Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for May 5 – May 11, 2008

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

News and Views

Armored car robbery | Planet Hollywood bomb threat | Disney Princess Half Marathon | Fall/Holiday event roundup | Concert schedule | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Armored car robbed at Grand Floridian

An armored truck was robbed early Tuesday morning at the Grand Floridian Resort while making a delivery, though authorities say that it was an inside job.

Three employees of Garda Security Corp. were returning to their truck after making a delivery at the Grand Floridian when they noticed that one of the doors was open and an undisclosed amount of money was missing. After an investigation by the Orange County Sheriff's Office, 24-year-old Garda employee Johnnie Bernard Leonard, Jr. was arrested for conspiring with two friends to steal the money. Authorities determined that the other two Garda employees were not involved.

Deputies later arrested the other two conspirators, Sondra Tarrell Farmer (24), and Latosha Denise Black (24). Authorities say that Leonard arranged with Farmer and Black for them to steal the money while he and the other Garda employees were making the delivery inside the Grand Floridian.

The three were arrested on charges of burglary and first-degree grand theft of more than $100,000. Garda and Crimeline are offering rewards of $10,000 and $1,000, respectively, for information resulting in the return of the missing money, which has not yet been recovered.

Bomb threat temporarily shuts Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney was evacuated around 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon as a 21-year-old former employee made a bomb threat. 21-year-old Jason Davis returned to the restaurant, asking to get his job back. After managers refused, he reportedly threw his backpack on the ground between the gift shop and a stairwell and said, "I hope it is a bomb because this earth deserves to die today."

Although Davis tried to take back the comment, the restaurant and the area were evacuated and the backpack was removed by sheriff's deputies and detonated. Afterward, it was determined that the bag only contained Davis' personal effects. Davis was arrested on a charge of making a bomb threat and was taken to the Orange County Jail. He was later quoted as telling local TV station WKMG, "I scared a lot of people but I think I did it for the better good. I think I'm the devil. I have a mindset as a devil but I mean I'm a good guy trying to make the world a better place."

Planet Hollywood reopened at around 7 p.m. that evening. Davis was being held without bond on charges of false reporting/placing of a bomb.

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!

Run with royalty at inaugural "Disney's Princess Half Marathon"

You've run the Goofy during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, Raced for the Taste, faced the Tower of Terror 13K and the Expedition Everest Challenge, and even run the world at the Minnie Marathon Weekend. What's next?

Well, the folks over at the Disney Endurance Series keep coming up with new races for you, so next March you can race with royalty at the inaugural Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This new woman-centric race weekend is scheduled for March 6-8, 2009, and will include a half-marathon on Sunday, as well as a family fun 5K and kids' races on Saturday. The race expo will be held at the Jostens Center at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, which is scheduled to open this summer.

With the tag line, "Every woman is a princess, which princess are you?" the race weekend focuses on women's fitness, including a health and wellness expo entitled "Disney’s Fit For A Princess Expo" that is tailored for women. "Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend is a wonderful opportunity for women and girls of all ages," said Kathleen Duran, sports area manager for Disney’s Wide World of Sports. "Disney princesses have attributes that all women want to possess: courage, loyalty, strength, commitment and perseverance. We feel this weekend is an opportunity to recognize those attributes within each woman and celebrate their accomplishments."

More than 10,000 runners are expected to participate, making it one of the largest road races in the U.S. geared toward women. The half marathon will start near the Magic Kingdom, at the Walt Disney World Speedway. After a lap around that track, runners will race to and through Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. A post-race celebration will be held at the Magic Kingdom during Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party. (Note that this confirms that Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party will return in 2009!)

The entry fee for the Disney's Princess Half Marathon is $120 per person. There will apparently be a team competition as well, as two-person team entries (in the divisions of mother/daughter, sister/sister and open) cost a $10 team fee on top of the individual registrations. Half marathon fees include:

  • Race Registration
  • Commemorative Champion Ladies Tech Shirt
  • Goody Bag
  • Event Weekend Transportation from select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels only
  • Personalized Bib
  • Professionally timed race
  • On Course Refreshments
  • On Course Disney Entertainment
  • Post-Race Refreshments
  • Family Reunion Area with live entertainment and characters
  • Half Marathon Princess Tiara finishers' medal
  • Opportunity to purchase specially priced Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party tickets for runners, family & friends

The $40 entry fee for the Disney's Princess Family 5K gets you:

  • Race Registration
  • Commemorative t-shirt
  • Goody Bag
  • Event Weekend Transportation from select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels only
  • Commemorative finisher medallion
  • Opportunity to purchase specially priced Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party tickets for runners, family & friends

Kids can enter the Disney's Princess Kids' Races (with age-appropriate distances) for $10, which gets you the same items as the adult entry fee, sans the goody bag.

Registration for the event is now open (link).

Mickey and Minnie Mouse greet visitors.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse greet visitors to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, showing off this year's theme, "Fun in the Sun." Photo by Chris Salata.

Goofy rides a huge wave on a floral surfboard.
Behind Mickey and Minnie, Goofy rides a huge wave on a floral surfboard. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Fall and holiday special event details announced

Disney has released a whole bunch of information regarding the special events for this fall and holiday season. We'll touch briefly on everything, but there'll be more information coming in our park guide and in later park updates.

The first special events kick off Labor Day weekend, as Walt Disney World debuts Disney's Royal Quinceañera Weekend (link), its entry into the market for celebrations surrounding the Hispanic coming-of-age ceremony, August 29 through September 5. The "weekend" includes parties at Epcot and private viewings of Illuminations. Disney is promoting 3-, 4- and 5-night packages at the Coronado Springs Resort in conjunction with the event.

Now it its 26th year, the Night of Joy (link) moves from the Magic Kingdom to Disney's Hollywood Studios this year. The hard-ticketed event will be held September 5-6 from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., after park hours. Tickets are on sale now.

The move of venue for the Night of Joy opens up the Magic Kingdom for the earliest-ever start to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (link). The party will be held on an unprecedented 25 nights this year. The annual event runs from 7 p.m. to midnight, after park hours, on September 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30 and October 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31. Tickets cost $49.95 (ages 3-9) and $55.95 (ages 10+), with a $7 discount available for all nights except September 19, 26 and October 3, 10, 16, 23, 24, 26, 30 and 31. Further discounts are available for Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders. Tickets are on sale now.

Kicking off later in the month, the 13th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (link) runs September 26–November 9. With small portions of food, wine and beer available from international kiosks around World Showcase, there's something for everyone. This year's theme is "Cities in Wonderland" and includes specialties from Lyon, France; Bologna, Italy; Cape Town, South Africa and Cork, Ireland. Of course, there are also the many seminars and special dining experiences, for which reservations will open up over the summer. The East to the Beat concert series (see below for the list of acts) will feature all sorts of music over the six and a half weeks of the festival.

Come November, the Children's Miracle Network Classic (link) brings big-name golfers to the resort for the final official money event of the year, with jockeying for position in the final standings for 2008 at stake.

That same weekend, the Festival of the Masters (link) brings more than 150 award-winning artists to Downtown Disney West Side November 7-9 for the 33rd annual event. From 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. each day, you can chat with the artists and let your budding young artists take part in events throughout the day.

As that weekend ends (along with the Food & Wine Festival), it's time for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link) to kick off. This year's party will be held on 18 nights after park closing in the Magic Kingdom, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Entertainment appears to be the same as last year, including the free cookies and cocoa. The event will take place November 10, 11, 14, 16, 20, 21, 30 and December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19. The annual Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party meet at MouseFest is expected to take place on December 11. Tickets cost $49.95 (ages 3-9) and $55.95 (ages 10+), with a $7 discount available for all nights except November 14, 21 and December 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 18 and 19. Further discounts are available for Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders. Tickets are on sale now.

Super Soap Weekend (link) returns November 15-16, bringing soap opera stars to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the 13th year. A list of attendees hasn't been released yet, but look for a healthy contingent of stars from the ABC soaps All My Children, One Life to Life, and General Hospital. It is all about synergy, after all. Events include meet-and-greets, motorcades, live talk shows and more.

Thanksgiving Weekend, the Old Spice Classic (link) brings eight teams to an invitational tournament at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Hosted by Disney, ESPN and the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), this year's tournament features Gonzaga, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Siena (the MAAC representative), Tennessee and Wichita State. Five of the teams appeared in the NCAA tournament and two others played in the National Invitational Tournament.

Other fun during the holiday season includes the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios; Holidays Around the World, featuring the Candlelight Processional, at Epcot November 28 through December 30; Castle Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom; Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom; Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney Marketplace; and festive decorations and music around all of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Children enjoy Pluto's Play Zone, near the butterfly garden. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Guests look over the Dynamite Vegetable Garden behind Future World West. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Peter Pan's Neverland Garden fills the festival area near the Rose Walk. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Captain Hook watches for children in Pan's Neverland Garden, not noticing the nearby crocodile. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Concerts fill the America Gardens Theater

We've now got the full schedule of "Sounds Like Summer" concert series acts:

  • June 9-15: 2U (U2)
  • June 16-22: Stayin' Alive (The Bee Gees)
  • June 23-29: Hotel California (Eagles)
  • June 30-July 10: Bjorn Again (ABBA)
  • July 11-20: Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi)
  • July 21-27: 52nd Street (Billy Joel)
  • July 28-August 3: Captain Fantastic (Elton John)
  • August 4-10: The Sounds of the Supremes (The Supremes)

After Sounds Like Summer is done, the America Gardens Theater has about a month and a half without a regular tenant until the Eat to the Beat concert series begins with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in late September. We've got almost the entire schedule for those shows, as well.

  • September 26-27: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • September 28-30: Sheena Easton
  • October 1-4: Starship Starring Mickey Thomas
  • October 5-7: En Vogue
  • October 8-9: Jonny Lang
  • October 10-12: Peabo Bryson
  • October 13-14: Sister Hazel
  • October 15-16: David Sanborn
  • October 17-18: Jon Secada
  • October 19-21: Spyro Gyra
  • October 22-23: Otis Day & the Knights
  • October 24-26: Exposé
  • October 27-28: Kool & the Gang
  • October 29-30: Boyz II Men
  • October 31-November 2: Atlanta Rhythm Section
  • November 3-5: David Cassidy
  • November 6-7: To Be Announced
  • November 8-9: Los Lobos

Thanks to Steve Soares' Walt Disney World Live Entertainment site (link) for some of the acts and dates.

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.

Construction update

Work on the Kidani Village annex for the Animal Kingdom Villas is moving right along. Photo by Chris Salata.

The exterior of the building closest to the main Jambo House building is nearly complete. Photo by Chris Salata.


The next building's exterior is moving along, as well. Photo by Chris Salata.


Construction worker continue vertical construction on the buildings furthest from Jambo House. Disney is likely hoping that those trees grow quickly to help hide the non-Disney resorts just past the edge of Walt Disney World property.. Photo by Chris Salata.

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

  • Imagineering – Epcot World Showcase Interactive Distribution Cart Install (Norway, Italy, International Gateway) - more Kim Possible infrastructure?
  • Imagineering – Disney's Hollywood Studios Soundstage 4 - A/V installation support - likely for the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian walkthrough
  • Polynesian and Grand Floridan Resorts – Repair/replace damaged sidewalks
  • Magic Kingdom – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Install new wheelchair guest area queue
  • Epcot China pavilion – Fire alarm control panel replacement and restaurant upgrade
  • Epcot Research Kiosk – Install new research kiosk area
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios '50s Primetime Cafe – Replace 11 windows and 4 doors
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Dinosaur – Install new unload console
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Discovery Island and Caravan Stage – Install new hardscape
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Elephant Barn 14 – Install new walk-in cooler in place of existing
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Hippo 6 filter pad – install new lights and poles
  • Downtown Disney Pleasure Island Motion – Modify four bar tops
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Captain Jack's – Replace wall materials at drywall w/ FRP & S/S; repair/replace wood floors & finish; install MMA type floor
  • Fort Wilderness Pioneer Hall DVC Kiosk – Replace seven existing wooden posts with seven new wooden posts
  • Fort Wilderness – Widen access roadway through entrance turn

Donald and Daisy Duck play volleyball in the middle of World Showcase Plaza. Photo by Brian Warneke.

To the east of the Ducks, Pluto hopes for a loose volleyball. Photo by Brian Warneke.

To the west of the Ducks, a pair of cockatoos looks on intently. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Quick takes …

…We've gotten word that Disney Vacation Club members will be included in this coming weekend's Toy Story Mania annual passholder preview. DVC members (plus up to 3 guests) can join APs May 10-12 in trying out the new attraction. Thanks to DVCNews.com (link) for the info!

…Congratulations to the winners at this year's Minnie Marathon Weekend. The Women Run the World 15K was won by Heather King of Orlando yesterday, winning by nearly two minutes over second-place Cheryl Edwards of Avon, Connecticut. Edwards also finished third in the Go Red for Women 5K, nearly one minute behind winner Sonja Friend-Uhl of West Palm Beach. Friend-Uhl was the second-place finisher in this year's Walt Disney World Marathon.

…The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially released the dates for this summer's training camp (link) at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. The Bucs will be holding practices from July 25 through August 13. The team is again expected to be taking over the Celebration Hotel as their lodgings during that time.

…We've heard that Figment's Place has been discontinued as part of the work at the Imagination pavilion. It's not certain if that means the end of the larger-than-life walkaround Figment character (dubbed Fig-zilla by some).

…The NFFC will be holding its third annual Florida Convention at the Regal Sun Resort in the Downtown Disney Resort Area from October 3 through October 5 this year. For more information, check out the NFFC World Chapter Web site (link).

…The Florida Senate has approved Florida Governor Charlie Crist's nomination of Disney senior vice president for conservation and envorinmental sustainability Jerry Montgomery to the board of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees environmental regulations in South and Central Florida, including Walt Disney World.

…Walt Disney World president Meg Crofton has been inducted into the Florida State University College of Business Hall of Fame. Crofton got her Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from Florida State in 1974 and 1975, respectively. She was one of three inductees this year.

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.]
  • May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, June 4. Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • May 10. Muddy Buddy.
  • May 11. Danskin Women's Triathlon.
  • May 16–18. Teddy Bear and Doll Weekend.
  • May 18. Florida Half Ironman 70.3.

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.
  • 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 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

  • 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.