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Update for October 31 – November 6, 2011

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

News and Views

NTSB releases findings in fatal monorail accident | Talking Mickey Mouse meets guests at City Hall in new test | Join us for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do meet-up | New Year's Eve festivities announced | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

NTSB releases findings in fatal monorail accident

According to the report finally released by the National Transportation Safety Board on the July 5, 2009 monorail accident that claimed the life of monorail pilot Austen Wuennenberg, the probable cause of the accident was a failure on the part of a monorail shop panel operator to properly move the switch beam to reroute Monorail Pink from the Epcot loop to the Express loop, and a failure on the part of the monorail manager—who was acting as central coordinator from off-site after the coordinator on duty went home sick—to verify that the switch beam had moved before authorizing Monorail Pink to back up. Also contributing was the lack of a standard operating procedures, which led to an unsafe practice while operating monorails in reverse.


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The shop panel operator was handling issues with three of the five monorails on the track at the time of the accident. In the middle of the track realignment process, he received a call from Monorail Silver about a door alert and stopped to log the call. Immediately following that, the switch operator received a call from Monorail Red asking for clearance to enter the monorail shop. By the time that the operator returned to the power distribution and monitor system, he had forgotten to check whether the switch had repositioned. If he had, he would have noticed that the switch track was not realigned.

According to the report, the accident caused $24 milion in damages, in addition to the loss of life.

The report also referenced the findings in an OSHA report, but noted that "[t]here are no provisions for OSHA to oversee the safety of the public unless it comes as a result of a safety enforcement action to improve safety for employees."

The NTSB noted that Walt Disney World Resort had undertaken a number of actions to minimize the possibility of this type of accident from occurring again. These actions include changing procedures related to driving monorails in reverse; changing procedures for operating switch tracks; upgrading from periodic-refresh, web-based monitoring cameras for watching the switch tracks to direct-feed video cameras, and changing monorail pilot training procedures.

You can read the full report on the NTSB website. The website also has a set of 53 supporting documents.

Talking Mickey Mouse meets guests at City Hall in new test

Walt Disney World conducted a first test of meet-and-greets with a talking Mickey Mouse character during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on Halloween night. The talking character had been tested in May 2010 at Disneyland Park, and was also on display at the D23 Expo in August.


Video of talking Mickey Mouse released on the Disney Parks Blog.

While this is just a test, it's likely that if it proves successful that a talking Mickey will become a regular feature at the Magic Kingdom in the near future.

Calling all with a spirit of adventure! Time is short!

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. Registration closes this Thursday, October 21!

Join us for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do meet-up

Meet Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber and other MousePlanet readers and MouseStation podcast listeners on Sunday, November 13, from 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 (@MPMark) 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.

New Year's Eve festivities announced

Walt Disney World has announced the schedule of fireworks at the parks for New Year's Eve. Let's take a look around the property:

  • The Magic Kingdom – is featuring the Wishes fireworks at 8:30 p.m., while the special New Year's edition of the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks will begin at 11:50 p.m. The day will start with morning Extra Magic Hours, and the park will close at midnight.
  • Epcot –is opening Future Worldopen from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m., and World Showcaseopen from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. There will be an early showing of Illuminations at 7 p.m. with another showing at 11:40 p.m.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – opens from 9 a.m. until midnight, with Extra Magic Hours until 3 a.m. Fantasmic will be performed at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Lights, Camera, Happy New Year fireworks start at midnight.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – opens early on New Year's Eve, with Extra Magic Hours from 7-8 a.m. The park opens to regular guests at 8 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. On New Year's Eve, Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade will run at its usual time of 3:45 p.m.
  • Various Walt Disney World Resort hotels – are having special meals or events, including a special four-course meal at Narcoosee's and dancing at Atlantic Dance Hall. For more information about events at the hotels, call the Walt Disney World Dining Line at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3563).

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:

  • Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus – show sets package for Dumbo.
  • Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus – show sets package for Barnstormer.
  • Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus – show sets package for Train Station.
  • Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus – Casey Jr. waterplay area.
  • Magic Kingdom Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – painting.
  • Magic Kingdom Columbia Harbour House – construction.
  • Epcot Main Entrance turnstiles – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours II – facility package.
  • Maple Road fireworks storage facility – concrete, electrical.
  • Blizzard Beach – handrail project.
  • Blizzard Beach Downhill Double Dipper, Summit Plummet and Slush Gusher catch pools – general construction.
  • Blizzard Beach – construction.
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Milk House – electrical.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace planter near Pollo Campero – plumbing.
  • Saratoga Springs buildings 8-18 – painting.
  • Port Orleans Resort warehouse – mechanical.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort hamburger shop – carpentry.

Quick takes …

…The body of a 56-year-old cast member was found by a security officer in a backstage parking lot early last Tuesday morning. The security officer placed a call to 911 at around 1 a.m. The lot is located in a service area north of Vista Boulevard near Live Oak Lane, between Bonnet Creek Parkway and Buena Vista Drive. The Orange County Sheriff's Office stated that the death was not considered to be a homicide.

…The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh will not offer Fastpasses and will use its Fastpass queue as its regular queue during a refurbishment of the main interactive queue from November 2 to 9.

…Walt Disney World Resort placed 4 resorts on the Conde Nast Traveler 2011 Readers' Choice Awards for Top 150 U.S. Mainland Resorts. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and BoardWalk Inn were cited. Check out the full list of recognized resorts on the Conde Nast website.

…The Richard Petty Driving Experience will be getting company at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January. Petty Holding LLC, which operates the Driving Experience, is branching out with Project Exotic, an opportunity to drive "some of the world's fastest and most exotic supercars." The experience has yet to be officially named; you can weigh in on the name for the attraction in a survey on their website.

…The 2012 version of the Expedition Everest Challenge (a 5K event that also involves an obstacle course and scavenger hunt) takes place on May 5, 2012. No registration date has yet been announced.

…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012). The Princess Half Marathon is 59 percent full and Kids' Races are 53 percent full.

…Registration is open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5 to 8, 2012). As of this week, registration is at:

  • Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – 92 percent full
  • Marathon – 85 percent full
  • Marathon Relay – 72 percent full
  • Half Marathon – 88 percent full
  • Family Fiesta 5K – 74 percent full
  • Kids' Races – 72 percent full

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."

Food & Wine Festival is now in full swing, and it will affect the number of people visiting Epcot, but not necessarily wait times. 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 31, 2011 4 / 10
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 2 / 10
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 5 / 10
Thursday, November 3, 2011 4 / 10

Crowds will be moderate 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!

  • Expect World Showcase to have dense crowds over the weekend for Food & Wine Festival.
  • The last Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties is 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 Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

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; reopens as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game in early 2012.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment through November 17.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment January 9 to March 31, 2012.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – closed for refurbishment and moving to Storybook Circus January 9 to February 17, 2012.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment January 28 to February 3, 2012.

Epcot

  • Yakitori House – closed 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

  • Fantasmic – is not performed January 5 through February 12, 2012.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment.

Resorts

  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Wilderness Lodge – villas walkway – cedar shake roof repairs through November 8.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Band leisure pool near buildings 90/95 – restroom refurbishment through November 11.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou building 36 – building and room refurbishment October 25 through November 11.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool 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 through December 3 for annual refurbishment.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed December 4 to March 17, 2012 for annual refurbishment.

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 – closedOctober 24 through November 3 for overseeding.

Current Discounts & Promotions

New fall discount announced

A new room-only discount for fall 2011 has been released. These discounts are available for travel most nights from October 30 through December 23 (except for Thanksgiving week):

  • 15 percent at All-Star Movies Resort and Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
  • 20 percent at other value and moderate resorts, as well as Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • 25 percent at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resort
  • 30 percent at other deluxe resorts, and deluxe villas resorts

You must book this discount by November 19. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent, and mentioning discount code J5N.

MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com, Small World Vacations, and Get Away Today.

Room-only discount for January and February

A room-only discount was released for early next year. 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.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code UU7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (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. Blackout dates are December 26-31, 2011; April 1-12, 2012; and July 4, 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.