Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for February 18 – February 24, 2008

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

News and Views

Safari vehicle fire | Pass upgrade deal | 10-finger prints at airport for foreign visitors | Promotions for Disney staffers | Night Kingdom? | A personal appeal | Quick Takes …

Vehicle fire shuts Kilimanjaro Safaris for a day

Kilimanjaro Safaris was closed last Sunday afternoon and evening, February 10, after a truck engine fire stranded some guests in an animal-free zone. The fire was caused by a damaged engine hose.

According to a blog post by Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel web site, a woman on the safari vehicle reported "I saw smoke out of the right side of the truck, then a huge flame went up between the driver and the first row of seats. That is where the woman got her face and hair singed."

Four people experienced minor injuries, Disney reported. In addition to the woman with facial injuries, an 8-year-old girl hurt her knee and two other girls hurt their ankles while jumping down from the vehicle. The 8-year-old was taken to Celebration Health Hospital where she was treated and released. Another safari vehicle was brought to the site and transported the passengers to a backstage area where they were met by paramedics, police and guest services managers.

The damaged truck was repaired, and all safari trucks were examined. The attraction reopened the next morning.

Special offer for free upgraded passes on Magic Your Way packages

Disney Visa cardholders get a head start on a new promotion. Starting yesterday, Magic Your Way package reservations for stays most Sunday-Thursday nights between March 30 and May 21 will get free upgrades on their base Magic Your Way tickets to include Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. Disney Visa cardholders should use code APU for a base Magic Your Way package, APW for Magic Your Way Plus Dining and APY for Magic Your Way Plus Deluxe Dining. Your deposit must be paid with a Disney Visa card at the time of booking.

The deal will become available for all guests on Thursday, February 21. The number of packages available at these rates is limited.

Those with existing reservations may be able to modify their reservation if space is still available that their resort for their dates.

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!

International tourists now need to print all 10 fingers at airport

If you're planning to visit Walt Disney World from overseas, you should be aware of a new procedure instituted at Orlando International Airport. MCO is the eighth airport in the country to begin using 10-print scanners to digitally scan all 10 fingerprints of visitors entering the United States.

The new scanners replace 2004 models that only recorded the prints of index fingers. The Federal officials note that this will make identification possible even if the only fingerprint that authorities have is not of the index finger. It is expected that the new machines will eventually make the entry process quicker.

In the meantime, however, this new process is only being perceived as making the U.S. an even less inviting tourst destination, not a beneficial time for this to occur with domestic travel down. We'll see if this new change eventually leads to lower tourism at Walt Disney World and larger turnstile clicks at Disneyland Paris or the two Disney resort in Asia.

For a video of how the new 10-finger scanners work, check out the video attached to this story in the Orlando Sentinel.

Disney promotes Public Affairs execs

Walt Disney World has promoted two more officials in its Public Affairs group, continuing its retrenchment after former Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Jerry Montgomery was promoted to a global position last April. New Senior VP of Public Affairs Shannon McAleavey (who took over the reins in November) made the announcement of the casting changes.

Bill Warren has moved up from Vice President of Public Affairs to Vice President of Governmnet Relations. Warren, who joined Disney in 1995, had an extensive public affairs and govenment relations background before joining the company.

Eugene Campbell joined Disney in 1999 and has moved up the ladder steadily. He was recently promoted from the position of Vice President of Community Relations and Minority Business to new current role as Vice President of Community Relations and Minority Business Development.

In announcing the promotions, McAleavey said that ?Bill has spent his career building relationships with leaders in Central Florida. He has in-depth knowledge of our company and passion for the community, and I look forward to his contributions. Eugene?s promotion is well deserved. Under his leadership, Disney donated more than $33 million in cash and in-kind support to local organizations in 2007. Eugene continues to find new and creative ways to enhance our commitment to Central Florida, and we thank him for his leadership.?

Jacquee Polak has been named interim Vice President of Communications in place of Warren, though a search of internal and external candidates for the permanent position is planned.

Night Kingdom

Blogger (and early MousePlanet columnist) Jim Hill reported last week that Walt Disney World will soon be announcing a fifth theme park targeted at the same market as SeaWorld's Discovery Cove. Disney's Night Kingdom would reportedly feature loads of up-close-and-personal animal interactions, as well as unique live entertainment and gourmet food, all for a ticket price in the vicinity of $250-$300 per person per day for an eight-hour day. (The park would only be open from 4 p.m. until midnight.)

Many people (including myself) said that a fifth theme park would be highly unlikely, but then we said the same thing about a DVC resort by the Contemporary and rebuilding the Treehouse Villas. So anything is possible. We'll just have to sit back and see what happens.

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.

A personal appeal, for the third year

On April 27, I'll be walking to raise money for the March of Dimes again. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Last year, through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, we managed to raise $4,025. This year, let's beat that. Let's see if we can raise $5,000. I think we can. For more information, or to donate, go here.

Quick takes …

…We recently received a reader report of a dining plan for Passholders. No further word yet.

…The Tampa Bay Rays (formerly the Devil Rays) will be moving a regular season baseball series to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. The April 22-24 games against the Toronto Blue Jays will mark the second season of regular-season baseball at Disney World. The Rays swept last season's series against the Texas Rangers and are looking to repeat that feat this year. Tickets are on sale now.

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

  • February 22, 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14. Disney's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • 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.
  • March 1-2. NDA National Dance Team Championship.
  • March 7-9. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship.
  • March 8. National Kidney Foundation 5K.
  • March 9. Last performance of the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade.
  • March 14. First performance of the Block Party Bash parade.
  • March 14, 15 and 17. Pleasure Island goes green for St. Patrick's Day.
  • March 15. Off to Never Land cel release.
  • March 19 ? June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment February 24–March 1.
  • Peter Pan's Flight – closed for refurbishment February 28–March 11.
  • Minnie's Country House – closed for refurbishment April 1–23.


  • 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, and most likely will only be used as a Festival Center until a new sponsor is found.
  • Nine Dragons – closes April 30 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • 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.
  • Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade – ends March 9.
  • Block Party Bash Parade – begins March 14.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open in late 2008.

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 now complete.
  • 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.
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – work continues on the refurbishment of the main building.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – Doubloon Lagoon feature pool closed for renovations January 28 through mid-March. Resort guests can take a shuttle to Port Orleans Riverside Resort to use the Ole' Man Island pool at during this time, as well as using the quiet pools.

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.