Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 18, 2023by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 18, 2023
You can view a larger version of the individual photos included in the Update by clicking on the photo; the photo will open in a separate tab without a caption. For the Instagram or Twitter posts embedded in the Update, you can click them and view larger images on the respective sites.
Writer's Note, News & Views
Just after Thanksgiving, in that week's Walt Disney World Resort Update, I asked a bunch of hypothetical questions about the future of Disney Parks under the reinstalled leadership of Bob Iger as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, concluding with:
As The Walt Disney Company undergoes the organizational changes that Bob Iger announced are under consideration as he retakes the reins as CEO for the next two years, what direction will he give to Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products? What changes in corporate direction from the top will cause DPEP Chairman Josh D'Amaro to guide Disney Parks to look at questions like I asked [about the future of Disney Parks], to become an innovator and leader in the travel industry, and to create policies that both maximize profits and enhance the brand by elevating the guest experience? Stay tuned.
Well, here we are, less than six weeks later, and we already see some apparent answers in the Disney Parks Update posted by DPEP Chairman Josh D'Amaro last Tuesday. He wrote:
As we step into this bright future [of 2023 offerings from Disney Parks] it is important that we continuously evolve to help deliver the best guest experience possible. Many of you know that I’m in the parks fairly often… and I listen to you and to our guests about the things that are working… as well as the things that might need some change. And, as we enter this new year, I want you to be the first to hear about a few enhancements that we are going to be making—specifically ones that our guests have asked for and you’ve shared with me. And while this doesn’t address everyone’s feedback, these changes will increase flexibility and add value to our guests’ experience.
[ * * * ]
At Walt Disney World Resort:
- Beginning in the next few months, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders will be able to visit the theme parks after 2 p.m. without needing a park reservation, except on Saturdays and Sundays at Magic Kingdom Park. Pass blockout dates will continue to apply like they do today
- Making changes that will help our guests get the most out of their visit, such as including complimentary self-parking for guests staying at Disney Resort hotels beginning this evening, January 10
- Beginning in the next few months, guests purchasing Disney Genie+ service will also receive digital downloads of their Disney PhotoPass attraction photos taken in the park on the day of their purchase, at no additional charge
I’m excited about all of these changes and offers and want you to know that we are committed to listening, adapting, and staying relentlessly focused on making the guest experience at our Disney parks even better.
I believe there’s no other place like Disney and of course, nothing helps our guests connect with Disney like you do. And while it’s easy to celebrate the products we make, the moments we create, and the experiences we provide … I think it’s important that we recognize all of YOU who make it happen.
Thank you for all that you do. Here’s to an amazing 2023! Cheers!
Disney Parks Blog added that Passholders will receive access to PhotoPass lenses and one complimentary Cinderella Case Mural of Memories experience at a date to be announced. Like Josh D'Amaro's Update, the Disney Parks Blog post emphasizes that Disney "will keep listening to you and adapting as we focus on making the guest experience even better for more people who visit us here at The Most Magical Place on Earth." Disney says that these changes are intended to "bring more value and flexibility to your visits." (I will get back to this subject right after recapping the other announcements from last week.)
Earlier on Tuesday, Disney also announced that "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom and "Harmonious" both end their nightly performances on April 2, and the new version of "Happily Aver After" debuts at Magic Kingdom and the 2021 version of the temporary show "EPCOT Forever" (which likely means the version without the towed kites) return on April 3. Last September at D23 Expo, Disney announced that a new permanent show is being developed for EPCOT which will debut at an unspecified date later this year. In the meantime, the conclusion of "Harmonious" also appears to mean that the large equipment (the center "ring" and side video panels) installed in World Showcase Lagoon for the show will be permanently removed, restoring the daytime sight-lines of World Showcase to what they were in the past.
JUST ANNOUNCED! 🎆 Beginning April 3, fan-favorite “Happily Ever After” returns to Magic Kingdom AND “EPCOT Forever” will fill the skies above World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT for a limited time! 🌐 Learn more: https://t.co/TFGe9j0kki pic.twitter.com/OZPh0xfBpi— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) January 10, 2023
By noon last Tuesday, Disney Parks also tweeted that TRON Lightcycle / Run will open at Magic Kingdom on April 4, 2023. Enter the grid.
Okay, no longer cryptic. TRON opens at Magic Kingdom on 4/4/23 https://t.co/EsrVozxPf7— MousePlanet (@MousePlanet) January 10, 2023
Disney Parks Blog shared further details about the new TRON-themed attraction as well:
The story of TRON Lightcycle / Run picks up after “TRON: Legacy” where Kevin’s son, Sam Flynn, has opened a second gateway into a digital realm called the Grid. The first of these portals he created is found at Shanghai Disneyland with the original TRON Lightcycle Power Run.
When you enter the queue at Magic Kingdom, you’ll feel as if you’re digitized and transported to the Grid for a special Lightcycle race. It’s your Team Blue against the Grid’s menacing Programs, Team Orange. Your goal is to be the first to race through eight Energy Gates and secure victory. The attraction will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world.
Before the attraction officially opens, cast members will be the first to enter the Grid during special previews. And I heard preview opportunities are coming for guests too, including Annual Passholders and eligible Disney Vacation Club Members.
And, just yesterday, Disney announced more live character experiences are returning to Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom in the next several weeks. Ariel's Grotto reopens on January 22, and Enchanted Tales with Belle returns on February 19. Both experiences closed when the Resort temporarily closed back in March 2020, and had not previously been a part of the park's phased reopening.
More character experiences are returning to Magic Kingdom! Get ready to step into the library with Enchanted Tales with Belle 📚 on Feb. 19 and head back under the sea at Ariel’s Grotto 🐠 beginning Jan. 22. pic.twitter.com/DRxLUaFlgB— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) January 17, 2023
Now, speaking of yesterday, Disney invited me and a small group of representatives of other media sites to an on-the-record (but not recorded) discussion with Josh D'Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products at Disney's BoardWalk Resort. Since the beginning of 2023, I have seen an increasing number of interviews granted by Josh to fan sites (and you may have seen them too), and, based on his comments yesterday, it seems pretty clear that he intends to do even more of these sorts of on-the-record discussions. Indeed, even before 2023, in his many roles over his 25 year Disney career, and even since his elevation to Disney Parks Chair back in 2020, he could often be spotted talking to guests in the parks and resorts, often without any corporate handlers. As he told us yesterday, "I am a cast member and I am a fan." He does not see himself as a "corporate guy."
I have had the opportunity to talk with Josh D'Amaro several times over the past year. Each time, he has come across as approachable, knowledgable, hardworking, humble, genuine, and, rather refreshingly for a leader of such a large business venture, honest. Those qualities were in ample supply during our small group discussion yesterday, and that last bit, in particular, shone through the most when he told our group that "when we [at Disney Parks] don't get it perfectly right, we're going to change it."
It seems rather clear to me that the message Josh is trying to get out right now is as plain as the one in his Update last week: Disney Parks is "committed to listening, adapting, and staying relentlessly focused on making the guest experience at our Disney parks even better." He has definitely taken that beyond mere words with last week's announcements about the elimination of the Florida resort's hotel parking fees, the upcoming changes to Passholder park visits on both coasts, and the rest. What convinces me of his earnestness is his willingness to acknowledge mistakes and even lack of "perfection" in Disney Parks' offerings-- acknowledgements that, in my opinion, were largely lacking or ill-timed in recent years under the corporate leadership of his predecessor and former boss Bob Chapek.
For example, in discussing the free Disney Genie and the paid Genie+ products with our group yesterday, Josh said, "Is it perfect? Absolutely not." But, he said, Genie itself was designed as a platform for the inexperienced guest to get a smoother experience; it was not designed for a highly experienced repeat guest. He said that surveys show that Genie is providing that smoother experience for inexperienced guests, and, indeed, the program continues to get "smarter as we sit here today" as it continues to learn from guest experience and react in realtime. As for the big picture, though, Josh says that his goal whenever any guest leaves a Disney park is for the guest to say, "Well, that was pretty awesome!"
I came out of our discussion with him yesterday satisfied that he is listening to the guests and trying to find ways of balancing those desires and complaints with the goal of providing the best guest experience for the greatest number of guests. In my view, for example, I think he grapples with something like the fact that park reservations on the historically busiest of days (like Christmas at Magic Kingdom) moves the guest disappointment point from the endless line of cars waiting to get in to the parking toll plaza being told that the park has reached physical capacity to that point that the guest tries to use the Disney Park Pass system and learns that there are no more reservations. There definitely is a point at which a Disney park physically is "full" and there is a lower attendance point at which it may theoretically physically admit more guests but would provide an increasingly less-pleasant experience to all the guests in the park.
Josh told us that in running Disney Parks, his "goal is to create a better experience overall." To that end, he said that the company has the capital to move forward on the projects that it has in the works, and that the projects-in-progress shared at D23 Expo back in September are just clues to what Disney is not yet ready to announce. He said that contrary to public perception, Disney Parks does not manage its business to support or make up for financial issues in other parts of the Walt Disney Company: decisions about pricing in the parks and resorts, for example, are made in the context of the theme park/hospitality industry itself and not to support Disney+ streaming services expenses.
I would like to be able to report that Josh D'Amaro provided a lot of exciting specific details as to what is coming next, but, alas, that is not the case. He says that exciting things are ahead, and, in my mind, since the competition is also ever-vigilant, I have to believe that more projects will be announced soon. In the meantime, continuing to admit where things are not perfect, and improving them for the greatest number of guests are laudable. More of that too, please.
EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is Underway Through February 20, 2023
Friday, January 13, 2023, was the start of the seventh edition of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, which runs through February 20, 2023. From its origins as a six-weekends only Festival back in January 17 that only us locals quickly grew to love (particularly because the Festivals team created it quickly for a quiet time of the year and then did not publicize it until shortly before its debut), it has grown to become a fully mature annual event (with only a "Taste of" version presented during the park's "phased reopening" in 2021). Like the other EPCOT Festivals, #ArtfulEPCOT features themed decor around the park, themed merchandise offerings, specialty food and beverage, and, of course, special entertainment offerings.
Themed merchandise, including pins and apparel, are of course, a staple of all Festivals. In keeping with the artistic theme, even the black mugs sold during this Festival are coated with a chalk-board type finish that can be written on with chalk markers. Figment's Brush with the Masters scavenger hunt is also back - purchase a map and stickers, find Figment "hidden" in works of art around the park, and return the completed map for a prize. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
I shared the Disney Parks Blog Foodie Guide for the Festival earlier this month, but here is another look since the Festival is now underway.
Are you ready for the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts? 🎨 We hope so because this year is filled with culinary works of art that will add tons of flavor to your palate! Head to the blog to see more: https://t.co/M7MrRFro3J #DisneyEats pic.twitter.com/C2l9aYuctm— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) January 5, 2023
Views of #ArtfulEPCOT Decor
EPCOT International Festival of the Arts celebrates Figment and imagination in the decor around the park. Indeed, this edition of the Festival has turned Odyssey building into Figment's Inspiration Station, including a tribute to the original mural was that was in the loading and unloading area of the original Imagination attraction, and the very "pin tables" that used to be in the ImageWorks area under the pyramids upstairs (in what is now the Disney Vacation Club member lounge).
The park's entry planters feature Figment, oversized paint tubes (amongst matching flowers), paint buckets, and lots of rainbows (as is often true of other depictions of Figment).
The center of the park's planter area also features more decor featuring Figment and rainbows. At night, directly between this rainbow and the construction wall beyond, Disney PhotoPass offers its "pixel stick" special photo opportunity where guests stand still while a cast member with a lighted device moves behind to paint light through a long-exposure photograph.
The World Showcase Plaza planter area (where the main EPCOT Christmas tree stood during the holidays) is also decorated for the Festival.
As has been the case for many Festivals, even the model railroad town at Germany pavilion is decorated for the Festival (look carefully at the light poles in the center of town).
At night, many of the displays, including the one at the park entrance are lit. Spaceship Earth displays several different Beacons of Magic showings throughout the night.
During EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, the "Rainbow Connection" Beacon of Magic show is in the rotation.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
The "Imagination" beacon debuted at the start of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Odyssey building is being used like a Festival Center during Festival of the Arts. It is located between Test Track and Mexico pavilion.
Figment's Inspiration Station is the theme of Odyssey building during the Festival and it includes numerous tributes to the original Imagination pavilion attraction.
The Figment popcorn bucket is also available inside Odyssey building, but only by mobile order on the My Disney Experience app. Each day, guests may place an order for up to two buckets (including rainbow popcorn) and select a pickup time from available options between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Buckets are $25 each including tax. Like other mobile orders, guests must return to the app during their pickup window and select "prepare my order" and then wait for the notification that it is your turn. My experience on Friday: I ordered mid-day for 8:15 p.m. pickup, and my order was ready and I walked out of the building with my buckets within 5 minutes of arriving.
One whole wall of Odyssey is now a re-creation of load and unload area mural from the original Imagination pavilion attraction. In front of the mural, guests will find the "pin tables" that once were part of the post-ride portion of the Imagination pavilion.
The neon on the walls reflects on the pin table as I place my hand into the pins under the table to relive a past experience.
Odyssey also has some of the Festival's specialty food and beverage offerings - including the Rainbow Cake and Grape Smoothie (which are both topped with freeze dried Skittles - the smoothie is non-alcoholic and, in my opinion, possibly a beverage that would appeal more to kids than adults) and a "Fruit Pizza" slice of watermelon topped with more fruit.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Interactive Elements of #ArtfulEPCOT
Throughout the park, in addition to kiosks with live artists and their art and merchandise, are a number of other live and interactive art offerings during the Festival. Artists change during the Festival, so if there is one in particular you are looking for, take a look at that artist's posts on social media or on their website to see the dates they will be appearing or in residence at EPCOT.
Chalk artists create everything from classic Disney characters to modern interpretations of classical works of art.
The character decorations (which are temporary) around the entire park during the Festival are collectively referred to this year as "Chalk Full of Character," and this year, they are not restricted to just World Showcase pavilions as in the past.
Based on our social media posts over the years, Peter Pan’s shadow at United Kingdom pavilion is among the most popular character additions during the Festival.
Pascal from "Tangled" makes several appearances at Germany. You can guess which shop is just out of frame beyond his tongue.
Sorcerer Mickey from "Fantasia" at the upside-down falls outside Imagination pavilion is new this year.
Guests also have the opportunity to participate in the paint-by-number mural wall at Expression Section. Paint distribution is done during daylight hours at. a designated kiosk near the planter at the center of the park; this wall is on the Imagination pavilion side of that planter.
The walk-in works of art photo opportunities are back again this year, including General Washington outside The American Adventure.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Capture your own works of art with these EPCOT International Festival of the Arts photo ops from #DisneyPhotoPass! 🎨 This palette full of photos is no figment of your imagination 💜 — these photos are available Jan. 13 — Feb. 20 at #EPCOT. Learn more: https://t.co/XrWlwafN3Q pic.twitter.com/JLDSOenmX6— DisneyPhotoPass (@DisneyPhotoPass) January 11, 2023
Performing Arts: Disney on Broadway Concert Series and More
The headline performing art acts at the Festival are the three times nightly Disney on Broadway Concert Series. Except for the pandemic-era's "Taste of" edition of the Festival, each year, pairs of Disney on Broadway stars have taken the stage at American Gardens Theatre with a live band to sing songs from the Disney on Broadway catalog. On the final night of the Festival, two pairs of Disney on Broadway stars will take the stage together for the last nights' set of concerts. Another stage at World Showcase plaza features other performance artists throughout each day of the Festival as well.
The Disney on Broadway Concert Series features pairs of singers and a live band performing songs from Disney's Broadway shows, three times nightly during the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.
Arielle Jacobs and Adam Jacobs are siblings and noted that they appeared separately in Disney’s “Aladdin." They appear together during the Festival on select nights during its first two weeks.
Kara Lindsay and Kevin Massey perform together during the first two weeks of the Festival on the nights when the Jacobs siblings are not performing.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
This & That & Reminders…
…Disney Vacation Club announced eight Moonlight Magic complimentary event nights at Walt Disney World Resort in 2023 for eligible members and their guests. As with past events, members with qualifying Disney Resort hotel reservations on the event nights get a first shot at making reservations. Pending availability, eligible members without reservations get their chance to register after that. The first two events are at EPCOT on February 8 and 15, 2023. Eligible members with hotel reservations can register on the DVC member website beginning on January 25, 2023. If space remains available, registration for the February 8 event opens on February 2, and registration for the February 15 event opens on February 9. The additional event nights (for which registration details have not yet been published) are:
- Disney's Hollywood Studios – May 11, September 13
- Disney's Animal Kingdom – July 11, August 2
- Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – May 23, August 23
…The newest Annual Passholder complimentary magnets Passholders feature Dumbo. Starting January 18, 2023, magnets will be available at Creations at EPCOT from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through February 20, 2023 (while supplies last). There will be no virtual queue for pickup. Passholders must show valid pass and matching government-issued photo ID to receive a magnet.
…REMINDER: Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom closes on January 23 for its nearly two-year scheduled transformation into Tiana's Bayou Adventure. That means if you want to get some last rides on the Song of the South-themed version of the log flume ride, your last scheduled day is January 22 (and, if you are a Pixie Dust Passholder, your last chance is January 20, since January 21–22 are blocked for your pass).
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.
Based on experience over the past three years, it is unlikely that the State of Florida will impose new requirements. Disney may impose more stringent requirements than the State, so, again, be sure to pay attention to updates to the policies around Walt Disney World Resort.
As has been true throughout the past several years, 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 most requirements have been relaxed or removed, 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).
Disney Park Pass reservations continue to be required for admission to Walt Disney World theme parks 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, as Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.
Speaking of Annual Passes, sales of new ones continue to be paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. Notwithstanding rumors, we continue to see no official words from Disney about its plans to resume sales of new passes.
Disney has added a "Courtesy" section to its "know before you go" webpage on DisneyWorld.com which states:
Be the magic you want to see in the world. You must always remember to treat others with respect, kindness and compassion. Those who can't live up to this simple wish may be asked to leave Walt Disney World Resort.
Finally, as for the weather, it is winter in Central Florida too. Some of the region's best weather happens at this time of year, but a Central Florida winter day can see temperatures vary by 30° or more in any given day. And, while the usual Tropical Storm season is still months ahead, Central Florida can have rainy days that are more akin to what northern states see in spring or fall; in other words, the rainy may last for hours rather than the hour-or-so typical Florida afternoon summer thunderstorm. Central Florida can also see drought this time of year, so you may see no rain for quite a few days or weeks in a row. In other words, have a look at the forecasts and be prepared.
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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.
With the new year, Disney announced its resort hotel offers for the spring and summer of 2023 at Walt Disney World Resort. While many folks expected Disney to return the Disney Dining Plan, the package offered to start off the year does not go quite that far.
Guests that purchase non-discounted 5-night, 4-day vacation packages that include a room at select Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts and theme park tickets for arrivals most nights from July 1 to 10, and August 1 to September 14, 2023, can get up to a $750 digital Disney Dining Promo Card. The Dining Promo Card can be used to purchase meals, snacks, treats and beverages at select participating dining locations across all of Walt Disney World Resort (from table service, to quick service, food carts, and more).
On other dates and at other Disney Resorts, lower value Disney Dining Promo Cards may also be available when purchasing a package. The top values are:
- Up to $150 per room per night at Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts
- Up to $100 per room per night at Disney Moderate Resorts
- Up to $50 per room per night at Disney Value Resorts
As always, there is a lot of fine print and exclusions to study so as to know what you are getting. For example, campsites, 3-bedroom villas, and Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are not eligible; gratuities are not included. The Dining Promo Card cannot be used at merchandise locations or candy kitchens, and cannot be used at the non-Disney hotels on or around property (like Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, Four Seasons, Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, Bonnet Creek, and Walt Disney World Gateway hotels). The digital Dining Promo Card is not valid after September 30, 2023, and will be emailed to a guest when checking in at their Disney Resort hotel.
With the start of the year, Disney also announced its first round of 2023 Florida Resident and Annual Passholder Offers. Through April 27 (subject to blockout dates), Florida Residents can get Disney Weekday magic Tickets for 2 days of theme park admissions (one park per day) for $175 plus tax. Blocked dates include all Saturdays and Sundays, as well as March 13-17, April 3-7, and April 10-14, 2023. Tickets do not have to be used on consecutive days; park reservations are still required; Park Hopper and/or Water Parks and Sports options available for additional fees.
Florida Residents can also save 30% on a 3-day ticket or 40% on a 4-day ticket. A one-day, one-park Florida Resident Ticket is also available starting at $109 plus tax, and Park Hopper Option can be added for an additional fee to all of the ticket types. Tickets are only valid for admission on specific dates selected.
Proof of residency is required. Disney now allows that to be done online when purchasing tickets from DisneyWorld.com. More information about all the tickets and verification requirements is available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Florida Residents can also save up to 20% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights January 2 to February 28, 2023, and most nights March 1 to April 30. The amount of discount varies by hotel and does not correspond to the usual Deluxe-Moderate-Value breakdown. For more information, details, and availability, visit this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Annual Passholders can save up to 30% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights May 1 through July 10, 2023. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for details (and you may be required to log in with your My Disney Experience account to see the rates and availability).
MousePlanet’s travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. When you book a Walt Disney World Resort Package with Get Away Today with a minimum 3-night stay at a Disney Resort Hotel plus tickets, you receive its complimentary concierge service which includes:
- Free Price Monitoring – if a special comes out after you book, we'll automatically apply it!
- Dining Reservation Assistance – we wake up early and snag those hard to get dining reservations so you don't have to.
- The GAT expert team is available to you! Contact them any time for extra assistance with your vacation planning; transportation, theme park recommendations, etc.
You can get a free Walt Disney World Resort vacation quote by calling 855-GET-AWAY (and tell them MousePlanet sent you) or, you can find sample prices and submit a free quote request here.
Looking to go beyond Walt Disney World Resort when visiting Central Florida? Check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.