Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for July 21 – July 27, 2008

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

News and Views

Studios CM arrested | Kidani Village reservations | Passholder rates for Aug/Sept | Bocuse d'Or | Gun-related updates | Construction update | Quick Takes ...

Studios cast member arrested for making bomb threat

Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction host Justin Hasegawa, 20, was arrested last Wednesday evening for making a bomb threat. While in a cast member break room, talking on the phone with his girlfriend about his problems with unpaid traffic tickets and a suspended driver's license, Hasegawa vented that he was going to get C-4 explosives and blow up the office of the Clerk of Courts at the Orange County Courthouse. A fellow cast member heard the threat and reported him to a supervisor. The supervisor confronted Hasegawa, who admitted making the threat. At that point, authorities were called, including the FBI and the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Hasegawa had been upset over the Clerk of Courts' unwillingness to negotiate a payment plan for his unpaid fines. He claims that he was just venting his frustration with the situation and had no intention of actually carrying out his threat. He was released on bond Thursday evening. As with all Walt Disney World cast members who have been arrested, Hasegawa has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges.

Local TV station WOFL has an interview with Hasegawa (link).

Reservations for Kidani Village to open August 10

[I reported the following item on my blog two weeks ago, but somehow it didn't make it into last week's Park Update.]

The Kidani Village annex for Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas will be available for stays beginning on May 1, 2009. DVC members with the Animal Kingdom Villas as their home resort can start making reservations on August 10. If there is any availability remaining, those reservations will become available to all members once the 7-month window opens.

Of course reservations at Jambo House (the existing main Animal Kingdom Lodge building) will continue to be available.

In addition to the new DVC accommodations, the Kidani Village annex will feature a new pool and water-recreation area, a new African spice routes-inspired restaurant called Sanaa (Swahili for "artwork") and other amenities.

Please remember that the completion of the new savanna and the process of acclimating the animals to the new habitat, animals are not scheduled to be on Sunset Savanna from January 15 - April 15, 2009.

If you reserve a savanna-view room during that time period, you really have no control over which savanna you get assigned to. About 30 days prior to arrival, the resort will determine, based on occupancy and booking date order, which members will be assigned to a Sunset Savanna view room. Those members will be notified, and after their stay, will be credited back with a number of vacation points equivalent to the difference between a savanna view and standard view. No additional compensation will be given.

If that doesn't work for you, you might want to think about picking another resort during that time. Of course, if you do go and get the Sunset Savanna view, remember that you can always see animals on the other savannas from multiple viewing locations around the resort.

The Gallery of Arts and History at Epcot's Morocco pavilion is closed for refurbishment July 14 – September 24. Photo by Brian Warneke.

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!

Passholder rates for late summer/early fall

Passholder rates are available for late summer and early fall. It appears that both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages are available. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between August 3 and September 27, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.

The booking code for phone reservations is FKJ.

Sample rates include:

  • Fort Wilderness campsites: $42 per night
  • Value resorts: $64 per night
  • Moderate resorts: $99 per night
  • Fort Wilderness cabins: $174 per night
  • Deluxe Villa resorts (studio): $169 per night

A new cobblestone pad, possibly for a Kim Possible Interactive Adventure kiosk, now sits to the west of the Italy pavilion. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Prestigious culinary competition to be held during Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

The United States team final for the prestigious Bocuse d'Or culinary challenge will take place during the opening weekend of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The international competition (link), founded in 1987 by French chef Paul Bocuse, will pit teams from 24 countries against each other during the International Hotel, Catering and Food Trade Exhibition, January 24 to 28, 2009 at Lyon – EUREXPO in France. This is the first time that the U.S. qualifier for the biennial competition has taken place away from the National Restaurant Association's convention in Chicago.

Eight finalists and their teams will compete to participate in the international finals, where no U.S. chef has placed higher than sixth. This year's finalists are:

  • Michael Rotondo, chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter's, Chicago, Illinois
  • Timothy Hollingsworth, sous chef, French Laundry, Napa, California
  • Damon Wise, corporate chef, Craft restaurants, New York
  • Hung Huynh, Top Chef winner; Rogers Powell, instructor, French Culinary Institute, New York
  • Richard Rosendale, chef and owner, Rosendale's, Columbus, Ohio, and U.S. Culinary Olympic Team captain
  • Percy Whatley, executive chef, Delaware North Cos., Yosemite, California
  • Kevin Sbraga, culinary director, Garces Restaurant Group, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The U.S. competition (link) is organized by team president Thomas Keller and honorary president Daniel Bouloud. Jerome Bocuse, son of the competition's founder and general manager of Epcot's Chefs de France restaurant (co-owned by his father, chef Roger Verge and patissier Gaston Lenotre), is also on the board of the organization and helped to bring the competition to Epcot to make it more accessible to the general public.

The competition will take place on September 26 and 27, with the winner being named on the second day.

The China pavilion's Nine Dragons Restaurant is closed for refurbishment until late November. Photo by Brian Warneke.

During the refurbishment, Nine Dragons will be serving food from a kiosk along the World Showcase Promenade. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Additional painting is being done along the middle of the China pavilion. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Updates to gun-related news stories

Edwin Sotomayor isn't getting his job back at this time. His request for a temporary injunction against Walt Disney World to get his job back and to be given the right to carry his handgun to work in his car's trunk was turned down by Florida Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Turner. Turner instead scheduled a hearing for a permanent injunction on October 16. Sotomayor was fired by Disney for refusing to cooperate in Disney's investigation into him bringing his gun with him to work just days after the Florida law he claims supports his right was passed. Disney, for their part, claims that they are exempt from the law. Turner noted that, since the suit was on Sotomayor's behalf and not a class action suit by Disney cast members, he would be better off if the Florida Attorney General joins in the action.

In another gun-related story update, no charges will be filed against Giovanny Munoz Perez, the 33-year-old man who accidentally shot himself in the leg at Downtown Disney the evening of July 12, as the shooting was ruled accidental.

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 Tomorrowland Transit Authority – Fabricate & install new stainless steel railing.
  • Magic Kingdom Liberty Tree Tavern – Install ice machine.
  • Magic Kingdom "it's a small world" Entrance Roof Replace – Remove existing Mod Bit roof, install new SBS Mod Bil 2-ply roof assembly.
  • Epcot The Land pavilion – Installation of an integrated aquaculture system.
  • Epcot Norway pavilion – Provide connection points from new fire sprinkler valve BFP adjacent to Norway and make connection point in Norway pavilion control room.
  • Epcot Soarin', Mexico pavilion – Install new emitters for the audio description project.
  • Epcot Interactive Odyssey Bridge – Relocate steel screen wall, modify wall & remove/replace concrete includes electrical (for Kim Possible interactive adventure?).
  • Epcot Germany pavilion Biergarten – Replacement of hot water heat exchangers.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Great Movie Ride – Upgrade show lighting throughout the ride path by installing new dimmers.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Streets of America – Provide the electrical hookups for the Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Streets of America – Building structural elements for the lights.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Rock 'n' Roller Coaster non-rider wait area – Demo concrete and install concrete, planters, rock work, irrigation, electrical, trellis work and underdrains.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Ticket Booth Facade – Remove existing ticket booth window and replace with metal stud wall infill.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Sounds Dangerous – Install dimmer rack
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios - Soundstage 4 (WDI).
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Primeval Whirl – Steel replacement.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids – Erect wooden walkway, with footers, at the pump service area.
  • Typhoon Lagoon Shark Reef – The addition of a dentrification system.
  • Disney's Wide World of Sports – Construct railing around perimeter of entrance globe icon.
  • Disney's Wide World of Sports – Supply permanent power to Hess Gazebo.
  • Disney's Wide World of Sports – Installation of a steel and aluminum pennant sign at Hess Field #3.
  • Downtown Disney West Side DisneyQuest – Removing and installing air handler.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Earl of Sandwich roof replace – Remove existing wood shakes and install Certain Teed "Presidential Shake" TL ultimate triple later laminated shingle roof assembly.
  • Grand Floridian Resort main parking area – Prep and paint the existing directional signs. Provide new DOT sign with backer.
  • Contemporary Resort – Update and refresh of Contemporary 4th floor restaurants.
  • Polynesian Resort Luau stage – Install gutter at luau stage and add drain at the back of house area.
  • Wilderness Lodge – Miscellaneous repairs to Standing Seam Metal Roof.
  • Fort Wilderness security kiosk – HVAC upgrades.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Fabrication and installation of new PVC fence per shop drawings at Trinidad, Aruba and Barbados linen storage units.
  • Tree House Rehab Project – Housekeeping & LAN Buildings, Bus Stops South & North & Boat Dock - General Contractor Package.

The former Magic Music Days covered concert stage between Innoventions and the Imagination pavilion is no longer there. Photo by Brian Warneke.

Quick takes ...

...The 180-day advance reservations period will be returning. Disney is getting a brand new reservations program that will streamline bookings for dining, recreation, tours, and children's activities. The upgrade will happen in October, which is the reason for the temporary hold on dining reservations. The booking window will return to 180 days after the system is up and running. We are hearing that the new system will eventually allow guests to make online reservations, but that has not been confirmed yet.

...The latest dates being bandied about for the Illuminations Earth Globe refurbishment have the barge disappearing from the show on August 13. Of course, as the date has been pushed back many times before, it's quite possible that they'll change again. In the meantime, if the globe does take a vacation, the show will still go on, with pyrotechnics filling in that segment of the show, and some segments of the show disappearing completely.

...Despite the fact that Finding Nemo takes place along the Great Barrier Reef and Australia, somehow somebody thought that it made a good match with Caribbean theming. The Caribbean Beach Resort is undergoing a makeover in most "villages" of the resort to include Finding Nemo-themed decor in the rooms. Nemo, Crush, Gill and other characters appear in on the bedspreads, wall borders and so on, with other sea-themed decor as well. Rumor has it that the in-room refrigerators will be removed, which seems a bit strange, since that is one of the big perks of staying at a moderate resort rather than a value, but we haven't been able to confirm that change yet so no reason to panic at this time.

...Last week, it was announced that Shannon McAleavey, senior vice president of public affairs for Walt Disney World Resort, has named Orlando Sentinel veteran Mike Griffin as vice president of communications. Griffin will lead the media relations and internal communications teams and report to McAleavey. Jacquee Polak, who had ably filled the position on an interim basis since February, returns to her post as media relations director. Griffin has spent the last 24 years at the Orlando Sentinel, most recently at deputy editorial page editor. He is joining a strong team at media relations and we welcome him and wish him well in his new position.

...Smart City Telecom, which provides phone and data service to Walt Disney World and other nearby locations, announced last week that it has agreed to sell most of its Central Florida operations to Hargray Communications Group of Hilton Head, South Carolina. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. There is no word yet on what, if any, effect this will have on Walt Disney World services.

...Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party has had its October 3 date canceled. If you've purchased tickets for that night, you can contact Disney for details on how to get a refund or exchange your tickets for another night.

...Registration for the Expedition Everest Challenge is now 75% full. The Walt Disney World Marathon is also now 75% full.

...Just in time for the new movie, the High School Musical show at Disney's Hollywood Studios will change over to a High School Musical 3 theme. The current High School Musical 2: School's Out! show will end after the September 13 performances, and the new, as-yet-unnamed High School Musical 3 caravan show will be running in time for the movie's debut on October 24.

...Effective November 1, all prices for driving experiences at the Richard Petty Driving Experience will be increasing by $50; Rookie Experience will go from $399 to $449, Kings Experience from $799 to $849 and Experience of a Lifetime from $1,249 to $1,299. Ride-alongs will continue at $109.

...Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo has been named the 2008 inductee into the Travel Industry Hall of Leaders. The Hall honors individuals for "sustained, noteworthy contributions that have positively impacted the travel industry, stimulated greater achievement, and raised industry-wide standards." Rasulo will be the 78th inductee since the creation of the Hall in 1969. The induction ceremony will be held October 28 during a dinner at the annual Marketing Outlook Forum of the Travel Industry Association.

...The ESPN-owned Under Armour All-America high school all-star football game will be moving from Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex to the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando effective with the next game, which is set for January 4, 2009.

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  to  Aug 13 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Morocco – Gallery of Arts and History closed for refurbishment July 14 to September 24.
  • Illuminations – the LED globe is scheduled to be removed from the show for a major refurbishment, currently believed to be targeted for August 13. 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.
  • High School Musical 2: School's Out – ends September 13, will be replaced with new show themed to High School Musical 3: Senior Year, opening in time for the new movie's October 24 opening.
  • 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.
  • Pocahontas and her Forest Friends – closes permanently September 27.


  • 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 to 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. Room renovations underway to re-theme most rooms to Finding Nemo.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – High Rock Springs pool closed September 8 to 26.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – Surfing classes and events are not available until after the park comes back from its winter maintenance due to work required on the wave generation machine. The wave pool will continue to operate, but the monster waves necessary for surfing are out of commission. The park closes for its 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 permanently September 27.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through 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

Passholder rates for late summer/early fall

Passholder rates are available for late summer and early fall. It appears that both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages are available. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between August 3 and September 27, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.

The booking code for phone reservations is FKJ.

Sample rates include:

  • Fort Wilderness Campsites: $42 per night
  • Value resorts: $64 per night
  • Moderate resorts: $99 per night
  • Fort Wilderness cabins: $174 per night
  • Deluxe Villa resorts (studio): $169 per night

Discounts announced for August and September

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 upcoming park events, please go here.

Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.