Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for January 14 – January 20, 2008

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

News and Views

Chief Magic Official | "Toy Story" show aboard Wonder | DAK worked killed | MLB back to Disney | Marathon in reruns? | iHome update | VMA winners | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Search for Chief Magic Official is on; do you want the job?

Following in the footsteps of last year's Dream Jobs contest, Disney and CareerBuilder.com are hosting another contest this year. Rather than allowing 25 winners to live out their dream jobs in one of five roles at Disneyland, this year one lucky winner will serve as Chief Magic Official (CMO) and carry out four to eight assignments during one year of employment with Disney Parks & Resorts. The total number of days involved in the assignments will be between 12 and 32 days. Those assignments currently include the Toy Story Mania Press Event at Disney's California Adventure from 6/11/08-6/13/08; Mickey's Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort from 10/4/08-10/6/08; the CareerBuilder.com meeting in Chicago from 1/6/09-1/8/09; and an event at Disney's California Adventure from 4/24/09-4/26/09. They would be considered an hourly employee of Disney during that time.

So what would the CMO be tasked with? The official job duties, according to the contest's web site are:

  • Makes magical ?decrees?
  • Creates magic experiences
  • Interacts with guests
  • Makes special appearances
  • Spreads magic and inspiration
Qualifications for the position include:
  • A real-life character who can move mountains of pixie dust with a great personality and a smile
  • Loves everything Disney, particularly Disney Parks
  • Enjoys making people laugh and smile
  • Is original and outgoing
  • Believes in all things magical
  • Relishes the spotlight
  • Is an xcellent entertainer comfortable in front of crowds
  • Has passed the M.A.T. (Magic Aptitude Test) at DreamCMO.com
  • Can create and post a stellar Video Resume that can capture large quantities of votes.
When on CMO assignments, the winner will receive:
  • Round trip airfare
  • Deluxe accommodations
  • Disney Park admission (maximum of 20 1-day tickets during CMO tenure)
  • A spending allowance
  • An hourly rate of compensation

Competition will be tough, though. Just look at this competitor:

OK, so if you think that you've got what it takes to be the CMO, how do you go about getting the job? First, you need to go to the DreamCMO web site and take the Magic Aptitude Test. Then you have to fill out the application, which includes uploading a video resume. The 60-seconds-or-less video can't include any music (videos with music will be automatically disqualified), and "limited to an audio commentary by entrant describing why he/she would be the perfect candidate for the position of CMO." Presumably, the video can be anything as long as the audio is straight commentary. It must be in either AVI, .MOV or .MPG format and can be no more than 100 MB in size. Children may not appear in the video clip unless the entrant is their parent or legal guardian.

Videos will be judged equally on five criteria:

  • Entertainment value
  • Personality
  • Imaginative presentation
  • Passion for Disney
  • Ability to make people laugh and smile

After a panel of judges selects the top 10 candidates, their videos will be posted to the DreamCMO web site and voting on the entries will open. The top three vote-getters will take part in a three-day event at Walt Disney World that will test their creativity, enthusiasm, knowledge of the Parks and magic aptitude. Throughout the three-day event, candidates will be videotaped and the videos will be posted on the DreamCMO web site to be voted on by America. The top vote-getter will be named the Disney Parks Chief Magic Official.

There's more personal commentary on this contest on Mark's blog.

"Toy Story" musical to take to the waves… er… stage aboard Disney Wonder

Finding Nemo – The Musical began previews in November, 2006 and opened in January, 2007. The Broadway incarnation of The Little Mermaid had out-of-town previews in Denver last July, previewed on Broadway starting in November, and officially opened last week. It must be time for another animated feature to prepare for opening on stage somewhere. This time, it's Toy Story, and it's going to hit the stage aboard the Disney Wonder this April.

Toy Story – The Musical features all of the main characters from the movie, with Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, Rex, Hamm, Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head, the Green Army Men, the Barrel Of Monkeys and the Little Green Men. Toy Story creator John Lasseter was involved with the show, requesting the addition of Hamm to the cast and even giving costume notes to enlarge the size of Woody's buttons.

As with Finding Nemo – The Musical, there were no songs in the original movie (other than Randy Newman's Oscar-nominated "You've Got A Friend In Me"). That meant that New York-based Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn from the band GrooveLily had to create the other eight songs in the production from scratch. The score blends pop, rock and folk music to attempt to match the story.

The new Toy Story musical will debut aboard the Disney Wonder in April. Concept rendering © Disney.

"When we first thought of bringing Toy Story to the stage, there was a great deal of excitement about the project," said Anne Hamburger, Disney Creative Entertainment executive vice president, who was also behind Finding Nemo – The Musical. "Everyone on our team could immediately see how the heart and comedy of these characters could come alive in a memorable way that is unique to musical theatre."

Toy Story – The Musical replaces "Hercules – A Muse-ical Comedy" in the lineup, joining "The Golden Mickeys" and the award-winning "Disney Dreams" in the rotation aboard the Wonder.

"World-class Disney entertainment is an important hallmark of Disney Cruise Line that sets us apart from the rest of the cruise industry and one of the reasons guests sail with us again and again," said Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin. "'Toy Story-The Musical' represents the next generation of staged entertainment for Disney Cruise Line and a great enhancement to our incredible array of entertainment aboard the Disney Wonder."

Animal Kingdom worker killed in massive highway crash

The huge series of accidents last Wednesday that involved 70 cars and closed 14 miles of Interstate 4 west of Walt Disney World claimed a Disney cast member among its four fatalities. Darren Scott Snyder was an apprentice heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) technician at Disney's Animal Kingdom. He was on his way to his 6 a.m. shift at the theme park when he was involved in the huge collision, caused by the combination of an out-of-control brush fire and fog. His red Ford Mustang crasheed into a gasoline tanker and he was trapped in the burning car.

He had left the house of his in-laws Mary and Don Ussery at 4:30 a.m., then returned five minutes later to grab his sunglasses before heading to work. He and his new bride Pam were living with her parents while he waited to complete his apprenticeship so that they could afford to buy their own home.

Our condolences go out to the Snyder and Ussery families.

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!

Major League Baseball coming back this summer

It looks like the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly the "Devil Rays") are going to make a return trip to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex this summer. Following their three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers at the Disney ballpark last May, the Rays are looking to move another home series to Central Florida in hopes of building their fan base there. They have asked the St. Petersburg City Council to approve a move of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to 9,500-seat Champion Stadium. The City Council will make their decision next Thursday, but if it brings large numbers of fans back to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg for the rest of the season, it would be an easy decision.

As we noted last May:

The Devil Rays are trying to increase their fan base in Central Florida, and decided to bring a series of games there to try to boost their visibility. The series against the Rangers was picked because that matchup has been a poor draw of crowds in St. Petersburg, averaging 8,241 for last year's six games. The three games at Disney drew 8,443, 8,839 and 9,635 for an average of 8,972 fans per game. Those crowds were a much better fit in the 9,500-seat Ballpark than the 38,000-capacity dome back home.

If the shift of games is approved, single-game tickets for the series would go on sale Feb. 23.

2008 Marathon holds no surprise; close finish in Half Marathon

The screenwriters' strike is stretching on interminably, making it seem like all of TV is either reality shows or reruns. Is it any wonder, then, that the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon also seems like a rerun? (No pun intended. OK, maybe it was.) Brazilian Adriano Bastos won his fourth straight title and fifth in six years yesterday, winning the marathon in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 56 seconds. The 29-year-old finished more than 14 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. John Garton finished in 2 hours, 35 minutes and 2 seconds. The margin of victory was the largest in Bastos' career.

Adriano Bastos, of Soa Paulo, Brazil, crosses the finish line of the Walt Disney World Marathon wearing a Goofy hat and waving a Brazilian flag in what has become his personal race, winning for the fifth time in six years. Photo © Disney; Matt Stroshane, photographer.

In contrast, the Half Marathon had the sensational feel of a reality show, with the winners, teammates in a running club, finishing one second apart, the closest margin in Disney race history. Chad Johnson beat C. Fred Joslyn with a finishing time of 1 hour, 6 minutes and 53 seconds. Joslyn finished at 1:06:54. Both are members of the "Hansons-Brooks" distance running team from Rochester, Michigan.

Chad Johnson edges out teammate C. Fred Joslyn by one second in the closest-ever finish of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Photo © Disney; Jimmy DeFlippo, photographer.

In the women's division, Melanie Peters won the marathon in 2:47:29, beating runner-up Sonja Friend-Uhl by a hair under two minutes. The half marathon was won by Kim Pawelek, who beat Yolanda Flamino by just 42 seconds. It was Pawelek's third victory in the event.

12,283 of the half marathon's 16,500 registrants finished the race, while 12,964 of 18,000 marathoners finished. We've got no word yet on how many of the 3,000 registrants for Goofy's Race-and-a-Half Challenge completed both races.

MousePlanet's Stephanie Wien finished the marathon in 5:34:48, for an overall ranking of 8,017. Former MousePlanet columnist Mike Scopa finished the half marathon in 3:30:00 for an overall ranking of 11,788. Congratulations, Steph and Mike!

Update on in-room iHome units

We've got some follow-up to last week's story about iHome devices being distributed through the Contemporary Resort. It seems that the same devices (but in white instead of black) were also installed in the Grand Floridian Resort.

Also, apparently the docking station is only compatible with third-generation iPods. The small connector on top is for the newest iPod shuffle. In order to connect the iHome to another type of MP3 player, you need a two-sided headphone jack. Also, it will only charge regular-sized iPods and not the shuffle.

Thanks to readers Stephen and Thomas for the information!

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.

Virtual MouseAdventure winners!

We originally neglected to put this story into last week's Walt Disney World Park Update as promised. It was added late last Monday. We're repeating the story for those of you who read the Update earlier and didn't get to read it.

377 MousePlanet readers entered our first-ever Virtual MouseAdventure, and 56 intrepid players managed to correctly solve all six quests. One lucky winner was selected at random from those 56 players, and we are pleased to award a copy of David Koenig's latest book, Realityland: True Life Adventures at Walt Disney World to veteran MouseAdventure player Mike Shearin ("Mr. Abominable" on our MousePad discussion boards).

We also hosted a special division of this event for MousePlanet readers who attended MouseFest in Walt Disney World, and Kate Tillan is our grand prize winner. Congratulations to everyone who participated! If you'd like to see how you did, the correct answers are posted on our MousePad discussion boards.

Construction Update

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

  • Buildings 28, 29, 41, 42, 43 and 44 at the Old Key West Resort will have exterior paint and other restoration done on their exteriors.
  • A new projector stand will be installed at Snow White's Scary Adventures.
  • Berm will be demolished and resloped, and a new curb, play surface, DVC kiosk and wood fence will be installed at the Magic Kingdom. The permit just says "F/L" so it could be either Frontierland or Fantasyland. The official street address (1394 Magic Kingdom Dr.) seems to indicate Fantasyland adjacent to Snow White, which is 1396 Magic Kingdom Dr.
  • Imagineering will be doing work on "WM Marquee," which we'll interpret to mean Test Track, since many of the "official" names of places on permits refer to things that are no longer there, and "WM" could mean World of Motion. If anybody knows of another "WM" at Epcot that this could be, please let us know.
  • The Courtyard Pool at the Grand Floridian will have a chairlift and dual handrails installed. More security cameras are also being installed at the resort.
  • A new dive compressor will be installed at the Typhoon Lagoon dive shed.

Quick takes …

…Matt Hochberg over at StudiosCentral.com is reporting that the dates for Star Wars Weekends 2008 will be June 6-29. Looks like those years of holding the event in May, before the summer really heats up, are gone.

…The Tomorrowland Indy Speedway has been testing out a couple of alternative-fuel vehicles recently. One car uses a gas/electric hybrid motor, while the other uses Ethanol-85 (E-85) fuel. If you've had the opportunity to ride in one of these vehicles, let us know how it drove (and smelled)!

…The official refurbishment schedule for Walt Disney World now lists Spaceship Earth as completing its closure on February 14, five days earlier than previously listed.

Journey Into Imagination with Figment and the ImageWorks' Kodak "What If" Lab will be closed for refurbishment from January 28 through February 24.

…Reader James reports that he was told by Walt Disney World Reservations last Friday that guests were not able to stay in the main building of the Grand Floridian due to noise levels at night through today.

…In case you want to plan your next trip around a meeting of the NFFC's World Chapter, they've announced the dates for this year's meetings. The group will meet on February 23, April 12, June 21, August 9 and October 25. Guest names are yet to be announced. We'll pass along guest speaker names as they become available, or you can check the World Chapter's web site.

…We mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the folks that organized the Celebration 25 event for Epcot's 25th anniversary last October have now set up shop permanently at WDWCelebrations.com and had started planning an event for the 10th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom in April. We just received a press release this week officially launching the site, so we guess we jumped the gun a little. Anyway, the site is up, the planning is underway, and we wish them good luck in their endeavor.

…Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, the popular 1,086-seat tourist dinner entertainment venue not too far from Downtown Disney, closed suddenly last Monday during a week that it had a scheduled seasonal vacation. Dolly Parton issued a statement saying that they had received a compelling offer and that they will be back elsewhere. The property's buyer is Chelsea Property Group, the owner of the Orlando Premium Outlets shopping center just across the street. No word yet on either what Chelsea will do with the property or where or when Dixie Stampede might reopen.

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

  • January 18-20. College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship.
  • January 21, 26, 29, February 2, 5, 9, 14, 22, 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14. Disney's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • January 25. Mickey's Pin Trading Night at Contemporary Resort.
  • February 1-3. UDA National Dance Team Championship.
  • February 8-10. National High School Cheerleading Championship.
  • February 15-18. Twirlmania.
  • February 23-24. Cheer & Dance National Championships.
  • February 29-March 2. Cheer & Dance National Championships.
  • February 29 - March 2. ESPN ? The Weekend.
  • February 27 - March 29. Atlanta Braves Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 1–February 17.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed for refurbishment January 28–February 15.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment February 24–March 1.


  • Spaceship Earth – closed for refurbishment July 9, 2007–February 18, 2008. Currently in soft opening status; may close at any time for any (or no) reason.
  • American Adventure – closed for refurbishment, including replacement of the stage curtain and related tapestry and hardware, January 7 – February 3.
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment – closed for refurbishment January 28–February 24. The ImageWorks Kodak "What If" Lab will also be closed during this time.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close in the spring to be completely remodeled, and will reopen in the fall 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 3–27.
  • 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. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment January 6 – March 8.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Hotel Royal Plaza offers discounts to MousePlanet readers

The Royal Plaza in the Walt Disney World Resort, in the Downtown Disney resort area, offers a special deal for MousePlanet readers. Anyone booking their stay through the MousePlanet Web site will receive discounted rates up to 20 percent off on all room types. 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 Caf restaurant, Giraffe Tavern sports bar, Marketessen deli-style caf and Sips Pool Bar are ready to serve you.

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

Passholder, Florida Resident discounts available through March 6

Annual Passholders and Florida residents can take advantage of discounted room rates from now through March 6. From now through February 13, with the exception of Martin Luther King weekend, passholders and Florida residents can stay at value resorts for as low as $49 per night, moderate resorts for as little as $99 per night, or a deluxe villa resort starting at $149 per night. (All rates in this article do not include tax.) Deluxe resorts are also available. Passholders should use booking code FHJ, while Florida residents should use code FHN.

Rates are a bit higher for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from February 18 through March 6. Value resorts run $79 per nights, moderates are $139 per night and deluxe villas are $249 per night. Passholders use booking code FIE, Florida residents use code FIU.

Note that the number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. No group rates or other discounts apply. Adult Annual Passes or proof of Florida residency must be shown at check-in.

In addition, from now through February 29 Florida residents can get a Disney Play 4 Days Pass for $34 off the normal price. The pass gives you four admissions to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, one park per day, for $125 plus tax. The pass is valid for six months from first use.

The Disney Play 4 Days Pass is available for purchase by phone at 407-WDW-4DAYS (407-939-4329). They're also available at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows and Resort hotel locations, Florida AAA offices and Florida Disney Stores. Proof of Florida residency is required.

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.