Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Marie Rossiter, contributing writer
Update for September 1–7, 2015
[A special note from Marie: This is my last week serving as the weekly Walt Disney World Update writer. The past year has been fabulous, but with a new full-time job outside the home, I wanted to make sure the update got the attention it deserved. I want to thank Adrienne for bringing me onto the team, Lani for being a fantastic editor and to my favorite photographer, Alan: Thanks for sharing your brand of pixie dust with the update and I look forward to seeing what you do in the future! Oh, and thank you for the special photo in this week's Views Around the World. I just had to share it with everyone! I plan to contribute articles from time to time and will still be writing about Walt Disney World on my own blog, Enjoying the Magic. Thanks to all of you for reading over the past year!]
Disney lawyers seek to avoid Staggs deposition | Star Wars Half Marathon announced for Walt Disney World | FastPass+ reservations available for Eat to the Beat concerts | Tickets now available for Star Wars Force Friday | Shop Disney Parks app makes souvenir shopping simple | PhotoPass enhancements added to My Disney Experience | Reedy Creek proposes new access roads to Magic Kingdom resorts | Disney's newest Twitter account meant to help in-park guests | Did you catch these quick takes? | Views Around the World | Crowd Forecast
Lawyers for plaintiffs suing the Walt Disney Company over its revised Disability Assistance Service requested that former division chairman of Walt Disney Parks (and current COO of Walt Disney Co.) Tom Staggs sit for a deposition [a deposition is "the taking and recording of testimony of a witness under oath, before a court reporter, in a place away from the courtroom before a trial," as defined by Law.com].
Lawyers representing the Walt Disney Company object to the request and are fighting to keep the executive out of Orlando federal court.
According to a report published by the Orlando Sentinel, Disney's legal team claims that although Staggs was once leading the Walt Disney Parks division, he has "no unique personal knowledge of the relevant facts at issue in this case, his deposition is improper and unwarranted. Any information you plan to seek from Mr. Staggs can be obtained through less intrusive methods of discovery such as serving interrogatories or deposing lower- level employees."
Disney's legal team added that other employees are ready and available to testify in defense of the company's position.
Staggs did file a legal declaration of the court indicating he received information about the Disability Access Service "from time to time" from the people directly involved in making the changes in the program, the report continued.
Dozens of families of autistic children decided to sue the Walt Disney Co. following the sweeping changes made in 2013 at its theme parks regarding special needs accommodations. The original policy allowed these families to immediately get on rides and attractions. Disney changed this policy after it was discovered people were hiring people with disabilities to help them skip the standby lines.
The new policy allows families with special needs children to sign up for a reservation time to return to an attraction at a later time and eliminate the wait in long ride queues.
However, the plaintiffs claim the new policy discriminates against their children, because their disability prevents them from waiting patiently for the rides, even if they aren't waiting in line. This can then lead to meltdowns, which the plaintiffs believe were avoided under the previous policy
The Force was apparently strong with runners who wanted a Star Wars-themed race in Walt Disney World.
Disney added a new event to its race universe last week with the announcement of Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side.
The inaugural race weekend will be April 14 to 17, 2016 and the theme will be dark—as in Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and those other bad guys you love to hate in the Star Wars universe.
The weekend's events include a 3.1-mile 5K, 6.2-mile 10K, kids races and the 13.1-mile half-marathon. Runners can also take the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge by completing the 10K and half-marathon in the same weekend.
In addition to the races, participants can have a true Star Wars experience, which will feature dark side-inspired food and merchandise throughout the weekend.
The popularity of the 2015 Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland pushed many fans and racers to request Walt Disney World's own version of the race. Organizers decided to set the two apart by focusing on the light side in Disneyland and the dark side in Walt Disney World.
Anyone who participates in both versions of the Star Wars Half Marathon will earn the inaugural Kessel Run Challenge medal.
Registration for this new event begins at noon on Tuesday, September 22 at the runDisney website.
Music lovers who don't want to stand in line for hours can secure FastPass+ reservations for the 2015 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Eat to the Beat concerts.
Those looking for a FastPass+ reservation for their favorite musical act should know that this option is listed as a Tier 1 attraction, which puts it up there with Test Track and Soarin'. Users can only select one Tier 1 option as part of their three FastPass+ options.
The 2015 Eat to the Beat concert series runs every night from September 25 through November 15. The full line-up for this year's series is:
- David Cook – September 25–27
- Wilson Phillips – September 28–29
- Christopher Cross – September 30 and October 1
- Starship – October 2–4
- Smash Mouth – October 5–7
- The Pointer Sisters – October 8–9
- .38 Special – October 10–11
- Rick Springfield – October 12–13
- Sugar Ray – October 14–16
- The S.O.S. Band – October 17–18
- Air Supply – October 19–21
- Fuel – October 22–23
- Tiffany – October 24–25 (newly added to the schedule)
- Dennis DeYoung – October 26–28
- Jo Dee Messina – October 29–30
- Everclear (NEW!) – October 31 and November 1
- Boyz II Men – November 2–4
- Sister Hazel – November 5–6
- Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – November 7–9
- Hanson – November 10–12
- Maxi Priest (NEW!) – November 13–14
- Chaka Khan (NEW!) – November 15–16
Daily show times take place at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Entertainment and appearances are subject to change without notice.
The force of Star Wars continues to be felt around Walt Disney World following the big D23 announcement regarding the new Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios. As part of the expanding Star Wars presence around Walt Disney World, a new merchandise event debuts at the Once Upon a Toy store in Downtown Disney.
Star Wars Force Friday, which kicks off at 12:01 a.m., Friday September 4, is hard-ticket merchandise event where a limited number of shoppers have access to newly released Star Wars and Star Wars: The Force Awakens items, including Disney theme park exclusives and licensed products.
The process for attending this event will be strictly monitored. All guests over the age of 18 must present a photo ID. Each guest receives a randomly, pre-assigned number prior to the event that designates a place in line and anticipated shopping experience time (approximately one hour). Upon on-site registration, which begins at 9:00 p.m., Thursday, September 3 and runs through midnight, Friday, September 4, guests will receive a wristband that designates their randomly, pre-assigned number.
Anyone who buys a tickets also receives a complimentary gift in addition to event attendance.
Non-refundable tickets for the event cost $50 and can only be purchased via the Disney Parks Merchandise. website.
I'm sure there are many Disney fans (like me) who have mixed emotions about new Shop Disney Parks app—the free smartphone application where you can buy almost any piece of park merchandise for Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) with the touch of a button.
The app puts thousands of Disney merchandise items on the palm of the shopper's hand, and new items are added weekly.
Full maps are provided on where to find certain items in the parks. So, if you remembered a stuffed animal you didn't pick up earlier, but still want it, you can either find the location nearest you that carries it, or search the app and purchase that item if it's only found in one store on Disney property.
Or, if you see the perfect gift, but don't want to carry it home, buy it online with the app and have it sent directly back home.
You can event sit in the comfort of your own home and go shopping for your favorite park merchandise. Not a bad deal.
At this time, the app recognizes annual pass discounts, but no other promotions are valid when using the new app (such as free gift with minimum purchase).
Disney Gift Cards are not accepted at this time, but Disney is reportedly working on adding the feature sometime in the future.
Disney has put a purchasing limits on items to try to prevent large-quantity, same-item purchases that can be resold on other websites.
The app is available for download on iOs and Android devices.
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Last week, Disney updated its My Disney Experience smartphone application to include a variety of PhotoPass options for users.
Walt Disney World visitors can purchase the Memory Maker package via the My Disney Experience app. Memory Maker is a package that gives people access to all of their vacation images and videos for a single price.
If you have already purchased Memory Maker or want to look at any photos taken by PhotoPass photographers, My Disney Experience provides access to all of those pictures to review and purchase.
Many park visitors wind up with several PhotoPass cards during their Walt Disney World vacation, whether it's because of splitting up into smaller groups or simply leaving the card back in the hotel. The My Disney Experience app can merge all the photos stored on each card into one place for easy review and purchase.
Lastly, the updated My Disney Experience app shows visitors where the every PhotoPass photographer can be found around the Walt Disney World Resort.
The app is free, and available for both iOS and Android users.
Reedy Creek intends to use a $350 bond issue to fund a new series of access roads, including new "flyovers" (overpasses) to take resort traffic over the Magic Kingdom toll plaza and into the resort hotels.
Currently, guests staying at Magic Kingdom resort hotels such as Disney's Polynesian Village Resort or Disney's Contemporary Resort must drive through the Magic Kingdom toll plaza, even if they don't have to pay to enter.
Reedy Creek Deputy District Administrator Ann Blakeselee told the Orlando Sentinel that there is no set timetable for the project; howeve,r she hopes it will happen within the next five years.
In addition to easing Magic Kingdom resort traffic, the project's goals include accommodating an increase in visitors as Walt Disney World expands over the next few years with Disney Springs, Toy Story land, and Star Wars land at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and projects over at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
The road projects also include:
- A reconfiguration of Osceola Parkway at Victory Way, southeast of Disney's Hollywood Studios and north of ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. A traditional intersection will be replaced with a flyover design similar to that at state roads 50 and 436 near Orlando. The flyover would take Osceola Parkway traffic over Victory Way.
- An extension of Western Way to Avalon Road, or County Road 545. Currently Western Way ends around the Flamingo Crossings development under construction.
- A Center Drive bypass to the west that will allow traffic heading south off Reams Road more direct access to Floridian Way.
Residents on the Disney property who are handpicked by the corporation to live there voted last week on a referendum on the bond issue paying for the improvements. They voted 17 to 1 for approval.
Two current road construction projects are nearing an end, according to the report. A ramp from eastbound Buena Vista Drive rising above the road and funneling drivers into the third story of a new parking garage should open September 8. A half-mile spur extending off the westbound ramp leading from Interstate 4 onto Epcot Center Drive should open in early October.
Ever been in Walt Disney World and had a question about where to find a certain attraction or get a recommendation for a good place to eat?
Walt Disney World's new Twitter account, @WDWToday, connects guests who tweet questions or concerns with a cast member, who then provides a direct response as quickly as possible.
The questions range from the typical "Where do you recommend we watch Wishes?" to the "in your dreams" category of "we want to extend our stay one more night? Will you pay for it for us?"
It seems like a fun, quick little resource for those who love being in the Twitterverse even while in Walt Disney World.
The Florida Highway Patrol released its official report regarding the fatal April accident at the Walt Disney World Speedway. The report findings showed that the program had the cars running in the wrong direction during the Exotic Driving experiences, allowing the speeding Lamborghini to run into the end of the guardrail, impaling instructor Gary Terry (36), killing him instantly. Having the cars run counterclockwise didn't allow the car to have proper traction, either, which contributed to the driver Tavon Waston (24) of Kissimmee spinning out of control and into the guardrail.
Last week, Disney's Animal Kingdom park visitors may have noticed three new giraffe calves on the savanna. Major cuteness warning: Take a moment to learn more about Mara, Milo, and Lincoln.
Cirque du Soliel's La Nouba is offering a Florida resident discount through December 18. Tickets prices range from $49 to $89.
For those of us who can't make the trip down to Walt Disney World as often as we'd like, Alan manages to give us a dose of magic every week and keep us going until our next vacation. Let's bounce around the parks and see what's being going on.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Mickey Mouse stands atop the world high above the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios and, on a stormy day like this, it brings to mind the story the ear on the left also serves as a lightning rod. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Until that unspecified date in the future when guests will be able to walk into the fully realized world of a new Star Wars "land" at Disney's Hollywood Studios, standing directly under the AT-AT Walker at the entrance to Star Tours is one way to experience that far away galaxy. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Although Summer is just winding up, preparations have already begun for this year's presentation of The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios on the Streets of America. (Note that while the lights have just begun to go up, the sign itself, in recent years, has remained on San Francisco street year round.) Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The signage for The Magic of Disney Animation has been removed from the former Animation Building at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Launch Bay soon will be located in the Animation Courtyard. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The interactive water fountain (splash area) east of Epcot's Innoventions is behind construction walls. The other interactive fountain (splash area) between Future World and World Showcase remains open. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
As Frozen Summer Fun winds down at Disney's Hollywood Studios (scheduled to end on September 7), its fireworks show can be seen from many points around World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot after Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
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- 2015 Night of Joy – September 11–12, 2015
- 2015 Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party – September 15, 18, 20, 22, 25 and 27; October 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31; November 1
- 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival – September 26 to November 16.
- 2015 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – November 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20 and 29; December 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 18.
- 2015 Epcot Candlelight Processional – November 27 to December 30
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.
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 6–7. All races are sold out.
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 6–10, 2016. All races are sold out, except for the full marathon.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 18–21, 2016. Most events are sold out.
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.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – closed through September 26 for refurbishment.
- Diamond Horseshoe – closed through at least November for refurbishment
- Liberty Tree Tavern – closed through November 21 for refurbishment
- Walt Disney World Frontierland station – closed September 29 to November 5 for refurbishment.
- Walt Disney World Main Street U.S.A station – closed September 29 to November 5 for refurbishment.
- Walt Disney World Fantasyland station – closed September 29 to November 5 for refurbishment.
- The Magic Behind the Our Steam Trains Guided Tour – not offered during Walt Disney World Railroad refurbishment.
- Peter Pan's Flight – closed November 2–7 for refurbishment.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover – closed December 7–10 for refurbishment
- Splash Mountain – closed January 6–10 for refurbishment.
- Space Mountain – closed January 11–15 for refurbishment.
- Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin – closed January 15 to February 11 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed January 18–22 for refurbishment.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed April 4 to July 15 for refurbishment.
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – closed July 7 to September 24 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed August 15–21 for refurbishment.
- "it's a small world" – closed August 22 to September 15 for refurbishment.
- 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.
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid – closed September 7–10 for refurbishment.
- Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular – closed Octoberd 20-23 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 through November 13 for refurbishment.
- Pizzafari – closed through October 20 for refurbishment
- Entire park closed from October 25, 2015 through January 3, 2016 for refurbishment
- 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.
- 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.
- Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.
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:
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:
Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas:
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort:
Disney's Contemporary Resort:
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground:
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:
Disney's Old Key West Resort:
Disney's Port Orleans Resort:
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:
Disney's Wilderness Lodge:
Disney's Yacht Club Resort:
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
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
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
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.
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