Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 29, 2020 - January 4, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for the End of 2020:
December 29, 2020 - January 4, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Editorial View (Combined)

Well, I said last week that when I received further information from the Disney Vacation Club Annual Members and Board joint meetings that I would report it in a future Update. Since I received that information from a DVC spokesperson last week and DVC subsequently posted video highlights of the December 10, 2020, joint meetings at Disney's Contemporary Resort Convention Center, I decided to go ahead and publish this last 2020 Update. There is a bit of additional news to report too, so here we are, together online one more time in 2020.

I'll again wish you a happy and healthy 2021, here, before I get to the news and view. May we all get past this pandemic, and on to a brighter more prosperous future, with the hope that more cast members can get back to work and conditions will become appropriate to safely start lifting capacity and distancing restrictions. The scaled-down holidays celebrations will conclude at year's end around Walt Disney World Resort, but, of course, all of Disney's health and safety protocols will remain in place into the indefinite future. If you decide to visit, be sure to check the latest news about travel restrictions, and, if you are planning to visit the parks, be sure to make your Disney Park Pass date-specific reservations in addition to having your tickets before you arrive. You will be required to wear a face covering in just about all public areas (except when stationary while dining) or you will be asked to leave.

Now, I want pause for an editorial moment, to share my view of what a small part of that brighter future should be in 2021 and beyond at one of Magic Kingdom's iconic attractions: The Hall of Presidents. Some of my friends have heard me say what follows many times before over many years, and, indeed, I posted a version of these thoughts to my personal Facebook page well-over a month ago, after all of the major news outlets concluded the election had been decided in favor of Joe Biden who will be Inaugurated the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. If past is precedent, we can probably expect an announcement that The Hall of Presidents will close for "reimagining" in the days leading up to the Inauguration, and, with The Hall being an attraction that will celebrate its 50th anniversary along with the park on October 1, I think the park will aim to reopen it in time for that.

The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, which opened with Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971, is often described as a "dream" of Walt Disney's, dating back to at least as early as when he created the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" attraction for the State of Illinois pavilion at the New York 1964 World's Fair (and, subsequently, Disneyland). File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

My hope is that as the Imagineers consider the next version of The Hall of Presidents, they remember that when guests enter Magic Kingdom under the Walt Disney World Railroad berm at the front of the park, guests pass under a sign promising what is to come. It says that you’re leaving “Today” to visit “Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy.” To me, it is a statement of the overall theme of Magic Kingdom, something that has gotten a bit muddled over the years at The Hall.

Entering under the berm of Magic Kingdom, guests are supposed to be leaving the world of "Today" behind. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Back in 1993, Disney added the first-ever talking animatronic version of a then-sitting President to the Hall of Presidents, with dialogue spoken by President Bill Clinton. I believed that was a mistake then, and then that mistake has been repeated when the tradition continued for each subsequent President up to 2017: Bush, Obama, and Trump. The problem, to my way of thinking, is that each talking then-current President animatronic brings with it “Today”—the baggage of its real life counterpart’s respective personal popular support and opposition, which, let’s face it, has run pretty close to a 50% proposition for each of them. Indeed, this seemed to reach its height when The Hall re-opened in 2017 with the then-new President Trump animatronic installed: Disney was uneasy enough about the politics of the day that it installed spikes on the stage rail to discourage anyone from rushing the stage, installed more visible surveillance cameras to keep an eye on the guests, and posted at least one uniformed Disney Security cast member in the theater for each show.

The upcoming 2021 installation of the 46th President seems to present an opportunity to largely remove this "Today" factor from Magic Kingdom: an equal number of Democrat and Republican Presidents have now each had their Animatronic turn speaking in The Hall. Imagineers can bring the attraction back in line with the purpose and promise of Magic Kingdom by adding an animatronic representation of President Biden after he’s been inaugurated, but like Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush (the elder) before the 1993 changes, simply have him nod during the role-call of Presidents. The "show" can otherwise fulfill Walt Disney's dream of being a celebration of the office and what it symbolizes: the promise of chief executive citizen rather than what came before in world history—inherited Monarchy. The Hall can, as it always has, celebrate the times the office holders of "Yesterday" have risen to meet great challenges of the nation and world. That celebration too squares with the oft-referred to optimism of Walt Disney.

I think that when The Hall of Presidents invites in “Today,” it runs afoul of Magic Kingdom’s escapist promise. Sure, as Americans and Citizens of the World, we should focus on the problems of Today and the failures of those who have been President or have otherwise been in leadership roles, but not inside the berm of Magic Kingdom. When "Today" invades the storytelling, the park ceases to be a place of “Magic” intended for recreation and play, where we are supposed to permit ourselves to believe that the characters and settings are real, that there are ALWAYS Happily Ever Afters, that Wishes REALLY do come true, that good ALWAYS triumphs over evil, and so forth. Directly confronting the politics of "Today" in a Magic Kingdom attraction is not on-theme entertainment and, indeed, we likewise try to avoid it here in the MousePlanet weekly Updates where "all who come to this happy place" are welcome.

Disney Vacation Club Member News Update

For the past few Updates, I have noted my disappointment as a Disney Vacation Club Member for more than two decades, that DVC published nothing more than a boilerplate "highlights" statement from its annual members and board meetings held at Disney's Contemporary Resort Convention Center on December 10, 2020. I chose not to attend the in-person meetings.

Last week, I reached out to Disney for further information about the meetings (both as a MousePlanet reporter and as a DVC Member), for clarifications about 2021 budgets, dues, and 2020 operational savings as a result of the temporary closure of each of the DVC resorts. As I noted last week, on December 17, the 2021 Member Annual Dues statements were posted to accounts, and to my pleasant surprise, my account showed operations credits which reduced the total bill to a level lower than my pre-meeting review of the budgets suggested. It turns out that I was correct to assume that the operations credits relate to the fact that, for more than two months, there were no operating Disney Vacation Club properties. In response to my request to Disney for further information, a DVC spokesperson provided the following information that is quoted here verbatim:


The temporary closure of our resorts due to COVID-19 has lowered operating costs and resulted in a surplus across all associations. The board has elected to issue a credit to refund the estimated operating surplus, which is reflected in your 2021 annual dues statement.

The credit varies by association, and is based on the length of time each resort was closed. The credit is a separate line item on the 2021 dues statement and will be applied to the balance for your 2021 annual dues.

Member Dues

This year’s increases are driven primarily by changes in operating costs, due to Health and Safety protocols, such as enhanced cleaning standards. These enhanced procedures affect the time spent cleaning rooms as well as common areas such as the lobby, pool deck, restrooms and other spaces. Additionally, physical-distancing measures have impacted transportation, especially bus transportation, as we need to operate additional buses to maintain physical distancing.

Other factors this year include higher property insurance premiums, previously announced wage increases and reserves for ongoing refurbishments to DVC resorts, including enhancements to the Wi-Fi infrastructure and cellular service.

DVC Members may also now view video highlights of the meetings under the Condo Association News menu item on the Member Dashboard. DVC Member log-in is required. DVC said during the meetings that state statutes and DVC by-laws required that the meetings be held in-person. The video highlights released echo the major points in the statement above. Indeed, Elizabeth Healy, Director, DVC Condo Finance & Member Accounting, said on the video:

This year, with the temporary closure of our resorts due to COVID-19, we have had lower operating costs. This has driven a surplus across all associations. The surplus varies by association based on the length of time each resort was closed. ...our East Coast beach resorts were the first to reopen in mid-June, followed by the resorts here on property at Walt Disney World, and, more recently, the re-opening of Aulani. This year, the Board has elected to issue a credit, to refund the estimated operating surplus.

2020 DVC Surplus Operational Credits Applied to Member Accounts in 2021
Elizabeth Healy displayed a chart of the credit per point as applied to each of the DVC Resorts at the meeting. Screenshot from the 2020 DVC Meetings Highlights.

For the West Coast, DVC confirmed that notwithstanding the ongoing closure of its property there (the Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Resort) and the other Disneyland Resort hotels and theme parks, it has continued with development plans for its additional DVC units at Disneyland Hotel, with further steps achieved in the approval and planning process. For the Atlantic Coast DVC properties, however, DVC noted that the significant storms of the past several years have drastically driven up insurance for wind damage at those resorts, resulting in substantial increases in member dues there (which DVC says it partially ofset by funding some of the increased premiums itself). For those interested, I have included the 2021 dues charts shown in the meeting below which also reflect the increase for each property over 2020 budgets (which do not reflect the 2020 operations credits).

Walt Disney World DVC Resort Dues 2021
Disney Vacation Club Properties at Walt Disney World 2021 dues increases reflect DVC's expectations of increased operating expenses attributable largely to increased cleaning costs, transportation, and the phase-in of the previously announced hourly wage increases. Screenshot from the 2020 DVC Meetings Highlights.

DVC West Coast and Beach Property 2021 Dues
The Atlantic Coast DVC Properties have substantial dues increases as a result of increased wind damage insurance premiums in addition to the enhanced cleaning costs. Screenshot from the 2020 DVC Meetings Highlights.

This & That…

…Another notable addition to Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening operations will be the reopening of Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park on March 7, 2021. More details likely will follow as the date approaches. There is not yet a published reopening date for Disney's Typhoon Lagoon.

…Reminder: Passholders visiting the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays in the evenings (from 7 p.m. until close) can get 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages when using cashless payment at select EPCOT Holiday Kitchens through December 31, 2020. The list of participating locations is available on the Passholder Special Offers page of DisneyWorld.com, but remember, it never hurts to ask!

…Gideon's Bakehouse opened its new location at Disney Springs on Christmas Eve morning. Social media reports that opening day virtual queuing for the Central Florida bakery's new flagship store reached up to three hours at its peak.

…REMINDER: Yesterday, December 28, an all-new assortment of apparel, accessories and more merchandise became available for pet owners and pets in a first-ever collection from Disney Parks for pet owners and pets: Reigning Cats and Dogs Collection. It is available at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and online.

…REMINDER: Wine Bar George at Disney Springs is offering a $10 bonus gift card for each $100 gift card purchased at the restaurant through December 31.

…REMINDER: Patina Restaurant Group, which operates Morimoto Asia Orlando, The Edison, Maria & Enzo's Ristorante, Enzo's hideaway Tunnelbar, and Pizza Ponte at Disney Springs, is offering a $30 digital bonus card with the purchase of every $100 e-gift card purchased through December 31, 2020. Terms and Conditions, plus a full list of participating locations (which include Downtown Disney District locations but NOT EPCOT restaurants), is available on this page of its website, where you can also purchase the e-gift cards.

…REMINDER: Starting January 5, 2021, Disney Vacation Club Members that book 4-night or more room reservations for arrivals through September 25, 2021, that also buy a non-discounted 4-day Walt Disney World theme park ticket will receive 2 extra days added to your ticket. The offer is valid for number of guests on Member’s eligible room reservation and the park tickets must be purchased in advance through Member Services. Like many DVC offers, this one requires that the Member be eligible for Membership Extras (own at least a specified number of points purchased directly from DVC as of a certain date). The park tickets will be valid for admission beginning on date selected as start date and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on ticket length and type. And, of course, until further notice, Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for the dates Members and their guests plan to use their tickets, and those reservations remain limited and subject to availability.

…REMINDER: Similar to the DVC ticket offer, Disney Parks Blog announced a two additional days park admission deal for guests that buy a non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights January 8 through September 25, 2021. Details are published on this page of DisneyWorld.com and booking opens on January 5, 2021. The offer applies to non-discounted hotel stays; separately, Passholders can save up to 40% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 3 through April 17, 2021.

…And, REMINDER: the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is offering tickets for its three food and beverage events coming up January 16, February 7 and February 27, 2021. On January 16 and February 27, the Food & Wine Classic: A Taste of Swan and Dolphin will be offered from 5:30-8:00 p.m., including 10 food stations from the hotel's award-winning restaurants and more than 50 beverage offerings (unlimited food and beverage tastings, including dessert selections from the hotel's world champion pastry chef, Laurent Branlard), and live entertainment. On Sunday, February 7, the resort will debut its "Big Game Tailgate Watch Party," at 6:00 p.m.: starting 30 minutes prior to kickoff and through the end of the game, attendees can watch all the action, enjoy seven food stations and unlimited craft beer and wine. Event-only tickets can be purchased online at SwanDolphinFoodAndWineClassic.com for $110 per person. Room packages start at $359 and include event access for two adults. To book, call 1-888-828-8850 between 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. weekdays; 5:00 p.m. on weekends. Events are limited to those 21 years and older. Health and safety protocols for the events include: temperature checks at the entrance; plexiglass walls for all food service areas; all cast members wearing PPE; socially distanced event space; seating available to accommodate each party at their own table; touchless menus and clearly marked social distancing signage.

…On Christmas Day, Disney Cruise Line debuted an animated rendering of the Grand Hall of its next ship, the Disney Wish, which is now scheduled to set sail in Summer 2022. DCL plans to debut its three latest ships by 2025. There have been no recent announcements, however, as to when the existing ships may resume cruising itineraries.

REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village To Begin Reopening January 17, 2021

In a glimmer of good news this month, Give Kids The World Village announced that nearly 10 months from the day that it said goodbye to its last wish family of guests in March, it will be getting back to its mission of spreading joy and creating the happiness that inspires hope for critically ill children and their families by reopening the Village beginning on January 17, 2021!

Give Kids The World Village to Reopen January 17, 2021
Give Kids the World Village to Reopen starting January 17, 2021. Image courtesy GKTW.

The Give Kids The World Village announcement says:

With safety as our number one priority, we will be opening very slowly - beginning with a limited number of families, seasonal staff and volunteers, and gradually growing our capacity over time.

The decision to reopen has been made with the full support of our Board and theme park partners, Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, and after careful consultation with the infectious disease experts at Nemours Children's Hospital - who also worked closely with us to develop our comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan. To view Give Kids The World's reemergence video, [MousePlanet has embedded it below].

Give Kids The World Village to begin its reopening On January 17, 2021. Video courtesy GKTW.

We are thrilled to welcome families back to enjoy magical weeklong stays in our whimsical storybook Village, and would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has helped to make it possible for us to continue our 34-year legacy of transforming lives one precious moment at a time!

The Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular wraps up on January 3, 2021. The Village, located near Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, (roughly half an hour drive from Magic Kingdom and less time from the Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort area), received a donation of over 3 million lights from Walt Disney World Resort. The immersive, walk-through holiday light event has been created to raise funds for its mission while brining the spirit of the season to visitors. I had an opportunity to see the media preview back in November, and it is quite impressive, bringing to mind the former Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights that used to be one of Disney's Hollywood Studios' seasonal offerings.

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"). File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Of course, even if you cannot visit, donation opportunities are available on its website. Last week, Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix asked me to share the team "Pancake Sunday" fundraising page for Give Kids the World Challenge for Hope Walk, Run, Roll and Stroll, so I repeat it here: those that donate $25 or more even receive a custom virtual pancake! Visit its team page.

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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.

Disney accepts Resort Hotel reservations for 2021, and 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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Get Away Today can help you book discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021! One of the HUGE benefits of booking with Get Away Today is its price monitoring that comes automatically when anyone books their Walt Disney World Resort vacation with Get Away today. Once this new rates became available, for example, they automatically applied it to all of its guests with qualifying packages. Some guests saved over $2,000 - just like that! 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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  1. By asdhollywood

    Sorry, Alan here. I forgot to include the Raglan Road at Disney Springs New Year’s festivities:

    ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 23, 2020) – Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant guests can raise a glass to the New Year twice when the pub celebrates 2021’s arrival in Ireland, and again five hours later in Central Florida.
    New Year’s Eve at Raglan Road will feature a fun-filled night of live Irish music and dance with two countdowns to the New Year – one at 7 p.m. when the clock strikes midnight in Ireland -- and one at midnight Eastern Standard Time. The pub will serve complimentary bubbly to all guests of legal age during each countdown.
    On Friday, New Year’s Day, Raglan Road will offer its popular Rollicking Raglan Weekend Brunch with live Irish entertainment from noon, as well as “The Cure” – our signature version of the Bloody Mary. The restaurant’s brunch menu is chock full of delicious offerings ranging from The Full Irish breakfast and Pancakes Diaspora to the OMG Burger and the pub’s famous Fish & Chips – a premium 10-ounce North Atlantic beer-battered cod filet. Guests also can choose from a beverage menu of specialty libations including Irish coffees, beers, wine, bubbly and cocktails.
    Guests are encouraged to book reservations at raglanroad.com or 407/938-0300. There is no cover charge at the pub.

  2. By wdwchuck

    Hello Alan,
    Thanks for the extra report. I read your comments about the Hall of Presidents and it is a subject that I have paid close attention to over the years.
    Why are we so divided? Who is benefiting by us being so divided? Why are we getting more and more and more divided?
    If people looked at that they would be absolutely amazed by what they found. There are actual people and entities that have gained massive wealth by keeping us divided.
    Doesn't have to be this way.

  3. By asdhollywood

    Not really a MousePlanet discussion subject, but defined American political divisions began during the Washington Administration with the formation of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. Immediately before that there were those loyal to the Crown and the Revolutionaries. I agree that it doesn't have to be this way, but "us vs. them" seems to be the human condition.

  4. By carolinakid

    Totally agree that Washington and Lincoln should be the only Presidents with speaking roles at the Hall of Presidents. People can’t control themselves with Presidents they dislike.

  5. By maxbuffmelvin71

    Hi Alan. You make good points about HOP. I hope if any drastic changes are made to HOP, they at least keep the Lincoln speech and the animatronic Presidents.

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