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Update for August 16, 2010 - August 22, 2010

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

News and Views

Goodbye (for this year) to Summer Nightastic | More discounts on the way? | Survey previews interesting possibilities for Walt Disney World | New Star Tours 2.0 queue video released | Fantasyland Forest makeover plans get their own makeover | New offers from D23 | Woman claims she was molested by Donald Duck | Concept art released for Tangled play 'n' greet | Construction update | Quick takes

Goodbye (for this year) to Summer Nightastic

Walt Disney World's Summer Nightastic promotion has now concluded. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has discontinued its special drop sequence, the Rock 'n' Glow Dance party has ceased at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series is over, and the Summer Nightastic Fireworks Spectacular has come to an end. Only the run of the Main Street Electrical Parade has been extended indefinitely. Of course, the special run of Captain EO was not linked to Summer Nightastic, and that too continues.


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For those of you visiting the resort in the coming months, never fear. Halloween decór arrives in the Magic Kingdom in mere weeks for the start of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins in a month and a half, and the Holiday decór starts in November. And Summer Nightastic is bound to be back next year, in some form or another.

More discounts on the way?

With the reservation period for the Free Dining and Kids Stay, Play and Eat Free promotions finally expiring over the weekend, Walt Disney World is ripe for announcing a new set of discounts. The question is, what discounts will be announced? It's sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as discount rumors go, but there are strong indications of some combination of a new, limited free dining promotion, a room-only discount and a gift card with stay offer that may be released as soon as today. There's no guarantee that there will be promotions or, if so, what may be offered and the availability of whatever is offered. Keep your eyes and ear open, and we'll try to get a report up on one of our featured blogs as soon as possible once the discounts are released.

(Mouse)Adventure is Out There! Join us October 9!

Are you ready to earn more merit badges for your sash? We've released more information about our next MouseAdventure: World Explorers event, which takes place Saturday, October 9, 2010, at Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

The day begins with a breakfast before park opening at Restaurantosaurus, and concludes with a resort meet later that night to announce the results, with results posted on MousePlanet.com in the following week.

Registration is now open! Cost is $175 for a two-player team, plus $35 per additional player up to a total of four players per team. That registration fee gets you an early morning escort through the not-yet-opened park to breakfast, the breakfast itself, and the fantastic, fun-filled game. It does not include admission to Disney's Animal Kingdom park, which is your responsibility.

For more information about MouseAdventure and this event in particular, check out our MouseAdventure site and subscribe to our MouseAdventure newsletter.

Survey previews interesting possibilities for Walt Disney World

Ricky Brigante reported last week on Inside The Magic (link) that Disney is conducting online surveys with recent park guests to gather reactions to a whole slew of alternative ticketing options. According to the article, some of the options listed for the Walt Disney World Resort included partial-day theme park tickets that would only be valid until 3:00 p.m. or only after 3:30 p.m., touring tickets that include park admission but no rides, and a "Theme Park Club" that would provide a 7-day park hopper ticket with water park access once every year for 10 years for $2,000 per person, ($200 per year, or nearly 45 percent off current prices). Another option would provide an all-inclusive resort experience, similar to the old Gold Key Card plan from 20-25 years ago, where all food, non-alcoholic beverages, resort recreation, amenities, etc. would be available for $40-$80 per person, per night.

The site also reports that the survey presented several VIP options, including an unlimited Fastpass for an additional $150 per person, "Exclusive Experiences" like "Character nights" (which sound like the old E-Ride Nights, or even the original E-Ticket Experience, with a $125 price tag) or a "Premium Holiday Ticket," which adds a surcharge to the normal one-day ticket rate, but comes with the promise that fewer people will be allowed into the park on busy holidays.

This survey comes in the same week that Disney disclosed in its third quarter earnings report that while per-capita spending by visitors was up slightly in its California and Florida theme parks and hotels, both park attendance and hotel occupancy had dipped this year compared to the same period last year. It also comes on the heels of other indications that the high-income leisure travelers are spending more at theme parks than before. As with the continuing progress on the Golden Oak development of high-end luxury homes adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort under construction on the former site of the Eagle Pines Golf Course, Disney may be gauging the level of interest in premium-priced options for the luxury traveler.

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix notes in this week's Disneyland Resort Update that a Disney insider says that this is all part of Walt Disney World's hush-hush next-generation project, which focuses not only on new technologies to enhance the guest experience at the Disney resorts, but also changes the way people buy theme park tickets, so that a base Magic Your Way ticket would be augmented by a myriad choices and upgrades that affect a guest's entire experience. While none of these options are certain to happen, the survey is an indication that Disney is at least considering putting at least some into play. Would you be willing to pony up $1,500 so your party can spend a few hours getting a makeover, eat a themed meal and ride rides with Cinderella for 4-6 hours, or be happy handing over $100 to have someone plan your Disney day, park your car and book your dinner reservations? If some of the ideas presented in this survey become a reality, you may be able to do just that.

New Star Tours 2.0 queue video released

Last week, Orlando hosted Star Wars Celebration V, the occasional festival celebrating all things related to the science fiction saga. In conjunction with the larger event, Walt Disney World hosted "Last Tour to Endor," a special farewell to the Star Tours attraction based on the films. The attraction closes Wednesday, September 8 for and upgrade and conversion to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, which will feature digital 3-D projection and multiple destinations—Tatooine and Coruscant have been confirmed to date (link).

The revised attraction will take place between the two trilogies, after Revenge of the Sith and the original Star Wars (now referred to as A New Hope). During Star Wars Celebration V, Disney and Lucasfilm released a new video that will play in the queue of the attraction at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Park. Check it out:

It's interesting that Alderaan was voted the "safest place in the galaxy." I wonder if they know what's coming in Episode 4: A New Hope? It also appears that the footage used for Bespin and the forest moon of Endor are taken from the finale of the revised version of Return of the Jedi from 1997. Note that, at the end of the Alderaan footage, the vehicle approaching the landing pad is the new Starspeeder 1000, which replaces the Starspeeder 3000 from the original attraction. Going back in time while moving into the future is interesting, no?

Fantasyland Forest makeover plans get their own makeover

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel's Jason Garcia spoke with Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs about the Fantasyland Forest expansion, and it looks like the plans they are a-changin'. The plans were originally announced at the D23 Expo last September by former Parks & Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo (link).

Staggs—who moved into the top parks job in January in a job swap with Jay Rasulo (who is now the Walt Disney Company's Chief Financial Officer)—seems to have heeded the cry of many (including this editor) that the expansion would repel boys from the area. During the interview, he said, "We took a hard look at it amongst a number of us and said, 'Can we make the appeal broader? Can we make it even better?'"

Staggs, who has three young sons, also said, "One of the things that I thought the early design did fantastically was delivered on that princess experience. And that does tend to skew towards girls... We’ve kept that intact—not exactly, necessarily, the way it was presented, but that appeal is there. I think we’ve added some things that aren’t just princess-focused, and that’s a good positive."

With a look toward blending some rides featuring thrills or tension, with attractions that are friendly for small children, it looks like there will be some thought put toward making the expanded Fantasyland fun for all, rather than just Princess-enchanted girls.

The redone land is still expected to open in phases in 2012 and 2013, with only minor increases in budget. We'll have to wait, though, to see exactly what changes Staggs and Walt Disney Imagineering have in store.

If you haven't seen Jason's article yet, give it a read (link). It's good to see this kind of involvement and decision-making by the new parks chief.

New offers from D23

As reported by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in this week's Disneyland Resort Update:

D23, the "Official Disney Fan Club," announced two offers last week. Existing D23 members who participate in the "Refer a Fan" program can earn rewards by recruiting other fans to join the club. The schedule of rewards is as follows:

  • Refer one (1) fan who becomes a new D23 Member, receive an exclusive collector pin created especially for the D23 Refer a Fan program [The Chip and Dale pin pictured above, left]
  • Refer five (5) fans, receive an exclusive three-pin set featuring favorite Disney characters [The remaining three pins pictured above]
  • Refer 10 fans, receive a special tour of the Walt Disney Archives
  • Refer 15 fans, receive a free, one-year Gold-level D23 Membership

The offer is valid only when the referred person purchases a new Gold or Silver D23 membership (renewals do not count), and is good for memberships purchased through July 31, 2012. D23 memberships are $34.99 (Silver) or $74.99 (Gold) per year. To qualify, the person you're referring must provide your "name and city of residence" in the Refer A Fan box on the D23 registration screen when they purchase a new membership or redeem a membership gift card on DisneyStore.com. Prizes are awarded about 8 weeks after verification of membership(s).


These Disney pins are some of the rewards offered to D23 members who recruit others to join Disney's Official Fan Club. Photo (c) Disney.

After reading about the offer, MousePlanet reader OlegC said, "I can't decide if they are doing this because their numbers are low, if their growth rate slowed in year 2 and they are trying to meet growth projections (which are different from member rolls), or are they simply trying to grab as many folks as they can. Regardless—I think pins as an incentive in this economy is a no-win for most, even the die-hard fan." Reader dban3 said, "I think most people are beginning to see D23 for what it is, a potential revenue stream for Disney that is dressed as an insider's fan club. Unless you live in the Greater Southern California area, D23 offers little to anybody other than opportunities to buy "D23 exclusive merchandise." You pay Disney money for the opportunity to pay them more money."

One recurring complaint about D23 is that you need to live in or travel to Southern California or Orlando to participate in many of the special offers. The same seems to be true of this promotion, as the special tour of the Walt Disney Archives—without question a perk most Disney fans would enjoy—requires travel to Burbank to claim the reward.

D23 has also extended a discount to Disney Vacation Club members. The 10 percent discount applies to the purchase of a new D23 Gold or Silver membership. To claim the discount, register at disney.com/d23 and use discount code D23DVC.

Woman claims she was molested by Donald Duck

A Pennsylvania woman has filed suit against Disney Parks & Resorts claiming that she was molested at Epcot by a Walt Disney World employee portraying Donald Duck in May 2008. April Magolon (27) of Upper Darby, claimed that when she was holding one of her children to get his autograph, he "proceeded to grab [her] breast and molest her and then made gestures making a joke indicating he had done something wrong."

Magolon's suit claims that she has suffered "severe physical injury, emotional anguish and distress including, but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, muscle contraction headaches, physical harm resulting from distress, including, but not limited to acute anxiety, headaches, nausea, cold sweats, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, digestive problems and exacerbation of the physical injuries and other severe emotional injuries." It also claims that she "suffered injuries of an unknown nature; she suffered severe pains, mental anxiety and anguish, and a severe shock to her entire nervous system, and other injuries the full extent of which are not yet known."

The suit also alleges that Magolon has had to spend large sums of money for medicine and medical attention, and "has been prevented from attending to her usual and daily activities and duties, and may be so prevented for an indefinite time in the future."

No less than seven points of her suit are built on the 2004 "groping Tigger" case against Michael Chartrand and the 24 suits filed in the wake of that case, stating that Disney allowed improper behavior to go on without correction. However, it does not reflect the fact that Chartrand was acquitted, that the court found that it was difficult to see anything while wearing the character head, that it was nearly impossible to really feel much of anything through the costume gloves, or that none of the other 24 cases was prosecuted.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting (link) that the suit had originally been filed in Pennsylvania's Court of Common Pleas in December 2009, but that it was transferred to Philadelphia's federal court at Disney's request. There appears to be no indication of why it took from May 2008 until December 2009 to first file the suit.

Whether the incident did or did not happen is undetermined; however, if the character did indeed make gestures indicating that he had done something wrong, it's possible that the character realized that he had accidentally had his hand where it wasn't supposed to be due to limited vision and was trying to apologize.

Magolon is seeking in excess of $50,000 from Disney. The fact that Disney is allowing the suit to go to court is a good indication that it does not expect to lose the case. We'll have to see whether there are any more developments to this case.

Concept art released for Tangled play 'n' greet

Concept art has been released for the new "Play 'n' Greet" experience coming to the Magic Kingdom with Tangled stars Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder. The art, while officially for the Disneyland version of the experience, will likely be used for the Walt Disney World version as well. Taking place in the Fairytale Garden near Cinderella Castle where Story Time with Belle has been held, the Play 'n' Greet opens in October and will feature Flynn, Rapunzel, and 70 feet of Rapunzel's hair.


Rapunzel's 70 feet of hair will be draped around the play 'n' greet location. Photo © Disney.

With all of that hair draped around the location, we're not quite sure how they're going to manage entrances and exits for the couple. In viewing the concept art, it appears most likely that it will be a closed location where Rapunzel and Flynn can enter and exit the location while guests are outside. In that way, Rapunzel's hair can be safely secured with no guests present.


While Walt Disney World's Fairytale Garden is unlike Disneyland Park's Gepetto's Sweets Shop, it's likely that they'll come up with a tower structure and a smaller building to house the play 'n' greet. Photo © Disney.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom main entrance – replacement of toll booths.
  • Magic Kingdom – elevator cab interior rehabs: wall panels, floor, COP.
  • Magic Kingdom Pirates of the Caribbean – completion of project.
  • Magic Kingdom – MKE - Be Our Guest Cart 1.
  • Magic Kingdom – completion of project.
  • Epcot E Gate – completion of project.
  • Epcot Spaceship Earth – completion of project.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Streets of America – construction and electrical for Osborne Family Dancing Spectacle of Lights.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios One Man's Dream – facility rehab package.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Flame Tree BBQ – exterior painting.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House – completion of project.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Pangani Falls Exploration Trail – walkways.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest – completion of project.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Africa Aviary Building # 23 – electrical outlets.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Asia Aviary Building #7 – electrical outlets.
  • Downtown Disney – D Street marquee sign package.
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – Welcome Center information sign.
  • Contemporary Resort feature pool spa – replacement of heaters.
  • Wilderness Lodge porte cochere – roof stonework.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – completion of project.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Old Port Royale feature pool equipment room – replacement of flashing.

Quick takes …

…The ever-changing Dreams Come True parade got its latest changes last week with some royal shuffling and a shortened float. We're hearing that the multi-segment Princess float is losing both the unit featuring Ariel and Prince Eric and the unit featuring Belle and the Beast, leaving only the segment with Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother, which has been repainted to match the rest of the parade. Meanwhile, the displaced royalty has been relocated to the parade's final float, along with new parade arrivals Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. The blue-and-silver "magical castle" float has been a fixture in the daily parade dating back to its debut in the Remember the Magic Parade in 1996. The Dreams Come True parade started out as the Share a Dream Come True parade in 2001 for the celebration of Walt Disney's 100th birthday, morphed into the Disney Dreams Come True parade for the start of the Year of a Million Dreams promotion, then became the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade for the "What Will You Celebrate?/Celebrate You" promotion in 2009.

…Walt Disney World has now extended the monthly payment plan for Florida resident annual passes to be available for renewals and for in-person purchases. When first introduced last month, the plan had only been available for new passes purchased online. Walt Disney World is the last of three major Central Florida parks to introduce a monthly payment plan for annual passes; SeaWorld introduced monthly payments in 2001, with Universal rolling out their plan in 2003.

…We're hearing rumors that Walt Disney World is testing rental Android devices running Disney Mobile Magic for those who don't have Verizon phones. Interesting approach.

…The 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon is 55 percent full, the Half Marathon is 75 percent full, and the Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge is 60 percent full. If you’re interested in participating in these races, now’s the time to sign up! You can register at the official Walt Disney World Marathon Web site (link).

…The Inaugural Disney Wine & Half Marathon and the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Relay have both reached capacity. The Kids Races are 55 percent full, and you can also still register for the Mickey's Halloween Family Fun Run 5K. Both adult events will take place at the Walt Disney World Resort on October 2 at 10:00 p.m. on a brand new marathon course. For more information, go the ESPN Wide World of Sports Web site (link).

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

Coming up

  • August 27-29: Disney’s Pin Celebration: Trade City, U.S.A. (link).
  • September 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, and 30, October 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31, and November 1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (link).
  • September 5: Trek Women's Triathlon (link).
  • September 10-11: Night of Joy (link).
  • October 1-2: Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).
  • October 1 to November 14: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • October 9. MouseAdventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (link).
  • November 8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 28, and 30, December 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link).
  • November 11-14: Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • November 12-14: Festival of the Masters (link).
  • November 25-28: Old Spice Classic (link).
  • December 4-11: Pop Warner Football Championships (link).
  • January 6-9, 2011: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (link).
  • February 25-27, 2011: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Ariel's Grotto – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • Pooh's Playful Spot – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • Scuttle's Landing – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
  • it's a small world – closed for refurbishment through October 22.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment August 16–25.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – closed for refurbishment October 25 to November 14.
  • Storytime with Belle – last performance on September 12. Will be replaced with a new “play and greet” with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled starting October 15.

Epcot

  • Cantina de San Angel – closed for major renovation, tentatively set to re-open September 24 as two restaurants, both the returning Cantina de San Angel and the new Hacienda de San Angel. Taqueria Del Lago remains open.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Star Tours – closed for refurbishment September 8, 2010 through May 16, 2011.
  • Toy Story Mania – closed for refurbishment August 16–28.
  • One Man's Dream – closed for refurbishment August 16 through November 2.
  • "High School Musical 3: Senior Year – Right Here! Right Now!" – final performance October 2; "Disney Channel Rocks!" begins performances October 22.

Animal Kingdom

  • Flame Tree Barbeque – closed August 9 through September 19.

Resorts

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed October 31, 2010 through January 8, 2011 for refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed January 9, 2011 through March 19, 2011 for refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course – closed August 16 through August 22.
  • Magnolia Golf Course – closed August 9 through August 15.
  • Osprey Ridge Golf Course – closed August 23 through August 29.
  • Oak Trail Golf Course – closed August 30 through September 3.
  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
  • McDonald's at Downtown Disney – closed permanently; the location is being converted to Pollo Campero, opening this fall.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Room-only discount rates available for Passholders and the general public through October 2

Everyone can save 15 to 30 percent off your room rates for stays from August 15 through October 2. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from August 15 through October 2, you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts: 30 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 30 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 40 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 40 percent off.

The deal can be booked from now through the day of your arrival. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code ID6 if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7515) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

If you're a Annual Passholder, you can get even deeper discounts. Passholders can save 35 to 42 percent off their room rates for stays at Walt Disney World this fall. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from August 15 through October 2, you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts: 35 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 42 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 42 percent off.

The deal can be booked from now through your day of arrival. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Passholder web site (link) or by using code SIA if booking via the special reservations phone line for this offer (407-939-7617) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (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.