Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for October 13 – October 19, 2008

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

News and Views

New Year's Eve lineup | Mickey phone call | Spooky cruises | Pirates on the DCL | Santé Awards | Quick Takes …

New Year's Eve lineup announced

Once again, Walt Disney World is throwing multiple parties all over property to celebrate the New Year. Some are included in regular admission, while some are hard-ticketed, higher-priced affairs.

Three of the four theme parks will be open to ring in the New Year, all included in standard park admission. Disney's Hollywood Studios will see the park open from 9 a.m. to midnight with a 3 p.m. running of the Block Party Bash parade. Live performances by "Mulch, Sweat and Shears" and a DJ at the Sorcerer's Hat throughout the evening complement two performances of Fantasmic (6:30 and 8:30 p.m.) and the Osborne Lights, plus the Lights! Camera! Happy New Year! fireworks at 11:50 p.m.

Hours at the Magic Kingdom will be slightly longer, with the park opening at 8 a.m. and staying open until 1 a.m. After two afternoon showings of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at noon and 3 p.m., there will be two showings of SpectroMagic at 7:00 and 10:30 p.m. In addition, Holiday Wishes will be seen at 8:30 p.m. and the New Year's edition of Fantasy in the Sky will once again appear at 11:50 p.m. This performance schedule and park hours will occur on both December 30 and 31, for those who want to experience the special entertainment the night before and count down to the new year in a different park.

Epcot will also be open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., and will feature live music around the park and two showings of Illuminations. The first showing will be at 7:30 p.m., while the special New Year's extravaganza will run at 11:40 p.m. (Hint: watch from the vicinity of the Germany and Italy pavilions to see the New Year's finale of Illuminations and Fantasy in the Sky at the same time!)

While Disney's Animal Kingdom won't be open until midnight (we don't want any fireworks freaking out the animals now, do we?), the park will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those who want a longer day at the park before celebrating quietly back in the room (or putting the kids to bed early). The Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade will run at 3:45 p.m.

Of course, it's not just the theme parks that celebrate the New Year. Cirque du Soleil will host two special presentations of La Nouba on New Year's Eve, at 6 and 9 p.m. The show will feature a special souvenir program, a "champagne toast celebration," glow sticks and a gift. Tickets are $93-$143 plus tax, depending on location.

One party that will no longer be happening is the big fiesta at Pleasure Island, where New Year's Eve was once celebrated nightly. While the legendary parties with big-name headline acts ended years ago, Pleasure Island had still held a big hard-ticketed party with live music, dancing in the streets, a dinner buffet, hats and noisemakers, fireworks, midnight champagne toast and fireworks. However, since the Island has pretty much been shut down as a whole, there won't be any special New Year's celebration there.

While not included in the official press release, it appears that Atlantic Dance at the Boardwalk Resort will also be holding its annual New Year's Eve bash, as well. With a the cover charge now down to $10 for what has been whittled down to a three-hour party, it might be a good option for those who don't want to brave the theme parks. There will be "dueling Video DJ's" playing music videos and tunes from the last 30 years, plus a champagne toast at midnight. You must be 21 years old to enter. If you want to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom until closing, then dance your way into the New Year, this might be a great choice for you, as the doors don't even open until 11 p.m.

Get the good news from Mickey, once again

Once again, Walt Disney World will be holding a promotion to let you have Mickey himself give your family the good news that they're going to Walt Disney World with a phone call on Christmas Day. If you book a Walt Disney World vacation between November 28 and December 23, you can sign up to have the Mouse deliver the news.

It's expected that you can once again choose from a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays greeting. If the details from last year repeat, you'll also need to provide your birthdate and a phone number to call on December 25, as well as your reservation number, to schedule the call. The call will be made between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Magic Your Way vacation packages start as low as $61 per person per day for a family of four in a standard room at a value resort. To book your trip, visit disneyworld.com/gift (link) or call 407-W-DISNEY (407-934-7639) between November 28 and December 23. (The web address is not yet active, so don't try to jump the gun.)

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!

Spooky cruise news

The Disney Cruise Line will feature special Halloween festivities on the Disney Magic cruise departing October 25 and the Disney Wonder cruise departing October 30.

  • Young guests will be able to follow a Trick-or-Treat Trail over multiple decks of the ship.
  • After the trick-or-treating, a family-oriented Halloween costume party will be held near the Goofy pool with Disney Characters wearing special Halloween costumes. Meanwhile, a ghoulish party for adults will be held at the nighttime entertainment district featuring a ghoulish costume contest.
  • The Buena Vista Theatre will host special showings of Walt Disney Pictures’ The Haunted Mansion and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Special treats will be prepared for Halloween, including Pumpkin Cheesecake, spider cupcakes and “Witch’s Brew."

To book your cruise, go to the Disney Cruise Line's Web site (link) or contact your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred travel agencies are MouseEarVacations (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Win Lee Cockerell's new book!

Former Walt Disney World Executive Vice President of Operations Lee Cockerell has written a book entitled "Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney" that will be released tomorrow. We'll have a book review, as well as an interview with Cockerell on the MouseStation podcast, on the site tomorrow. We'll be giving five copies of the book away to MouseStation listeners and five copies to Walt Disney World Park Update readers. To enter the contest for Park Update readers, send an email to Mark Goldhaber with a subject line of "Creating Magic" and give us your ideas on how we can create more magic on the MousePlanet web site. Entries must be received by October 27, and the winners will be announced in the November 3 Park Update. Books will be awarded randomly to five email entries. One entry per person, please.

Pirates to take over Disney Wonder in March

Following in the footsteps of the "Pirates of the Caribbean: Adventures on Seven Seas Lagoon" and "Pirates of Castaway Cay" events in May and November (respectively) of last year, the "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend Lives On" will take place in March of 2009, with land events on March 7 and events aboard the Disney Wonder from March 8-12.

For $250 per person in addition to the cost of the cruise, guests will receive:

  • A special welcome reception with Lee Arenberg (Pintel) and Marty Klebba (Marty) of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies at Walt Disney World on March 7.
  • An event-exclusive seminar aboard the Disney Wonder with talent from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
  • A private meet and greet with talent from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
  • A special viewing of all three Pirates films: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End.
  • Special entertainment aboard the Disney Wonder and at Castaway Cay.
  • First opportunity to pre-purchase open and limited edition Pirates of the Caribbean themed merchandise.
  • Event exclusive gifts.

For more information, watch the event Web page (link). In the meantime, Walt Disney Event Services, Walt Disney Mail Order, Disneyland DelivEARS and Disney Cruise Line are not accepting calls on this event at this time.

Disney chef and restaurant staff win big at Santé Awards

Walt Disney World's chefs and restaurant staff were big winners in the 11th annual Santé Restaurant Awards (link) presented by Santé, a magazine for restaurant professionals. Top honors went to Scott Hunnel, Chef de Cuisine at Victoria & Albert's, the resort's signature restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, who won the Culinary Professional of the Year for his outstanding achievement in culinary service and hospitality.

Jiko - The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and its staff won a regional hotel/resort fine dining award for wine hospitality, which honors restaurants and professionals that exhibit outstanding achievement in wine service and hospitality. Gary Kaikako of the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort won a regional service professional award, which honors individuals who exhibit outstanding professional achievement in food, wine, and spirits service.

Wolfgang Puck, who operates multiple restaurants at Downtown Disney amongst the many locations of his dining empire, won as Restaurateur of the Year, which honors an outstanding restaurant entrepreneur who exemplifies success and professionalism in all facets of the hospitality industry.

The Santé Restaurant Awards are based on a variety of criteria, and winners represent a broad spectrum of restaurant- and hospitality-industry professionals with a common passion for their work and a commitment to excellence. Award recipients will be honored for their achievements at this year’s festivities, to be held at Silverado Resort in Napa, California on November 4.

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.

Join MousePlanet at MouseFest!

MousePlanet is hosting or co-hosting a number of events at MouseFest 2008, and we'd love to see you there! Here's a list of what we've got planned so far:

MouseFest 101 – Thursday, December 11. Mark Goldhaber will again co-host MouseFest 101 on Thursday, December 11, with Mike Scopa of AllEarsNet at a time and location yet to be announced.

Mega Mouse Meet –Saturday, December 13. MousePlanet will again host a table at the Mega Mouse Meet at the Yacht Club Resort Convention Center on Saturday, 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.).

Epcot's Never Lands Tour – Saturday, December 13. David Koenig will host Epcot's Never Lands, a walking tour of the World Showcase that never was, from 3:00-4:00 p.m.

MousseFest 2008 – Saturday, December 13. MousssseFest 2008 will be held on Saturday, December 13, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. at Boulangerie Patisserie.

Mini-MouseAdventure – Sunday, December 14. The fourth annual Mini-MouseAdventure will be held from 10:00 a.m.-noon in the Magic Kingdom.

Hustle-tini Meet – Sunday, December 14. The second annual MouseStation Podcast Hustle-tini Meet will be held at the Pop Century Resort from around 5:45-6:45 p.m.

For more information on these meets, check out MousePlanet's MouseFest page!

For those who are not yet aware, 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.

Quick takes …

…In what may be shades of things to come, the latest free dining offer for guests from the U.K. includes the new Quick Service Dining Plan for all stays in moderate resorts and below, and the standard Dining Plan for guests in deluxe resorts. Don't be surprised to see this new configuration when the free dining plans for U.S. guests appear next year.

…DVCnews.com has just gotten hold of the new floor plans for the Treehouse Villas this week. You can check them out at the DVCnews Web site (link). The plans have been updated since the ones that we pulled from the Orange County filings back in February.

…Disney will soon be introducing "Every Tree Has Character reusable bags" (link) at flagship stores in the theme parks and World of Disney and other locations. The $2.95 bags will allow you to carry your purchases in a bag that can be used again and again instead of the non-environmentally-friendly plastic bags currently in use. The bags will be available at the Emporium in the Magic Kingdom, Mouse Gear at Epcot, Mickey's of Hollywood at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Island Mercantile at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and World of Disney in Downtown Disney as well as World of Disney in New York and other select resort locations later this month.

…Tomorrow marks the official opening of T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover at Downtown Disney. Created by Steve Shussler of Schussler Creative, the man behind Rainforest Cafe, the location boasts life-size animatronic dinosaurs, a fossil dig site, waterfalls, geysers and more.

…On Wednesday, Walt Disney World will hold the official grand opening of the new state-of-the-art, on-site Health and Wellness Center behind Epcot. The Center for Living Well is expected to serve as a "one-stop shop" for primary medical care for as many as 40,000 benefits-eligible Cast Members and their families. It's also expected to help meet community demand for primary care.

…Yesterday's Race For The Taste 10K was won by Cobi Morales of Miami Beach, who finished in 35 minutes and 53 seconds, 45 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Jeff Mathews of Davenport, Florida. Mathews' time of 36:38 was eight seconds faster than third-place Steven Gust, who finished in 36:46. The women's division was won by Sonja Friend-Uhl of West Palm Beach, who continued her dominance in this year's Endurance Series races. Friend-Uhl, who also finished second in this year's Walt Disney World Marathon and won the Go Red for Women 5K, finished in 39:47, over a minute and a half faster than second place finisher Maite Moscoso of Longwood, Florida, who finished in 41:29. Moscoso also finished second to Friend-Uhl in the 5K race. Moscoso was almost half a minute faster than third-place finisher Kandy Ferris of Apopka, who finished in 41:55.

…There was a special release event at Epcot on Saturday for "Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals," the second in the series of original games from Disney Interactive Studios. The event, which took place in the Mitsukoshi store at the Japan pavilion, featured game designer Kentaro Hisai.

…Golfers Lee Janzen and Scott McCarron accepted sponsor exemptions to appear at the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World Resort on November 6-9 at the Palm and Magnolia golf courses.

…Disney's Animal Kingdom is celebrating the birth of the fourth baby giraffe born this year and the 11th born since the park opened 10 years ago. Entering the world at 6-feet tall and 155 pounds, Bonsu joined the happy herd on September 28. His name means "biggest and strongest fish in the sea" in the Akan language of Ghana. He is the fourth male, and 11th giraffe overall, born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since the park opened in 1998. He is also the second calf born to his mother Nikki, who gave birth to her first calf, a female named Rori, in 2006. The three giraffes born earlier this year are Makena, born on February 29; Marley, born on March 14; and AJ, born March 27. Bonsu and Nikki are expected to rejoin the herd in the next few weeks.

…MousePlanet has recently joined the Facebook nation. We're just getting started, but you can join the MousePlanet and MouseStation Podcast groups, or become a fan of MousePlanet or the MouseStation. If there's something that you'd like to see us do on Facebook, let us know!

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

  • Sept.26–Nov. 9. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Oct. 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Oct. 25. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • High School Musical 2: School's Out – ended September 13, and 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.


  • 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.
  • Yacht and Beach Club Resorts – Stormalong Bay pool area under refurbishment January 5 – late March. The pool will remain open, but sections will close one at a time for work. The three quiet pools will remain open during that time, and the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort, with its Keister Coaster water slide, will also be available during the work on the Flying Jib slide.
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens fall 2009.

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 March 21.
  • Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment September 28 – October 25.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex – opens in Downtown Disney October 14.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Gaylord Palms offers deep discounts through December

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort and Spa is offering MousePlanet readers an even deeper discount than our usual 15 percent off of "regular" rates (which are already a deeper discount that you'd get by calling the hotel directly, by calling a travel agent, or by using Expedia, Orbitz or any other channel).

Check out these rates!


  • $139 (10/17 – 10/20, 10/29 – 10/31)
  • $119 (10/25)


  • $139 (11/1 – 11/5, 11/12 – 11/15)
  • $109 (11/20 – 11/30)


  • $109 (12/1, 12/14 – 12/15)

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.

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!

Fall discounts for Passholders

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder discounts on rooms and dining plans are now available. 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

Free Dining this fall for Disney Visa cardholders

Disney Visa cardholders have access to a special deal—free dining for stays most nights from September 28 – October 11, November 9–22 and December 14–20. A limited number of packages have been allocated, so you'll need to book quickly. Call 407-939-7635 or your travel agent and ask for offer QXZ.

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.