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Update for May 16 – May 22, 2011

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

News and Views

Star Tours soft-opens for sneak previews | Enchanted Tiki Room's New Management gets evicted | More news on New Fantasyland | "Groping Donald" lawsuit settled | March of Dimes; Thank You! | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Star Tours soft-opens for sneak previews

Last Friday night, cast members were among the first to preview the revised Star Tours—The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios. After the conclusion of the next morning's cast previews, the ride went into a soft-opening status to the general public, and has been open for previews since that time. It is expected to remain in soft-open status until final preparations are under way for the Thursday night media preview (7-9:30 p.m.) and Disney Parks Blog Tweet-Up (midnight to 2 a.m.), and Friday morning's Grand Opening Moment (10:15-10:40 a.m.). We'll try to fill you in a bit about the attraction without giving too much away.


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The major infrastructure of the attraction is unchanged, though the decor and technology has all been updated. The queue path remains the same, the ride vehicles and exit pathway are as they were before. The StarSpeeder 3000 has gotten a new paint job and color scheme to turn it into the StarSpeeder 1000, and R2-D2 and C-3PO are both still in the same location, though 3PO's replaced leg is once again its original gold color. This is to bring the story back to an earlier era, and so everything looks newer. The giant departures board is still there, as well.

The second room of the queue is now a security check area, similar to a TSA checkpoint. The two G-series droids are still there, G2-9T scanning luggage and G2-4T scanning passengers. For those attraction junkies, you'll remember that the G-series droids are so named because in the original Disneyland Park version of the ride, they were created by removing the "skins" from two of the goose animatronics from the soon-to-close America Sings attraction (Goose = "G" series). While we won't tell you why, you'll enjoy paying a lot of attention to what the scans of the luggage show is inside. When it's your turn to go through the passenger scan (a thermal body scan effect), you may be verbally accosted by a security droid. [Editor Note (5/23/11): This is a theming element of the queue, and a great parody at the expense of TSA. This is NOT a serious or actual security scan - the thermal imaging is similar to what has been used for years in Test Track at Epcot.] Also, keep an eye out in the queue for an earlier version of RX-24 ("Captain Rex") from the original Star Tours; he's labeled "defective" and has some familiar dialogue.

The new pre-boarding video no longer shows park guests as being among the passengers, as this is now the first time that departures are leaving from the new Earth station. You'll want to watch this video closely for maximum enjoyment. The new 3-D glasses are different from those used in the other four theme park 3-D movies, and are reportedly more comfortable and provide more complete 3-D viewing.

Once aboard, there are several variables in play that will help to create a new experience each time that you ride. In addition to guest interactivity (similar to Laugh Floor's "that guy," with two different possible labels), there are four major variables that contribute to the 54 ride variations. The ride will feature two interactions with Star Wars characters, at the beginning and middle of your journey, and you'll visit two different destinations—one on each side of your middle character interaction. Your first interaction will be with the Empire, and the second with the Jedi or Rebels. The first stop will be either Hoth, Kashyyyk, or Tatooine, and the second destination will be Naboo, Coruscant, or the Death Star above the planet Geonosis. We're also hearing that the interaction with Jar-Jar Binks will be the most satisfying to those who are not fans of the character.

MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix will be at the media preview on Thursday night and the opening moment on Friday, so we'll have lots more for you next week. Meanwhile, if you'd like to watch the opening moment yourself but won't be at Walt Disney World on Friday, you'll be able to watch it online. The event will be webcast beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday on both the Star Tours Facebook page and the Disney Parks YouTube page. Check the Disney Parks Blog for more details on the webcast as they're released.

Enchanted Tiki Room's New Management gets evicted

We may never know if Gilbert Gottfried's too-soon in-bad-taste joke about the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami hastened the change (as it cost him his job with AFLAC), but the Gottfried-voiced Iago—as well as the Rowan Atkinson-voiced Zazu—have lost their management contract at the Enchanted Tiki Room. The New Management has left the building following the January fire that reportedly destroyed the "Iago 1" Animatronic (the non-burnt figure seen through most of the show). A story on the Disney Parks Blog over the weekend noted that The Enchanted Tiki Room will return this summer in a "version reminiscent of the original show."

The new version will be called Enchanted Tiki Room, as opposed to the original name of Tropical Serenade. Iago and Zazu took over the Tiki Room in 1998, changing the show and utilizing modern music. It's unknown whether the new version will include all of the numbers from the original show, or if we will just see a return to the show hosted entirely by Jose, Fritz, Pierre and Michael, with music similar to the original. Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Park currently hosts a show nearly identical to the one that opened that attraction in 1963, with the exception of the removal of the Offenbach number.

The new Enchanted Tiki Room is currently scheduled to reopen on August 16.

More news on New Fantasyland

Thanks to information tweeted by attendees at a presentation at the D23 Destination Disney event over the weekend, we've got some more information about the New Fantasyland expansion. The Imagineers are working hard to make the expansion a series of "family adventures," rather than just a bunch of princess experiences, as was originally announced.

In the Beauty and the Beast-themed area, the inside of Maurice's cottage will be full of details and wacky inventions, as well as an Animatronic wardrobe. A "Magic Moment" will transport you to Beast's Castle to meet with Belle. This is estimated to be a 40-minute experience. Nearby, the Be Our Guest restaurant will feature snow outside its windows year-round.

The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride will be a cross between The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wise Acre Farm and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There will be two lift hills and two drops, with the second lift hill in the dark inside the Dwarfs' mine. Snow White and possibly the witch will make cameo appearances in the ride.

Over in Storybook Circus Land, the new Dumbo spinner will be made by the same Italian company that made the original ride, but the colors will be much brighter, with more storytelling on the actual ride pieces. The Great Goofini coaster will feature stunt acts gone wrong. Meanwhile, the train station will be completely rebuilt.

Thanks to @insidethemagic and @zannaland for the commentary!

"Groping Donald" lawsuit settled

The lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania woman who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by a Donald Duck performer at Epcot has been settled. April Magolon sued Disney in December 2009 over the May 2008 incident, where she claimed that she was carrying one of her children and approached "Donald" for an autograph when he grabbed her breast, then made a joking gesture indicating that he had done something wrong.

Magolon's suit claimed that she had 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 claimed 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."

Magolon and her attorneys won a change of venue in January, when a federal judge ruled that the trial could take place in Pennsylvania. The ruling was made because traveling to Florida would be a hardship for Magolon, her fiance, and the doctors treating Magolon, who would all be testifying in the trial, and because Disney could better afford to conduct the trial in Pennsylvania than Magolon could afford to conduct it in Florida. This change of venue took the trial out of Disney's home base in Florida, where it would be more likely to prevail.

The settlement was reportedly reached last Wednesday, and her attorney filed papers seeking dismissal of the lawsuit "with prejudice." The terms, common in settlement cases, means that the plaintiff can't turn around and refile the suit again. Terms of the settlement were not released, which is common in this type of case. Further details and the text of the court order can be found on The Smoking Gun website.

March of Dimes; Thank You!

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. Yesterday, I walked for the sixth 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 was joined on my walk by my 12-year-old son, who would not have come home from the hospital if not for the March of Dimes.

In the last six years (including this year), largely through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, we have managed to raise more than $21,000 to support this worthy cause. This year, my total came in at more than $2,000, well short of my goal but still a substantial total. To those who donated this year (and most especially those who are kind enough to donate every year), a huge thank you! If you were thinking of donating but never got around to it, the donations pages will remain up for quite some time yet, so there's still time to help by contributing. Every dollar counts! And if you want to join us next year, we'll announce Team MousePlanet sign-ups early in 2012.

For more information about why I walk, or to donate, please go to my fundraising page. Join me and help be a part of saving babies! Let's help to make sure that new parents bring their babies home from the hospital, and don't have to visit them at the cemetery.

Send us your menu photos!

We've recently completed a major update of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see the list. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated!

Construction update

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

  • Epcot Spaceship Earth Kiosk – electrical work.
  • Epcot World Showcase Kiosk – electrical work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Rosie's Red Hots – walk-in cooler construction work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Theatre of the Stars – construction work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours backstage – electrical work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Kiosk – electrical work.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Guest Relations Kiosk – electrical work.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Custom House – concrete work for scooter pad.
  • Disney's Art of Animation Resort buildings 1-18 – graphics package.

Quick takes …

…As we noted as a rumor last week, the opening of the Phineas and Ferb play-and-greet will not open today at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We're now hearing that the tentative opening date will be May 29. The Winnie-the-Pooh meet-and-greet at the Magic of Disney Animation attraction has also been pushed back a couple of weeks.

…While the Liberty Square Riverboat (the Liberty Belle) was scheduled to be out of service for refurbishment from May 2-25, the refurbishment was apparently cut to run May 4-6. No word on whether any work was pushed back to shorten the down time.

…Expect Tinker Bell's Fairy Garden to remain at Epcot for a while despite the end of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. It may be a while before a new meet-and-greet location is built for them.

…Walt Disney World has submitted a permit application, now in its initial review stage, to the South Florida Water Management District for a new dining pavilion building and associated pargo parking at Fort Wilderness. We have no further details at this time.

…Those attending the final presentation of Pixar Weekend at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival had a substitution in the program. Composer Michael Giacchino was unable to stay for the final session, and was replaced by Pixar Supervising Animator Shawn Krause, who has worked on nine Pixar films, including Cars 2. The Presenting Pixar Speaker Sessions were one of the highlights of the final weekend of this year's Festival.

…Expect the area surrounding the former Fantasyland Skyway building to be behind a construction wall for an extended period while the land is prepared for the relocation of the Fantasyland West restrooms.

…The Disney Cruise Line has made a change to its policies, noting that gaming units such as Nintendo, Playstation, Wii, or Xbox may no longer be brought onboard the ships. The reason given for this change is that the consoles may not be compatible with the stateroom TVs. It's likely that guests attempting to connect a console to their in-room TV may have damaged connectors, damaging the TV. Guests will still have access to Wii consoles in the Oceaneer Lab during Family Time (at times scheduled in their Personal Navigator). It is not known how many guests actually bring a gaming console onto the cruise ships in the first place, but it's likely a very small minority.

…While Walt Disney World has stated that its military discount program will be extended through September 2012 as part of the Walt Disney Company's participation in the "Joining Forces" initiative created by the Obama Administration to shed light on the unique needs of military families in the United States, the official website has not yet been updated to reflect that. We'll try to keep an eye on it to see when it starts showing the new dates.

…Registration is now open for all races during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend. Sign up now for the Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the individual half marathon is now 60 percent full!

…Registration for the events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 is now open. Note: Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is now 65 percent full!

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the Web site of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."

 

The TouringPlans.com Crowd Calendar reflects how long you will wait in line for attractions at the Walt Disney World theme parks, on average. As we continue in the gap between Spring Break and Summer Vacation, expect crowds to remain at average levels this week. Our research team and fabulous Disney World Lines users submit wait times year round. Last year, here's what our statistical team measured for the upcoming week:

Date Overall
Monday, May 17, 2010 2 out of 10
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 1 out of 10
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 2 out of 10
Thursday, May 20, 2010 2 out of 10

This week sees moderate numbers on the Crowd Calendar everyday, with numbers rising for the first Star Wars Weekend. Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions.

  • The Magic Kingdom is the Park to Avoid on Thursday.
  • Epcot is a Best Park on Monday and Thursday, with the resort-wide crowd level at a '5' and '4'.
  • Visit Animal Kingdom on Tuesday or Wednesday. Visit Hollywood Studios on Monday or Thursday!

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.

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Coming up


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management – closed since January 13, due to a fire. Expected to reopen with its original, classic show on August 16.

Epcot

  • No known current refurbishments.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Sounds Dangerous Starring Drew Carey – seasonal downtime beginning May 1.
  • Phineas & Ferb play-n-greet on near Mama Melrose's – opens May 29.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh meet-n-greet at Art of Disney Animation – begins May 29.
  • Star Tours – closed for refurbishment through May 19. Currently in soft-open status.
  • Cars 2 meet-n-greet near MuppetVision 3-D – opens June 5.
  • Lightning McQueen replaces Herbie the Love Bug at Lights, Motors, Action! – begins June 5.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through June 1, 2011.

Resorts

  • Saratoga Springs Resort – Paddock Leisure Pool closed through June 29 for expansion into a new feature pool, wet play area, and quick-service eatery. During the renovations, the Paddock bus stop and laundry facility will also be closed. Guests can use the High Rock Spring pool near the Carriage House or the leisure pools at Congress Park or The Grandstand. Nearby bus stops can be found at The Springs, Congress Park and The Carousel. Alternate laundry facilities are located at The Springs and Congress Park.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment October 30.

Elsewhere

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

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free dining returns

Last week, a two-tiered free dining package was announced for Disney Visa Rewards cardholders, and the package becomes available to the general public today. The free dining plan is available for stays August 28 through September 24. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (you can upgrade them with any of the available add-ons), a 20-page Disney's PhotoPass Photo Book, and the free dining plan. Additional pages may be added to your Photo Book, at standard cost, if you wish.

If you choose a Value Resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). If you'd prefer to stay at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort, you'll get the free standard Disney Dining Plan (one table- service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per night). Those at value resorts can upgrade their Quick Service Dining Plan to the standard plan for the difference in the plan's cost. The dining plans do not include gratuities or alcoholic beverages.

One thing to note here: Since these dates are already within the 180-day booking window, some table-service restaurants might already be booked solid. Don't count on having the ability to book any specific restaurant without checking first. Of course, if dining is the most important part of your trip, you can book your dining reservations first to lock in your favorites, then find a resort for those nights. You can always cancel the dining reservations if you can't get a resort for those dates.

You can book through August 27 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the Disney Rewards Visa package are I25 for Value Resorts and O2M for Moderates and above. The codes for the general public were not available at publication time.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7211, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Room-only, Deluxe/Deluxe Villas-only discounts released for summer

Walt Disney World has announced a new set of room-only discounts for Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts only for stays through mid-August. The discounts provide 30 percent off for stays most nights from June 15 through August 13 (25 percent at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort), with discounts ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent for most nights from April 22 through June 14. Note that this offer does not include suites and three-bedroom Grand Villas.

You can book all of these dates through April 30, and dates starting May 29 can be booked through May 28. Beware, though as rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-bedroom Grand Villas are not included.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7837, or your travel agent and using booking code M2X. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder discount through early June

Passholders can save on stays through June 2, including a special rate of $90 plus tax at select Value Resorts most Friday and Saturday nights May 6-27.

Passholders can book through the day before arrival. Beware, though as 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.

Book your reservation through the Walt Disney World passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-5691, or through your travel agent and using booking code L2H. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder discounts released for summer

Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays through mid-August. The discounts provide 20-35 percent off for stays most nights from June 3 through August 13. The Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resort are excluded for all dates, and Wilderness Lodge is excluded June 3-14. Passholders will save 35 percent at Deluxe Villa Resorts, 30 percent at Deluxe Resorts, and 20 percent at Moderate and Value Resorts.

Passholders can book through the day before arrival. Beware, though as rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-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 passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7414, or your travel agent and using booking code QT9. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder merchandise discounts extended through 2011

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 Web site.

Military ticket offer

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 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.


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(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.