Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for October 20 – October 26, 2008

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

News and Views

Ko Olina details | 2009 Ambassadors | T-Rex | Center for Living Well | Quick Takes …

Disney reveals Ko Olina details

Last Thursday, Disney shared its plans for its Ko Olina Resort & Marina at a press conference on O'ahu. While the plans for the 21-acre project in Hawai'i are still prelminary, the 830-unit resort is scheduled to open in 2011.

"We are very excited to share the early designs of our resort, which we believe will offer a base for families to discover the wonders of Hawai‘i and connect with the local culture," said Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. "We hope the magic of Disney storytelling and service will combine with the rich history, heritage and natural beauty of Hawai‘i to create a special experience the whole family can enjoy."

In the year since Disney announced the resort, Disney's first to combine standard hotel rooms with Disney Vacation Club villas away from one of its theme park complexes, Imagineers have been working with local architects and cultural experts to learn about Hawaii as part of the resort’s creative design process.

The resort will feature 350 hotel rooms and 480 DVC villas in two main buildings, surrounding an extensive volcano-themed water play area that includes water slides, rapids and waterfalls. A spa, conference center, kids' club, gardens and wedding lawn are also in the works.

(L. to R.) DVC Vice President for the Ko Olina Resort Djuan Rivers, Honolulu City Councilman Todd Apo, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo "hang loose" during the press conference revealing the design model of the Ko Olina Resort. Photo © Disney (David Roark, photographer).


A closeup of the image gives a better look at the resort's facilities. Photo © Disney (David Roark, photographer).

The resort on the western side of O'ahu is expected to create around 1,000 new jobs. Said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, "I am looking forward to the grand opening of this resort because Disney is committed to being a good corporate citizen and will help develop a stronger community by creating new jobs and offering promising career paths to many local residents."

2009 Ambassador Team named

During a ceremony last Friday at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World's 2009 Ambassador Team was announced. Vanessa Rojas and Clay Shoemaker will represent the resort from January 1 - December 31, 2009, following 2008's team of Kerri MacPherson and Tameka Chianti ("TC") Newman.

"Being an Ambassador is one of the greatest achievements a Cast Member can attain," said Meg Crofton president of Walt Disney World Resort. "During the last thirty-seven years, these men and women have represented Disney Cast Members with purpose and grace, and have brought the magic of Walt Disney World to the world at large."

Following a two-month training process, the team will be expected to hit the ground running, and will participate in more than 1,000 events from local to international in scope, from hospital visits and community outreach events to hosting VIPs and cutting ribbons at Walt Disney World to traveling to Disney destinations around the globe to represent Walt Disney World.

Mickey Mouse joins (L. to R.) 2008 Ambassador Kerri MacPherson, 2009 Ambassadors Clay Shoemaker and Vanessa Rojas, 2008 Ambassador Tameka Chiante ("TC") Newman and Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton at a ceremony at Disney's Hollywood Studios last Friday. Photo © Disney.

Rosas, an industrial engineer who began her Disney career at Walt Disney World in 2000, has worked with the Disney College Program, child care centers, Project Tomorrowland, merchandise, photo imaging, entertainment, food & beverage and theme park operations. She is also active in many Disney extracurricular activities including Candlelight Processional cast choir and community service teams.

Shoemaker started at a local Disney Store in 1994 and became a Walt Disney World cast member two years later. Currently with the Disney Dream Squad, he has also served in operations, sales, marketing and merchandise teams. He has managed guided tour operations at Magic Kingdom, taught Traditions to new cast members and helped at the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland.

The duo beat out the four other finalists for the Ambassador Team, Allison Acheson (Epcot Cast Services), Jennifer Hilzer (Disney's College Program Education), David Horvath (Disney's College Program Education) and Donald Thomas (Operations Learning & Development's Basics Training).

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!

T-Rex opens at Downtown Disney

Last Tuesday, "T-REX: A Prehistory Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover: (isn't that a mouthful?) opened at Downtown Disney. Developed by Landry's Restaurants in collaboration with Schussler Creative (the people behind Rainforest Cafe and Yak & Yeti), the dining and retail establishment is built around water, fire and ice.

With an entryway below a 125-foot long life-size replica of an Argentinasaurus skeleton, guests enter and find themselves face-to-face with an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. A 5,000-gallon shark tank is located at the Shark Bar, presided over by a giant animatronic octopus.

The restaurant's entrance features a life-size Argentinasaurus skeleton, reproduced from a museum specimen. Photo © Disney.

The 30,000-square-foot restaurant seats 600 guests in three themed dining rooms, including the Ice Cave, Fern Forest and Coral Reef Dining Rooms. The Sequoia and Geo-Tech rooms complete the environment. Rather than the Rainforest Cafe's frequent "thunderstorms," a meteor shower travels across the dining room ceiling every 20 minutes.

Even the restroom walls contain tens of thousands of dollars in real fossils embedded in the walls, along with an educational description of each fossil.

The retail portion of the location includes "Build-A-Dino, Where Best Friendosaurs Are Made," developed by Build-A-Bear Workshop. Other activities include the Discovery Dig Site (a large excavation pit with replicas of fossil bones to be "discovered"), the Geode Splitter (which breaks up geodes to display hidden minerals) and the Discovery Creek "sluice" (where guests can pan for precious stones, gems and fossils.

A T-Rex skeleton appears encased in ice in the Ice Cave dining room at T-Rex. Photo © Disney.

Food choices (created in the open "Kitchen of Fire") are thematically named, such as the Triassic Tortellini, Bronto Burger and Boneyard Buffet.

The T-Rex concept was honed at its first trial location at The Legends at Village West in Kansas City, Kansas.

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 was released on October 14. You can check out the book review, as well as an interview with Cockerell on the MouseStation podcast, here on the MousePlanet Web site.

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. You can send us as many suggestions as you'd like, though we'll only count one entry per person

Center for Living Well opens

Walt Disney World opened its Center for Living Well health care center for cast members amid festivities last Wednesday. The Center will provide many services for cast members, including:

  • high-quality, personalized care facilitated by a multi-lingual staff of credentialed medical professionals;
  • enhanced access to services through extended hours, weekend availability, proximity to work and same-day care for more immediate needs;
  • coordinated treatment made possible by relationships with specialists and other facilities throughout the region, referral scheduling support and the latest in medical technology, including electronic medical records and prescriptions and digital radiology; and
  • privacy and confidentiality, through strict adherence to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and special facility design features, such as a sophisticated white noise system that enables private conversations, the use of pagers to facilitate efficient and discreet communication between patients and staff, and a unique exam room design that prevents others from seeing who is inside the room when the door is open.

Numerous "green" features were incorporated into the Center, including recycled concrete for base material under all paving, the use of reclaimed water for landscape irrigation, skylights in interior corridors, low-flow plumbing fixtures and the use of high-efficiency, low-wattage lighting. The facility also relies on electronic records, significantly reducing paper waste.


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 …

…Blizzard Beach reopens this coming Sunday, while Typhoon Lagoon will close for its annual refurbishment.

…If you have a Twitter account, you can now receive updates from the Walt Disney World Resort's publicity department by following user WDWNews. (Note that – as of this morning – there have been no new "tweets" since September 18.) The updates are almost always links to press releases published on the Walt Disney World media Web site, so those without a Twitter account can also just keep an eye on that site for updates (link).

…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. 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


  • 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.

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.

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.