Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 3-9, 2018by Alan S. Dalinka, contributing writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 3–9, 2018
Writer's note: Yes, this will be a very long Update!
So, before we get to the News and Views of this week, I thought it best to start with a recap of the major ways Walt Disney World Resort will be celebrating American Independence both today and tomorrow (the Fourth of July). I say the "major" ways, because some of the Disney Resort Hotels and Fort Wilderness have smaller celebrations of their own, and if you are reading this while staying on property, be sure to check with your hotel's front desk to see what other celebrations are planned.
However and wherever you plan to celebrate, please do so safely. If you are celebrating around Walt Disney World Resort, remember to try to be patient with crowds and your friends, family, and fellow guests: it is Central Florida in summer, and it is hot and muggy with likely outbreaks of severe weather! Heck, that's probably good advice wherever you are: Happy Fourth!
Some Disney PhotoPass Photographers in the parks have the Mickey head-shaped Fourth of July paddles for you to pose with in your photos as we celebrate American Independence (though, as the joke goes, they do "have" a Fourth of July in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world too, it's just not a holiday). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Rather than the usual presentation of the Happily Every After fireworks and projection show, at 9:15 p.m. tonight and tomorrow (July 3 and 4), the park will present Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky. Traffic signs on World Drive mention Magic Kingdom perimeter road closures and Disney's announcement itself says there will be rockets "all around" the park, so, there will be perimeter fireworks; no doubt, they will be more limited than in previous years due to construction of the TRON-themed rollercoaster in Tomorrowland, which has resulted in the removal of at least a couple of launch sites. In past years, this special two-night showing has also included a "mirror" fireworks launch site on the Seven Seas Lagoon itself, and, we expect it will again this year, but have not seen a specific announcement.
There will also be DJ-hosted parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland during both evenings.
On July 4, immediately after the usual 9 p.m. showing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, there will be a special "all-American grand finale" (which you may hear folks refer to as a "tag" after the show). Named "The Heartbeat of Freedom," it is visible from all around World Showcase Promenade, but, based on our experience last year, the sweet spot for viewing the tag is World Showcase Plaza (between Mexico pavilion on the east and Canada pavilion on the west) so long as the wind is not blowing in that direction at showtime (remember the One Passholder's Tip: check those torches surrounding World Showcase Lagoon and remember, if the flames are pointing toward you, the smoke will blow toward you from the fireworks too).
At 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8 p.m., there will be special evening concerts at America Gardens Theatre by Voices of Liberty. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy will appear in their "Spirit of '76" costumes during the shows. Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale will also appear in patriotic attire during the day (between approximately 11 a.m. and just past 4 p.m.) outside The American Adventure, and Voices of Liberty will also perform shows in the rotunda at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Fountain View and Sunshine Seasons will sell red, white, and blue cupcakes. Sunshine Seasons will also have a BBQ pork sandwich. Refreshment Port will have specially decorated croissant doughnuts, while Liberty Inn will have, of course, its "all-American" burger, southern fried chicken sandwich, apple pie, and cheese cake—plus a slice of watermelon (special for the holiday).
Disney's Hollywood Studios
If you are joining the folks checking out the brand new Toy Story Land in the park, and you stick around for the current version of its Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show at 10 p.m., Disney says that is an opportunity to celebrate "one of the greatest icons of American popular culture." Depending on your feelings about all things Star Wars, your mileage may vary. The partial view of the pyrotechnics from inside Toy Story Land could be interesting. If you catch them there, please share with us!
And while we are talking about Toy Story Land, let's get right to the News and Views, since that, of course, is our lead story this week.
Toy Story Land Debuts | Download the Play Disney Parks App | More Additions Coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2019 | Epcot Concert & Candlelight Processional News & Calendar | Views Around the World | This and That | Crowd Forecast
In the words of Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, Toy Story Land represents "a big step in the evolution of Disney's Hollywood Studios, as we transform it from a place that took guests behind the scenes into one that puts them at the center of the action." When the park opened just over 29 years ago as Disney-MGM Studios, it featured attractions (all closed, many of them, long ago) that took you "behind the scenes" like the Studio Backlot Tour (both featuring the tram tour and a lengthy walking tour), the Animation Tour, SuperStar Television, and The Monster Sound Show, and The Great Movie Ride featuring recreations of famous movies (including those licensed from other studios, like MGM), and film clips. The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular opened not long after the park and still runs today, with its storyline about the second unit "making" an Indiana Jones movie, and even Star Tours, which also opened within the park's first year, though more of an "adventure" aboard a Star Speeder, was placed into a building designed to look like a movie soundstage, including just the facade of an AT-AT out front.
Some of the Green Army Men perform as a drum line from time to time with some of Andy's drum toys (rather than the green ones collectors of the Green Army Men would expect). Sarge and other Green Army Men march through the land and play games with guests periodically (listen for the radio call and music). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
With what Disney describes as the most immersive attractions it has ever created coming to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in the southeast corner of the park late next fall, Bob Chapek is right (to a point): Toy Story Land is a "step in the evolution" of the park. Having had the opportunity to view it during a cast member's friends and family "dress rehearsal" before last week's Update, again during the invited global media event, and then on June 30, opening day (but with the benefit of FastPasses issued for the media event), I also agree that it is a positive step forward for this park. Before we get in to the details, though, I just want to caution readers against setting your expectations at Pandora-The World of Avatar levels.
Even using that comparison is kind of funny in a way. A lot of the fan community was very negative and skeptical about Pandora from the moment Disney announced the deal with James Cameron to develop the land. AVATAR was not a film that had any special meaning to a lot of the Disney Parks fan base, including me, when Disney announced that project. Sure, like the box office records it set at the time of its release, I saw the movie in a theater and enjoyed it, but I had pretty much forgotten it by the time Disney announced the deal. Like many, I thought there were so many other pieces of intellectual property out there that Disney could develop attractions based on, or it could create something new from scratch, like during the so-called (in retrospect) "golden era" of the 1964 World's Fair projects and when Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion were created, or even when the theme park attractions we came to know as those that opened on October 1, 1982, at EPCOT Center were produced in the late 1970s.
Pandora-The World of Avatar is, to use the over-used term, a "game-changer" for theme park place-making, attractions (with respect to Flight of Passage), and animatronics (with respect to Na'vi River Journey). Toy Story Land is not a "game-changer," but, rather, a highly themed new place (Andy's backyard) to experience three family-friendly attractions: Toy Story Mania! (no minimum height requirement), Alien Swirling Saucers (32 inch minimum height), and Slinky Dog Dash Coaster (38 inch minimum height). The food and beverage location, Woody's Lunch Box, has exterior theming that may be among the most detailed for a quick service location at the entire Resort; the merchandise cart evokes the nostalgia of the toy wagon it resembles enlarged in proportion with the "imagination" that we have all been shrunk down to the size of Andy's toys to "Play Big" (as Disney says).
One last bit of constructive criticism that I have already voiced on social media (and in person to a member of the park leadership team I saw on opening day): because of the Imagineering team's design decision to avoid shade structures that they have said would take away from the theming of a backyard, there is also nowhere for guests to take cover during a (fairly typical, if not predictable to the minute) Florida downpour that is sometimes euphemistically called "liquid sunshine." Of course, Toy Story Mania! is entirely indoors, and most of its queue is as well. Alien Swirling Saucers is covered (unlike its technological sister attraction, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure), but only a portion of its queue is, and (critically, for my afternoon on Saturday) none of its exit area. Slinky Dog Dash Coaster is all outdoors, though some of its queue is covered, as is its loading area (which, unfortunately, was not designed with overhead fans or other air circulation, resulting in large portable fans being strategically placed to keep cast members working the load area cool even before Opening Day).
When a major downpour came Saturday afternoon, guests scrambled for the small overhang roof in front of the restrooms, the tiny overhang at the merchandise cart, the temporary portable large umbrellas that provided some shade for those in the extensions of the main attraction queues (kudos to the team that planned and installed those, along with lots of complimentary water coolers with cups, by the way), or their own devices. The really good news during the rainstorm seemed to be that drainage in the land seemed very good, and though Andy's (huge) footprints are everywhere, they do not collect water and become ponds during a storm!
The "brick" restrooms are one of the only places in Toy Story Land where there is a small overhang to try to stay out of the sun or rain. This wall also seemed to become a popular selfie spot during the media event. HDR Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
So, with all of that said, we will turn next to the details of the land that draws its inspiration from the Pixar Animation Studios' Toy Story films. If you would just like to look through all of our coverage of Toy Story Land's debut on Twitter (from June 21-30), I have collected all of our relevant tweets and those of Disney Parks in a single "Moment" that will take you through them all slideshow style here.
Introducing Toy Story Land
Guests enter Toy Story Land next to Walt Disney Presents (right next to where you previously passed under the Pixar archway to get to Toy Story Mania!). As guests walk from Disney's version of "the Hollywood that never was but always will be" toward the new land, guests are shrunk down into the size of "honorary toys" to "PLAY BIG in the whimsical world of a child's imagination." Woody, Jessie, Buzz Lightyear, Slinky Dog, Green Army Men, and other Toy Story characters "come to life" in a world of toys: giant building blocks, Tinkertoys, yo-yos, board-game pieces, dominoes, Scrabble tiles, and even a giant roller coaster set. In Disney's words, "the entire land encourages the best playtime ever."
After the heavy downpour on Saturday, the crowd inside Toy Story Land no longer required a queue outside, but it did make the area between Walt Disney Presents and Toy Story Land very congested for awhile. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Bob Chapek, along with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Green Army Men, and comedian and actor Tim Allen dedicated Toy Story Land on a temporary stage just past the entrance of the land on Friday, June 29. The dedication was streamed live by Disney Parks Blog (and, yes, I was there too).
Watch the #DisneyParksLIVE replay of the Toy Story Land Dedication Ceremony held on Friday, June 29, 2018. © Disney.
In terms of the development of the land, the Walt Disney Imagineers worked with Pixar Animation Studios theme park team to ensure that the land would be true to the storytelling of the films. Pixar has a dedicated team that works with the parks, even when its films are in development, to create continuity for the characters.
Pixar‘s Liz Gazzano and Roger Gould chat about the Pixar Animation Studios theme park team’s work with Walt Disney Imagineering in creating experiences in the Disney Parks. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Slinky Dog Dash Coaster
The park boasts that the new land is 11 acres, but taking up a lot of that footprint is the new Slinky Dog Dash Coaster. As the story goes, from his Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Kit, Andy has assembled this family friendly ride, and put Slinky Dog on the track instead of the kit's vehicle. It includes two launches, lights up at night, and was assembled according to Andy’s hand-drawn plans. Rex and Jessie helped by stringing lights above Andy’s stacked Jenga game pieces.
Ride along with me on Slinky Dog Dash Coaster! Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Each 18-passenger coaster train zips around and above Toy Story Land, a bit higher and faster than most folks (including me) thought it would. It provides great views of the new land (and its neighbor, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge's construction site too). This is the first Disney coaster to feature a second launch at its midpoint. It is also the first to feature an animatronic Wheezy the penguin who is the headliner of the ride's finale.
The Slinky Dog Dash Coaster track lights up at night in sync with Slinky Dog. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Alien Swirling Saucers
Using the same sort of ride technology as is used for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure, Alien Swirling Saucers is designed as a playset Andy won at the Pizza Planet restaurant. Two sets of 11 saucer and rocket-ship pairs spin through the Alien's galaxy (with colorful lighting at night) accompanied by fun new arrangements of music from the Toy Story films. Guests sit in the rocket-ships either alone or in pairs restrained by a single seatbelt.
Buzz Lightyear stands in front of Alien Swirling Saucers, where the entrance is guarded by the figures that in the original "Toy Story" film guarded the doors of Pizza Planet. Woody's box is on the roof of the playset, and some other objects associated with Buzz can be found throughout the queue. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Toy Story Mania!
While the attraction has been in the park for quite a few years, and it received a third track to provide additional capacity in recent years, guests now enter Toy Story Mania! from inside Toy Story Land through a new entrance designed to be the box Andy’s Toy Story Mania! game came in. Inside, guests find a reconfigured queue to the two different boarding areas. Mr. Potato Head is back in the center of the queue and can even be briefly seen over a dividing wall by guests walking through the FastPass+ entry queue. After playing, all guests have a fairly long but highly themed walk all the way around the outside of the attraction to get back into Andy's backyard (since, as the story goes, the game is actually set up under Andy's bed in his bedroom).
Food & Beverage
Woody’s Lunch Box is the counter service restaurant in Toy Story Land. It serves meals and old-fashioned soda floats from a walk-up window in a setting surrounded by Andy’s favorite toys and a giant vintage thermos. So far, the tasty menu items I got to sample included the grilled three-cheese sandwich and the brisket. The downside of the menu here is that the comfort foods are not particularly helpful to someone watching calories. Mobile Order is supposed to be available, but on opening day, it was not active. Guests with special dietary or allergy-related food issues will need to discuss their needs at the registers to determine whether they can be accommodated.
The area is fully themed to appear to have been built by Andy from a lunch box, thermos, straws, vegetables, and even the Mini Babybel cheese (which, by no coincidence, is not only also on the menu but is now the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort). Nearby, Sarge and some of the Green Army Men are on the lookout for Andy.
Learn about the food and beverages served at Woody's Lunch Box. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Toy Story Land merchandise can be found at carts in the land. To fit the theme (according to the park and creative leaders I spoke to), there are no other structures in the land, so there is no store here per se (which itself seems rather unique for a Disney Park in 2018). As you will also see in the Views Around the World below, the Beverley Sunset building on Sunset Boulevard is now an all Pixar-merchandise location, including many of the park-exclusive Toy Story Land items.
Learn about some of the merchandise currently available. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Park Hours and More
While always subject to change, park hours have been extended a bit at Disney's Hollywood Studios and more Extra Magic Hours for Resort guests have been added for the new land. As we note in our Resort Events section below, Disney Vacation Club will host three nights of DVC Member Moonlight Magic in the park in August and September where attendance will be capped to give members and their guests opportunities to visit Toy Story Land (and the other park attractions) with, perhaps, shorter wait times. Also, as was announced last month (and we note below in the Annual Passholder discounts section), Gold-level and above Passholders will be invited to select exclusive evenings in Toy Story Land later this year (watch for an email; registration is required).
In the end, at least in this Passholder's opinion, Toy Story Land is a needed expansion area for Disney's Hollywood Studios that previously lacked rides that, in the Walt Disney tradition, the whole family could enjoy together. I enjoyed both new rides; Slinky Dog Dash Coaster in particular (as you can see in the video), but, admittedly, I never had to wait very long to ride. Personally, I do not think any attraction is worth a 270 minute wait (which was the highest I personally saw Slinky Dog); perhaps the new Play Disney Parks app or waiting with friends or family that are fun to chat with, each attraction may merit an hour or so wait. In any event, the theming is very well done throughout and, hopefully, the storytelling decisions that led to operational issues will be solved sooner rather than later.
Disney Parks has taken the next step toward making your personal mobile device a part of your day when visiting the parks themselves and letting you continue some of that experience wherever you are. The newly released Play Disney Parks App (available for iOS in the App Store and for Android in Google Play), according to Disney Parks Blog "was designed for families and guests to enjoy together. With group play that enables everyone to join in on the fun, guests will turn wait time into play time with all-new interactive experiences and activities created for select attraction queues."
The Play Disney Parks app welcomes users and then asks you to choose either the West Coast's Disneyland Resort or the East Coast's Walt Disney World Resort for play. Screenshots by Alan S. Dalinka. Content © Disney.
The Play Disney Parks app supplements and does not replace any of the features of the My Disney Experience app for Walt Disney World or the Disneyland app for Disneyland Resort. However, guests (age 13 and over) can sign in with their same Disney account username and password to collect "achievements" for playing games, answering trivia, completing challenges and more. The app is also connected to Apple Music where subscribers to that service will be able to hear complete curated playlists inspired by the theme park lands, attractions and characters; subscribers can also add favorite Disney tracks to their Apple Music library. Those of us that are not subscribers will hear 30 second samples of the tunes.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the new app for Star Wars fans is that it appears to be the foundation to some of the interactive immersive activities coming to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Both the Disney Parks App and some of the Play Disney Parks representatives I spoke with during the Toy Story Land media event last week, promised that the app will evolve and expand with additional offerings, including Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Unfortunately, though the app became available on Thursday, ahead of its official Saturday, June 30 release, when I tried using it on both June 28 and 29 it crashed a number of times. I successfully tried a trivia challenge that was labeled "Theme Park," but included Star Wars canon beyond my knowledge level, despite having seen all of the films on more than a few occasions. When I tried to play a game in the queue for Slinky Dog Dash Coaster when Toy Story Land was open only to the media, the game would not load and the app crashed. On Sunday, July 1, the app also failed to load a game at Disney's Animal Kingdom on a friend's iPhone X while we were sitting in a shaded spot at Gorilla Falls.
Another shortcoming for me at this point in time, as someone that often visits the parks solo, many of the games are designed for two or more players. The upside seems to be, particularly talking to its representatives during the Toy Story Land media event, to get guests interacting with each other and with elements in their parks where the digital screens in their hands are a conduit for doing that rather than an escape. In other words, the idea is to have guests use the screens to get more out of their theme park experience instead of using their device as a distraction from waiting in line. Time will tell how successful this effort will be.
The Play Disney Parks app became available by the morning of June 28, and includes all six Disney Parks in the United States. Screen capture by Alan S. Dalinka. App content © Disney.
If you have had some in-park experience with the app so far, we would love for you to tell us about it.
Our readers know (though we still encounter folks in the world that do not) that Disney's Hollywood Studios plans to open the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion of the park in late Fall next year. We will not cover that subject again this week.
Instead, we will focus on some additional details about an attraction announced last year, and a new one coming to the park. As we have written about a number of times since last July's Disney D23 Expo, the new attraction the park is installing inside the Chinese Theatre (formerly home to The Great Movie Ride) is Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. The first ever ride-through attraction featuring Mickey Mouse (and using the styling of the current Disney Channel programming) will make use of a technology that Disney describes as making two-dimensional projections look three-dimensional (they have called it 2 1/2-D), and in the past few months, Disney announced that it will debut sometime next year as well.
After the dedication of Toy Story Land, Disney Parks presented the global press with a presentation entitled "To Infinity and Beyond" to talk about some of the things the company has planned for the parks in the future. Again, most of that for our readers should be old hat by now, but, significant to Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Disney released a new piece of concept art for the attraction and showed an image of a locomotive being created for it as well. No other particularly new details were shared.
The panel explained, and Disney Parks Blog then reiterated:
The attraction will totally immerse guests in a cartoon world and will feature a new catchy theme song created especially for the attraction.
The fun begins when you see the premiere of a new cartoon short with Mickey and Minnie preparing for a picnic. As they head out, they drive alongside a train and find out that the engineer is Goofy. Then, one magical moment lets you step into the movie and on Goofy's train for a wacky, wild ride.
During the global press event entitled "To Infinity and Beyond," a Walt Disney Imagineering panel consisting of Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty, Charita Carter, and Scott Mallwitz showed off a rendering of a locomotive that will appear in the new attraction. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney Parks also announced (and Disney Parks Blog later posted) that Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy is going to be a new attraction added "near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. You will watch Lightning McQueen teach some of "what he's learned over the years," and he will be joined by Tow Mater, Cruz Ramirez, and more of the characters from Radiator Springs. It seems that this show-type attraction will be installed in the Sunset Showcase which, since its opening in the past couple of years, has rarely been used for park guests during regular park operating hours.
While we were paying attention to the grand opening of Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney quietly updated the list of scheduled performers for this year's Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (August 30 to November 12). Noteworthy to this former Chicago resident is the absence of "Dennis DeYoung and the Music of STYX," (but, fortunately, STYX itself, long without its former lead singer and the composer of many of its hits back in the day, visited Central Florida earlier this summer and they still perform some of the DeYoung tunes on tour). All told, eight of the acts are listed as "NEW" to the Festival, though, as we have previously noted, some of those have previously performed at other venues around Walt Disney World Resort.
We have updated our calendar below, and, as always, guests can book Eat to the Beat dining packages, as well as other Food and Wine Festival events like Party for the Senses, seminars, and more by visiting TasteEpcot.com or calling (407) 939-3378 for reservations and information.
Before we get to Fall though, the Epcot "Incredible Summer" offering is the Guardians of the Galaxy-Awesome Mix Live! concert series, now running daily through August 19, with published showtimes at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8 p.m., at the America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase. As we noted last week (and accordingly updated our calendar), on July 4, there is a different schedule: 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.; in the evening, Voices of Liberty takes over the stage at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8 p.m. for its Fourth of July Concerts. Passholders can get wristbands for Incredible Summer preferred seating at a podium just inside the entrance to The American Adventure (while supplies last and, as always, be prepared to show your Pass and photo ID).
America Gardens Theatre is the Incredible Summer home to the Guardians of the Galaxy-Awesome Mix Live concert series, five times daily through August 19 (only four scheduled performances on July 4). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The Festival of the Holidays returns to Epcot on November 18, and its Candlelight Processional begins its seasonal run this year on Thanksgiving Day itself, November 22. Narrators for the three-times-nightly retelling of the traditional Christmas story accompanied by a massed choir and live orchestra have not yet been announced, and dining package information is not yet available.
For the convenience of our readers, we list all of the scheduled acts in our Google Calendar of Epcot Events. You can also add it or any events on it to any calendar that supports the iCal format (like iPhone and Mac) by copying this link. When the Candlelight Processional celebrity narrators are announced, we will add the events to our calendar as well.
The calendar is provided as a courtesy "as is, where is" without any guarantees. Given the effort it took to create it, we do respectfully request that you do not post our entire calendar on another site without first asking our permission. Walt Disney World Resort does provide schedules in the My Disney Experience app, but does not allow you to add dates to calendars outside the app itself.
As always, the captions tell the story and include bits of news along the way.
For guests that may have missed any of the national advertising, our coverage, or that of the global press, ticket booths at all the parks, including this one at the Transportation & Ticket Center across Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom, note that Toy Story Land is now open. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
On Main Street U.S.A., patriotic bunting adorns the buildings in celebration of American Independence and the Fourth of July. The firehouse, while open, is still covered by a decorative construction scrim. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
New signs just next to the entrance to Space Mountain advertise the new Play Disney app. Inside, when I visited on Sunday, in the queue, all of the games and even the themed windows "looking into space" were dark. Video screens in the queue only showed faint star fields, and it was all too dark to get a decent photo. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
As we reported last week, the exit of Space Mountain has been routed outside of the building across the Walt Disney World Railroad tracks rather than through the usual tunnel under them. Cast members direct guests over the tracks. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Exiting Space Mountain currently requires walking around the outside of the building before, as noted above, crossing the tracks. It is unclear how long this detour will be required; some cast members "guessed" maybe, August or beyond. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Space Mountain's current exit detour does provide a glimpse of the sandy dirt beyond the trees where the TRON Lightcycle-themed roller coaster is expected to be open by the time the park celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Lately, every week, the building that will enclose the future Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster attraction seems to be bigger (and if you go down to our Disney's Animal Kingdom views, you can see just how big it looks next to Spaceship Earth from a few miles when viewed from Expedition Everest a few miles to the west). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Speaking of Japan, some new construction walls are now standing around the part of the pavilion closest to Morocco. It is likely (but not certain) that work is underway here for another dining location at the pavilion. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
While we have been told that the Guardians attraction is supposed to be completed by 2021 (the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort), during this "Incredible Summer," a couple of the Guardians and a group of musicians take the America Gardens Theatre stage several times daily in the "Awesome Mix Live" show (see the Epcot Concert & Candlelight News and Calendar section for information on the guaranteed seating for Passholders). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
To complete your Guardians fix (for now), you can even get a t-shirt themed to the Disney California Adventure attraction that already features them. There are several other Guardians-themed t-shirts available as well, all in the plaza between the stage and The American Adventure. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The other major construction projects underway at Epcot are the "Ratatouille"-themed attraction that has placed a lot of steel beams behind the trees between the Morocco and France pavilions, and the Disney Skyliner which has placed a tower right behind the France pavilion (in this view from near the Friendship boat dock near Mexico) next to its Eiffel Tower. There is another Disney Skyliner tower just out of view of this photo to the right of the trees across the waterway from the International Gateway where a station is under construction near the Friendship Boat dock (approximately where there once stood a tram station for transportation to the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
I had never before seen Mariachi Cobre serenade Donald Duck as he enters his meet and greet outside Mexico pavilion. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
There are two Mirror de los Muertos kiosks inside the Mexico pavilion where you can customize a Disney-Pixar's "Coco" inspired skeleton and then pose it three times for photos saved to your My Disney Experience account. Start your interaction with the screen by tapping your Magic Band at the touch point. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
At The Mill Stage at Canada pavilion, the Blueberry Grass Band from Québec will perform through August 26 in French and English. Some of the band members formerly performed with Cirque du Soleil. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
On Saturday, June 30, with the opening of Toy Story Land (to the right of this photo), the Pixar Place sign had been removed. In the morning and the afternoon, the area was being used as the extended standby queue to get in to Toy Story Land. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Also by Saturday afternoon, the old entrance to Toy Story Mania was already sealed up and the signage removed. As noted above, guests now enter the attraction through the box Andy got the play set in which is lying in his backyard (Toy Story Land). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
When heavy rains came Saturday afternoon, Woody and Buzz returned from Toy Story Land to their old indoor meet and greet area (formerly Pixar Place) and were joined by Jessie. Toy Story Land has no indoor meet and greet space, so it is not clear what the situation will be when this area becomes repurposed (or becomes otherwise backstage and off-limits to guests). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Inside, the display case that previously held pieces of the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge model now has a model of a First Order AT-AT, as life-size ones are being added to of the attractions in the new land opening late next Fall. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
On the left in the display case is a model of the Millennium Falcon; a full sized "Falcon" that guests get to "fly" is the centerpiece of one of the new attractions coming to the new land. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
After Toy Story Land opened on June 30, I took another ride on Slinky Dog Dash and captured quite a few good looks at the land itself as well as its actual neighbor (not Sid, but Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, under construction and due to debut late next Fall). Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Beverly Sunset connects to the next two shops, all the way down to Reel Vogue, and is where you will find the largest assortment of Pixar-themed merchandise, including many of the park-exclusive items. There is still a small area selling pre-wrapped sweet treats and Goofy's Candy Co. bulk candy in the shop. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Several of the popcorn carts around the park sold (and sold out on Saturday) the Pizza Planet Alien re-fillable popcorn bucket. (Thanks again to the park guests who let me photograph their bucket, as I do not have one.) Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Toy Story balloons were being sold in the park on Saturday (alongside the Star Wars and other Disney-themed ones that have been around for awhile, like BB-8, and thanks to the park guests who let me photograph their balloons). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Upon entering Pandora-The World of Avatar this weekend, some Disney PhotoPass Photographers had a frame (just over the size of an average head) for guests to create an Alpha Centauri Expeditions ID. It immediately reminded me of the film "Vegas Vacation," but your results may vary. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
From the ascent of Expedition Everest, the height of the building to contain the Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster under construction at Epcot (to the right of Spaceship Earth) is now evident. Also shown here is a bit of the tower under construction at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
And, finally in the parks, if you would just like to see some pictures of some of the inhabitants of Disney's Animal Kingdom, be sure to have a look at the following post on our Instagram. There are photos of a gorilla, crocodile, hyena, a male elephant using a log as a toy, a female elephant moving a larger tree trunk, and a resting cheetah.
With the construction of the additional parking structure across Buena Vista Drive from Disney Springs well-along, it appears that a pedestrian bridge is now under construction on the Disney Springs side to bring guests across Buena Vista Drive. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Just after last week's Update, we were invited to a preview of Terralina Crafted Italian the day before its grand opening. While I can say that I enjoyed the preview, I cannot provide any advice or recommendation as to the restaurant itself and will not provide any review other than to note that the samples were tasty and the service from the preview team was great. HDR Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Nearby, in the Landing neighborhood, Wine Bar George opened nearly a month ago and I finally had an opportunity to visit with friends and purchase a beverage from the list curated by its namesake owner and host, Master Sommelier George Miliotes. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
…Back to the patriotic theme, if you like electronic wallpapers, Disney Parks Blog has a couple of new ones available celebrating the Fourth of July in ways only Disney can.
…Congratulations and thanks for playing to Christopher Wong (@obiah on Twitter), who correctly spotted me 48 seconds in to the #DisneyParksLIVE broadcast of the Toy Story Land dedication ceremony. Interestingly, I asked our readers for questions to ask the Toy Story Land leadership this week and received none, and we had only one player when I offered a shoutout. I may have some nice Toy Story Land prizes to give away in a contest this month, and if you would like me to do so, I need to hear from you (as the postage to send them comes from me and not MousePlanet or its sponsors). I will watch my email, the comments to this Update, and the comments under this Update's Facebook entry to gauge your interest in Buzz Lightyear, Slinky Dog, Pizza Planet Aliens, and the Green Army Men to find the appropriate prize(s) and venue for a contest. Unfortunately, I do not yet have an Alien Popcorn bucket, but, with some encouragement, I may just keep an eye out for them in the park too.
…Repeating from last week, Disney Parks Blog also provided details of a limited time deal for guests planning to visit during the week of Labor Day, September 3, and departing on September 8. The package includes a five-night stay at a select Disney Resort, four-day Magic Your Way tickets, plus a special "welcome dinner party inspired by" the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris Adventure, exclusive Rivers of Light viewing, two hours of exclusive evening access at Toy Story Land, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom. The deal must be booked by August 19. It took a bit of searching, but the full details are on this page of DisneyWorld.com or you can call (407)939-5268 and ask about the "Ultimate Disney Fall into Magic Package."
…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 email 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 email.
2018 Resort Events
- Disney H2O Glow Nights at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
- Every Thursday and Saturday, June 21 to August 11; 8–11 p.m.
- Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom:
- June 28, 30, July 7, 9, 14, 21, 28, August 4 & 11; 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.
- August 30, September 20; 9 p.m.– midnight
- Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom:
- August 17, 24, 28, 31
- September 3, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30
- October 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – August 30 to November 12
- Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic – October 26–27
- Sunday Bubbles Brunch – October 28
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 1–4
- MouseAdventure Remix (unofficial event) – November 10
- Dapper Day (unofficial events)
- November 17 – Disney's Animal Kingdom (until 3-5 p.m.) & Magic Kingdom (evening);
- November 18 – Epcot
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom:
- November 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 25, 27, 29, 30
- December 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – November 18 to December 30
- Candlelight Processional at Epcot – November 22 to December 30
2019 Resort Events
- 2019 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 9–13, 2019.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 21–24, 2019.
- Star Wars Rival Run Weekend – April 4–7, 2019.
|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. For current information on runDisney registration dates and capacity, see Lorree Tachell's runDisney Race Capacity Updates in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.|
2018 Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic Events (including event reservation opening dates)
- Moonlight Magic at Epcot – July 16, August 15
All members (filled to capacity, but check for additional availability due to cancelations)
- Moonlight Magic at Disney's Hollywood Studios – September 19, 26; October 3
Members with resort reservations – August 30
All members (pending remaining availability) – September 13
|Introduced in 2017 as part of Membership Magic Ever After, complimentary Moonlight Magic events invite Disney Vacation Club Members (that are eligible for the Membership Extras benefits) and their guests to visit Disney Parks at the end of their regular operating hours and after the park has closed to the public. Members (and their parties) with reservations find shorter-than-usual wait times on popular attractions, meet rare characters, enjoy complimentary refreshments, have dance parties, and more. Please note that, in order to allow as many Members as possible to enjoy Moonlight Magic, only one event date for each participating park is available per Membership. Visit disneyvacationclub.com during specified reservation windows to (attempt to) secure access to the event as well as to find additions to the Moonlight Magic event slate, updated party hours, and transportation information.|
Note: Not all attraction closures have been officially confirmed by Disney, and are all subject to change at any time. All 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.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment (cast say reopening possibly late July).
- Stitch's Great Escape – My Disney Experience lists as "available seasonally throughout the year."
- American Heritage Gallery at The American Adventure – closed for refurbishment
- Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe at Norway pavilion – closed for refurbishment through summer 2018.
- Ellen's Energy Adventure at Universe of Energy – Permanently closed on August 13, 2017.
Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster-type attraction opens in approximately 2021.
- Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable – closed February 3, 2018. Theater to be repurposed.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- The Great Movie Ride – Permanently closed August 13, 2017. The new "Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway" attraction to open in Chinese Theatre in 2019.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Flights of Wonder (Caravan Stage) – Show closed on December 31, 2017. "UP! A Great Bird Adventure" starring Russell and Dug and their bird opened in its place on April 22, 2018.
- No known closures at this time.
- No known closures at this time.
- World of Disney – phased store closings for refurbishment underway.
The Disney Corner now open in Town Center offering select merchandise during refurbishment.
DisneyStyle now open on the West Side offering additional Disney-themed merchandise.
- DisneyQuest – Closed as of July 3, 2017. The NBA Experience expected to open Summer 2019.
- Portobello Country Italian Trattoria – Closed April 24, 2017. Terralina Crafted Italian has opened in its place.
- La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil – Show closed on December 31, 2017. A new Cirque du Soleil show is now in development with its premiere date to be announced.
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Café – closed August 1, 2017. Location is being transformed into Jaleo, a restaurant featuring Spanish cuisine, expected to open 2018. A new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is under construction next door to the Coca-Cola Store, expected to open 2018. Wolfgang Puck Express continues to operate in its existing location in the Marketplace.
- Caribbean Beach – Centertown, the resort's marketplace, will be expanded with new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in Summer 2018, with the overall project completed 2019–20.
- 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. The resort also plans to refurbish current resort rooms and transform some of its landscape. The project is expected to be completed 2019-20.
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.
Be sure to move the calendar to at least seven (7) days out, to see what ticket options and discounts are available for your planned visit.
Travel 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 for the discount. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund. Both the immediate and discount version of Memory Maker can be purchased at this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Travel Discounts for Annual Passholders
Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus, and Premier Passholders should be "on the lookout for an event invitation with registration details in email" for "exclusive" access to Toy Story Land at specific times on select dates in September. Eligible passholders that want to attend will need to follow the email instructions to register for an event date and time in advance and, if they would like to register a guest, that guest also must have a Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus, or Premier annual pass and be listed on the Friends & Family list sharing "All My Plans" in My Disney Experience. Attending the event will require the valid pass and a matching photo ID, but there will be no additional charge.
For the most up-to-date list of locations offering dining discounts to Annual Passholders, visit this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Many dining locations offer Passholders 10 percent discounts during some or all meal periods (also excluding alcoholic beverages, tax and gratuity).
The latest information on this page of DisneyWorld.com lists discounts at many merchandise locations across Walt Disney World Resort, including locations that continue to offer 20 percent discounts off regularly priced merchandise.
The latest information on this page of DisneyWorld.com lists discounts for special events and tours at locations around Walt Disney World Resort.
The latest information on this page of DisneyWorld.com lists discounts for sports, recreation, and spas around Walt Disney World Resort.
Magic Strollers, "a Disney featured stroller provider," offers a $5 discount on stroller rental when staying at a Disney Resort Hotel and using coupon code WDWAP18 to arrange your rental. It is listed on the "Passholders Extras" page of the Passholder website.
Visit the DisneyWorld.com Special Offers page (filtered for Passholders) and log in with a My Disney Experience account linked to your Annual Pass for information, or call (407) 939-4232 to book by phone.
Additional information about available "Passholder Extras" are available here, including specially priced 1-Day Water Park Tickets for $49 plus tax (must be purchased in-person at the water parks and not available online; must be used on or before December 31, 2019), a new $35 Sunrise 9 golf offer (including nine holes of golf, a hot breakfast and two beverages between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m., subject to availability, at Disney Golf courses), a new $29 Sunset 9 golf offer (including nine holes of golf, a light snack and a beer or soft drink, subject to availability in the late afternoon at Disney Golf courses), an Orlando Magic Jersey Offer for purchasing or renewing an Annual Pass at Amway Center in Orlando, a 15 percent discount on the Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Spa & Salon Discounts around Walt Disney World Resort, Amphicar Tour discounts at Disney Springs, runDisney Early Registration discounts, Best Friends Pat Care discounts, Children's Activity Centers discounts, and more.
Away from the Resort, Passholders can use code DANCEPARTY to get 20 percent off of tickets to the new Disney Junior Dance Party on Tour in Jacksonville, Melbourne, Clearwater, and Sarasota Florida, for house seats while supplies last. Visit disneyjuniortour.com for more information and tickets.
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
To conserve space, we have eliminated some of the participating location details of the Disney Visa Rewards offers from this section. Visit Disney Visa Rewards website for the latest participating location information.
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. Discounts are not available on Premium VIP tours, programs exclusive to groups, or group team building programs.
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). Offer excludes alcoholic beverages, merchandise, tobacco, room service, holiday buffets, tax and gratuity. Discount does not apply to the following dates: 12/31/17, 1/1/18, 2/14/18, 4/1/18, 5/13/18 and 7/4/18, and may not be available at all meal times. Visit this page of disneyrewards.com for the latest list of restaurants and restrictions.
10 percent off merchandise
Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off at participating Disney-owned retail location when you spend a minimum of $50 and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Read all of the restrictions on the this page of disneyrewards.com.
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, Luxury of Time, Marrakesh Emporium Arts & Crafts, Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks and Tea Traders Café by Joffrey's, Sperry and Volcom.
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. Visit this page of disneyrewards.com for participating locations and restrictions.
10 percent off select recreation experiences
Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of the recreation experiences listed below:
Free character photos 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 complimentary downloads of your photos (one time per day), which may be accessed in the My Disney Experience smartphone application (or website).
Free character photos at a private meet and greet location at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Present your Disney's Premier Visa card or Disney Rewards Visa card for access to a private character meet-and-greet at the Star Wars Launch Bay in the Animation Courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You'll receive complimentary downloads of your photos (one time per day), which may be accessed in the My Disney Experience smartphone application (or website).
Travel Discounts for Military Personnel
2018 Armed Forces Salute Tickets
January 1 through December 19, 2018
NOTE: Tickets must be used by December 19, 2018.
U.S. military personnel can also purchase the Memory Maker product for $98 through December 19.
Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased at participating U.S. military sales outlets by eligible service members (as defined on Disney World.com) or their spouses (but not both), for use by themselves and only family members and friends, as provided by Disney's rules. These tickets may not be otherwise transferred, distributed or resold. Limit six (6) tickets purchased by the military personnel (or spouse), and one ticket must be used by that member of the military (or spouse).
U.S. military personnel can enjoy discounts at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels when booking by December 19, 2018, for stays most nights from April 6 through December 19, 2018. Offer excludes moderate and deluxe resorts. Call (407)939-5684 for information and reservations.
Read more information at militarydisneytips.com, visit your base ticket office, or when at Walt Disney World, visit Shades of Green.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details.
Travel Discounts for Florida Residents
Disney Select Tickets
While the Discover Disney ticket offer ended on June 24, still available at a higher price (but including flexibility), Florida residents can still save quite a bit with the 4-Day Disney Select Ticket (compared to the price of a 4-Day Magic Your Way ticket). There is a smaller discount available for a 3-Day Select Ticket, and there is also a discount for 1–Day Tickets with the Park Hopper Option only. For more information visit this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Florida residents can check out the latest hotel package offers on this page of DisneyWorld.com.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details.
Travel Discounts for Canada Residents
All adults using Canadian resident tickets or passes must present valid proof of Canadian residency that includes government-issued photo ID to exchange the certificate for a valid ticket at the theme park ticket window or Guest Relations prior to first use. Tickets and options are nontransferable, nonrefundable and exclude events/activities separately priced. Admission is subject to capacity closures and to other restrictions.
Check https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/ca/ for the latest offers from Disney.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details.
Travel Discounts for U.K. Residents
You can see the latest offers for U.K. residents on Disney World's U.K. packages website. It currently includes an offer for UK and Ireland guests: 2018 Disney's 14-Day Ultimate Ticket for the price of a 7-day ticket when purchased pre-departure by July 31, 2018, for arrivals up until December 31, 2018. Memory Maker is included with every 2018 Adult Ultimate Ticket purchased.
If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details.