Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for March 2 – March 8, 2009

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

News and Views

Online check-in | Star Wars big figs | Night of Joy lineup | Hannig to exit | Braves training camp | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Online check-in service goes live!

Last Tuesday, Walt Disney World officially debuted its new online check-in service. You can now check in up to 10 days in advance of your arrival date either online or via phone and speed your arrival process at the resort. When you check in, you can provide the names of the people in your party (to have their room keys pre-cut) as well as your credit card number (to handle room charges). You can also provide your expected arrival time and request your (non-guaranteeed) room preference.

Once you do this, you will be able to go to a special welcome location to pick up your room keys and other registration materials, bypassing the regular check-in line.

Other hotel chains have been running similar programs for some time under names such as "Zip-in Check-in," "Express Check-in" and similar names. Now it's Disney's turn to jump on the bandwagon.

Parts of the Grand Floridian are under wraps while some exterior work is done.. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Star Wars Weekends big fig designs released

Images of this year's big fig character statues have been released, and it looks like they are going to be the last set to to be made. The images at the StarWars.com Web site show Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald in Star Wars garb once again.

Donald portrays Han Solo being frozen in Carbonite, while Goofy plays Chewbacca. Images © Disney/Lucasfilm.

To this editor's mind, the "Don Solo" frozen in Carbonite is the best of the bunch. Goofbacca looks pretty good, Mick Skywalker carrying Yoda is interesting, as well. I just can't help but wonder what Walt would have thought of Slave Girl Minnie, though. Larger images of each are available at the StarWars.com Web site (link).

Mickey portrayes Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the force from Yoda, while Minnie is dressed as Slave Girl Leia. Images © Disney/Lucasfilm.

A limited series of 600 statues of each of the figures will retail for $195 each. 500 sets will be available at Disney's Hollywood Studios, while the other 100 will be available at Disneyland. The figures will not be available until around the second week in June, so it looks like they'll appear just in time for the final weekend of Star Wars Weekends.

The ESPN The Weekend stage is ready for live broadcasts. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Curt Schilling rides with Goofy in a motorcade through Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Former New York Mets ace John Franco rides in the motorcade with Pluto. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

With 771 wins and 840 saves between them, pitching aces Jim Palmer, Dennis Eckersley, Curt Schilling and John Franco chat during a session of ESPN The Weekend. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Night of Joy lineup announced

The entertainment lineup for this year's Night of Joy event has been released. Disney's annual Christian music festival will take place the nights of September 11-12 at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The featured act will be P.O.D., which will make its 2009 concert debut at the event following a lengthy hiatus, while several popular returnees will appear as well. MercyMe, newsboys, Chris Tomlin, Jars of Clay and others will return for this year's event. Mandisa, who was at Disney's Hollywood Studios just a couple of weeks ago for the world premiere of The American Idol Experience, will return to perform at the event this fall. Seven acts will perform between 7 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. each evening.

Here's this year's lineup:

  • Friday, September 11
    • P.O.D.
    • newsboys
    • Kutless
    • Chris Tomlin
    • Leeland
    • Superchick
  • Saturday, September 12
    • Skillet
    • MercyMe
    • Jars of Clay
    • Flyleaf
    • Family Force 5
    • Grits
    • Mandisa

The event is hard-ticketed, meaning that separate admission must be purchased for the event. One-night tickets cost $49.95 in advance and $54.95 on the day of the event (if available). Two-night tickets are $84.95 plus tax. However, Disney has introduced a new ticket (exclusively for groups of 10 or more) that includes both a day visit to the park and admission to the Night of Joy visit that evening at an extremely low discount price. If booked on or before August 12, it only costs $44.95 plus tax; it goes up to $49.95 plus tax on August 13. Either way, it's a lot less than just the one-day, one-park price of $75.

Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden takes shape as preparations for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festval get underway. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The Let's Get Moving garden along the Rose Walk gets some character topiaries installed. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Work is underway on the Canada Garden Retreat, where artist Heather French will sign festival posters every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Construction is underway on the Green Garden playground between tne Morocco and France pavilions. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The Pirates Adventure Zone between Germany and the Outpost should be very popular with young boys.. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Hannig next to schedule departure

The impact of those execs who have accepted Disney's Voluntary Separation Plan continue to trickle out of Disney's Central Florida offices. Two weeks ago, we told you about the departure of Disney Cruise Line's Tom McAlpin, whose function was assumed by former DCL president Karl Holz. Last week, we reported on the reorganization that shuffled the deck at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, with operations functionality combined under Disney Parks & Resorts president for Operations Al Weiss. Now, word comes of Dieter Hannig, Walt Disney World's vice president for food and beverage new concepts, stepping down to begin a dream project with his wife in Central America.

Hannig, 59, is probably best known as the man who came up with the idea of letting each of the Disney signature restaurants' executive chefs run their restaurant as if they were the owner. This empowered chefs to make changes and take risks, resulting in increases in quality at each of the signature restaurants.

Hannig and his wife Ursula will now move to Panama, where they will run a retreat offering yoga and organically grown tropical food. He will return to serve as a consultant to Disney on future projects. In the meantime, he has left a formidable organization that should continue to flourish.

For more on Hannig, check out Scott Joseph's blog (link). Joseph is the former food critic for the Orlando Sentinel.

The restrooms near the entrance to Epcot are temporarily closed while refurbishments take place. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The new Future World West Stage sits between Innoventions West and the Imagination pavilion. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Braves training camp admission options

Walt Disney World and the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team are providing all sorts of additional options for guests wanting to attend spring training games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Free features include Disney character appearances (one character will be at each of the 18 games at Champion Stadium, and will accompany first-pitch contestants to the mound) and special pre-game and in-game concerts in the ballpark featuring House of Blues regulars Ruth King and Jeff Coffee at select games. Additional free features include six music-themed nights, trivia contests and several promotional nights.

There is also a designated patio along the third base side of the stadium that features all-you-can-eat hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, peanuts, soda and bottled water for $18.95 per person. You'd have to be pretty hungry to come out ahead on that price.

Tickets for the games themselves (remember, this is actually about baseball games, right?) run from $15 for general admission to $28 for lower reserved seating. Ticket prices jump $4 per ticket for premium games (New York Yankees, New York Mets, and the Boston Red Sox). You can buy your tickets through Ticketmaster online (link) or by phone, or you can go to the Wide World of Sports Complex box office and buy them in person.

The scrim around the Hall of Presidents looks very impressive. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Construction continues in front of Auntie Gravity's and the Star Traders restrooms. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Work also continues on the Stitch's Supersonic Celebration stage in Tomorrowland. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

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).

Amazing News! and a personal appeal, for the fourth year

Wow! I was informed recently that I was the top walker for the March of Dimes Northeastern New York region for 2008, and the #2 walker for all of Upstate New York (everything above Westchester and Rockland counties)! I couldn't have done it without the help of all of the wonderful MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners. Thank you so much! Now, the big challenge is to raise the bar in these tough economic times.

On April 26, I'll be walking for the fourth time to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. I'm raising money for the cause because new parents should be able to bring their children home from the hospital, not bury them. Last year's total, raised through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, was $5,043.42. This year, our new target is $6,000. I think we can do that. I know that the economy is tough right now, but charitable causes are also hurting and in need of money.

For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate, please go to my fundraising page (link). Thanks for your consideration!

Facade work at Keystone Clothiers has worked its way around to the facade facing Min & Bill's Dockside Diner.. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland Speedway – installation of new queue fans.
  • Epcot Refreshment Port – installation of marquee graphics package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – installation of special effects tank billboard.
  • Downtown Disney World of Disney – painting of exterior of building.
  • Contemporary Resort main pool – installation of interactive water feature and landscape improvements.
  • Pop Century Resort Classic Hall – replacement of existing floor tile with new tile in lobby guest restrooms.

Quick takes …

…South Carolina State University and 2008 SWAC title winner Grambling State University will compete in the Disney-sposored MEAC/SWAC Championship (link) on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the Florida Citrus Bown.

…2010 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend events continue to fill up – Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is still at 85 percent full, while the Half Marathon is now 60 percent full. If you want to run these races, sign up now (link)!

…Students from two Central Florida elementary schools were guests at Epcot as part of a celebration of Engineers Week, sponsored by IBM. The students visited Innoventions and heard presentations from representatives of several of the companies with exhibits there. They also got to ride Mission: Space.

…Not only can you join the MousePlanet and MouseStation Podcast groups on Facebook, or become a fan of MousePlanet or the MouseStation, you can also follow us on Twitter! You can follow WDW Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber, the general MousePlanet feed and the MouseAdventure feed! If there's something special that you'd like to see us do on Facebook or Twitter, 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

  • Feb. 15-Mar. 30. Atlanta Braves Training Camp.
  • Feb. 27-Mar. 1. ESPN The Weekend.
  • Feb. 28. ESPN The Weekend 5K.
  • Mar. 6-8. Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend.
  • Mar. 14-15. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Mar. 18-May 31. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • Apr. 24-27. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • May 17. Florida Half Ironman Triathlon (link).
  • May 22-Jun. 14. Star Wars Weekends.
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).

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.
  • Ellen's Energy Adventure – closed for refurbishment January 5 – March 22.
  • 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

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • 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 Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens fall 2009.
  • Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Construction continues. The resort opens summer 2009.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground – Meadows pool area closed for refurbishment January 12 – March 13.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – Closed for its annual refurbishment October 26 through March 21. Major work is required on the wave generation machine.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal!

From now until March 29, if you book a four-night, four-day non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get three additional nights (including tickets) for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights now-April 4 and April 19-August 15, 2009.

As a bonus, if you travel by March 29, you'll get a $200 Disney Gift Card that you can use to pay some of the costs during your stay. It's also valid at Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Store and disneyshopping.com.

Packages start at net prices of $53 per person per day for a family of four in a standard room at a Value Resort from February 13-April 4 (total package price $1,466). That price is based on families of two adults, one junior and one child.

Packages for other resorts and lengths of stay are also available.

Here's Disney's rundown on pricing and savings:

Disney Value Resorts Disney Moderate Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
$1,466 ($484 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$1,778 ($718 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$2,498 ($1,281 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$2,611 ($1,320 savings)
Feb. 16- April 4, 2009
$1,375 ($416 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$1,666 ($634 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
April 19- May 21, 2009
$1,421 ($450 savings)
May 22 –June 27, 2009
$1,733 ($685 savings)
May 22-June 27, 2009
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
May 22-May 25, 2009
June 2-June 27, 2009
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
May 22 –June 27, 2009

Prices are based on two adults, one junior (ages 10 to 17) and one child (ages 3 to 9) in a standard room at a Value Resort, Moderate Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Deluxe Resort) or a studio at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Deluxe Villa Resort). Savings are based on the non-discounted price of a 7-night/7-day Magic Your Way package. The discount code for this offer is IUZ.

To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7928 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book by March 29!

Walt Disney World room-only deal for everyone!

From now until February 28, everyone can book a deep-discounted rate for reservations most Sunday through Thursday nights through April 2. Room rates start at prices of $74 per night for a standard room at a Value Resort from February 16-April 4. Rates at other resorts are also available.

Here's Disney's rundown on pricing:

Disney Value Resorts Disney Moderate Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16- April 2, 2009

Prices do not include tax and are based on a standard room at a Value Resort, Moderate Resort, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Deluxe Resort) or a studio at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa or Disney's Old Key West Resort (Deluxe Villa Resort). The discount code for this offer is OZ.

To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7545 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book by February 28!

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids Free" deal

Disney Cruise Line now offering a "Kids Free" promotion. The deal offers free passage (plus government taxes and fees) for children ages 12 and under on three-night voyages when traveling with two full-fare paying passengers in the same cabin. The offer is valid on most sailings from January 22 through May 28 in a variety of stateroom cabins.

To book your "Kids Free" cruise, visit the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), call 888-325-2500, or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, MouseEarVacations.com (link) or Small World Vacations (link) and make sure to use booking code "FREE." For more information on other discounted cruises from MouseEarVacations.com, check out their list of cruise discounts for MousePlanet readers here on the MousePlanet site.

Gaylord Palms drops prices again, now less than Disney moderates!

The Gaylord Palms Resort has announced even deeper discounts for MousePlanet readers (link)! Most nights through the end of September, the resort has rooms at a low, low rate of $119 per night. That's even lower than Disney moderate resorts! Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations at moderate prices! These special low rates are available on the following nights:

  • February 23-28
  • March 4-6, 8-11, 15-17, 21-29
  • April 1-14, 17-19, 24-27
  • May 10-11, 15-16, 20-27
  • June 2-6, 9-17, 20-23, 28-30
  • July 1-19, 23-31
  • August 1-9, 13-15, 18-19, 22-27, 30-31
  • September 1-2, 7-8, 12-14, 17-20, 25-27

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!

Passholder rates for 2009 released

Passholder rates for January 1 – February 12, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $49 per night, moderate resorts starting at $89 per night. Select deluxe resorts (Wilderness and Animal Kingdom Lodges) starting at $144 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $179 per night. The rates at value and deluxe resorts are valid January 2–15 and January 19 – February 12. Moderate resorts are available January 4–17 and January 21 – February 12. Saratoga Springs is available January 1 – February 12.

Passholder rates for February 15 – April 2, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $69 per night, moderate resorts starting at $114 per night. Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $214 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $229 per night. The rates are valid most Sunday – Thursday nights during that period.

The number of rooms available is limited and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using code DYS (through February 12) or PYS (February 15 – April 2) if booking via the Passholder phone line (407-939-7722) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

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. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

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