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News and Views

Ultimate Park Hopper price increase

The cost of buying an Ultimate Park Hopper pass has gone up. The passes—available only to resort guests, and only for the entire length of their stay—have gone up by $1.50 to $2.50 per day for adult passes, and $1.25 to $2.00 per day for children's (3-9) passes.

The amount of the price increase is effective for all passes, whether they are purchased in advance or at the resort. For example, the popular 7 day/6 night Ultimate Park Hopper's adult price went up $13 to $326 when purchased in advance, and went up the same $13 to $348 when bought at a resort. All prices given are before tax.

Disney buys Muppets—what's in it for Walt Disney World?

So now that the Walt Disney Company has bought the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House from the Jim Henson Company, what changes might that mean for Walt Disney World? The impact will probably be initially restricted to the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, at least for the near future. It also means that the Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show and Muppetvision 4D movie will not be going anywhere any time soon. Could it mean more Muppet and Bear walkaround characters? Possibly.

More likely, it will mean the possible return of abandoned Muppet concepts originally planned for the Disney-MGM Studios when Disney first planned to buy the entire Henson company: The Here Come the Muppets show. The Great Muppet Movie Ride. The Great Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. For more information about what these wacky Muppet ideas are about, Jim Hill recently quoted (link) from a story in the archives of an earlier 10-part story at LaughingPlace.com (link).

Tom Joyner going back to World in 2004

The Tom Joyner Family Reunion will be returning to Walt Disney World over Labor Day weekend this year. On the heels of last year's successful inaugural event, the radio personality will bring musical acts, comedians, and other special events to Florida from September 2 to 5. The host hotel for the event will be the Coronado Springs Resort, with events taking place at the hotel and at the Disney-MGM Studios park.

Last year's performers included Beyonce and Destiny's Child, LL Cool J, Frankie Beverly, Cedric the Entertainer, Kelly Rowland, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Doug E. Fresh and L'il Romeo. While there were a number of complaints about planned schedules and delayed starts of events, few dispute that the Reunion was pulled together in an impressive manner.

For more information about the events and to book specially priced packages, call 1-888-TJ-FAMILY (888-853-2645) 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday or visit their Web site (link). For a family of four, a $2,500 package price includes hotel stay, theme park tickets, tickets for exclusive theme park and Disney's Coronado Springs Resort parties with live entertainment and other special events, plus entrance to all of the seminars and workshops that will be available throughout the weekend.

The Mickeys are hitting the road early

Apparently, the 75 six-foot-tall Mickey Mouse statues from the 75 InspEARations event will be leaving Walt Disney World far ahead of their originally planned departure date. While the statues have been extremely popular with guests and cast members, they “have been invited to a very special event at another location, which has resulted in their early departure.” The statues will now only be on display through tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24.

The speculation on exactly what the “very special event” is includes the red carpet at the Oscars (next weekend) and the Disney annual shareholder meeting (next month) . Either way, we should find out soon.

The Mickey statues are still scheduled to begin their U.S. cities tour in May. Details of the tour are expected to be announced in early March.

Disney, hospital sign five-year agreement

Florida Hospital has signed a five-year agreement with Walt Disney World that will allow the hospital to continue to provide preferred health care for Disney resort guests at the Centra Care site on Route 535 and at its facility at Celebration Health. Disney guests in need of medical care will be transported to the Florida Hospital locations and back to the resort. The agreement also provides for Florida Hospital to provide preventive health information and medical screenings for cast members.

Charge that Mickey Bar to the room

Guests can now use room charges or credit cards at all outdoor food carts and kiosks in the Magic Kingdom, thanks to a new wireless system that allows them to accept these forms of payment. The ability to have a cashless vacation at Walt Disney World has come one step closer.

Soarin' topped off

The Soarin' pavilion has been topped off—a traditional raising of an American flag atop the tallest point of the structure. The building is visible over the treetops near The Land pavilion, and is very visible behind the Canada pavilion.

Book signing at Studios park

Author Robert Tieman, manager of the Walt Disney Archives, will sign his latest book, The Disney Treasures, on February 28, 2 to 4 p.m., in the Writers' Stop at the Disney-MGM Studios.

Ears to the Ground

…A rumor states that Stitch's Great Escape is extremely far ahead of schedule. If the accelerated pace continues and there are no unexpected problems, soft openings could begin as early as late April to mid-May.

…The upcoming Test Track rehab scheduled from February 29 through March 2 may not only include resurfacing of the track and queue area. Disney is considering the reintroduction of the crashing car effect towards the end of the indoor section that has been inoperative for some time. In addition to the main rehab, the Dreamchasers post-show may be going down for a rehab until mid-March, possibly returning with an entirely new film, perhaps even in 3D.

…A Home on the Range preparade will precede the Share a Dream Come True Parade, from Friday, March 5 through Friday, April 16. Home on the Range, Disney's next animated feature (and the last to be traditionally animated) opens in theaters on April 2.

…Brian Bennett reports that the “Port Orleans Resort French Quarter” sign that used to hang on the wrought iron fence has been reinstalled. The entrance to the resort is still restricted, but obviously things are getting done soon.

…WFTV is reporting (link) that a man working out of a sporting goods store on International Drive has been arrested for selling fraudulent theme park tickets, bought with stolen credit card numbers, to unsuspecting visitors at a discount.

…An update for those who plan side trips to Cape Canaveral: NASA has delayed its next planned shuttle launch. The return to flight, originally planned for this fall, has been pushed back to at least March 2005. The new plan also includes one shuttle always ready to fly a rescue mission.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • “it's a small world” is rumored to be going down for rehab from June 7 of this year through March 18, 2005 for upgrades to the lighting, audio, and electrical systems, rehabs to sets and audio-animatronic figures, asbestos abatement, roof repair, regular water maintenance (draining and refilling), and the possible addition of a new scene.
  • Astro Orbiter is closed for refurbishment through March 1.
  • ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter has closed for good. It is now undergoing a major rehab and reopens 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 the Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management) on Sundays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The following schedule has been announced for February. The early-opening portion of Adventureland opens at 9 a.m. Feb. 23, 24, 26, and 28, and the rest of the land opens at 10 a.m. All other days, the entire land opens at 10 a.m. El Pirata Y el Perico Restaurante will be open Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Liberty Square's merchandise locations are open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from now through Monday, March 1. Frontierland locations are reduced, with Big Al's opening at 10 a.m., and the Trading Post, Prairie Outpost & Supply, and Briar Patch opening at 11 a.m. The Trading Post and Briar Patch are closing at 6:30, Prairie Outpost & Supply are closing at 7:30, and Big Al's are closing at park close.
  • Hall of Presidents and the Country Bear Jamboree also open at 10 a.m. every day except as noted below.

Epcot

  • Test Track is rumored to be going down for rehab for track and queue resurfacing from February 28 - March 2.
  • Universe of Energy is expected to close for a short rehab in March to remove the ExxonMobil signage after its pavilion sponsorship ends.
  • Living Seas pavilion appears to be 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 is open seasonally. 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 when the pavilion is open.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and demolished and construction is well underway to turn the site into Lights, Motors, Action!, an American version of the popular Moteurs… Action! stunt show from the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris.
  • The Backlot Tour is closed through April 1 to allow construction vehicles free access to the stunt show construction site. Once the stunt show opens, the tour will run two routes. The first route, when the stunt show is not running, will go through the stunt show set. The second route, during the stunt show, will bypass the stunt show set.
  • Sets from the Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage and is open through April.
  • New York Street is undergoing a great deal of construction to change some facades to represent Chicago and San Francisco. 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 is closed for refurbishment thru 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 reopens on March 21. 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 is 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 through 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 an announced grand opening ceremony date of May 27, however guests may stay at the Resort beginning May 17. Reservations are now available.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon is closed for refurbishment through February 28.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba performs Tuesday through Saturday, but is closed 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. Ends this week.
  • Atlanta Braves training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex (link). Now through April 2.

February 2004

  • TwirlMania - The Twirler's Championships (link). February 20–23.
  • Mardi Gras at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island. February 20, 21 & 24.

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.[Not official WDW events.]
  • Family Pride Coalition Weekend (link). June 17–20.[Not official WDW events.]

July 2004

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex (link). Dates in July and August TBA.

September 2004

  • Tom Joyner Family Reunion (link). September 2–5.
  • Nights of Joy (link). September 10 & 11.

October 2004

  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (link). Oct. 1 – Nov. 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). Nov. 12–14.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link). Dates in November and December TBA.
  • Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney (link). Nov. 26 – Dec. 24.
  • Holidays Around the World (link). Nov. 26 – Dec. 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.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Tentative info on Summer Dream Maker package

The upcoming Summer Dream Maker Package is expected to be available for booking starting on Thursday, March 11. Vacations must be taken between April 18 and July 4. Please note that those dates are tentative and subject to change before the official announcement.

April-June discount codes for Fort Wilderness

MouseSavers is reporting new discount codes for stays at the Fort Wilderness campground for check-ins April 18 through June 5. Reservations must be made by March 31, and rates are subject to availability. Visit 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, 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, either visit the Play 4 Days Web page (link) or call 407-WDW-4DAYS (407-939-4329).

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 percent 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
 
2/23
2/24
2/25
2/26
2/27
2/28
 

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

2/29
3/1
  • 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 10a-5p

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


Entertainment Schedule

Hours and entertainment schedules are currently available through April 2004.

Theme Park Events

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 2/23

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Tuesday 2/24

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

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 2/25

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 2/26

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 2/27

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 2/28

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic Parade 8p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 2/29

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 3/1

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 2/23

Joy Wright

Doo Wah Riders

 

 

Tuesday 2/24

Funky Blues Messiahs

Crawdaddio

 

 

Wednesday 2/25

Joy Wright

Kabang

The Big Idea

Orlando Rocks with special guests Still Naive, Submersed, One Less Reason, and Exit the Ride (main room), $7 7:30pm

Thursday 2/26

Mike Mac Arthur

Stormbringer

Kabang

Anthony Hamilton with Javier (main room), $19.50 9pm

Joe Turner and the Memphis Blues Caravan (Blues Kitchen), free 11pm

Friday 2/27

Mike Mac Arthur

Stormbringer

Kabang

Spitvalves CD Release Show with Lost City Angels and Ten New Toes (main room), $6 7:30pm

Joe Turner and the Memphis Blues Caravan (Blues kitchen), free 11pm

Saturday 2/28

Mike Mac Arthur

Stormbringer

Kabang

Kanye West with TBA (main room), $19.50/$22.50 9pm

Sunday 2/29

Elliot Dyson

Kabang

 

Apostle JL Cash & Praise (gospel brunch), $30 adult, $15 child (3-9) 10:30am

Finger Eleven with No Motiv, Idle Sons, and Edgewater (main room), $12 6pm

Monday 3/1

Elliot Dyson

Harry Dash

 

 



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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.