Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for April 20 – April 26, 2009

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

News and Views

Help Wanted | Magic Kingdom again top park | Galaxy Day | Adventurers (but not those Adventurers) | Grand campfireQuick Takes …

Help Wanted

Today's Park Update is running a day later than usual and in somewhat abbreviated form because … well … I was on vacation and—gasp—didn't work while I was away!

Which brings me to the first of our Help Wanted requests. I really hate having the Park Update appear late or—in extreme cases—not at all, so I'm looking for someone to fill in with writing the Park Update on weeks that I'm on vacation or otherwise unavailable to handle the writing chores in a timely fashion. If you've got a good writing style, an ability to work to deadline, the ability to gather information and write with journalistic integrity, we'll consider you as a candidate as my vacation standby. Drop me an e-mail here at MousePlanet with a writing sample and some information about yourself and we'll review your credentials and get back to you.

You'll also notice this week that, for the first time in a long while, we have no photographs in the Update. Unfortunately, Bruce Danderline, who has been supplying those great photos for the last few months, must take care of other priorities and will be unable to provide those photos any more. If you reside in the general area of Walt Disney World and are willing to visit the parks at least once a week to take photos for the Update, please e-mail me here at MousePlanet with some representative photos. If you'll be at Walt Disney World on vacation and find some interesting images that you'd like to pass along, you can send those to me as well. Thanks for your help!

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom #1 worldwide again

The Themed Entertainment Association, in association with Economics Research Associates, has released their annual list of the most attended theme parks in the world (link), and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is again #1, holding steady at 17.06 million visitors. Disneyland Park was again second with 14.72 million guests, down about 150,000 from 2007. Third place again went to Tokyo Disneyland with 14.29 million, down over 600,000 from last year, while Disneyland Park Paris moved up one slot into fourth place, with 12.69 million, up 690,000 from last year. Tokyo Disney Sea came in fourth with 12.5 million, up under 100,000 from last year.

Epcot again was the sixth most-attended park this year, holding steady at approximately 10.94 million visitors. Disney's Hollywood Studios (with its new name) repeated in the seventh position with 9.61 million guests, up 100,000. It opened up the gap between the park and Disney's Animal Kingdom, which had 9.54 million visitors (up 50,000). Universal Studios Japan was again the top non-Disney park in ninth place with 8.3 million, down 410,000 from last year. Everland in South Korea repeated at number 10 with 6.6 million. Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld Florida were next with 6.23 million and 5.93 million up 30,000 and 130,000 respectively. Disney's California Adventure was again in 13th place with 5.57 million, down 110,000 from last year as it began its major retooling.

Hong Kong Disneyland was in 18th place with 4.5 million guests, up 350,000 from last year. Walt Disney Studios Paris again failed to make the top 25 parks worldwide, appearing at number 9 on the European list with 2.61 million guests.

Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach again finished 1-2 in the world's water parks, with attendance of 2.06 million and 1.89 million, respectively, both off around 200,000 guests.

It's Galaxy Day every day in Tomorrowland beginning in May

That construction in Tomorrowland is finally coming to an end. Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration will begin performances six timenext month. The show will feature real-time animation technology similar to that used in Turtle Talk with Crush and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, combined with comedy and live music to provide "a zany interactive experience" as Galaxy Day is celebrated in the middle of Tomorrowland.

The interactive animation of Stitch will likely be based on that used for the Stitch Encounter show at Hong Kong Disneyland and Stitch Live! at Walt Disney Studios Paris. A giant LED screen will be used for the display while live performers appear on the stage in front of the screen.

Disney's Animal Kingdom to get new "goodnight kiss"

Since fireworks are a no-no at Disney's Animal Kingdom (scaring the resident critters would be a bad thing), the end of each day has had a hard time giving guests a reason to stay right up until closing. A new effort to give folks a special close to their visit features music, characters and dancing as part of the Adventurers' Celebration Gathering (not to be confused with the Adventurers Club).

The show features khaki-clad cast members, as well as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy also in safari gear. Cast members shake pom-poms and try to get guests to participate in a conga line while the characters ride along atop a safari vehicle. The procession takes place near tha park's entrance during park closing each evening. If you get a chance to check this out, let us know what you think!

Grand Floridian launches campfire activity

Taking a page from the nightly campfire and movie at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is attempting to recreate that magic for the upscale set. Guests staying at the Grand Floridian can roast marshmallows and sing camp songs around a Mickey-shaped campfire on the shore of Seven Seas Lagoon at 8 p.m. each night (time changes seasonally). S'mores kits and marshmallows are available for purchase.

Following the campfire and singalong, a movie will be shown on a portable screen. As with the movie at Fort Wilderness, a different film will be shown each night. The movie will be a different one than is shown at Fort Wilderness each night.

MouseAdventure Walt Disney World registration is now open!

The first-ever running of MousePlanet's signature MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on November 14, 2009! The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening. The meal will be followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot, giving you a fresh look at things in the park that you never noticed before!

The first part of the game will be in the classic MouseAdventure format, sending you on quests throughout Future World. After completion of that portion, teams will engage in an Enchanted Race around World Showcase to the finish line!

For more information or to register, go to the MouseAdventure page (link)! Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link)!

A personal appeal to help babies through the March of Dimes, for the fourth year

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. I know from first-hand experience how devastating that is.

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.

We're over one-third of the way there, but we've only got six weeks to make up the rest. Let's show that MousePlanet readers support the mission of the March of Dimes and help give all babies a fighting chance to make it home!

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

Quick takes …

…Another name has surfaced in the list of those executives accepting buyouts from Disney, as Jerry Montgomery, most recently Senior Vice President of Conservation and Environmental Sustainability for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, has announced that he's leaving. Montgomery, a 30-year Disney veteran, has served in many positions over the years, and has not yet decided what is next for him. We wish him luck in his future endeavors.

…The Amateur Softball League of America (ASA) has recognized Walt Disney World Resort as having one of the nation’s largest single-site industrial softball leagues. Approximately 1,600 Cast Members currently participate in 80 organized co-ed and men’s softball teams.

…More than 2,000 athletes from 41 Florida counties will converge on Disney's Wide World of Sports May 15-16 for the 37th annual Special Olympics Florida Summer Games.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now 90 percent full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 75 percent full (7,500 capacity). Register now (link)!

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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

  • Mar. 18-May 31. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (link).
  • Apr. 24-27. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • May 9. Muddy Buddy (link).
  • May 10. Danskin Orlando Triathlon (link).
  • May 15-16. Special Olympics Florida Summer Games (link).
  • May 17. Florida Half Ironman Triathlon (link).
  • May 22-Jun. 14. Star Wars Weekends.
  • June 15 - Aug. 9. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.
  • Sept. 4, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, Oct. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 29, 31, Nov. 1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Sept. 6. Trek Women Triathlon (link).
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 25 - Nov. 8. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Sep. 26. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 11. Race for the Taste 10K and 3K (link).
  • Oct 24. Tower of Terror 13K and 5K (link).
  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 29, Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Hall of Presidents – closed through July 1, 2009, major infrastructure upgrades, as well as for addition of President Barack Obama.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – closed April 19 through August 19, 2009 for refurbishment and Space Mountain's refurbishment.
  • Space Mountain – closed April 19 through November 21, 2009 for major refurbishment.


  • 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

  • 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.
  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens August 2009.
  • Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Construction continues. The resort opens June 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. There will be no performances from May 18 through June 1.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until June 21, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's basic dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights August 16 – October 3, 2009. Discount codes for the basic dining plan and available upgrades are as follow:

  • Basic Dine: RYH
  • Deluxe Dine: UGR
  • Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: KEU
  • Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine: NZZ

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 June 21!

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids at Half Off" deal

Disney Cruise Line now offering a "Kids at Half Off" promotion. The deal offers 50 percent off 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 April 11 through May 17 in a variety of stateroom cabins.

To book your "Kids Half Off" cruise, visit the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), call 800-951-3532, 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 "KHO." 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 debuts new exclusive rate specials

While the special $119-per-night offer expired last Tuesday, MousePlanet partner Gaylord Palms Resort has followed it up with another great offer, this time valid for stays through the end of the year! For approximately 5 nights out of every 7 for the rest of the year, you can stay at the Gaylord Palms at the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) of $129 per night. Even better, you can book these rates right up until the day you arrive! This new rate is even lower than Disney moderate resorts after June 6! Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations at moderate prices! These special low rates are available on the following nights:

  • March 11, 15–17, 21-29
  • April 1–13, 18–19, 24–27
  • May 10-11, 15–27
  • June 2–6, 9-17, 20–23, 28-30 ($139 rate)
  • July 1-6 ($139 rate), 7–18, 23–28
  • August 1–9, 13–15, 18–19, 22–27, 30
  • September 1-2, 6–8, 12–14, 18–20, 25–27
  • October 2–5, 13–18, 23–24, 29–31
  • November 3, 7, 12–15, 22-30
  • December 1-5, 9, 13–27

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 April 19 – June 6, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $64 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights), moderate resorts starting at $94 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $164 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $154 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $199 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). 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 EDB 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.