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Update for April 13 – April 19, 2009

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

News and Views

Parks packed | Picnic in the Park | Star Wars Weekends | Sounds Like Summer | Audio descriptions | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Recession worries take the week off for peak season

While the recession has hurt attendance at Walt Disney World for much of the winter and spring, the Easter Week peak season (April 4-19 this year) has never been in jeopardy. The second-busiest time of the year (behind Christmas-New Year's Week) was excluded from the "Buy-4-Get-3-Free" deal and still managed to fill the parks and parking lots to bursting. Last Tuesday, the Magic Kingdom actually reached a Phase 4 closing (nobody at all allowed into the park) at around 2 p.m. Lower-level closings were reported at other times last week. Also Tuesday afternoon, the parking lots at Disney's Hollywood Studios were full and guests were redirected to park at Epcot, where they could catch a bus back to the Studios.


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The four levels of Disney park closing:

  • At Phase 1, day guests who have not already purchased tickets and cast members using their Maingate & Silver Passes will be turned around at the Auto Plaza. Guests meeting this criteria are told the Park has reached capacity.
  • At Phase 2, admission is limited to resort guests, Premium and Annual Passholders, crossovers and other guests re-entering one of the parks for the day. Guests using WDW Resort Transportation and guests in taxis will be admitted. Guests not meeting the above criteria are told the Park has reached capacity.
  • At Phase 3, the theme park is only open to Resort guests using Disney transportation from their Resort or other theme parks or Annual and Premium Passholders. Shades of Green and Downtown Disney Resort Area guests using their respective transportation will also be admitted. Guests not meeting the above criteria are told the Park has reached capacity.
  • At Phase 4 the park is closed to all guests and guests are told the Park has reached capacity.

Since there's still a week left in the peak season, be prepared for long waits at all four parks this week. If you're planning to ride Space Mountain one last time before it closes for refurbishment next Sunday, be prepared for a looong wait. Fastpasses for the day were gone by mid-morning last week, with standby lines exceeding 150 minutes at some points.


Tren-D, a new boutique, opened at Downtown Disney Marketplace last Thursday. We'll have opening day photos throughout today's Update. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


The ceiling of Tren-D has a bunch of funky mini-chandeliers. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


An interesting 3-D wall hanging features Mickey Mouse and a number of old Mickey Mouse comic strips. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

How about a nice pic-a-nic basket in the park?

Yet another dining option has been added at Disney's Animal Kingdom: the Picnic in the Park. You can now order a picnic lunch either at a Picnic in the Park podium in front of Guest Relations at the park's entrance or at a podium at the Tusker House Restaurant in the park. Orders may be placed from 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. daily, and pickup time must be at least two hours from the time of ordering. You can pick your orders up at Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery. Payment is due at time of pickup. Please bring your copy of the order form when picking up your meal.

The meals are available in two tiers. Tier 1 features a choice of a chicken wrap, ham grinder, tuna pita or turkey focaccia sandwich, while Tier 2 provides a choice of rotisserie chicken or ham. You'll also get a choice of side dishes, desserts, and water. The picnic meal for the entire family will be distributed in the new "Every Tree Has Character" reusable fabric bag, and also includes plates and utensils. You can then take your picnic to any of the picnic seating areas in the park. Pricing is reasonable, with three sandwiches, sides, bottled water and dessert costing just $25.

Side dishes include chips, cole slaw, corn medley, mashed potatoes and gravy, orzo pasta, oven-roasted potato wedges, macaroni and cheese, green beans, seasonal fruit salad and tomato and cucumber salad. Dessert choices are an apple, orange, brownie, cookie, cornbread or crisped rice treat.

If you're using the Disney Dining Plan, the Picnic in the Park can be used as a Quick Service meal (one adult entitlement per meal).

The option was introduced on Tuesday, and we haven't had any reports yet from those who have tried this new choice. If you try this out, please let us know what you think!.


Other wall decor features funky artwork. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


An interesting rear-view portrait of Mickey is framed on one wall. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


A small figurine helps to display sunglasses in front of Mickey-head artwork. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Star Wars Weekends guest list released

The guest list has been released for Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios this spring, and it appears to be a combination of old favorites and new names from Star Wars: Clone Wars. Hosting the event each week will be Jay Laga'aia (Captain Typho), while each week's Clone Wars: Behind the Force will be hosted by Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka) of Clone Wars.

As always, each week's celebrity guests will participate in meet-and-greets, star conversations and the traditional motorcade. Of course, the photo opportunities with constumed characters and other events such as the Hyperspace Hoopla will return as well.

Here's this year's lineup:

  • May 22-24 – Ray Park (Darth Maul), Warwick Davis (Wicket, Wald) and James Arnold Taylor (Clone Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi)
  • May 29-31 – Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Matthew Wood (General Grievous, Supervising Sound Editor)
  • June 5-7 – Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett, Captain Colton), David Prowse (Darch Vader) and Matt Lanter (Clone Wars' Anakin Skywalker)
  • June 12-14 – Dave Filoni (Clone Wars' Supervising Director) and Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett)

Star Wars Weekends events are included in the price of admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Columns are adorned by interesting takes on Minnie Mouse. Here, Minnie wears a baby doll and a Mickey Mouse watch while sucking on a Mickey-head lollipop. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


Here, Minnie is decked out in Flashdance fashions. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


Minnie walks around with a tiny-sized Pluto in her arm. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Sounds Like Summer lineup announced

The Sounds Like Summer concert series brings tribute bands to the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot from June 15 through August 9. This year will see seven bands performing anywhere from 7 to 11 days. Here's the rundown:

  • June 15-21 – Stayin' Alive (tribute to the Bee Gees)
  • June 22-28 – Hotel California (tribute to The Eagles)
  • June 29-July 8 – Slippery When Wet (tribute to Bon Jovi)
  • July 9-19 – Bjorn Again (tribute to ABBA)
  • July 20-26 – Sounds of the Supremes (tribute to The Supremes)
  • July 27-August 2 – 2U (tribute to U2)
  • August 3-9 – Petty Theft (tribute to Tom Petty)

The concerts are included in the cost of admission to Epcot. Showtimes are 5:45 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. every day except July 4, where shows will be performed at 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.


Yes, yes, so what about the merchandise? Tren-D has funky, trendy fashions that often have only minor references to Disney images. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


Other items have more obvious Disney imagery, such as the Minnie T-shirt. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


The merchandise features lots of bright colors and different fabrics. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Disney provides audio description service

In 2007, Walt Disney World debuted handheld devices to provide handheld captioning and assistive listening to park guests. At the time, Disney noted that it would eventually provide descriptive audio for people who are blind or have low vision on those same devices. It appears that that day has arrived.

Reportedly, Disney released the new audio description service two weeks ago. The service focuses on visual elements such as actions, settings or scene changes and works with existing show audio. As with the other two services offered on the handheld devices, guests can obtain a device at Guest Services at each of the four theme parks. While there is no cost for the device, there is a refundable $100 daily deposit. Disney will provide single-ear earpieces or double-ear headphones, or guests may bring their own if they prefer.

The service is currently available at 11 locations in the Magic Kingdom, 11 locations at Epcot, 5 locations at Disney's Hollywood Studios and 3 locations at Disney's Animal Kingdom.


A mannequin features an interesting polka-dot print evoking Minnie Mouse's wardrobe. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


The store has an overall feel unlike most retail locations at Walt Disney World. Photo by Bruce Danderline.


Interesting display fixtures show off merchandise. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

MouseAdventure Walt Disney World registration is now open!

The first-ever running of MousePlanet's signature MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on November 14, 2009! The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening. The meal will be followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot, giving you a fresh look at things in the park that you never noticed before!

The first part of the game will be in the classic MouseAdventure format, sending you on quests throughout Future World. After completion of that portion, teams will engage in an Enchanted Race around World Showcase to the finish line!

For more information or to register, go to the MouseAdventure page (link)! Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link)!

A personal appeal to help babies through the March of Dimes, for the fourth year

I was informed recently that I was the top walker for the March of Dimes Northeastern New York region for 2008, and the #2 walker for all of Upstate New York (everything above Westchester and Rockland counties)! I couldn't have done it without the help of all of the wonderful MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners. Thank you so much! Now, the big challenge is to raise the bar in these tough economic times.

On April 26, I'll be walking for the fourth time to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. I'm raising money for the cause because new parents should be able to bring their children home from the hospital, not bury them. I know from first-hand experience how devastating that is.

Last year's total, raised through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, was $5,043.42. This year, our new target is $6,000. I think we can do that. I know that the economy is tough right now, but charitable causes are also hurting and in need of money.

We're over one-third of the way there, but we've only got six weeks to make up the rest. Let's show that MousePlanet readers support the mission of the March of Dimes and help give all babies a fighting chance to make it home!

For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate, please go to my fundraising page (link). Thanks for your consideration!


The structures for Stitch's Supersonic Celebration appear to be nearing completion. Photo by Bruce Danderline.



The control booth appears to be about finished. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Epcot Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion – modification of existing turtle husbandry float barge in main aquarium tank, installation of new hoist and power.
  • Epcot Wonders of Life pavilion – painting of walls in VIP lounge.
  • Epcot Fountain of Nations – installation of electric power for handrail lighting.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Sunset Boulevard – installation of Mouse About Town mural package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios costume storage building – replacement of the existing temporary air conditioning unit with a new HVAC system and a dehumidifier.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Camp Minnie-Mickey soft-serve kiosk – modifications to transition from ice cream service to funnel cake service.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris – fabrication and installation of a new gate at the Nile Crocodile exhibit.
  • Blizzard Beach – removal of existing drinking fountain and replacement with new double-bowl drinking fountain.
  • Contemporary Resort – installation of a blade sign for the Contemporary Resort market shop on the fourth floor.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort – repairs as a result of fire damage to Cabin 2226.
  • Beach Club Resort fifth floor storage room – general demolition, finish carpentry, flooring, painting, plumbing, equipment installation, HVAC, fencing for food prep storage area.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – installation of variable air volume boxes, controls/sensors and wiring for climate control in the Cinema.
  • Pop Century Resort parking lots and kiosks – installation of security cameras.

Quick takes …

…Last week, we reported on the "Chef Remy" animatronic appearing at Les Chefs de France through September 5. Walt Disney World released a video and a lengthy press release that I posted on my blog last Friday night. Here's the video:

…The Characters in Flight Aerophile balloon at Downtown Disney opened to the general public last Friday, however wind gusts have prevented regular operation so far. The balloon lifts a gondola carrying up to 30 passengers to a height of 400 feet. Flights run seven days a week (weather permitting), and cost $16 for adults and $10 for children (ages 3-9). For pictures from the balloon, check out Disney Shawn's blog (link).

…Last week, we told you that Disney's Magical Express was restricting its hours of operation to 5 a.m.-10 p.m. We've now found that DME's transportation booklet will only be mailed to the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. International guests can still use Magical Express, but must collect their own luggage. It's not certain whether or not this is an issue with U.S. Customs, but if you're coming to Walt Disney World from overseas, plan to wait for your luggage and to carry it to the bus yourself.

…An IMAX theater will be coming to the AMC Pleasure Island 24 theaterplex at a date yet to be determined. Despite rumors that it will replace the Virgin Megastore, it is more likely that it will just be a conversion to an existing theater, as many multiplexes have done just that to add IMAX screens.

…High School Musical 3: Right Here! Right Now! is performing on the Streets of America this week while the area around the Sorcerer's Hat is blocked for construction of the Grad Nite stage.

…Walt Disney World Resort renewed its designation by the National Weather Service as a StormReady community (link) through 2012 after an emergency readiness evaluation earlier this year.

…Paradiso 37, the new eatery at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island, now has an opening date of some time in May. The restaurant will feature nightly entertainment and will be open daily from 11 a.m. until "late night."

…United Vacations is running a Fairytale Vacation Giveaway (link) that will provide a special "Disneyphile" visit to Walt Disney World for four people to the winner. The prize will be awarded to the entrant submitting the "Best Disney Fan Story" as determined by United. The grand prize (valued at over $7,000) includes a Roundtrip flight to Orlando on United Airlines; United Red Carpet Club passes for the trip; 4-night hotel accommodations at a Walt Disney World Resort Deluxe Hotel; Magic Your Way park hopper passes; a welcome gift basket with a PhotoPass CD Gift Certificate, a PhotoPass Photo Book gift certificate, commemorative autograph books, a pin trading lanyard, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more; a VIP Tour Guide; viewing of Wishes fireworks from aboard Grand One yacht; seating at the Once Upon A Time Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table; a Dolphins In Depth Tour at Epcot; seating at the Spirit Of Aloha Dinner Show; dinner at Planet Hollywood; tickets to the Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba; and a spa treatment at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. You must be 21 enter, and you must enter by May 31 to win.

…As noted at last December's annual member meeting of the Disney Vacation Club, DVC President Jim Lewis has succeeded Jon Fredricks as chairman of the board of directors of the American Resort Development Association, a timeshare industry trade group. Lewis' no-nonsense style, focus on resolving issues and commitment to providing results should serve the group well during his two-year term.

…Former Walt Disney World Ambassador Jeannie Amendola has been named vice chair of Lighthouse Central Florida, an organization that promotes the independence and success of people living with sight impairment. Amendola is legally blind.

…The Seas pavilion at Epcot was granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums last month, following a thorough investigation by the organization's independent Accreditation Commission.

…The Swan and Dolphin Resort has a new general manager. Paul Scott, who most recently worked as the North American vice president of food and beverage for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, was named to the position at the hotel. Scott fills the vacancy left when former General Manager Peter Kacheris left to become managing director of the new Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek at the new Bonnet Creek Resort site between the Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century Resort, Epcot Center Drive, Interstate 4 and Osceola Parkway.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now 85 percent full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is still open, with no indication of how full it is. Register now (link)!

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Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Coming soon

  • Mar. 18-May 31. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (link).
  • Apr. 24-27. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • May 17. Florida Half Ironman Triathlon (link).
  • May 22-Jun. 14. Star Wars Weekends.
  • June 15 - Aug. 9. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.
  • Sept. 4, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, Oct. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 29, 31, Nov. 1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 25 - Nov. 8. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Sep. 26. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 11. Race for the Taste 10K and 3K (link).
  • Oct 24. Tower of Terror 13K and 5K (link).
  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 29, Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Hall of Presidents – closed through July 1, 2009, major infrastructure upgrades, as well as for addition of President Barack Obama.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – closed April 19 through August 19, 2009 for refurbishment and Space Mountain's refurbishment.
  • Space Mountain – closed April 19 through November 21, 2009 for major refurbishment.

Epcot

  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close at a date to be determined to be completely remodeled.
  • 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.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Resorts

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Phase 1 of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to open in May 2009, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009. Jambo House construction is complete.
  • Yacht and Beach Club Resorts – Stormalong Bay pool area under refurbishment January 5 – mid-April. The pool will remain open, but sections will close one at a time for work. The three quiet pools will remain open during that time, and the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort, with its Keister Coaster water slide, will also be available during the work on the Flying Jib slide.
  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens August 2009.
  • Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Construction continues. The resort opens June 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. There will be no performances from May 18 through June 1.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until June 21, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's basic dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights August 16 – October 3, 2009. Discount codes for the basic dining plan and available upgrades are as follow:

  • Basic Dine: RYH
  • Deluxe Dine: UGR
  • Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: KEU
  • Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine: NZZ

To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7928 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book by June 21!

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids at Half Off" deal

Disney Cruise Line now offering a "Kids at Half Off" promotion. The deal offers 50 percent off passage (plus government taxes and fees) for children ages 12 and under on three-night voyages when traveling with two full-fare paying passengers in the same cabin. The offer is valid on most sailings from April 11 through May 17 in a variety of stateroom cabins.

To book your "Kids Half Off" cruise, visit the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), call 800-951-3532, or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, MouseEarVacations.com (link) or Small World Vacations (link) and make sure to use booking code "KHO." For more information on other discounted cruises from MouseEarVacations.com, check out their list of cruise discounts for MousePlanet readers here on the MousePlanet site.

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

While the special $119-per-night offer expired last Tuesday, MousePlanet partner Gaylord Palms Resort has followed it up with another great offer, this time valid for stays through the end of the year! For approximately 5 nights out of every 7 for the rest of the year, you can stay at the Gaylord Palms at the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) of $129 per night. Even better, you can book these rates right up until the day you arrive! This new rate is even lower than Disney moderate resorts after June 6! Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations at moderate prices! These special low rates are available on the following nights:

  • March 11, 15–17, 21-29
  • April 1–13, 18–19, 24–27
  • May 10-11, 15–27
  • June 2–6, 9-17, 20–23, 28-30 ($139 rate)
  • July 1-6 ($139 rate), 7–18, 23–28
  • August 1–9, 13–15, 18–19, 22–27, 30
  • September 1-2, 6–8, 12–14, 18–20, 25–27
  • October 2–5, 13–18, 23–24, 29–31
  • November 3, 7, 12–15, 22-30
  • December 1-5, 9, 13–27

Discounted ECV rentals for MousePlanet readers through Scooter Vacations

Scooter Vacations, MousePlanet's mobility scooter rental partner, is offering MousePlanet readers a 10 percent discount on their scooter rentals by using code MP10 when making your reservation for any of their five scooter models.

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 2009 released

Passholder rates for April 19 – June 6, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $64 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights), moderate resorts starting at $94 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $164 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $154 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $199 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). The rates are valid most Sunday – Thursday nights during that period.

 

The number of rooms available is limited and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using code EDB if booking via the Passholder phone line (407-939-7722) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

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. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).


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.