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Update for March 10 – March 16, 2008

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

News and Views

Primeval Whirl | Spaceship Earth | Disney Visa deal | Everest Challenge | Illuminations globe | A personal appeal | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Primeval Whirl gets safety enhancements less than four months after fatal accident

Walt Disney World has decided to make some adjustments to the load/unload area of Primeval Whirl, even as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration (OSHA) continues its investigation of the accident on November 24 that killed cast member Karen Price. Price was reportedly working at the load station of the attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom when she stepped into a restricted area and was struck by one of the ride vehicles, causing her to fall off of the platform and hit her head. She died five days later.


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Sensor mats are being installed in the restricted area where Price was hit by the ride vehicle. The mats will cause an immediate ride stoppage. These are the same mats that exist along many ride tracks to stop those rides should guests leave their ride vehicle. Also, bold striping is being added to the concrete station floor to denote the loading and unloading zones.

Walt Disney World spokeswoman Kim Prunty told the Orlando Sentinel that the accident led Disney "to consider additional safety enhancements," adding, "We are always looking at ways to enhance safety."

The work will take a few weeks, as it is being done during the overnight shift in order not to disrupt operation of the attraction.


After an accident led to a cast member fatality, Disney is working to install intrusion sensor mats in restricted areas, and bold striping to denote the loading and unloading zones of Primeval Whirl in Animal Kingdom. Photo by Mark Goldhaber

MousePlanet had asked for additional safety information regarding cast member procedures and other issues at the time of the accident, but was told that no comment would be made until OSHA had completed its investigation. We have asked again for any information that may be available in light of the safety changes to the attraction's load/unload areas.

Spaceship Earth rededicated

Walt Disney World and Siemens rededicated Spaceship Earth at Epcot on Tuesday with a ceremony on the stage behind the Fountain of Nations. Ken Cornelius, president of Siemens One, and Jim Hunt, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, made brief remarks, then launched some pyrotechnics to officially reopen the attraction as the park opened.

As mentioned in earlier reports, the attraction features amazing new animatronics, a new narration read by actor Dame Judi Dench and derided by some as being "dumbed down" (though guests can choose from six languages for their ride vehicle's seating row—English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish), a new score, and a love-it-or-hate-it touch-screen finalé. The latest point of interest regarding the finalé is that, upon exiting the ride vehicle at the end of the attraction, the animated characters featuring the guest's face is then projected on the giant globe at the exit, then moved to the guest's home location as indicated during the descent. Guests can now elect to send a virtual postcard with their cartoon image on it.

The attraction's new theme of invention throughout the ages building on the inventions of the previous generations ties in to the post-show exhibits showing how Siemens is reinventing the future.

You can see official video here.

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!


Why not buy your loved one a cuddly MouseStation teddy bear or get yourself a MousePlanet logo cap? Now's the time to buy!

New Disney Visa vacation offer

There's a new deal out for Disney Visa cardmembers for Sunday to Thursday nights between March 30 and April 12. The deal gets you a room at a moderate resort for $129 per night or a studio at the Old Key West or Saratoga Springs Resorts for $204 per night. There is a limited number of rooms available for this rate, and you must book by March 21 using a Disney Visa card and offer code FJT. The usual restrictions apply. Call Disney at 407-939-1303 or contact your travel agent. Small World Vacations is MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel provider.

Expedition Everest Challenge update

We've got a bit more information about the Expedition Everest Challenge on September 27, and it looks like it's going to be an interesting variety of events wrapped up into one. The event begins with a standard 5-kilometer (3.1-mile)  race through the park, starting and ending in the Disney's Animal Kingdom parking lot. Once you finish the run, you then have an unusual obstacle course to navigate with a partner before starting a scavenger hunt. The hunt will require a "passport" to complete.

Various divisions will be open to participants:  or en's individual, women's individual, men's team, women's team and co-ed team. Registration costs $195 for a team, $100 for an individual. Participants receive a Champion-brand performance apparel shirt, a finisher medal, admission to the post-event party, and a one-day ticket to either Disney's Animal Kingdom or Epcot. We're not sure why the free ticket cannot be used at the Magic Kingdom or Disney's Hollywood Studios, but that's what Disney said.

The timing of the event is designed to coincide with apparel manufacturer Champion’s new “How To Play Weekend” at Walt Disney World, which includes Disney’s Mixed/Co-Ed Fall Festival adult slowpitch softball tournament September 28-30.


The new Year of a Million Dreams signage is going up around the property. The sign on the left, with the castle at the bottom, appears in the Magic Kingdom parking lots and on street lamps on Main Street, U.S.A. The sign on the right, with the Mickey Ears, appears at all of the other parks. Photos by MousePlanet reader Justin.

Illuminations globe refurbishment appears on track for early summer

The long-expected refurbishment for the Illuminations globe—which had been scheduled and postponed several times—looks like it's a go, though it won't happen for a few months. Disney tested the show without the globe on February 27, cutting about three minutes from the audio and changing or moving some of the pyrotechnics within the show. Also, those accustomed to waiting an hour for the "blow-off" of the inferno barge will be able to see it occur during the finalé of the show. You can see a modified show in the video below.

Latest word is that the globe won't be leaving the show until at least early summer, though. We'll let you know if we receive more definitive information regarding the dates.

Thanks to MousePad members ahecht and WDW Monorail for the info.

Construction Update

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

 

  • Old Key West and Caribbean Beach Resorts – replacement of main entrance gates
  • Polynesian Resort – set-up of new Photopass desk
  • Cap'n Jack's Restaurant in Downtown Disney – installation of new steps, and replacement of rope lighting
  • Dino Bite Snacks at Animal Kingdom – replacement of wood railing with a plastic
  • Animal Kingdom's Primeval Whirl –  permit filing for a metal platform, mentioned in this week's top story.
  • Journey Into Narnia walkthrough at Disney's Hollywood Studio – addition of structural steel and plaster rockwork as it continues its changeover to reflect The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which is scheduled for a May 2008 release.
  • The Backlot Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios – installation of new lighting trusses, curtains, and draperies.
  • Epcot's Imagination pavilion – installation of reverse osmosis system. No word on whether it's part of the attraction or just some mechanical improvements.
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Rockettower Plaza in the Magic Kingdom – installation between the two of security cameras around the exterior area.
  • Magic Kingdom – Imagineering has filed a permit for a Kodak Logo Update Package.

Quick takes …

…We apparently misstated the point figures for villas at the upcoming Kingdom Tower DVC Resort in a story last week. We categorized the numbers that we were comparing as the minimum daily cost for each accommodation. In fact, the chart is labaled "Maximum Reallocation Chart," and and the numbers are described as "With respect to each DVC Resort, each Club Member will always be eligible to reserve at least one (1) Use Day in the different Vacation Home types at his or her Home Resort, subject to availability, for the following number of Home Resort Vacation Points". We regret the confusion. Thanks to reader Richard Mercer for bringing this to our attention.

…While Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge has already been closed, the Half Marathon is about to join it. At press time, the Half Marathon was 97 percent full, and may well be sold out by the time that you check. If you want to hurry, register here. You've still got a little time on the Marathon, but that's filling fairly quickly as well, as it's already 50 percent full. [Read our WDW Marathon Guide.]

 

…The hybrid race car at the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is just about ready for guests, and should be out on the track in the next month or so. The car will easily be spotted among the regular cars, as it has yellow-striped bumpers (like a NASCAR rookie's car), no outside pedal on the driver side, and a big red E-stop button behind the driver on the back. It's also got one of only three green race car bodies on it at the moment. Cast will be trained on the operation of the car in upcoming weeks as it readies to make its first appearance.

…One interesting item from the Disney shareholder meeting last Thursday was a question from Dwight Morgan from Pasadena, California, an Annual Passholder at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, who asked whether there was a possibility of a worldwide annual pass. Both Chairman John Pepper and CEO Bob Iger thanked him for the idea, and—according to MousePlanet reader and MouseStation Podcast listeners Timbra & Kevin Peace—was the only item in the Question & Answer session that either man made a note to themselves about. So for those interested in a worldwide annual pass, you just might get your wish.

…Apparently, the new "Dream House" opening in the Innoventions building at Disneyland has a twin being designed for Florida. A rumor that we've received notes that it may targeted for the Carousel of Progress building as "they had to keep many design specifications the same between the parks because of the moving walls." We have no independent confirmation on this, so we'll have to wait to see if this rumor bears fruit.

…Another rumor states that the upcoming Jungle Cruise refurbishment will include the addition of a scene featuring a realistic jaguar, related to the Jungle Cruise movie that was announced in 2004 but has not yet started filming.

…The first few dates for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party are leaking out, appearing on the DisneyLink Google Calendar. So far, the dates posted are September 5, 9, 12 and 16.

…Six Flags is the latest theme park operator to announce a new theme park to be built in the Arab Emirate of Dubai, joining Busch Entertainment (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Discovery Cove), Universal, Warner Brothers and other smaller operators. Will The Walt Disney Company follow? It's an interesting question, as there are many issues on both sides of the coin. We may examine this topic in the coming weeks in either a feature article or on the MouseStation Podcast.

…The Nanea Volcano Pool at the Polynesian Resort closed on February 11 for refurbishment and installation of a new chair lift and dual handrail. Guests are being asked to use either the East quiet pool or the Grand Floridian's beach pool. It's expected to reopen on Sunday. Thanks to MousePlanet readers Brian Kowalski and Howard Akers.

…In other pool news, the quiet pool at the Beach Club Resort will be closed from March 31 – April 11 and the quiet pool at the Yacht Club Resort will be closed April 14–21.


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

  • March 11, 14, April 1, 4, 6, 11, 16, 23, May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, June 4. Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • February 27 - March 29. Atlanta Braves Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.
  • March 14. First performance of the Block Party Bash parade.
  • March 14, 15 and 17. Pleasure Island goes green for St. Patrick's Day.
  • March 15. Off to Never Land cel release.
  • March 19 – June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]
  • Apr. 18, 19, 25, 26. Disney Grad Nite.
  • April 26–27. USASF Cheerleading & Dance Worlds.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Epcot

  • Illuminations – the LED globe is scheduled to be removed from the show for a major refurbishment, possibly in early summer. The length of the refurbishment is not known. The show was tested without the globe on February 27.
  • 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, and most likely will only be used as a Festival Center until a new sponsor is found.
  • Nine Dragons – closes April 6 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • 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.
  • Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade – ended March 9.
  • Block Party Bash Parade – begins March 14.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open in late 2008.

Animal Kingdom

  •   No known current refurbishments.

Resorts

  • 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 now complete.
  • Beach Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed from March 31 – April 11.
  • 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.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – One side of the Jaguar slide at the main feature pool will be closed for rehab March 31 – April 30. The pool will remain open during the work.
  • Polynesian Resort – the Nanea Volcano Pool is closed from February 11 – March 15 for refurbishment and installation of a new chair lift and dual handrail. Guests are being asked to use either the East quiet pool or the Grand Floridian's beach pool.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – Doubloon Lagoon feature pool closed for renovations January 28 through mid-March. Resort guests can take a shuttle to Port Orleans Riverside Resort to use the Ole' Man Island pool at during this time, as well as using the quiet pools.
  • Yacht Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed April 14–21.

Water Parks

  • No known current refurbishments.

Elsewhere

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

Current Discounts & Promotions

Orlando Fun Tickets offering 5 days for the price of 3

For a limited time, MousePlanet discount ticket partner Orlando Fun Tickets is currently offering a free upgrade to a 5-day Park Hopper pass when you purchase a 3-day Park Hopper. Check out the special offer or any of the other great prices on tickets at OrlandoFunTickets.com!

Passholder discounts announced, Disney Dining Plan available

Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts have been announced for March through May. From March 30 through May 21, room-only discount rates are available, with Passholder rates being anywhere from $5 to $15 less than Florida resident rates. Passholders should use code FJC or FJD for Sunday-Thursday nights, while Florida residents should use FJK. The Passholder weekend rate code during that period is FJG.

In addition, the Disney Dining Plan will now be available to Annual Passholders, even on room-only reservations. To add the Dining Plan during the March 30 through May 21 AP discount period, Passholders should use code ANA, and the Deluxe Dining Plan requires code ANC. For other dates that do not have an effective Passholder discount, reservations for the Dining Plan should use code ADS and for the Deluxe Dining Plan should use code ADU.

Special offer for free upgraded passes on Magic Your Way packages

As reported before, Magic Your Way package reservations for stays most Sunday-Thursday nights between March 30 and May 21 will get free upgrades on their base Magic Your Way tickets to include Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. Codes are available for Magic Your Way packages with no dining (APV), basic Dining Plan (APF) and Deluxe Dining Plan (APH).

The number of packages available at these rates is limited. Those with existing reservations may be able to modify their reservation if space is still available that their resort for their dates.

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. Email 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.