Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 22-28, 2015by Stephanie Wien, contributing writer
Update for December 22-28, 2015
New Security Measures in Place at Theme Parks | Skipper Canteen Opens in Magic Kingdom | Memory Maker Photo Package Price Reduction | Port Orleans Holiday Dining | Sunset Showcase Opens | Views From Around the World | This and That | Crowd Forecast
When rumors began circulating online last Wednesday about imminent changes to Disney's security practices, some were so farfetched as to make the whole discussion seem to be a fantasy: Disney was installing metal detectors at park entrances overnight… Costumes and toy weapons would be banned from the parks… Toy guns—even bubble blowers—would be pulled from store shelves… The shooting galleries would be closed, along with the Buzz Lightyear and Midway Mania attractions… The Pirates of the Caribbean would see their guns and pistols replaced with non-ballistic weapons… Lightsabers would be banned…
It was impossible to determine which, if any, of the rumors were likely or true, and Disney remained strangely silent on the topic, not replying to multiple requests for comment. As the parks closed Wednesday night, the online Disney community settled into watch-and-see mode.
Thursday morning, the West Coast awoke to reports and photos from Walt Disney World, showing that the resort had indeed added metal detectors to the bag check screening checkpoints outside its theme parks. For a short while, it seemed that this was going to be a Florida-only policy change, but then word came that metal detectors were also being installed at the Disneyland Resort, which had not yet opened for the day.
The websites of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World were updated with a new set of guidelines for guests, including new restrictions on costumes and toy weapons. New signs were posted outside the theme parks to alert visitors coming in for the day, and Walt Disney World Resort hotels even took the extra step of alerting resort hotel guests to the changes via voice mail messages left in all hotel rooms.
Predictably, the first few hours were filled with loads of questions, confusion, and even more rumors. A Disney representative contacted MousePlanet to discuss the changes, and we did our part to help spread the word and quash the rumors. If you missed all of this last week, here's what you need to know about the new normal at the Walt Disney World Resort:
New guest screening process
Disney is currently using an outside company to conduct secondary screening of "randomly selected" visitors after they pass through the bag check tents at all theme park entrances. A pair of metal detectors is in place next to each checkpoint, staffed by this outside security firm.
Visitors are randomly selected for secondary screening after they pass through bag check. Those selected must remove backpacks or purses, empty their pockets, and pass through a metal detector. Visitors who set off the detector are screened again with a handheld metal detector wand.
Disney would not discuss how guests would be randomly selected for this secondary screening. There is no option to opt out of this screening, but guests who object will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Visitors will also see a heightened police dog presence at the main entrances, as Disney deploys specially trained "vapor wake" dogs to detect explosives that might be worn on the body or concealed in baggage.
Effective immediately, all toy weapons are banned from Disney property, and are no longer sold in stores. This applies to realistic and fantasy guns, including Star Wars Blasters, Buzz Lightyear Blasters, and even bubble guns. Anything that looks like a gun has been pulled from shelves, including a miniature Buzz Lightyear Blaster keychain.
The ban does not impact lightsabers, toy swords, or toy bow-and-arrow sets, all of which are still sold in the parks.
Disney has restated the policy prohibiting adults from wearing costumes, but now allows children up to 14 years old to wear them (the previous policy allowed costumes only on children until age 9). While "no adults in costume" is not a new rule, enforcement was somewhat random, and had been relaxed during the Season of the Force promotion to allow adults to wear Star Wars costumes. Disney has reversed that decision, and once again prohibits older Stormtroopers from wearing their gear inside the parks.
A Disney spokesperson said there were no known exceptions to this policy, which raises questions about the Halloween parties. In the past, Disney allowed adults to wear costumes during these events. Much can change between now and Halloween, but for now, this Disney policy is in effect 365 days a year.
No attraction changes
Disney says there are no plans to make any changes to remove depictions of weapons from attractions, like pistols in Pirates of the Caribbean; to remove the Blasters from the Buzz Lightyear attraction; or to close the shooting galleries.
Security, or security theater?
With the tragedy of the San Bernardino shootings so recent and so close to Disneyland, most visitors seem willing to put up with a little inconvenience for the sake of security, and three incidents in the past year have shown the flaws in Disney's current screening system.
In July, a convicted felon was arrested after bringing a loaded handgun into the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. He made it through bag check, but was spotted by a security officer in the esplanade. Two weeks ago, another man was arrested after trying to bring a loaded handgun into the Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. Again, he made it through bag check, but the screener alerted an officer, who detained the man before he could enter the park.
And of course, there was the visitor who accidentally dropped a loaded pistol while riding the Dinosaur ride in Florida's Animal Kingdom park, where it was discovered by the next passengers on that ride. That person—a concealed carry permit holder—made it through bag check and into the parks. Just last month, the topic of carrying concealed weapons came up on the OC Moms Disneyland Annual Pass Holders Facebook group, with two of its members stating that they frequently carried their weapons when visiting Disneyland.
Managers of theme parks like Disneyland—as well as Universal Studios and Sea World, which also enhanced security measures last week—face a delicate balancing act when it comes to guest safety. There is no doubt that these places present a highly visible target, and are attractive to people looking to make a statement. Do too little, and they open their parks to attack. Do too much, and their resorts gain a "Magic Mountain" reputation (known for high security), and make parents second-guess their choice to bring their family for the day.
Still, we have to ask: Is all just security theater, or is this just the beginning? Searches of "randomly selected" individuals are rife for complaints about profiling (especially when reasons and triggers are not made public), and still only screen a fraction of the people entering the parks. To truly prevent guests from carrying weapons or explosives into the theme parks, Disney would need to put everyone through airport-style screening, a system that would require a massive infrastructure Disney hasn't built.
Such a screening would also require a change in the way people visit a Disney theme park. Sporting venues and concert halls are able to screen thousands of people in a relatively short time because those people aren't bringing (or allowed to bring) in a day's worth of spare clothing, hauling snack-filled backpacks or pushing double-wide strollers. When a measurable percentage of park visitors can't even fold their strollers to board the tram, how are they going to get themselves and their gear through a TSA-style screening?
What about screening cast members, vendors, contractors, and the thousands of people who have backstage access? Beyond that, what about the outside world? The Disneyland Resort does not exist inside a bubble or under a dome, and is surrounded on all sides by the real world.
This temporary solution is preferable to doing nothing, but won't stop a determined attacker. An effective screening might be more hassle than Disney visitors are willing to tolerate. For now, the best defense continues to be situational awareness. And unfortunately, that is our new normal.
After much anticipation, the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd. Skipper Canteen has finally opened in the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant opened on Sunday, December 13, earlier than anticipated and catching many by surprise. The restaurant is themed as the Jungle Cruise's former headquarters that has now been turned into a restaurant, and has three separate seating areas. The former mess hall is the largest of these seating areas, and the first you enter from the waiting area.
Portraits of Dr. Albert Falls, founder of the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd., and his grand daughter, the proprietor of the Skipper Canteen, Alberta hang on the wall of one of the restaurant's waiting areas. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The largest room of the Skipper Canteen is the mess hall which, as legend has it, is where the Jungle Cruise skippers took their meals before the proprietor, Alberta Falls, decided to open a full-service restaurant. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The two other rooms are toward the rear of the restaurant: the Falls Family Room and the former meeting room of Society of Explorers and Adventurers. These rooms are more intimate, with lower ceilings and warm wood paneling. All of the rooms contain an array of artifacts in display cases, and it's worth taking a little walk around to check out the details if you're there for a meal. There are some particularly interesting items on a bulletin board near the entrance to the mess hall, including a note addressed to Rosita, the missing Tiki Room bird.
Signage from the (fictional) history of the Jungle Cruise Navigation Co. Ltd. hangs throughout the Skipper Canteen and the hosts, waitstaff, and menu all provide additional details to guests. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The restaurant does not offer alcoholic beverages, but does have non-alcoholic signature drinks. It also serves two "exotic" Coca-Cola flavors: Guarana Kuat from Brazil, and Fanta Melon Frosty from Thailand.
MousePlanet staff writer Stephanie Wien was in the park that day and was able to try out some of the items on the menu. Before the appetizers arrived, the server brought warm bread with a honey dipping sauce on the side. For starters, the party selected hot and sour soup , which was pleasantly spicy, and the house-made arepas served with warm corn cakes and rich ropa vieja (slow-cooked beef).
The menu offers a wide variety of main course options, including seafood and vegetarian options. The char siu pork was tender and flavorful, but the side of Chinese broccoli was somewhat lacking in seasoning. One member of the party found it to be bitter. The party also ordered "Tastes like chicken," which was served with a delicious shiitake mushroom fried rice.
The restaurant is not currently taking reservations at this time, and plans to remain walk-up only, at least through January. Diners may leave a mobile number on arrival, and will receive a text message when their table is ready. This new option provides flexibility to walk and explore if wait times are long.
If you've dined at the Canteen, share your thoughts on our MousePad message board.
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Prices for Disney's Memory Maker photo packages have been reduced for both pre-purchased and standard products. Pre-purchased packages (paid for at least three days prior to photo dates) have dropped from $169 down to $149, and standard packages have been reduced from $199 down to $169. These prices are a return to the pricing that was in place before the increase a year ago in December 2014.
Memory Maker packages provide unlimited digital downloads of images taken by Photopass photographers in the parks as well as select on-ride and character photos. Guests who pre-purchased at the previously higher price will receive a $20 credit back from Disney.
Fans of Port Orleans Resort's former table service restaurant Bonfamille's will be happy to learn that the resort has opened up the former space for a limited holiday dining option. Scat Cat's Cafe offers a family-style menu of Cajun and Creole cuisine from noon to 10 p.m. daily for $25.99 per adult ($14.99 per child). You must make your reservation at the restaurant podium in person. The menu includes:
- House salad
- Corn bread
- Grilled Andouille sausage
- Cajun-roasted chicken
- Pot roast
- Vegetable jambalaya
- Maque choux
- Mashed potatoes
- Collard greens
- Mac and cheese
- Bread pudding with banana-caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Although it was built to house a permanent location for the shop associated with the now-discontinued Star Wars Weekends, the Sunset Showcase building is still being put to use as a character dance party location. The building is located behind Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and currently houses Club Disney, a DJ-led dance party featuring classic characters such as Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.
Inside Sunset Showcase at Disney's Hollywood Studios currently is Club Disney, a DJ-led party featuring opportunities to dance with some of the classic characters surrounded by video screens. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Club Disney inside Sunset Showcase at Disney's Hollywood Studios also offers guests the opportunity to play with large digital coloring screens, which appear to use very similar technology to that used in the recently opened Glidden Colortopia exhibit at Epcot's Innoventions. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
There are some benches for adults to rest, cool off, and escape from the heat for a little while as kids dance around and burn off some energy.
Contributing photographer Alan Dalinka shares images from around Walt Disney World.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Miniature sample lightsaber umbrellas are displayed in Launch Bay Cargo at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The full-sized umbrellas that are available for sale are $64.95 plus tax. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The immense scope of Pandora: The World of AVATAR coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom is visible when construction workers stand on the supports of the recently installed "floating" mountains. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
New artwork for Pandora: The World of AVATAR is now on the construction wall on the path next to Pizzafari which will lead to the new land. Just beyond the wall, the recently announced Tiffins Signature Restaurant continues progressing toward its 2016 opening. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Projectors like those used in Disney California Adventure's World of Color show have been installed around the area of Discovery River that will be home to Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
While the DVC leadership acknowledges the proposed expansion project at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (some of which can be seen here in the wooded area next to the resort), no details have yet been provided, as the necessary filings with regulatory authorities that permit marketing of timeshares has not been completed. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The fire pit and beach area as well as a large area of the Bay Lake lakefront are fenced off at Disney's Wilderness Lodge during construction of what eventually will become additional DVC units at the resort. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
...The Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special has returned to the Premier Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios with six shows daily through January 3, 2016.
Quite a few cast members who originally performed in the Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island (before its 2008 closing) perform in this year's Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special in the Premier Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
…Recent updates to the My Disney Experience app include the addition of a one day Memory Maker Photopass purchase for $59 from within the app paired with a more prominent placement of Photopass pictures within the app itself (now just below the Fastpass+ reservations section). Users may also now change their PIN for MagicBand charges from within the app.
…Baymax from Big Hero Six has returned as a meet-and-greet character, and now appears at Epcot's Innoventions West across from the Character Spot entrance.
…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 Epcot Candlelight Processional – November 27 – 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 – December 30
- DVC Merry Member Mixers – December 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 – 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. You must submit proof of time no later than 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.
- 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 – February 11 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed January 18–22 for refurbishment.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed April 4 – July 15 for refurbishment.
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – closed July 7 – September 24 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed August 15–21 for refurbishment.
- "it's a small world" – closed August 22 – 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 – permanently closed for construction of Frozen Ever After attraction. New ride expected to open May, 2016.
- Magic Eye Theater – Captain EO permanently closed. Will be replaced by Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival sometime in December.
- Soarin' closes January 4, 2016; reopens 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 through January 3, 2016 for refurbishment
- Entire park closed January 3 – March 13, 2016 for refurbishment.
- Fulton's Crab House – closed January 1 – April 1, 2016 for refurbishment.
- Planet Hollywood – closed January 1 – 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 – September 30, 2016 for refurbishment.
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Villas – Hidden Springs pool, resort beach, playground, and Recreation fire pit closed. 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 $169 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 $149, a $20 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
2016 Military Salute – 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket discount
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 through December 19, 2016, except that the tickets may not be used March 20, 2016 April 1, 2016.
Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. No more than six Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or spouse) pursuant to this offer. All tickets and options are non-transferable and must be used by December 19, 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 Soleil'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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