Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for October 5 – October 11, 2009

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

News and Views

The Year to Volunteer | Volunteer with MousePlanet | New "free nights" deal | Buzz Lightyear returns | Disney supports high-speed rail compromise | Construction update | Quick Takes …

The Year to Volunteer to be Disney Parks' major 2010 promotion; "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day"

Last Tuesday morning, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced their new promotional campaign for 2010, "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day." Unlike this year's passive promotion, where all you needed to do to collect your free ticket was to show up on your birthday, next year you'll actually need to get up and spend a day volunteering to get your free ticket voucher. Of course, you'll be able to use you ticket just about any day of the year. We say "just about," because tickets must be used no later than December 15, 2010, and there are blackout dates for both the Walt Disney World Resort (March 29 to April 8 and July 4, 2010) and the Disneyland Resort (February 13–14, March 21, June 21–22, July 4, November 21, and December 11–12, 2010).

The promotion is only open to residents of the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. Note that if you live outside this area but own a vacation home in the United States (including Disney Vacation Club), you can register through the Disney Web site and volunteer in the US to participate in the promotion. You must be age 6 years or older to volunteer; volunteers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult while volunteering. There is a limit of one million free tickets to volunteers.

Disney characters traveled to Chicago (Mickey & Minnie), Atlanta (Goofy & Pluto), Miami (Donald & Daisy) and Toronto (Chip & Dale), while Los Angeles featured Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Desperate Housewives' Teri Hatcher and James Denton, to help announce the new program. See video of the announcement in Los Angeles in Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix's blog post reporting last Tuesday's announcement.

Starting January 1, 2010, you'll be able to go to the Disney Parks Web site for the U.S. and Puerto Rico (link) or Canada (link) and find a volunteer opportunity to sign up for through the HandsOn Network, a volunteerism clearinghouse organization (watch for an opportunity to join a MousePlanet Volunteer Day event near you). All qualifying opportunities will be vetted by Disney. When you complete your day of volunteering, you'll receive a voucher that is redeemable for your free one-day, one-park ticket. Note that there is a limit to one million tickets awarded through this promotion. To register for and redeem this offer:

  1. Search and sign up – beginning January 1, 2010, search and sign up for a volunteer opportunity from a participating organization.
  2. Volunteer – complete your service for the volunteer opportunity you selected.
  3. Celebrate – once your service is verified, receive a certificate to redeem your Disney theme park ticket.

If you've already got your Annual or multi-day park passes, you've got three alternatives. Unfortunately, none of them are worth as much as the birthday gift card available through the 2009 "Celebrate" promotion. Your options include: a special Fastpass card for certain attractions for you and up to 5 additional members of your party (similar to the Birthday Fastpass), a collectible Ear Hat figurine with exclusive trading pins or the opportunity to donate your free ticket to a non-profit organization designated by Disney Parks. You may want to check with your tax professional to determine whether donating your ticket would qualify for a tax deduction.

This is a great way for Disney to encourage volunteerism (or VoluntEARism) while keeping their costs down. While the incremental cost of used free tickets will be just as small as in the 2009 campaign, by eliminating the opportunity to get a gift card with a value equal to that of the free park pass, Disney is shutting off a valuable-to-guests, costly-to-Disney option. Guests who will be visiting for more than one day (the vast majority, especially at Walt Disney World) will now either use their pass as an additional day to extend a multiday pass (net incremental cost to Disney $2) or opt for one of the alternative choices, two of which cost Disney nothing. The special Fastpass just costs Disney the printing cost for the pass, and donating the ticket to a charity of Disney's choice also carries no cost to Disney. It's only the ear-hat figure that will cost them any money at all.

Volunteering is a wonderful thing and is rewarding in its own right. If this promotion increases the number of individuals volunteering to help with good causes, it will have accomplished an amazing goal. Just don't expect a large dollar-cost savings to you unless you were only planning on going to one park for one day.

Don't forget to check out the fun, Muppet-driven Web site for the promotion (link). It's "Under Construction" for the length of the promotion, but you'll find all of the details about the promotion, how to enter a sweepstakes to win a Disney vacation, how to get an additional entry for the sweepstakes, and more.

Volunteer with MousePlanet

To assist MousePlanet readers who want to participate in The Year to Volunteer, we're looking for readers to act as MousePlanet hosts at qualifying volunteer opportunities across the country. While details of specific opportunities won't be available until after the promotion begins in January, we already have MousePlanet readers and staff in upstate New York; Ventura County, CA; Orange County, CA and the San Francisco Bay area who have expressed interest in coordinating a local volunteer event.

If you would like to coordinate and host a group volunteer event in your area, please e-mail us at volunteers@mouseplanet.com, and we'll keep you in the loop as more information becomes available. Hosts will be responsible for selecting a volunteer opportunity from the HandsOn Network site (which means you get to choose a program or organization that's important to you!), and coordinating with local MousePlanet readers who want to volunteer for your activity. To give readers the most time to use their tickets, we encourage hosts to schedule their activities early in the year.

MouseAdventure's Summer Warm Up

Congratulations to MousePlanet reader Eugenia, who was the first to post the correct answer to Quest #12! If you'd like to check your answers, download the Quest 12 answer key (link).

All good things must come to an end, and that's it for the MouseAdventure Summer Warm Up. For more MouseAdventure fun, join us for our Inaugural MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World on November 14th, or for our MouseAdventure Holiday: Reindeer Games at the Disneyland Resort on December 12. Registration is still open for both events.

Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link).

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!

Register For MouseAdventure Epcot: World Explorers!

Registration is now open for MouseAdventure Holiday: Reindeer Games
Saturday, December 12, 2009 at the Disneyland Resort!

There is still room for your team to join our first-ever holiday edition of our popular MouseAdventure event. This family-friendly format is a great way to enjoy the holiday season at Disneyland, and is perfect for new teams who want to try their skills at MouseAdventure.

Register For MouseAdventure Holiday: Reindeer Games!

Walt Disney World offers new "Free Nights" discount, with some twists

As we noted as rumor in last week's Update and confirmed by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in a blog entry link)later last Monday, Walt Disney World has released a new version of the "Buy-4-Get-3-Free" deal offered earlier this year, for most dates from November 1, 2009 through March 27, 2010. There are three twists to this version, though.

The first twist is that the Buy-4-Get-3 deal is only for stays at moderate resorts and up. If you're staying at a value resort, the deal becomes a Buy-5-Get-2-Free. This cuts the net difference in price between values and moderates by about 40 percent, with comparative sample 7-night vacations in November for a family of four differing by $152. This will help to convince many families "on the bubble" to opt for moderate resorts, thus clearing more availability for those who can only afford value resorts.

The second twist is that you must buy park passes for the length of your stay. No more annual passholders doing the "buy a one-day pass and get the free room nights" trick. If you're staying at a moderate and up, you'll need a four-day pass and at a value you have to buy a five-day pass. This results in the net park pass savings of $9 per person at moderate and higher resorts and $6 per person at values. Of course, if you were hoping to do the one-day purchase if you hold annual passes, it's an extra $146 per person at moderates and up and $149 per person at values.

The third and final twist is that you will not get free days on your dining plan with this deal. You can buy the dining plan with the discount, but you'll have to pay for all seven days. That's $120-$141 per adult and $30-$39 per child (moderate and up) or $80-$94 per adult and $20-$26 per child (value) that you're paying that you didn't have to pay in this spring's offer.

Despite that, it's still a nice discount on the room and park passes for those without annual passes. If you were looking for a reason to add a trip in the next few months, now is the time! The offer is good November 1-20, 2009; December 10-24, 2009; and January 1-March 27, 2010.

These rates must be booked by December 20. The number of rooms available is limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site or by using codes GQA (value resorts) or UJX (moderate resorts and above) if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-1318) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Buzz Lightyear returns to Earth, gets a parade, and launches two NASA contests

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Buzz Lightyear (who returned from space on September 11) was feted in a parade at the Magic Kingdom last Friday, October 2, along with Apollo 11 astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin. The date of the parade just happened to coincide with the theatrical re-release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3-D.

To celebrate his return, Disney and NASA are kicking off a new partnership to create a new online educational outreach game and an online mission patch competition for school kids across the country. The winning patch will be flown into space by NASA. There will also be a NASA competition to give students the opportunity to design an experiment for the astronauts on the International Space Station.

The ISS Student Experiment Competition (link) challenges students in 5th-8th grade to devise experiments to be conducted aboard the space station. The winning 12 experiments will be performed by future station crew members and videotaped for the winning schools. Meanwhile, the online Mission Patch Design Challenge (link) will run from October 2-November 6, with students ages 6-12 getting the opportunity to design a mission patch to commemorate Buzz’s return aboard shuttle Discovery and his accomplishment of being the longest-serving toy in space. The student with the most creative mission patch and 100-word essay will win a trip to Walt Disney World Resort and a VIP tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If you're just looking for something fun to do, NASA and Disney also launched a new online game as part of the Space Ranger Education Series (link).

Disney agrees to support high speed rail compromise

After much contention Disney has agreed to support a compromise on high-speed rail in Central Florida. The project, originally part of an unfunded mandate added to the Florida state constitution in 2000 and repealed in 2004, had been pursued by many as a way to link Tampa and Orlando to boost traffic and decrease travel costs. Disney had only supported one plan for the project, which had Walt Disney World as the only local stop between Orlando International Airport and Tampa. Other local forces wanted the local stop to be at the Orange County Convention Center, a way to improve travel for the many conventioneers attending events at the spacious center, as well as many hotels and businesses along International Drive.

Disney, perhaps deciding that sharing the traffic would be better than no traffic at all, and perhaps seeing the high-speed rail as a way to decrease costs related to the Disney's Magical Express bus service, has agreed to support a compromise that would allow two local stops for the system, which is asking for $2.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for its construction. The plan will have a stop at the Orange County Convention Center, as well as a station on Walt Disney World property that Disney would donate up to 50 acres of land to create. The track would largely run along the median of Interstate 4.

Since the preliminary studies have already been done as part of the original plan, and have been recently updated, Florida could begin work as early as the end of 2010, with completion four years later.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Adventureland gazebo – building and electrical work.
  • Magic Kingdom parade storage – plumbing and electrical work.
  • Epcot Innoventions West Velcro Exhibit – installation of a set wall on existing facility wall, with removable panels if required.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant – replace urinal drain line in restroom.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom hippo barns number 5 & 6 – replacement of hydraulic lines throughout the building.
  • Beach Club Villas – minor wood rot repairs at various locations throughout.
  • Grand Floridian Resort Lynx bus stop – installation of new sign.
  • Grand Floridian Resort – removal and replacement of pool heater gas regulator.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Trinidad South, Trinidad North, Barbados, Jamaica and Martinique quiet pools – removal of old heaters and replacement with new pool heaters.

Quick takes …

…A 16-year-old boy, on vacation from Canada with his family, was found dead just after 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort by a family member. The boy reportedly had a significant existing medical condition which the Orange County Sheriff's Office played a role in his death. There were no signs of foul play, and it is believed that the boy died in his sleep.

…Last Wednesday, the Magic Kingdom and Resort monorail loops shut down for much of the day after an electrical short occurred at the Magic Kingdom station around 10 a.m. The short caused some smoke at the station, resulting in a call to the Reedy Creek Fire Department, which found no evidence of a fire. All monorails on the affected loops were in a station at the time except for a monorail that was just pulling into the Magic Kingdom station, which caused about 25 guests on that monorail to wait about 10 minutes for a tractor to finish pulling the train into the station. The Epcot loop was unaffected, while the Magic Kingdom and Resort loops returned to service later that day.

…Parking prices at Walt Disney World increased again yesterday, with all parking prices going up by two dollars since the last price hike in August 2008. The new prices: Auto, Taxi, Motorcycle, Limo, Shuttle $14; Auto/Trailer, Camper, RV $15; Bus, Tractor-Trailer $18.

…Walt Disney Parks & Resorts has launched its own blog (link) to "be a source of information on our destinations that our Guests can rely on to learn about new attractions, new programs, and experiences that make a Disney vacation so magical. You’ll also find exclusive videos and images, coverage of in-park events and profiles of unique cast members who make magic for our guests everyday." We welcome lead blogger Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, and the rest of his team to the blogosphere to provide the official slant on all of the Disney news. This initiative follows Disney's entry into the Twitter arena earlier this summer with the Disney Parks Twitter account (link) and the even earlier launch of the Disney World Moms Panel (link).

…There's a whole lot more variety to the Disney theme park merchandise that's available online. The online Parks & Resorts store has expanded to include 500 of the most popular items that are available at the parks. Go to the Disney Parks store (link) to check them out.

…Deevy See, the "first lady" of Disney Vacation Club, has gotten her own Web site called "Deevy Packs Her Bags" (link).

…Guests age 10 or older can present their park pass at select merchandise locations in each park from October 5 through November 22 to receive a special card with details on how to get a certificate good for up to $8.00 toward the purchase of one child's movie ticket when they purchase an adult movie ticket to see The Princess and the Frog at participating theaters from December 11-31. The certificate must be activated online prior to use. Card quantities for this promotion are limited, and are limited to one card per adult ticket or annual pass. Participating Walt Disney World Resort locations include:

  • Magic Kingdom Park: The Emporium, Main Street Confectionery, Main Street Cinema, Town Square Exposition Hall, Uptown Jewelers, Cornelius Coot's County Bounty
  • Epcot: Mouse Gear, Gateway Gifts, Epcot Camera Center, World Traveler, Port of Entry, Disney Traders
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Park: Island Mercantile, Outpost, Garden Gate Gifts
  • Disney's Hollywood StudiosTM: Mickey's of Hollywood, Keystone Clothiers, The Darkroom, Celebrity 5&10, LA Prop Warehouse, In Character, Disney Studio Store, Animation Gallery

…The Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek opened last Thursday at the Bonnet Creek Resort, the land-locked non-Disney property located between the Caribbean Beach Resort and I-4. The October 1 debut date not only is the anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, but also the opening of the original Waldorf-Astoria in New York in 1931.

…The Walt Disney World Web site is now listing the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show as closed for Refurbishment Tuesday, May 23 - Saturday, September 12. Since those two dates cannot appear in the same calendar year, we're not quite sure what it means. September 12 was a Saturday in 2009, but May 23 will not be a Tuesday again until 2017 (the last time was in 2006). If anybody has a clue as to what this means, please let us know.

…Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton recently became the new chair of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission Board of Directors.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon is now at 85 percent of capacity, the and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest is at 78 percent. The Half Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge and Family Fun Run 5K are already sold out. Your only shot at getting into the Half Marathon or Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge would be to contact one of Disney's group or charity registration aggregators (link). Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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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. 25 - Nov. 8. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Oct. 11. Race for the Taste 10K and 3K (link).
  • Oct 24. Tower of Terror 13K and 5K (link).
  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 15, 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. 10 - Jan. 3, 2010. Osborne Familiy Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • 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. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Jan. 15-17. UCA National College Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 5-7. National Dance Team Championship (link).
  • Feb. 12-14. UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 19-22. TwirlMania 2010 (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: School & Youth Rec Cheer (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: All-Star Cheer & Dance (link).
  • Mar. 3 - May. 16. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • Mar. 5. Contest of Champions Nationals: Studio Dance (link).
  • Mar. 6-7. Contest of Champions Nationals: School Dance (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).
  • Mar. 12-14. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Apr. 23-25. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Space Mountain – closed April 19 through November 21, 2009 for major 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.


  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed November 30, 2008 through January 13, 2010 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – will close for annual refurbishment on January 14, 2010.


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

Current Discounts & Promotions

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 – July 28
  • August 1 – August 10
  • August 13 – August 16
  • August 18 – August 27
  • August 30 – September 2
  • September 6 – September 16
  • September 18 – September 20
  • September 25 – September 27
  • November 22 – December 1
  • December 11 – December 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 - October 5
  • October 13 - October 18
  • October 23 - October 24
  • October 29 - October 31
  • November 3 - November 7
  • November 12 - November 15
  • December 2 - December 5
  • December 9 - December 10
  • December 26 - December 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 – 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 October 31. 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.