Just weeks after her husband's policy speech on Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom, First Lady Michelle Obama appeared at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World on Saturday. Mrs. Obama's appearance was in conjunction with the second anniversary of her "Let's Move" campaign to inspire children and families to lead healthier and active lifestyles. Disney has tied into that campaign with the Disney Magic of Healthy Living program.
The event included hundreds of kids from Central Florida, who participated in physical fitness activities and learned a new dance, "The Platypus Walk" (themed to Disney's "Phineas and Ferb") to perform for the First Lady. The event got started with the singing of the national anthem and the reciting of Pledge of Allegiance. Florida Senator Bill Nelson then took the stage, welcomed the crowd, then performed 50 military push-ups to show how seriously he takes fitness.
Emcee Ernie D from Radio Disney then welcomed fitness guru Tony Horton to the stage. Horton led the hundreds of children in a series of high-energy exercises. Ernie D returned to the stage to welcome stars from Disney Channel and Disney XD programs and Rosero McCoy, the choreographer from the Disney Channel's Shake It Up TV show.
McCoy then taught the approximately 800 kids the Platypus Walk, assisted by Disney Channel stars Debby Ryan, Roshon Fegan, Doc Shaw, Kelsey Chow, and Olivia Holt. After a couple of run-throughs, the group was joined onstage by the "Agent P" Perry the Platypus character for one last rehearsal.
Ernie D then welcomed the First Lady, dressed in a sweatsuit, to the stage. Mrs. Obama then briefly addressed the crowd about the Let's Move program. McCoy led everyone in performing the dance, with Mrs. Obama joining in on stage.
The children then split into groups around the field, each group doing a different fitness activity. Mrs. Obama worked her way around to each group, participating with some. She appeared to really enjoy the modified tennis game and had to be encouraged by her entourage to move on to the next group. After visiting with each group, the First Lady left the field and headed back to Washington, D.C.
Like the President's visit last month, Mrs. Obama did not bring their daughters Sasha and Malia with her on her visit to Walt Disney World, perhaps proving that Disney Parks & Resorts are not just for kids.
For more information on the Let's Move campaign, go to the campaign's website.
As part of the Disney Magic of Healthy Living program, Walt Disney World has been increasing its focus on healthy eating choices over the last few years, replacing french fries with fruit, and soda with water or milk in kids' meals, improving nutrition in entrees, and increasing the amount of fruit and other healthy snack options, among other changes. A new round of choices for children is being rolled out tomorrow at Magic Kingdom table-service restaurants, as more "non-burger" options join the menus.
Tony's Town Square Restaurant is adding a steak skewer "spiedini" with roasted sweet potato fries and fresh fruit, as well as grilled cheese on multigrain bread "dippers" with tomato sauce. The Plaza Restaurant will feature grilled chicken slices, cous cous and a fresh fruit skewer. Meanwhile, Cinderella's Royal Table gets three dishes: a chicken drumette with rice and broccolini, chicken pot pie with a biscuit crust, and grilled beef skewers with mashed potatoes and corn. Liberty Tree Tavern gets two new kids' choices of its own, with a barbecued chicken and pineapple flatbread pizza with a side of crisp veggies and apples, and oven-roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, veggies, and fruit.
If your child is not a fan of burgers, they'll probably be happy with these new healthy options.
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Little Red, the Animatronic elephant orphaned by poachers and then rescued at the end of the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, doesn't have much time left himself. Imagineers will be removing the scene from the attraction starting this spring, then replacing it with a new savanna and watering hole hosting zebras and other animals.
This isn't the first story change for the attraction. Following the unexpected response of horrified test audiences just before the attraction opened to the public, Imagineers removed a large set piece featuring a dead Big Red (Little Red's mother) with her tusks cut off by poachers, and replaced it with additional narration from Warden Wilson and Miss Jobson over the driver's radio indicating that "Big Red is down!" Later, Miss Jobson herself was cut from the storyline and Warden Wilson became the only voice heard on the radio.
With the removal of Little Red, the attraction will no longer have any non-living animals on display. Reportedly, however, the attraction will continue to have a conservation-focused theme. Meanwhile, guests who had been asking for more animals, specifically more chances to see zebras, will get their wish. There is no word yet on whether Warden Wilson continues to be part of the attraction once the "poacher" plotline is removed, but the changes will remove the lesser of the two plotlines for the safari. The "we've got to save Little Red!" plotline frequently seemed to be incongruous to the "wow, look at all the amazing animals!" angle. Little Red's departure will probably also mean fewer guests being confused by the sudden jerky acceleration at the end of the attraction, and will also mean less wear and tear on the safari jeep vehicles.
Construction is expected to be complete by this fall. The attraction is expected to remain open during the work.
Last Thursday, the Disney Cruise Line took possession of the Disney Fantasy. In a traditional maritime delivery ceremony, the flag of the Meyer Werft shipyard was lowered and the Disney Cruise Line flag was raised over the ship. The ceremony included Bernard Meyer, managing partner of Meyer Werft; Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line, Meyer Werft Captain Wolfgang Thos, and Disney Captain Tom Forberg. "Captain Tom" has now been the inaugural captain for all four ships of the Disney Cruise Line, and will take the ship from Bremerhaven, Germany, to its home port at Port Canaveral, Florida.
The ship is currently undergoing final preparations and will leave Germany on Thursday, February 16. It will arrive in New York City on February 28 for christening festivities, culminating the evening of March 1 for the actual christening ceremony. It will leave New York City the next day and head for Port Canaveral, arriving on March 6. After some shakedown test voyages, the ship will host travel agents and the media for two cruises, then depart on its official Maiden Voyage on March 31. MousePlanet will begin its detailed coverage of the Disney Fantasy in late March.
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…Our friends at TouringPlans.com are reporting that the Magic Kingdom monorails were running at reduced capacity yesterday due to beam damage between the Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom stations. We'll see if we can find out more on this issue.
…New merchandise for this year's Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend will include a shirt featuring a running shoe on a pillow and a light-up tiara with the same logo. There will also be a selection of Dooney & Bourke bags. All merchandise will be available for purchase at the Disney's Fit for a Princess Expo during the event weekend.
…This year's Star Wars Weekends logo features Donald Duck as Darth Maul in honor of the re-release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3D. The logo will be available on many forms of merchandise, including posters (standard and lenticular), mugs, and photo frames. Star Wars Weekends is scheduled to run Friday through Sundays, May 18 to June 10.
…Walt Disney World has reached an agreement on a new contract with Local 389 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). The contract provides for pay raises for each of the next six years and bonus pay of up to $750. The contract runs through June 2018.
…As is sometimes the case when Florida weather really cools off, Blizzard Beach was closed on Sunday due to cold weather. Sunday's weather had high temperatures in the 50s, so it's likely that not many would have been swimming anyway.
…For the fourth consecutive year, the seven Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels are partnering with Walt Disney World to honor teachers in their A+ For Teachers at Downtown Disney contest. The essay contest, which runs through April 13, has students in grades 1-12 nominate their favorite teacher by writing an essay of no more than 300 words and submitting it via a form on the hotel association's website. The essays should explain how the teacher has made a difference in the student's life. Seven winning teachers and their nominating students will each win a five-day, four-night vacation at one of the participating hotels, tickets to Walt Disney World theme parks and DisneyQuest, breakfasts at the hotel, and a gas card. For more information, check out the hotel association's website
…Registration for the May 5 the Expedition Everest Challenge is now open.
…Registration for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler opens today, on February 14.
…Will registration sell out before the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (the weekend of February 24 to 26)? Registration has been slowing, but just a few slots are left. The Princess Half Marathon is 98 percent full and the Royal Famly 5K is 97 percent full. The Royal Family Kids' Races and the Pasta in the Park Party are 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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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).
Passholders can save 25% on Category 2 tickets La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil on performances Tuesday through Friday nights, from January 31 to March 30. To purchase tickets, (407) 939-7604. Note that a valid Passholder ID and advance purchase is required. Tickets can be purchased up to 30 days prior to the show date, and must be picked up at the La Nouba box office Will Call window.
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.