Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 20, 2023

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 20, 2023

 Writer's Note, News & Views

If you haven't caught up on the Walt Disney World Resort announcements from last week's Destination D23 event, saluting Disney's ongoing celebration of its 100th anniversary, I summarized the gist of all of the announcements in 100 seconds for the opening of last week's Garry Meier Show Cocktail Hour LIVE (which I also produce on Fridays on the GarrForceLIVE YouTube channel).

I summarized the Walt Disney World Resort announcements made during the Destination D23 event in 100 seconds. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

I was also amused by the social and mass-media frenzy on Monday caused by an actual bear in a tree backstage at Magic Kingdom near Big Thunder Mountain. In fact, from the newschopper images I saw, the rather small bear looked to be in about the area backstage where Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, has said the company is considering building a whole new land on par with the biggest park expansions Disney has ever done. The short story for those who didn't follow the news on Monday: the bear sighting had Magic Kingdom close down a number of attractions and clear guests from a part of the park until Florida wildlife officials were able to tranquilize and remove the bear. News reports yesterday showed the bear being released in a forest well away from Walt Disney World Resort. Well, better a bear than another tropical storm (that season still has a way to go).

Disney Audio-Animatronic Bears populate the Country Bear Jamboree, and sometime in 2024, they'll be performing new songs in a new act, as we learned at Destination D23 last week. Yes, this was the cover photo for last week's Update. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Adding further to the locational coincidence of the bear behind Big Thunder Mountain, on Tuesday morning, Disney issued a press release that it's "developing plans to accelerate and expand investment in its Parks, Experiences and Products segment to nearly double capital expenditures over the course of approximately 10 years to roughly $60 billion, including by investing in expanding and enhancing domestic and international parks and cruise line capacity." The press release was made ahead of an investor summit focused on Disney Parks with senior Disney executives, including Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger and Josh D'Amaro (Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products), along with Wall Street analysts and investors at Walt Disney World Resort. Disney noted that it "has over 1,000 acres of land for possible future development to expand theme park space across its existing sites—the equivalent of about seven new Disneyland Parks."

As of publication of this update, I haven't seen any further specific plans released by Disney, and the balance of the news this week can be found throughout the This & That & Reminders section that follows. There's also a new Florida Residents weekday ticket offer (described in the Resort Reservations section below) valid October 2 to December 22, which means it includes admission on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, which my Sorcerer Annual Pass does not.

Spotting Fozzie Bear at Magic Kingdom again sure would be nice, but "Great Moments in History" has not regularly been performed in Liberty Square for quite some years now, not even just the American parts. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…Walt Disney World Resort first introduced a specialty license plate design for Florida car owners during its 50th Anniversary celebration with proceeds directly benefiting Make-A-Wish Central and Northern Florida chapters. Starting this week, a new design also benefiting Make-A-Wish will become available at the Tax Collectors offices across the state (in other states you might call this the DMV or such). Like any of the dozens of available license plate designs in Florida, car owners need complete some paperwork and submit it in person along with the applicable fees. Application instructions are listed on Disney Parks Blog.

New Walt Disney World Resort themed license plates will become available to Florida car owners this week benefiting Make-A-Wish Central and Northern Florida chapters. Image courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…Congratulations to Wine Bar George at Disney Springs! Wine Bar George recently shared that The World of Fine Wine announced the World’s Best Wine Lists for 2023 and Wine Bar George was awarded the Best Wine Bar List in the world! Judged according to a rigorous protocol by leading professionals, including World Champion Sommeliers, Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine and highly respected wine writers, The World of Fine Wine seeks to recognize the best wine lists globally.

…REMINDER: EPCOT's Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will have Passholder previews September 24–29, and October 1–4, 2023. Passholders must have a theme park reservation for EPCOT for the preview date they wish to visit the new walk-through attraction. Park-hopping from another park with a reservation for that other park or otherwise using an Annual Pass to simply enter EPCOT after 2 p.m. will not be sufficient for a preview. Passholders are limited to one preview per person, and be aware that as an outdoor experience, if lightning is within six miles of the park or other severe weather is in the vicinity, the attraction will close until the weather is clear. Note: Disney Vacation Club is also offering the same dates as preview dates for eligible members, but its hours are expressly limited to "from park open through 5:00 p.m.," so it's possible that Passholder hours will be limited as well. Like Passholders, eligible DVC members need to have a ticket to get in the park as well as a theme park reservation for EPCOT for the date of the preview (park hopping or entering the park after 2 p.m. as an Annual Passholder will not suffice). DVC check-in will take place at the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana entrance, across from the Coral Reef Restaurant in World Nature.

…Speaking of Passholders, the newest Passholder magnet featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will be available at Creations Shop at EPCOT September 20 to October 23, 2023 (regular rules apply for getting in to the park with a Park Pass Reservation before 2 p.m. or park hopping or Passholder entry after 2 p.m.). Limit one magnet per Passholder. Sunshine Seasons over in The Land pavilion will also be selling Passholder-exclusive Oswald-themed treats during these same weeks.

New Passholder magnets featuring Oswald will be available at EPCOT's Creations Shop through October 23 (or while supplies last). Image courtesy Disney Parks.

…UPDATED REMINDER: Walt Disney World Resort is now celebrating Hispanic and Latin American Heritage Month through October 15. Mirabel, from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Encanto has begun Magic Kingdom meet-and-greets (and she will continue beyond the end of the celebration). Mirabel’s uncle, Bruno, has joined the park's Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade. This week, Disney Parks Blog published a profile of three Hispanic and Latin American cast members that have brought their work experience to the upcoming November 11 debut of Disney's Hollywood Studios after hours parties named Disney Jollywood Nights (select nights; separate ticket required).

…Disney announced that the "Fab 50" golden statues added to all four theme parks for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration are being refreshed--which seems to mean the character sculptures are sticking around for folks to view and, perhaps, are getting some new effects or interactions for folks that have MagicBand+ devices.

…REMINDER: Paddlefish at Disney Springs is offering a Florida Resident Discount! Show proof of Florida residency to receive 25% off your food and non-alcoholic beverages through the end of September!

…REMINDER: The 2023 edition of Visit Orlando's Magical Dining event is underway through October 1. Enjoy three-course, prix-fixe dinners at many of Orlando’s most popular restaurants—including Jaleo and STK at Disney Springs—with tiered pricing set at just $40 or $60 per person plus tax and gratuity. Up to $2 from each meal served will benefit one or more local nonprofits that help people in need. The full list of participating restaurants and their special menus is available at MagicalDining.com.

…REMINDER: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is now underway on select nights at Magic Kingdom through November 1. The hard-ticket event runs after the park closes early, at 7:00 p.m., and runs through midnight. Party ticket holders can enter the park as early at 4 p.m. on event night (no additional ticket or park reservation required) and may come in costume subject to the park's published guidelines. Many dates are sold out, so if you want to go, be sure to book your tickets in advance.

…As have already marked a month of the Resort's three month long Halloween celebration, Disney Parks Blog has shared more food and beverage offerings for the season and a new Foodie Guide.

…Speaking of Halloween, Disney Vacation Club will hold complimentary "Meet & Treat" events inside the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk including Disney Characters and treats from 2-4 p.m. on Monday, September 25, 2023, Tuesday, September 26, 2023, Monday, October 9, 2023, Tuesday, October 10, 2023, Monday, October 30, 2023, and Tuesday, October 31, 2023. There is no registration for this event (though it is subject to capacity limits); DVC Members eligible for Member Extras who have a qualifying Disney Resort hotel reservation (including at Vero Beach) that includes a party date may attend with up to 4 additional guests. No RESORT PARKING is available specifically for this event. Check DisneyVacationClub.com for eligibility and other important information.

…UPDATED REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic has released the menu for its upcoming Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, taking place Friday, November 10 and Saturday, November 11. The menu for the 14th edition of the event includes more than 20 items, with both new dishes and returning favorites from the hotel’s resident restaurants and lounges, and festival-exclusive pop-ups. Over the course of the two-night event, guests will explore a wide range of cuisines with Mexican, Italian, sushi, steak, seafood and barbecue all available throughout the event’s food stations, with different menus each night. In addition, guests will be able to choose from a selection of more than 150 wine and beverages from around the world. The full menus are available at swandolphinfoodandwineclassic.com/eat/menus/. For those not already familiar with the event, the Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic offers guests unlimited tastings at outdoor stations with live entertainment on the hotel’s scenic causeway from 5:30-9 p.m. on November 10 and November 11. For more information and the add-on seminars available, visit swandolphinfoodandwineclassic.com.

…Speaking of food and festivals, today, September 20, is World Paella Day, and through October 1, Jaleo at Disney Springs is celebrating Paella Fest with a different special paella each day. More information and the menus for all Jaleo locations, including Disney Springs are here.

…REMINDER: Give Kids the World Village, the non-profit resort that provides week long, no cost Central Florida vacations to critically ill children and their families, is offering an opportunity to win a stay in the Cinderella Castle Suite inside Magic Kingdom. The prize vacation package includes a 1-night stay in the suite for up to four guests (including the winner), two more nights in a Deluxe Resort, three day hopper tickets, and more! Visit GKTW.org/castle for all the details and entrance opportunities. All proceeds benefit Give Kids The World. Open to U.S. residents.

…And while talking about GKTW, alumni of Comedy Warehouse and Orlando's SAK Comedy Lab will host "An Evening Of Improv" on Saturday, September 23, at Give Kids The World Village. Comedians John Connon, Robert Pigott, Lisa Glaze, Mark Daniel and Carol Stein will headline the celebrated cast to raise funds for the Village, an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, FL, that provides critically ill children and their families from around the world with magical week-long wish vacations at no cost. Tickets can be purchased at gktw.org/improv/ for the fundraiser.

…REMINDER: Applications and nominations for the 2024 Disney Dreamers Academy are open through October. Students looking to achieve their dreams can apply and, for the first time this year, be nominated for the program at DisneyDreamersAcademy.com. A panel of judges will select 100 students from the thousands of nationwide applicants to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime mentoring program designed to assist young people in identifying and pursuing their dreams. The selected students, along with a parent or guardian, will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World to participate in the program, including career-oriented workshops, leadership seminars and presentations by celebrity guests, community leaders, educators and Disney executives. Over the years, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired more than 1,500 students from across the country. Each year, graduates have gone on to become doctors, engineers, performing artists, entrepreneurs, Disney Cast Members and more, and some have transitioned into mentors to the Disney Dreamers who followed them.

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