Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Update for April 22 – 28, 2013

Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Resort Events | Refurbishments and Attraction Closures | Discounts and Promotions | Comments

News and Views

Animal Kingdom celebrates 15th anniversary | The waiting week | Construction notes | Quick takes | Crowd update

Animal Kingdom celebrates 15th anniversary

Thousands of Disney fans turned out Monday morning for a Party for the Planet to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Surrounded by Disney characters, Josh D'Amaro, newly named Vice President for Disney's Animal Kingdom, greeted the crowds during a special opening ceremony. Imagineer Joe Rohde was previously announced to be part of the festivities, but Disney later said he would not be available for the event. D'Amaro was joined by Walt Disney World Resort president George A. Kalogridis and several former Animal Kingdom vice presidents.

Josh D'Amaro, Vice President for Disney's Animal Kingdom, along with Mickey and the gang, welcomes the crowds. Photo (c) Disney.

Crowds gather inside Disney's Animal Kingdom 15th Anniversary. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Entertainers perform to the "Circle of Life" from Disney's The Lion King during the opening ceremony. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Spectators bounce a jumbo Earth ball during the Party for the Planet to celebrate the anniversary of Animal Kingdom and Earth Day. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Several former Animal Kingdom vice presidents join Walt Disney World Resort president George Kalogridis for the anniversary event. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

After the opening ceremonies, hundreds lined up to shop for Limited edition 15th anniversary merchandise, while others went into the park to seek out the special interactive activities.

Disney commemorates the Animal Kingdom anniversary and Earth Day with interactive displays around the theme park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The line to purchase anniversary merchandise from Creature Comforts snaked all the way down to Harambe in Africa and back again. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disney celebrated the 15th anniversary of Animal Kingdom park with a special opening ceremony. Video © Disney

This time-lapse video shows the construction of the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Video © Disney.

The waiting week

It's been a slow news week as we look ahead to the Monstrous Summer press event at Walt Disney World later this week, after which we'll have a lot to talk about. The event kicks off with hard-hat tours of the Fantasyland construction site in Magic Kingdom on Thursday, but the real news should come from a presentation for the media Friday morning. We're expecting to hear more about the Mine Train attraction and Princess Fairytale Hall, and more about the interactive games coming to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the event provides a formal announcement of the new Disney Vacation Club units currently under construction at the Grand Floridian Hotel. We're not holding out much hope that the DVC presentation will also include any information about the rumored project over at the Polynesian Hotel.

We also know that the Disney Cruise Line is expected to make a presentation, hopefully with additional details about the pending renovation of the Disney Magic. We're all anxiously waiting to see if DCL will address the rumors of a possible fifth or sixth ship coming to the fleet.

Contributing MousePlanet columnist J. Jeff Kober will be there to cover the event, and we'll have all of the news in next week's Update. For updates during the event, be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Construction notes

Only two construction permits were with Orange County last week. One looked to be related to the sound system for Princess Fairytale Hall, and the second was for Fastpass signs for new Festival of the Lion King. Animal Kingdom has previously tested offering Fastpass for the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical during busy periods, but they have used the Fastpass machines outside "It's Tough to be a Bug" to distribute them. This might be a sign that Disney is planning to make Fastpass a permanent offering.

Quick takes…

...This week's Limited Time Magic promotion plays on Earth Day. Participating locations at each theme park, and at some of the Resort Hotels, will offer special "worms and dirt" desserts this week. Check the Disney Parks Blog for a full list.

Disney offers special Earth Day desserts this week as part of the Limited Time Magic promotion. Photo © Disney

We're Hiring!

Are you interested in writing for MousePlanet? We're currently looking for columnists to bring cover new areas of the Disney universe. We're especially looking for Florida locals to provide photos and information for the weekly Walt Disney World Update

If you are interested in contributing to the weekly Updates, or you have an idea for a great new column, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!

Crowd Forecast


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."

Enjoy a bit of an off season with mid-sized crowds all week. 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
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 4 / 10
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3 / 10
Thursday, April 25, 2013 4 / 10
Friday, April 26, 2013 4 / 10

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!

  • Wednesday is the best day to visit the Magic Kingdom.
  • The resort crowd level on Saturday 6 out of 10.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

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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Resort Events



runDisney events

An update on upcoming runDisney events and their registration statuses:


  • Expedition Everest Challenge (May 4, 2013) – Sold out: The Challenge and the Family Edition. Still available: Kids Races for kids ages 4 to 10 and tickets for the pre-race picnic and the post-race party.
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend (October 4–5, 2013) – Registration is open for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run, Kids Races, Disney Villains Hollywood Bash. The 10-Miler is now 75 percent full.
  • Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November 8–9, 2013) – Registration is open for Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K, Kids' Races, Wine & Dine Finish Line Party). The half marathon is now at 75 percent full.


  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 9–12, 2014) – Sold out: WDW 10K, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Dopey Challenge, Runner's World Challenge. Registration is open for the Walt Disney World Marathon (54 percent full), Walt Disney World Half Marathon (71 percent full), Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge (58 percent full), Family Reunion Breakfast, Pasta in the Park Party.
  • Disney's Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 21–23, 2014) – Registration opens on Tuesday, June 11. Events include Disney's Princess Half Marathon individual and team events, Disney Royal Family 5K, Kids Races, post-5K Breakfast, and Pasta in the Park Party.

Do you participate in (or are considering signing up for) runDisney events? Visit our Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion board, where you can join our community of health-minded readers and staff.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed permanently for conversion to Princess Fairytale Hall.
  • Main Street Bakery – closed through May 18 for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • Mad Tea Party – closed April 10 through May 21 for refurbishment.
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress – closed May 13–15 for refurbishment.
  • Cinderella's Royal Table – closed May 13–16 for refurbishment.
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – closed May 28 through June 10 for refurbishment.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – closed June 17–20 for refurbishment.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall – opens 2013.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opens 2014.


  • Fountain View Ice Cream – closed April 8 through early August for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • France pavilion ice cream shop – scheduled to open June, 2013 in location of former bakery.
  • New restroom between America and Japan pavilions – scheduled to open Fall 2013.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No known refurbishments, but both parades (Disney Channel Rocks and Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade) have ended their run. No new parades have been announced.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known refurbishments.


  • Disney's Contemporary Resort – California Grill closed through late summer for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach area closed through mid-June for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach pool slide closed May 27 to June 1 for refurbishment, and the entire Beach pool area closed May 30 to June 1. The Courtyard pool will remain open.
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort – Hippy Dippy Kiddy Pool refurbishment April 1–26.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Spa closed through summer for conversion to Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. The spa at the Grand Floridian is open during this time.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Grandstand pool closed May 13–31 for refurbishment. The High Rock Springs Pool will be open.

Water Parks

  • No known refurbishments.


  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. Will not be performed on the following dates in 2013:
    • May 14–18
    • May 21–25
    • July 23
    • September 17–21
    • November 5–6

Current Discounts & Promotions

Disney Visa Cardholder room discounts for June 13 through August 14

A Disney Visa Cardholder discount is available for most dates June 13 through August 14. The new promotion offers discounts of 5% - 30% off room-only bookings, with the option of adding non-discounted tickets and dining plans if desired. Rooms must be booked by June 14, 2013 to qualify.

As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date. Discount percentages shown below are on room only. You can add non-discounted tickets and dining.

Resort Category Resort Name Discount
Value Resorts All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation Suites – 15% 15%
All-Star Movies 5%
Art of Animation Suites only (Standard Mermaid Rooms are not included) 15%
Moderate Resorts Disney's Riverside, Coronado Springs Caribbean Beach 20%
Disney's French Quarter 15%
Disney's Coronado Springs Suites 5%
Deluxe Resorts Disney's Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge 30%
Disney's Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level 5%
Disney's Deluxe Resort Suites – limited availability 5%
Disney Vacation Club Resorts Disney's Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas 30%
Disney's Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani and Jambo House) 5%
Disney's Villas at the Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas are not included 0%

Thanks to MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the information.

Passholder room discounts for April through early June

A Passholder discount is available for most dates April 2 through June 3. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. The discount is a two-level discount, with a lower price per room if the room is booked by March 31.

As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7926 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Florida residents get special discount tickets through June

Florida residents can get discounted three- or four-day tickets through early June. The Discover Disney ticket provides three days of base admission for $119 plus tax, or four days for $129 plus tax. The Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun & More Options can be added for just $28.50 each, plus tax. The tickets are priced the same for adults and children.

Tickets are available for purchase from now through June 3, and may be used through June 7. Passes may not be used during the Easter peak weeks from March 23 through April 5.

For more information or to purchase tickets, check out the special deal website or call (407) 939-1283.

Florida resident hotel offers

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5, 2013. Residents will receive 10% off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida Resident offer website.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5, 2013. Residents will receive 10% off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida Resident offer website.

PhotoPass+ pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $149.95 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests receive a voucher to exchange for a PhotoPass+ card upon arrival at the resort, a Photo Gallery CD with more than 400 stock photos ($39.95 value), a unique code to create and order a photo CD upon return from their trip ($169.95 value), print packages at select dining locations ($29.95 value each), and digital photos from select attractions ($14.95 value each). Applicable taxes are charged to all orders.

This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at (407) 560-4300 before you arrive at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.

The package might take as long as 14 days to arrive, and you must bring your voucher from the package to redeem it, so make sure that you order far enough in advance to allow your materials to arrive.

Attractions currently participating in the program are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur. Current participating restaurants are 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Chef Mickey's, Cinderella's Royal Table, Tusker House Restaurant, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

2013 Military Salute offers

From now through September 28, 2013, 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 $156 per ticket, plus tax (up from $138 last year), or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $184 per ticket, plus tax (up from $165). No Base ticket is available with this offer.

These tickets expire after September 28. Blockout dates are March 24 through April 4 at all ticketed locations, and July 4 at Magic Kingdom park only.

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. Tickets may be purchased by active and retired military personnel for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. One of the Disney four-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.

You may upgrade the tickets 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.

In addition, specially priced rooms are available to active and retired U.S. military personnel at select Walt Disney World resorts for stays most nights through September 28.

For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets and discounted resort rates, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.

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