Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for July 28 – August 3, 2008

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

News and Views

Fantasmic cutbacks | Other cutbacks | Kidani Village update | Bay Lake Tower eateries | Encore! | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Fantasmic cut back... way back

Mickey will be battling Maleficent less frequently next year, as Walt Disney World has made a decision to cut their showings of Fantasmic back to twice each week. The last nightly performance of the show will be Saturday, January 3. Twice-a-week shows begin on Monday, January 5.

"We regularly evaluate and refine our operation and balance our entertainment offerings and this is part of those efforts," said Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty. "We will be making this schedule adjustment around the same time that we open American Idol. We also have recently added several new/enhanced experiences at Disney's Hollywood StudiosToy Story Mania, Block Party Bash, Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage, etc. And we will be hosting many special events at Disney's Hollywood Studios—Night of Joy, ABC Super Soap Weekend, Grad Nite, Star Wars Weekends, etc."

While those new entertainment options may have been added, there is no real competition in the night-time spectacular category. While Grad Nites and Nights of Joy will close the park prior to the time that Fantasmic would likely run, it really seems to be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

The new schedule for the attraction will be "two times weekly—generally Monday and Thursday - and more often during our busiest times of the year," according to Prunty. As to the possibility of an increase in performances if demand is outstripping supply when cutbacks are in place, she would only comment that "We are always evaluating and refining our operation and will continue to do so. I can't speculate on what we might do in the future."

Read an editorial on this topic by MousePlanet staff writer Steve Russo, published last Friday, here.

September 27 marking the end of even more entertainment

The end of Disney's fiscal year on September 30—combined with the end of the Disney pay week each Saturday – is making Saturday, September 27, the finale for a growing number of entertainment options at Walt Disney World. In addition to the already-announced end of all Pleasure Island clubs and the Pocahontas and her Forest Friends show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, it seems that two Magic Kingdom audience-participation events launched with the Year of a Million Dreams promotion will be kicking the bucket.

We've heard that Woody's Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade will also stage their last performances on September 27. Woody's Cowboy Camp, a 15-minute performance in Frontierland featuring Woody, Jessie and Bullseye, as well as many non-character performers, helps a selection of the children in the audience learn about being a cowboy through interactive songs, a cowboy oath, and props. The Main Street Family Fun Day Parade allows 60 or so guests to join Pluto, Chip, Dale, Daisy Duck, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and eight dancers (four males and four females) in a parade from the Hub down Main Street to Town Square.

The latest show deaths mean that of the Magic Kingdom's impressive array of live entertainment that debuted for the start of the first Year of a Million Dreams, only the Dream Along With Mickey castle stage show remains. High School Musical Pep Rally first paraded from Tomorrowland over to Disney's Hollywood Studios before being replaced by High School Musical 2: School's Out!, which is now in the process of being replaced by a High School Musical 3: Senior Year-themed show. The clock soon after struck midnight for Let's Have A Ball: The Happily Ever After Party in Fantasyland, which was the shortest-lived of them all. With Woody's Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade gone, Dream Along With Mickey will be the only remaining show from the debut two years ago (despite the original stories that Cinderellabration would return at the end of the year). While performances continue in Adventureland for Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial, which was promoted along with the others for the debut, it had actually premiered earlier in the year and was folded in with the others for the sake of the promotion.

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!

More information emerges about Kidani Village

A story recently posted to the Disney Vacation Club's members-only site notes that the second phase of the Kidani Village annex for Animal Kingdom Villas will open in September 2009. The first phase will open May 1, 2009. Reservations for the first phase open in just under two weeks, on August 10 for those with the Animal Kingdom Villas as a home resort.

The new Pembe Savanna, which will face the new annex, will feature okapi (link), which have been very popular at Disney's Animal Kingdom park but are new to the resort. The herbivores are members of the giraffe family and grow as tall as five and a half feet at the shoulder. Now that exterior work is moving toward a finish, the okapi are becoming acclimatized to their new home.

Dining options revealed for Bay Lake Tower

The food options are starting to take shape for Bay Lake Tower, the new Disney Vacation Club resort being built adjacent to the Contemporary Resort, with some interesting names coming back again. The Cove Bar, likely a poolside snack and beverage location, has had its plan review approved, as has a yet-to-be-named counter service location currently identified in permits as "Bay Lake Tower Finish Kitchen." The latter is likely named for the nature of the food that will likely be served there (a "finish kitchen" takes mostly-cooked food from a central kitchen, in this case likely at the main Contemporary Tower, and "finishes" it by cooking the last bit so that it's freshly warmed). The Cove Bar copies the name of the upstairs establishment above Ariel's Grotto at Disney's California Adventure.

Perhaps more tantalizing is the third dining location, which still shows as "application pending" in the application: Top of the World Lounge. For those who may not be familiar with it, the Top of the World Lounge once occupied the top floor of the Contemporary Resort's tower building, currently the location of the California Grill. The Top of the World once hosted many famous musicians and, later, the "Dinner at the Top" dinner show.

Permits indicate projected completion dates of September, 2009, which coincides with the expected completion date of the resort itself. Since that also appears to be the month for the targeted completion of the second phase of the Kidani Village Annex at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas, it wouldn't be surprising to see sales for the new resort open some time in early to mid-2009.

Cast member concert raises money for arts organization

The Encore! Cast Choir and Orchestra, nearly 300 Disney cast members strong, held three performances last week at Epcot's World Showplace pavilion to raise money for United Arts of Central Florida, an organization promoting the arts in Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. The 200 singers and 80-piece orchestra, led by Artistic Director and Conductor Clay Price—a Production Assistant at Walt Disney World—performed songs from such current Broadway hits as Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, and Spamalot in their show entitled "Anything Can Happen." The productions took place on July 23, 24, and 25.

This year's Encore! cast choir and orchestra concerts raised money for United Arts of Central Florida. Photo courtesy Dean Ray.

The organization, founded in 2002, has raised more than $60,000 over the years. While final numbers are not yet available, the group was on track this year to beat the total of more than $14,000 raised for the SPCA of Central Florida from last year's concert.

According to group co-founder Ray Fournier (a team leader/production manager for the Disney Event Group who also serves as the show and Cast Club's Producer), 275 cast members auditioned for the choir and 200 were accepted. Standards are enforced because of the difficulty of the music. Musicians must also be able to read music. "Several of our performers come back year after year," said Fourner. "We always have new Cast Members join each year." He added that group members come from departments across the company, from college program members to hourly and managerial employees to a Vice President who plays French horn in the orchestra.

The 80-member orchestra accompanies the 200-member choir. Photo courtesy Dean Ray.

"Our rehearsals start six weeks prior to show for the choir who meet three evenings a week," Fournier added. "The orchestra meets once a week. We hold two combined rehearsals with the choir and orchestra the week before the show. We have three full rehearsals week of show in the venue prior to opening night."

All beneficiaries are selected by the cast members of the choir and orchestra by a vote during auditions. Other previous recipients include the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, B.A.S.E. Camp - Children’s Cancer Foundation, Armed Forces Children’s Education Fund, A Gift of Music, and the USO.

The concert included musical numbers from such Broadway hits as "Mamma Mia," "Legally Blonde," "Hairspray" and "Spamalot." Photo courtesy Dean Ray.

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 Tinkerbell's Treasures & Sir Mickey's Roof Replacements  – Replace existing wood shingle roofs with new synthetic fancy shingle.
  • Magic Kingdom Sir Mickey's – Remove existing cash registers & gondolas. Demo existing electrical outlets & provide new cash register outlets.
  • Magic Kingdom Fantasyland DVC Info Kiosk Fans – Purchase & install two new Breezemaker fans & one new ceiling fan.
  • Magic Kingdom City Hall Clock Tower – Build new clock tower. Furnish & install new Rim lights & clock assembly lights.
  • Epcot Innoventions East and West – Installing new command center camera hardware on the roof of the breezeways.
  • Epcot Innoventions Plaza – Repainting shade structure columns.
  • Epcot Innoventions West – IBM Demo Package.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest – Install new fans & power for fans.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Discovery Island Boat Dock – Install fans. Includes all electrical.
  • Boardwalk Resort Atlantic Dance Hall – Lighting bar supports.
  • Downtown Disney World of Disney – Install new Dumbo include all electrical.
  • Fort Wilderness Loops 900-1300, 1500-2000 – Install cable TV.

Quick takes …

…Rumors seem to be heating up that the 14-month refurbishment of Space Mountain may start in January 2009, after the peak holiday crowds die down. Two years ago, we noted that this refurbishment was originally targeted for 2008 and budgeted at over $30 million. There's no word yet on what the current budget may be or what might be included. Also no word on the Jungle Cruise refurbishment also rumored back in 2006.

…A new area has been set up in Innoventions West to promote the Kim Possible Interactive Adventure, which appears to be coming closer to launch. In addition, a new prop has appeared in World Showcase to serve as a mission target. A new caged parrot awaits adventure at the Mexico pavilion.

…The new Parade Grand Marshal vehicle that has debuted at the Magic Kingdom is now wheelchair accessible. There is a wheelchair lift built into the undercarriage that will remain hidden until needed. The car is designed after a 1912 touring car and carries up to 11 guests. All four tires, as well as the spare, have Mickey Mouse tread designs. The new car is also available at Disneyland in California.

The new Grand Marshal vehicle, modeled after a 1912 touring car, makes its way down the parade route. Photo © Disney.

The vehicle's tires have a Mickey Mouse-head tread design. Photo © Disney.

…David DeLoach, general manager of entertainment at the Magic Kingdom, was recently elected president of the International Special Events Society (ISES). "I look forward to supporting the volunteers and the work they do on behalf of our association and promoting the value of ISES to members and the business world,” DeLoach said. With more than 5,500 members worldwide, the society meets to enhance professionalism in the special events industry through education and networking opportunities."

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


  • Morocco – Gallery of Arts and History closed for refurbishment July 14 – 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–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 8–26.

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 – 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

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.