Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 8-13, 2015by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
Update for December 8-13, 2015
Originally announced back at the D23 Expo under the same "Season of the Force" name given to the Disneyland promotion, Disney's Hollywood Studios officially debuted its new "Star Wars Experiences" on December 1, 2015. On December 4, the Park hosted a pre-dawn Media Day to show off its newest offerings. MousePlanet photographer Alan S. Dalinka attended and reports for us here:
Spoiler alert: If you have seen the advertising and trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there are no new spoilers here for the movie. If you don't want to risk any possible spoiler exposure before seeing the movie, you may want to skip this section of the week's Update and, of course:
- Don't enter Star Wars Launch Bay
- Don't see the Path of the Jedi feature in the ABC Sound Studio
- Don't ride Star Tours
Indeed, this Update reveals no more about the new movie than the merchandise available ahead of its release—namely, those items sold in the Resorts, all four parks at Walt Disney World, gift shops, and pretty much any big box retailer out there.
Having said that, though, if you do not want to know the identity of the "surprise" villain who appears in the newly revamped Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, we suggest skipping the highlights video embedded below.
If you don't care about spoilers, keep reading to see what new "Star Wars Experiences" are available for the foreseeable future at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The park plans to roll out additional "Experiences" in the future starting with the release of the newest movie, and continuing with subsequent Star Wars movies and television shows. The newest fireworks show: Symphony in the Stars – A Galactic Spectacular debuts on December 18, 2015 to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The show is set to a score filled with John Williams music from throughout the saga, including the latest film. A dessert party on select nights from January 5 through March 19, 2016 is available for advanced booking, and includes a reserved viewing area for the Spectacular, a selection of desserts and drinks (including alcoholic beverage options for those over 21), and a souvenir Chewbacca stein.
Star Wars Launch Bay
The former Animation Building is now the Star Wars Launch Bay. The area is still known as and marked on maps as the Animation Courtyard that you enter through the Disney's Hollywood Studios Arch.
Because all guests must enter through the Launch Bay Theater, there may be a wait to get in to the building. With a ten minute video (more on that in a moment) and a three minute unload-load cycle, this allows the Cast to pulse guests through the Launch Bay, up to approximately 150 at a time. Fortunately, there is a very large queue area here. While little used in recent years, this area originally (as in way back when the park opened in 1989) was the loading area for the back lot tram tour. The many aisles are filled with concept art and replica movie posters from throughout the Star Wars saga.
Beyond the Theater, the Launch Bay is divided into eight additional sections on the maps that are displayed in the queue. In fact, if you read Adrienne's description of the Launch Bay at Disneyland, you will find many similarities here beyond the Theater which, like most things World vs. Land, are probably bigger at Disney's Hollywood Studios than they are at Disneyland.
Launch Bay Theater
A ten minute video introduces guests to the Star Wars saga in the way a behind-the-scenes documentary explains a movie. JJ Abrams, Director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, LucasFilm's Kathleen Kennedy, and a number of others involved in the making of Star Wars films and television shows talk about all things Star Wars. (Okay, not all things—there is no mention of the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.)
The Launch Bay Theater shows a video overview of the Star Wars saga and includes brief interviews with Director JJ Abrams of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, LucasFilm's Kathleen Kennedy, and (with the notable exception of George Lucas) others involved in the creation of Star Wars movies and television shows. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Noticeably absent from this video was any recent comments by George Lucas, though he is mentioned by several others during the video. Essentially, if you are completely new to the Star Wars saga, this video will give you sufficient information to put some context on the rest of what you will see in the Launch Bay. If you are looking for spoilers, there really aren't any here. If you are looking for a more cinematic introduction to characters and the story of Star Wars, you need to head over to the Echo Lake area of the park for the ten minute film Path of the Jedi in the ABC Sound Studio (next door to the Hyperion Theater, home of the Frozen sing-along).
After exiting the theater, guests can see case after case of costumes, props and other replicas from the Star Wars saga. The areas where animators once worked in fishtank-like enclosures now contain large reproductions of some of the larger "speeders" and "pods" from the Star Wars universe.
For now, there are two public character meet-and-greet photo opportunities to visit in the Launch Bay: Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Disney PhotoPass photographers are available to take your photo (including with your personal camera). Scan your MagicBand or park ticket, and the PhotoPass photos can be viewed in your My Disney Experience App (or on the website) along with all of the usual ways to purchase the photo (including "free" downloads for Passholders with the recently introduced annual passes that include that benefit).
The photo opportunities are themed to the "Light Side" and the "Dark Side" of the Force, and Disney has said that they may have different characters available for photo opportunities in these themed areas after The Force Awakens is released, and as future Star Wars films and television programs are introduced.
Like its Disneyland counterpart, you enter a (purposely themed) make-shift rebel hideout, and come face-to-face with the best co-pilot in the galaxy. To occupy you while you wait in what could be a very long line, the queue is filled with replica props from the Light Side, including lightsabers and helmets.
If you speak to Chewbacca during your photo opportunity, he will speak back to you in the Wookie language; no translation is provided.
A very tall (at least seven feet tall) Chewbacca currently greets guests and poses for photos on the "Light Side." Chewbacca apparently understands when guests speak to him and he responds—but only in the Wookie language. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Encounter Darth Vader
The queue for the Dark Side encounter is filled with Sith props. Lord Vader also has a few things to say to guests.
Although not marked on the maps in the queue, a Disney Visa cardholder exclusive photo opportunity is located nearby.
On the map of the Launch Bay, this is marked as a distinct area. In reality, it's a large glass case containing a reproduction of Rey's speeder and explaining where it fits in the lineage of different Star Wars saga speeders. What Rey's Speeder represents or its purpose in The Force Awakens isn't disclosed here so—at least right now—it isn't really a spoiler.
A reproduction of Rey's Speeder from the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens is displayed in the Star Wars Launch Bay. No spoilers as to what it is used for in the film were evident. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Star Wars Game Center
Disney Infinity 3.0 consoles line the walls of this space, each with a different set of character avatars.
Also like its Disneyland counterpart, this is a large, empty room. It is rather heavily themed, and, during the Media event, a Jawa mischievously wandered around and interacted with guests. We will keep our eyes and ears open and will include new introductions here in future Updates.
If there are any "spoilers" in Launch Bay, they might be here. There are a few props and costumes in this area with limited explanations of how they fit in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I will avoid going into detail here, but I will note that, as someone old enough to have seen all of the original Star Wars films in movie theaters when they were released, I did not learn anything new here about the upcoming film that the trailers and official releases elsewhere haven't already revealed.
Launch Bay Cargo
Unlike Watto's Grotto, which remains open over in the former tram tour unload area and AFI Gallery, this shop (like its Disneyland counterpart) leans toward the very high-end Star Wars collector, with a $4,000 custom Darth Vader suit just one of the many wallet-draining products on display. The Launch Bay also offers D-Tech on-demand cases and customized MagicBands. The biggest buzz amongst many of the Media Day visitors was the light saber umbrella (unfortunately, I did not get a great photo of it during my time in the Launch Bay, so I will have to get a photo for you in a future Update).
Adrienne's caution from the Disneyland Season of the Force Update applies equally here: "While many of these items are Disney exclusives, it's worth comparing prices before you buy."
Exiting the Launch Bay, the Animation Courtyard is also where you may spot Storm Troopers of the First Order from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In this area, and elsewhere throughout the Park, you will also see banners in the colors of the Light and Dark sides of the Force.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie posters decorate the Animation Courtyard. Banners like that shown here with the colors of the Light and Dark sides decorate areas near Star Wars attractions throughout the park. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi
This ten minute video is a primer for those new to the Star Wars saga, and provides some background and context for the rest of the attractions. Dedicated Star Wars fans can safely skip this, unless you want a powerful dose of John Williams music or you want to see scenes from the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is a ten minute film showing in the ABC Sound Studio recapping the major character stories from the previous six Star Wars movies and including footage from the trailer for The Force Awakens. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is presented in the ABC Sound Studio next to the Hyperion Theater (home of the Frozen Sing-along) in the Echo Lake area of the Park. No closing date has been set for this attraction, though the ABC Sound Studio recently has been used for extended previews of other Disney releases like "We Love Disney," Cinderella, and the Animated Shorts.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
A few weeks ago, we reported that a new scene was added to Star Tours, featuring characters and a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is considered a new "Star Wars Experience" and, until some as-yet-reported dated in the future, each ride on Star Tours will include the new scene. Eventually it will become part of the random rotation. Disney Parks representatives speaking to the Media Day Event left open the possibility of additional new scenes coming in the future as well (which is a safer bet in coming years than it was in the more than twenty years after that was said about the original version of Star Tours).
Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
Immediately next door to Star Tours is the newly re-launched Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show, complete with a new set, new characters, and a surprise "villain" encounter. As was true of the prior Jedi Training Academy, this is a show designed to train kids in the ways of the Force (and, when asked, Disney Parks representatives made clear that there is no plan to offer Jedi Training to adults). Jedi Trainees are taught to face their fears and face off against Darth Vader and Seventh Sister, Inquisitor of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars Rebels. If you want to avoid spoilers, please skip the highlights video.
Star Wars Experiences Food & Beverages
The food department's headliner items are two new jumbo ($5.99 plus tax) cupcakes that join the existing classic Darth Vader (chocolate and peanut butter): Chewbacca (German chocolate and coconut), and BB-8 (lemon and butter cream). The foods team also introduced some new Star Wars-themed items at Backlot Express (next door to Star Tours) and several new souvenir items.
Three Star Wars themed cupcakes have been introduced as part of the roll out of the newest Star Wars Experiences. Each is $5.99 plus tax and can be found at a few locations around the park. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The Star Wars Experiences are certainly attracting visitors to Disney's Hollywood Studios, but the biggest draw at that park isn't a new attraction at all—it's the final season for a soon-to-close tradition. With the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in its final days, reports of parking troubles and large in-park crowds are becoming common topics on social media.
In recent days, visitors arriving at Disney's Hollywood Studios by car report being redirected to park at Epcot—even those who arrive well before dark. From there, visitors board a Resort Transportation bus to the Studios park. The more adventurous can opt to walk to Hollywood Studios from Epcot, a 2-mile jaunt that takes you through Epcot and Disney's Boardwalk Resort on the way to the Studio's front gate.
Once inside the park, you may find that you need to wait in line just to enter New York Street to see the Osborne lights. The problem will only get worse as holiday visitors arrive to say farewell to the lights one last time. Those planning to see the lights this year should make it a point to go as early into their trip as possible, and leave plenty of time for transportation.
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The Three Caballeros animatronics from the Magic Kingdom's Mickey Mouse Revue attraction have finally returned to Walt Disney World, and have been installed in a new finale scene for the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at Epcot.
An article by D23 explains that the animatronics of Panchito, José Carioca, and Donald Duck were sent to Japan when the Mickey Mouse Revue show moved from Walt Disney World to Tokyo Disneyland. After the show closed in Japan in 2009, the figures returned to the United States and the Walt Disney Archives.
Three animatronic Caballeros that were originally part of Magic Kingdom's Mickey Mouse Revue from the Park's 1971 opening until 1980 and then were part of that show at Tokyo Disneyland have replaced a video of The Three Caballeros in the finale of Gran Fiesta Tour at Epcot's Mexico pavilion. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The figures are rumored to have been intended to be used in the final scene of the the Gran Fiesta Tour when it opened in 2007, but were instead replaced by an animated sequence due to budget cuts. You can see the three amigos in their new home in the video below by contributing photographer Alan Dalinka.
...Now that Epcot's Canadian Lumberjacks show has been replaced with the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs for the Holidays Around the World event, the pond used for their log roling demonstration has been removed.
…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.
"Do more. Wait less."
- 2015 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – December 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 18. As of publication, all nights except December 18 are still available.
- 2015 Epcot Candlelight Processional – November 27 to December 30. Performances are at 5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. nightly, with the exception of December 6.
- Holidays Around the World at Epcot – November 27 to December 30
- DVC Merry Member Mixers – December 14 and 22. DVC members and their guests can attend special holiday mixers in Epcot throughout the season. The free events include character meet-and-greets, live entertainment, crafts, and refreshments. They are hosted from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the World Showcase at Epcot (entrance is between the Canada and United Kingdom Pavilions). Members do not need tickets or advance reservations, and can bring up to 6 guests per membership card.
- Star Wars Experiences / Season of the Force – December 1, 2015 to March 20, 2016 (tentative end date)
- 2016 Flower & Garden Festival – March 2-May 30, 2016
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.
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 6-10, 2016. Most events are sold out. Registration is still open for the runDisney Kids Races. The deadline to submit proof of time for these events has passed.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 18-21, 2016. All races are sold out. The deadline to submit proof of time for these events has passed.
- Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Weekend – April 14-17, 2016. The 10K and Dark Side Challenge are sold out. Registration is still open for the half marathon, 5K and runDisney Kids Races. Proof of Time must be provided between October 27, 2015, and January 19, 2016.
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 3-4, 2016. Pre-sale begins March 8, 2016. General registration opens March 15, 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.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority – closed December 7-10 for refurbishment.
- Splash Mountain – closed January 10-15 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.
- The Sum of All Thrills – closed November 30 through December 4 for refurbishment.
- Magic Eye Theater – Captain EO permanently closed on December 6. Will be replaced by Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival sometime in December.
- Soarin' will halt service as of January 4, 2016. The ride will reopen sometime in "summer of 2016" as Soarin' Around the World, with a new ride film
- 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. Part of the space has been converted to the Star Wars Launch Bay.
- Pizza Planet restaurant – closes January 11 for refurbishment. Reopening date TBD.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- None currently scheduled
- Entire park closed from October 25, 2015 to January 3, 2016 for refurbishment
- Entire park closed from January 3 to March 13, 2016 for refurbishment.
- 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.
- Disney Springs Bridge 4 and restrooms on Pleasure Island – temporarily closed for ongoing construction work.
- Disney Springs Lots A-G – closed through August 1, 2016.
- Disney Springs Lots H, I, J, and K (in Westside area) – closed until further notice for 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.
- 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 to September 30, 2016 for refurbishment.
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Villas – Hidden Springs pool, resort beach, playground, and Recreation fire pit closed October 26, 2015. No opening date provided, but the pool is expected to be closed through 2017. Expect construction-related closures and noise due to construction of the as-yet-unannounced Disney Vacation Club cabins.
- 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
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
2014-2015 Military Salute – 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.
2016 Military Salute – 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket discount
From September 25, 2015 through December 16, 2016, active and retired U.S. military personnel (including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists) or their spouses can purchase:
Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 3, 2016, through December 19, 2016, except that the tickets may not be used March 20, 2016 April 1, 2016.
2016 Military Salute – Hotel discount
Disney does not publish the actual discounted rates offered to service members under this program, and instead asks eligible U.S. military personnel to call 407-939-7830 to check pricing, availability and to make reservations. The website Military Disney Tips.com says the offer is 30-40%, based on room category.
Discounts for Florida Residents
Cirque du Soliel's La Nouba is offering a Florida resident discount through December 18. Tickets prices range from $49 to $89.
Discounts for Canada Residents
None at this time.
Discounts for U.K. Residents
None at this time
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