Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for July 7 – July 13, 2008

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

News and Views

Disney fights guns-at-work law | Dining changes | Cruise deposit deferral | Vacation video contest | New baby elephant | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Walt Disney World claims exemption from new guns-at-work law

Last Tuesday, a new law took effect in Florida, allowing citizens with concealed-weapons permits to keep firearms locked in their cars while they are at work. They won't be able to do that at Walt Disney World, though, as the resort—Florida's largest single-site employer—has claimed that the majority of its property is exempt from the law because of a loophole in the law that was added late in the approval process.

This position surprised backers of the law and infuriated the National Rifle Association. The NRA issued an alert to members on Wednesday with the title of "Disney Thumbing Nose at the New Florida Gun Law." The email called Disney a "prime offender when it comes to firing employees for exercising Second Amendment rights."

The Orlando Sentinel reports (link) that Disney World Vice President of Public Affairs Shannon McAleavey advised other company executives in a memo circulated last week that, with a few exceptions, "this law does not apply to Walt Disney World Co. owned and leased properties," and that Disney "continues to maintain a zero tolerance policy" for guns.

Violations of Disney policy would be grounds for discipline, up to and including termination. An e-mail was sent to the resort's 62,000 full- and part-time employees to inform them that they would not be permitted to carry weapons in their cars while on Disney property.

On the day that the "Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008" was approved by the Florida House, a change was made to expand an exemption from the law. Wording that had exempted companies whose primary business is to manufacture, use, store or transport explosives regulated under federal law—originally intended to include work sites such as defense plants and Air Force bases—was expanded to include property owned or leased by an employer who has obtained a permit to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in explosive materials. Because of the large array and inventory of pyrotechnics used in the theme parks, Walt Disney World has one of those permits.

Disney, which—along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation and others—had fought the bill for three years, has reviewed the final language of the law and determined that it exempts "all theme parks, resorts, theme-park and resort parking lots, Cast Member parking lots, administrative offices across the Walt Disney World Resort, Downtown Disney, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, hotels on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, Celebration and the Disney Reservation Centers" in Orlando and Tampa. However, Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Disney Cruise Line's crew-member parking lots and some other Disney properties in Florida are not exempt.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Retail Federation have filed suit challenging the law, and Disney plans to support the effort.

On Friday morning, after informing all local television stations that he would be doing so, a Disney employee protested the ruling by bringing his gun with him to work, leaving it locked in his car. Edwin Sotomayor, a security guard at Disney's Animal Kingdom, was met in the parking lot by Sheriff's deputies and Disney managers. When Sotomayor refused to allow his car to be searched, he was suspended for failure to cooperate with Disney's investigation. Sotomayor told WFTV (link) that he was acting on his own and had not been contacted by groups like the NRA.

Universal Orlando and SeaWorld might also be exempt because of their pyrotechnic shows, but have elected to pursue different courses. Universal, owned by NBC Universal, claims that it must follow the policies of the Orlando County Public School System because its Universal Education Center work-study program is staffed by Orange County Public Schools. The school system is exempt from the law, and Universal claims that they therefore must be exempt, as well. SeaWorld Orlando, owned by Busch Entertainment, allows its employees and visitors to transport legal firearms in their cars.

Patriotic Pani projections and pyrotechnics are presented as part of the new Fourth of July fireworks spectacular, "Disney's Celebrate America – A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky." Photos © Disney, David Roark photographer.

Disney making interesting dining changes; 90-day reservations window coming back?

As I reported on my blog last Wednesday and on last Thursday's MouseStation podcast, Walt Disney World has made a bunch of interesting dining changes. First off, from August 24 to September 27, Disney will increase the opportunities for the crowds with free dining to use their table service credits.

  • Chef Mickey's opens for lunch from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
  • 'Ohana opens for an extra hour for breakfast, from 7:30 a.m., and open an hour earlier for dinner, now from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe also opens for an extra hour for dinner, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.

As of October 5, the Garden Grill opens only for dinner, and will no longer be open for lunch.

As of January 5, 2009, the Liberty Tree Tavern is no longer offering character dining. Dinner will continue to be serverd without the characters.

The big change appears to foreshadow a major policy change. As of July 16, you will not be able to make any Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for any dates past January 15, 2009. ADRs needed for January 16, 2009 or later will not be able to be booked until October 15, with the following three exceptions: Chef Mickey's, Cinderella's Royal Table, and Victoria and Albert's.

It looks like Disney is preparing to move the reservations window from 180 days back to 90 days, with the exception of the three most-in-demand dining locations. While the days of walk-up, same-day reservations everywhere are probably gone forever, it'll be nice not to have to worry about what you want to eat half a year in advance.

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 Cruise Line half-deferred deposits for online reservations, for a limited time

The Disney Cruise Line has announced a special deal where any bookings through the Disney Cruise Web site (link) will only require payment of half of the usual deposit, with the other half due with the rest of the final payment. The offer is only good on new bookings, and for category 4-12 cabins only. The offer is available to those booking online or through their travel agents (though the travel agent would have to book the cruise through disneycruise.com for the offer). Bookings are also eligible for the standard $25 onboard credit offer for all online bookings. The deal is available "for a limited time," but there's no word on when the limited time expires.

Share a video of your favorite Disney Parks memory and win a dream vacation

What's your favorite Disney Parks memory? If you tell your story well enough, you could win a once in a lifetime Disney dream vacation, including a night in the Disneyland Dream Suite. It's part of the launch festivities for The Disney Parks Channel on YouTube.

To enter, you'll need to upload a YouTube video (up to one minute long) that captures the essence of your favorite Disney Parks memory. You can either use actual footage of your vacation, a re-enactment or any creative expression of your memory. Memories can be of any Disney Resort, Disney Cruise Line or Adventures by Disney.

The words "My Favorite Disney Parks Memory" must shown or said at the beginning of the video. No company logos may be shown in the video. You can only use original music, lyircs or video clips that you have the rights to use. Of course, you can only use people (even in the background) that have given permission to be included.

Ten finalists chosen by Disney will have their videos put up for vote on the Disney Parks Channel page at YouTube and visitors will have the chance to vote on the Grand Prize Winner. The other nine finalists will get an annual pass to the Disney Park of their choice.

Entries must be submitted by August 5. Disney judging of the videos will take place from August 6 through August 12, and the YouTube voting will be open from August 13 through September 9. The grand prize winner will be announced on or around September 20.

Disney has prepared a video featuring celebrity chef Cat Cora to provide an introduction to the contest:

For complete rules and information about the contest, you can check out the official legalese page (link).

New baby elephant joins the herd

As reported on last Thursday's MouseStation podcast, The herd of African elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom grew again this weekend as 26-year-old Moyo became the first to give birth at the park twice with a 327-pound male elephant on Saturday. The calf, as yet unnamed, is the heaviest elephant calf born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Both mother and calf seem to be doing well, and veterinarians and elephant managers are optimistic about the calf's likelihood of survival.

This is the fourth elephant born at the park. Tufani, Moyo's first male calf, was born in 2003. A female, Kianga, was born to Vasha in 2004, and Nadirah, another female, was born to Donna in 2005. The three younger calves are all on the savannah at the park. Another calf died during the birth process in April 2005. Ibala, the calf's mother, died three weeks later, on May 14.

The as-yet-unnamed newborn elephant calf nurses from his mother, Moyo. Photo © Disney, David Roark photographer.

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:

  • Port Orleans Riverside – Flip existing bridge deck boards. Replace existing stainless steel screws at Port Orleans Riverside Bridge from Ol' Man Island to Magnolia Bend.
  • Port Orleans Riverside – Remove and replace boards and install ice and water shield at the bridge from Ol' Man Island to Commercial Building Deck.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter – Repair areas of rust and refinish interior and exterior window wall and green roof at the main resort commercial building.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – Provide plumbing hook ups for glass wash machines in all sections of the resort.
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge – Provide conduit wire and power to the new Photo Imaging location.
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge – Install exterior ADA auto door opener by the Roaring Forks Restaurant.
  • Boardwalk Resort – Boardwalk Harbour Club Child Care Office Modifications.
  • Epcot – Install electrical equipment on roof of Innoventions East and West buildings.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Taking Muppet Theatre hot air balloon down for rehab.

Quick takes …

…There are several follow-up issues to last week's story on the closing of the Pleasure Island nightclubs, including the fate of the nightclub buildings, the demand for nightclub-type experiences and a new offering on the Water Park Fun & More Option for park passes. You can read an entire Q&A e-mail with Walt Disney World spokeswoman Jacquee Polak in a blog post from last week. You can also join the ongoing discussion on the closures on our MousePad discussion forums.

…Judging by the permits filed last week with Orange County to install glass wash machines around the Saratoga Springs Resort, it looks like glassware may be returning to the Studio units at the resort. As noted in our interview with DVC's Diane Hancock on the June 11 episode of the MouseStation podcast, the reason that the glasses were replaced with disposable drink cups was due to the lack of dishwashers in the studios to properly clean the glasses. Installing glass wash machines throughout the resort will allow housekeeping to again provide glasses that are sanitized for your protection. It is reasonable to assume that glass wash machines will also be installed around the Old Key West Resort to allow the return of glassware to the studios there, as well.

…The Eat to the Beat concert series during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will be taking place a little earlier this year – half an hour earlier. This year's shows will take place at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. daily, instead of 5:45, 7:00 and 8:15 p.m., as in earlier years. Also, the one remaining spot in the lineup has been filled. Night Ranger will be performing November 6-7. The full lineup is as follows:

  • 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

…Disney Worldwide Outreach was one of four organizations to be honored recently at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, receiving the 2008 Award for Excellence in Workplace Volunteer Programs from the Points of Light & Hands On Network. Last year, Disney donated more than $177 million in cash and in-kind support to various charities around the world. Disney VoluntEARS in over 42 countries contributed more that 466,000 hours of service.

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

  • 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

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment September 2 – November 15.


  • 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.


  • Pleasure Island – all clubs to close September 27.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex – 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

New Discounts announced for August and September

New discounts have been announced for most nights August 3 - September 27. To get these rates, you must book by July 27.

Sample rates:

To get the rates, use the following codes:

  • Magic Your Way – DCT
  • Magic Your Way with Dining – DDK
  • Magic Your Way with Deluxe Dining – DDN
  • Magic Your Way with Dine & Wine – DDL
  • Magic Your Way with Deluxe Dine & Wine – DDO
  • Room Only – DDH
  • Room Only Canadian – DD

Disney Cruise Line half-price deposits for online reservations, for a limited time

The Disney Cruise Line has announced a special deal where any bookings through the Disney Cruise web site (link) will only require payment of half of the usual deposit, with the other half due with the rest of the final payment. The offer is only good on new bookings, and for category 4-12 cabins only. The offer is available to those booking online or through their travel agents (though the travel agent would have to book the cruise through disneycruise.com for the offer). Bookings are also eligible for the standard $25 onboard credit offer for all online bookings. The deal is available "for a limited time," but there's no word on when the limited time expires.

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.