Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 18-24, 2015

by Marie Rossiter, contributing writer
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Update for August 18–24, 2015

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


News and Views

Major Disney Hollywood Studios additions announced at D23 | More details released about Disney's Animal Kingdom expansion | Epcot's Soarin' to have international update | New Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant confirmed for Magic Kingdom | Views Around the World | Crowd Forecast

Major Disney Hollywood Studios' additions announced at D23

The 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA gave Disney's Hollywood Studios fans answers to some lingering questions about the future of the park when Disney officials announced two major park expansions: Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.

The park, which has seen numerous closures and changes in recent months, has been the center of speculation among Disney parks fans for a while. Now, Disney is preparing two significant overhauls.

Star Wars Land

Two, new major attractions will be part of the new Star Wars Land, including one that allows riders to take control of the iconic Millenium Falcon and another attraction which promises to drop visitors in the middle of an an epic battle in the Star Wars universe.


2015 D23 Expo – Parks & Resorts Panel – Star Wars Land, Star Tours update and more: Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek and Imagineer Scott Trowbridge present concept art from Star Wars Land, just announced as expansion lands at Disneyland in California, and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Video © MousePlanet.

As Disney's largest single themed land expansion ever at 14 acres, the new Star Wars Land intends to "transport guests to a never-before- seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life," according to Disney CEO Bob Iger.


Disney officials announced the new Star Wars Land expansion coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios at the 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. One attraction will include riding inside the Millennium Falcon, shown here in a Disney rendering. Image © Disney.

The two new major attractions aren't the only new things coming to the theme park:

  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Later this year, Star Tours will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving guests a new adventure in the Star Wars galaxy.
  • Star Wars Launch Bay – This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings. Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
  • Jedi Training Academy — A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels.
  • Season of the Force – This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to to Disney's Hollywood Studios, where guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.

No word on the status of the current Star Wars Weekends events or a completion date for this current project.

Toy Story Land

The reimagining of Disney's Hollywood Studios will take guests to infinity and beyond, allowing them to step into the world of Toy Story Land. This new 11-acre land will transport visitors into the adventurous outdoors of Andy's backyard. People will think they've been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination.


Toy Story Land is one of two new expansions coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios, according to official Disney announcements from the 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. In this rendering, we see an overhead shot of the land, which is set up as Andy's backyard filled with his toys. Image © Disney.

Using toys like building blocks, plastic buckets and shovels, and game board pieces, Andy has designed the perfect setting for this land, which will include two new attractions and one expanded favorite:

  • Family-friendly roller coaster – All on the back of Slinky Dog, this coaster will zip and zoom, plunge and coast as it takes riders on a fun, toy-filled adventure throughout the new land.
  • Alien saucers attraction – The famous little green aliens from the movie will take visitors around for a spin in their very own flying saucers. The music, lighting and sound effects add to the flurry of action, while "The Claw" looms over.
  • Toy Story Mania! – Riders glide into the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set and take aim at 3D objects in a variety of fast-paced games, with an expansion that adds a third track to this popular attraction.

Just like Star Wars Land, Disney officials offered no definitive time table for Toy Story Land completion, although construction has been underway at Toy Story Mania! for a few months now.

More details released about Disney's Animal Kingdom expansion

Disney's Animal Kingdom prepares to make a big step into a night-time park, according to a variety of announcements from the 2015 D23 Expo last week.

First, the new "Avatarland" finally has an official name: Pandora – The World of AVATAR. Park visitors journey into the magnificent world of Pandora at this new AVATAR-themed land—a world that includes floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest ,and the winged creatures known as Banshees, giving guests a transformational experience with the newest attraction, AVATAR Flight of Passage. The flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.

Beyond the Banshees, Disney's Animal Kingdom has more new experiences in store for visitors, including:

  • "Rivers of Light" – Expected to open in the spring of 2016, "Rivers of Light" combines live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. "Rivers of Light" magically come to life on the natural stage of Discovery River
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – This popular attraction becomes new nighttime adventure in the spring of 2016.. Safari trekkers will travel through the African savanna amid the magically extended orange glow of the setting sun and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.

Epcot's Soarin' to have international update

Anyone who's been to Epcot recently (or sees our weekly newsletter photo section) knows about the construction cranes outside The Land pavilion. A third Soarin' room has been under construction for a few months, but last week, Disney officials finally confirmed what had been spreading around for some time: Soarin' is not only getting more room, but a timely, new subject.

Soarin' Over California will transition to Soarin' Around the World, where riders will glide over a variety of international natural and crafted wonders such as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, and more.

Even more important, the new film was shot in high-quality digital film, which will make the attraction more clear and detailed than ever. Riders of the current Soarin' attraction have complained about the film and screen's condition, which some feel takes away from an otherwise fantastic ride.

Disney announced that the updated attraction will debut sometime in 2016.

New Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant confirmed for Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom hopes that fans of the popular Jungle Cruise will want to continue their entertaining experience in a new restaurant : The Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen in Adventureland.

At the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd Skipper Canteen, diners can enjoy “World Famous Jungle Cuisine” in one of several unique dining rooms, including a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant will also be staffed by Jungle Cruise Skippers.

The Jungle Skipper Canteen is currently under construction in the Magic Kingdom and is projected to open in late 2015.

Disney hopes to release reservation details and menu options sometime soon, according to the Disney Parks Blog.

Views from Around the World

Magic Kingdom


The Main Street Electrical Parade continues to glow on and on through the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


These construction walls surround what will likely be the newly announced Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen restaurant in Magic Kingdom's Adventureland. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


"Dead Men Tell No Tales" at Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean, especially when it is closed for renovations (which are scheduled to be completed in late September). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The first Halloween themed items are now available at The Main Street Emporium at Magic Kingdom, with the first Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party scheduled for September 15, 2015. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot


One of the best things about arriving at Epcot within a couple hours of its daily close is the ability to get a parking place near the entrance. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Preparations for the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival are underway (foreground), and the steel frame for new theater for Soarin' appears to be nearly complete (background). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The concrete walls of some of the buildings of the "Frozen" themed area rise above the construction walls between the Mexico and Norway pavilions at Epcot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Have you ever considered watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from the upper levels of Epcot's Canada pavilion? The view is fantastic. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, just enter your e-mail in the box below.

 

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Crowd Forecast

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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, August 11, 2015 8 / 10
Wednesday, August 12, 2015 9 / 10
Thursday, August 13, 2015 7 / 10
Friday,August 14, 2015 8 / 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!

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Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Resort Events

2015

runDisney events

If 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.

2015

2016

For current information on registration dates and capacity, see Lorree Tachell's runDisney Race Capacity Updates in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

2016

Epcot

  • Soarin' – additional screen under construction. Work has no impact on the existing theaters.
  • Innoventions West – Think, presented by IBM; The Great Piggy Bank Adventure; and Where's the Fire? closed. The Disney Visa character experience remains open.
  • Maelstrom – ride permanently closed for construction of Frozen Ever After attraction. New ride expected to open May, 2016.
  • Living with the Land –closed September 8–18.
  • Innoventions East – Glidden's Colortopia under construction replacing the Test the Limits exhibit. Expected to open late 2015.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid – closed September 7–10 for refurbishment.
  • Toy Story Midway Mania – second ride track is under construction. Work has no impact on the existing ride.
  • Magic of Disney Animation – building permanently closed for future expansion.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed August 17 to November 13 for refurbishment.
  • Pizzafari – closed August 24 to October 20 for refurbishment

 

Blizzard Beach

  • Entire park closed from October 25, 2015 through January 3, 2016 for refurbishment

Typhoon Lagoon

  • Entire park closed from January 3 to March 13 for reburbishment.

Downtown Disney / Disney Springs

  • Fulton's Crab House – closed January 1 to April 1, 2016 for refurbishment.
  • Planet Hollywood – closed January 1 to June 1, 2016 for refurbishment and transformation into a Planet Hollywood Observatory.
  • Downtown Disney Bridge 4 and restrooms on Pleasure Island – temporarily closed for ongoing construction work.
  • Downtown Disney Lots A-G – closed through August 1, 2016.
  • Downtown Disney Lots H, I, J, and K (in Westside area) – closed until further notice for Disney Springs construction.
  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
  • Disney Quest – scheduled to close sometime in 2016. Will be replaced with an NBA Experience venue.

Resorts

  • Polynesian – ongoing refurbishment of the lobby and pool area.
  • Disney's Boardwalk Inn – Exterior painting and repair during daylight hours, through May 5, 2016
  • Disney's Boardwalk Inn – Flying Fish Cafe closed February 1 – September 30, 2016 for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Coronado Springs – La Vida Health Club and Casitas pool closed for refurbishment through October 12. An alternate fitness center is available for guest use.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Gasparilla Island Grill closed August 23 to September 4 for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Villas – construction of the as-yet-unannounced Disney Vacation Club cabins begins October 2015. Expect construction-related closures and noise during the project.
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Villas – Hidden Springs pool, resort beach, playground, and Recreation fire pit close October 26, 2015. No opening date provided, but the pool is expected to be closed through 2017.

Elsewhere

  • Disney's Lake Buene Vista Golf Course –closed August 10–20 for refurbishment.
  • Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update. For your convenience, we have grouped the discount offers based on the intended audience. Check out the category that best matches you, and pick the offer that works best for you. And keep those tips coming—let us know if you find a better or different offer, so we can share it with other readers.


Discounts for Everyone

Memory Maker pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney Memory Maker pre-arrival packages. For $199 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests can digitally download any photos associated with their Memory Maker account, including photos taken on attractions. The advanced purchase price is $169, a $30 savings. Applicable taxes are charged to all orders.

Purchase must be made more than three days prior to arrival at the Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.


Discounts for Annual Passholders

None at this time.

Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA & Debit Card Holders

Up to 35 percent off Disney's Polynesian Villas Studios

Disney Visa cardholders receive up to 35 percent off standard view studio room rates through October 3, 2015. The room must be booked either directly through their travel agent or the Walt Disney World Resort.

15 percent off select guided tours

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of selected guided tours for up to 10 people. The cardholder must participate in the tour, and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card. Tours included:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
    • Disney's Family Magic Tour
    • Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour
    • Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
    • Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour
  • Epcot
    • Gardens of the World (offered seasonally)
    • The UnDISCOVERed Future World
    • Disney's Dolphins in Depth
    • Epcot DiveQuest
    • Epcot Seas Aqua Tours
    • Epcot Behind the Seeds (15 percent discount)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
    • Wild by Design
    • Backstage Safari
  • Multiple Theme Parks and Backstage Areas
    • Backstage Magic
    • Disney's Holiday D-Lights (offered seasonally)
    • Disney's Yuletide Fantasy (offered seasonally)

10 percent off select restaurants

Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off the check when you pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Discount excludes alcohol.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas:

  • Boma
  • Jiko (see restrictions)
  • Sanaa

Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas:

  • ESPN Sports Club
  • Flying Fish Cafe (see restrictions)

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort:

  • Shutters at Old Port Royale

Disney's Contemporary Resort:

  • The Wave...of American Flavors

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground:

  • Trail's End Restaurant

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:

  • Citricos (see restrictions)
  • Grand Floridian Cafe

Disney's Old Key West Resort:

  • Olivia's Cafe

Disney's Port Orleans Resort:

  • Boatwright's Dining Hall

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:

  • The Turf Club Bar and Grill

Disney's Wilderness Lodge:

  • Artist Point (see restrictions)
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe

Disney's Yacht Club Resort:

  • Captain's Grille

Disney's Hollywood Studios:

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (see restrictions)
  • Hollywood & Vine (see restrictions)

Epcot:

  • Biergarten Restaurant (see restrictions)

10 percent off merchandise

Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off at participating Disney-owned retail location when you spend a minimum of $50 and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Read all of the restrictions on the Disney Visa website.


15 percent off all Disney spa and salon services

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of any salon treatment valued at $45 or greater or any 50-minute or longer spa service at the spas and salons at Walt Disney World Resort listed below:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

  • Senses – A Disney Spa
  • Ivy Trellis Salon

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

  • Senses – A Disney Spa

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas

  • Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center

Disney's Contemporary Resort

  • Olympiad Fitness Center

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

  • La Vida Health Club
  • Casa de Belleza Salon

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

  • Sturdy Branches Health Club

Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts

  • Ship Shape Massage Salon Fitness

Free 5" x 7" character photo at a private meet and greet location at Epcot

Present your Disney's Premier Visa Card or Disney Rewards Visa Card for access to a private character meet and greet at Epcot for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. inside Innoventions West at Epcot. You'll receive one free 5" x 7" character photo per day.


Discounts for Military Personnel

4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Discount

Eligible Service Members can purchase 4-day Park Hopper passes for $177 until December 20, 2015

Tickets can be purchased through December 17, 2015.

No more than 12 Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased by an Eligible Service Member.

Discounts for U.K. Residents

None at this time


Discounts for Canada Residents

None at this time.


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

 

Comments

  1. By danyoung

    Thanks for the update - some fun stuff coming to the parks!

    A small quibble. When reporting on the new Soarin' you stated that "the new film was shot in high-quality digital film". There's really no such thing as digital film. When something is shot digitally, it's recorded onto hard drives or chips, remaining in a computer file format. And it will be displayed in a computer file format, which will do away with those annoying scratches and blobbies that have just about ruined the current version.

  2. By Lloydian

    I can't read today's update because I'm reading on an iPhone. In portrait mode, I get 3-5 letters per line with 90% of the screen reserved for advertising. In landscape mode, I get 1" of text and 4" of space (almost all totally blank) reserved for advertising. Someone forgot to test.

  3. By stan4d_steph

    We are aware of the issue viewing today's update on mobile devices. We are working on a fix, but it won't come until later today. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.

  4. By stan4d_steph

    The issue should be fixed. Please let us know if you still have problems. Thank you for your patience.

  5. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by stan4d_steph View Post
    The issue should be fixed. Please let us know if you still have problems. Thank you for your patience.

    Is there maybe a slight side effect? When I click on the link to the update, the story is gone, just the comments show.

    OT: Was there a specific reason for the change in format for all the columns? (I understand websites from time to time need to mix things up a bit to stay fresh, but the new look sort of isn't growing on me yet. (I'm not going to rant about it or anything, I still love MP, just curious)) Thanks for all the great work the admins and moderators do on the site!

  6. By Tony

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    Is there maybe a slight side effect? When I click on the link to the update, the story is gone, just the comments show.

    OT: Was there a specific reason for the change in format for all the columns? (I understand websites from time to time need to mix things up a bit to stay fresh, but the new look sort of isn't growing on me yet. (I'm not going to rant about it or anything, I still love MP, just curious)) Thanks for all the great work the admins and moderators do on the site!

    The comments only issue has been fixed.

    The design is bringing us more in line with usability standards and internet best practices and in reducing inevitable clutter that develops over the years. But the primary driving factor was making the site 'responsive', which is a fancy way saying capable of dynamically sizing and displaying content based on how the reader is accessing the site - Desktop/Laptop vs Tablet vs Mobile Phone. With the number of readers who access MP using their tablets and cell phones increasing dramatically, we needed to make sure they can easily read and use the site.

    As a cool side effect, you can see how the site automatically reformats for the type of device being used, visit the MP homepage, and slowly shrink the width of the browser window, simulating the size of a tablet, and eventually a cell phone. You'll see how the site changes for those environments.

    In the mean time, we will be tweaking and fine tuning the site over the next several weeks as we identify issues. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly complex and time consuming process, and it will take time for us to identify and address all issues.

  7. By towels

    As a Muppet fan, my anticipation for the Star Wars expansion is tempered somewhat. Google maps shows plenty of expansion space across an access road, but I suspect the Streets of New York are not long for this (Disney) World. With the California version already snowed under I fear soon the only theme park Muppets will be at Sesame Place.
    Maybe if the TV series hits Disney will find a way to maintain or increase their presence.

  8. Discuss this article on MousePad.