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Update for June 9 – June 15, 2008

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

News and Views

Virtual WDW | DME baggage update | Airline cutbacks a problem? | Speedway hybrid | Construction update | Quick Takes …

The next best thing?

As I noted on my blog last Thursday, Virtual Walt Disney World is now open on Google Earth.


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Don't have time to go to Walt Disney World but need that park fix? Now you can go to the parks without leaving your house. Disney and Google have teamed up to present Walt Disney World in 3-D on Google Earth.

You can "walk" through stunningly realistic re-creations of the Disney parks and resorts, and click on handy links to get more information, see attraction videos and more.

Go to Walt Disney World in 3D (link) to download the required version 4.3 of Google Earth. After installing the software and starting it up, search for "Disney World,",click the gold mouse ears, click "Show Disney World in 3D" and you're in!

On that download page, you'll get some instruction from Professor Ludwig von Drake and see some sample images from the program.

For native Disneylanders and other first-timers who don't really comprehend the size and scope of the parks and the property as a whole, it's a good way to get a better grip on the immensity of all that is Walt Disney World. It'll also give a great way to get a better feel for what the resorts actually look like when you're trying to decide where to stay.

"You know the phrase 'next best thing to being there'? Walt Disney World Resort in 3D is going to deliver on that," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "Guests and travel planners can now explore our world with just a few clicks of a mouse, and they can book vacations while being immersed in what the destination has to offer."

And that's part of the point. By giving yet another way to bring people to a place where they can book their trip, Disney is hoping to continue to keep their bookings high despite the recession and the high price of gas and airplane tickets.

To create the imagery, eight photographers took 100,000 photos over the course of 10 days to shoot all the visible surfaces of Walt Disney World, including every building façade. Those photos were used to generate around 1,500 3D models that make up the virtual World.

Now, if only they can work on turning it into 4D, so that we can smell the churros.…

Follow-up on airline baggage fees vs. Disney's Magical Express

Following our story on the effect of the airline baggage fees on the remote airline check-in portion of the Disney's Magical Express (DME) service, we checked with Walt Disney World spokeswoman Kim Prunty, who told MousePlanet: "In partnership with BAGS, we are still working through a permanent solution with the airlines. BAGS has set up a call center to deal directly with guests who have to pay extra fees and will help them navigate through the various policies. Contrary to the Sentinel article, the impact on operations has been minimal. Only 20 percent of the guests who use the service check a second bag and working through operational issues is what we do every day."

It's unknown at this point what percentage of guests that are confronted with the need to pay for an additional piece of luggage are electing to take it to the airport themselves and pay for it there, as Disney is not tracking that statistic.

Prunty said that Disney is still early in working through the potential solutions to address the situation on a long-term basis, and they don't have anything to share right now.

Disney is ramping up to communicate information regarding the handling of the additional baggage fees to everyone using DME, but remember that you'll be working out payment with BAGS, Inc., who is the contractor handling the back-end of the services. If you meet any of the various criteria that would mean that you are exempt from the baggage fees, BAGS will take care of giving you clearance to check your bags without paying the fee.

On a separate, but related matter, Disney had no updates on the status of signing up Southwest for remote check-in.

If you've run into any issues with baggage fees or delays due to people paying the fees while using the remote check-in service, please let us know!

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!

Do airline woes spell trouble for Walt Disney World?

With domestic airlines carrying 35 percent of all Walt Disney World guests to the resort, will a cutback in flights drop park attendance, room nights and ancillary sales, resulting in a drop in income for the parks? Will that result in a reduction in park hours, entertainment and available resort rooms?

Analyst Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital Research notes that American, Continental, Delta and Northwest airlines will all be cutting flights to Orlando, resulting in an 8.4 percent reduction in passenger seats arriving in the area. Add in the effects of higher gas prices reducing car travel to the resort, and we could be facing some reductions. During the last major recession, Disney took advantage of the fact to close entire moderate resorts for refurbishment. If the trend continues, don't be surprised to see that again.

Greenfield noted in an email that it sounds like summer will continue to hold up, but October and November are looking weaker vs. last year.

Tomorrowland Speedway hybrid car almost ready to take to the track

The new hybrid car for the Tomorrowland Speedway is finally just about "track ready" after getting some more bugs worked out. Cast members are getting trained on it this week, and it may hit the track a bit later this month.

Some of the cast members still feel that there are some concerns with the car, as there is no outside pedal on the hybrid like the regular cars. If the car should happen to have a mechanical breakdown out on the track, they will need to call the maintenance staff to come a haul it off the track, because they can't have another car push it from behind (it has electric brakes, which cannot be released by cast, only by maintenance).

While there are still some issues with it (including the fact that it's very slow when running on the electric motors and batteries), but they want to get it out on track in the next couple of weeks to see how it performs in regular usage.

Help us keep our menu listings up to date!

Did you know that MousePlanet now has menu listings (link) for all theme park restaurants at Walt Disney World and many resort restaurants? You can help us keep them up to date! Send your photos, scans or other copies of restaurant menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Skyway Camera Installation – Installation of Camera(s) in Skyway Drive Station in Fantasyland
  • Magic Kingdom  Pirates of the Caribbean – Fire proof existing load wood deck. Remove existing props & reinstall after fire proofing
  • Magic Kingdom  Pinocchio Village Haus Facade – Excavate & install conduit
  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland Transit Authority – Replace all TTA speakers in the ceiling of the ride path
  • Magic Kingdom Main Street – Replace air handling units on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom
  • Magic Kingdom Solar Hot Water Heaters (Wardrobe building) – Install solar panels for domestic hot water heaters.
  • Epcot Living Seas Denite Pump Replacement – Replace pumps and motors for the Living Seas Denitrification System
  • Epcot Imagination – Puzzle Shots Electrical - Install 120V electrical photo equipment
  • Epcot Imagineering – Storm Struck Marquee Package
  • Epcot Canada pavilion – Install new carpet in Canada Le Cellier Restaurant
  • Epcot Morocco pavilion – Demo existing concrete & curb, form and pour footer, includes electrical & plumbing
  • Epcot Japan pavilion – castle refurbishment
  • Epcot Germany pavilion – Install new carpet in Germany Christmas Corner Shop
  • Epcot China pavilion – Tie Food Kiosk in to existing system, install underground sprinklers to food kiosk
  • Epcot China pavilion – Refurbishments of Nine Dragons, China pavilion & gate
  • Epcot Mexico pavilion – Underground sanitary waste line replacement
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Al's Toy Barn – Design and install new sign reinforcement and base structure for Cars Character Backdrop
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Serka Zong Bazaar – Merchandise cart installation
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Dinosaur – Add a console to the South unload station
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Solar Hot Water Heaters (Forage Warehouse) – Install solar panels for domestic hot water heaters
  • Downtown Disney Market Place Dock Stage – Build a new covered stage
  • Downtown Disney Team Mickey – Provide cased opening from office to breakroom, new paint & floor includes all electrical
  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course awning replacement – Construct Awning at front entrance of Pro Shop of LBV golf course
  • Beach Club Resort Main Lobby – Provide conduit wire and power to the first floor PhotoPass location
  • Beach Club Resort – General demolition, finish carpentry, sealants & caulking, painting, plumbing, reupholstery of select existing upholstered furniture, installation of new window treatments, refinishing of select existing items, assembly & installation of new FF&E, installation of carpet & base
  • Contemporary Resort 4th Floor DVC Kiosk Rehab – Contemporary Resort DVC Lounge Refurbishment
  • Grand Floridian Resort Exterior Painting & Stairway Repairs – Provide labor and materials to perform exterior painting and stair repairs to Building 9.
  • Grand Floridian Resort HVAC Air Handler – Provide labor and materials to install owner-furnished HVAC unit in the pool buildling
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Old Port Royale Food Court Burger Shop HVAC – Modify existing duct systems. Install new supply air duct work with volume damper and diffusers.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Dig Site Pool & Spa – Provide two new chair lift sleeves, one at pool coping and one at edge of Jacuzzi
  • Pop Century Resort Cart Path Light – Provide a new area light fixture
  • 991 E. Buena Vista Dr. – Remove existing sign and rotate 180 degrees at same location

Quick takes …

…The Classic Concoctions lounge at Disney's Pop Century Resort, home of the MouseStation Podcast Hustle-tini Meet at MouseFest, has closed, to be turned into an expanded package pickup area. Don't worry, though. The Bluetini portion of the meet will move to the Petals pool bar, and the meet will again be held this year.

…Rumors continue to strengthen about automatic doors for the parking lot trams. While it might make it a bit tougher to get everything squared away before the trams pull away from each stop, it should eliminate the instances of people not listening to directions, reaching for stuff that falls from the tram, and falling off themselves with dire consequences. We'll keep you informed as we hear more.


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

  • July 25 – Aug 13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp.

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 – closed May 29 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian – opens mid-June, official opening in June 27.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open "winter 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.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Feature pool closed for renovation January 7 to 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

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closes for annual refurbishment November 1 through at least the end of the year.
  • Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment once Typhoon Lagoon reopens, likely through mid-March.

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!

Free dining for late summer

Free dining plans are available for Disney Visa cardholders and the general public. The plans are the same; the only difference was the start date for booking the package. The packages are good for most nights August 24 through September 20, and must be booked by June 22. Packages may be booked for a minimum of three nights and a maximum of 14 nights. Availability is limited and certain restrictions apply.

Existing reservations may be modified to include the free dining package if available. The deal is not only for a free standard dining plan, though. You can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan and/or the Wine & Dine option and get a credit equal to the cost of the standard dining plan ($37.99 for ages 10 and up, $9.99 for ages 3-9) off of the enhanced plan.

For the Disney Visa package (reservation deposit must be made with a Disney Visa card), use the following codes:

  • CMK – Magic Your Way Package plus Dining
  • CMM – Magic Your Way Package plus Wine & Dine
  • CMP – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining
  • CMS – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine

Booking codes for the general public are:

  • AYG – Magic Your Way Package plus Dining
  • AYH – Magic Your Way Package plus Wine & Dine
  • AYI – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining
  • AYJ – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine

Passholder rates for summer

Passholder rates are available for the summer. You can book both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between May 26 and August 2, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.

The booking codes for phone reservations are:

  • Room-only reservations – FJY
  • Reservations with the Disney Dining Plan – ADS

Note that Small World agents have run into difficulty with the ADS code for phone reservations with dining, but have found an alternate code to use. If the code doesn't work for you, try code CSS.

The booking codes for online reservations are:

  • Room-only reservations – FJU
  • Reservations with the Disney Dining Plan – ADF

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.