Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for December 17 – December 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

Pop Warner redux | Holiday photo contest! | Christmas Day Parade | New cast health and wellness center | Rix Lounge | Construction update | Quick Takes …
[Ed. note: MousePlanet will not be publishing next Monday or Tuesday as we spend the holiday weekend with our families. Next week's Park Update will run on Wednesday. Have a great holiday weekend!]

Pop Warner fight redux

We've got a lot more information about the Pop Warner fight at the All-Star Music Resort than we had last week. In the incident, the Westport Patriots of Baltimore got into a fight with the Kahalu'u Hei'eia Broncos of Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii and the Waianae Tigers of Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii.

A Disney cast member familiar with the situation informed MousePlanet that the All-Star Music front desk received a call at around 11:45 p.m. Friday night that there was an altercation at the arcade, and that there were 90-100 teenagers involved in a serious fight. There were reports of adults hitting kids. Three security guards and a security manager responded and broke up the fight after midnight. The Osceola County Sheriff's Office was called and deputies interviewed participants to try to determine how the incident started. Due to conflicting stories, no charges were lodged. All of those involved were sent back to their rooms.

The members of the three teams involved were all disobeying the Pop Warner "quiet hours" curfew that began at 10 p.m., as noted in a Disney information packet sent to all participating teams.

Around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the fight started again in buildings 3 and 6, with approximately 100-110 people involved. The front desk was called by families not involved with Pop Warner, claiming that it was close to riot conditions and that they wanted to check out immediately to get away from the situation. Sheriff's deputies, along with Disney security staff, stopped the fight again. One boy from the Kahalu'u team had his nose broken and went to the hospital. There were no other reported serious injuries.

Pop Warner football commissioner Sam Mutz and others from the organization were called to the scene. After evaluating the situation, Disney and Pop Warner made a joint decision at around 2:20 a.m. to evict the teams from the resort, rather than ban them from Disney property entirely. With about 140 people in total evicted and 100-110 involved in the fracas, there were perhaps only 30-40 people who had to be woken up when the decision to evict them was made.

The Pop Warner representatives called around to find alternate lodging for the teams, and found space at the Legacy Grand and Holiday Inn. Disney paid for the teams to be transported to their new lodging. They had a fleet of cabs lined up, and the last cab left just before 5 a.m.

The situation was apparently anticipated by the Pop Warner organization, as a packet sent out months ago to participants in the tournament included a memo from Pop Warner Executive Directory Jon C. Butler to all Pop Warner Association, League and Regional officers that warned:

As Pop Warner's events grow and attract more media attention, each of us has a duty to make sure that ALL of the people at those events represent Pop Warner appropriately.

We've had serious behavior problems at past Pop Warner Super Bowls at WALT DISNEY WORLD. This note gives you and your participants, young & old, players & coaches, parents & fans fair warning that such problems have not been tolerated in the past, and certainly will not be tolerated this year. Teams have been disqualified, and, in one case, sent home early at their increased expense.

Every Pop Warner Association is accountable for its players, cheerleaders, coaches, administrators, parents and others from your area at all Regional and National events. Any incidents of unacceptable behavior from any person(s) affiliated in any way with your Association will mean:

  • A possible immediate ejection from the Pop Warner Super Bowl events and WALT DISNEY WORLD property. The persons involved risk forfeiting hotel and other deposits. Revised Air reservations/ ticket payments will be your problem, not ours nor Disney's.

  • Possible lifetime ban from Disney World.

  • An AUTOMATIC PROHIBITION from all Regional and National events for all teams/squads from that Association for one full season.

  • Possible suspension and/or probation from coaching or administering within Pop Warner.

Each Association is responsible for those who represent it. So is each League. So is each Region. If repeated problems occur within a particular Association, League or Region, additional measures will be taken.

Pop Warner is a family. Let's all act like it. If our Pop Warner family behaves well, then everyone—whether part of Pop Warner or not—will respect us.

This was echoed in a statement from Walt Disney World spokesman Jacob DiPietre, who said, "This incident was unfortunate but with thousands of Guests at the Resort we have to maintain a safe environment for everyone. We have a no-fighting policy that is shared with Pop Warner. Anyone fighting is subject to disqualification from the competition and eviction from the resort. We were in contact with both law enforcement and Pop Warner throughout the event."

With both sides telling conflicting stories, it's unlikely that the true cause of the fight will come to light. It appears that the altercation started between the Westport and Kahalu'u teams, with the Waianae team coming to the aid of its Hawaiian compatriots. The Westport team had won the Midget Division II Warner Conference title earlier on Friday. The Kahalu'u squad took the Midget Division II Tomlin Conference consolation title on Friday, and the Waianae team was finished on Wednesday, having lost both of its games in the Midget Division I playoffs. The Midget teams were composed of youths approximately 12-15 years of age.

One of the Westport coaches told the Baltimore Sun that he was upset that the fight overshadowed the team's win. "It's unfortunate that it had to happen like this," he said. "It's getting me down. We work hard to keep these kids out of trouble and now this one moment is going to dominate the entire season."

Despite the organization's Web site noting that "Pop Warner is committed to developing America's young people on the field and off," it seems that some coaches still believe off-field behavior takes a back seat to on-field results.

The new Fantasia gift shop at the Contemporary Resort has its second entrance ready for its eventual connection to the fourth-floor walkway from the new yet-to-be-announced DVC resort under construction next door. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Show us your best Disney holiday photo and win a new Disney DVD!

Do you have a great Disney holiday photo and story to share? Send them in, and you could win a new Disney DVD from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. We're looking for your best holiday photo from any Disney theme park or resort. Maybe it's a stunning photo of Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle, your kids posing in front of the Grand Floridian Gingerbread house, or even your Thanksgiving family reunion cruise to Castaway Cay.

Submit your photo and story via e-mail to mouseplanet.com@gmail.com by Thursday December 20, 2007, then visit MousePlanet.com on Christmas Eve to view our favorites.

Epcot's Lights of Winter glow with the Fountain of Nations and Spaceship Earth in the background. Submit your holiday photos for a chance to win a Disney DVD. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Your photo must be at least 800 pixels on the longest dimension—we're sorry, but photos smaller than 400 x 300 will not be considered. Please include a short caption or description to accompany your photo, and be sure to let us know when and where the photo was taken.

By entering you grant MousePlanet, Inc an unrestricted, nonexclusive, non-revocable license to publish your photo and story on MousePlanet.com. Winners will be notified by reply e-mail on or around December 24.

Main Street, U.S.A. always looks wonderful with its holiday decor. Submit your holiday photos for a chance to win a Disney DVD. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

24th Annual Christmas Day Parade to be broadcast next Tuesday

Once again, following successful filming earlier this month, the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade will be broadcast next Tuesday, with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa again hosting at Walt Disney World and Ryan Seacrest at Disneyland. It will air at 10 a.m. Eastern time and 9 a.m. in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones. This will be the first time that the parade is broadcast in HD.

Performances will include Helio Castroneves, Sabrina Bryan, Joey Fatone and Drew Lachey with their professional dance partners Julianne Hough, Mark Ballas, Kym Johnson, and Cheryl Burke from Dancing With the Stars performing to a song by Jon Secada. Also performing their songs from the Disney Channel Christmas CD will be Miley Cyrus ("All I Want for Christmas is You") and the Jonas Brothers ("Girl of My Dreams").

Stars from the High School Musical films will perform a version of "What Time Is It?" to reflect that "It's Christmas Time!" Other performers include Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, Jessica Simpson (backed by the Harlem Gospel Choir), the latest incarnation of Menudo and Katharine McPhee.

Of course, lots of characters will also appear, including Giselle from Enchanted, Remy and friends from Ratatouille and floats featuring characters from Toy Story, Cars, Monsters, Inc., and more.

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!

Disney announces new cast health and wellness center

Last Wednesday, Walt Disney World announced the construction of a state-of-the-art on-site health and wellness center for cast members and their dependents who participate in the company's health plans.

The $6 million, 15,000-square-foot facility, expected to open in 2009, will host primary care physicians and other medical professionals as well as a pharmacy, lab, basic radiology, and wellness and behavioral health resources. There are currently more than 40,000 Walt Disney World cast membersplus their dependents—perhaps 70,000 in all—eligible for benefits.

At the new health and wellness center, cast members will be able to have longer-than-average visits with medical professionals. They'll also have better access to services thanks to extended hours, weekend availability, proximity to work and same-day care for more immediate needs.

Cast members can still use other Central Florida health care providers as defined by their chosen health plan. Operation of the new center will be contracted out to a health management company. The selection process will take place in the coming months.

The Yak and Yeti Restaurant is open for business. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Coronado Springs gets upscale lounge for conventioneers

It's kind of hard to compete with other convention resorts when you don't have upscale facilities for after-hours mingling, and apparently the bus rides to Pleasure Island and the Boardwalk weren't cutting it. So Disney's Coronado Springs Resort has added Rix Lounge—a 300-seat, 5,000-square-foot venue—to up the ante.

While not exactly theme-matched with the Southwest-themed resort, the Mediterranean-inspired atmosphere will provide the sophisticated feel that conventioneers are likely to expect. Open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., the lounge will feature house music, specialty drinks, tapas-style appetizers and rotating entertainment. (A nightly DJ will play a variety of Top 40 music, and on select evenings a percussion band will perform.)

Rix Lounge is run, as are the rest of the food-service locations at Coronado Springs, by Springs Food Service. Springs is the sister company to Palmas Services, which has operated the San Angel Inn Restaurante and Cantina de San Angel at Epcot's Mexico pavilion since their opening in 1982.

The lounge features a bar with a multi-colored backlit display and onyx countertop. State-of-the-art lighting and sound systems complement the decor.

"Over the years, there has been an increased demand for an evening experience at convention locations," noted Springs Foods president Richard Debler. "It makes good business sense to meet this need and offer a unique, sophisticated lounge for the conference guests that visit Disney each year."

The venue is available for special events with creative entertainment. VIP table service and private events also are available.

The Shaoxing Steak and Shrimp at the Yak and Yeti is delicious, if I do say so myself. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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 two weeks:

  • A number of permits were filed for Typhoon Lagoon as the water park nears the end of this year's refurbishment. Power is being added for a double convection oven and quick chill refrigerator at the Leaning Palms Restaurant, rotten wood on ticket booths is being removed and replaced, some rusted metal at Crush 'n' Gusher is being replaced with PVC, a switch at the wave pool is being replaced, and a new hot dog cart/stand is going in at Crush 'n' Gusher.
  • Meanwhile, the first permit for Blizzard Beach's upcoming annual refurbishment was filed, for some electrical upgrades.
  • Over at the Downtown Disney Marketplace, the Christmas Ship is getting a new fan, Rainforest Cafe is getting a new motor control center, and Santa's Chalet was installed in front of World of Disney.
  • At the Disney-MGM Studios (just weeks away from becoming Disney's Hollywood Studios), Playhouse Disney is getting its electrical service upgraded; Food Pad #2 at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater is getting replacements for electrical, lighting, water, sanitary and drainage; and, of course, the Animation Archway and Entrance/Guard Shack will be renamed. A new spritzer system is also going in at Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
  • At the Magic Kingdom, a handrail will be installed at the unload area of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, while Tony's Town Square Restaurant will have some kitchen and service area work done.
  • Over in Epcot, Imagineering has filed a permit for the marquee package for the soon-to-open Velcro exhibit at Innoventions, as well as a new overhead speaker system in Canada.
  • Epcot's Germany pavilion will have its roof areas repaired, while the World Showplace Food Preparation Area will get a new loading dock and lift, as well as new lighting and a concrete walkway.
  • The Image Works post-show at the Imagination Pavilion will see the refurbishment and refreshing of interior finishes including paint, light fixtures, projectors and floor covering.
  • Surveillance cameras are being installed at the Polynesian Resort's parking lots and the Yacht & Beach Club Resort's property roadway entrances and arcade.
  • The Polynesian will also see some kitchen work as the flooring is replaced.
  • A new marquee sign will be installed at the Fantasia merchandise shop at the Contemporary Resort.
  • Asphalt shingle roofing will be replaced in the lower courtyard area by the main pool at the Saratoga Springs Resort.
  • Pool decking will be removed and replaced and public restrooms will be rehabbed at the Caribbean Beach Old Port Royale feature pool.
  • The Amateur Athletic Union, located in the original Walt Disney World Preview Center building on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, will get a new signage package, courtesy of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Smear, Splat and Dip do a Christmas-themed show at Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quick takes …

…Walt Disney World cast members contributed more than 1,600 hours and more than 23,000 toys in their annual Toys for Tots campaign.

…Throughout November and December, Disney Cruise Line Crew Members distributed toys and holiday greetings to over 2,000 children in the ports of Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau, the Abaco islands and Port Canaveral, Florida.

…On October 8, a shoplifter was caught in the Magic Kingdom with over $1,000 worth of electronics in a bag. Not the best way to get those hard-to-find Christmas gift.

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.
  • Now through Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons.
  • Now through Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World.
  • Dec. 18, 20, 21. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Dec. 21. Mickey's Pin Trading Night at Contemporary Resort.
  • Dec. 31. Pleasure Island New Year's Eve.
  • Dec. 31. New Year's Eve at Cirque du Soleil.
  • Dec. 31. Atlantic Dance Hall New Year's Eve.
  • Dec. 16, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008. DVC members may not pool-hop on these dates.
  • Jan. 12. Walt Disney World Half-Marathon.
  • Jan. 13. Walt Disney World Marathon. [Read our WDW Marathon Guide.]
  • Jan. 18-20. College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship.
  • Jan. 21, 26, 29, Feb. 2, 5, 9, 14, 22, 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14. Disney's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • Jan. 25. Mickey's Pin Trading Night at Contemporary Resort.

Walt Disney World trivia question of the week

This week's question: How many tractor-trailer truckloads of decorations does it take to decorate Walt Disney World? Stay tuned to next week's park update for the answer.

The answer to last week's question: "How large is the Christmas wreath adorning the Cirque du Soleil building at Downtown Disney West Side?", is:

25 feet in diameter.

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. Currently opening for sneak previews, soft opening expected December 25.
  • American Adventure – closed for refurbishment, including replacement of the stage curtain and related tapestry and hardware, January 7 – February 3.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close in the spring of 2008 to be completely remodeled, and will reopen in fall 2008 under yet another new name.
  • The Wonders of Life pavilion – has again closed as such, perhaps forever.
  • Nine Dragons – closes April 30 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! – closed for refurbishment, including the replacement of the primary characters in the show, January 2–27.
  • Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – closed for refurbishment and likely conversion to a Prince Caspian theme, January 2 – May 23.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through at least next spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known current refurbishments.


  • All-Star Sports Resort – All buildings will be renovated 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. Jambo House construction is expected to be complete by January 29, 2008.
  • 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.
  • 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. Will hold special performances on New Year's Eve.

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.

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.