The animatronics in Liberty Square were not the only presidents at Walt Disney World last Thursday. President Barack Obama became the fourth sitting United States President to visit a Disney theme park when he gave a speech about U.S. travel and tourism on Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. Obama follows presidents Jimmy Carter (who attended the opening session of the 26th World Congress of the International Chamber of Commerce meeting, also at the Magic Kingdom), Ronald Reagan (who visited Epcot twice), and George H.W. Bush (who visited Epcot for the first Points of Light ceremony).
Other sitting presidents have visited Disney resorts—most notably when the Contemporary Resort was the site of Richard Nixon's "I'm not a crook" speech—but not within a theme park. Many U.S. Presidents have also visited Disney Parks and Resorts before and/or after their terms of office as well, starting with Ronald Reagan's role as commentator on the opening ceremonies for Disneyland Park.
Obama spoke at a small stage erected at the end of Main Street, between Casey's Corner and the Plaza Ice Cream shop. This provided protection from view of the walkways to Adventureland and Tomorrowland. His speech laid out a plan to boost international tourism to the U.S., most notably through the expediting of processing for tourist visas. China and Brazil were singled out as targets for this new thrust. "I want America to be the top tourist destination in the world,'' said the President. "America is open for business. We want to welcome you." Obama also indicated that he wants to increase the promotion of national parks as international destinations, and including business executives on a tourism advisory board.
The 13-minute speech was given to a small audience of media and invited guests. Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger and Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs were spotted in the front row, along with U.S. Commerce Secretary (and former Disney board member) John Bryson.
Obama opened with a joke that got laughs from the crowd. "I'm excited to meet Mickey. It's always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me." He ended his speech by turning and waving to the Walt and Mickey Partners statue in the hub.
While Main Street was cleared of guests from park opening through about 3:00 in order to accommodate the heightened security, guest traffic patterns were implemented simiilar to those used when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton appeared as part of the Resort's 25th anniversary celebration on October 1, 1996. Guests entering the park were steered through the gate near Tony's Town Square Restaurant into a cast parking area and out into Tomorrowland at the former location of the Galaxy Palace Theater. The parking area was filled with banners, parade floats, and entertainment to draw guests' eyes away from the utilitarian backstage surroundings (in 1996, there was no special effort to block the views.)
Interested guests were able to watch a live broadcast of the speech inside the Hall of Presidents. JumboVision screens in Tomorrowland and Adventureland were used in 1996 to allow park guests to watch the anniversary ceremonies. During the day, additional entertainment was provided throughout the park to compensate for the blockage of all traffic from areas near Main Street or the Hub. The daily Celebrate a Dream Come True parade ran at 3:30 instead of 3:00 to provide sufficient time to break down the area on Main Street. Guests were also lured to the other three parks at the resort with Extra Magic Hours at all three parks and a special fireworks show that night at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
One of the things that Disney Parks and Resorts has been known for is its strict dress code, called "The Disney Look." The code lists guidelines for everything from hair to jewelry to makeup to eyewear. From the opening of Disneyland until changes in the year 2000, men were not allowed to wear moustaches, despite the fame of the company founder's own facial hair. The guidelines have been relaxed again, with a memo going out to cast members noting that—effective February 3—beards and goatees will be allowed.
Beards, goatees, and moustaches must all be grown on vacation, and may not be in the growing-out phase while working in the parks. The facial hair "must create an overall neat, polished and professional look and must be fully grown in, neatly groomed, and well-maintained at no longer than a quarter of an inch in length," according to an internal memo to cast members.
The policy change also allows workers in backstage areas without visitor contact to have "casual Fridays."
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Walt Disney World has announced the schedule of performances for the Flower Power concert series and HGTV presentations during this spring's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The Festival takes place from March 7 through May 20 this year.
The Flower Power concerts will take place at the America Gardens Theatre on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings during the festival. Performances will be at 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 p.m., and are included in park admission. The current lineup is:
Chuck Negron and The Orchestra are both playing the Festival for the first time.
HGTV is again serving as a sponsor for the Festival, and as such is providing television personalities to present each weekend at the Festival Center. The current schedule of HGTV celebrities appearing is as follows:
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…The Disney Fantasy was conveyed down the Ems River this past weekend from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, to Eemshaven, The Netherlands, where she will be prepared for sea trials. At the conclusion of sea trials, the Dream will next head to Bremerhaven, Germany for its official delivery from Meyer Werft to Disney Cruise Line. Once the transfer is complete, the ship will be prepared for a trans-Atlantic voyage from Bremerhaven to New York City for the ship's official christening on March 1.
…Last week's highly anticipated Disney Cruise Line announcement was postponed at the last minute, with no word on when or where the information about 2013 destinations would take place. Speculation is that it was deemed poor timing to announce new destinations on the heels of the fatal Costa Concordia accident in Civitavecchia, Italy, where over a dozen passengers are dead, with nearly two dozen still missing. It was widely believed that one of the ships would be returning to Europe in 2013, where Civitavecchia has been a Disney stop in the past.
…There has been a menu change at Palo aboard all ships of the Disney Cruise Line. Last week, the restaurant's signature pizza was removed from the dinner menu. The popular dish will still be available at Palo Brunch. Guests are being steered toward the fresh Garlic Pizza Bread included in the dinner bread service as a substitute. The pizza was apparently deemed more appropriate for the more casual brunch than the formal dinner service.
…Disney has pushed back the return date for Dumbo the Flying Elephant at its new location to March 11. No word on what the issues may be.
…The Hotel Royal Plaza is the latest resort along Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Downtown Disney to change hands. The resort and the lease of its property from Disney was bought by Florida-based InSite Group and London-based Cube Capital last month. They plan to renovate all areas of the hotel. "It's a good hotel now," said Ben Shmul, President and CEO of InSite Group. "When we have completed the planned renovations, we will transform and reposition the property into one of the area's most desirable places to stay when visiting Walt Disney World Resort and other attractions in Orlando."
…The Best Friends Pet Care Treat Truck will be making the rounds January 26 through February 4. The vehicle will be visiting various places on Disney property, as well as in the surrounding communities. The Treat Truck will have special free ice cream and cookies for dogs as it visits the Fort Wilderness dog park, downtown Celebration, and the Best Friends Pet Care Center on Bonnet Creek Parkway across from the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. The truck will also cruise the area dog parks in Orlando, Apopka, Kissimmee, and Winter Garden.
…Registration for the May 5 the Expedition Everest Challenge is now open.
…Registration for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler opens February 14.
…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26). The Princess Half Marathon is 91 percent full, the Royal Famly 5K is 74 percent full, and the Royal Family Kids' Races are 82 percent full. The Pasta in the Park Party is sold out.
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."
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In connection with the "One More Disney Day" promotion for leap day, Disney has released a "One More Disney Day and Night – Free" discount for stays from February 26 through March 10. If you book a non-discounted Magic Your Way package of at least three nights with an arrival date most nights February 26 through March 10, you receive an additional night for free. the offer can only be applied once per package or reservation, and excludes suites.
You must book this discount by January 31. The rooms available at these rates are limited, and no other group rates or discounts apply.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1920 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code J6R. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Florida residents can take advantage of a special 3- or 4- day ticket at discounted prices through late May. The "Wild for 3" (and "Wild for 4") tickets are available for purchase through May 21, and are valid for admission any three (or four) days through May 24, excluding blackout dates. The tickets are not valid February 18-20 and April 1-13 due to high crowd levels.
The Wild for 3 Pass ($99 plus tax) and Wild for 4 ($129 plus tax) passes are good at any one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks each day, but without park hopping privileges. Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options can be added for $27.50 each ($55 for both).
Proof of Florida residency is required for each adult age 18 and older. The discounted price applies to both adults and children.
Disney has released a Passholder discount for most nights from through March 8. Discounts are 35 percent for select Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa accommodations, and 30 percent for Value resorts from Sunday through Thursday nights.
As with most Passholder discounts, you can book this discount up through your arrival date, if discounted rooms are not yet sold out by then. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites and 3-bedroom Grand Villas are not included.
You can make your reservation through the Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7731 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code H5L. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Disney has released a room-only discount for all nights from April 13 through June 14. Discounts vary based on date. However, many resorts are excluded from the discount, including All-Star Movies Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, Contemporary Resort, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas, and premium views at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
For stays on the nights of May 25 to 27, guests receive discount rates of:
For all other nights during the discount period, the discounts are:
You must book this discount by February 28. 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 N6P. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
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 April 1 to 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 twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. 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, visit the Walt Disney World website, 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.