Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for June 23 – June 29, 2008

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

News and Views

Crimewatch update | Candlelight packages on sale | DVC policy change | July 4 | Disney Dreamers Academy | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Two cast members arrested; guest at Downtown Disney robbed

This is the kind of week that Walt Disney World would just as soon forget. Two cast members were arrested: One on child pornography charges and another for stealing a guest's credit card. Meanwhile, a visitor was robbed while taking money out of an ATM at the Royal Plaza in Downtown Disney.

Charles Hurrey, a 29-year-old PhotoPass employee responsible for issuing and troubleshooting equipment and deploying photographers at Disney's Hollywood Studios, was arrested Tuesday by investigators after they found three videos depicting children engaging in sex acts with adults and each other on an external hard drive, according to an arrest affidavit. Hurrey admitted to downloading the videos, but he told investigators that he only did so because he was curious as to why people would make them. Hurrey has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges. He is free after posting $15,000 bond.

Patrick Noze, 44, a third-shift operations manager at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly stealing a credit card out of a guest's wallet and then using it to pay a $1,200 bill at an Orlando auto transmission shop. The owner of the shop told police that Noze said that he had the cardholder's permission to use the card. Noze is also on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges.

Just after midnight Thursday night, Lorraine Ott had just gotten out of a taxi and was using the ATM in the lobby of the Royal Plaza in the Downtown Disney Resort Area when she was pushed down by a man who had been on the house phone adjacent to the ATM. The man grabbed the money that she had just taken out of the machine. Ott struggled with the assailant, but he ripped the money from her hand, taking two of the bills and half of the other; Ott was able to hold on to half of one bill. The attacker got into a gray Honda Civic that was waiting for him with at least one other person in the car and headed toward SR 535. Witnesses reported a partial Florida license plate to the police. Anyone with information about the case should call the Orange County Sheriff's Office Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (800-423-8477).

Candlelight Processional Dining Packages on sale today; narrator schedule released

One of the most popular reservations each year is the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, which combines a dining experience at an Epcot table-service restaurant with reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional, a reading of the Biblical Christmas Story at the America Gardens Theater by a celebrity narrator, backed by a 50-piece orchestra and a 400-voice massed choir.

The pricing tiers and dining hour restrictions from last year are the same as last year. All meal times will be during set windows based on the time of the performance to be seen. All seating times will be prior to showtime.

Those viewing the 5:00 p.m. performance will actually have their meal during lunch hours, with seatings between 1:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. This seating will carry a lower price tag than the two "dinner" seatings (see pricing below). Those wishing to attend the 6:45 p.m. performance will need to be willing to eat dinner with seating times between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The 8:15 p.m. performance is the only one with close to "normal" meal times, with reservations between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.


Lunch prices Dinner Prices Participating Restaurants
Adults Children ages 3 to 9 Adults Children ages 3 to 9
1 $27.99 $12.99 $32.99 $14.99
2 $36.99 $12.99 $42.99 $14.99
3 $41.99 $12.99 $47.99 $14.99

Dining packages go on sale this morning at 7 a.m. EDT. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) to make reservations.

The list of this year's narrators for the Candlelight Processional has been released. There's one remaining hole in the schedule, but most notable is the fact that, for only the second time in recent years, Gary Sinise is not narrating at all, let alone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The last time that Sinise did not appear, in 2005, it was due to his filming schedule. His listing on IMDb does not indicate any projects that would interfere with an appearance this year, so it's possible that his family just decided to vacation somewhere else for the holidays or maybe he just wanted to take the week off for a change. Anyway, here are this year's narrators.

  • November 28-30 – John O'Hurley
  • December 1-3 – Patti LaBelle
  • December 4-6 – Brian Stokes Mitchell
  • December 7-9 – Virginia Madsen
  • December 10-12 – Monique Coleman
  • December 13-15 – TBD
  • December 16-18 – Chita Rivera
  • December 19-21 – Abigail Breslin
  • December 22-24 – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • December 25-27 – Edward James Olmos
  • December 28-30 – Marlee Matlin

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!

Disney Vacation Club changes reservations policies

The Disney Vacation Club has modified the reservation window within which members can book their home and other resorts. Until the change, members could book their reservations up to 11 months (for their home resort) or 7 months (for all other resorts) from their check-out date. The new policy allows members to book up to 11 or 7 months from their check-in date. This change eliminates the necessity for daily phone calls to make reservations for highly-prized seasons. Previously, for the in-demand dates, members would have to call 11 or 7 months prior to the day after their arrival date to make a reservation for their first night only; they would then call each following day looking to extend the reservation by one day. Under the new rules, up to seven nights can be booked from the check-in date.

Note that it is possible to abuse the system by making a five-day reservation for a Wednesday-through-Monday stay, then later cancelling Wednesday and Thursday nights to get a three-day stay reserved two days prior to the actual window required. DVCnews.com is reporting (link) that DVC does not currently have any plans in place to prevent this sort of abuse; time will tell whether or not relying on members to play fair is a reasonable expectation.

Meanwhile, the day-by-day waitlisting option has also been done away with. Some members would place themselves on a waiting list for their preferred resort on a day-by-day basis (rather than full-stay basis), taking each night at the preferred lodging as it became available and hoping that their entire stay would be assembled before their arrival. This would sometimes result in holes in their stay. While existing day-by-day waitlists will remain in effect, all new waitlist requests will be full-stay only. Thanks again to DVCnews.com for giving us the heads-up on this story (link).

By the way, DVCnews.com has begun a new project to create searchable room databases for the DVC resorts. So far, four resorts have gone live (Beach Club Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Saratoga Springs Resort and Villas at Wilderness Lodge), while the remaining two (Old Key West and Animal Kingdom Villas) will go live once sufficient data is collected. The databases list the class/view of each room, lock-off vs. dedicated status, floor, balcony view, handicapped accessibility, etc. They're in the process of gathering balcony photographs from as many rooms as possible. If you'd like to check out room information or contribute some balcony photos, stop on by and check it out (link).

Fourth of July to light up the Disney sky

As always, fireworks will light up the sky on the Fourth of July as Walt Disney World celebrates Independence Day.

One of the two remaining Fantasy in the Sky fireworks shows is no more, as this year's Fourth of July fireworks spectacular at the Magic Kingdom will be the new "Disney's Celebrate America!-A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky," is a grand tribute to the United States, its people and traditions. The show will run at 9:00 p.m. on both July 3 and 4, with two SpectroMagic parades at 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.

The only remaining Fantasy in the Sky show left is the New Year's Eve show; it wouldn't be surprising to see this show replaced this year, as well. Previous holdover special Fantasy in the Sky shows were replaced by the HalloWishes and Holiday Wishes shows.

Meanwhile, over at Epcot, Illuminations will also get a special holiday finale. In addition, the American Adventure will feature several "special guests" from American history who will share their story throughout the day, as well as additional performances by the Voices of Liberty.

Disney's Hollywood Studios will also feature a special Independence Day fireworks show at 9 p.m. Fantasmic will be performed at 10:30 p.m.

Fireworks will also return to Downtown Disney for the special night, with a show at 10:30 p.m.

Disney Dreamers Academy to return in 2009

After a successful debut this year, the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey will return to Walt Disney World in February 2009. Held this year during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday weekend, next year it will move to Presidents Day weekend, February 12-16, 2009.

Another 100 teens from across the country will be selected from all applicants to participate in the Academy. Students can be nominated by parents, guardians, teachers, school administrators, church groups, social organizations and the students themselves. The final 100 will be chosen by a panel of judges including Steve Harvey, key African-American community leaders and Disney representatives. Nominating forms will be available at Steve Harvey's Web site (link) and will be accepted from September 1-30, 2008. The Academy members for 2009 will be announced in December 2008.

Created in conjunction with nationally syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey, the program targets students who show promise but need a little motivation. Sessions will include interactive workshops with cast members and executives on a wide variety of on-stage and backstage roles, inspirational speeches by entertainment celebrities and professional athletes, and fun in the theme parks.

Steve Harvey noted that Disney's Dreamers Academy "is very important to me because it gets to the heart of what my foundation is all about. It's about the education of our young people who are oftentimes slighted and don't have the chance to be exposed to a variety of job skills and job sets and meet with people in the fields they're interested in. We want to give our young achievers the tools to become overachievers—to take their dreams stratospheric."

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

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

  • Magic Kingdom AVAC equipment control building – Install new roof system and upgrade facility utilities; install new hopper, cyclone, compactor and filter
  • Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Tunnel Mechanical Room and Substation U-145 – West Fantasyland power distribution modifications
  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland Speedway – install new fuel tank and fueling system
  • Magic Kingdom Pecos Bill topping bar install
  • Magic Kingdom Columbia Harbour House – Install three drink towers
  • Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's/Stitch queue area – Remove existing mod bit roof and replace with new modified bitumen roof membrand and roof insulation where indicated
  • Epcot China Pavilion Nine Dragons Restaurant – Kitchen and dining room refurbishment
  • Animal Kingdom Discovery Island – Replacement of existing carved animal motifs around the Island Mercantile building

Quick takes …

…For those wondering what kind of stuff goes on at Star Wars Weekends' day-ending Hyperspace Hoopla, check this out at your own peril:

…The Norway pavilion plays host to Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen (stars of the popular The Deadliest Catch reality series on The Discovery Channel) July 10-13, 2008. The Hansens are scheduled to appear daily in The Puffin's Roost merchandise location. The Hansens own and operate the Northwestern, one of the crab-catching vessels on the show. The Hansens will sign autographs and posing for photos, as well as selling Northwestern merchandise.

…The Expedition Everest Challenge is now 60 percent sold out, and the Walt Disney World Marathon is now 65 percent full.

…Perhaps proving that the leisure travel market to Orlando is softening toward the end of the year, United Vacations is bringing back a promotion that will give guests a $100 Disney Gift Card with their vacation purchase to Walt Disney World from now through December 31. Customers booking their all-inclusive trip through United Vacations (the travel packaging arm of United Airlines) with travel between July 1 and December 31 using promo code GIFT will get the gift card upon arrival. To qualify, the trips must be four or more nights. FOr more information, go to the United Vacations web site (link).

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

  • July 25 – Aug 13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • No known current refurbishments


  • 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 – closed May 29 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian – opens mid-June, official opening in June 27.
  • Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey – closed for refurbishment July 7 - August 5.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open January 2009.

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.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closes for annual refurbishment November 1 through at least the end of the year.
  • Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment once Typhoon Lagoon reopens, likely through mid-March.


  • 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 rates for summer

Passholder rates are available for the summer. You can book both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between May 26 and August 2, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.

The booking codes for phone reservations are:

  • Room-only reservations – FJY
  • Reservations with the Disney Dining Plan – ADS

Note that Small World agents have run into difficulty with the ADS code for phone reservations with dining, but have found an alternate code to use. If the code doesn't work for you, try code CSS.

The booking codes for online reservations are:

  • Room-only reservations – FJU
  • Reservations with the Disney Dining Plan – ADF

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.