's marathon. If you're staying at a Walt Disney World hotel, and you want to register for next year's race after running in this year's race, you can find Internet access inside DisneyQuest, at some points inside Innoventions, at convention hotel business centers, and some of the convention hotels now have broadband and/or WiFi access.

Splendid China closes

Florida Splendid China, the 10-year-old controversial Chinese theme park located 2.5 miles from Walt Disney World, closed on December 31. The park, which had been targeted by Tibetan-rights activists, had seen a decrease from 400-500 visitors per day many years ago to 200-300 visitors per day. The final day of operations saw a one-day jump to 750 visitors, triple the usual daily crowd. Of the 40 employees of the park, 20 are performers from China on work visas and will return home. The other employees are now looking for new jobs.

WDW parks close after reaching capacity

While Splendid China was closing due to small crowds, the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World both closed three days last week due to large crowds. Both parks had to close after reaching capacity, with lines for some attractions running over two and a half hours. The last word that we have is that Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Florida both did not have to close due to crowds.

Security stepped up for New Year's Eve

Yes, those were military jets flying over Walt Disney World on New Year's Eve. The usually increased security for New Year's Eve was stepped up in light of the Code Orange alert underway. In addition to the air patrols, in-park security was increased with uniformed and plainclothes security and Orange County deputies. Disney's air space has already been restricted since last March 18.

Saratoga Springs Resort reservations now available

As of this morning, reservations are now available at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. The resort is scheduled to open on May 27.

Osceola County refinances Parkway bonds

Osceola County has issued new bonds to replace the old bonds used to fund the Osceola Parkway, which runs between Walt Disney World and the Florida Turnpike. The savings realized by refinancing the old 6 percent bonds with new 4.5 percent bonds will retire the county's $35 million debt to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney's municipal entity. Reedy Creek also issued bonds for the Parkway, which has suffered from low ridership since it was built a decade ago. Tolls on the Parkway will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 in April, and will eventually rise to $2. The tolls will remain in place through at least 2024, when the county will have the option to remove them. If the tolls remain past that date, the revenue would be split evenly between Osceola and Reedy Creek.

Daytime Millionaire tapes at the Studios this week

The daytime game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, hosted by Meredith Vieira, will tape at the Disney-MGM Studios this Friday through Sunday, January 9 to 11. Park guests will be able to attend tapings. For more information, call 407-WDISNEY (407-934-7639), or check with Guest Relations upon entering the park.

Correction and clarification from last week's Update

In last week's story about the negotiations for the sale of downtown Celebration, it was stated that the sale seemed to indicate that the Walt Disney Company was giving up on its experiment to urban planning, and that the creation of a new type of city was not as near and dear to the heart of the current company as it was to Walt Disney. While the latter statement is true, a reader has advised us that the sale of all commercial space in the town was part of the original deal with Osceola County, which means that it apparently was never near and dear to the company.

Also last week, in a story about Universal's sale of the land that they originally planned to use for additional theme parks, we mentioned that the land was sold for $15 million less than they originally paid for it. Another reader has advised us that Universal cleaned up and sold some of the land before the current deal, which might have made up the difference.

Ears to the ground

Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort has been awarded AAA's Five Diamond award for the fourth year in a row. It is one of only 55 restaurants in the United States to receive that rating.

…The single rider line at Space Mountain is becoming permanent. At the same time, a new single rider line is being tested at Splash Mountain. While the Space single riders enter via a separate line at the entrance, the Splash single riders will enter the Fastpass line and be separated out at the barn doors, before merging at the top of the tunnel, near the Frontierland train station.

…Single-game tickets for Atlanta Braves spring training games went on sale last Saturday. Tickets are $12.50-$20.50, and are available at the Wide World of Sports ticket window and at Ticketmaster.

…The Finding Nemo area at the entrance to the Living Seas pavilion has been completed.

…There is a great deal of structural steel in place at the Soarin' Over California construction site. Ground work is continuing.

…Some cracks that were leaking water were reported at the base of the Fountain of Nations at Epcot. No word yet on repairs.

…A hot dog stand was open on Center Street off of Main Street, U.S.A. last week. Apparently, people couldn't make it the extra couple of hundred feet to Casey's.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter has closed for good. It is now undergoing a major rehab and will reopen in fall 2004 as Stitch's Great Escape!
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress opens from park open to park close for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Timekeeper opens from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Country Bear Jamboree is currently running its Christmas show. It will close January 12 to 16 to return to its usual program.
  • The Frontierland Shootin' Arcade will be closed for refurbishment January 21 & 22.
  • The Liberty Square Riverboat will be closed for refurbishment from January 17 to February 8.
  • The Astro Orbiter will be closed for refurbishment from January 26 to March 1.
  • Mickey's Star Traders will be closed for refurbishment through early April.
  • Adventureland now opens at 10 a.m. on non-peak days, but opens with the rest of the park (except for Jungle Cruise) on Sundays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Epcot

  • The Wonders of Life pavilion is closing on January 5. The Pure and Simple eatery and the Well and Goods Limited shop will remain closed, while the Body Wars, Cranium Command, and The Making of Me attractions will now be open on a seasonal basis. No word yet on the Frontiers in Medicine, Sensory Funhouse, Goofy about Health, and Sports Fitness Areas.
  • It is expected that the Universe of Energy will close for a short rehab in March to remove the ExxonMobil signage after their pavilion sponsorship ends.
  • It appears that the Living Seas pavilion is closing for a rehab in the April time frame. Rumors are strong that Audio-Animatronic characters from Finding Nemo will be added to the pavilion.
  • Food Rocks is expected to close on January 3 to make way for the entrance to the new Soarin' Over California attraction.
  • The Behind the Seeds Walking Tour of the greenhouses at The Land has been discontinued during reconstruction of the Food Rocks area into the queue for Soarin'. The tours are expected to resume upon completion of the construction.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Fantasmic! will be closing from January 26 to 30 for a regular maintenance rehab.
  • The Backlot Tour is closed through April 1 to allow construction vehicles free access to the stunt show construction site.
  • The Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage show at the Theater of the Stars will be closed for refurbishment February 2 to 6.
  • Sets from the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage and will be open through March.
  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and demolished and construction has begun to turn the site into 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 reported to return on New York Street/Big City Street for 2004.
  • New York Street is undergoing a great deal of construction to change some facades to represent Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. We do not yet have a target completion date for the newly-titled Big City Street yet.

Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids will be closed for refurbishment from January 20 to 30.
  • TriceraTop Spin will be closed for refurbishment from February 9 to March 16.

Resorts

  • Pop Century Resort has officially opened.
  • 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 - This resort nearing completion of the refurbishment of longhouses. Each longhouse under rehab is walled off and isolated during its rehab. Niue and Rarotonga are the last remaining longhouses currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and are tentatively scheduled for January 18 to May 2.
  • Shades of Green - Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this MWR-run resort for the military. It is currently expected to reopen in March.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (a Disney Vacation Club resort) has a tentative grand opening date of May 27. Reservations are now available.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon is closed for refurbishment through February 28.

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

Ongoing

  • Celebrate Mickey… 75 InspEARations showcases 75 very special interestingly decorated Mickey statues to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Through April.

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.
  • Registration starts for Disney Marathon (link) and Half-Marathon (link). January 12.
  • National College Cheerleading and Dance Team Championship (link) January 16-18.
  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Magic. January 25.
  • National Dance Team Championship (link) January 31 to February 1.

February 2004

  • This is Love merchandise event (link). February 4.
  • National High School Cheerleading Championship (link) February 7 & 8.
  • Atlanta Braves training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex (link) February 15 to April 2.
  • TwirlMania – The Twirler's Championships (link). February 20 to 23.

March 2004

  • National Cheerleading and Dance Championship (link) March 13 & 14.
  • Lights! Camera! Pins! pin trading event (link). March 27.

April 2004

  • Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. April 16 to June 6.

May 2004

  • Walt Disney World Inline Marathon (link). May 2.
  • Florida Half Ironman Triathlon (link). May 23.
  • Disney Vacation Club Member Homecoming event/Saratoga Springs opening. May 25 to 27.

October 2004

  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. October 1 to November 14.
  • Disney's 10K Classic (link). October 10.
  • Funai Classic at Walt Disney World. October 18 to 24.

January 2005

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo (link). January 7 & 8.
  • FamilyFun Magazine Family Fun Run (link). January 8.
  • Disney Marathon (link) and Half-Marathon (link). January 9.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Florida resident Play Four Days pass returns

Disney's Play 4 Days pass for Florida residents is again on sale. The special pass is essentially a four-day park hopper pass for Florida residents that is available for $109 plus tax. The pass is good for theme park visits from January 4 through June 4, 2004, with blockout dates April 3-15 for the peak Easter week season. Passes are available at Walt Disney World theme parks, Florida Disney Stores, and AAA offices. The cost of a Play 4 Days pass may be applied to a Florida resident Annual or Seasonal pass. For more information, guests can either visit www.disneyworld.com/play4days or call 407-WDW-4DAYS.

Deep discount codes announced

Walt Disney World has announced new discount codes for Annual Passholders, Florida residents, and the general public for check-ins through February 11. General public rates start at $55 per night, while AP and Florida rates start at $49 per night. These rates are also available with DreamMaker packages. Visit disneyworld.com or MouseSavers for more details.

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
 
1/5
1/6
1/7
1/8
1/9
1/10
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/11
1/12
  • 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-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

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


Entertainment Schedule

i+R>
Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 1/5

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Tuesday 1/6

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6:30p

Wishes Fireworks 7:30p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Wednesday 1/7

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Thursday 1/8

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Friday 1/9

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Saturday 1/10

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6:30p

Wishes Fireworks 7:30p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Sunday 1/11

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Monday 1/12

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p



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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.