Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for April 21 – April 27, 2008

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

News and Views

Happy Birthday (tomorrow), Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Disney's Animal Kingdom turns 10 tomorrow, on Earth Day, with a special "Party for the Planet" event at the park. There will be a special rededication ceremony in front of the Tree of Life, as well as trivia games, crafts, and educational opportunities throughout the day. In addition, WDWCelebrations.com is running their second event, entitled "A Wild Decade" (link), featuring a special event with Joe Rohde, the Imagineering force behind the park.

Star Wars Weekends | Sounds Like Summer | Endurance Series footwear sponsor | La Nouba Florida discount | MEAC-SWAC Challenge | A personal appeal | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Star Wars Weekends details emerge

Star Wars Weekends return to Disney's Hollywood Studios during the month of June with a series of special guests, mostly returning celebrities, though the lineup is subject to change. Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) returns as celebrity emcee/host of the event.

Here is the current schedule of guests:

  • June 6-8 – Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett)
  • June 13-15 – Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and David Prowse (Darth Vader)
  • June 20-22 – Amy Allen (Aayla Secura) and Matthew Wood (General Grievous)
  • June 27-29: Jake Lloyd (Young Anakin Skywalker) and Dave Filoni (director of the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

The celebrities are on hand each weekend for photos, Q&A, autograph sessions and Hollywood-style motorcades.

The event will continue to feature several returning special events, including:

  • Behind the Force – an insider's look at the making of the films, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Padawan Mind Challenge – allowing kids under 12 to test their wits before the Jedi Council
  • Legends of the Force – a motorcade featuring favorite Star Wars celebrities
  • Jedi Training Academy – now a regular several-times-daily event at the Studios where young Jedi-wannabes can learn lightsaber battle techniques and test their newfound skills against Darth Vader or Darth Maul
  • Hyperspace Hoopla – an out-of-this-world conclusion to each day's events with Star Wars characters.
  • Meet-and-Greets – as always, more than 50 Star Wars characters from the entire saga will be available to meet guests at various locations throughout the Studios, including Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Greedo, Queen Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, R2-D2, the loveable Wookiee Chewbacca, Twi'leks, Rodians and many more

Also coming: Star Wars Muppet figurines (link)!

The event runs Fridays through Sundays, June 6-29 at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and all events are included in the price of admission.

Disney has helpfully provided a key to the nautical flags used to create a message in the parterre between Future World and World Showcase. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Here are all of the flags in the parterre. Note that many of them have either just lost their blooms or just been replanted, with the standard bright colors being replaced by the underlying green. The top four rows are from Future World West, while the bottom two are from Future World East. If you have trouble making out all of the flags and you want to know what the messages say, scroll down to the bottom of the "Quick Takes" section of this Update. Photo by Brian Warneke.

First half of Sounds Like Summer bands announced

Once the big-name acts from the past are finished with the Flower Power concert series during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, the copycats move in for the summer. The Sounds Like SUmmer concert series, featuring cover bands, takes place at the America Gardens Theatre three times nightly from June 9 through August 10. The line-up for the first half of the series has been announced, and features:

  • June 9 to 15: 2U – A Tribute to U2
  • June 16 to 22: Stayin' Alive – A Tribute to the Bee Gees
  • June 23 to 29: Hotel California – Eagles Tribute Band
  • June 30 to July 10: Bjorn Again – ABBA Tribute Band

Concerts will take place at 5:45, 7 and 8 p.m. daily, and are included in park admission. The lineup, as always, is subject to change.

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!

Controversial footwear company signs on as Endurance Series sponsor

Disney's Endurance Series now has an official footwear sponsor. Spira, which manufacturers shoes with springs embedded under the heels and toes, will be the official performance footwear sponsor of the series' events at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, including the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon, the Expedition Everest Challenge, Race for the Taste 10K, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K and Disneyland Half Marathon. The company also produdes walking and casual style footwear.

The manufacturer is not without controversy. Because the shoes contain springs, the company's "WaveSpring" technology violates rule 143.3 (a) of the USA Track and Field, which specifically bans springs in shoes for competition as "performance enhancers." For this reason, the organization has added Spira footwear on its list of banned items (that include steroids) from all racing events the organization oversees. This has garnered something of an outlaw reputation for the company, which in response, has publicly offered large monetary rewards to winners of events such as the Boston Marathon who win while wearing their banned footwear.

Regarding the technology, Spira CEO Andy Krafsur noted: "Our shoes are not only beneficial for elite athletes and serious runners, but are also wonderful for people who want extra cushioning and energy return if they are walking or are on their feet for long periods of time. This is a technology that can help people recover faster from the Disney’s Endurance Series races and go on to enjoy their days and evenings with their families and friends at the Disney theme parks."

Spira joins Endurance Series clothing sponsor Champion.

These kinetic sculptures top many of the flower towers at the Flower & Garden Festival. Photo by Brian Warneke.

The Water Garden Wonder area sits behind Innoventions East. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Florida residents get special discount to La Nouba

Cirque du Soleil is running its annual summer discount for Florida residents, trying to fill seats at its 1,671-seat theater in Downtown Disney's West Side. Florida residents can receive a 20 percent savings on category 2 seats from May 1 through June 28. Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 407-WDW-SEAT (407-939-7328). Proof of Florida residency is required.

The Florida Resident deal offers a savings up to $17 per ticket. The offer is valid from May 1 to June 28 on Category 2 Seats. Ticket must be purchased in advance by calling 407-WDW-SEAT (407-939-7328). Proof of Florida residency is required.

A display showing how to make a topiary is located in Garden Town, the Festival Center. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Garden Town (located in the former Wonders of Life pavilion) also houses a model railroad display. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Cast members set up for the next gardening seminar in front of the former Cranium Command location. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Walt Disney World assumes sponsorship of MEAC-SWAC Challenge

Disney has completed the swap of one football game between historically black colleges for another with the announcement that it will serve as a presenting sponsor of the MEAC-SWAC Challenge. After cutting loose the Florida Classic, the annual showdown between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman, Disney has switched to the new game, which just happens to be owned by ESPN Regional Television. This year, ESPN has moved the game from Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama to Orlando's Citrus Bowl so that Disney can be the sponsor.

The MEAC-SWAC Challenge takes place between representatives of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), two HBCU (Historically Black College/University) leagues. The fourth edition of the game will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 31, between the MEAC's Hampton University and the SWAC's Jackson State University.

While continuing its commitment to hosting a game between two HBCU teams, by switching from the Florida Classic to the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, Disney has taken the lead in bringing teams from elsewhere in the U.S. to the Orlando area. This will bring more tourism dollars into the area (and likely to Walt Disney World) for two reasons. First, the Bethune-Cookman teams from Daytona Beach and the Florida A&M teams from Tallahassee were likely to spend less time at an in-state tourism location (not to mention the fact that the Florida Classic will continue in Orlando with State Farm as the sponsor), while MEAC-SWAC teams from further away would likely stretch their travel an extra day or two. Second, since the MEAC-SWAC representative teams will be rotated each year, teams that travel to the game once every few years or so are also more likely to turn the trips into vacations—likely bringing more family members—than the Florida Classic teams, which return every year. Besides, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M could both appear in the new game, as well, as are both MEAC schools.

"We are excited to be a sponsor of this game that will bring a new event to the Florida Citrus Bowl and have a positive economic impact on Central Florida," said Eugene Campbell, Vice President of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort. "We have a long history of supporting the African-American community and we're proud to build on this legacy by supporting the 25 historically black colleges and universities in the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern Athletic Conferences."

Help us keep our menu listings up to date!

Did you know that MousePlanet now has menu listings (link) for all theme park restaurants at Walt Disney World and many resort restaurants? You can help us keep them up to date! Send your photos, scans or other copies of restaurant menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

A personal appeal, final week

This coming Sunday, 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. Without therapies, medications and treatment regimens developed under grants from the March of Dimes, my son would not be alive today. So, you see, this is a very personal cause for me. I want to help the March of Dimes in order to help the next baby that's born too soon.

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.

A fuel cell-powered car by GM sits in the "Green Garden" area behind MouseGear. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Birdhouses designed to attract purple marlins sit in the "Green Garden" area. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Construction update

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

  • Polynesian Resort – Install owner-furnished metal and supply and install glass in the store front window system of the Polynesian Resort Great Ceremonial House.
  • Polynesian Resort – Abate second floor store front window at the Great Ceremonial House.
  • Germany – Replace existing drapes in Biergarten stage.
  • Epcot Land Pavilion – Jr. Chef Removal – Remove suspended graphic, install metal studs wall with gypsum board.
  • Epcot World Showcase Interactive Japan – Install foundations & wall for "Wind Chime" gag under Mitsukoshi Restaurant entrance stairway. Sounds like another piece of the "Kim Possible" puzzle.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Midway Mania – Miscellaneous paint & finish work, concrete for turnstiles, soffit for door opener.
  • Disney Village Drydock – Prep for 12'x24' shed and tie down after install.
  • Imagineering – American Idol Theater – Video display enclosure package.
  • Imagineering – Soundstage 2&3 (Toy Story Mania!) – Popsicle Sticks Graphics.
  • Imagineering – "SPI Site Prep". (Not sure what this one is, the address would seem to indicate somewhere in Epcot's Future World.)

Quick takes …

…Don't forget that voting on the Dream CMO contest ends at midnight EDT tonight! Vote for MousePlanet reader and MousePad discussion forum Justin Muchoney as often as you'd like. Why? Because it's really no contest! You can watch the official announcement live from Cinderella Castle at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday morning at dreamcmo.com.

…Registration has reached capacity for the 2008 Disney's Go Red for Women 5K. There are still a few spots left for the Women Run the World 15K, abut they're going fast.

…The Tampa Bay Rays will be hosting the Toronto Blue Jays for a regular-season Major League Baseball series this week, with games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

…The daily charge for wired high-speed Internet access for Disney Vacation Club members staying at DVC resort on points will be discontinued, effective May 4. Those renting DVC accommodations will continue to pay the daily rate for access, as will DVC members staying at non-DVC resorts. The DVC resorts at Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island are expected to roll out wireless service later this year.

…Following the "A Wild Decade" event honoring the 10th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom tomorrow, you might ask what's next for the crew over at WDWCelebrations.com? Well, they're already hard at work on their "World-Wide Weekend" event for September 26-28, loosely timed to coincide with the October 1 birthday of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (yes, and the entire Walt Disney World Resort, for that matter).

…The new on-site Health and Wellness Center for cast members will open this fall, ahead of the original 2009 date announced last December. The 15,000-square-foot center will be run by CHD Meridian Healthcare, Disney announced last week. Recruitment will begin shortly for the 40 medical and administrative positions at the center.

…The flags on the parterre for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival spell out "FUN IN THE SUN" and "MICKEY MOUSE."

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

  • March 19 – June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]
  • April 23, May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, June 4. Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • Apr. 25, 26. Disney Grad Nite.
  • April 26–27. USASF Cheerleading & Dance Worlds.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Illuminations – the LED globe is scheduled to be removed from the show for a major refurbishment, possibly in early summer. The length of the refurbishment is not known. The show was tested without the globe on February 27.
  • 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 May 29 – 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.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
  • The American Film Institute Showcase – closed for refurbishment April 1 – May 1.
  • "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.


  • 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.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – One side of the Jaguar slide at the main feature pool will be closed for rehab March 31 – April 30. The pool will remain open during the work.

Water Parks

  • No known current refurbishments.


  • Cap'n Jack's Restaurant – closed for refurbishment May 12–17.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Orlando Fun Tickets offering 5 days for the price of 3

For a limited time, MousePlanet discount ticket partner Orlando Fun Tickets is currently offering a free upgrade to a 5-day Park Hopper pass when you purchase a 3-day Park Hopper. Check out the special offer or any of the other great prices on tickets at OrlandoFunTickets.com!

Passholder discounts announced, Disney Dining Plan available

Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts have been announced for March through May. From March 30 through May 21, room-only discount rates are available, with Passholder rates being anywhere from $5 to $15 less than Florida resident rates. Passholders should use code FJC or FJD for Sunday-Thursday nights, while Florida residents should use FJK. The Passholder weekend rate code during that period is FJG.

In addition, the Disney Dining Plan will now be available to Annual Passholders, even on room-only reservations. To add the Dining Plan during the March 30 through May 21 AP discount period, Passholders should use code ANA, and the Deluxe Dining Plan requires code ANC. For other dates that do not have an effective Passholder discount, reservations for the Dining Plan should use code ADS and for the Deluxe Dining Plan should use code ADU.

Free dining for late summer

Free dining plans are available for Disney Visa cardholders and the general public. The plans are the same; the only difference was the start date for booking the package. The packages are good for most nights August 24 through September 20, and must be booked by June 22. Packages may be booked for a minimum of three nights and a maximum of 14 nights. Availability is limited and certain restrictions apply.

Existing reservations may be modified to include the free dining package if available. The deal is not only for a free standard dining plan, though. You can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan and/or the Wine & Dine option and get a credit equal to the cost of the standard dining plan ($37.99 for ages 10 and up, $9.99 for ages 3-9) off of the enhanced plan.

For the Disney Visa package (reservation deposit must be made with a Disney Visa card), use the following codes:

  • CMK – Magic Your Way Package plus Dining
  • CMM – Magic Your Way Package plus Wine & Dine
  • CMP – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining
  • CMS – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine

Booking codes for the general public are:

  • AYG – Magic Your Way Package plus Dining
  • AYH – Magic Your Way Package plus Wine & Dine
  • AYI – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining
  • AYJ – Magic Your Way Package plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine

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.