Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 22-28, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 22-28, 2020

Writer's Note & News (Combined)

As happens from time to time, our MousePlanet Walt Disney World Resort Update weekly publishing schedule is a little out of sync with the Disney Parks news cycle. Today, Tuesday, September 22, Disney Parks has invited us and other media outlets to view a webcast featuring leadership from both coasts providing an update on resort operations balancing "making magic" with promoting health and safety of the cast, guests and community during the pandemic. As I expect most of our readers know, during the on-going pandemic, the Walt Disney World Resort's phased re-opening has seen operations get underway first at Disney Springs, then some of the Resorts, and then the four theme parks. The Disney water parks remain closed, and the most recent update to the Walt Disney World Resort "Know Before You Go" webpage notes that Disney currently plans to open one of the two water parks on March 7, 2021 (see the webpage for ticket refunds and extensions for those with water park tickets), pending government approvals.

As Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix noted in our MousePlanet Disneyland Resort Update yesterday, the theme parks at Disneyland Resort remain closed, now past the six month mark, with no direction from California's Governor as to when a plan may be put in place for a phased reopening of any theme parks in that state. The Downtown Disneyland District began phased reopenings this summer, but the Disney Resorts at Disneyland remain closed, with room reservations now cancelled through early October.

We are not sure whether Disney Parks intends to provide any new operational details on the webcast, but we will provide coverage on our social media channels and follow up with an article here on MousePlanet.com if there are significant details to explain. Just past Midnight Eastern Time this morning (which is just a few hours ahead of when we publish this Update), Disney Parks News tweeted that Hong Kong Disneyland will officially reopen on September 25.

I will also provide the latest Disney Parks news on "Fun at Home" Show #25, the MousePlanet LIVE! Stream that starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 Pacific tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 23. And, we'll also be playing another edition of our Jibe Time game show, with Shelley Caran from On the Go in MCO having kept the title last week taking on another new-to-our-show challenger. In each round of our Jibe Time game, two players try to have their answers to our original, rather hypothetical, fill-in-the-blank questions relating to Disney subjects jibe with the answers of our panelists comprised of our MousePlanet regulars and a special guest or two - and, here we'll have a special guest from MousePlanet's past!

Your browser may require that you reload the page at showtime. To participate and provide answers in comments during the live show, you need view the show on YouTube, Facebook or Periscope/Twitter where you may need to be logged in to an account. You can also replay the show here after it has concluded.

Don't forget, you get to have fun at home during our show too! Your answers during the LIVE show help the players score points! Type your answers in the comments on Facebook or Twitter/Periscope, or YouTube (along with the question number you are answering), and see them shown on all our streaming platforms! If your answers jibe with a player, that player gets a point that counts in the score, and we even sometimes like to award points to those who comment! Our points and prizes, unfortunately, have no retail value, but there are bragging rights! Test your jibing skills this week, because next week, on Show #26, one home viewer that plays along will win a copy of the new book "The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky" by Jeff Kurtii, Vanessa Hunt and Paul Wolski!

As we have advised since the phased reopening began, if you plan to visit Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to check the latest requirements of the venue you plan to visit. Remember, the parks require Disney Park Pass advanced date-specific reservations plus valid park admission tickets. You can review Disney's requirements here. If you are traveling from out of state, be sure to check your home area's self quarantine restrictions for those that travel to and from Florida. And, of course, keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center's reports - we are now just past the statistical peak date of the Tropical Storm season, which continues to be quite active.

Major Construction Milestone Achieved for TRON Lightcycle / Run

One of the major construction projects that still seems to be on track to debut in time for Walt Disney World Resort's 50th Anniversary in 2021 is the TRON Lightcycle / Power Run attraction at Magic Kingdom. First announced back at Disney D23 Expo in 2017, the roller coaster-type ride coming to Tomorrowland in a new guest area along the eastern edge of the park just north of Space Mountain, is based on a similar attraction at Shanghai Disneyland.

TRON Construction.
TRON Construction. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Last week, Zach Riddley, Walt Disney World Site Portfolio Executive shared on Instagram and Disney Parks Blog that the first piece of the "curved wave" canopy, known as the "Upload Conduit," has been installed at the construction site. He describes the nearly 40 piece canopy structure as "flowing organically over you when you race beneath it aboard your Lightcycle, serving as a digital bridge for your transition into The Grid" from the world of the Disney TRON movies.


A post shared by Zach Riddley (@thezachriddley) on

Additional Mobile Dining Options Available in My Disney Experience

Mobile Order Dining first debuted in the My Disney Experience app back with the opening of Pandora-The World of Avatar back in 2017, and steadily expanded its footprint around the Resort ever since. With the pandemic increasing the need to decrease prolonged face-to-face contact between guests and cast members, the expansion of the mobile options for has continued during the phased reopening, with some new features coming on-line very soon.

In recent weeks, Mobile Order has been expanded to more quick-service locations, including The Market at Ale & Compass at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, P& J's Southern Takeout at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, and both BoardWalk Bakery and the Pizza Window at Disney's BoardWalk Resort. More locations are coming soon.

This summer, the My Disney Experience app added a feature to allow guests to check-in for table service dining on line, as well as view current availability and wait times, add themselves to to waitlists at participating locations.

The next expansion will allow hotel guests to place to go orders of some of the menu items at table service restaurants and pick up the food to enjoy at the hotel. Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village now offers this option with more dining locations being added to the app as the service becomes available at additional restaurants.

Disney Springs Shopping & Dining Updates

Like at Disneyland's Downtown Disney District, guests visiting Disney Springs can now find previously Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge-exclusive products available for sale at the Star Wars Trading Post (and also online at shopDisney.com). Starting today, even more products including recruitment gear, handcrafted toys and collectibles, creatures and droids arrive from Batuu for sale.

Disney Springs is decorated for Fall. Photo by Dave & Nan Kent.

As of Monday, select menu items at 20 dining locations around Disney Springs are now being offered at 20% off Mondays through Thursdays, through October 29. A list of the offerings is available on this post on Disney Parks Blog. Included in the offer is Maria & Enzo's Pollo Alla Parmigiana—lightly-breaded chicken breast, tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, parmagiano-reggiano, and spaghetti pomodoro.

Patina Restaurant Group, the operator of Maria & Enzo's invited MousePlanet to dine at the reopened restaurant this week to experience its new health and safety protocols and enjoy the chicken parm. Dave & Nan Kent, longtime MousePlanet readers, frequent participants on our "Fun at Home" MousePlanet LIVE! streams, and occasional contributors (for example, this report on Backstage Magic) went in my place as PRG's guests. They very much enjoyed the meal and told me that they felt quite comfortable with the health and safety protocols at the restaurant. I have enjoyed the chicken parm on previous media-invited visits to the restaurant as well. I have not dined out during the pandemic, nor have I yet visited Disney Springs or the theme parks, though I hope to do so as temperatures moderate within the next month.

Photos by Dave & Nan Kent.

Currently, Maria & Enzo's is open nightly for dinner only, starting at 5 p.m. In addition to the Monday-Thursday chicken parm discount, the restaurant offers additional discounts including Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, Cast Members, and Tables in Wonderland cardholders. As shown on the sign inside the restaurant, the venue currently requires cashless payments only.

Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom Debuts on Disney+ on Friday

With National Geographic now in Disney's portfolio because of the 21st Century Fox acquisitions, Disney has used its long-established synergy strategy to create some really interesting new content for the Disney+ streaming service. "Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom" is a new original series produced by National Geographic narrated by Josh Gad (known for such Disney projects as the voice of Olaf in the >Frozen films and as Lefou in the live-action Beauty & The Beast).

The eight episode series takes guests backstage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT, introducing the audience to the Disney Animals, Science and Environment cast members from Dr. Mark Penning, to some of the veterinarians and animal caregivers that work with the animals in the Resort's care. The show also includes segments with Imagineer Joe Rohde, discussing the unique challenges of creating the environments in which the animals live and are cared for.

I was invited to preview the eight episodes earlier this month and to attend a webcast featuring Dr. Mark Penning, Joe Rohde, and some of the animal caregivers. I thoroughly enjoyed the series which blends telling the stories of the "animal ambassadors" as Disney calls the animals in its care, with the behind-the-scenes discussions of how the teams care for the animals and use positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors that help ensure the health and well-being of the animals, as well as the pragmatics of the imagineering challenges of designing theme park and resort facilities that also serve as home to over 300 species and more than 5,000 animals.

Personally, I enjoy visiting the family group at Gorilla Falls. The series includes a segment discussing the birth and development of baby Grace last year. This week's Update Cover Photo is the male leader of the family group back in January 2015. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

We will share more about the series during "Fun at Home" Show #25. Last week, the My Disney Experience app, added a new "Disney Parks Wild Sights" short form mini-series also focusing on the animals that call Disney's Animal Kingdom their home. The mini-series is also available in the Disneyland app.

Fall Florida Resident Special Offers

Walt Disney World Resort is offering Florida Residents discounts. Of course, reservations are required, limited, and subject to availability. Remember, however, the Disney Park Pass reservations system has different "allotments" of reservations for ticket purchasers, resort guests, and Annual Passholders.

Florida Resident Disney Magic Flex Ticket

Florida Residents can purchase this ticket to visit for 2, 3 or 4 days, one park per day. The 2-day ticket is $130 plus tax and must be used in its entirety by September 30. The 3-day ticket is $174 plus tax and must be used by December 18 (but is blocked out November 21-28). The 4-day ticket is $195 plus tax and likewise must be used with December 18 (and is also blocked out November 21-28).

Florida Resident Merchandise Discount

Florida Residents can receive a 20% discount on select merchandise at Walt Disney World Resort owned and operated locations on Mondays through Thursdays starting today, September 15 through October 29. Proof of residency required.

Florida Resident Resort Hotel Discounts

Florida Residents can save up to 35% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels (Deluxe and Villas), 30% (Moderate), 25% (Value) for stays most nights through December 25, 2020. Details and availability are onthis page of DisneyWorld.com. If considering a resort stay, don't forget to check out the offers from our travel partner, Get Away Today, below.

Give Kids The World Village to Host Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular

Give Kids the World Village, the nonprofit resort near Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida that provides critically ill children and their families weeklong, cost-free vacations, but has temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, issued a press release earlier this month about an upcoming event to provide a way to celebrate the Holiday Season this year and support the Village.

Give Kids the World Village will celebrate Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular for 53 nights, from November 13, 2020, until January 3, 2021. Artist rendering courtesy Give Kids the World Village.

The text of the release follows:

For 34 years, the non-profit Give Kids The World Village has been brightening the lives of critically ill children and their families from around the world; and now, local businesses led by Presenting Sponsor Dreams Unlimited Travel will have the chance to illuminate the Village – literally. For 53 nights from Friday, November 13, through Sunday, January 3, 2021, the Village will come alive with Night of a Million Lights, a walk-through holiday light spectacular that is sure to warm the hearts of Central Florida residents. More than one million lights will adorn the 84-acre whimsical Village, including a 150-foot lighted tunnel leading to 33 decorated villas; more than 50 larger-than-life holiday-themed wireframes, some spanning more than 40 feet; an enormous incandescent gingerbread arch; and out-of-this-world space-themed decorations showcasing the Village's newest centerpiece, Henri's Starlite Scoops. Adding to the fully immersive lights and sounds experience, Santa Claus will greet guests from the balcony of Towne Hall, with Give Kids The World's beloved ambassadors, Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry, on hand to lend some holiday cheer.

Corporate and community partners can get into the holiday spirit by adopting a villa, with the creative freedom to decorate it however they'd like for display throughout the 53 nights of the event. A friendly contest among the villas is guaranteed to bring some added fun and excitement, with long-time Village supporter Dreams Unlimited Travel already planning on ways to outshine the competition.

"We can't think of a better way to celebrate the season than by shining some light on the wonderful work Give Kids The World does to bring happiness and hope to critically ill children and their families through this event," said Dreams Unlimited Travel CEO Pete Werner.

Beginning on October 1, guests can purchase tickets on the Give Kids The World website at www.gktw.org to walk among the brilliant lights, vote on their favorite villas, and take part in a variety of family activities in a socially distant manner. Most of the Village's wheelchair-accessible attractions will be available at no cost, including The Enchanted Carousel, Marc's Dino Putt, Kelly's Sunny Swing, and Lori's Magical Flight – all elaborately decorated for the holidays. Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream will also be served throughout each evening. In addition, guests can visit the Village's most iconic venue, the Castle of Miracles – featuring a mysterious forest, a wishing well that burps, a magic tree that makes pillows, and more. The Castle is highlighted by thousands of stars that fill the ceiling and the adjoining Star Tower, each placed in honor of a wish child who has visited the Village.

Proceeds from the event will support Give Kids The World's mission to provide wish vacations for critically ill children and their families. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit any of the world-class theme parks Central Florida has to offer, Give Kids The World fulfills the wish – providing each child and his/her family with a magical week-long stay at absolutely no cost. Each family receives transportation, accommodations in one of the Village's 166 storybook villas, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, tickets to Orlando's world-class theme parks and attractions, and priceless experiences at the Village. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 176,000 families from 50 states and more than 76 countries.

"Children with critical illnesses face countless appointments, treatments and hospital stays, and they are often told ‘no' due to the limitations of their illness. We feel privileged to give wish children and their families a week of ‘yes' where they can forget their worries, experience joy, and spend priceless time together," said Give Kids The World President and CEO Pamela Landwirth. "We look forward to sharing some holiday joy with the community while making it possible for future wish children to have their wishes fulfilled."

Give Kids The World Village closed to wish families in mid-March due to the global pandemic, delaying more than 4,000 wishes. The Night of a Million Lights is designed to raise funds to ensure that wish trips can return bigger and better than ever before once the time is right reopen.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

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.

With Disney now accepting Resort Hotel reservations for 2020 and 2021, our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Disney has resumed new park ticket sales, but, at present and for the foreseeable future, requires guests to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). As prices go up, it becomes even more important to pay heed: Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks. When available, only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today.

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You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. Checkout Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.