Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for January 21 – January 27, 2008

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

News and Views

Dreamers Academy | Toy Story Musical video | 2009 Marathon registration open | Fort Wilderness upgrades | WDW Moms panel | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Disney's Dreamers Academy gives students a peek behind the magic

In conjunction with with nationally syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey, Walt Disney World hosted its first-ever Disney's Dreamers Academy this past weekend. The program targets students who show promise but need a little motivation. The students got a look at the various types of work at the resort, looking at many of the 3,000 different jobs available in areas such as Walt Disney World Imagineering techniques, entertainment, sports, culinary arts, and more.

The students got tips from Disney cast members, executives and celebrity guests on topics such as networking, making a good first impression, job interview skills and finding the right career path. Of course, there was also time to enjoy the theme parks.

Celebrities involved with the program included R&B artists Keyshia Cole and Musiq Soulchild; actors Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris, Martin), Victoria Rowell (The Young & the Restless), Kyle (Corey in the House) and Chris Massey (Nickelodeon's Zoey 101); truTV Host Star Jones Reynolds; and hosts of BET's Top 10 countdown show 106th and Park Rosci and Terrance J. In another session, Harvey led a session on "Hosting a Radio Show." Sports personalities included NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers star linebacker Derrick Brooks; ESPN on-air talent Stephen A. Smith and Jemele Hill; sports marketing consultant Erin Patton; sports agent Greg Nared, and Disney sports executive Kellen Winslow. Winslow replaced the originally-scheduled Reggie Williams, who retired in November. Members of Walt Disney Entertainment offered tips on making it in the entertainment business.

You can check out some of the events through daily Web videos.

Toy Story Musical video

Last week, we told you about the new Toy Story – The Musical coming this April to the Disney Wonder. Disney has provided us with some behind-the-scenes video from rehearsals. Check it out:

2009 Marathon registration open; Goofy Challenge already 65 percent full!

The 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is now in the past, so it must be time to start thinking about 2009. Registration is now open for the 2009 Walt Disney World Marathon, Half Marathon and Goofy's Race-and-a-Half Challenge. If you're interested in the Goofy, though, you'd better act fast. A note on the registration page notes that the event is already 65 percent sold out. You should have plenty of time to register for the marathon and half-marathon individually, though. For more information, check out the overview page for the marathon weekend.

Meanwhile, for a look back at the 2008 Marathon, check out the recap video put out by Walt Disney World:

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!

Fort Wilderness renovations/upgrades on the way

MousePad poster Mousellaneous found out about a planned renovation for the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The renovation project slated to take three to five years will include a new pool area in the next year and a half, which may be inspired by the themed pool at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, including a slide and a hot tub. About a dozen new campsites will also be added, featuring wider and longer campsites.

Disney launches Moms panel

Disney has launched their Walt Disney World Moms Panel, an attempt to have "official" folks answering questions from trip planners on the Walt Disney World Web site. While they're not Disney employees, they've been tested and vetted by Walt Disney World. The 11 moms and one dad began answering questions at the Disney World Moms Web site around New Year's, and they've tackled nearly 1,000 questions already.

Of course, there's also a lot of great information to be gleaned from elsewhere on the Internet, and we highly recommend the knowledgeable and helpful members of our MousePad discussion forum community.

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:

  • Imagineering has filed permits for lots of work at Disney's Hollywood Studios, including a marquee package and showset package on Mickey Avenue and a showset package for Toy Story Mania.
  • The load 3 area for Kilimanjaro Safaris is having its roof redone.
  • Security cameras are being installed in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • The asphalt walkway around the South Garden Wing of the Contemporary Resort will be removed and replaced.
  • The Fantasia Gift Shop at the Contemporary will have its floor tiles replaced.

Quick takes …

…Somehow, we missed this in last week's Park Update, but it actually proved to be the spark for the MouseStation Podcast's main feature last Wednesday. The Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club at Pleasure Island is closing as of February 3. No replacement has yet been announced. This may or may not be the next step of Disney capitalizing on the waterfront aspect of Pleasure Island, likely leading to the establishment of another third-party themed dining establishment, which we first mentioned as a rumor back in November 2005.

…MousePlanet reader Mark Bagby wrote to let us know that there have been intermittent problems with the system integration between Disney's Magical Express Resort Check-in and US Airways. The issues prevent remote check-in, causing guests to have to haul their luggage back to the airport themselves. If any of you have experienced similar problems with US Airways or any other airline, write in and let us know!

…Sammy Duvall, owner and operator of the Sammy Duvall Watersports Center at the Contemporary Resort's marina, has opened Curl, a new shop at Downtown Disney that features surf apparel and accessories.

…The refundable deposit for locker rentals in the theme parks has increased 150 percent, from $2 to $5. Locker rental costs are still $5 for a small locker and $7 for a large locker. The increase took effect on January 9.

…The cost for a round of miniature golf has gone up to $11.95 for adults and $9.75 for children ages 3-9. The increase took effect on January 13.

…The alternative-fuel cars at the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway that we reported on last week are apparently not out for regular guest usage yet, and are in cast-only testing.

…Former Chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts Dick Nunis has decided to step down from the board od trustees of the University of Central Florida. Nunis elected not to be reappointed when his term expired on January 6. Nunis was chairman of the board from 2003 to 2006. No timetable has been set for the selection of his replacement.

Spaceship Earth's entry on the refurbishment calendar currently lists it as open, with a closure for refurbishment from February 9–14. It's not known whether this is a typographical error, with the attraction remaining in soft opening status until its official opening or if this represents a potential final fine-tuning and closure before the official opening date.

…The featured speaker at the February 23 meeting of the NFFC's World Chapter will be Pat Williams, Senior Vice President of the Orlando Magic & Author of "How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life." Go to the World Chapter Web site for more information.

…Walt Disney World has donated $25,000 to the "Yes on 1" campaign in support of the amendment that would greatly increase the property tax exemption on homesteads. Whether it's because they're looking to help their cast members that own homes, help their executives that own homes, or just looking for the 10 percent cap on increases of non-homestead properties is uncertain.

…The Walt Disney Company has been chosen as number 11 on the 2007 Diversity Business list of the Top 50 Corporations for Multicultural Business Opportunities. Fortune 500 companies were selected for the awards based on business opportunities they provide to diversity owned businesses.

…MousePlanet reader and MousePad discussion forum member bradk has released a new refurb tracking tool on his Web site.

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 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 February 9–14, 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 closes in the spring to be completely remodeled, and reopens 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 through January 27.
  • Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – closed for refurbishment and likely conversion to a Prince Caspian theme, through 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 undergoing renovation through 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 through 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 through 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.