Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for November 19 – November 25, 2007

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Trivia of the Week | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule

News and Views

Disney Dreamers Academy | Williams to step down | Disney honored at IAAPA conference | Pardoned turkeys to go to Walt Disney World | DVC annual meeting/dues | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Disney Dreamers Academy to convene in January

One hundred high school students from 21 states and the District of Columbia have been selected from more than 3,000 applicants to participate in Disney's Dreamers Academy. Created in conjunction with nationally syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey, the program targets students who show promise but need a little motivation.

Students were nominated by parents, teachers, school administrators, church groups and the students themselves. The final 100 were chosen by a panel of judges with backgrounds in business and education.

Academy attendees will visit Walt Disney World January 17-20, participating in interactive workshops on topics such as Walt Disney World Imagineering techniques, entertainment, the business of sports, culinary arts, and more. Disney cast members, executives and celebrities like actress Monique Coleman will share their blueprints for success. They'll also get time in the theme parks before a graduation ceremony with a special guest motivational speaker.

Williams to step down

After years of playing through pain, Reggie Williams will be taking a break. The 14-year NFL veteran and 13-year Disney veteran will step down from his role running Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex this week to concentrate on taking care of his body. The 53-year-old Williams had both knees replaced in 2005, and he continues to have problems with his right leg. Williams' legs were injured many times during his 14 years playing linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, leading to the eventual double knee surgery in October 2005.

After he started at Disney in the mid-1990s, Williams oversaw the creation of Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, which opened on March 28, 1997. In 1998, the two-time Super Bowl veteran was named vice president of Disney Sports Attractions, overseeing a newly created Sports & Recreation division that merged Walt Disney World recreation and water parks, and Disney Sports Attractions, which included the sports complex, the Walt Disney World Speedway and Walt Disney World golf.

The Dartmouth grad will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame next month. His last day on the job will be Wednesday, but no replacement has been named as of yet.

Disney honored at IAAPA conference

At last week's annual conference of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) in Orlando, Disney was named the winner of two THEA awards by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland Park was recognized for its groundbreaking application of new technology for its amazing projected imagery. The second winner hasn't even officially been announced yet. The Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at Epcot, which has only been "playtested" so far, was recognized for outstanding achievement for an interactive experience.

There was another Disney honor announced at the conference, as well, though it hasn't made it to Disney's public affairs Web site as of this writing. Disney Legend Dick Nunis, former Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions (now Walt Disney Parks & Resorts), was named to the IAAPA Hall of Fame. Nunis was inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame in honor of his 44 years of service to the Walt Disney Company. Nunis is now president of New Business Solutions, Inc., a consulting company, and serves as chairman and CEO of NorthWest Ventures LLC.

Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton gave the keynote address to the conference, talking about the "Year of a Million Dreams" (YAOMD) promotion and what was involved in making it happen. She also mentioned all of the currently announced projects pending for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. For Walt Disney World, that included only next year's Toy Story Mania attraction, as well as the YOAMD promotion.

Are you coming to MouseFest?

We're just a month away from MouseFest, and plans are firming up! We've had loads of people RSVP, but there's room for plenty more! For more information about MousePlanet's events at MouseFest, check out our MouseFest events page (link) or see who's announced that they're coming on the sticky threads on our MousePad discussion forums (link)!

Pardoned turkeys to celebrate by going to Walt Disney World

In this 60th annivesary year of the Thanksgiving tradition, two turkeys will receive presidential pardons from President George W. Bush at the White House tomorrow. Following their pardons, the turkeys will have their dreams come true as they fly first class to join the Year of a Million Dreams celebration at Walt Disney World, where they will ride in the Thanksgiving Day parade through the Magic Kingdom before retiring to live out their lives in the backyard of Mickey's Country House.

The first presentation of a Thanksgiving turkey to a president was to Harry S Truman in 1947, though the first turkey's life to be officially spared was by John F. Kennedy in 1961. The official pardonings became standard in 1989, under President George H.W. Bush.

This year's turkeys are yet to be named. Contending names are:

  • Wing & Prayer
  • May & Flower
  • Gobbler & Rafter
  • Wish & Bone
  • Truman & Sixty
  • Jake & Tom

You can vote your choice at the Thanksgiving at the White House Web site.

Mickey Mouse (in Pilgrim garb) went to the Ten Star Ranch in Dubois, Indiana last week to check out the 45-pound National Thanksgiving Turkey (and runner-up) and to help to announce their selection. Image © Disney (Diana Zalucky, photographer).

Disney Vacation Club annual meeting/dues info mailed

The annual meeting announcements for Disney Vacation Club members are starting to arrive in mailboxes. The announcements include information about the annual meeting for the condominium association and the projected budgets for the resorts.

The consolidated annual meeting, for all DVC resorts, of the DVC Condominium Association will take place on Tuesday, December 4 at the Coronado Springs Resort. The doors open at 10:30 a.m., and the Board of Directors Annual Meeting begins at 11:00 a.m. The doors reopen at 1:30 p.m. for the Members Annual Meeting at 2:00 p.m.

There will also be an information session for Old Key West members on the 15-year membership extension. That session will take place from noon to 1 p.m., and will include a box lunch for attendees.

If you plan to attend, make sure to go to the DVC Member Web site to RSVP. The agenda for both meetings is:

  • Call to Order
  • Declaration/Election of Chairman of the Meeting
  • Calling of the Roll
  • Verification of Quorum
  • Proof of Notice of Meeting
  • Approval of 2006 Minutes
  • Election of Directors (member meeting only)
  • New Business
    • Approval of Resolutions
      • Use of excess assessments for future major repairs and replacements
      • Use of reserve funds
    • Presentation of Budgets
  • Adjournment

The estimated annual dues for each resort, based on personal documents and Internet reports, is as follows:

Menus wanted!

Want to help MousePlanet upgrade our park guides? We're looking to add menu information for all restaurants to our Walt Disney World Park Guide (link). Send photos or scans of menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

Construction update

This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • The Kim Possible Interactive Adventure at Epcot, which won a THEA award at the IAAPA conference last week, is moving ahead. Permit applications to pull and pour concrete "to support electrical infrastructure for interactive game per design [drawings]" and "install conduit/wire & electric boxes for power & data to support the game" have been filed for locations at the Mexico, Norway and China pavilions. Expect word to continue around World Showcase in the coming weeks.
  • A new sunshade will be built and installed in front of the Outpost in World Showcase.
  • Permits have been filed for removal and replacement of the stage curtain, pleated valences, and related hardware at the American Adventure. Expect some downtime in January for the work.
  • Work at Spaceship Earth continues, with permits being filed to rebuild the wall between the load and unload areas so that the lower three feet can be removed.
  • Permits have finally been filed for the demolition of the Backlot Theater at the Disney-MGM Studios. The permit covers "roof covering and metal deck, corrugated metal wall & frames, curbs, concrete ramps, stage framing, procenium [sic] columns & beams." Also, all electrical conduit and wiring will be removed. The existing gate will be relocated 16 feet from its original location.
  • A new "4X sister beam" will be installed at the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square bridge.
  • Typhoon Lagoon Breakers Restaurant will get a new air handling unit as part of the annual refurbishment.
  • Heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment will be replaced (including new return air grills) in buildings 5 and 7 at the Grand Floridian Resort.
  • As the former All-Star Cafe prepares to reopen this week as a quick-service eatery, a permit was filed for Imagineering to install a "cafe menu package."

Quick takes …

…MousePlanet's mailbag editor and endurance series writer Stephanie Wien is looking for feedback from those planning to run in future races at Disney. A recent New York Times article (link) discussed the fact that USA Track and Field (USTF) has banned the use of iPods and headphones at its official races to "ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge." The Walt Disney World marathon Web site states that the race prohibits the use of headphones. What do you think of the USTF decision? Do you use an iPod/headphones during your training? Have you used it in a race? Do you plan to use it in the WDW marathon or another race anyway, even though the rules state not to? Write in and let Steph know!

Get your MousePlanet gear!

The MousePlanet.com store is now open for business (link)! You can get shirts, mugs, hats and even a Teddy Bear! Check it out and show your MousePlanet pride!

Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Coming soon

  • Now through Jan. 6, 2008. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Now through Jan. 6, 2008. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Nov. 25, 27, 29, 30, Dec. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 22, 23, 25. Old Spice Classic.
  • Nov. 23 ? Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons.
  • Nov. 23 ? Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World.
  • Nov. 19-25, 2007 and Dec. 16, 2007– Jan. 2, 2008. DVC members may not pool-hop on these dates.

Walt Disney World trivia question of the week

This week's question: How much produce grown at The Land pavilion is served in Walt Disney World restaurants each year? Stay tuned to next week's park update for the answer.

The answer to last week's question: "How many miles do Walt Disney World mowers travel each year?", is:

450,000 mowing miles, the equivalent of 18 trips around Earth at the equator.

Do you have a trivia question that you'd like to share? If we choose to use your question, we'll give you credit in the Update. Email us here.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Spaceship Earth – closed for refurbishment July 9 – February 18.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but closes in Spring 2008 to be completely remodeled, and reopens in Fall 2008 under yet another new name.
  • The Wonders of Life pavilion – has again closed as such, perhaps forever and perhaps just until Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Nine Dragons – closes in early 2008 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen. It is expected to reopen in fall 2008.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Mickey Avenue – closed through at least next spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.

Animal Kingdom

  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant – the new full-service restaurant is now open.
  • Yak & Yeti Market – the new quick-service restaurant is now open.
  • Tusker House – has now reopened as a buffet restaurant with a character breakfast.
  • Restaurantosaurus – Donald's Breakfastosaurus ended November 5. The McDonald's-based restaurant remains open for lunch and dinner.


  • All-Star Sports Resort – All buildings scheduled for renovation between June 2007 and February 2008.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Construction of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to take until spring 2009.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Feature pool closed for renovation January 7–mid-September, 2008. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – Jaguar water slide closed for refurbishment from November 26 – December 14. The Dig Site feature pool and all quiet pools remain open during the refurbishment.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed for annual refurbishment October 28 – January 5.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment January 6 – March 8.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. No performances November 25–27. Will hold special performances on New Year's Eve.
  • Official All-Star Cafe at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex – closed on September 23, and is expected to reopen on November 20 as a quick-service eatery.

Park events are now found in the monthly Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule pages

Current Discounts & Promotions

Hotel Royal Plaza offers discounts to MousePlanet readers

MousePlanet sponsor Hotel Royal Plaza, in the Downtown Disney resort area, has enhanced its deal for MousePlanet readers. From now through the end of the year, anyone booking their stay through the MousePlanet Web site has been able to receive discounted rates up to 20 percent off on all room types. Now, for a limited time, you can get even more! The discounted rates now include free breakfast for two in the Giraffe Cafe!. Plus children 10 and under always eat breakfast for free! (Two children 10 and under eat free from the kids menu when accompanied by an adult dining from the regular menu.)

The completely-remodeled 394-room resort is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just a few minutes' walk from Downtown Disney. Bus service to all Walt Disney World theme parks is included with your stay. Their Giraffe Cafe restaurant, Giraffe Tavern sports bar, Marketessen deli-style cafe and Sips Pool Bar are ready to serve you.

We'd like to invite you to try their hospitality!

Passholder, Florida resident discounts announced through end of the year

Disney has released discounted room rates for passholders and Florida residents for the end of September through md-December. Discounts are available for select resorts for most nights from September 30 through December 23. (The nights of November 21-24 and November 30-December 7 are excluded at non-DVC resorts, most likely due to Thanksgiving weekend and the Pop Warner Super Bowl invasion, while only the Thanksgiving dates are blocked at the DVC resorts.) There are two effective rate periods for this discount, with September 30-October 3, November 25-29, and December 8-19 carrying passholder rates of $59 per night in value resorts and $164 per night in a DVC studio. The remaining dates in the promotion period (except for the nights of November 21-24, which have no discounts due to Thanksgiving weekend) have nightly passholder rates starting at $79 for values and $194 for DVC studios. Florida resident rates are $5 higher than passholder rates.

Minimum stay requirements apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. All rates can be booked up until the date of arrival. Passholders and Florida residents can book via your respective Web sites, by calling your travel agent (Small World Vacations is MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel provider) or by calling 407-560-7277 for passholders or 407-560-7722 for Florida residents.

An interesting twist on this deal is that, for certain check-in dates, you can get a Disney Dining Card with $20-$100 per room with your minimum 2-night reservation. This perk is available for stays with check-in dates between October 21-November 3, November 11-17 and December 9-15. The card can be used toward food & beverage only, and not toward merchandise.

Rooms available at these rates are very limited, and they're going quickly!

For ticket prices, park hours, and entertainment schedules, please go here.

Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.