Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for August 24 – August 30, 2009

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

News and Views

MousePlanet at D23 EXPO | Another cast member death | Fall races to end | Disney World Moms Panel | Night of Joy auditions | Tables in Wonderland gets Food & Wine discounts | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Visit the MousePlanet Lounge at D23 EXPO

It's official: MousePlanet will be part of the Fan Forum at the upcoming D23 EXPO, September 10-13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The MousePlanet Lounge is the place to come mix and mingle with MousePlanet readers and staff, and where you can meet other members of our MousePad discussion board. Kick up your feet and relax in our comfortable lounge, and be sure to pick up a special MousePlanet button designed just for the EXPO. We have a few other surprises in store, so keep checking for details.

Cast member dies from injury during "Epic" rehearsal

As I posted on my blog last week:

Monday night, a cast member was injured during a rehearsal of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios park, and later died from the injury.

The performer was performing a tumbling roll when the injury occurred. He was transported to the hospital by paramedics, but he died later that night. Disney notified the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and OSHA of the accident.

Walt Disney World spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez told MousePlanet "We’ve lost a valued Cast Member and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and co-workers tonight as we mourn his passing."

The stunt show, usually called "Epic" by Studios cast members, has had serious injuries before, but never a fatality.

This is the third cast member fatality at Walt Disney World in the last six weeks. Austin Wuennenberg was killed in the monorail accident that took place early in the morning of July 5 and Mark Priest died from injuries sustained during a performance of Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial just a week ago.

Since that post, we have learned that the deceased cast member was Anislav Varbanov, 30, who died of a cervical spine fracture in his neck. Disney would not say how long he had been working at the show, though one report stated that he had only been on the show for about a week.

Performances were cancelled for a couple of days to allow the cast to grieve and to regain their composure and focus before resuming on Thursday. Varbanov's funeral was held on Saturday.

[Editor's note: As this being the third fatality within a 43-day span at WDW, David Koenig wrote an article on August 20 looking at the bigger picture, in his article, "Deadly Parallels."]

Last week, a crane appeared behind Cinderella Castle. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The crane is being used to help install the Castle Dreamlights, a holiday enhancement that takes quite some time to put into place correctly. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Two Fall races to end

It appears that the Race for the Taste 10K & 3K and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K and 5K races will not be returning in 2010. This means that 2009 is your last chance to earn those medals before they are "retired." There will be a newly designed medal (link) this year for the Race for the Taste.

Disney had tried to boost participation in the races with the Fall Race Challenge Series (link) medal for participating in two of the three major fall races: the Expedition Everest Challenge, the Race for the Taste 10K and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K. That apparently did not provide enough of a boost to registration, and the races linked to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Halloween at the Tower of Terror will be discontinued.

The rumored "major" new fall race has not yet been announced.

MouseAdventure's Summer Warm Up

Congratulations to MousePlanet reader Christy for being the first to post the correct answer to our Week 7 quest. If you'd like to check your own answers, download the Quest 7 answer key (link).

Quest #8 presents a little logic puzzle (link). (Once again, the answer from Quest #7 is the password you'll need to open Quest #8) Remember, you can solve this quest at home using information found online at MousePlanet.com. Once you think you've solved the puzzle, visit our MousePad discussion boards and post your answer (link). The first person to post the correct answer to our MousePad discussion boards will win their very own copy of the MouseAdventure: Personal Edition packet, filled with quests from the Disneyland Resort. Good luck!

The Inaugural MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on Saturday, November 14, 2009!

The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening, followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot park for 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).

Disney World Moms Panel application period opens in two and a half weeks

More information is now available for those interested in signing up for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Disney will begin accepting applications at 9:00 a.m. EDT on September 10. There is no wording as of yet regarding how long Disney will continue to accept applications. Earlier indications had been a 10-day period, but by not stating closure criteria, Disney allows itself to limit applications to a maximum number.

To participate, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Have access to a computer and an Internet connection.
  • Be familiar with Walt Disney World® Resort and have visited at least once in the last 12 months.
  • Be fluent in the English language.
  • Complete at least 15 written responses per week.
  • Provide your opinions and feedback.
  • Submit an autobiography and personal photo to be posted online.
  • Be available to travel to Walt Disney World® Resort from December 4-8, 2009.
  • Be willing to participate for a minimum of 12 months.
  • Not be current employees/Cast Members of The Walt Disney Company or any of its subsidiaries, must not be immediate family members of a current employee/Cast Member of The Walt Disney Company or any of its subsidiaries, and must not currently reside with a current employee/Cast Member of The Walt Disney Company or any of its subsidiaries. In addition, participants must not be employees, contractors, advisors or consultants for, must not hold more than a de minimis ownership interest in, and must not serve on the Board of Directors of, any entity (other than The Walt Disney Company or any of its subsidiaries) which owns or operates any hotel, resort or theme park located in Orange, Osceola, Lake or Seminole Counties, Florida.
  • Not be currently employed in the travel or theme park industries, and not be an immediately family member of, or currently reside with, people currently employed in the travel or theme park industries.

Watch for the application period to open at the Disney World Moms Panel Web site (link).

And speaking of the Moms Panel, more celebrities are contributing their tips. New videos from Joey Fatone, Alfonso Ribeiro and Lisa Whelchel have been posted to the site (link), to go with previously posted videos featuring Joan Lunden, Brad Garrett and Angela Bassett. Of course, there are also many other videos featuring members of the Moms Panel.

Guests only have less than two weeks to see the tiny animatronic Chef Remy. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Chef Remy, here being shown by Amelie (portrayed by former Adventurers Club cast member Allison DeCaro), is only scheduled to be at Les Chefs de France through September 5. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Amateurs invited to audition for Night of Joy

Do you think that you can make joyful Christian music? Texas-based Celebration Ministries, Inc. is conducting auditions of Christian music musicians and singers for the chance to perform at Night of Joy 2009 at Disney's Hollywood Studios on September 11 or 12. Solo artists and bands can either audition online through August 29 or in person at Walt Disney World between August 26 and 29. Pre-audition registration is required by visiting the organization's Web site (link). A registration fee of $80 per performer (solo artist or individual band member) is required.

"Talent Spotlight presented by Celebration Ministries, Inc." will invite back up to 40 total performers from the online and live auditions to perform up to a 10-minute set (two songs maximum) at a special stage on either September 11 or 12, likely the Jedi Training Academy stage.

Each person registering for the Talent Spotlight will automatically receive a one-day ticket to Night of Joy festival, which will allow the registrant to enter the park on either September 11 or 12 (included in their registration fee).

Tables in Wonderland members to get Food & Wine Festival discounts

Tables in Wonderland members will have the ability to buy discounted advance tickets to the culinary demonstrations and wine and beverage seminars at this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Starting this Wednesday, a limited number of tickets will be available to TiW members before becoming available to the general public. The $5 tickets (regular price is $8 per person) must be obtained by advance purchase. Discounted tickets (if available) can be purchased up to 24 hours before the start of each session.

The 45-minute sessions require a ticket for admission this year. In prior years, admission was free and available on a first-come, first-served basis, which resulted in long lines prior to most sessions, with many people turned away.

Tables in Wonderland members should receive the URL to book their discounted tickets via email. The Tables in Wonderland program is available to Florida residents for $100 per year and Annual Passholders at $75 per year.

Construction update

Many people have written in asking when the construction updates will return. During the last few weeks, no new construction (or "Notice of Commencement") filings have been listed on the Orange County Comptroller's Web site. If anyone has any information on where else these filings may be publicly available, please let us know. Otherwise, please be patient and we will resume reporting new permits once we see any new ones posted.

The facade of the Main Street Arcade remains under wraps. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Hall of Champions facade on Main Street is also still under construction. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quick takes …

…The booking window for Walt Disney World dining, recreation, and tours will change to 180 days prior to arrival, effective October 27. That means that on October 27 the dining lines will become frantically busy as those with arrival dates between January 25 and April 25 will all be calling to make their dining reservations at the same time. Good luck to all of you!

…Charges against alleged Typhoon Lagoon flasher Bradford P. Biggers were dropped two weeks ago. Biggers had claimed that he had a wardrobe malfunction, blaming it on his new "European-style" swimsuit being too tight.

…Walt Disney World cast members set a new record this year by donating 654,012 school supplies through Walt Disney World's annual back-to-school supply drive. The boxes of crayons, rulers, pencils, folders and packs of notebook paper in 6,000 backpacks were distributed to local students and teachers through two local organizations.

…The 2010 Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 98 percent full (7,500 capacity). The Walt Disney World Marathon itself is now at 75 percent of capacity, the Family Fun Run 5K is at 88 percent and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest is at 55 percent. The Half Marathon is already sold out. Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

The brass poles on Cinderella’s Golden Carousel are polished every night.

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 up

  • 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).
  • Sept. 10–11 – Night of Joy (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. 10 – Jan 3, 2010 – Castle Dreamlights.
  • Nov. 12–15 – Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • Nov. 13–15 – Festival of the Masters (link).
  • Nov. 14 – MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 17 – Dec. 24 – Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney.
  • Nov. 26, 27, 29 – Old Spice Classic (link).
  • Nov. 27 – Dec. 30 – Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Nov. 27 – Jan. 3, 2010 – Osborne Familiy Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 27 – Jan. 3, 2010 – Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Dec. 7–12 – Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7–10, 2010 – WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010 – Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Living with the Land – closed through October 3 for refurbishment.
  • The Bijutsu-kan Gallery at the Japan pavilion is currently closed for installation of a new exhibit.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Phase 1 of the Kidani Village annex buildings for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is now open, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. There will be no performances September 22-28 or November 17, 2009.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until September 26, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights September 27 through December 17, 2009, except November 25–28, the Wednesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.. This time, the free dining comes with a twist: while the package stays the same if you book at a moderate, deluxe or villas resort, free dining packages at value resorts will be the quick service dining plan instead of the basic dining plan. You should be able to pay to upgrade your plan, but the "free" value of the deal at the values will be $29.99 per day for adults, $8.99 for children instead of $39.99 per day for adults, $10.99 for children. For a family of four with both children under age 10, that's a difference of $24 per day. For a family of four with both kids age 10 and up, it's a difference of $40 per day. Please be aware of that before you choose your resort!

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 September 26!

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a new set of nights for a special promotional rate of $119 per night (Reserve now!). Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations for the price of a Disney moderate, just a mile from Disney property. Many other nights are available for $129 per night (see below). The following dates are now available at $119 per night:

  • July 23–28
  • August 1–10
  • August 13–16
  • August 18–27
  • August 30 – September 2
  • September 6–16
  • September 18–20
  • September 25–27
  • November 22 – December 1
  • December 11–25

There are 32 more nights that you can stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort for just $129 pr night! Combined, these rates are available for approximately 2 nights out of every 3 for the rest of the year! Check out the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) today! The special $129 per night rates are available on the following nights:

  • October 2–5
  • October 13–18
  • October 23 24
  • October 29–31
  • November 3–7
  • November 12–15
  • December 2–5
  • December 9–10
  • December 26–27

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.

Passholder discounts through end of 2009

Passholder rates for August 9 through December 24, 2009 have been released. Rates are available for all dates except for November 25–28, the Tuesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving week. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $64 per night (8/9-8/17, 8/28-9/22, 10/2-10/2), $69 per night (10/4-11/24), $54 per night (11/29-12/17) and $89 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Moderate resorts – $89 per night (8/9-8/18, 8/22-9/23, 9/27-10/3), $99 per night (10/4-11/24), $89 per night (11/29-12/17) and $124 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk) – $234 per night (8/28-10/3)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $169 per night (10/4-11/24), $139 per night (11/29-12/17) and $229 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $159 per night (8/9-10/3), $189 per night (10/4-11/24), $169 per night (11/29-12/17) and $249 per night (12/18-12/24).

The Disney Dining Plan may also be added to these discounted reservations. The number of rooms available is limited and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. These rates may be available through your date of arrival. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using codes EQA (8/9-10/3) or NBM (10/4-12/24) 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).

Room-only discounts for the general public through end of 2009

Discount room-only rates are now available to the general public for dates from October 4 – December 24. These rates are blocked out from November 25– 28, the Tuesday through Saturday of Thankgiving week. Under this promotion, the starting rates are:

  • Value resorts – $74 per night (10/4-11/24), $84 per night (11/29-12/17) and $94 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Moderate resorts – $109 per night (10/4-11/24), $96 per night (11/29-12/17) and $134 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $179 per night (10/4-11/24), $149 per night (11/29-12/17) and $239 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $199 per night (10/4-11/24), $179 per night (11/29-12/17) and $259 per night (12/18-12/24).

These rates must be booked by September 26. 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 Walt Disney World web site or by using code FSC if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-6244) 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), Small World Vacations (link).

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