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Update for January 7 – January 13, 2008

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule

News and Views

Going "Hollywood" | AP, Resident discounts | Contemporary enhancements | V&A's bans kids | Cypress Gardens | Virtual MouseAdventure winners | Construction update | Quick Takes …
[Ed. Note: A reader wrote in to ask why I did not include the renaming of the Disney-MGM Studios in my list of top Walt Disney World stories of 2007 last week. My reasoning is that it's a top story of 2008, as the changeover actually occurs today. That's why it's the lead story.]

Say Hello to "Hollywood"

Today marks the dawn of a new era at Walt Disney World. The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park is no more, the name being replaced by Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is the biggest renaming of a Disney park since Euro Disneyland became Disneyland Paris. (The only other Disney park to get a new name was when EPCOT Center became Epcot '94, and then Epcot '95 before finally taking the name "Epcot."


The old MGM lion has left the building, along with the old black, gold, red, white and blue logo. Today marks the dawn of the era of a black-and-gold logo featuring Mickey Mouse. Image © Disney.

The reasons for the renaming are many. The official reason was laid out by Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton when the change was announced, stating, "The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer—in music, television, movies and theater." And, of course, there was probably no way to keep Disney from using the line "Now Hollywood is our middle name!" Of course, the deal for Disney to gain the rights to use the MGM name and logo for a theme park has run out, so the new name primarily addresses that issue.


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In any case, the Studios will be the site of most of the major developments this year at Walt Disney World. From the highest profile attraction (the Toy Story Mania attraction) and the only scheduled new parade (Block Party Bash) to a retooling of Playhouse Disney Live on Stage that will include characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny and Little Einsteins, the Studios are in for a lot of changes. In support of Toy Story Mania, that section of Mickey Avenue will become Pixar Place.

Of course, there is also the rumored changeover of the Chronicles of Narnia walkthrough exhibit to highlight the next film, Prince Caspian, to be released in May. There are other rumored changes afoot, but none sufficiently-confirmed to report yet. In any case, the Studios will likely be the park in focus at Walt Disney World for most of this year.

Passholder, Florida Resident discounts through March 6

Annual Passholders and Florida residents can take advantage of discounted room rates from now through March 6. From now through February 13, with the exception of Martin Luther King weekend, passholders and Florida residents can stay at value resorts for as low as $49 per night, moderate resorts for as little as $99 per night, or a deluxe villa resort starting at $149 per night. (All rates in this article do not include tax.) Deluxe resorts are also available. Passholders should use booking code FHJ, while Florida residents should use code FHN.

Rates are a bit higher for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from February 18 through March 6. Value resorts run $79 per nights, moderates are $139 per night and deluxe villas are $249 per night. Passholders use booking code FIE, Florida residents use code FIU.

Note that the number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. No group rates or other discounts apply. Adult Annual Passes or proof of Florida residency must be shown at check-in.

In addition, from now through February 29 Florida residents can get a Disney Play 4 Days Pass for $34 off the normal price. The pass gives you four admissions to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, one park per day, for $125 plus tax. The pass is valid for six months from first use.

The Disney Play 4 Days Pass is available for purchase by phone at 407-WDW-4DAYS (407-939-4329). They're also available at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows and Resort hotel locations, Florida AAA offices and Florida Disney Stores. Proof of Florida residency is required.


Seated in one of the new attraction vehicles, Walt Disney Imagineers Ira Frank (left) and John Noonan (right) test the new "spring-action shooters" which Disney's Hollywood Studios guests will use to score points when the Toy Story Mania! attraction opens summer 2008. Standing at right is Jim Jannick. An innovative ride-game experience coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios summer 2008, Toy Story Mania! combines memorable film characters from Disney-Pixar classics Toy Story and Toy Story 2 with games that match their motion picture personas. Donning 3-D glasses, guests seemingly shrink to the size of a toy and hop fanciful ride vehicles that follow a midway-themed route. At each game booth, they aim for animated targets using a special spring-action shooter. The challenges are designed to be fun for everyone from beginners to serious gamers—and, for Disney theme park guests on both coasts, as Toy Story Mania! also is coming to Disneyland Resort in 2008. It's all part of Disney Parks' Year of a Million Dreams celebration for 2008. Image © Disney.

Contemporary Resort rolls out enhancements

Disney's Contemporary Resort is rolling out new iHome iPod alarm clocks to guest rooms. The adjustable docking station will fit iPods of all sizes, and it appears that there's a connector for MP3 players of other brands. However, the unit appears to be a big larger than they had planned for, as it sticks off of the nightstand quite a bit.

Meanwhile, Disney's Online Concierge service (first announced at last year's International Press Event) has been rolled out to the resort. An in-room computer allows guests easy access to park hours, dining options & information, and general resort information. During the launch period, high-speed Internet access (HSIA) is also provided for free. Guests can either use the provided in-room computer or connect their own computer to the available HSIA port using a provided Ethernet cable (If you take the cable with you when you leave it'll cost you $10, otherwise the service is free). If you prefer wireless Internet access from common areas of the resort, such as the lobby, main convention center corridors or the main pool, that will also cost you extra.


The new iHome iPod alarm clocks at Disney's Contemporary Resort will allow guests to wake to their iPod or other MP3 player. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.


The problem with them is that they're too wide for the marble nightstands. Photo by Anthony M. Uriaus.

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!

Kids under 10 no longer welcome at Victoria & Albert's

Effective January 1, Victoria & Albert's no longer allows children under the age of 10 to dine in the restaurant. The resort's flagship dining room, located at the Grand Floridian Resort, is the only AAA five-diamond restaurant in Central Florida.

Not many children are brought to the restaurant by their parents, due to the fact that there's no children's menu or children's pricing and the prix fixe meal costs $125 plus tax and tip, or nearly $160, per person. Wine pairings or dining at the Chef's Table raise the price even higher.

As part of my commitment to keeping the Park Update as free of reportorial bias as possible, my personal thoughts on this subject are located in my new blog here on MousePlanet.com.

Cypress Gardens gets new boss

We've been covering the ups and downs of Cypress Gardens in this space for a while, and the venerable 72-year-old Central Florida theme park turned another page in its attempt to get back on its feet. Kent Buescher, who had purchased the park in a complicated deal back in 2004 but ran into problems when the work to upgrade the park was disrupted by three hurricanes that year, is now out as CEO of the park. Land South Adventures LLC, which bought the park at a bankruptcy auction in October, have replaced him with the Baker Leisure Group. Run by former Disney executive Steve Baker, the group is now charged with bringing the park back to profitability and sustainability.

Baker plans to start with queue line management improvements, as well as training, changes to internal procedures and improving the availability of food and beverage, according to media reports. With local ownership and local management, perhaps the once-flagging theme park will be able to revive its fortunes.

Menus wanted!

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 menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

Virtual MouseAdventure winners!

377 MousePlanet readers entered our first-ever Virtual MouseAdventure, and 56 intrepid players managed to correctly solve all six quests. One lucky winner was selected at random from those 56 players, and we are pleased to award a copy of David Koenig's latest book, Realityland: True Life Adventures at Walt Disney World to veteran MouseAdventure player Mike Shearin ("Mr. Abominable" on our MousePad discussion boards).

We also hosted a special division of this event for MousePlanet readers who attended MouseFest in Walt Disney World, and Kate Tillan is our grand prize winner. Congratulations to everyone who participated! If you'd like to see how you did, the correct answers are posted on our MousePad discussion boards.

Construction Update

This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Additional installation to support the Kim Possible Interactive Adventure will take place at the Mexico, Norway and China pavilions. (Imagineering labels the permits as "WS Interactive SCAV.")
  • As Blizzard Beach closes for its annual refurbishment today, permit applications have been filed to fabricate and install ornamental metal handrails and guide rails, and to demolish and rebuild rockwork at the Slush Gusher.
  • The Load 3 area for Kilimanjaro Safaris sill be widened with new hardscape.
  • A platform to access the waterfall at Expedition Everest will be installed.
  • The rear automatic doorways at the Polynesian Resort's Great Ceremonial House will be replaced.
  • The restrooms at Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort will be demolished, and rebuilt using new finishes.

Quick takes …

…In case you didn't notice it above in the Victoria & Albert's story, I've got a new blog here on MousePlanet.com, where I'll put my personal opinions on news topics. I'll also post any news stories of importance that come up during the week, as well as the occasional thought about other related topics.

…Typhoon Lagoon returned from its annual refurbishment yesterday, while Blizzard Beach closed for its own tuneup. Blizzard Beach will reopen on March 9.

…The American Adventure closes today for a four-week refurbishment that will see replacement of the stage curtain, among other upgrades. The Voices of Liberty will continue to perform at the pavilion during the refurbishment.

…The feature pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort closes today for a renovation that will last through mid-September. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Coming soon

  • January 12. Walt Disney World Half-Marathon.
  • January 13. Walt Disney World Marathon. [Read our WDW Marathon Guide.]
  • January 18-20. College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship.
  • January 21, 26, 29, February 2, 5, 9, 14, 22, 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14. Disney's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • January 25. Mickey's Pin Trading Night at Contemporary Resort.
  • February 1-3. UDA National Dance Team Championship.
  • February 8-10. National High School Cheerleading Championship.
  • February 15-18. Twirlmania.
  • February 23-24. Cheer & Dance National Championships.
  • February 29-March 2. Cheer & Dance National Championships.
  • February 29 - March 2. ESPN – The Weekend.
  • February 27 - March 29. Atlanta Braves Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 1 – February 17.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed for refurbishment January 28 – February 15.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment February 24 – March 1.

Epcot

  • Spaceship Earth – closed for refurbishment July 9, 2007 – February 18, 2008. Currently in soft opening status; may close at any time for any (or no) reason.
  • American Adventure – closed for refurbishment, including replacement of the stage curtain and related tapestry and hardware, January 7 – February 3.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close in the spring to be completely remodeled, and will reopen in the fall under yet another new name.
  • The Wonders of Life pavilion – has again closed as such, perhaps forever.
  • Nine Dragons – closes April 30 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! – closed for refurbishment, including the replacement of the primary characters in the show, January 3 – 27.
  • Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – closed for refurbishment and likely conversion to a Prince Caspian theme, January 2 – May 23.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through at least next spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known current refurbishments.

Resorts

  • All-Star Sports Resort – All buildings will be renovated between June 2007 and February 2008.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Construction of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to take until spring 2009. Jambo House construction is expected to be complete by January 29, 2008.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Feature pool closed for renovation January 7 – mid-September. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment January 6 – March 8.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Park events are now found in the monthly Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule pages


Current Discounts & Promotions

Hotel Royal Plaza offers discounts to MousePlanet readers

The Royal Plaza in the Walt Disney World Resort, in the Downtown Disney resort area, offers a special deal for MousePlanet readers. Anyone booking their stay through the MousePlanet Web site will receive discounted rates up to 20 percent off on all room types. 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 Caf restaurant, Giraffe Tavern sports bar, Marketessen deli-style caf and Sips Pool Bar are ready to serve you.

We'd like to invite you to try their hospitality!

Passholder, Florida Resident discounts available through March 6

Annual Passholders and Florida residents can take advantage of discounted room rates from now through March 6. From now through February 13, with the exception of Martin Luther King weekend, passholders and Florida residents can stay at value resorts for as low as $49 per night, moderate resorts for as little as $99 per night, or a deluxe villa resort starting at $149 per night (all rates in this article do not include tax). Deluxe resorts are also available. Passholders should use booking code FHJ, while Florida residents should use code FHN.

Rates are a bit higher for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from February 18 through March 6. Value resorts run $79 per nights, moderates are $139 per night and deluxe villas are $249 per night. Passholders use booking code FIE, Florida residents use code FIU.

Note that the number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. No group rates or other discounts apply. Adult Annual Passes or proof of Florida residency must be shown at check-in.

In addition, from now through February 29 Florida residents can get a Disney Play 4 Days Pass for $34 off the normal price. The pass gives you four admissions to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, one park per day, for $125 plus tax. The pass is valid for six months from first use.

The Disney Play 4 Days Pass is available for purchase by phone at 407-WDW-4DAYS (407-939-4329). They're also available at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows and Resort hotel locations, Florida AAA offices and Florida Disney Stores. Proof of Florida residency is required.

For ticket prices, park hours, and entertainment schedules, please go here.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. E-mail Mark here.



Talk about this article and more, on the MousePad community forums.


(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.