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Update for July 20 – July 26, 2009

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

News and Views

Monorail Update | Bus crash | More Typhoon Lagoon molestation | Free dining deadline; Fall deals | Changes coming to Fantasyland? | Quick Takes …

Monorail update

It was being reported last week that the fatal monorail crash early in the morning of July 5 was caused by an employee in the monorail barn sending a radio call that he had activated the switch from the Epcot loop to the spur track leading to the Magic Kingdom loop. The Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday that, in fact, the switch had not moved (link). As investigators have found no evidence of mechanical malfunction, it now appears that the activation command may never have been given from the monorail barn. The monorail then backed up along the Epcot track, crashing into another monorail driven by Austin Wuennenberg, who was crushed and killed.


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Other contributing factors included the fact that the coordinator at the monorail control center received permission to leave early due to illness and left before a replacement arrived. The on-duty monorail manager, who took over the functions in the interim, was on a dinner break at a nearby Perkins restaurant at the time, and nobody was performing coordination duties on-site, where they might have seen indicator lights showing that the switch had not moved. In addition, it is uncertain whether a cast member working the monorail platform could have stopped the incoming monorail with a portable kill switch that would have shut off electricity to the track around the station.

Meanwhile, Weunnenberg's mother has filed papers indicating that she plans to sue Disney. Christine Weunnenberg asked for all evidence to be preserved for a possible suit. However, her motion was denied and it may be difficult for her to win a case. For some good insight into the legal hurdles facing a lawsuit, take a look at two posts on the Injury Board blog site (link) and (link).

Bus crash near Magic Kingdom injures 12

At about 2:40 p.m. Thursday afternoon, two Walt Disney World buses crashed in front of the Contemporary Resort as they were leaving the Magic Kingdom. At the location where the three lanes become two, one of the buses stopped to merge, while the second bus did not stop before hitting the first. The driver of the second bus was reportedly cited for careless driving.

There were approximately 50 people combined on the two buses, which were heading to the Caribbean Beach and All-Star Resorts. Twelve were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

Erin Foster, a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, was on a bus heading for the Magic Kingdom shortly thereafter, and posted about the accident on Twitter, including a couple of photos on Twitpic (link) and (link). While this was a minor incident and would likely not normally get much attention, coming on the heels of the monorail accident everyone is watching Disney transportation very closely.

MouseAdventure's Summer Warm Up

Congratulations to Jen from veteran MouseAdventure team Simba's Pride for being the first to post the correct answer to our Week 2 quest. If you'd like to check your own answers, download the Quest 2 answer key (link).
 

The theme of this week's quest is "Sitcoms on Vacation." Download Quest #3, and see if you can help Clarabelle Cow program a sitcom marathon (link). (Once again, the answer from Quest #2 is the password you'll need to open Quest #3) Remember, you can solve this quest at home using information found online at MousePlanet.com. Once you think you've solved the puzzle, visit our MousePad discussion boards and post your answer (link). The first reader to post the correct answer to both Quest #3 and the Bonus Question will receive a MousePlanet baseball cap. Good luck!


The Innagural MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on Saturday, November 14, 2009!

The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening, followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot park for 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).

More molestation at Typhoon Lagoon – should you worry?

On the heels of the July 3 arrest of Robert C. Double, Jr. at Typhoon Lagoon on charges of lewd and lascivious molestation, the rash of incidents at Central Florida water parks continued last week at Typhoon Lagoon (incidents in recent weeks have also occurred at Aquatica and Wet 'n' Wild). On Saturday, July 11, Brandon Biggers, 51, of Connecticut was arrested at the Disney water park on lewd and lascivious exhibition to a minor among other charges, for allegedly exposing himself to a 14-year-old girl. Just days later, David Thomas, 29, of Mountlake Terrace, Washington, was arrested late Thursday, July 16, on a charge of lewd molestation.

Biggers claimed that he was having difficulty adjusting his new, "European-style" swimsuit and did not intend to flash the young girl. However, according to the Orlando Sentinel (link), a witness told deputies that he watched Biggers position his chair near the girl and make movements to try to attract her attention, and also fondled himself while staring at her. The witness, who happened to be an employee in Missouri's probation and parole sex offender unit, confronted Biggers, who ran from the scene. Biggers apparently ran to the parking lot, got into his convertible and tried to flee the park. Unfortunately for him, he ran a stop sign in the parking lot and was stopped by a deputy. As Biggers had a suspended drivers license, the deputy detained him. The witness identified Biggers and he was charged with the exhibition count as well as for the suspended license and running the stop sign.

Biggers was released on $2,500 bail last Monday night.

Thomas allegedly fondled a 13-year-old boy through his swimsuit in the wave pool at the park. The boy told his father of the incident, who notified a lifeguard. The father and the lifeguard was Thomas touch other boys, though none of them fild complaints. Thomas was removed from the pool by security and held for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Deputies arrested Thomas on the one charge of lewd molestation, but that's not the full extent of the issue. Thomas was traveling with a 15-year-old boy who had been placed in his care as a friend of the family by the boy's mother. The boy was reportedly having trouble in school and the mother thought that Thomas could help to straighten the boy out.

Police are saying that Thomas had been molesting the boy for as many as five years, and that the mother didn't even know that they were at Walt Disney World. Police charged Thomas with one count of molesting the 15-year-old. The boy was put in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, who will return the boy to his mother.

Thomas reportedly admitted touching the boys to deputies, saying that it was an "experiment" and that he was just "curious" because he had been molested when he was a child. He also reportedly offered to write letters of apology to the children. Thomas is being held without bail.

Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty told MousePlanet that, "This arrest sends a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated here. We will continue to work closely with law enforcement." While Disney does not share the details of their security procedures for obvious reasons, they are increasing the law enforcement and security presence to help deter further incidents.

Obviously, while Disney does its best to provide guests with secure facilities to enjoy, it's nearly impossible to prevent molesters from entering the parks. It's not like they wear signs or shirts identifying themselves as predators. There's really no way to identify these people as they pass through the gates. The best that they can do is to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and work with security and law enforcement to catch anyone engaging in these acts.

So should you worry? No more than in any similar situation at home. While water parks are fertile ground for predators due to the standard attire of swimsuits and the likelihood of bumping around in a wave pool with children that may not be near their parents, that doesn't mean that everyone near you is going to be reaching for your child. While Disney parks are safer than most places, they're not risk-free. The parks are open to all, and unless someone has already broken the law, they are not likely to be removed from the parks.

Just maintain your usual vigilance, train your child to report any untoward actions, and enjoy yourself. Don't say, "Oh, everything is safe here" and check your watchfulness at the gate. While there are no prevention methods that are 100 percent effective (short of locking your child into a room 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), being prepared and vigilant should be enough to ensure that you have a safe, fun time at a Disney (or any other) water park.

While Disney provides safety tips in their Wild about Safety Campaign (link), the information only goes so far, since going too far into detail would provide more fear than comfort. Instead, with young children, remind them to be aware of what's going on around them, and you should follow the "Wild Tiles" advice from the Wild about Safety site and "Watch Over Your Herd." And have fun!

Free dining booking deadline coming; Fall deals coming also?

This coming Sunday, July 26, will be the last day that you can book a free dining package at Walt Disney World for travel dates through October 3. However, that may not be your last shot at free dining this year. Some MousePlanet readers are reporting that they are receiving emails with PIN codes allowing them to book free dining packages for travel most dates between August 23 and December 17, with a few blackout dates. Those packages must be booked by October 3. We are also seeing rumored reports of a smaller group of people receiving PIN code offers for a new Buy-4-Get-3-Free in that same time frame. It is likely that Disney is testing the response to both of these offers, and may open one or both to the general public depending on the response.

It's no secret that attendance and hotel bookings are suffering in the current economy, and Disney is looking for ways to boost both. There's a good chance they Disney will evaluate the response to both offers, and either offer one or both to the general public to boost traffic in the parks and resorts through the fall. Of course, they may also elect to do neither. If we get any more solid information, we'll let you know.

Changes coming to Fantasyland?

A purportedly leaked blueprint of a massive makeover of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland has been rocketing through the Internet Disney community over the last week. The blueprint calls for a copy of the Little Mermaid ride currently under construction at Disney's California Adventure, a new Beauty and the Beast-themed sit-down restaurant, the demolition of Mickey's Toontown Fair (with the exception of Goofy's Barnstormer, the relocation and duplication of Dumbo's Flying Elephants, large new meet-and-greet areas for Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Pixie Hollow and more. Matthew Gallagher over at the Etckt blog has done a great job of superimposing the image over an aerial view of the area (link).

But is this the real thing? Nobody knows for sure, and nobody's telling. The plan is certainly ambitious, though it apparently writes off boys for a good portion of Fantasyland with the central focus on princesses and fairies. There are many possibilities: fan plans portrayed as Imagineering designs, blue-sky Imagineering drawings that have not been approved for anything, Imagineering drawings leaked to gauge possible guest response, any many others. What do you think? Discuss this on our Walt Disney World News and Rumors forum!

Quick takes …

…MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix has posted in the Team MousePlanet forum that she has heard a rumor that the Race for the Taste and the Tower of Terror 13K will both be replaced by a single new "major" fall event in October 2010. Have you heard anything? Discuss here.

…The ESPN RISE Games kicked off at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex over the weekend.

…Disney's Animal Kingdom will be getting a new leader, as former park Vice President Val Bunting has decided that she'd like to try out resort management as well. She will take on the leadership of Disney's Port Orleans Resort as soon as her replacement at the park is named.

…Two beloved park voices have been silenced in the past week. Walter Cronkite, beloved by many for his narration of Spaceship Earth (not the original, but started shortly afterward). Cronkite narration was enjoyed by guests for many years, and his "Behold! The Sistine ceiling!" was quoted by many. Also last week, Dallas "Dal" McKennon passed away. McKennon was best loved for his voice telling guests to "Hang on to your hats and glasses, 'cause this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness" at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was less known that he also provided the voice of Ben Franklin in the American Adventure at Epcot.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 88 percent full (7,500 capacity). The Marathon itself is now at 65 percent of capacity and the Family Fun Run 5K is at 65 percent. Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

The coral that is in the tanks inside The Living Seas pavilion is man made.


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 up

  • 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.
  • Sept. 6. Trek Women Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 10-11. Night of Joy (link).
  • 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. 10 - Jan 3, 2010. Castle Dreamlights.
  • Nov. 12-15. Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • Nov. 13-15. Festival of the Masters (link).
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 17 - Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney.
  • Nov. 26, 27, 29. Old Spice Classic (link).
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Osborne Familiy Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

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 buildings for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is now open, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009.
  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens August 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until July 26, 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!

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a series of 27 nights for a special promotional rate of $119 per night (Reserve now!). You can stay at a luxury resort for the price of a Disney moderate, just a mile from Disney property. Many other nights are available for $129 per night (see below). The following dates are now available at $119 per night:

  • June 28 – July 1
  • July 6 – July 18
  • July 24 – July 26
  • August 7 – August 8
  • August 14 – August 15
  • August 24 – August 26

MousePlanet partner Gaylord Palms Resort has a great offer, 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
  • July 2-5 ($139 rate), 23, 27–28
  • August 1–6, 9, 13, 18–19, 22–23, 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 June 7 – August 8, 2009 have been released, but the prices aren't available for nearly all nights during that time span. You'll want to check for the specific availability for the dates that you're planning to travel. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $74 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $84 per night (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Moderate resorts – $109 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $119 (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $144 (July 19-August 8), $174 (through July 18), and $194 (July 4 weekend) per night dependent on date
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $164 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $194 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights).

The Disney Dining Plan may also be added to these discounted reservations. 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 EJC 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), 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.