During Disney's annual Investors Conference, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs gave a peek into what's being worked on that we might see in the future. Much of the first part of the presentation was not news, talking about the projects already announced and under way at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, including New Fantasyland and the Art of Animation Resort.
What has generated the most discussion around the Internet is the revelation of some of the things in store via the "Next Generation" project. Staggs noted that guests will "be able to create a personalized itinerary" for their entire Disney vacation. "Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions… secure seats at our shows and spectaculars… make dining reservations… and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house. We also plan to simplify the check-in process so that guests will arrive at the resort with room key in hand. They will be able to go straight to their room or a theme park – again, allowing them to get to the fun faster."
While everyone would love to get to the fun faster, the ability to reserve times for attractions and character meet-and-greets and to hold spots for shows and fireworks have raised many questions and conflicting opinions among the Disney Internet community. Will only Disney resort guests be eligible to make these reservations? That would make things difficult for those staying off-property or for locals. How much of an attraction's availability will be allowed for booking via advance reservation and/or Fastpass? What will that leave for people who prefer a more spontaneous experience? While some people like to plan every moment of their vacations, the joy of spontaneous discoveries or changes of plans can be some of the most delightful memories for others.
As we noted when Disney filed a patent application for modifications to its Fastpass system in September 2007, it's also possible that a hierarchy could be established, where deluxe resorts get more advance booking privileges than moderate or value resorts. Another possibility is that it could be rolled out as a special perk instead of existing discounts such as free dining. Would you rather get free dining, which cuts Disney's profit on your trip, or prefer (for the same price) to get the ability to make all of your Fastpass reservations in advance (at no additional cost to Disney)?
Other, less controversial advances trumpeted by Staggs include next generation queue improvements, such as the wonderful new queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, where kids will stay and play even as their spot in line moves past the end of the play area. Staggs noted that they've heard kids asking their parents not to use Fastpass so that they can play longer. The Princess Fairy Tale Hall that will be built on the current site of Snow White's Scary Adventures will provide extra Disney magic that will allow the princesses to interact with guests "in an immersive and highly personalized way." Hints there indicate that it may involve a method whereby the princesses can greet guests by name when they enter.
Staggs also talked about the Disney Cruise Line, as well as the future of the existing resort in Hong Kong and the future resort in Shanghai, among other topics. If you'd like to read Staggs' entire presentation, it's available on the Disney corporate website in PDF format (link).
Staggs noted that "it will be some time before we roll out the bulk of these initiatives, but we are well into development, and in fact have a number of patents pending on our approach." It remains to be seen whether all of these potential changes will actually see the light of day, but they are currently in the plan. We'll have to wait and see what makes it through the pipeline and out to consumers. In the meantime, share your thoughts on our MousePad discussion forums!
Tuesday morning the Magic Kingdom suffered a power outage to its air compression system that shut down most attractions at the park for a couple of hours. The air compression system handles many functions, from boarding area gates to some attraction braking systems. Reports from guests at the park noted that Fastpass machines were still issuing return tickets for a while during the outage, but that the only attractions that seemed to be running were the Walt Disney World Railroad, Tom Sawyer Island, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Fastpass machines were later shut down for the remainder of the day.
All atractions resumed full operation by noon, but the park remained open for an extra hour that evening to compensate for the lost time in the morning. The park also added an extra hour on Friday night, with an extra showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade that night.
According to Walt Disney World, no guests were stranded on any attractions.
Just after 5 a.m. Monday, a Disney's Magical Express bus carrying nearly 50 passengers collided with a tractor trailer at a traffic intersection on a road approaching Orlando International Airport, sending five people to the hospital and dumping about 150 gallons of diesel fuel on the road. The crash closed the road in both directions for about three-and-a-half hours. Disney sent another bus to take the guests the rest of the way to the airport.
Two cheerleaders and two parents from Yuba City, California, and the bus driver were taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. According to the Yuba City Appeal-Democrat (link), a team coach stayed with the four injured members while the other 14 members of the traveling group made their original flight. The five remaining behind were able to get a flight home the next day.
At this time, it is still unknown which vehicle was at fault. Wayne Earle, 52, the driver of the tractor trailer, claims that he had a flashing yellow light as he entered the intersection on Boggy Creek Road. However, Rockland B. Steel, the driver of the Magical Express bus, claimed that he had a green light when he entered the intersection from the exit ramp off of S.R. 417, the Central Florida Greeneway. Passengers on the bus support Steel's claim, though according to WFTV (link), Steel has been cited in the past for failure to yield right of way.
Disney's Magical Express is operated by Mears Transportation under a contract from Walt Disney World.
On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott said that he was refusing $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money aimed at building a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa. Scott joined his Tea Party colleagues in New Jersey and Wisconsin in this refusal. Florida residents, businesses, and legislators all questioned the governor's rationale that the initiative would cost the state money and would not generate jobs, since nearly all of the money would be coming from the federal government and the private companies bidding for the job had already offered to cover the remainder of the cost.
Late Friday, U.S. Representative John Mica (R) of Florida floated a plan to build just the 21-mile leg from Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort, with a stop at the Orange County Convention Center. Details are still sketchy, but those involved remain hopeful.
It remains to be seen if Mica's plan will meet the requirements to still receive funds from the federal government. If the plan does not receive funding, lawmakers from California and New York have already noted that they will try to get a share of the $2.4 billion to be reallocated. Florida has until February 25 to present a new plan.
The lineup for the 18th annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has been largely finalized, with speakers lined up for the HGTV Designers' Stage and Greenhouse Stage, presentations of Planting Pointers, Ask an Expert sessions and more.
The Festival Center, in the former Wonders of Life pavilion between Universe of Energy and Mission: Space, hosts most of the scheduled events.
On the HGTV Designers' Stage, presentations will take place daily at noon and 3 p.m. Weekend presentations will be done by HGTV personalities. Here's the full schedule:
The Greenhouse Stage will play host to Disney horticulturists, authors and educators presenting "Disney Gardening at Home" daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., providing tips and secrets you can use at home. Guests will have hands-on activities providing something for them to take home. Please note that, like the Designer Stage events, space is limited and guests will often line up far in advance to ensure their ability to get into these sessions. Here's the schedule on the Greenhouse Stage:
Planting Pointers will be provided by experts from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) daily at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., while UF/IFAS Master Gardeners will host Ask an Expert sessions daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All presentations are included in park admission but, as noted, you'll need to get in line early as seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
For the final line-up for the Flower Power concert series, see our update from last month.
This year's topiaries include the Mickey Mouse and friends picnicking on the lawns behind Spaceship Earth; Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear at the park's entrance; Lightning McQueen and Mater in the World Showcase Plaza planter; and Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood located in the planters along the causeway between Future World and World Showcase.
This year's butterfly house has more than doubled in size, and is themed to Bambi in time for that movie's Blu-Ray release. Bambi's Butterfly House is now located between Innoventions West and the Imagination pavilion. That new location has bumped the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden to the other side of Future World, where it's located near MouseGear. The Disney Fairies, evicted from their short-lived home in Mickey's Toontown Fair, will be appearing for photos and autographs in the Fairy garden, which will also include play structures for kids ages 2-5.
The Tangled Magical Garden, located at the miniature railroad display between the Germany and Italy pavilions, will feature Rapunzel from Disney's latest animated feature.
Festival special weekends include:
There is nothing more heartbreaking than a baby who is born too soon having medical complications that leave them with medical difficulties for life, or worse, that never let them leave the hospital alive. On May 15, I will once again be walking 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.
Over the last five years, through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, friends, family, and co-workers, we have raised nearly $19,000. This year, let's do something really special. My personal goal is to raise $5,000 this year, but you can help in ways other than donating to my walk. This year, you can walk with me. Even if you aren't in the Albany, NY area, you can virtually walk with me by joining Team MousePlanet and walking at the March for Babies site near you. If you join me in walking, money that you raise will help babies in your area to get a fighting chance to survive!
For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate to my walk, please go to my fundraising page (link). To sign up to join Team MousePlanet, please go to the team page (link). Let's show those struggling babies how much MousePlanet readers care!
With the help of our fantastic Guide Editors, we've just completed a major update of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Click on the "Dining" section from this link to see the list. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to firstname.lastname@example.org to help us keep our listings updated!
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…Disney Junior – Live on Stage! (formerly Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage!) will reopen under its new name a couple of days early at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Originally slated to resume performance on Sunday, March 6, the show will officially open on Friday, March 4.
…BabyCakes NYC at Downtown Disney (sharing a building with Pollo Campero and Fresh-A-Peel) has officially joined the Disney Dining Plan. Any bakery item is considered a snack, and can also serve as a quick service dessert when buying meals from its co-tenants.
…This year's Grad Nite events at Walt Disney World take place on April 29 and 30, and May 6 and 7. Grad Nite (link), in its 40th year at Walt Disney World, is a special event for high school graduating classes that provides an after-hours party in the Magic Kingdom for thousands of graduating seniors. This year's entertainment includes Taio Cruz, 3OH!3, and Ryan Star. DJ Pauly D, who was originally scheduled to perform, had to cancel due to the decision by MTV to film the next season of Jersey Shore in Italy, keeping Pauly from being in the U.S. for the event. Other acts have yet to be booked for the event.
…Disney Dooney & Bourke fans are in luck this weekend. In honor of Disney's Princess Half Marathon weekend, the entire Dooney & Bourke Princess Collection for Disney Parks will be available for 25 percent off from February 25 to 27 at select locations. You can take advantage of this offer at Uptown Jewelers in the Magic Kingdom, World of Disney and Tren-D in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Summer Lace at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and the Princess Half Marathon Expo in the Jostens Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Discounts will be taken at the register. From noon until 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, Dooney & Bourke Creative Director Ian Ray will be making an appearance at Uptown Jewelers to to debut the newest Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary park exclusive collection.
…As kind of a preview to the Flower Power concert series, The Orchestra will play a one-night-only set of three concerts this Friday night at 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 p.m. The concerts are included in the price of Epcot admission. The group consists of members of Electric Light Orchestra (Mik Kaminski and Louis Clark) and "ELO Part II" (Gordon Townsend, Eric Troyer, Glen Burtnik, and Phil Bates). The name "Electric Light Orchestra" is owned by founder Jeff Lynne, requiring the group's new name.
…ESPN The Weekend returns to Disney's Hollywood Studios and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the eighth year March 3-6. Events at the sport complex include a live broadcast of the Atlanta Braves spring training game against the Detroit Tigers, "Friday Night Fights" featuring six bouts at the Jostens Center, and live TV and radio broadcasts. The Studios will host live TV and radio broadcasts, motorcades and Q&A sessions with athletes and ESPN personalities, the ESPN Sports Zone interactive area and more. The Champion 5K road race will also take place on Saturday at the Studios. Closing each night's events at the Studios, former New York Yankee great turned guitarist and singer Bernie Williams will perform on the Sorcerer's Hat Stage.
…Bill Nye "The Science Guy" is just one of the many presenters that will be at Epcot's Innoventions this week as part of National Engineers Week. Nye will appear at Innoventions West on Wednesday. Other presentations will take place at Innoventions East and West throughout the week.
…Disney's Dreamers Academy will feature 113 class members this year, as the 100 "dreamers" selected from this year's applicants will be joined by 13 members of the class of 2010 who were unable to attend last year due to weather-related travel cancellations. The event will take place at Walt Disney World from March 3-6, and—as in the past—will feature motivational speakers, Disney experts, celebrities and more to inspire the youths to keep reaching to achieve their dreams. For more information about the program, go to the Disney's Dreamers Academy website (link).
…Disney has recalled a series of children's light-up watches sold at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, aboard Disney Cruise Line ships, and at Disney's airport shops at Orlando International Airport. The watches, featuring Buzz Lightyear, Tinker Bell, and Lightning McQueen, can cause skin irritation and/or burning sensations to children who are allergic to nickel due to the watch battery current interacting with nickel in the watches' stainless steel backs. Lights on the dial of each watch lights up when a button is pressed. The watches are sold separately and are intended for children ages three years and older. A tracking code of K130-6377-7-10187 is engraved on the back of the affected watches. Approximately 1,200 of the watches were sold between November 2010 and January 2011 for about $30. If you have one of these watches, please take it away from children and contact Disney Parks & Resorts for instructions on returning the watch for a $40 refund. Call Disney at 877-560-6455 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more information.
…Effective yesterday, the Toy Story meet-and-greet opportunity at Pixar Place in Disney's Hollywood Studios has expanded its hours. You can now meet the stars of the Pixar hit trilogy from 9:30 a.m. until park closing (with a break for the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! parade from 2:30-4:10 p.m. every afternoon).
…Congratulations to Victoria & Albert's Chef Scott Hunnel, who was named as one of the semi-finalists for Best Chef South in the James Beard Foundation's 2011 Restaurant & Chef Awards. The list of finalists will be announced on March 21 in Portland, Oregon, and the winners will be named on May 9 at Lincoln Center in New York City. For a complete listing of semi-finalists, visit the James Beard Foundation's website (link). Under Hunnel, Walt Disney World's flagship restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort has won nine consecutive AAA Five Diamond Awards, twenty consecutive Mobil Travel Guide Four Star Awards, and several other prestigious local, national, and international mentions.
…Lilly, an endangered western lowland gorilla born at Disney's Animal Kingdom, celebrated her first birthday on Saturday. Lilly has had several challenges in her first year, being smaller than most other gorillas her age and having difficulty with achieving behavioral and sensory milestones on time. Disney's Animal Programs team members conducted many tests to rule out known conditions, and in the end had to develop new protocols to treat her issues. Through various therapies disguised as play, they were able to help Lilly make tremendous progress since September. Lilly can be seen along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail along with her mother, Kashata, and her father, Gino.
…Registration for the Champion 5K at Dick's Sporting Goods Presents ESPN The Weekend on March 5 is 90 percent full. If you're interested in running, sign up now (link)! Time is running out!
…Registration is now open for the Expedition Everest Challenge (link), as is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link). Sign up now! Registration for the other races during Wine & Dine Weekend (Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races) and the weekend's ChEAR Squad is coming soon .
…The 2011 Disney’ Princess Half Marathon is sold out for individual and team registrations, as are the Disney's Royal Family 5K and Kids' Races.
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Walt Disney World Passholder merchandise discounts have been extended through the end of 2011. Epcot After 4pm, Weekday Select, Seasonal and Annual Passholders get 10 percent off purchases at selected locations, while Premium Annual Passholders (including bi-coastal Premier Annual Passholders) get 20 percent off. The discount is available at Walt Disney World-owned and operated shops, but not those stores owned by "operating participants" (third-party stores). The discount is also not valid on a long list of products, and can not be combined with other discounts, offers or promotions. For a full list of what is not included in this discount, check out the Art of Disney Parks website (link).
Disney Vacation Club members and Passholders can get 30 percent off Category 2 tickets to see La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil when purchased in advance. The discount is good on any performance from February 1 through April 9. You can purchase your advance tickets by calling 407-939-7604. The offer is valid for DVC members and/or Passholders plus up to 5 guests. This offer provides a deeper discount than even the troupe's own Cirque Club, which is offering a 25 percent discount over the same dates.
Tickets will be available for pick up at the La Nouba Box Office's Will Call window. You'll have to present valid DVC Member or Passholder ID to pick up your tickets. Please plan to arrive at least one hour before show time. This offer isn't good for gift certificates or on tickets you've already bought, and you can't combine it with other discounts. The offer is subject to availability.
Discounts of 15-30 percent are available for room-only reservations for stays at Walt Disney World for most nights February 17 – April 16, 2011.
Deals are also available for January 2 – February 16, 2011. Discount percentages appear to match those for the other dates.
You can book the deal from now through February 13, 2011. Note that the rooms may go fast. 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 Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7678, or your travel agent and using booking code XV9. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
Room-only discounts are being offered for April 28 to June 14 and August 14 to October 1, for which you must make your reservations by March 27. Fall discounts are for five percentage points more than the late spring discounts, and discounts vary by type of resort. Here are the discounts applicable for each resort type:
|Resorts||April 28 - June 14||August 14 - October 1|
|All-Star Movies||15 percent||20 percent|
|Remaining Values, Port Orleans French Quarter||20 percent||25 percent|
|Remaining Moderates, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian||25 percent||30 percent|
|Remaining Deluxes||30 percent||35 percent|
|Deluxe Villas||35 percent||40 percent|
Note that the rooms may go fast. 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 Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7722, or your travel agent and using booking code TSU. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
Walt Disney World has released a Kids Stay and Play Free offer that has availability February 17 to April 16 (book by February 13), as well as April 28 to June 14 and August 14 to October 1 (book by March 27). When booking a non-discounted room and ticket package, kids ages 3 to 9 staying in the same room as an adult get a free base Magic Your Way pass. Additional restrictions may apply.
Note that the rooms may go fast. 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 Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7684, or your travel agent and using booking code GW8. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
Passholders can save 32 to 42 percent off their room rates for stays at Walt Disney World for most nights February 6 – April 16, 2011.
Deals are also available for January 2 – February 5, 2011. Discount percentages appear to match those for the other dates.
You can book the deal from now through your day of arrival, through the rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and 3-bedroom Grand Villas are not included. An adult passholder must show their pass at check-in. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7939, or your travel agent and using booking code AU6. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
From now through September 28, 2011, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after October 1, 2011. The tickets may not be used at all Walt Disney World theme parks and other gated attractions on the following blockout dates: December 27-31, 2010 and April 17-23, 2011. Additionally, the tickets may not be used at the Magic Kingdom on July 4, 2011.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than six tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or their spouse, but not both) for themselves, family members, and friends, and all tickets must be purchased at the same time. If the immediate family has more than five dependents, additional tickets may be purchased for the dependents, however, additional tickets for guests may not be purchased. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
(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.