Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 24-30, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 24-30, 2020

Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

I hope you enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving! By this Friday, when the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays gets under way, all of Walt Disney World Resort will be celebrating the season in the scaled-down ways that its venues fit within the phased reopening necessitated by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

As we approach the end of 2020 and what has historically been the busiest time of year at Walt Disney World Resort, it continues its phased reopening. As noted last week, Disney CEO Bob Chapek noted in the company's earnings call that the Resort has increased capped attendance numbers to 35% (of its undisclosed maximum capacity), as it continues to follow the advice of health and safety experts in its various protocols.


Although there is no "Holiday Parade" or Very Merry Christmas Party this year, the cavalcades at Magic Kingdom introduced as part of the park's phased reopening, now include elements seen in prior years. The Toy Soldiers, for example, march with the Main Street Philharmonic.


In some versions of the Princess Holidays cavalcade, Merida from Disney-Pixar's "Brave" rides past on horseback.


Santa Claus is part of a cavalcade as well, led by some elves.


Reindeer have their usual place ahead of Santa.


Santa rides aboard his sleigh in a cavalcade rather than a scheduled parade this year.


Additional characters appear in a different cavalcade ahead of Mickey and Minnie.


Mickey and Minnie's holiday cavalcade unit has been seen in previous years as part of Magic Kingdom's holiday parades.


As park closing approached, many of the characters that had appeared in the cavalcades made physically distanced appearances atop Main Street Station, led by Mickey.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Tomorrowland stage is decorated for the holidays, but, unlike during Very Merry Christmas Party nights (or the last days of each year), it is not hosting shows or dance parties that gather crowds. During the day, some characters may make physically distanced appearances on stage, as we showed last week with Buzz Lightyear. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


I shared some of my second visit to the Magic Kingdom in its "phased reopening" status LIVE just after the sunset at Magic Kingdom last Tuesday night. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.


After sunset, rather than the holiday dream lights, this year the Cinderella Castle gets its holiday decorations by the projection mapped images accented by search lights.


The images on the castle have some movement to them and change from time to time, but there is no show. (Listen for the sleigh bells for a clue as to when the images are about to change.)


The projections are very detailed and appear even more vibrant than some of the projection shows (like "Once Upon A Time") or the projections that accompanied recent nighttime castle stage shows during the various hard ticket after-hours parties we have reported on in the past.


The projections are rather complete and visible from three sides of the castle, here including the bridge to Liberty Square.


The Fantasyland side of the castle does not display projections, but some holiday lights and decor have been added.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

As I also noted last week, Disney's Hollywood Studios "felt" crowded when I visited last Monday following that attendance increase. Indeed, last Tuesday afternoon and evening, I visited Magic Kingdom, which also felt crowded, particularly during character cavalcades when guests often seemed so excited to see the characters that they did not always mind their physical distance from fellow guests (which is not particularly obvious from the photographs). Of course, be mindful that because of reduced ride capacity, fewer open attractions (no character meet and greets or dining, almost no live shows, etc.) and physically distanced queues spread out into walkways and plazas all over the parks, it is not surprising to see a lot more guests when walking around than would have been true in the past if the parks were only 35% of their maximum capacity.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MousePlanet (@mouseplanet)

Often, photos tell the story a photographer wants to tell. The above photo that I took and posted to MousePlanet's Instagram account, provides a view that looks like there is no one else in the park because of where I shot this photo, with a zoom lens, and how I cropped it. While it has some light and color edits applied, it has no Photoshop-type retouching to eliminate the other guests.

Disney Parks fans (like you, our readers,) know that the parks have been designed with all sorts of optical illusions. One of the best known techniques is forced perspective which causes some things to appear larger than they physically are. I mention this because I wanted to note how difficult it is to judge the crowds in the parks right now based on appearance. As I mentioned above, when the cavalcades were on the parade route, some guests seemed to ignore physical distancing (in their excitement or otherwise). I had chosen spots away from other guests when the cavalcades approached, but often was surrounded by other guests by the time the units and characters approached. It was not the sort of nearly body-to-body close of pre-pandemic parades and such, but it was closer than the recommended six feet of our current circumstances.

On the other hand, while the hub and Main Street USA seemed very crowded in the evening when viewed from a distance, as I experienced and moved into those areas, there were actually reasonable distances maintained from group to group in most of them. The following photos illustrate my observations (and, of course, individual experiences will vary).


From the walkway from the Fantasyland side of the castle toward Tomorrowland, looking back at the hub at sunset as the projections on the castle began, the hub looked very congested.


But, standing at the point where Main Street transitions into the hub, it was possible to see empty space between groups of fellow guests.


Looking in the other direction down Main Street U.S.A. toward the park gates, the forced-perspective design of Main Street aids in making the area look very congested.


But, again, when walking down Main Street, it was easy to maintain physical distance.


Looking back toward the castle, parties apparently traveling together seem to form somewhat distinct groups with distance between them.


The more open shape of Town Square also allows for more distancing and less a feeling of crowding.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


Of course, a good optical zoom lens, like the 40x on the point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot camera I often carry, can also make things appear closer together than they are. This photo was taken from the ferryboat dock across the Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Each park's capacity cap continues to be maintained by the Disney Park Pass Reservation System. All guests must not only have a ticket to enter the park, but a date-specific, park-specific reservation. FastPass+ service is not available for attractions, so all attractions now have queues. The resort continues to update its Know Before You Go page on DisneyWorld.com with the latest operational changes, so it is recommended that you review it both when planning a visit and on the day of your visit.

Park Hopping Returns January 1, 2021 (With Modifications and Subject to Capacity Limits)

Since our last Update, Disney announced (and posted to Disney Parks Blog) that a Park Hopper Option returns starting January 1, 2021, but with new modifications and limitations within its phased reopening health and safety scheme. Specifically, guests must still make a Disney Park Pass Reservation for the first park they wish to enter and they must enter that first park. Then, as the option becomes effective on January 1, a reservation will not be required to visit a second park, but "Hopper" admission to the second park is only available starting at 2 p.m. each day and then runs through the end of the park's operating hours. Disney notes that Park Hopper hours could start earlier or later each day and that guests should check DisneyWorld.com/ParkHours and the My Disney Experience app. Because each park's capped attendance numbers remain unchanged, admission when Park Hopping is not guaranteed, and, of course, you must either have purchased the Park Hopper ticket option or have an Annual Pass which includes Park Hopper benefits.


Disney has created an Infographic explaining the process for using the phased re-start of the Park Hopper option. Click for larger version. Infographic courtesy Disney Parks.


Physically distanced Country Bears appear atop the theater in Frontierland.


Frontierland has some lighted holiday decoration, as do the Country Bears.


The Rivers of America remained drained last week, though no repairs were underway within sight.


All of the Rivers of America within sight of Frontierland and Liberty Square have been drained as part of this unspecified project.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


The new paint color scheme appears complete at the Magic Kingdom parking toll plaza. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Walt Disney World Resort and Brightline Enter Into Agreement To Construct A Train Station At Disney Springs

A train line connecting Walt Disney World Resort with Orlando International Airport and, perhaps, other destinations has long been discussed and debated in Central Florida. Yesterday, Walt Disney World Resort and Brightline, "the first privately funded passenger rail system in America in over a century," announced that they entered into an agreement to build a train station at Disney Springs. Though suspended due to the pandemic, Brightline already has stations and high speed rail service in South Florida between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. It has additional stations planned in Aventura, Boca Raton, and Port Miami, and has an expansion project already underway between West Palm beach and Orlando International Airport which is expected to be completed in 2022.

According to the announcement, the proposed Disney Springs station would include a ground level lobby, passenger facilities, and an upper level train platform. No specific time frame was announced for the opening of the Disney Springs station. In 2018, Brightline obtained the right to execute lease agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation and Central Florida Expressway Authority to connect Orlando International Airport and Tampa (on Florida's West Coast). Walt Disney World Resort is located geographically between those points. Engineering and design work for Brightline's Central Florida expansion to the west got underway in February of this year.

Media reports have long-noted that, historically, Disney objects to any stations between the airport and Walt Disney World Resort. The "tourist corridor" of International Drive lies between the airport and Walt Disney World, and speculation has already begun as to whether another station will be constructed along the line. The Mayor of Orange County Florida, Jerry Demmings, was shown on local news last night at a press conference discussing the prospects of a station serving I-Drive and he noted the complexity of funding such a station, particularly without government/public financing.

This & That…

…Likely future Disney Legend, Imagineer Joe Rohde, who began his Disney career working with models in the development of EPCOT, and who oversaw development of The Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Aulani (the Disney resort in Hawai'i), Pandora-The World of AVATAR, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout (just to name a few projects), yesterday announced that he is retiring from Walt Disney Imagineering after 40 years in January.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joe Rohde (@joerohde)


 

…The #D23FantasticWorlds virtual sessions presented by D23-The Official Disney Fan Club included a nearly one hour presentation recapping the ongoing transformation of EPCOT, from the new "neighborhoods" that will replace Future World, to the new entrance plaza (including the pylons installed in front of Spaceship Earth that are reminiscent of the originals and a new lighting scheme for Spaceship Earth that will be in place before year-end), to the status of construction at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, to the status of construction of the new nighttime spectacular "Harmonious" which will include daytime fountains in the World Showcase Lagoon, and some details of the architecture of the expanded France pavilion as it will become home to Remy's Ratatouille Adventure (which is now scheduled to debut at some point in 2021).


A replay of the "EPCOT-The Magic of Possibility" presentation is available to view. Video ©Disney.

…A campaign is underway on Indiegogo to raise funds to support the production of Billy Flanigan: The Happiest Man on Earth Film, An intimate journey into the life, loves, and career of Walt Disney World Legend, Billy Flanigan. According to the post, the campaign funds "are not going to anyone you see on screen, the director, or the producers," and "100% of the Producer's Profits from distribution of this film will be donated to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in memory of Billy's Type 1 Diabetic sister, Gail, and in honor of his T1D daughter, Lexi." Contributions over $75 receive indicated perks plus a link to view the film when completed.​

 


OFFICIAL TEASER - BILLY FLANIGAN: THE HAPPIEST MAN ON EARTH from 12th Angel Productions on Vimeo.

…Walt Disney World Golf has a special offer for those looking for golf instruction: Pre-purchase a package of four, one-hour, private golf lessons with Michael Schlager, its PGA Director of Instruction, any time, between now and December 22, 2020, and receive a complimentary on-course playing lesson to put your improved skills to the test and to take advantage of Michael’s on-course playing strategies. The cost for this package is $349, which represents a savings of $175 off of the regular retail price of the lessons. The lessons may be scheduled at any time, with no time limit on when the lesson credits can be redeemed. For more information, contact Michael Schlager directly at (407)454-5096, or by email.

…And, for those that are looking to enjoy "frequent and affordable access" to Walt Disney World Golf facilities and PGA instructional staff, there are three Players Club membership levels available with associated levels of benefits. For more information, visit the official Walt Disney World Golf Blog.

Disney Parks Blog has posted the Foodie Guide of the Holiday Treats available at Magic Kingdom through December 31.

…Speaking of food, The Crystal Palace will reopen at Magic Kingdom starting December 13, as a family-style dining experience (without characters) featuring individually plated entrées. Reservations open December 1. On December 17, on the other side of the Hub, Tomorrowland Terrace will reopen (as this quick service venue often does seasonally), this time featuring seafood.

…Woody's Lunch Box reopens tomorrow, Wednesday, November 25, in Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

…For Thanksgiving Disney Parks entertainment you can enjoy at home (or wherever you watch TV), the Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration will be on ABC-TV at 9 p.m. on Thursday featuring highlights of past holiday specials.

…Disney Springs has Thanksgiving week shopping specials, promotions, and discounts already underway.

Give Kids the World Village's Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular Runs Nightly Through January 3, 2021

The Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular continues nightly through January 3, 2021. As we have noted in recent weeks, Walt Disney World Resort donated over 3 million lights to the non-profit resort that provides wish-granting, no-cost stays to critically ill children and their families. Because the resort had to close to wish families when the pandemic began, the organization decided to create this immersive, walk-through holiday light event to raise funds for its mission while brining the spirit of the season to visitors.


The Village is located near Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, roughly a half an hour drive from Magic Kingdom (and less time from the Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort area). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka


Walt Disney World Resort donated over 3 million lights to Give Kids the World Village. As now decorated, the Village now brings to mind the former Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but on an even larger scale (though without the programmed, synchronized "dancing"). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Local businesses, including several of the other Central Florida attractions, decorated 33 individual villas around the Resort. The display opened to the public on Friday, November 13. Date-specific, timed entry tickets are available on the Give Kids The World website at GKTW.org/lights. Most of the Village's wheelchair-accessible attractions are also 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 are 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 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.


Town Hall, the Village's central building, is elaborately decorated with lights for the holidays.


Stilt-walking entertainers are also decorated in light.


Sea World participated in decorated one of the Resort's Villas.


Ripley's Believe it or Not included some oddities in its holiday decorations.


Crayola Crayons decorate and help decorate one of the villas.


LEGOLAND Florida Resort has some brick sculptures decorating a villa (including that wreath which we saw last year at a media-invited event at LEGOLAND).


Amberville, home to some of the Village's attractions, is covered in holiday lights.


Keep an eye out for Stormtroopers bearing gifts.


Disney decorated two villas, including this one with a Beauty & The Beast theme.

File Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular is underway. During the Media Preview night, we steamed live from Give Kids the World Village. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

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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.

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Here is an idea of what to expect for pricing:

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (moderate)
November 15-20, 2020
Tickets: 2 Adults and 3 Child (ages 3-9) 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets
Total cost: $3,581.97 with 'Magic is Here' Offer (regular price $3,933.53 - $351.56 savings)

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort (moderate)
Dates: January 25 - 31, 2021
Tickets: 4 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets
Total cost: $3,029.60 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $3,303.76 - $274.16 savings)

Disney's All-Star Movies Resort (value)
Dates: February 10-16, 2021
Tickets: 2 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets
Total cost: $2,018.58 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $2,217.86 - $199.28 savings)

Disney's Yacht Club Resort (deluxe)
Dates: February 10-16, 2021
Tickets: 2 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets
Total cost: $4,019.42 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $5,407.60 - $1,388.18 savings)

You can see more examples on its website.

When you know what price range you are thinking about, call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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.

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Comments

  1. By wdwchuck

    I may be missing something but why not do FastPasses again before park hopper? Why make us stand in long lines while the FastPass line is unused? Why not hire a couple more people back and let us use FastPass 3 times a day?

  2. By asdhollywood

    I've heard nothing official, but I have a few theories about why FastPass+ isn't back yet: 1) FastPass+ (like its predecessor FastPass) puts more guests on the walkways - sure, it also boosts food and beverage sales, and Merchandise sales, but each of those venues has limited capacity too right now. When folks are in a physically distanced queue, they're spread out (and, as I noted, taking up walkway space too since none of the queues were designed to have groups separated by 6+ feet on all sides. 2) With the limited attraction capacity, I don't think the parks had any solid enough data as to how FastPass queues would work and how to do the Standby mix; in past times, standby could involve long periods where the queues don't move at all - which is something they're trying to avoid right now to limit any one guest's exposure to another specific individual in the same space for a long time. Most of the FastPass queues are not designed for holding lots of guests, so there'd be no significant room to physically distance a lot of those guests which would further limit how many folks could make FP reservations; and 3) FastPass queues require that many more cast members to manage the queues and keep them separate.

    Having said all that, I think FastPass will return before too much longer in some form if increased capacity restrictions or travel advisories don't change the attendance levels further.

    Regards,
    Alan

  3. By wdwchuck

    Quote Originally Posted by asdhollywood View Post
    I've heard nothing official, but I have a few theories about why FastPass+ isn't back yet: 1) FastPass+ (like its predecessor FastPass) puts more guests on the walkways - sure, it also boosts food and beverage sales, and Merchandise sales, but each of those venues has limited capacity too right now. When folks are in a physically distanced queue, they're spread out (and, as I noted, taking up walkway space too since none of the queues were designed to have groups separated by 6+ feet on all sides. 2) With the limited attraction capacity, I don't think the parks had any solid enough data as to how FastPass queues would work and how to do the Standby mix; in past times, standby could involve long periods where the queues don't move at all - which is something they're trying to avoid right now to limit any one guest's exposure to another specific individual in the same space for a long time. Most of the FastPass queues are not designed for holding lots of guests, so there'd be no significant room to physically distance a lot of those guests which would further limit how many folks could make FP reservations; and 3) FastPass queues require that many more cast members to manage the queues and keep them separate.

    Having said all that, I think FastPass will return before too much longer in some form if increased capacity restrictions or travel advisories don't change the attendance levels further.

    Regards,
    Alan

    Thanks Alan! That all makes sense. I am not as familiar with all the inner workings of the rides. I am grateful you are still doing your reports. A ray of sunshine in the 2020 gloom.
    And my other question is there alot of cases of Covid happening at WDW? If not lets open up more restaurants and shows. Keep up the cleaning regimes and go for the gusto!

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