Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for September 2 – September 7, 2008

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

News and Views

DCL to Alaska? | Kim Possible | Michael Phelps | MouseFest | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Is the Disney Cruise Line heading to Alaska?

Will Mickey be getting some Northern exposure?

In a story broken by Cruisecritic.com (link), the Disney Cruise Line has applied for a 10-year permit to cruise into Glacier Bay. The bay is one of the most popular scenic stops for Alaskan cruises, and access is restricted to the national park both by number of vessels and number of days. The permits are for visits between January 1, 2010, and September 30, 2019.

With the two new ships committed to operating out of Port Canaveral through at least 2014 after their debuts in 2011 and 2012, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will likely be looking for new itineraries. If an Alaskan itinerary proves wildly successful, one of the new, larger ships could be moved west with one of the older ships returning to Port Canaveral.

Disney has been moving the Magic around the globe in recent summers, sending it to California in 2005, the Mediterranean in 2007, back to California this year, and adding new Eastern Caribbean itineraries next year. Alaska has been frequently mentioned as a potential new destination for the ship, along with the Western Pacific. We'll have to wait to see whether Disney manages to snag some of the available slots in Glacier Bay for an indication of how likely an Alaskan itinerary may be.

Disney is competing with other cruise lines for the available spots in the bay, including the Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Contracts are expected to be announced by the end of this year.

Halloween decorations have begun to appear in the Magic Kingdom in preparation for Friday's first night of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Here are four new statues in the hub surrounding the Partners statue. We'll have more Halloween decorations in next week's Park Update. Photos by Jeff Kober.

There's more to "the sitch"

Some more information is coming to light on the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at Epcot that we reported on last week. For starters, the game will apparently not cost extra beyond park admission (though a deposit may be required for the "Kimmunicator" device). The game's missions will be individual, pavilion-specific games that will take less than an hour to complete and will not require racing around World Showcase, thus avoiding any hazards of children racing around the World Showcase Promenade. The Kimmunicator will be returned as part of the end of the mission.

As indicated in the construction notes section of today's Park Update, distribution carts are being installed in the Norway and Italy pavilions, as well as at the International Gateway (likely the new cobblestoned area at the intersection of the International Gateway exit and the turn of World Showcase Promenade over the bridge between the United Kingdom and France pavilions).

For an extra hint of rumor, we're hearing that the success of this project is crucial for further developments at Walt Disney World. The technology behind this game is a critical part of the infrastructure behind the fifth park under development and reported elsewhere.

The Nine Dragons Restaurant at Epcot's China pavilion is still under construction, but may open as soon as the end of September. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

China's CircleVision theater is also undergoing exterior renovations. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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!

Michael Phelps goes to Walt Disney World

As I noted in my blog last week, 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was featured in a parade on Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom on Friday, August 29. There's an official Disney video from the event in my blog entry linked above, but we've also got some great photos below from MousePlanet's Jeff Kober. Jeff noted that there was a marching band leading the grand marshall car that came down from the Toontown gate, past the Mad Tea Party and into the hub, where Phelps was brought down the Cinderella Castle walkway by the Disney characters. Phelps then got into the car and was driven down Main Street, U.S.A.

Michael Phelps is escorted from Cinderella Castle to his waiting grand marshall vehicle by Disney characters. Photo by Jeff Kober.

Michael Phelps rides down Main Street, U.S.A. with Mickey Mouse. Photo by Jeff Kober.

"I am so happy to celebrate here and see some of the fans who supported me," said the 23-year-old Phelps. "It’s great to feel so much excitement around the sport of swimming in the U.S. and around the world. To top it all off with a parade at Disney World is just incredible."

Confetti rains down on Michael Phelps during his parade down Main Street, U.S.A. Photo by Jeff Kober.

Michael Phelps gives a thumbs-up as his parade car makes a final turn for the Main Street parade exit. Photo by Jeff Kober.

Phelps celebrated his six gold and two silver medals from the 2004 Olympics by swimming down Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. with two teammates, as was featured on MousePlanet in 2004 and celebrated again last week on the site.

MousePlanet's preliminary MouseFest schedule

We know that many of you are starting to plan your MouseFest schedules. While no events are official until the community participation agreements are distributed and signed (this editor is the scheduling chair, so I should know), unofficial scheduling has begun. To help you begin planning your MouseFest schedule, here are the currently planned events hosted or co-hosted by MousePlanet:

  • Thursday: MouseFest 101 – Mark Goldhaber co-hosts MouseFest 101 on December 11, with Mike Scopa of AllEarsNet at a location yet to be announced.
  • Friday: Possible MouseStation Simba vs. Nemo meet – the MouseStation crew may try to add a "Simba vs. Nemo" meet at Disney's Animal Kingdom on Friday, December 12, but is not ready to commit yet.
  • Saturday: Mega Mouse Meet – MousePlanet hosts a table at the Mega Mouse Meet on December 13, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (we'll also be there during the Extra MouseFest Hour from 10:00-11:00 a.m.).
  • Saturday: David Koenig World Showcase walking tour – David Koenig hosts Epcot's Never Lands, a walking tour of the World Showcase that never was, on Saturday, December 13, from 3:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: MousssseFest 2008 – from 4:00-5:00 p.m. at Boulangerie Patisserie.
  • Sunday: Mini-MouseAdventure – the fourth annual Mini-MouseAdventure is scheduled for December 14, from 10:00 a.m.-noon in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Sunday: MouseStation Hustle-tini Meet – The second annual MouseStation Hustle-tini Meet is scheduled for December 14, at the Pop Century Resort from around 5:45-6:45 p.m.

The Mega Mouse Meet this year is moving to the convention center at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, and in conjunction with that there is a special rate of $243 per night plus tax at Disney's Yacht Club Resort (which also includes free MouseFest registration for all reservations of two nights or more). Payment in full for these rooms is due by October 31. See the MouseFest Web site (link) for more details.

The bridge between the hub and Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom reopened in time for Saturday's parades to run over it. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Some clean-up work remained after the span opened. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The replica of the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square has been enclosed by construction walls. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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.

The tea shop at Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion is hidden by construction walls. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The back side of Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion is under refurbishment. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle – Replace exterior light fixtures.
  • Magic Kingdom Tinker Bell's Treasures – Replace deteriorated wood on dormers and fascia.
  • Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – Furnish and install 8 outdoor ceiling fans.
  • Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – Install three menu board monitors, mounts and beams.
  • Magic Kingdom Toontown – Princesses/Fairies Queue - Demo concrete at entrance and exit and pull back to new grades. Complete interior modifications including all electric.
  • TTC Monorail Station – Install lighting circuits for TTC Ferry Boat Landing load area.
  • Epcot and Magic Kingdom TTC Monorail Stations – Modify monorail station gates; includes new manufactured gate screens, gate housing screen, latches and all parts required to raise the gate 42.50 inches top surface from platform and lower the bottom housing to 3.5 inches.
  • Epcot - World Showcase Interactive Distribution Cart Install – Norway, Italy, International Gateway (WDI).
  • Epcot Innoventions Plaza – Remove gray tile from window curtain walls around Innoventions locations.
  • Epcot Innoventions West – Installation of fire relay at IBM exhibit.
  • Epcot Energy pavilion – Install new 3-ply modified bitumen roof system to replace existing mirrored tile.
  • Epcot China pavilion Nine Dragons Restaurant – Installation of eight kitchen hood/grease duct doors.
  • Epcot Odyssey Restaurant – Install 1 dimmer rack, 4 security cameras and 4 DMX connections.
  • Epcot Mexico pavilion – Install 3 new exterior lights.
  • Epcot Germany pavilion – Marquees for Australia exhibit for Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Fabricate and install new Chevrolet blade neon sign to include removal of existing signage. Scope to include all mechanical and electrical connections and hookups.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios - American Idol – Diamond Vision Shroud Packages (WDI).
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Center Street restrooms – Remove and replace partitions, baby-changing tables; repair tile.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Narnia show banners (WDI).
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Animation Gallery – Install three duplex recepticles to the artist desk.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Backlot Express – Line existing sanitary pipes, add additional PVC piping, demo and repour concrete, add cleanouts, add floor sinks and install tile.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Pixar Facades Package 2C (WDI).
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Primeval Whirl – Facility modifications.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House – Install footer for new thatch umbrella.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House – Install power and LAN for podium.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tamu Tamu Refreshments – Remove existing tile counter and install new corian counter.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest – Tie down merchandise cart and install sleeve for power.
  • Downtown Disney DisneyQuest – Install new water cooled ice machine in fifth floor kitchen.
  • Downtown Disney T-Rex Cafe – Installation of network cable.
  • Downtown Disney World of Disney – Installation of cameras.
  • Pleasure Island – Replace the existing concrete at the Pleasure Island bus load zone, bus turn loop and bus exit lane.
  • Pleasure Island Live Bar – Installation of two new one ton mini split A/C units.
  • Pleasure Island Laffers Bar – Installation of two new one ton mini split A/C units.
  • Typhoon Lagoon Leaning Palms – Modify and repair rotten wood.
  • Blizzard Beach Runoff Rapids – Provide modification to support arm.
  • Casting Building – Renovations including modifying front entrance for ADA, first and second floor HVAC upgrades and interior design remodel.
  • Grand Floridian Resort – Provide labor and materials to perform exterior painting and stair repairs to Building 8 (Boca Chica).
  • Grand Floridian Resort – Repair damaged soil bin walls with poured concrete walls.
  • Contemporary Resort Convention Center – Install owner-furnished HVAC units.
  • Wilderness Lodge – Install seven new bollard lights along the walkway from the parking lot to the porte cochere.
  • Wilderness Lodge – Install new lights in pool stairway tunnel through Silver Creek Cave.
  • Fort Wilderness Backyard Barbeque – Relocate power to new ice machine location, add one new light and relocate one.
  • Boardwalk Villas – Replace 110 bollard light fixtures along the west side waterway sidewalk.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Install new skimmer and themed rock work in the Savannah Flamingo pool.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Main Building – Chef's Table room renovation (doors, tile, ceiling, etc.).
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Replace damaged gutters and downspouts with new at Barbados, Jamaica and Martinique villages.

The rear courtyard of Cinderella Castle houses a crane in use for replacing exterior light fixtures on the structure. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The balloon that normally flies over the MuppetVision theater is sitting on a side street on the Streets of America while undergoing refurbishment. The Chevrolet sign's replacement is noted in the Construction Notes section above. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quick takes …

…After last week's shrunken attendance due to Tropical Storm Fay, and following small crowd levels at mid-week, it looks like visitors may be starting to come back. While not at normal crowd levels for a three-day holiday weekend, Fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania were gone for the day by 10 a.m. on Saturday and waits for Soarin' were at 45 minutes at 11 p.m. during Extra Magic Hours on Friday night. Magic Kingdom attractions including Peter Pan and Jungle Cruise had waits at 30 minutes by mid-day Saturday, when even "it's a small world" had a 20-minute queue. There's a long way to go to get back to normal levels, but we'll have to wait to see how the trend lines go.

…Disney is apparently having difficulty making up its mind in setting Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party dates. After cancelling the October 3 date back in mid-July, they have now added a party on October 4.

…As I reported on my blog last week, the Illuminations globe has been removed from the show for refurbishment. A bit of pyro has been moved around within the show, water fountain usage has been increased, and music normally heard during the extended globe sequence has been shortened. The show runs about 10 minutes or so without the globe. Disney is hoping for a mid-September return for the globe.

…On the heels of Tropical Storm Fay's visit, and with Hurricane Hanna and Tropical Storm Ike possibly on the way, Epcot officially opened the StormStruck attraction at Innoventions, sponsored by Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, RenaissanceRe Holdings, WeatherPredict Consulting, Simpson Strong-Tie and State Farm. The attraction provides a "4-D" simulation of a house being hit by a major storm, then shows how to prevent damage to a house under those circumstances. Displays include survival kits and interactive games to determine risks to the houses of park guests.

…The Innoventions exhibit sponsored by Hewlett-Packard where you could create your own fireworks display was behind construction walls on Friday. It's unknown if or when it will return.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine recently honored Disney Cruise Line as a finalist in four categories of the 2008 World Savers Awards. The awards honor travel companies around the world in areas of leadership and social responsibility. Disney Cruise Line was named as a runner-up in the Wildlife category and received honorable mentions in the Cultural and/or Environmental Preservation, Poverty Alleviation, and Education categories.

…After its sale of property to Four Seasons Resorts, the Osprey Ridge Golf Course was leased back to Walt Disney World by Four Seasons subsidiary FS Orlando Golf LLC for 30 months.

…Hampton University beat Jackson State Sunday in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, presented by Disney at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Challenge, owned by ESPN Regional Television, features football teams from two prominent HBCU (Historically Black College/University) leagues—Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The game will remain in Orlando at least through 2010 under an agreement announced last Friday. Disney had previously sponsored the Florida Classic, another annual game between two HBCU schools, Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University, but pulled their sponsorship of that game in favor of the ESPN-owned game. The Florida Classic (now presented by State Farm) will continue to be held, with this year's game taking place on November 22 at the Citrus Bowl.

Work on the new Kidani Village annex for the Animal Kingdom Villas continues its progress as Ankole Cattle graze in the foreground. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A close-up look at the work on the Kidani Village annex shows the sheeting protecting the balcony railings.. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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

  • Aug. 29 – Sept. 5. Disney's Royal Quinceañera Weekend.
  • Sept. 5–6. Night of Joy.
  • Sept. 5–7. Disney's Pin Celebration.
  • Sept. 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30, Oct. 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Sept.26–Nov. 9. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Sept. 27. Expedition Everest Challenge.
  • Oct. 5. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K.
  • Oct. 12. Race for the Taste 10K.
  • Oct. 25. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Morocco – Gallery of Arts and History closed for refurbishment July 14 – September 24.
  • Illuminations – the LED globe was removed from the show the last week of August for a major refurbishment, and is expected to return mid-September. The interim show, which runs about 10 minutes, uses a variety of low-level effects during the shortened musical segment where the globe was the center of attention.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close at a date to be determined to be completely remodeled.
  • 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. Rumors have the restaurant opening earlier than expected, perhaps as early as the end of September.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • 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.
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment September 11–24.
  • 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 – Phase 1 of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to open in May 2009, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009. Jambo House construction is 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, with the rest being themed to Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates rooms will become available for booking as of January 24 arrival dates.
  • 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 October 26 through at least the end of February and possibly as late as March 22.
  • Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment September 28 – October 25.


  • Pleasure Island – all clubs to close permanently September 27.
  • Portobello Yacht Club – will close for refurbishment on September 27 and will reopen on October 12 as simply Portobello, as it shifts to its new Trattoria theme.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex – opens in Downtown Disney in mid-October.

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!

Advantage Vacation Homes announces special deals through September

How would you like to stay in a three- or four-bedroom vacation home with your own private pool for about the same nightly cost as one of the All Star Resorts? How about a five-bedroom vacation home for less than 60 percent of the cost of an All-Star Family Suite? From now through the end of September, MousePlanet sponsor Advantage Vacation Homes has a limited number of three-, four- and five-bedroom vacation homes, all with private pools, at a special low price of three-bedroom homes for $79 a night, four bedrooms for $89 a night, and 5 bedrooms for $109 a night. Remember, this is a limited offer, and only good through the end of September. When you reserve online or by phone, make sure to tell them that you heard about them on MousePlanet.

Discounted ECV rentals for MousePlanet readers through Scooter Vacations

Scooter Vacations, MousePlanet's mobility scooter rental partner, is offering MousePlanet readers a 10 percent discount on their scooter rentals by using code MP10 when making your reservation for any of their five scooter models.

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

Fall discounts for all

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder discounts on rooms and dining plans as well as discount packages for everyone are now available. Both discounts are valid for travel dates between September 28 and December 23.

Passholders should use the following Booking Codes when making your reservation (standard passholder discount rules apply):

  • PWE – Passholder rate room only
  • DHZ – Passholder rate with Dining Plan
  • JZJ – Passholder rate with Deluxe Dining Plan Rates

Fall Magic Your Way package discounts are available to everyone, but must be booked by September 24:

  • DGL – Basic Magic Your Way
  • QXD – Magic Your Way plus Dining
  • UVL – Magic Your Way plus Deluxe Dining
  • DGM – Magic Your Way plus Dining with Wine & Dine
  • GGM – Magic Your Way plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine

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.