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News and Views

Walt Disney World assists in bongo repopulation efforts

Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of 12 U.S. zoological parks and refuges, including six in Florida, that will be sending 18 mountain bongo antelopes back to Kenya in hopes of repopulating their original habitat. Bongos were brought to the U.S. beginning in the 1970s to protect the species from poachers and trophy hunters. The animal has not been sighted in its native habitat in nine years.

Three bongos from Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World are among 18 from zoos around the U.S. being relocated to Kenya.
Three bongos from Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World are among eighteen from zoos around the United States being relocated to Kenya. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

This program will bring 18 U.S.-bred bongos to a nature preserve in Kenya, where they will be allowed to breed. It is expected that the third generation of these animals will be ready to release back into the wild.

The bongos left for Kenya on a DC-8 cargo jet on Friday.

Port Orleans French Quarter to reopen in March

Disney's Port Orleans Resort's French Quarter is reopening for guests on Sunday, March 21, and Disney is looking to staff the 200 additional positions required to open the resort, including housekeeping, recreation, and front desk. Disney began taking reservations for the resort late last week.

The 1,008-room resort will feature new furniture, carpeting and wall coverings, as well as remodeled bathrooms. The 2,048 Riverside section will be next, going through a phased rehab that will not require the entire Riverside portion of the resort to close. Reportedly, the Riverside rehab will begin with the Magnolia Bend mansions closing one at a time, to be followed by Alligator Bayou rooms closing in sections.

The French Quarter originally opened as the Disney's Port Orleans Resort in May of 1991. Riverside opened in 1992 as the Disney's Dixie Landings Resort. The resorts were nominally merged in 2000.

New plush walkaround at Downtown Disney

A new character, named “Disney Bear” will be appearing for meet and greets, and a few hugs too, on March 17 at Downtown Disney's Marketplace. Disney Bear is based on the popular Disney Bear teddy bears available at WDW's Once Upon a Toy store. The giant plush-huggable will be exclusive to WDW.

Braves announce spring training schedule

The Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team has announced its schedule of games for this year's spring training (link). The schedule includes 16 games, including one against the University of Georgia, and span from March 4 through 27:

  • Wednesday, Mar. 3 University of Georgia (1:05 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Mar. 4 Los Angeles Dodgers (1:05 p.m.)
  • Sunday, Mar. 7 Tampa Bay Rays (1:05 p.m.)
  • Monday, Mar. 8 Cleveland Indians (1:05 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, Mar. 10 Philadelphia Phillies (7:05 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Mar. 13 New York Yankees (Split Squad) (1:05 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, Mar. 17 Montreal Expos (7:05 p.m.)
  • Friday, Mar. 19 New York Mets (1:05 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Mar. 20 Cincinnati Reds (Split Squad) (1:05 p.m.)
  • Sunday, Mar. 21 St. Louis Cardinals (1:05 p.m.)
  • Monday, Mar. 22 St. Louis Cardinals (1:05 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Mar. 25 Detroit Tigers (1:05 p.m.)
  • Friday, Mar. 26 Cleveland Indians (7:05 p.m.)
  • Saturday, Mar. 27 New York Mets (1:05 p.m.)
  • Tuesday, Mar. 30 Los Angeles Dodgers (1:05 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Apr. 1 Houston Astros (1:05 p.m.)

Pleasure Island Mardi Gras entertainment announced

Walt Disney World has announced the entertainment for Downtown Disney Pleasure Island's New Orleans-style street party during the annual Mardi Gras celebration February 20, 21 and 24. There will be costumed stilt walkers, jugglers and magicians entertaining in the streets. In New Orleans Mardi Gras style, beads and other trinkets will be tossed to partygoers at locations throughout Pleasure Island. Crawdaddio and Funky Blues Messiah will be performing at the West End Stage and in The Jazz Company. The Mardi Gras celebration is included with regular Pleasure Island admission of $19.95 plus tax per person.

Ears to the ground

…Readers of Travel + Leisure magazine honored six Walt Disney World properties among the 500 hotels for its “World's Best Awards” posted in the January 2004 edition. This year, the readers honored Disney's Boardwalk Inn, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Yacht Club Resort and Disney's Vero Beach Resort.

…In the Winter 2003/2004 edition of Travel + Leisure Family magazine, nine Disney resorts placed in the top 20 in a readers' poll of the best Continental U.S. and Canada resorts, with Disney's Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World Resort placing second in the poll. Other Walt Disney World properties recognized are:

  • Disney's Polynesian Resort (5th)
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort (7th)
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (10th)
  • Disney's Boardwalk Inn & Villas (11th)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (15th)
  • Disney's Beach Club Resort (17th).

Disney's Vero Beach (Fla.) Resort—a Disney Vacation Club property—placed sixth, and Disney's Grand Californian Resort in Anaheim, California, finished 13th with the magazine's readers. The top vote-getter was the Palmetto Dunes Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

…This spring, the Walt Disney World Resort replaces its the famed Water Mouse boats with Sea Raycer boats from Sea Ray. There will be 200 of the new two-seater boats available for rental at the various marinas around the World. The Sea Raycers are designed by Sea Ray, a specialist company that also designed the Grand I yacht at the Grand Floridian.

…In news articles, it has been suggested that, as part of the package for a financial bailout of the Disneyland Paris Resort, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal may demand that Michael Eisner allow him to site a Four Seasons hotel on Walt Disney World Resort property. No word on whether this request was actually made, or what the response mght have been.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Liberty Square Riverboat is closed for refurbishment through Feb. 8.
  • The Astro Orbiter is closed for refurbishment through 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 is expected to remain open for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Timekeeper has returned to seasonal operation.
  • Mickey's Star Traders is 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 the Country Bear Jamboree also open at 10 a.m. every day except as noted below.
  • Splash Mountain open at noon on weekday mornings through Feb. 12 for exterior painting. On those mornings, Country Bear Jamboree returns to 9 a.m. openings.

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 Jan. 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

  • The Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage show at the Theater of the Stars will be closed for refurbishment Feb. 2 to 6, 2004.
  • The Backlot Tour is closed through April 1 to allow construction vehicles free access to the stunt show construction site.
  • Sets from the Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage and will be open through April 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. The Chicago facades appear to be complete, but we do not yet have a target completion date for the rest of the newly titled Big City Street.
  • The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights is reported to be returning on New York Street/Big City Street for this year.

Animal Kingdom

  • TriceraTop Spin will close for refurbishment from Feb. 9 to March 16.
  • Dinosaur is rumored to be scheduled for a three month rehab from April through June.

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 and will reopen on May 21, 2004. Phase II will involve Riverside going through a phased rehab. The Magnolia Bend mansions will go down one by one, followed by Alligator Bayou closing in sections.
  • 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 were tentatively scheduled for Jan. 18 to 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 Feb. 28.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba is closed on Feb. 1-4, March 14-17, June 20-July 5, August 22-25, October 17-20, and December 5-13.
  • 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 (link) showcases 75 very special interestingly decorated Mickey statues to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Now through April 2004.

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 (link). April 16 – June 6.
  • Grad Nights (link). 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

Discount codes for February-April

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 (407-939-4329).

Discount codes for January-February

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 April 2004.

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
2/2
2/3
2/4
2/5
2/6
2/7
 

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

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

2/8
2/9
  • 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

Hours and entertainment schedules are currently available through March 2004.

Theme Park Events

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 2/2

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

Tuesday 2/3

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic Parade 7p

Wishes Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 2/4

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

Thursday 2/5

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

Friday 2/6

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Saturday 2/7

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic Parade 7p

Wishes Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p, 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 2/8

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 4p

Monday 2/9

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 4p

Downtown Disney Entertainment

(Separate admission required)

Jazz Club
West End Stage
Rock & Roll Beach Club
House of Blues
Monday 2/2

Elliot Dyson

Frankie & the West End Boys

 

 

Tuesday 2/3

Elliot Dyson

Frankie & the West End Boys

 

 

Wednesday 2/4

Elliot Dyson

Kabang

Frankie & the West End Boys

An Evening with the Dark Star Orchestra (main room) 9pm

Thursday 2/5

Beautiful Bobby Blackmon

80Z All Stars

Frankie & the West End Boys

Deanna Bogart Band (Blues kitchen) 11pm

Friday 2/6

Beautiful Bobby Blackmon

80Z All Stars

Frankie & the West End Boys

Deanna Bogart Band (Blues kitchen) 11pm

Saturday 2/7

Beautiful Bobby Blackmon

80Z All Stars

Frankie & the West End Boys

Dillinger Escape Plan with The Locust, Your Enemies Friends, and Orthrelm (main room) 7:30pm

Deanna Bogart Band (Blues kitchen) 11pm

Sunday 2/8

Joy Wright

80Z All Stars

 

Apostle JL Cash & Praise (gospel brunch) 10:30am

Mushroom Head with Dope, 40 Below Summer, and Twisted Method (main room) 6pm

Monday 2/9

Joy Wright

80Z All Stars

 

 



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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.