The Mickey arm, glove and wand, along with the stars and "Epcot" signage adorning the geosphere are being removed starting today, a change already generating a great deal of conversation on discussion forums around the Internet, including our own MousePad forums. (You can join the discussion here.) Epcot Vice President Jim MacPhee, who replaced Brad Rex back in May, let news of the change slip during an interview with Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers. You can read the story in the Sentinel here.
The 50-ton, 257-foot-tall structure (including its FAA lights at the top of the structure) is expected to be completely dismantled before October 1, the 25th anniversary of Epcot's opening. The 165-foot diameter geodesic sphere, mounted 15 feet above ground level, will stand free and clear for the first time since 1999, when the tower was erected as the centerpiece of Walt Disney World's Millennium Celebration, with the number "2000" next to the wand. At the conclusion of the celebration, the "2000" was replaced by the word "Epcot."
Spaceship Earth, as seen from the monorail in the late 1980s. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
The Leave a Legacy kioskswhich sold the opportunity to have your image etched onto a piece of metal that would be mounted on the granite stones in Epcot's entry plazahave been removed, and the mirrored pillar in the front of Spaceship Earth is once again pristine, which will make the icon reflect its original appearance even more closely.
With Spaceship Earth returning to its former 180-foot total height, it again becomes the second-tallest park icon, behind the 189-foot Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom. Next-tallest is the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom at 140 feet. The shortest of the four theme park icons is the 100-foot Sorcerer's Hat (erected to the dismay of many for the "100 Years of Magic" promotion in 2001) at the Disney-MGM Studios, mounted 22 feet above the ground for a total height of 122 feet.
During the dismantling of the tower, traffic flow along the east side of Spaceship Earth may be severely disrupted. Be prepared for traffic jams along the west side of the geosphere.
Spaceship Earth will again be wand-less in less than three months.. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
We asked Disney what role Siemens (the new sponsor of the Spaceship Earth attraction) played in the decision to remove the wand, and whether the removal of the wand signaled a possible change in the previous decision (under Rex) that there would be no official celebration of Epcot's 25th anniversary. At press time, Disney had not yet responded.
Early last Monday morning, some time between midnight and 12:30 a.m., a pipe bomb-like device exploded in a remote parking lot at Downtown Disney, damaging a trash container and creating a lot of noise and smoke. The container was located in the far-west parking lot beyond the Cirque du Soleil building, near the Lake Buena Vista golf course and the Saratoga Springs Resort. A Disney security officer on bicycle patrol reported the explosion to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's investigators secured the area around the trash container and initiated an investigation to determine the source of the noise and subsequent smoke. At a press conference later Monday morning, Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary stated: "Our investigators found end caps, which usually indicate a pipe bomb-like device. We believe this was not designed to cause significant property damage or injuries."
A later release from the Sheriff's Office noted that "Detectives are currently working investigative leads and have recovered physical evidence from the scene that will undergo detailed forensic analysis. Analysis of the evidence will take at least two weeks. They have declined to discuss the specific nature of the leads or recovered evidence."
In the past, Disney has celebrated Independence Day by holding a mass naturalization ceremony for a few hundred people at Epcot's The American Adventure in conjunction with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This year, as part of the Year of a Million Dreams celebration, Disney made bigger plans, hosting 1,000 new Americans as they took the Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Emilio Gonzales, Director of the USCIS, presided over the ceremony, which also featured a speech by Cuban-American U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), presentation of Outstanding "Americans by Choice" certificates to Cuban-born naturalized citizens Gloria Estefan (who performed the national anthem) and her husband, Emilio Estefan, as well as a performance of "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood.
Following the ceremony, the Walt Disney World Band led the new Americans in a parade down Main Street, U.S.A., escorted by Walt Disney World Ambassadors Michael Kelley and Lowell Doringo. When the parade reached Town Square, two Air Force F-15 fighter jets made a flyover pass above the assembled crowd as confetti and streamers rained down (along with real rain).
A video summary of the event is available online.
Fighter jets from the U.S. Air Force fly over 1,000 new Americans on Main Street, U.S.A. as streamers rain and pyrotechnics explode following a naturalization ceremony in front of Cinderella Castle last Wednesday. Photo by Kent Phillips, © Disney.
The film shown during the "Golden Dream" segment of The American Adventure got an upgrade a couple of weeks ago as the 45 seconds of additional footage that we reported on back in January were added to the film. New footage includes Tiger Woods, Michelle Kwan and the image of the firefighters raising the American flag at ground zero following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.
In order to add the 25 new images to the existing 85 while still fitting the time of the song, the images were time-compressed, a process that keeps all existing images, but cuts their duration by speeding up the film speed.
This is the film's second update, many faces being added during the last change back in 1993.
Get your MousePlanet gear!
The MousePlanet.com store is now open for business (link)! You can get shirts, mugs, hats and even a Teddy Bear! Check it out and show your MousePlanet pride!
MouseFest event scheduling has begun, though meets won't be officially announced on the MouseFest site for at least a couple of weeks yet. We can tell you, though, that MousePlanet is again planning to host several events this year, in addition to participating in the Mega Mouse Meet (currently scheduled to be held on Saturday, December 8, from 1-3:30 p.m.). Here's the current rundown of MousePlanet-hosted events:
There will also be a MouseStation/MousePlanetWatch podcast meet at a date, time and location to be determined. Let us know if you have any ideas for this one.
We'll have more information on MouseFest as we get closer and the meet information starts to firm up some more.
Readers have wondered about the location of the smoking areas at the various resorts. Thanks to reader Anthony Uriaus, we have some answers. Here, a smoking area at the Polynesian Resort is located outside the Tahiti building, along the path that leads to the Transportation and Ticket Center.. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.
Lowell Doringo, one of two Walt Disney World Ambassadors this year, was recently named as the 2007 Outstanding Alumni Member of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), a national organization. Doringo joined HOSA while studying to become a certified pharmacy technician. He was named the Outstanding HOSA Member of Texas in 1997 and in 1998 was elected as the HOSA National President.
"This means a great deal to me, especially this year, because I was elected as National President of HOSA here at Walt Disney World. And now, 10 years later, I have the opportunity to represent another group of outstanding people, my fellow Cast Members," said Doringo. "HOSA allowed me to grow both professionally and personally, and although I didn't go directly into healthcare, I'm proud to be part of a business that also takes care of people."
This smoking area at the Pop Century Resort is just outside the '80s A building right next to Hour Glass Lake. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.
Have you ever seen the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show and thought: "Boy, these guys are good"?
Maybe that's because one of the world's best is in their midst. Cast member Andrew "Umi" Sexton recently was named a Senior Division World Champion at the 2007 Samoan World Fireknife Dance Championship and Samoa Festival in Laie, Hawaii.
Sexton, a third-generation fireknife performer, began learning his craft as a 3-year-old growing up on Oahu, Hawaii. Fireknife is a Polynesian war dance that combines twirling knives with foot stamping, head movements and sometimes tumblingwhich all symbolize the intimidation or attack on an enemy. It also is common to see fireknife dancers use flaming knives.
"My dad did it, my grandpa did it and now I do it. It's a family tradition," said Sexton. "I love the adrenaline rush, hearing people cheer and the culture." And now he's a world champion.
You can make reservations to see Sexton and his colleagues in the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).
This smoking area at Port Orleans Riverside's Alligator Bayou section is right along a walkway around Ol' Man Island, just outside Building 27. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.
These smoking areas at Port Orleans Riverside's Magnolia Bend section are in the courtyard area of the Building 90 manor. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.
MousePlanet's David Koenig is currently at Walt Disney World, and reports that a thin, almost invisible sheet of water sprayed across the front of the stage of Finding Nemo: The Musical during a sudden downpour at the resort on July 4. The show was ended prematurely to ensure the safety of the performers on the wet stage.
It was explained to him by a cast member that the rain was so heavy that the roof had begun to leak. The cast member said that "water blowing in" was highly unusual, and that cast members were already on the roof trying to figure out what happened.
Since the press premiere of the show was held in a downpour without any leakage, it would seem that this situation is indeed unusual. Disney spent a lot of money having the theater enclosed after the final performance of Tarzan Rocks!, so it would seem highly unusual that a situation like this was not considered during that work.
We don't know any further details of the problem at this time, but we'll let you know if we find out.
Want to help MousePlanet upgrade our park guides? We're looking to add menu information for all restaurants to our Walt Disney World Park Guide (link). Send photos or scans of menus (no fair copying from other web sites) to email@example.com (link). Please note that there is a 5MB limit on total attachments in a single email.
This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
The construction wall blocking off the Haunted Mansion is well-themed, with a nice note from Master Gracey asking us to be patient while renovations take place. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.
A couple of readers wrote in to correct factual errors in last week's Park Update story about the Democratic candidates speaking at the NALEO conference at the Contemporary Resort.
When Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki reopens next month, it will have a new name: Teppan Edo. Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for the information.
Mickey Avenue at the Disney-MGM Studios is closing today, and will reopen as Pixar Place when the Toy Story Mania attraction opens next year.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster will indeed close during most of September, but we still haven't been able to confirm dates yet.
Disney is reportedly in talks with the Children's Miracle Network and one of its over 30 corporate partners to make a deal on a name sponsorship for its annual PGA golf tournament. The tourney, taking place November 1-4 this year, has been looking for a new sponsor since Japanese electronics company Funai's four-year deal expired following the event last year.
This week's question: This week's question was submitted by MousePlanet reader Anthony Uriaus. What web site is on the giant computer screen at the computer pool at the Pop Century Resort? Stay tuned to next week's park update for the answer.
The answer to last week's question: "How many floors are there at the Wilderness Lodge?", which was submitted by MousePlanet reader Ryan U. is:
Seven floors in the main building, six floors in the wings.
Do you have a trivia question that you'd like to share? If we choose to use your question, we'll give you credit in the Update. Email us here.
MousePlanet sponsor Hotel Royal Plaza, in the Downtown Disney resort area, has enhanced its deal for MousePlanet readers. From now through the end of the year, anyone booking their stay through the MousePlanet web site has been able to receive discounted rates up to 20 percent off on all room types. Now, for a limited time, you can get even more! The discounted rates now include free breakfast for two in the Giraffe Café!. Plus children 10 and under always eat breakfast for free! (Two children 10 and under eat free from the kids menu when accompanied by an adult dining from the regular menu.)
The completely-remodeled 394-room resort is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just a few minutes' walk from Downtown Disney. Bus service to all Walt Disney World theme parks is included with your stay. Their Giraffe Café restaurant, Giraffe Tavern sports bar, Marketessen deli-style café and Sips Pool Bar are ready to serve you.
And so we'd like to invite you to try their hospitality!
Book a new Walt Disney World, Disneyland or Disney Cruise vacation July 1 August 1, 2007, with Small World Vacations and get one free collapsible sturdy backpack. Backpack are mailed with final documents. If the reservation is canceled, this offer is null and void. Travel must be complete by December 31, 2008.
This offer is not valid on previously booked reservations or room only reservations.
Let them know that you found Small World Vacations on MousePlanet and include the word "Backpack" in the special request section of our price quote form.
Offer good while supplies last. Substitution may be necessary if supplies are exhausted.
Disney has released discounted room rates for passholders and Florida residents through most of the summer. Discounts are available for select Disney Vacation Club and deluxe resorts from June 3 through August 4, and for select moderate resorts between July 1 and August 4.
For passholders, the DVC rates start at $164 per night plus tax in a studio at the Old Key West or Saratoga Springs Resorts. Prices go up from there depending on the resort and accommodations. In addition to those two DVC resorts, discounts are also available at the Yacht Club, Beach Club and BoardWalk Resorts. Rates at the moderates start at $139 per night. For Florida residents, the DVC rates start at $169 per night and the moderates start at $145 per night. Minimum stay requirements apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals.
All rates can be booked up until the date of arrival. Passholders and Florida residents can book via your respective web sites, by calling your travel agent (Small World Vacations is MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel provider) or by calling 407-560-7277 for passholders or 407-560-7722 for Florida residents.
Passholder discount codes are FDL (DVC/Deluxe) and FDJ (Moderates). Florida resident discount codes are FDP (DVC/Deluxe) and FDN (Moderates).
Disney has released discounted room rates for passholders and Florida residents for August and September. Discounts are available for select Disney Vacation Club and deluxe resorts for most nights from August 5 to September 29, and at moderate and value resorts for most nights August 5 9, August 12 29 and September 2 29.
For passholders and Florida residents, the DVC rates start at $164 per night plus tax in a studio at the Old Key West or Saratoga Springs Resorts. Prices go up from there depending on the resort and accommodations.
In addition to those two DVC resorts, discounts are also available at all deluxe resorts, with passholder rates $5 per night less than Florida resident rates. Some sample rates are garden view rooms at the Polynesian ($249 passholder/$254 resident), Contemporary ($225/$230) and Grand Floridian ($295/$300).
Rates at the moderates start at $94 per night for passholders and $99 per night for Florida residents. Value resorts start at $64 for both passholders and Florida residents.
Minimum stay requirements apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. All rates can be booked up until the date of arrival. Passholders and Florida residents can book via your respective web sites, by calling your travel agent (Small World Vacations is MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel provider) or by calling 407-560-7277 for passholders or 407-560-7722 for Florida residents.
Discount codes are FDR (passholder) and FDT (Florida residents).
Disney's popular summer golf discount program, Disney's Price Slice, will return from May 14 through September 27. During that time, a round of golf at any of the Walt Disney World courses will be less expensive after 10 a.m. daily, due to the heat of the summer season. The Magnolia, Palm, Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge courses will carry a fee of $55, while the Lake Buena Vista course will cost $45. Rates include the use of an electric cart, and are $34-$44 cheaper than regular rates.
The rates include the use of an electric cart and are discounted from the before-10 a.m. prices of $99 for resort guests/$109 for day visitors (Magnolia and Osprey Ridge), $89 for resort guests/$99 for day visitors (Palm and Eagle Pines) and $79 for resort guests/$89 for day visitors (Lake Buena Vista). To reserve a tee time, call 407-WDW-GOLF (407-939-4653) or go to the Disney Golf Web site (link). Note that the site's front page still appears to have difficulty with browsers other than Internet Explorer. Once you get past the front page, you should be all right.
(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.