Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 31 - June 5, 2017by Alan S. Dalinka, contributing writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 31 – June 5, 2017
Writer's note: As David Letterman used to say, "My, oh my, we're having some fun now!" I even mean it more sincerely than he often did.
Even with all the attention focused on the global press events last Tuesday through Thursday (and we will get to them below), Walt Disney World still managed to pull off two surprises on Friday after the scheduled hoopla. First up was the surprising (even if somewhat predictable) soft opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar on Friday for a number of daytime hours ahead of Saturday's official opening. It was neither announced nor spread widely (if at all) across social media ahead of time. MousePlanet's Bonnie and Donald Fink made it over in time to visit Pandora and shared some video that is included below.
Later on Friday, the second surprise also came up while I was walking in Disney's Hollywood Studios after enjoying the first "Music of Pixar Live! A Symphony of Characters" concert. In the early evening, a park-wide announcement told guests that at 9 p.m. there would be a surprise debut of the brand new nightly projection show on the Chinese Theater facade at Disney's Hollywood Studios named, "Disney Movie Magic: A Celebration of Disney Live Action Films." While there had been some vague rumors that a projection show of some sort was in the works, we had no idea a show was imminent, let alone ready to debut. I already had plans to take advantage of a rare opportunity to see the new "Happily Ever After" Magic Kingdom fireworks from Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort on Friday, but, I did get to see "Disney Movie Magic" on Saturday night and again on Monday night. We believe that the show will run at least through the summer and possibly beyond, but have not yet been able to find or get official word from Disney. We will share that information with you when we get it.
Disney spokespeople often say that the company strives to "surprise and delight" the guests and, at least for me this past week, mission accomplished; that's no easy task. Now, on with the Update. With all the News and Views this week, I'm saving my next One Passholder Tip until next week, and it's based on an almost awful experience I had that was caused by another guest during that brief time between hearing about the debut of "Disney Movie Magic" and arriving over at Bay Lake Tower for my rare visit to Top of the World Lounge.
Pandora – The World of Avatar: Now Open | The Music of Pixar Live! A Symphony of Characters: Three Times Nightly this Summer | Surprise! "Disney Movie Magic: A Celebration of Disney Live Action Films" Debuted | Views around the World (with a bit of extra commentary) | This and That | Crowd Forecast
Writer's note (yes, another one): Because this is the first really big opening at Walt Disney World since I have become the MousePlanet Updater—indeed, since New Fantasyland several years ago—and, I am hoping to be around for, at least, the next two big ones (Star Wars Land, opening 2019, and Toy Story Land, opening TBA but likely before Star Wars and, hopefully, not simultaneously), I have attempted to organize this section with jump links right to a portion that helps get you up to speed depending on how much of our prior coverage around MousePlanet, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram you have already seen and I have embedded "Twitter Moments" that contain many of the photos, videos, and observations of the dedication and opening days. Of course, feel free to enjoy it all (just as I have). If you have suggestions on revising this format for the future, I would love to hear from you, especially since we know there will be more to come.
As Disney's Animal Kingdom Park Vice President Djuan L. Rivers told me, Pandora–The World of Avatar is the "capstone" of the multi-year expansion effort to grow a full day and night experience for guests in the park. It follows last year's introduction of the nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, new musical acts, and Tree of Life Awakenings, and earlier this year's (long-delayed) introduction of Rivers of Light nighttime shows on Discovery River. Certainly, there is now more to do and see throughout the day at the park than ever before.
As we discussed last week (and you can go read that Update for more of this sort of detail), unless you have avoided all mass media coverage (including ours), you are probably aware that Pandora–The World of Avatar made its official debut on Saturday, May 27, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Six years from announcement to completion, the whole new land which occupies more than 12 acres, including the footprint of the former Camp Minnie-Mickey area of the park, is based on the fictional off-Earth setting of filmmaker James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster film Avatar.
As the story goes, when you visit Pandora, you are journeying more than 4.4 lightyears to an Earthlike moon inhabited by the native Na'vi people (the blue, larger than human characters that populate the two attractions but do not otherwise roam around the land), lots of other interesting creatures and plantlife, expatriated Earthlings and Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) scientists and researchers.
Set in a time period generations after the conflict depicted in the film, and designed by Walt Disney Imagineering under the creative direction of Joe Rohde, and by Lightstorm Entertainment with Avatar filmmakers Cameron and Jon Landau consulting, the highly-themed new land includes two brand new attractions: Na'vi River Journey, a gentle, family-friendly boat ride showing the many (mostly friendly and never menacing) lifeforms of Pandora, including what the imagineers on hand for the opening agreed is the most advanced animatronic character ever created; and Avatar Flight of Passage, a simulated ride aboard a banshee using some of the latest in theme park technology and effects to create very realistic physical sensations from a motion simulator, wind, water, and scents. As all of the creative team members that I met told me, of course, the attractions are not about the technology but, rather, use whatever technology they believe best tells the stories of the attractions.
Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde is the leading creative force behind Pandora and all of Disney's Animal Kingdom, as well as many other projects, including Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, in Ko Olina, Hawaii where I visited just weeks before seeing Pandora for the first time. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
To celebrate and promote the opening of the new land, there is a special iTunes offer for the film underway as well (apparently for the U.S. store only, but if you see it elsewhere, please let us know). The Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition is available on iTunes for $7.99 (regularly $19.99) through June 5 (note: some jurisdictions charge sales tax on digital purchases). The Extended Collector’s Edition includes an exclusive behind the scenes look inside the land as well as interviews with the creative team behind the film. It also includes three versions of the film, including a family-friendly audio version, plus over 45 minutes of never-before-seen footage, the exclusive alternate opening on Earth, The Art of Avatar, and more. Visit apple.co/Avatar for the limited time offer.
Though the weather forecast had been threatening severe storms, with the global press assembled, on May 24, the park held a dedication ceremony near the "floating" mountains that are the focal centerpiece (or in the language often attributed to Walt Disney, "the weenie") of the newest addition to Disney's Animal Kingdom. As if on cue, the sun shone brightly on Bob Iger, Disney's Chairman and CEO, exactly when he took the stage along with filmmaker Cameron (who Iger verbally, and somewhat jokingly, wished was also a Disney Imagineer because of his ability to turn his dreams into films) in saluting Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, Avatar Producer Jon Landau, and the rest of the creative team in their transformation of the imagery of the film into the reality of the new land and guest experience. The creative team were also joined on stage by many members of the original cast of the film.
The sun shone on the brief dedication ceremony on May 24, 2017, featuring Bob Iger, James Cameron and several members of the cast of the original film. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Both Rohde and Landau could be spotted all morning and into the afternoon all over their newly realized vision. As if the team did it themselves, the bad weather even held off until very late in the afternoon.
Throughout all the previews leading up to the dedication, very few folks were invited into Pandora at night. Again, as if Disney actually could control the weather, just after sunset on the evening of May 24, under beautiful nighttime skies, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, along with Jon Landau held a special celebration of the new land in the plaza in front of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life.
As the darkness of night set in, Chapek introduced a special (one-time-only) Tree of Life Awakening (projection) show, which also featured the showdrones last seen publicly at Walt Disney World during the winter holiday season over Village Lake at Disney Springs.
Showdrones fly over Tree of Life following a brief ceremony led by Disney's Bob Chapek. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
After the drones had safely landed, the press and invited guests were allowed into the new land for what really is an entirely different looking place at night, filled with the sort of bioluminescent life shown in the film. Despite the fact that Rohde needed to be on a plane out to Anaheim for the festivities there that Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix and Todd Pickering covered yesterday for MousePlanet, he and Jon Landau could be found all over the land during much of the night as well.
The orange-colored light pollution of Central Florida reflecting off of clouds in the night sky provided an excellent backdrop for photographing the other-worldly look of the floating mountains of Pandora at night. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Join me on my first walk through Pandora at night as I encounter Joe Rohde and Jon Landau, browse Windtraders (the shop), and attempt to answer a few of the Periscope questions from our Live viewers. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
You can recap the full day and night, including my many photos and videos via this Twitter Moment: Pandora-The World of Avatar: Dedication Day & Night Events .
On Thursday, George Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World, announced that the company had invited 1,500 members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida for a special sneak peek of Pandora, on Friday, the day before its official opening. What neither he nor any other official source announced (let alone, surprisingly, many of the usual unofficial places on social media): Friday morning and early afternoon, Pandora held an unannounced "soft" opening for the public visiting the park. MousePlanet's Donald & Bonnie Fink were close enough to be fortunate to visit for some of the few hours the land was open. Pandora was then cleared of the public for the special event for the Boys & Girls Clubs to enjoy before Saturday's official opening.
During the soft opening, Donald and Bonnie Fink saw a full performance of the expat drummers near the floating mountains. The expats now perform on the drums several times throughout each day. Video by Donald and Bonnie Fink.
With the park's official transformation into a full-day park designed to coincide with the opening of Pandora, the park's operating hours reflected that on May 27: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Resort guests had the privilege of the Extra Magic hour, early opening of the park, including Pandora, at 7 a.m. Social media is replete with accounts of folks arriving well before that. Personally, with a DVC room reservation, I drove into the parking lot as the sun rose over the eastern tree line about 6:45 a.m. I live-tweeted throughout the day, and you can see that all again, complete with lots of photos and some video (plus some of my views of Disney's Hollywood Studios later in the day) in this Twitter Moment: Pandora-The World of Avatar Opening Day & More
Resort guests can also enjoy "Extra" Extra Magic Hours at Pandora (and selected other parts of Disney's Animal Kingdom) through July 4. In theory, that could get extended if demand warrants it. We will keep an eye out for that.
If you read through the whole of the Twitter Moment from opening day embedded above, you will see the flavor of that day, as expected, was one filled with crowds and queues alongside the striking beauty of Pandora. Disney sticks to its tradition of not releasing park attendance numbers, but it was, almost certainly, the most attended day at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the 18 year history of the park—its operating day was officially longer than it had ever been.
My experience getting into the park saw the touchpoints at the gates intermittently shut down. Immediately after I entered around 7 a.m., a lead told the cast member working all of the touchpoints in my area to stop admissions. The reason for this was clear within a relatively short period of time as the crowd slowly moved forward: it wasn't that the park was full, it was that the cast members re-scanning MagicBands and Resort ID Cards up the pathway toward Discovery Island could not do so fast enough to keep the rather small area just inside the park gates from filling.
Once I cleared the secondary MagicBand scan to prove I was a resort guest on opening day, the pathway over the bridge to Discovery Island all the way to the Tree of Life was clear. However, since I wanted to enter Pandora, I had to join the extended Pandora entry queue located immediately to my left in front of Discovery Island Mercantile. From there until I was "pulsed" into Pandora took nearly 50 minutes. Inside Pandora, as I tweeted, I joined a very short PhotoPass queue because, as I expected, the attraction queues already approached 2-hour wait times. I then visited Satu'li Canteen to purchase and sample breakfast. Since most folks in the land were interested in exploring for the first time or heading to the attractions which I had the benefit of previews to experience and explore more times than I will admit here, the breakfast order and pickup were quick (and I liked the food I ordered which you can see in the Twitter Moment).
I spent the rest of my several hour opening day visit to Pandora taking in the crowds and how they were interacting with the new land. The PhotoPass location where I was able to get the "Magic Shot" with the banshee soaring above the floating mountains saw its photographer removed because queues for both attractions and the Windtraders retail shop (with an estimated wait to enter at over an hour) all passed through that spot.
All of the above leads to these observations about the park's efforts to control the crowd. During the hours I spent in the land on opening day, the cast members working crowd control did an excellent job keeping things flowing. I never felt over-crowding in any corner of the land I wanted to re-explore, though some areas that had been open pathways during previewswere now closed off by chains containing queues for attractions or Windtraders. As I noted before I entered the land, plenty of free water and cups were available to keep guests well-hydrated in the increasingly hot Florida sun and, as you can see in the Twitter Moment, the queue was somewhat naturally shaded plus had additional shade umbrellas along the way.
The biggest criticism I can levy at the crowd control is that the park officials would not tell us during the press events what to communicate (and the park did not communicate in advance) about how the sizable crowd would be handled. That meant that the obvious questions like, "What if I can't get in to Pandora by the time of my Fastpass reservation?" or "How do I set a return time for Disability Access?" were answered on the fly (and repeatedly so) by the front line cast members despite the fact that, as the day progressed, it was pretty clear that the park officials thought through these contingencies. As I tweeted as I learned the answers during the day: folks with Fastpass reservations could enter the land from a separate queue near Tiffins restaurant as their ride time approached; Disability Pass guests also had a separate queue. The secondary entrance to Pandora over by the restrooms in Harambe past the Festival of the Lion King theater was converted to Pandora-exit only (complete with pre-printed and clearly Imagineering-designed themed signage).
We were able to address a great deal of questions about the Flight of Passage restraints during the previews. The test chair which was not present during Passholder previews was present, along with cast members trained to assist guests and demonstrate its use. Contrary to rumors, park officials did tell us that at this time, all of the seats on the ride are designed the same: they all have the same restraints and they all have the same range of movement; contrary to rumors, there are no "stationary" seats and, at this time, there is no plan to create the Mission: Space equivalent of a "Green" adventure (let alone the Disneyland Subs video room) where a guest sees the video without fully experiencing the adventure and its full range of motion. I will say this based on my experience during the press previews in particular, I did physically "learn" to ride the attraction by repeated rides, just like I did when I was a kid learning to ride a horse or bike, giving me a greater freedom to take in the visual wonders presented on the Flight. Fastpass scarcity and queue time, however, do mean that it will probably be a very long time before I will get to ride multiple times in the same day again (if ever).
If you have more questions about accessing the attractions after reading our coverage, please email them to me and I will answer those I can, and I will pass along appropriate questions to my contacts for future publication. Please keep in mind, like all of us at MousePlanet, I am always just an independent guest on their property, even when an invited member of the press corps, and I will just be a messenger.
Other than the lines and access issues, the biggest complaints I heard on opening day were due to the scarcity and process that was used to sell the "rare" opening day merchandise. You may have discerned from my articles and Updates by now that collectibles and merchandise are not a significant part of my focus when visiting Walt Disney World, but I am aware that many of you are very interested in such things. From what I could tell, different messages were communicated at different times by different folks connected to Disney Parks with regard to where the first-day-only merchandise would be sold (some said Riverside Depot near Tree of Life, some said only Windtraders inside Pandora) and then, after conflicting information was given to different guests, some wristbands were distributed to other guests whose "priority" then prevented other guests from purchasing desired merchandise before it was all sold out. Again, I had no first-hand experience with these problems but, like the apparent unwillingness to share crowd-control messages in advance with respect to entering Pandora, there may not have been clear advance messaging about merchandise sales either.
My bottom line comments about Pandora: it is going to be busy for awhile, maybe even a long while. Crowd forecasts, even from our friends and advertisers, rely on historical data; Pandora is a game changing variable for attendance at least in the short term and, I believe, in the long term too. Whether it is just a shift or brings in new guests, time will tell. In the meantime, please remain patient and remember that not every attraction in any park appeals to or accommodates each and every guest. That same message is at the root of next week's One Passholder's Tip.
The little park that will be next to witness explosive growth is Disney's Hollywood Studios. Right now, as you probably know, it is full of construction walls and dead ends. Earlier this spring, we reported on Disney's announcement that Disney's Hollywood Studios would host a limited run of concert events featuring the music from the soundtracks of Pixar Animation Studios' films performed by a live orchestra. On Friday evening, the "Music of Pixar Live! A Symphony of Characters" debuted to a full house at the Park's Theater of the Stars, which remains the daytime home of Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. This show is not mere "filler" in a park struggling to find guests something to do; it is a well-conceived, beautiful performance by a full professional orchestra accompanied by Pixar animation and its much loved characters.
The three times nightly, 45 minute concerts each feature the full orchestra (many members of which regularly perform in Epcot's Candlelight Processional) performing portions of the scores from Up, The Incredibles, the Toy Story films, the Cars films, as well as Finding Nemo/Finding Dory and Monsters Inc./Monsters University while animated scenes from the movies are shown on three large video screens. The orchestra performances are interspersed with video segments from the Pixar filmmakers such as John Lasseter and Pete Docter, the music composers including Randy Newman and Michael Giacchino, and behind the scenes clips. Pixar characters also appear "live" in the theater during the show. The show closes with a sing-along to "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story.
As you can see briefly in our video, there is a fun pre-show performed by some of the Green Army Men interacting with the audience, so you may want to be seated at least fifteen minutes before published show time. Immediately after the first concert, I posted a quick review on our Facebook page and after attending a second concert on Monday night, I think it sums up my view of this new special but temporary show.
As a one time symphonic musician myself, the sound of this show in the outdoor theater is remarkably good. It's a fun and touching concert that mixes some of the most emotional scores from the Pixar library with some light comical moments on screen and with favorite characters. The show might be a tad too long for little kids and those with otherwise limited music appreciation, but the brand new padding on the seats could help those folks.
Hopefully, the new seat padding I mentioned holds up to the Central Florida weather and does not get too badly abused (or just worn) by guests through the three month concert run. Music and/or Pixar fans (both of which I am) will want to experience this concert more than once if their schedule permits, but do not feel you need to go out of your way to do so, as each concert features the same music, video and character moments. Preferred seating for concerts is available for dining package purchasers. Call (407) WDW-DINE for more information and reservations
Pixar-themed specialty beverages are available for purchase on your way in. Pixar merchandise fills the nearby Redcar Trolley kiosk and the kiosk immediately outside the theater in front of the adjacent Carthay Circle Theater building's Once Upon a Time Store.
Concerts are currently scheduled at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m., but are expected to vary based on park hours during their scheduled run through August 27. Be sure to check a Times Guide or My Disney Experience for the latest schedule. While the stage and seating area are covered, it is an outdoor venue, and severe weather may alter scheduled showtimes or result in cancellations.
Interestingly, I have received Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts Research Survey emails following my concert attendance that say that Survey Cast "believe" that I attended. While I was wearing my MagicBand 2 during both concerts, I never was scanned by a cast member or a fixed touchpoint in connection with attending. That means that, in all likelihood, Walt Disney World is actively using the MagicBand's longer-range radio transmission technology that we have noted on rides with specialized content like "it's a small world" and Haunted Mansion, as well as the on-ride photo linking with Disney PhotoPass, to track guest attendance at the concerts.
As noted in the Writer's Note at the start of this week's Update, a delightful new projection show premiered on the facade of the Chinese Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios just hours following a surprise park-wide announcement on Friday. The approximately 10-minute-long projection show makes use of the same video mapping technology, lighting, and lasers that are used in the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show. Unlike Magic Kingdom's "Once Upon A Time" projection show, "Disney Movie Magic" includes no pyrotechnics.
The show includes imagery and scenes drawn from Disney's library of live action movies, along with a score filled with familiar soundtracks. Also surprisingly as of writing this Update, Disney has not yet issued a press release or made a Disney Parks Blog entry to share many details about the show. There are lengthy segments devoted to Mary Poppins, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron movies, the (Lucasfilm-acquired) Indiana Jones movies, the live action versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book, and the only two Marvel films that have so far made their way into Disney's Hollywood Studios: Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Shorter clips and images from numerous other movies appear from Zorro all the way through a segment featuring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks. Walt Disney's voice and image also appear in the show.
Enjoy some of the highlights of "Disney Movie Magic: A Celebration of Disney Live Action Films, now showing nightly at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Over Memorial Day weekend, "Disney Movie Magic" was shown at 9 p.m. and then followed at 9:30 p.m. by the "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" fireworks show. We will keep an eye out for an official schedule. As of writing this Update, "Disney Movie Magic" does not even appear in My Disney Experience, but we expect it to continue as a new regular part of the nighttime entertainment at the park for the foreseeable future.
The focus of this week's Views Around the World is the new nighttime fireworks spectacular "Happily Ever After" at Magic Kingdom. I had two additional opportunities to view it this week, one during the press event on Wednesday that included a special live, post-fireworks performance by the recording artists Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer on the Cinderella Castle stage, and another on Friday night from the observation deck of Bay Lake Tower's Top of the World Lounge at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Although "Happily Ever After" debuted on May 12, and its companion projection show "Once Upon a Time" debuted last Fall, Walt Disney World took the opportunity of having the Global Press in town for the debut of Pandora–The World of Avatar to further show off the new shows and had several of the key show creators on hand to discuss them. In between the shows, the recording artists, Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer, performed the song "Happily Ever After" live on the Cinderella Castle stage. The photo captions below provide a few extra details we have not discussed here on MousePlanet before.
Roger Butterley, Senior Music Producer, says that the music tells the story rather than a narrator. The music is arranged to provide "a surprise at every turn," with a few little callbacks to the previous fireworks shows. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Gary J. Gutierrez, Show Producer, said that over 60 moving lights plus laser projectors are used in "Happily Ever After," while the existing fireworks launch facilities were all that was necessary along with new pyrotechnics to create the show. Gary said that the creative team's goal was to "Touch every heart." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
James A. Silson, Director, said that the new show is about "pursuing your dreams and finding your Happily Ever After." The characters appearing in the projections represent over 20 films from the Disney library, including a mix of brand new animation which, in many cases, was done by the original character animators along with clips from the original films. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
After the May 23, 2017, performance of Magic Kingdom's new fireworks spectacular, "Happily Ever After," the recording artists, Jordan Fisher & Angie Keilhauer, appeared live in front of Cinderella Castle and sang the title song. The video includes the finale of the fireworks show and the singers' performance. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
As regular readers know, I am not just an Annual Passholder, I am also a longtime Disney Vacation Club Member. One of the perks currently provided to DVC Members staying on property is evening access to Bay Lake Tower's Top of the World Lounge at Disney's Contemporary Resort, but only when staying at a DVC resort on a DVC points reservation (which during extreme peak periods like New Year's is further limited just to Bay Lake Tower stays). Well, since I am a local now, that benefit is rarely available to me. Since I planned ahead with an on-property reservation for the opening of Pandora-The World of Avatar, this week, I had a chance to visit during a performance of Magic Kingdom's new nighttime fireworks spectacular as well.
While not apparent from ground level inside Magic Kingdom last week, with a 9 p.m. start, "Happily Ever After" actually begins before the last daylight has gone from the sky until well past the summer solstice. Always check the Times Guide or My Disney Experience for the scheduled time of the show. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
I asked Show Director James Silson what folks should look for in the show as they get out of direct line of sight of the projections that are one of the highlights of the new show. He told me to watch for how the new moving lights and pyrotechnics interact with each other in the storytelling. Indeed, that dimension is much more highlighted atop Bay Lake Tower and, I imagine, will also be should you choose to watch (as I will eventually) from the shore of or out on a boat on Seven Seas Lagoon.
Some final notes about Magic Kingdom fireworks and "Happily Ever After" for the rest of 2017 before moving on to more Views: I was curious whether the Halloween and Christmas editions of Wishes and the New Year's presentations of Fantasy in the Sky were going to change this year. The team said that those shows are planned to be performed as usual this year but they are always looking at making changes going forward. On a similar note, I asked if there were plans to incorporate new animated characters as new films were released, and each of the team members gave me the sense that there are no immediate plans to do so but that the technology involved in the show makes it possible (though not simple) to do so in the future.
Not to be left out of all the excitement over the opening of Pandora–The World of Avatar, a new 3D PhotoPass location is now available near the World of Disney Store in the Marketplace. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Don't keep it to yourself!
…Stitch's Great Escape! at Magic Kingdom is again open daily during the busy summer season with currently posted hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Be sure to check My Disney Experience to see whether it is scheduled to be open during your visit.
…Amongst all the big new stuff around Walt Disney World Resort this week, we have not seen any announcement from Disney about "The Cosmic Dance Party" that has replaced The Incredibles Super Dance Party on Rockettower Plaza Stage in Tomorrowland (and the press of other activities around the Resort kept us from seeing whether it is up and running ourselves). Having said that, My Disney Experience lists it as open and says:
Moonwalk where no alien has boogied before! Cyborgs and Guests alike can get into the galactic groove at our Cosmic Dance Party, an interplanetary blast featuring a live DJ, terrestrial tunes, themed drinks and more. Journey over to the Rocket Tower Plaza Stage in Tomorrowland from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each night for rockin' revelry that's out-of-this-world!
…Nightly Tree of Life Awakenings (projection shows) can now be viewed not only from the side of the tree that faces the bridge from the entrance of Disney's Animal Kingdom, they may be viewed along the pathway from Africa to Asia where the trees have been cleared along the banks of Discovery River.
…Another entry in the "Everything has a 'day' celebration" department, Disney Parks Blog celebrated National Wine Day (apparently May 25) with some additional concept art for Wine Bar George coming to Disney Springs in late 2017 from Master Sommelier George Miliotes. Having previously run the "beverage program" at California Grill atop Disney's Contemporary Resort from 1995-2002, Miliotes' new Disney Springs location will feature sharable small plates and complementary wines, including local offerings "as ingredients come into their prime" as the seasons change.
Master Sommelier George Miliotes highlighted several wines during a dinner at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' last November where he discussed the plan to open Wine Bar George in time for the 2017 Winter Holidays. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
…The Delicious Disney Dining Series, mixing Disney storytelling with food, hosts its next event, a tribute to Ratatouille to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Disney-Pixar film on June 28 at 6:30 p.m. with Chef Dominique Filoni and his team from Citricos at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. That will be followed by a "journey under the sea" with Chef Timothy Majoras and the team from Flying Fish at Disney's BoardWalk on July 19 at 6:30 p.m. Seating for these and all other Delicious Disney Dining Series events is limited. Call (407) 939-5773 for more information and advance reservations.
…To celebrate Independence Day on July 4, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is hosting a cookout at the Summerhouse from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The menu includes grilled steak and shrimp or, if you would prefer hot dogs and baked beans, plus specialty drinks, beer and wine. After dinner, guests move to the Marina for desserts and a view of Magic Kingdom's fireworks (or, in the event of rain, the event moves to the Grand Floridian's Convention Center). The evening includes a live DJ and craft activities for kids throughout. The cost is $59 (ages 3-11)/$120 (over age 11) plus tax, including gratuity. Call (407) WDW-DINE for information and reservations.
…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 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."
Check here to see if a park event might fall during your next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. If you know of any in-park events, official or unofficial, that should be listed here, please send us an e-mail (link).
2017 Resort Events
- Star Wars Experiences – Opened December 1, 2015 (ongoing)
- Dapper Day Outing (unofficial events)– November 18, 2017 at Magic Kingdom; November 19, 2017 at Epcot
- GayDays | #RedShirtDay (unofficial events) – June 1, 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom; June 2, 2017 at Disney's Hollywood Studios; June 3, 2017 at Magic Kingdom; June 4, 2017 at Epcot
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – August 31 - November 13, 2017.
- 35th Disney Night of Joy at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – September 8 and 9, 2017
- Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic – October 27–28, 2017
- Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party – August 25, 29; September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 29;
October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31; November 1
- Holidays at Walt Disney World –Dates TBD
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – November 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 28;
December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22
- Holidays Around the World at Epcot –Dates TBD
- Candlelight Processional at Epcot –Dates TBD
2018 Resort Events
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts – "Early" 2018
- 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – "Spring" 2018
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.
- Virtual Running Shorts – June 1-August 31, 2017 (Virtual). Registration now open.
No proof of time required.
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 2–5, 2017. Registration opens January 17, 2017.
Proof of time must be submitted by August 1, 2017.
- 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 3-7, 2018. Registration now open (some events sold out). Proof of time deadline October 3, 2017.
- 10th Anniversary Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 22–25, 2018. General Registration opens May 2, 2018. Proof of time deadline TBD.
- Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Weekend – TBD.
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – TBD
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.
Note: Not all attraction closures have been officially confirmed by Disney, and are all subject to change at any time. Refurbishment schedules are estimates only. We recommend checking for updates as you plan your visit. All information is subject to change without notice. To get the most recent updates, visit DisneyWorld.com or use the MyDisneyExperience App on your iOS or Android device.
- Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams – had its final showing on May 11, 2017, and has been replaced by the new fireworks show: Happily Ever After.
- Stitch's Great Escape – often closed on a "seasonal" basis. As of this posting, it is again open for the peak Summer season.
- The Hall of Presidents – closed to add an audio-animatronic figure of the 45th president of the United States. My Disney Experience App continues to say the closure is through June 29, 2017, but one cast member outside the attraction recently said it may not reopen until September.
- The Incredibles Super Dance Party – closed. The Rockettower Plaza Stage now hosts "The Cosmic Dance Party."
- Mission:SPACE – June 5, 2017 through late July, 2017
- Innoventions West (except Character Meet and Greets)
- Innoventions East (except Colortopia and a Passholder shop)
…including Sum of All Thrills and Storm Struck
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Streets of America
- Premiere Theatre
- The Writer's Stop
- Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure
- Studio Catering Co.
- Meet & Greets: Mike and Sulley, Phineas and Ferb, Mater and Lightning McQueen
- Magic of Disney Animation
- Academy of Television Sciences Hall of Fame
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- No known closures at this time
- Runoff Rapids. Expected completion: TBA.
- No known closures at this time
- Portobello Country Italian Trattoria – Closed April 24, 2017. Will reopen in Fall 2017 with a new concept from James Beard award-winner and Top Chef Master Tony Mantuano.
- Disney Quest – scheduled to close July 3, 2017 to make way for The NBA Experience.
- La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil – ends its run on December 31, 2017. Next use of the theater on the West Side TBA.
- Caribbean Beach – Centertown, the resort's marketplace, will be expanded with new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. The project is expected to be completed 2019-20. Due to the work, the following food service and retail locations are closed:
- Old Port Royale Food Court
- Shutters at Old Port Royale
- Banana Cabana Pool Bar
- Calypso Trading Post
- Coronado Springs – A new 15-story tower overlooking Lago Dorado, the resort's central lake, will add 500 rooms featuring suites and concierge level services, and a rooftop dining facility that will include panoramic views of nighttime fireworks shows at the Theme Parks. Construction around some of the bus stops started earlier this month. The resort also plans to refurbish current resort rooms and transform some of its landscape. The project is expected to be completed 2019-20.
- Wilderness Lodge and Villas – Hidden Springs pool, resort beach, and playground closed. The opening of Disney Vacation Club's Copper Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is expected July 17. In the meantime, Roaring Fork is also closed.
- 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.
Travel Discounts for Everyone
DisneyWorld.com has released its Fall 2017 Free Dining offer. Get a free dining plan when you purchase a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way room and ticket package with a Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus Option. Book through July 7, 2017.
Additional restrictions and exclusions may apply. Thanks to Mary Kraemer of Masterpiece Travels for the tip.
Our friends at Small World Vacations let us know that Disney has a made a summer discount offer where you can save up to 25% on rooms at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels for stays most nights May 28-Aug. 31, 2017 when you book March 27-July 14, 2017. You can also see all of Disney's current special offers on DisneyWorld.com.
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.
Travel Discounts for Annual Passholders
Kick Off Your Spring room offer
Passholders can book rooms at the Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort starting at $86 per night under this offer. The discount is valid most Sunday through Thursday nights, April 23 through May 25, 2017. Additional resorts and dates are available for stays April 9 through April 22 and May 26 through June 10, 2017, with rates from $101 at the All-Star Resorts to $292 per night at Disney's BoardWalk Inn
Booking Window – Must book by June 9, 2017
Visit the Annual Passholder website for details, or call 407-939-7676 to book by phone.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!
Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA Credit Card Holders
20 percent off Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks
Disney Visa cardholders receive 20 percent off their entire purchase at Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks throughout Walt Disney World, including Tea Traders Café by Joffrey's, and online at Joffreys.com with code: VISABEANS
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:
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:
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.
Cardholders also receive 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at the following Walt Disney World® Resort Operating Participant merchandise locations including Basin®, Basin White®, Chapel Hats, Good Fortune Gifts and House of Good Fortune, kidsHeritage and Marrakesh Emporium Arts & Crafts.
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 most days 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
10% off select recreation experiences
Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of the recreation experiences listed below:
Free 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. at the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot (enter near the jumping fountains near the exit to the Magic Eye Theater). You'll receive one free character photo download per day.
Travel Discounts for Military Personnel
2017 Military Salute – 4-Day or 5-Day Military Promotional Ticket discount
Through December 19, 2017, 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 1 through December 19, 2017. Thanks to our reader Dr. Smith who alerted us that the website militarydisneytips.com notes that April 9-23 are no longer listed as blockout dates for Disney's Armed Forces Salute.
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, 2017.
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 percent, based on room category.
Travel Discounts for Florida Residents
An "Enchanting Staycation" for Florida Residents booking through June 4, offers a limited number discounted room rates. Check out DisneyWorld.com for details.
Florida Residents can still purchase Discover Disney 3-Day Tickets for $139 plus tax or the Discovery Disney 4-Day Tickets for $159 plus tax. The tickets may be used to visit one park per day through June 5 (and the days do not need to be consecutive). Note, however, the tickets are not valid after May 27 for Disney's Animal Kingdom admission.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!
Travel Discounts for Canada Residents
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!
Travel Discounts for U.K. Residents
Reader Stuart D. let us know about Disney's 2018 free dining offer for folks traveling from the U.K. You can see the offers on Disney World's U.K. packages website. There are lots of details about the free dining, a $200 Disney Gift Card, a 14-Day Ticket for the price of 7 (including Water Parks and Memory Maker) and a lot of fine print. Here are the highlights of the 14-night packages during summer 2018 holidays and all include Memory Maker photos, 14-Day Ultimate Ticket for the price of a 7-Day ticket (including FastPass+), and 12-month DisneyLife subscription:
Sample package prices are for 2 adults and 2 children (aged 3-9) , including a two-week stay, arriving 27th May, 2018 - 5th September, 2018, for new bookings only, subject to availability. Additional terms and conditions on Disney's U.K. website, but a few more details follow.
Free Dine and Free Breakfast Offers are available to book 6 April, 2017 - 6 July, 2017, for selected arrivals 1 January - 18 March, 2018 and 6 April - 30 November, 2018. Minimum length of stay is 5 consecutive nights, and a maximum of 21 consecutive nights. Dining plan must be selected for all members of the traveling party aged 3 and over. In addition to the minimum stay, Disney Tickets for the whole party must be booked to qualify. Gratuities are not included.
*$200 Disney Spending Money Offer is available to book 6 April, 2017 - 6 July, 2017, for selected arrivals 1 January - 18 March, 2018 and 6 April - 30 November 2018. Booking must include 5 nights minimum stay at a Moderate Resort or participating Deluxe Resort or Villa. Spending money will be in the form of a Disney Gift Card valid at Walt Disney World and select U.S. Disney Stores only.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!