Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for April 27 – May 3, 2009

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

News and Views

Marty Sklar retiring | Pirates League | Sanaa menus | Thanks | CMO Justin | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Marty Sklar retiring

Disney Legend and Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar announced in a letter to all Imagineers last Friday that he would be retiring effective July 17. Sklar started his Disney career at Disneyland just before the park's opening when, as editor of the UCLA Daily Bruin, he was recruited to create The Disneyland News, a tabloid newspaper set in 1890 that was sold on Main Street, U.S.A. during Disneyland's first year. He returned to UCLA for his senior year at the end of the summer, but was back at Disney the following September working at Disneyland publicity and marketing to create Vacationland magazine.

Sklar would go on to essentially become Walt Disney's personal scriptwriter, crafting much of what Walt said in interviews, on TV and in official company publications. He advanced through the ranks at Imagineering, to Vice President of Concepts and Planning and eventually to President and Vice-Chairman and Principal Creative Executive before moving into more of a public-relations role as Imagineering Ambassador just over three years ago.

Sklar is the only cast member to have had an active role in the opening of all 11 Disney theme parks to date, and is a living piece of Disney history. He's now working on a book about his career at Disney. We here at MousePlanet thank him for his role in Disney history and wish him well at all of his future endeavors.

Let your inner buccaneer out starting in late June

Disney guests with boys have been saying, "Yeah, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is great for girls, but what about my kids?" Disney has listened. Starting June 29, guests can join the Pirates League in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom. Of course, with the word "pirate" most often preceded by "Somali" in the media in recent days, it's likely that Disney will be very careful in how it markets this location in the near future.

To be located in the former House of Treasure, the Pirates League experience will begin with the guest receiving of an official pirate name at check-in. After checking in to the plunder-filled lair, pirates-to-be head off to the Muster Station for their conversion into a pirate (see packages below). After reciting a sacred pirate oath, guests are officially inducted into Captain Jack Sparrow's crew and head into the treasure room for their official pirate portrait and returned to the crowds of Adventureland.

The Pirates League will provide buccaneer-themed makeovers for boys, girls and adults. Image © Disney.

Just like the "Prince" option amid the princesses at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, there will be an "Empress" option amid the pirates. The three available packages are:

  • First Mate Package ($49.95 plus tax) – bandanna, choice of facial effects (scars, tattoos, fake teeth, earring and eye patch). sword and sheath, pirate coin necklace, one 5x7 photo and personalized pirate oath.
  • Empress Package ($49.95 plus tax) – bandanna, shimmering makeup ( face gem, tattoos, nail polish, earring and eye patch), sword and sheath, pirate coin necklace, one 5x7 photo and personalized pirate oath.
  • Captains Package ($124.95 plus tax) – choice of costume/outfit from selection, choice of facial effects (scars, tattoos, fake teeth, earring and eye patch), sword and sheath, pirate coin necklace, three 5x7 photos and personalized pirate oath.

You can start reserving your visit to the Pirates League on May 11 by calling 407-WDW-CREW (407-939-2739).

Opening menus for Sanaa set

The opening menus for Sanaa (at the new Kidani Village annex of the Animal Kingdom Villas) have been set after some soft-open testing. We've posted them on our new Sanaa page in the MousePlanet Walt Disney World Park Guide. The menus appear to be leaning heavily on promoting wine pairings and wine flights for just about every dish. If you feel pressured by such a sales tactic, you may want to take this into consideration. Otherwise, the menus appear to be quite interesting, with many flavorful choices. Check them out!

Space Mountain is closed through November for a major refurbishment. Photo by Rock Bedard.

The Tomorrowland Light and Power Authority is also closed. Photo by Rock Bedard.

Thanks to all potential helpers

I'd like to thank all of those who answered my call for possible photographers and stand-in writers.

I've received about a dozen offers from those who are willing to help out with the Park Update on weeks that I'm on vacation or otherwise not available. I'll be reviewing the candidates and selecting one or two candidates to move forward with. I've also received several offers from photographers to fill in on providing images from the parks. I'll be in discussion with selected candidates there in the next week or two, as well.

If you missed last week's Update and are interested in one of these positions, it's not too late. Send me an e-mail with your qualifications and a writing or photo sample. You can also see last week's Update for more information on what we're looking for.

The construction walls are down, and Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration is preparing to begin performances next month. Photo by Rock Bedard.

The control booth for Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration sits next to the dormant Tomorrowland Transit Authority track. Photo by Rock Bedard.

Chief Magic Official Justin Muchoney completes job assignment

Disney's Chief Magic Official, Justin Muchoney, spent the last day of his one-year odyssey handing out invitations to a special Unbirthday Party at Epcot's Odyssey Center last Wednesday. What he didn't know was that Walt Disney World was going to surprise him at the party.

After a brief speech by Manager of Promotions Marketing Heath Rosenbaum, Justin was presented with his one-year cast member pin by New Media PR Manager Benjamin Thompson for completing a year of service. After Justin spoke for a while, Walt Disney World Ambassador Clay Shoemaker asked him if he would be willing to be appointed an honorary Walt Disney World Ambassador, which Justin gratefully accepted. The folks from Orlando Attractions Magazine were at the party to capture Justin's last official event, and you can check that out on YouTube (link).

Justin has done a tremendous job over the last year, and it's been a pleasure every time that I've met him. We here at MousePlanet thank him for the job that he's done and wish him well in his future endeavors, including that honorary Ambassadorship.

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)!

Thank you for helping babies through the March of Dimes, for the fourth year

Yesterday, I participated in my fourth consecutive March of Dimes walk to raise money to help improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

While I did not meet my goal this year (and frankly, I didn't expect to with our current economy), we still managed to raise over $3,500. More impressive is the fact that, not including the money that I donated to my own fundraising campaign, donations from the amazing MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners made up more than half of the remaining money. Thank you so much!

According to the folks at our local March of Dimes chapter, yesterday's walk raised about $130,000 from 590 fundraising walkers. We believe that over 1,200 people walked the course with us, which is absolutely amazing! (I think that the gorgeous weather had a bit to do with that.…)

Thank you so much for your support!

Over the last four years, I've raised $15,000, much of which is thanks to you. As many of you know, the March of Dimes is a cause near and dear to my heart, as my son would not be alive without the fruits of research funded by the organization.

While the walk is over, my fundraising page should remain active for another month or so, so if you were thinking of donating and didn't get around to it, you can still do so. For more information about why I walk, or to donate, please go to my fundraising page (link). Thanks again—you guys are the greatest!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Arcade and Athletic Club – rehabilitation of facade
  • Magic Kingdom Pinocchio Village Haus – removal of wood shake roofing and replacement with syntheticd shake roofing products
  • Magic Kingdom Crystal Palace – purchase, installation, and provision of power for one new electric water heater
  • Epcot American Adventure pavilion – replacement of 5 auxiliary heating units
  • Epcot Innoventions – replacement of 2 auxiliary heating units
  • Epcot Art of Disney – replacement of 2 auxiliary heating units
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios American Idol Experience – audition wall marquee sign package
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Rosie's – replacement of hot water heater
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – Earth/Burma signs package
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Rafiki's Planet Watch – installation of rubberized floor in multiple stalls
  • Eagle Pines Golf Course maintenance area – removal of underground fuel tanks, sheet piling, dewatering, soil removal and restoration
  • Contemporary Resort – replacement of existing manual door with power-actuated door for new bridge access
  • Contemporary Resort – partial roof replacement and facade repair of security kiosk
  • Northeast Resort Parcel – entrance intersection improvement package
  • Northeast Resort Parcel – Phase 1A/1B area development package
  • Northeast Resort Parcel – Phase 1A/1B infrastructure construction

Quick takes …

…Disney and Macy's are running a Mother's Day contest that will award bi-coastal prizes to one family in each state, plus the District of Columbia. The grand prize is a six-day trip for four that will start with two nights at the Disneyland Resort in California and conclude with three nights at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The trip must be taken from June 21 (Father's Day) through June 26. You can only enter the contest once, and you must enter by Mother's Day (May 10). For more information and to enter, go to the sweepstakes page at the Macy's Web site (link).

…Last week, Disney Legend Ken Annakin died. While his work for Disney was in the movies, two of those films had a great impact on Disney's theme parks. Swiss Family Robinson was the genesis for the treehouses that sit at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, though Disneyland's has since been rethemed to Tarzan. In addition, Third Man on the Mountain was Walt's inspiration for the creation of the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now 96 percent full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 75 percent full (7,500 capacity). Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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Trivia is back!

Some of you have been asking why I discontinued the weekly trivia question a while ago, and it was largely because it took a large amount of time to pull together questions every week, and nobody had responded to my request for folks to send their own questions in. Well, we've got a taker. Reader Jonathan Heigl has risen to the challenge, and I'll be running either a trivia question or trivia tidbit each week. (NOTE: I'm not fact-checking these, so take up any questions with Jonathan.)

Let me know whether you'd prefer questions or "did you know" format, and I'll format it whichever way the majority prefer. We'll start with a tidbit format:

Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

Walt Disney purchased the first 8,380 acres of land from Florida state senator Irlo Bronson in October 1964 at $107 per acre.

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).
  • 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.