Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 6-12, 2022by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 6-12, 2022
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Writer's Note, News & Views
As regular readers know, I have been a Disney Vacation Club member for over 20 years. Underlying DVC is a condominium association, and, as such, it has annual meetings open to owners. I've attended quite a few of these annual meetings since moving to Central Florida some years ago. In the past, these were part-scripted legal formalities with a members' questions period that was supposed to be restricted to budgetary issues but often wandered. They were also partly more informal cookies-and-characters receptions where members could meet and chat with DVC executive leadership about all sorts of topics.
I have visited EPCOT in December every year (except 2012) since 2002. The sun sets before 6 p.m. Eastern at this time of year in Central Florida, but the "Golden Hour" views around the parks can be quite stunning. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The global pandemic changed the meetings the past few years. Although they were still held, as required by law, the receptions were removed (questions were encouraged by an online form submission process). Highlights of the 2020 meeting were streamed by DVC, and the COVID-related restrictions for attending were significant. Last year, COVID restrictions were more relaxed, but I missed last year's meeting while on vacation using my DVC points at Aulani over in Hawai'i. I understand that there was no informal component last year.
I am looking forward to this year's annual meeting coming up later this week, on December 8, as it could have more of the format of the pre-pandemic meetings. But the big unknown is how the members' questions period will go and whether the executives will be available for post-meeting mingling. I saw quite a few reports on social media after last year's meetings of a rather upset membership not feeling like they got a full opportunity to be heard.
Indeed, I'm quite curious what the "temperature" of the general membership is right now. For example, DVC members are in the same boat as the rest of the general public regarding annual passes. DVC members who chose to cancel or not renew their APs during the pandemic and who aren't Florida residents are forced to buy individual tickets if they want to visit the theme parks as part of their DVC stays at Walt Disney World Resort. In addition, all members face the same theme park reservation system, no matter what kind of tickets they have and no matter where they are staying. I know that if I was still a Chicagoan and had canceled my annual pass during the pandemic, I'd have a great deal of concerns about continuing my DVC membership right now, and this year's annual dues hikes that will be finalized by the board at the meeting will only place that more in focus for some number of members.
As I mentioned last week, I now have a pass with blockout dates because I decided to exchange the 20 blocked dates for the approximately $400 savings. I used my DVC points to visit Walt Disney World to end the year all but one year from December 2002 until December 2019, and had decided that I was not going to return for December 31, 2020 before I had even heard the term "COVID-19" a few weeks into 2020.
My ticket choice naturally followed that thinking when the Sorcerer Pass was announced and my AP came up for renewal. As a local since 2014, my vacation thoughts are different than they were as a Chicagoan, even apart from the changes wrought by the pandemic and Disney's business decisions. While there are a lot of Floridians who are DVC members, I have to imagine that most members are not, and it will be interesting to see how they are represented at the meeting. It will also be interesting to see how DVC leadership will try to spin a positive message for members going forward, with about a decade and a half remaining on the contracts of a number of the properties. I'll report what I see and hear in this space next week.
Yesterday, December 5, was the 121st anniverary of Walt Disney's birth! How about that? Notwithstanding that he said it all started with a mouse, it really all started with him. Let's see what the latest news and views are 121 years and a day later...
Last Chance to Ride Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom: January 22, 2023
Disney announced this past week that Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom will close on January 23, 2023, to make way for its long-announced transformation into Tiana's Bayou Adventure which is expected to open late in 2024. That means your last chance to ride the current version of Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom on January 22. Disney has not yet shared when the attraction will close at Disneyland, where Tiana's Bayou Adventure is also expected to open late in 2024.
Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom will close January 23, 2023 to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure which is expected to open in late 2024. This is new concept art. Disneyland’s Splash Mountain closing date details have not yet been shared by Disney. pic.twitter.com/TJr76JYBN3— MousePlanet (@MousePlanet) December 2, 2022
Ahead of the announcement, Disney invited MousePlanet and a number of other media outlets to a presentation by Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Producer Charita Carter and Executive Creative Director Ted Robledo about the transformation project and its story. The reimagined attraction takes place a year after the movie The Princess and The Frog, and Disney will bring back a number of the film's original characters and voice talent including Tiana, Naveen, Louis, and Mama Odie. In the new story, the "mountain" will be a salt dome, some of which actually stand up to 100 feet tall in Louisiana, and it will be connected in the story to the new employee-owned company "Tiana's Foods," as Tiana is now a successful entrepreneur with ties to the community, according to the Imagineers.
Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Producer Charita Carter and Executive Creative Director Ted Robledo showed WDI's latest artist rendering of a scene from Tiana's Bayou Adventure during a presentation to invited media on December 1, 2022. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
New characters are also being developed for the ride. Though renderings have not been released and photos were not allowed except for the one new piece of concept art Disney released, in the presentation room were models and sketches of "Otter with fiddle," "Turtle with harmonica," "Rabbit with washboard," "Raccoon with accordion," "Beaver with percussion," and "Opossum with bass." The official Disney Parks Blog post about the attraction describes:
Tiana made some new friends out here [in the bayou] – a band full of adorable critters, including an otter, a rabbit, a raccoon, a beaver, a turtle and others. The band members sing and play instruments made of natural materials they found in the bayou. It feels like they may have a bigger role to play in this story … but we'll just have to wait and see on that one.
Like so many musical genres, zydeco [the special blend of rhythm and blues that was born in Louisiana that will be heard on the ride] brings together the sounds and styles of many cultures. We wanted that spirit reflected in this scene (and throughout the attraction) so that all our guests feel welcome to join in the celebration. It’s emblematic of what we’re always striving for with our attractions – bringing people of different backgrounds together through timeless Disney stories. This new musical adventure provides us with a song sheet to write that concept into reality.
The Imagineers explained that a great deal of research has gone into presenting the characters of Tiana's world authentically from a real place. Her new look, for example, debuted at Essence Festival earlier this year, is inspired by what some women of color wore in 1927.
With the attraction not expected to be open before late 2024, expect little bits of information to be released over roughly the next 24 months. As a water flume attraction, Splash Mountain historically usually closed at some point in January for extensive annual maintenance and refurbishment that included draining the water from the attraction. I expect that sort of maintenance and refurbishment, combined with the removal of the existing animatronics will first take some time ahead of new elements getting installed and exterior theming changes becoming visible. Stay tuned.
Disney on Broadway Concert Series at EPCOT Lineup Announced for January 13-February 20, 2023
When the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts returns this winter from January 13 to February 20, 2023, one of its highlights will be the three-times-nightly Disney on Broadway Concert Series at the America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase. This week, Disney announced the lineup of Broadway stars performing songs from the Disney on Broadway stage productions from the past 25 years. As with prior editions of these concerts, pairs of performers will take turns performing on different dates, with the pairs changing every two weeks during the festival, and, on the last night of the festival, four performers will take the stage together for extended finale performances.
- January 13, 15, 16, 19, 20 – Kara Lindsay (Newsies) and Kevin Massey (Tarzan)
- January 14, 17, 18, 21, 22 – Arielle Jacobs (Aladdin) and Adam Jacobs (Aladdin)
- January 23, 25, 26, 29, 30, February 2, 3 – Patti Murin (Frozen) and Robert Creighton (Frozen)
- January 24, 27, 28, 31, February 1, 4, 5 – Mandy Gonzalez (AIDA) and L. Steven Taylor (The Lion King)
- February 7, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19 – Kissy Simmons (The Lion King) and Josh Strickland (Tarzan)
- February 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17 – Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Michael James Scott (Aladdin)
- February 20 – Special, extended finale performance featuring Brown, Scott, Simmons, and Strickland
Dining packages including guaranteed seating at a concert performance go on sale on December 13. Visit the Festival's official website, ArtfulEPCOT.com for more information and to book reservations. Participating restaurants are: Akershus Royal Banquet, Biergarten Restaurant, Coral Reef Restaurant, Garden Grill Restaurant, Le Cellier Steakhouse, Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue (same-day dining packages may be available without reservations), Rose and Crown Dining Room, and Spice Road Table. And, of course, though concerts (not dining) are included in the price of admission, don't forget that a park ticket and a date specific park reservation for EPCOT (or a same-day reservation for another park and the park hopper option with EPCOT being open to hoppers) are also required to see the concerts.
Additional Views of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays & Disney Springs
Though plans are already underway for January's start of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays continues through December 30. Last week, I shared quite a few views, and here are some additional ones that I captured this past week. I also got over to Disney Springs during this past week, and the Disney Wish-themed entry along the Christmas Tree stroll was finally in place. You can see my photos of some of the other trees in the November 15, 2022 Update.
The planter in the center of the park is decorated for the 2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
The planter decorations can also be viewed facing World Showcase and EPCOT's central Christmas Tree.
When visiting EPCOT last week, I enjoyed trying the Chicken Skewer at the Shanghai Holiday Kitchen located at China Pavilion.
EPCOT's entry planter box is decorated and lit for the 2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
The American Adventure is represented in its rotunda in gingerbread. The show inside the attraction is currently closed for refurbishment.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
After dark, the Living with the Land attraction in The Land pavilion features its "Glimmering Greenhouses" during the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
The Living with the Land attraction in The Land pavilion features its "Glimmering Greenhouses" during the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays..
The greenhouse featuring fish farming glows red at night year-round, but during this year's Festival of the Holidays, there are also green accent lights.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Over at Disney Springs, I previously shared a few highlights of the Christmas Tree stroll. This week, I had a look at the Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wish-themed tree, which was missing on my prior visit.
This & That & Reminders…
…Through the end of the year (Pacific time), Disney Movie Insiders (an official Disney loyalty program/website of The Walt Disney Company) is offering a chance to win a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort for four people. The first entry is free; means of entry, rules, restrictions and so forth are available on this page of DisneyMovieInsiders.com.
The magic is calling! 🏰✨ Discover countless ways to celebrate during The World’s Most Magical Celebration.— Disney Movie Insiders (@Disney_Insiders) November 30, 2022
Enter now for your chance to win a magical vacation to @WaltDisneyWorld Resort for 4 people: https://t.co/O5kthb7hbb pic.twitter.com/EXk6UriApK
…Earlier this fall, Walt Disney World announced in the My Disney Experience app and elsewhere that new Minnie Mouse Passholder magnets would be mailed to passholders before the end of the year. Mine arrived this week in the mail. Fellow Passholders: have your magnets arrived? Keep an eye on your mail.
…As the reimagination of the Walt Disney World Golf courses continues, the Magnolia course will partially reopen next week on December 12, with 14 holes opening while the redesign work continues on the remaining four. The course, managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, will have holes with new Disney-themed names associated with Disney films along with quotes from Walt Disney or Arnold Palmer.
…In a tie-in with the Disney+ series, The Santa Clauses, Amorette's Patisserie at Disney Springs is offering up a "Santa Clause" cake (cake stand not included). In case you missed it, Amorette's Cake Decorating Experience is also back where, for $199, you and up to one additional guest can attend a 90-minute session (starting at 9:30 a.m.) to learn to decorate a character dome cake before the shop opens: you get beverages during the experience (including select alcoholic beverages for adults), and you get to keep your creation, neatly packaged. For an additional $50 plus tax, you can add a second cake by requesting it at least 48 hours in advance. Class size is limited to 14 guests who must be at least 5 years old to participate; reservations required.
…REMINDER: Disney Skyliner will be closed for refurbishment January 22–29, 2023. Disney bus service and FriendShip boats will operate (the latter, of course, weather permitting).
…UPDATED REMINDER: Going back to Walt Disney’s time, when Walt Disney and studio artists personally designed the Toys For Tots train logo, and for 75 years, Disney has supported Toys for Tots to bring toys to children in need at this time of year. The Disney Ultimate Toy Drive continues through December 24, with opportunities to donate on shopDisney.com, Disney Springs (World of Disney, Marketplace Co-Op, Star Wars Galactic outpost, and the Disney Springs Welcome Center), Disneyland locations, and (with varying dates) Disney Outlet locations, and Disney stores. NEW This week, Disney announced that it is providing a grant to the foundation that will result in delivery of another 75,000 toys to children in need this year.
Disney has provided a grant to Toys for Tots that will deliver 75,000 toys to children in need through the #DisneyUltimateToyDrive! 🎁 There’s still time to donate a toy online @shopDisney or at an in-person drop-off location: https://t.co/LZ50UOi0ug pic.twitter.com/YCMJ9CByhF— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) December 5, 2022
…The second season of "Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom" will debut on National Geographic and Nat Geo WILD channels on January 1, 2023, and all ten of the episodes of the new season will be available for streaming on Disney+ starting January 4. The show tells behind-the-scenes stories of some of the animals under Disney's care at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT, and Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
We’re officially one month away from the return of “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” on @NatGeoTV! 🦏🦜🦒 Check out the teaser trailer for season two and visit the Disney Parks Blog for more details: https://t.co/xHD87t3g0v pic.twitter.com/SeD0T5Fhut— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) December 1, 2022
…Give Kids the World Village's Night of a Million Lights at Island H2O Water Park continues to run evenings through January 1, with proceeds benefiting the non-profit resort's mission of providing free weeklong Central Florida vacations for critically ill children and their families. More information and tickets for the nights that are not yet sold out are available at https://www.gktw.org/lights/.
…The Edison at Disney Springs is decking the halls this December 8 and 15 with bottles of Patrón Tequila. Mixologist Alana, and her strong Tequila background, invite you to come out and enjoy fantastic cocktails and paired bites: Silver, Reposado and Añejo each make an appearance. Tickets are $65 plus tax and gratuity per person for each 6–8 p.m. tasting event; space is very limited. Ages 21 and older only. Information and tickets are available on this ExploreTock.com reservation page.
Patina Restaurant Group invited me to attend the December 1 tasting. Weather permitting, tastings are conducted on the patio facing the lake. Tastings feature a mixologist and the chef. Our tasing also included a specialist from Bacardi, the company that owns the Patrón Tequila brand. The session provided a great deal of information about making different tequilas, mixing the cocktails, and the paired bites of food. Mixology graphic courtesy Patina Restaurant Group; Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
…UPDATED REMINDERS: Christmas and New Year's Eve dining information and offers hitting my in box from the Walt Disney World Resort participating partners:
Jaleo at Disney Springs
On Christmas Day, Jaleo at Disney Springs will offer a limited-time menu of Spanish cuisine specialties:
- Ensalada de Invierno ($12) – Persimmon, endive, pomegranate, orange, cana de cabra, and toasted walnuts.
- Conejo al Ajillo ($24) – Rabbit with garlic, oloroso, and fried potatoes.
- Canelones de Pollo, Cerdo y Foie con salsa Bechamel ($18) – Stuffed pasta of chicken, pork and foie gras with bechamel sauce.
- Estofado de Cordero ($16) – Spanish stew of boneless lamb shoulder, white beans, and tomatoes.
- Chuletón a La Parilla (MP) – Confit piquillo peppers.
This New Year’s Eve, Jaleo at Disney Springs will offer a variation of its Tasting Menu, including 14 different tapas, featuring some elevated elements like Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Royal Ossetra Caviar, Ciglas and Pantera Rosa (Pink Panther Dessert) for guests to indulge in while celebrating the end of the year. The New Year’s Eve menu will be priced at $125 per person, and you can make reservations here.
The Edison at Disney Springs - UPDATED
Four holiday beverages are now available until December 25th. Last week, Patina Restaurant Group invited me to sample three of them last week (the "Cosmie Poinsettia, High Roller" was not yet ready for sampling but is now available for sale).
The Cosmic Poinsettia was not available for sampling when I visited, but if you did not know, with each "High Roller" drink guests purchase, they receive a gold High Roller Coin; redeem four High Roller Coins for a free fifth beverage. Image courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.
You can also ring in the new year at The Edison, where they're pulling out all the stops to dazzle eyes, ears and of course, tastebuds. The extravaganza features lavish food and drink, including passed appetizers and a decadent dinner and dessert buffet, as well as handcrafted cocktails and premium beers at a cash bar. Live performances will also be enjoyed, including from the world famous Pearls dance trio and 1920s-infused music from The Sound Society Radio Show, as well as a DJ, open dance floor, stilt walkers and aerialists. Plus, enjoy special toast at midnight to ring in 2023!
For guaranteed seating, tickets range from $145 to $175 per person. Entry starts at 8:30 p.m. Reservations include passed appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, dinner & dessert buffet, a bottle of bubbly and a toast at midnight. A limited number of general admission tickets will also be available for purchase at a later date, which include entry at 9:00 p.m., passed appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, desserts, a midnight toast and access to the electrifying entertainment lineup for $55 per person. Get tickets and more information HERE.
Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia will offer a few carefully crafted holiday cocktails. See full menu HERE.
- Gingerbread Manhattan – Gingerbread cookie infused knob creek, lazzaroni amaretto, carpano antica, New England spiced cranberry, and orange bitters.
- Jingletini – Tito’s vodka, midori, Licor 43 Horchata, peppermint schnapps, and glitter.
Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs
Earl of Sandwich will provide seasonal offerings this year, including its Holiday Ham and Holiday Turkey.
- Holiday Ham ($8.99) – Ham, cinnamon sweet potato mash, cranberry sauce, and cheddar.
- Holiday Turkey ($8.99) – Turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and mayonnaise.
Chicken Guy! at Disney Springs (and its Winter Park location)
Chicken Guy! launched two new flavors of hand-spun milkshakes available throughout the holiday season.
- Frozen Peppermint Cocoa Shake – Vanilla soft serve, hot cocoa mix, peppermint and crushed candy cane pieces, topped with marshmallow whipped cream, mini marshmallows and a chocolate drizzle.
- Holiday Cookie Shake – Vanilla soft serve, blended with sugar cookies, marshmallow whipped cream, mini M&M's & holiday sprinkles, topped with a special holiday cookie.
Shakes are $6.49 for a regular and $6.99 for a large at Winter Park, and one size for $6.99 at the Disney Springs location.
Enzo’s Hideaway at Disney Springs - UPDATED
The speakeasy-inspired restaurant will serve a collection of signature holiday cocktails. See full menu HERE.
- White Christmas Bourbon Smash – Jim Beam Black bourbon, rosemary simple syrup, lime juice, with a splash of seltzer.
- The Merry Melon – Absolut Vodka, Midori, and lemon lime soda.
- Cranberry Limoncello Spritzer – Limoncello, white cranberry juice, and prosecco.
- Blood Orange Negroni – Blood Orange Malfy Gin, Italicus, and Antica.
- Sazerac – Knob Creek Rye, Courvoisier, bitters, sugar cube, absinthe, and a lemon peel.
*Suggestion: Try White Christmas Bourbon Smash, The Merry Melon, and Cranberry Limoncello Spritzer together by ordering a Babbo Natale Flight*
Maria & Enzo’s at Disney Springs - UPDATED
The Italian restaurant will offer autumn cocktails, plus a fall-inspired pasta dish. See full menu HERE.
- Holiday Cookie Flight
- Gingerbread Man, Peppermint Bark and Shortbread Crumble
- Gingerbread Twist (Mocktail)
- Gingerbread syrup with ginger ale, whipped cream and a mini gingerbread man – White chocolate peppermint iced cocoa (mocktail).
- Chocolate milk with peppermint syrup and a mini candy cane.
- Red Velvet Cupcake (Mocktail) – Red velvet cake syrup, milk and a vanilla frosting rim.
- Gingerbread and Bourbon* – Bulleit bourbon, Combier liqueur, and gingerbread syrup.
- Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark* – Bailey's, pepperment simple, dark chocolate syrup, and vanilla vodka.
- Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle* – Screwball peanut butter whiskey, Pinnacle whipped vodka, Baily's and peanut butter syrup.
*The three cocktails are available to sample together as a "Babbo Natale Flight."
The Usual Writer's Note
Face coverings remain optional across all of Walt Disney World Resort. Remember to check this page of DisneyWorld.com for the latest requirements.
If you're traveling to or from overseas, be sure to check with the places you're visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Though the United States government loosened international travel restrictions for entering the U.S.A. at the end of 2021, it remains important to check on and abide by the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements for entering the United States whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or visitor (and be aware of who needs a visa). The United States dropped the requirement for COVID-19 testing for entering the country.
As for visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Park Pass reservations are required for admission in addition to a valid ticket. If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, Park Hopping only becomes available after 2 p.m. daily, and only after you have first visited the park for which you have made a reservation that day. There have been instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers, and Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.
Sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes continue to be paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. We have seen nothing further about when Disney plans to resume sales of new passes following their brief surfacing this past summer.
Finally, the official tropical storm season ended with November, though the weather service is currently monitoring a disturbance in the Atlantic with a good chance of formation into a subtropical storm. At the moment, the forecast is that the storm will not impact Florida. Here in Central Florida, we had two named storms roll through the region this year, causing some temporary closures around Walt Disney World Resort, and more significant damage elsewhere in the region. As the current disturbance demonstrates, storms do not have to observe any particular dates on the calendar, so please stay informed if you live or plan to visit Florida (or, really, any other place on the planet impacted by severe weather).
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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.
Our travel partners at Get Away Today shared the details of the new discount packages Disney announced this Fall for those planning to visit the remainder of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration through March 30.
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