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Update for October 3 – 9, 2011

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

News and Views

Walt Disney World celebrates 40th anniversary, moves on | Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off | Meet Mark this fall in Florida | New discount available for Disney Visa cardholders now, general public on Wednesday | Storybook Circus section opens early next year | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Walt Disney World celebrates 40th anniversary, moves on

Walt Disney World celebrated its 40th anniversary Saturday morning at the Magic Kingdom park with a ceremony at Cinderella Castle. The festivities began with a cavalcade of characters holding balloons and parading up Main Street U.S.A. to the music of milestone parades of the past, such as "Mickey Mania" and "Remember the Magic." When they hit the stage, the Walt Disney World Ambassador team introduced Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, who read the words of Roy O. Disney's dedication speech from October 25, 1971.


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Crofton reminded the crowd of Walt Disney's famous words, "You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." She noted that, while Walt was talking about cast members, he was also talking about the guests, because "for this place to be truly magical, it takes your smile and your laughter."

Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes was next up, talking about his experience as a first-day cast member at the Haunted Mansion, where many people ended up getting in with an A ticket, rather than the E ticket:

"...and I can tell you candidly, the thing I was most worried about was that ticket book: that A through E ticket book... For me it was all about that E ticket because I knew it was very special and very coveted, and I was really trying to make sure I did all the right things for our guests, so as a cast member, I was really focused on what was going to make this really the most magical experience, and I had a great leader that gave me some wonderful advice, and he said to me, 'Phil, what I want you to do is make sure that every one of the guests who comes in with their families, make sure they just have a fantastic time, make sure they're having fun, because we'll figure out that ticket thing as we go.' So for anyone who was here on that opening day, if you visited the Haunted Mansion and you got in on an A ticket? You're welcome!"

Holmes then talked about how the magic was still growing, citing the New Fantasyland construction under way.


Disney characters and entertainers gather on stage at Cinderella Castle. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, flanked by signs commemorating past milestone anniversaries, welcomes a huge crowd in front of Cinderella Castle. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The Dapper Dans led the crowd in a rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star," which was capped with a display of daytime fireworks and streamers. According to MousePlanet's Jeff Kober, cast members promptly removed the 40th anniversary banner on Cinderella Castle and resumed regular stage shows within an hour of the ceremony's end. With the all-encompassing Halloween theming, those guests who were unaware or uninterested in the anniversary were left with no reminder of the event except for the large crowds in the park.


Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes speaks to the crowds about his experiences as an opening day cast member working at the Haunted Mansion. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Fireworks cap off the 40th anniversary ceremony. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

All guests received commemorative 40th anniversary buttons and park maps. Disney artists hosted signing opportunities at various locations for their special 40th anniversary creations, while special limited-edition merchandise sold out quickly. Long lines formed for special 40th anniversary cupcakes at the Main Street Bakery.


Crowds line up for 40th anniversary cupcakes outside the Main Street Bakery. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The day was capped with the addition of a perimeter burst at the end of the evening's showing of the Wishes fireworks.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off

The 16th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival opened Friday, this year themed to "A Passport to a World of Flavors." To match the theme, the entrance planter features a travel motif featuring a passport, plane, train, and boat. New marketplace kiosks—Hawaii, Caribbean Islands, and Portugal—join the international party around the World Showcase, while the Festival Welcome Center (once again in the former Wonders of Life pavilion) hosted its usual seminars and merchandise opportunities.


A sign welcomes visitors to the 2011 International Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


New this year is the cranberry bog display, hosted by Ocean Spray. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Benedicta Choi of South Korea hosts a beverage seminar featuring Eastern Wines at the Festival Welcome Center. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Also new this year is a cranberry bog display in the planter at the Future World end of the causeway to World Showcase. Normally filled with flowers or topiaries, the planter instead holds a bog with 1,500 pounds of cranberries. Ocean Spray growers explained the cranberry growing and harvesting process to guests, and samples of Craisins brand dried cranberries were distributed to park guests from bogside kiosks. MousePlanet's Jeff Kober reports that the bog was quite popular with guests.


A marketplace kiosk offering the tastes of Hawai'i likely provides a boost to Disney's new Aulani resort. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Portugal is one of three new marketplaces this year at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Crowds were strong throughout all of Epcot on the opening weekend of the International Food & Wine Festival. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Jeff reports that, despite the masses at the Magic Kingdom for the anniversary festivities, Epcot was also quite crowded on Saturday, with long lines forming at most marketplace kiosks before noon.


Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann (who chatted with us on MouseStation Episode 255) discusses some of the new dishes debuting at this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Meet Mark this November in Florida

Do you want a chance to meet Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber? There's a fun event coming to Walt Disney World this fall. Join Mark on Sunday, November 13, at 4 p.m. through park closing for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do. The meet will kick off at the World Showcase side of the Odyssey Restaurant bridge, and Mark will provide location updates during the event via Twitter and Facebook in case you want to join later on.

We'll wander the last day of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, sample cuisines from around the world, and pause to watch each of the three performances by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (one of Mark's favorite groups) at 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 p.m. on the final day of the Eat to the Beat concert series. After the last performance, we'll get one last snack, secure some international desserts, and then find a place to enjoy the evening's performance of Illuminations.

You can RSVP on Plancast, or by email. You can also just show up, but if Mark can snag some swag from the MouseAdventure goodie bag, he'll want to have enough for you! We'll select a starting point for our adventure in another month or so, so watch the Plancast plan or this page for that information. You can also follow @MPMark on Twitter for updates on November 13 if you want to join the group later on in the day.

Calling all with a spirit of adventure!

Are you ready for MouseAdventure: World Explorers III? The third iteration of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 12 at Disney's Hollywood Studios (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 10 years now). Do you think that you know Disney's Hollywood Studios? We bet you don't know them as well as you think you do. Test your wits against those of our puzzle masters. For more information, check out the MouseAdventure information page and sign up now.

New discount available for Disney Visa cardholders now, general public on Wednesday

A new room-only discount was released for Disney Visa cardholders last Friday, and will become available to the general public on Wednesday. The discounts are available for travel from January 2 through February 20, 2012. Guests receive discount rates of:

  • 25 percent at value resorts except All-Star Movies Resort, which is 20 percent
  • 30 percent at moderate resorts except Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, which is 25 percent
  • 35 percent at deluxe and deluxe villa except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resorts, which are 30 percent

You must book this discount by December 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. For the Disney Visa cardholder offer, deposits must be made at the time of booking with your Disney Rewards Visa Credit Card or Disney Rewards Redemption Card.

While the Disney Visa cardholder restriction period is in play, you must call 407-939-4989 or call your travel agent to make your reservation. Once the offer becomes available to the general public, you'll also be able to make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Web site (link). MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Get Away Today (link).


As we noted last week, Magic Kingdom parking has re-labeled all of its sections into either Villains or Heros. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Storybook Circus section opens early next year

It looks like the first fruits of New Fantasyland may be harvested in a matter of months. The new, second Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction at the Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland opens in early 2012, at which time the current Dumbo spinner closes and gets removed, refurbished, and installed adjacent to the new spinner. Also early in the year, after the opening of the new Dumbo spinner, the rethemed Barnstormer coaster reopens as The Great Goofini, and the new Fantasyland train station also opens at Storybook Circus.


Disney's John Graham takes a look at the holiday preparations that have been underway since last year's holiday celebration ended.

Send us your menu photos

Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. 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:

  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Ol' Man Island pool heater – plumbing.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Magnolia Bend restroom building – construction.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – stamped concrete.
  • Pop Century Resort Goofy water feature – concrete.
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Jostens Center – stairwell construction.
  • Golden Oak Resort Phase 1B tract J – installation of 100 amp electrical service.

Quick takes …

…The booking period for the Annual Passholder room rate discount has been extended to run through the date of arrival, with a new booking code. Please use code N4J instead of the previous W4K, which expired on September 4. For more details on the discount, check, the Current Discounts & Promotions section below.

…New tip boards have debuted at Epcot. The new screens have a variety of information on the screen simultaneously, and can be reprogrammed to show any sort of information. Currently, part of the screen is usually dedicated to showing a live stream of Twitter messages that are tagged with #EpcotFW11 (short for the 2011 Food & Wine Festival). If you're on Twitter and would like to send a message to guests in Epcot, use that hashtag and post away!


The new tip board at Epcot displays more content, though it's more difficult to eye at a distance. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

…This year's Wine & Dine Half Marathon featured a repeat winner on the men's side, with a new women's winner making it an all-Florida victory celebration. Anton Van Zyl, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, won the men's division in 1:13:14, beating runner-up Adam Siepola of Garden City, New York, by 35 seconds and repeating his win in the inaugural event last year. Carrie Majeranowski, 34, of Cocoa Beach, Florida, won the women's division in 1:26:10, more than a minute ahead of runner-up Stephanie Zammit.

…Cat Cora will not be making her scheduled appearances at this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Standing in for her will be "The Poor Chef" Charles Mattocks. Mattocks, whose tag line is "What can you cook for $7?", is the nephew of the late reggae singer Bob Marley. Mattocks is a proponent of teaching children to eat and shop for healthful foods. He will be participating in the Kitchen Memories event on Friday, October 28, from 10 a.m. to noon. There was no reason given for Cora's cancellation.

…Our friends over at the Disney Parks Blog have just started their own Facebook page. Check it out.

…We've now got a date for next year's Expedition Everest Challenge. The 2012 version of the combination footrace and scavenger hunt will take place on May 5, 2012.

…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012).

…Registration is open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5-8, 2012). Note: Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is now 88 percent full. The Marathon is 72 percent full, the Marathon Relay is 56 percent full, the Half Marathon is 70 percent full, the Family Fiesta 5K is 55 percent full, and the Kids' Races are 51 percent full.


Construction fences are up around Disney's Wedding Pavilion for the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club addition to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website 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."

Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary is over, but Food & Wine Festival is now in full swing. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Monday, October 3, 2011 4 / 10
Tuesday, October 4, 2011 4 / 10
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 5 / 10
Thursday, October 6, 2011 2 / 10

Crowds will be low this entire week. Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • Animal Kingdom is our Park to Avoid Thursday and Friday this week.
  • More Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties this week; remember to account for the Magic Kingdom's 7 pm closings on party nights when you're planning your itinerary!
  • Magic Kingdom is one of the Best Parks Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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.
  • Main Street Fire House – closed since July 10, to reopen as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game in early 2012.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 8 to November 17.

Epcot

  • Yakitori House – closed August 10 through November 15 for major refurbishment. Some of the restaurant's menu will be available for the entire length of the refurbishment from Japan's Food & Wine Festival kiosk, located on World Showcase Promenade.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment October 3–6.
  • Fantasmic – will not be performed January 5 through February 12, 2012.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through October 5.

Resorts

  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed from September 19 – mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Wilderness Lodge – villas walkway – cedar shake roof repairs September 12 through November 8.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend leisure pool near buildings 80/85 – closed for refurbishment September 5 to October 7.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Band leisure pool near buildings 90/95 – restroom refurbishment October 10 – November 11.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou building 36 – building and room refurbishment October 25 through November 11.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – El Centro and Casitas – roof repairs through October 14.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool October 4 through September 28, 2012. The pool will remain open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment October 30 to December 3.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed for annual refurbishment December 4 to March 17, 2012.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show will not be performed:
    • November 22, 2011
    • January 17-21, 2012
    • March 20, 2012
    • May 15-26, 2012
    • July 24, 2012
    • September 18-22, 2012
    • November 27, 2012
  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course – closed Thursdays September 8 – October 6 for maintenance.
  • Osprey Ridge Golf Couse – closed Mondays September 12 – October 3 maintenance.
  • Palm and Magnolia Golf Courses – closed October 10–23 for Children's Miracle Network Classic.
  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course – closed October 24 – November 3 for overseeding.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free dining for October 2011 through Spring 2012

A free dining offer has been released for Walt Disney World for dates through 2012. From now through October 29, guests can book free dining packages for select arrival dates from October 2, 2011, through March 31, 2012.

The 2011 dates run from October 2 through December 17, with breaks for Columbus Day week, PGA Tournament week, Veteran's Day week/Jersey week, Thanksgiving week, and Pop Warner week. Available arrival dates are:

  • October 1 to 6
  • October 22 to November 3
  • November 12 to 17
  • November 26 to December 1
  • December 10 to 15

2012 dates run from January 8 through March 31 (the end of Disney's second fiscal quarter), with blockouts for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday week, and several popular spring break weeks. Available arrival dates are:

  • January 8 to 12
  • January 21 to February 2
  • February 11 to 16
  • March 3 to 8
  • March 24 to 29
  • August 19 to September 29 (Canada residents only)

Package eligibility is based on arrival date and is valid for the length of the reservation, so if you arrive on the last day before a blackout period and stay through a blackout week, you'll still have the free dining package for the length of your stay. Conversely, if you arrive on a Saturday that is the last day of the blackout, you will need to make a one-night reservation and then book the free dining package starting on your second day, during the availability period.

Guests staying at value resorts will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, and guests at moderate or deluxe resorts will get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. As with all packages, park tickets must be part of the package. Packages are available for a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 14 nights.

No group rates or other discounts apply. The offer excludes suites, campsites and 3-bedroom villas. Advance reservations are required. The free dining plan excludes gratuities and alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3–9 must order from children’s menu if available. Some table service restaurants may already have limited or no availability.

You can book through October 29 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the package are D3X for Value resorts and J4J for Moderates and above.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-1880, or your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Get Away Today (link), Small World Vacations (link).

Room-only discount for January and February

A new room-only discount was released for Disney Visa cardholders last Friday, and will become available to the general public on Wednesday. The discounts are available for travel from January 2 through February 20, 2012. Guests receive discount rates of:

  • 25 percent at value resorts except All-Star Movies Resort, which is 20 percent
  • 30 percent at moderate resorts except Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, which is 25 percent
  • 35 percent at deluxe and deluxe villa except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resorts, which are 30 percent

You must book this discount by December 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. For the Disney Visa cardholder offer, deposits must be made at the time of booking with your Disney Rewards Visa Credit Card or Disney Rewards Redemption Card.

While the Disney Visa cardholder restriction period is in play, you must call 407-939-4989 or call your travel agent to make your reservation. Once the offer becomes available to the general public, you'll also be able to make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Web site (link). MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Get Away Today (link).

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 bicoastal 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.

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2012, 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 September 30, 2012.

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.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.


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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.