Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 29 - October 5, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 29 - October 5, 2020

Writer's Note & News (Combined)

Last week, in this space, I mentioned that Disney Parks invited us and other media outlets to view a webcast later in the day last Tuesday, 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. Unfortunately for those hoping for news, there really was not any new operational information provided in the webcast.

Disney Parks leaders from both coasts explained the health and safety procedures implemented for responsible operation of the Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening and the phased reopening of the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland.

As Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix has been noting for the past several weeks, Disneyland Resort and the rest of the theme park industry in California continue to have no guidelines for reopening from the state's Governor. The webcast made that point as well. Except for the phased reopening of the Downtown Disneyland District this summer, the remainder of the Disneyland Resort has now been closed for over six months, which, the webcast emphasized, is a huge economic hit to not only the Cast Members and the Company, but to the surrounding region.

The presentation closed with Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro requesting that California provide reopening guidelines that are "fair and equitable". He said, "We're ready. And, more importantly, it's time."

Later last week, following the State of Hawaii's announcement of a new COVID-19 testing program that will allow qualified visitors to travel freely around the islands without first quarantining, Aulani, the Disney Resort located in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii, announced its plan for a phased reopening beginning November 1. The only remaining Disney Vacation Club property without an announced phased reopening plan is the one at Disneyland Resort: The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Resort.

As we have advised since the phased reopenings began, wherever you plan to visit, be sure to check the latest requirements of the venue. For those planning to visit Walt Disney World Resort while it is operating during the pandemic (and until further notice), remember, that the theme parks require Disney Park Pass advanced date-specific reservations plus valid park admission tickets. You can review all of Disney's requirements for visiting the Resort here. If you are traveling from out of state, be sure to check your home area's self quarantine restrictions applicable to those that travel to and from Florida. And, of course, keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center's reports - while we are past the statistical peak date of the Tropical Storm season, the Tropics continue to be quite active, and there is an area in the Gulf that shows potential for development this week (but no track has yet been forecast).

Jibe With Us On MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home

I will provide the latest Disney Parks news on "Fun at Home" Show #26, the MousePlanet LIVE! Stream that starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 Pacific tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 30. Just before publication of this Update, I learned that Jeffrey R. Epstein, Director, Corporate Communications at The Walt Disney Company may be joining us briefly at the beginning of the show. Previously a guest back on Show #5, we subsequently reported the news he shared earlier this summer that he was undergoing colon cancer surgery following a routine screening colonoscopy. We are happy to report that he Tweeted earlier this month that his surgery went well, and that pathology found "no residual cancer and the lymph nodes were clear."

After Jeffrey's visit, we'll be playing another edition of our Jibe Time game show. In fact, since we are "celebrating" our "Half a Year Anniversary" of weekly live streams, this will be a special edition where all of our players, including the viewers at home that play during our live stream have a chance of winning a copy of the new book "The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky" by Jeff Kurtii, Vanessa Hunt and Paul Wolski! The full game rules are below. By playing the game, you agree to the rules.

This week, our still-reigning champion, Shelley Caran from On the Go in MCO, will take on her latest challenger, MousePlanet veteran Marie Rossiter. Remember, in each round of our Jibe Time game, our 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 special guests and those of you having fun at home on our social media streaming platforms.

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 need to be logged in to an account. You can also replay the show here after it has concluded.

That's right, your answers during the LIVE show help the players score points too! 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 usual game prizes, unfortunately, have no retail value, but there are bragging rights!

This week, we have one Contest Question in the mix where our Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix will provide a pre-recorded answer that we will share after regular game play. Anyone that provides an answer that jibes with her recorded answer during the designated time on our LIVE stream (and meets our other eligibility requirements below) is eligible to win the book! If no one jibes with Adrienne's answer, we will randomly select a winner from among everyone that provided any answer to our Contest Question.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Updates Entertainment Next Week

With the upcoming new fiscal year starting for Disney on October 1, it is not surprising that there are some changes coming soon. Official word of changes coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios came this weekend via the Disney Parks Blog announcement that "For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration" is returning to the park on Monday, October 5. There will be some adjustments to the staging and audience seating to provide for appropriate physical distancing, but the post says it will be the "same incredible show guests have loved for the past six years."

The Frozen sing-along debuted back during the 2014 Frozen Summer Fun and, while it changed venues, it ran fairly continuously until the park's temporary closure back in March. The Frozen Summer Fun in both 2014 and 2015 included an additional mini-stage show in front of the Chinese Theatre (shown here) that included nightly "Frozen Fireworks." Photo from September 3, 2015 by Alan S. Dalinka.

The pop-up motorcades at Disney's Hollywood Studios continue at the park along Hollywood Boulevard, as Disney Parks Blog says, "in colorful custom convertibles powered by Chevrolet." The three that may pop up during a visit are Mickey and Friends, Pixar Pals, and Disney Junior Stars. Disney Junior Stars also appear in a DJ-hosted "Play & Dance" party in the Animation Courtyard.

Unfortunately for those that enjoy the live music performances of the "Disney Society Orchestra," that temporary offering is coming to an end after performances in the park on October 3, according to a Facebook post on Saturday by the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. The long-performing musical group was renamed when it was brought out of furlough to perform at Theater of the Stars in Disney's Hollywood Studios back in August. Barring any last minute change (which is unlikely, but, apparently, there is a fan-started social media petition that the Orchestra said yesterday had garnered over 1800 signatures), it appears that this will be the end of the 32 year run for this group of musicians. The Orchestra has not performed at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort since its temporary closure back in March, and it has not played there during the resort's phased reopening. The full text of the post follows:

This & That…

Disney Parks Blog noted that a new "Coca-Cola x Walt Disney World Resort Collection" has debuted this summer at the Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs, with merchandise featuring Mickey Mouse and the Coca-Cola script logo. The collection includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, drinkware, hats, keychains, and other items that are exclusively available at Disney Springs.

Coca-Cola Walt Disney World Merchandise
Coca-Cola x Walt Disney World Resort Collection is available exclusively at Disney Springs. Photo courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…In connection with Friday's debut of "Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom" on the Disney+ streaming service, Disney Parks Blog announced that last Tuesday, a baby female Masai giraffe was born backstage at Disney's Animal Kingdom. When the baby meets developmental milestones, it is expected that she will join the herd on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna in the coming weeks. Last week, Disney also announced that three rhinos are pregnant.

A female giraffe was born backstage at Disney's Animal Kingdom last Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Video courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…Disney D23: The Official Disney Fan Club announced that its next D23 Expo will be held September 9-11, 2022 at the Anaheim Convention Center. It will provide a preview of the Walt Disney Company's plans for celebrating its 100th anniversary. D23 Expo debuted back in 2009, and had re-occurred in odd-numbered years since. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next D23 Expo was expected in late summer or fall of 2021. The D23 Destination D event scheduled for Walt Disney World Resort this coming November was indefinitely postponed several months ago as well.

…Finally, we failed to note last week that Orlando Sentinel reported that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, operated by Marriott, filed notice that it is permanently laying off over 1,100 employees in multiple departments effective November 13 as a result of low occupancy and cancelled events caused by the pandemic. The filed notice is required under federal law for mass layoffs. Both Universal and Sea World also filed notices permanently laying off thousands of employees following their furloughs that began back in March.

REMINDER: 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.

REMINDER: 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.

Get Away Today Logo

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

Jibe Time Game Show Rules For the Contest Question

To celebrate six months of the weekly MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home Show, on September 30, at some point during the live stream of Show #26 that starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific, someone 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. This is a stunning book every Monorail fan needs on their shelf.

The easiest way to win the book: play our Jibe Time game during the show and be the only one that jibes with Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix's pre-recorded answer to our special Contest Question. Of course, there are some complicating factors (and rules of our Contest) to be aware of.

Since Show #19, we have been playing our Jibe Time game on each episode only for bragging rights. In Jibe Time, two players compete to have their answers jibe with as many panelists and viewers participating in the comments. We ask original, rather hypothetical, Disney-related fill-in-the-blanks questions with no "right" answers.

For Show #26, we have designated one of the questions our "Contest Question" and Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix has pre-recorded her answer to it that is known only also to our show host, Alan Dalinka. Everyone who jibes with Adrienne's answer has a chance to win—if there are multiple jibing answers, the winner will be selected by the random number generator feature of Siri with the jibing players numbered consecutively in the order we revealed them during the show; if no one jibes with Adrienne's answer, the random number generator feature of Siri will be used to select from all that participated in responding to the Contest Question.

If the Contest Question is asked because its number is selected by one of our players, regular game play will continue as usual without any indication that the Contest Question has been asked. Our players, panelists, and those viewing on our streaming platforms shall respond as usual; those viewers responding in the comments must include the Question number with each answer. In other words, to encourage everyone to play through all of the rounds of this week's Jibe Time game, we will not reveal which question is the Contest Question and reveal Adrienne's answer until a Jibe Time Champion with bragging rights has been declared (after four rounds of two questions per round or about an hour of game play, at the show host's sole discretion). If the Contest Question is not selected during regular game play, the show host will say so, and will initiate an additional round of the game with the Contest Question for all players and viewers, and will set a time of no more than three minutes for social media participants to provide responses in the comments.

More details:

  • Contest is sponsored by MousePlanet, Inc. and is not associated with the Walt Disney Company or the book's authors.
  • Contest is open to legal residents of the United States, ages 18 and up, with a valid mailing address served by USPS.
  • All contestants must have their own means for participating in the comments of Show #26 or be participating live on screen in the virtual studio. MousePlanet shall not be responsible for any technical difficulties that cause participants to be disconnected from Show #26, or that cause their answers to be delayed or fail to appear in the virtual studio (be aware, it is possible for comments on social media to be delayed or fail to arrive in the virtual studio).
  • To successfully participate in the comments of Show #26, each participant must have a valid account on Facebook, Periscope/Twitter, or YouTube and that account must be able to send and receive private messages on that platform in order to communicate with MousePlanet. None of those platforms are sponsors of or otherwise responsible for the contest either.
  • Contestants that appear on screen have been invited, but shall have no advantage over those participating in the comments, and they are not permitted to participate both on screen and in the comments.
  • Answers that jibe with the revealed answer of Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix are eligible winning entries if made in the comments and include the applicable question number or if made in the virtual studio in writing and revealed on the screen for the specific question number. All other forms of entry are invalid. Failure to properly format a submission may render the entry invalid. The show host shall be the sole judge of whether an answer jibes and is qualified.
  • One answer per person. Duplicate or multiple answers by a single person will result in the disqualification of all answers by that person.
  • Answers must be received in the virtual studio before the pre-recorded answer by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is revealed which will occur either after the designation of the regular game champion, or, if the Contest Question is asked in an additional round, within the cut-off time designated on the show and indicated by the show host in the comments (approximately 3 minutes of asking the question). Late entries will be disqualified.
  • MousePlanet, Inc. is not responsible for late, lost or misdirected entries, or failures of any electronic provider.
  • Those participating in the show in the virtual studio or in comments, as always, grant the show host, MousePlanet, and their respective designees and assigns, the irrevocable, worldwide, royalty free right to use any and all submissions to the show.
  • One winner will be selected at random from all valid jibing answers to the Contest Question or, if there are no jibing answers, will be selected at random from all that participate in responding to the Contest Question.
  • Winner will be announced on Show #26 no later than the conclusion of Show #26. The winner will also will be announced in a separate post by MousePlanet on Facebook and Twitter within two business days of the conclusion of Show #26. The winner is required to provide USPS mailing information by private direct message to MousePlanet on the platform used to participate (or by email or text if participating in the virtual studio), within 24 hours of the conclusion of live streaming of Show #26.
  • Should the announced winner be disqualified, MousePlanet reserves the right to select an alternate winner from remaining valid entries.
  • Winner receives one copy of the book, "The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky" by Jeff Kurtii, Vanessa Hunt and Paul Wolski, including delivery via USPS mail. Prize is non-transferable, non-refundable and not exchangeable for cash or other prizes.
  • Winner agrees to the use of their name and likeness without compensation in conjunction with the contest and event.

[Return to the Writer's Note & News]



  1. By asdhollywood

    Following our publication of the Update, Disney announced that it will be laying off approximately 28,000 Cast Members in its Parks, Experiences and Products division (which includes Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort, and more).

    Attachment 9265

  2. By wdwchuck

    Hey Alan, are there any statistics available on how many quests have contacted Covid-19 after visiting WDW? How many cast members have contacted Covid-19 since WDW reopened?
    Those kind of stats would be helpful in planning our trips seeing as how this "pandemic" has become so political.

  3. By asdhollywood

    No one has released such statistics that we have seen. The Theme Parks and the local media have reported that there have been no known outbreaks tied to the reopened theme parks and resorts. I do not think that means there have been no instances of someone who visited a particular place and later tested positive. As you can imagine, contact tracing has been scant in the USA and is complicated by HIPPA, other health privacy laws, and public attitude.

    Friends that have been to the parks and resorts tell me that at Disney they "feel safe" and that you see a high level of compliance with the health and safety protocols. Universal has apparently improved since the earliest reports; For Sea World I've seen several reports of guests not complying with protocols. Personally, as a local, I am just about ready to plan some visits as our weather moderates in fall.

    By the way, I saw that Josh's statement about the layoffs only embeds on MousePad and not on this article on MousePlanet. The text of his statement on Tuesday was as follows:

    In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits. Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.

    Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal. Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return.

  4. Discuss this article on MousePad.