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News and Views

Former WDW skipper deported as mass murderer

Former Walt Disney World watercraft host Jean-Claude Duperval was arrested last Thursday for departation to Haiti, where he is wanted for mass murder. Duperval was the assistant commander-in-chief of the Haitian army from the time that the military coup d'etat overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 until Aristide was returned to power by a military intervention force led by the United States in 1994. He arrived in the U.S. in 1995 and asked for political asylum.

Duperval worked as a watercraft host at Walt Disney World from 1997 through 2002, where he was known to be a good employee. He lost his job the same day that Disney learned that he was an international fugitive, on April 12, 2002. Since then, he has been protesting his deportation. On January 7 he lost his final appeal, and he was arrested last Wednesday and held in the Orange County Jail. He will now return to Haiti to face charges that include killing political prisoners, not arresting the head of the Tonton Macoutes death squad, and turning away a U.S. warship on a mission to return the democratically-elected government to power in 1993.

"Fishbowl" drained

With the layoffs of the 260 animators employed at Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, the "fishbowl" on the Animation Tour at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park will now apparently remain empty. Guests are walking by the glass walls, looking at empty desks where animators used to draw Disney animated features. No word yet on whether the windows will be covered up, or if they will come up with Audio-Animatronic animators to perform for guests.


The animation "fishbowl" is empty, leaving Animation Tour guests to see a vacant workplace. MousePlanet photo by Brian Bennett.

Oh. Say, can you see?

A guest attending the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort experienced an unprepared or non-observant cast member last week. The obviously-blind guest was checking in, and while the resort host was checking him in he made sure to point out his parking pass included in his materials. The host then continued by taking out a printed map and pointing out the location of the blind guest's room.

Under normal circumstances, this might be understandable due to lack of preparedness and training in dealing with the visually-impaired. However, with the resort hosting a conference dedicated to assistive technology for visually and physically challenged people, the resort's managers trained their staff in methods of guiding guests with these challenges. Yet apparently there were still gaps. Braille menus were available at Pepper Market, but not Maya Grill. Brailled signage was consistent at the elevators and at room numbers on the walls, but not on the directional signs. Perhaps the ATIA did not provide enough information for the resort to properly plan, but you'd think that this was the first time that Disney had to deal with blind guests.

Shop first, enjoy later

With the closure of Mickey's Star Traders to better configure it to receive the guests exiting from the under-construction Stitch Escape attraction, all of that merchandise had to go somewhere. It did. Welcome to Tomorrowland's newest merchandise location: the queue for the Timekeeper attraction. Yes, since the queue area is extremely underutilized due to the small crowds for the attraction, Walt Disney World management has decided that it would make a great place for a merchandise location. If you want to enjoy the Timekeeper attraction, you first have to wade your way through the merchandise including non-Disney T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Hottie." We can only hope that this shop will close down when Mickey's Star Traders reopens at Easter time.

In the meantime, the former ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter exits are being reconfigured, and depending on which chamber you enter in Stitch Escape, you will exit into a different shop. Chamber B will continue to exit into Merchant of Venus, while Chamber A is being reconfigured to exit into Mickey's Star Traders instead of back by the entrance to Tomorrowland.

Come back later

It appears that more attractions and merchandise locations are joining Adventureland in opening after the rest of the Magic Kingdom. We've received word that the Hall of Presidents and the Country Bear Jamboree now open at 10am. In addition, Frontier Mercantile/Frontier Trading Post will open at 11am and close at 7pm, and Big Al's will open at 10am.

In addition, the Haunted Mansion Merchandise Cart was closed and removed for refurbishment at the end of business on Tuesday, January 6. The refurbishment should be done by March 6.


Construction proceeds apace at the addition to the village of Anandapur in preparation for becoming part of the queue for Expedition: Everest. MousePlanet photo by Stephanie Wien.

Universal joins SeaWorld in price increases – Disney holds off (so far)

On Jan. 9, Universal Orlando joined SeaWorld in raising single-day ticket prices by $2, to $53.95 for adults and $44.95 for children, plus tax. That leaves Walt Disney World as the only one of Orlando's three major resorts to leave prices unchanged this year. Last year, however, Disney waited until June to impose its own $2 price hike. We can probably expect the same time frame this year.

Toad car sells on eBay for $5,500

An original ride vehicle from the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at Walt Disney World sold for $5,500 on eBay last Thursday afternoon. As Disney continues to sell the pieces of its history to the highest bidder, the lucky winner will get to take the red car "nowhere in particular."


Construction crews water down concrete to help it cure near the base of Mount Everest. The new bridge from Asia to Dinoland near Tarzan Rocks appears to be complete on the right. MousePlanet photo by Stephanie Wien.

Ears to the ground

…Rumors are starting to emerge that the Backlot Tour at the Disney-MGM Studios may not return from its scheduled rehab on April 1, or indeed, at all. With the demolition of Residential Street, it has been suggested that there just isn't enough left on the tour (aside from Catastrophe Canyon) to continue running it. If we get any hard information on this, we'll pass it along.

…It appears that the rehab work on the Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter is almost done, which would mean that the resort's rehab will move around to the Magnolia Bend portion of Port Orleans – Riverside in the near future.

…The Chicago facade on the new Big City Street area appears to be complete.

…Despite the AAA Five Diamond award won again this year by Victoria & Alberts, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has lost a star and has been dropped from four to three stars in the Mobil Travel Guide this year.

…It appears to be confirmed by multiple sources that, despite our optimism last week, Haunted Mansion Holiday will have to wait until 2005 to appear at the Magic Kingdom, partly delayed by the diversion of funds to the special-effects for he new Stitch Escape attraction.

…A new concession stand themed as a radio station truck was built in the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster plaza area.

 


This Mickey statue ("Love All" by Andre Agassi) doesn't have to worry about falling monorail parts, since he's not at Disneyland. MousePlanet photo by Stephanie Wien.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Frontierland Shootin' Arcade will be closed for refurbishment January 21 and 22.
  • The Liberty Square Riverboat will be closed for refurbishment from January 17 - February 8.
  • The Astro Orbiter will be closed for refurbishment from January 26 - March 1.
  • 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.
  • Mickey's Star Traders will be closed for refurbishment through early April as part of the Stitch rehab.
  • 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. The Hall of Presidents and Country Bear Jamboree will also open at 10 a.m.

Epcot

  • 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 will 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 for Phase II of the Nemo rehab.
  • Food Rocks has closed permanently 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.
  • The Wonders of Life pavilion went to seasonal operation 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.

Disney-MGM Studios

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

Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids be closed for refurbishment from January 20 - 30.
  • TriceraTop Spin will be closed for refurbishment from February 9 - 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 - May 2, 2004.
  • 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 2004.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (a Disney Vacation Club resort) has an announced grand opening date of May 27, 2004. Reservations are now available.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon is closed for refurbishment through February 28.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba will be closed on January 25-26.
  • 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.-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. Now through April 2004.

January 2004

  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Wonder. January 25.
  • National Dance Team Championship (link) January 31 - 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 - April 2.
  • TwirlMania - The Twirler's Championships (link). February 20-23.

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 (link). April 16 – June 6.
  • Grad Nights. April 23, 24, 30, and May 1.

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 25-27.
  • Star Wars Weekends (link). Weekends in May and June TBA.

June 2004

  • Gay Days (link). June 3–6. *
  • Family Pride Coalition Weekend (link). June 17-20. *

September 2004

  • Nights of Joy (link). September 10 & 11.

October 2004

  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (link). October 1 - November 14.
  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (link). Dates in October TBA.
  • Disney's 10K Classic (link). October 10.
  • Funai Classic at Walt Disney World (link). October 21-24.

November 2004

  • Super Soap Weekend (link). Dates in early November TBA.
  • Festival of the Masters at Downtown Disney (link). November 12 - 14.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link). Dates in November and December TBA.
  • Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney (link). November 26 - December 24.
  • Holidays Around the World (link). November 26 - December 30.

December 2004

  • New Year's Eve celebrations at Pleasure Island (link) and Atlantic Dance (link). December 31.

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.

* Not official WDW events


Current Discounts & Promotions

More discount codes announced

Walt Disney World has announced new discount codes for Annual Passholders, Florida residents, and the general public for check-ins February 12 through April 17, 2004. General public rates start at $79 per night, while AP and Florida rates start at $74 per night. Visit disneyworld.com or MouseSavers for more details.

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, 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 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 January 1 to February 11, 2004. 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

Hours and entertainment schedules are currently available through March 2004.

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
1/19
1/20
1/21
1/22
1/23
1/24
 

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

1/25
1/26
  • 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-8p
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

Hours and entertainment schedules are currently available through March 2004.

Theme Park Events

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 1/19

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 4p

Tuesday 1/20

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 4p

Wednesday 1/21

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 4p

Thursday 1/22

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 4p

Friday 1/23

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 4p

Saturday 1/24

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 4p

Sunday 1/25

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Monday 1/26

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Downtown Disney Entertainment

(Separate admission required)

Jazz Club
West End Stage
Rock & Roll Beach Club
House of Blues
Monday 1/19

Elliot Dyson

Kabang

Frankie & the West End Boys

 

Tuesday 1/20

Elliot Dyson

Nu South Playaz

 

 

Wednesday 1/21

Elliot Dyson

Nu South Playaz

 

 

Thursday 1/22

Joy Wright Band

Nu South Playaz

Battle of the Bands #7

Busta Rhymes (main room) 8:30pm

Big Al & the Heavyweights (Blues kitchen) 11pm

Friday 1/23

Joy Wright Band

Nu South Playaz

Kabang

Pocket Change (Blues kitchen) 11pm

Saturday 1/24

Joy Wright Band

Nu South Playaz

Kabang

Henry Rollins Spoken Word (main room) 8pm

Midnight Ramblers (Blues kitchen) 10:30am

Sunday 1/25

Joy Wright

Kabang

 

Pennywise with Mad Caddies, Stretch Armstrong, and Bleed the Dream (main room)

The Chambers (Gospel brunch)

Monday 1/26

Joy Wright

Kabang

The Big Idea

 



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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.