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Update for July 14 – July 20, 2008

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions

News and Views

Employee fired for gun in car | Downtown Disney shooting | Disney sues family | DVC eyeing new sites | Goodbye, Pocahontas | Quick Takes …

Disney employee who tested guns-at-work law exemption fired

In last week's article about Walt Disney World claiming exemption from Florida's new guns-at-work law, we noted that Disney security guard Edwin Sotomayor, 36, had decided to protest the decision by notifying all local media that he would be bringing his .45-caliber Springfield pistol to work with him and leaving it locked in his car on July 4, and that Sotomayor was then suspended by Disney for not cooperating with their investigation into his violation of workplace rules. On last Thursday's MouseStation news podcast, we updated the story to note that Sotomayor had been fired on Monday.


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On Friday, Sotomayor filed suit against Disney in state Circuit Court in Orlando, challenging their ban on guns at work and demanding his job back. Sotomayor's attorney insisted that the burden of proof will be on Disney to show that it is exempt from state law, and that if they offer the 13-year employee his job back without affirming his right to have his gun in his car, they will continue the suit.

Disney's position is that their determination that they are exempt from the law stands, and that there is no grounds for the suit. The new law allowing people with concealed-weapons permits to keep their guns locked in their vehicles' trunks in employee parking lots had a last-minute exemption added to exempt any "employer who has obtained a permit required under 18 U.S.C. s. 842 to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in explosive materials on such property." Disney, which was among the groups lobbying for the inclusion of that exemption, has such a permit in order to handle all of the nightly fireworks on property.

It appears that Disney got the exemption included in the law fairly, regardless of the protestations of the law's original sponsors, who did not realize that they were being outmaneuvered until it was too late. Meanwhile, the law is being challenged by several business groups, and a review is underway by a Federal judge. We'll continue to follow this story and provide more information as it develops.

Man accidentally shoots self in leg at Downtown Disney

In other gun-related news, an armed guest headed to the AMC Pleasure Island theater complex shot himself in the leg as he was securing the gun before leaving it in his vehicle. At around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the unnamed man told his 12-year-old son to get out of their vehicle so that he could safely clear the weapon. He then removed the semiautomatic handgun from his waistband and was clearing the round from the chamber when the weapon discharged, striking him in the leg. The man's son then called authorities to report the shooting and request assistance.

The man was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center where he was treated for a non-life-threatening accidental injury. He was in stable condition at the hospital as of late Saturday.

While Walt Disney World can prevent its own employees from carrying weapons into parking lots, it can't restrict guests from carrying their own guns in their cars. Guns are not allowed in the theme parks.

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!

Disney sues company, family over lookalike costumes

In a story just hitting the news last week, Disney is suing a family-owned party company in Clermont, Florida for copyright infringement over the company's use of characters that bear a strong resemblance to Disney's Tigger and Eeyore characters. The million-dollar suit against David Chaveco, 32, Marisol Perez-Chaveco, 31, and their company, Kool Klown Party People Inc. made several demands when filed back on May 8. The case did not come to light until the couple filed a response in federal court in Orlando, stating that they had complied with all of Disney's demands except for turning the costumes over to Disney to be destroyed. The couple had instead returned the costumes to the company in Peru from which they bought them on eBay in order to get a refund. The $500 plus shipping that they spent on the costumes was a significant amount for the family of four, which receives public assistance.

Kool Klown Party People (link) has been in business for two years, providing custom cakes, face painting, bounce houses, piñatas, clowns, party tents, and so forth. The photos of the characters have been removed from the company's web site, and the company's MySpace and YouTube sites have been taken down.

The Chavecos claim that they had no idea that the costumes resembled Disney characters. In an interview with WOFL in Orlando (link), Perez-Chaveco said "We honestly saw them as an orange tiger and blue donkey. We weren’t trying to impersonate anything." She had enough familiarity with Disney characters to say that she's being compared to "Cruella, the woman who steals puppies," in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel (link). The family also lives near Walt Disney World, where Tigger has certainly made enough television news in the last few years that it's hard to believe that the resemblance was unclear.

Regardless, Disney has made their position clear with the lawsuit. This is not the first time that Disney has taken a hard-line approach to trademark infringement, and it's not surprising that they do. With Disney characters getting into enough trouble by themselves, Disney would have even more trouble with headlines caused by characters that were not employed or authorized by the company. In addition, if they were to be aware of anyone infringing on the likeness of Disney characters and not responding, future infringers could point to them and claim discrimination. It is much easier to take a hard line with every infringer than to let any one get away with it.

It's likely that the suit will end with an out-of-court settlement that requires non-disclosure of the settlement, so this is probably the last that we'll hear of the suit, but it's a cautionary tale nonetheless. And that's probably another aim of the suit.

Disney Vacation Club gauging interest in new locations

DVCNews.com is reporting that the Disney Vacation Club has been polling members on their interest in new destinations. The attention appears to be focused on Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Los Cabos, Mexico. The Las Vegas location would be 30 minutes away from the strip. The Lake Tahoe resort would be on the north shore of the lake, with "ski-in, ski-out access to a major local ski resort." The location at Los Cabos would feature a beach at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. This doesn't mean that they're actually going to build any of these resorts, but it's interesting to see that Disney is actually trying to gauge member interest in more sites located away from the theme parks.

It's a reasonable bet that—if Disney decides to build any of these resorts—the location would house a mixed DVC/hotel facility similar to what is planned for Ko Olina on Hawaii. It's also a reasonable bet that the location would be included somewhere within an Adventures by Disney tour itinerary.

For a more detailed description of the potential resorts, check out the story on DVCNews.com (link).

Say goodbye to Pocahontas

Pleasure Island's clubs aren't the only Walt Disney World mainstays to be shutting their doors on September 27. After 10 years at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends will hold its last performance on the last Saturday in September. At this time, there is no immediate replacement planned for Grandmother Willow's Grove, the 400-seat amphitheater near the Festival of the Lion King theater. Pocahontas herself will remain in the park for meet-and-greets, while all other members of the cast and crew will be reassigned. The Grandmother Willow interactive prop, first seen in the long-gone Pocahontas stage show from Disney's Hollywood Studios (pre-dating the Hunchback of Notre Dame show in the location now home to the Premiere Theater, will probably go back into storage until another idea for its use materializes.

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.

Quick takes …

…Last month, we reported that the schedule for the Candlelight Processional would match last year's show times of 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. It now seems tat the last show has been moved up by 15 minutes and the actual show times will be 5:00, 6:45 and 8:00 p.m. this year.

…Interestingly, the official Walt Disney World refurbishment calendar shows Typhoon Lagoon closed for refurbishment from November 1 through December 31, but no closure of either water park in January. At this point, we can't predict whether the Typhoon Lagoon refurbishment will be scheduled to last into January or if New Year's Day will mark the reopening of Typhoon Lagoon and the start of Blizzard Beach's annual refurbishment. We'll let you know once the schedule is finally updated.

…The new baby African elephant born two weeks ago that we reported on last week now has a name. Tsavo (pronounced sah-vo), was named after a region of Kenya where the Uganda Railway crosses over the Tsavo River. Tsavo is also the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world.

…Registration for the Expedition Everest Challenge is now 70% full. The Walt Disney World Marathon is still at 70% full.


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

  • Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey – closed for refurbishment July 7 – August 5.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open January 2009.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment September 2 – November 15.

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–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

  • Pleasure Island – all clubs to close September 27.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex – 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 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

New Discounts announced for August and September

New discounts have been announced for most nights August 3 - September 27. To get these rates, you must book by July 27.

Sample rates:

To get the rates, use the following codes:

  • Magic Your Way – DCT
  • Magic Your Way with Dining – DDK
  • Magic Your Way with Deluxe Dining – DDN
  • Magic Your Way with Dine & Wine – DDL
  • Magic Your Way with Deluxe Dine & Wine – DDO
  • Room Only – DDH
  • Room Only Canadian DD

Disney Cruise Line half-price deposits for online reservations, for a limited time

The Disney Cruise Line has announced a special deal where any bookings through the Disney Cruise web site (link) will only require payment of half of the usual deposit, with the other half due with the rest of the final payment. The offer is only good on new bookings, and for category 4-12 cabins only. The offer is available to those booking online or through their travel agents (though the travel agent would have to book the cruise through disneycruise.com for the offer). Bookings are also eligible for the standard $25 onboard credit offer for all online bookings. The deal is available "for a limited time," but there's no word on when the limited time expires.

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.