Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for November 16 – November 22, 2009

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

News and Views

Lights of Winter | Fireworks Dessert Parties | Sleigh rides | Golf tourney | Mobile Magic | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Lights of Winter glow away

The popular Lights of Winter are no more. Their demise was announced through the Disney Parks Twitter account Wednesday afternoon with the message, "Note: The Lights of Winter at Epcot has been enjoyed for years. But tech to operate the lights is obsolete, prompting us to retire the lights."

Immediate protests were launched on the Internet and theories of "the real reason" for the retirement circulated wildly. Popular theories included the obvious cost savings angle and the possibility that the lights—which have not been converted to LEDs as the Osborne Lights have—create a big dent in the company's green footprint. Both of those theories, however, seem a bit less likely when you take into account that the arches were seen in an area by Epcot's parking lot.

If Disney had no plans to install the lights this year for either budgetary purposes or environmental reasons, why would they take them out as if it were time to prepare by cleaning them? It's more likely a combination of the earlier reasons plus a new one: It's likely that Disney brought out the lights to clean the trellises and prepare them for installation, then saw that there was some damage that needed to be repaired. If the cost of repair was not within the maintenance budget and/or the the lights would eat into the budgetary savings of the green bulb conversion, a decision could be made to just cancel the installation. Of course, the latter would certainly feed into the obsolete technology referred to in the message.

Either way, the 30,000 lights will not be appearing again for a while.

Space Mountain soft-opened late last week. The first part of the queue is unchanged, with the Star Tunnel music and effects that have been spruced up. The second part shows space stations, arranged by sector. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Does the far right side of Sector Two show a possible future vacation destination? Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The third part of the queue contains many screens of an interactive game for guests waiting in line to play. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The rocket vehicles are more open at the top, with high seat backs. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

You can now buy an on-ride photo from Space Mountain, though it is not integrated into the PhotoPass system.. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

There's an interesting subtle tribute to Horizons as you approach the exit queue. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The wall in the exit queue formerly housing screens showing moving footage of you on the speedramp is currently covered. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The green-screen colored wall opposite the former video wall suggests that the video wall will be used to show you on the speedramp with digitally-added backgrounds behind you. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Fireworks dessert parties in the Magic Kingdom take on a holiday glow

The Wishes Fireworks dessert parties currently being presented at the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station in the Magic Kingdom will have two special events on New Year's Eve. There will be a dinner and dessert party for the 8:30 showing of Holiday Wishes and a second dessert party for the 11:45 showing of Fantasy in the Sky. Among other benefits, the parties provide guaranteed seating on this crowded night in the park, and a guaranteed location to watch the fireworks from.

The dinner and dessert event will run from 6:30 until the end of the fireworks, with check-in beginning at 6:15. It will feature artisan breads, fruit, cheeses, sushi, salads, seared tuna, beef short-ribs and carved pork. There will also be children's choices. Desserts and a toast with a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage are also included. The cost for the party is $139.99 for adults and $69.99 for children ages 3-9.

The dessert-only event starts at 9:50, and again runs through the end of the fireworks. The dessert buffet will feature sweets, beverages and non-alcoholic sparkling beverages to toast the New Year. The cost for this later party is $35.99 for adults and $19.99 for children ages 3-9.

The Disney Dining Plan is not valid for either of these parties, and pre-payment will be required at the time of reservation. The event is expected to sell out quickly, so make your reservation soon by calling the Disney Dining Line, 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).

The standard Wishes Dessert Party is scheduled to run through January 2, then take a break before starting up again toward the end of March, after some minor refurbishments to the dining room.

For more about these parties, be sure to watch for an interview with Brent Basden on a special edition of the MouseStation Podcast scheduled to be published on Thanksgiving Day.

Construction walls and a painted scrim hide construction on Center Street. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The real facade of Mrs. Potts' Cupboard is hidden behind a photorealistic copy on a scrim as its refurbishment continues. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

MouseAdventure thanks!

Thanks to everyone who joined us for MouseAdventure: World Explorers this past weekend at Epcot, and congratulations to our new MouseAdventure Masters team, Simba's Pride!

We'll have a complete wrapup of the event in the coming days.

Sleigh rides to delight guests at Fort Wilderness

You can discover what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground this winter. From November 29 through December 30, Disney is offering 25-minute sleigh rides at the resort. Sleighs are equipped with tires, since real snow is hard to come by in Florida, and are pulled by horses from the resort's Tri-Circle-D Ranch.

Up to four adults or two adults and three small children will fit into the shiny red sleigh. The sleigh is decorated with garland and holiday lights. The rental cost is $60 per sleigh, instead of per-person. Children ages 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Rides depart from the Blacksmith's Shop near Fort Wilderness' Settlement area. To make a reservation, call 407-WDW-PLAY (407-939-7529).

Character greeters in Frontierland show off their newest duds. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Ames, Streelman earn top prizes at Children's Miracle Network Classic

While all eyes were on Davis Love III to defend his title at the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World this past weekend, it was instead Stephen Ames who became the sixth and newest two-time winner of the tournament. Ames also won the tournament in 2007. Ames won this year on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Justin Leonard and George McNeill.

Amazingly, it was the 21st time in the last 28 years that the tournament was decided either by a playoff or a single stroke in regulation. Ames' previous victory was a one-stroke victory in regulation. Ames came from behind to catch Leonard and McNeill with five birdies on his last seven holes of regulation, including one of the final hole.

The trio all finished regulation at 18 strokes below par. Leonard was eliminated on the first playoff hole, and Ames defeated McNeill on the second extra hole. Both playoff holes were won with pars.

The $846,000 won by Ames was actually the second-highest total won over the weekend. Kevin Streelman completed his triumph in the Kodak Challenge on Friday, ensuring his victory with a birdie on the 15th hole. The Challenge, whose winner was determined by the lowest score vs. par over 30 holes throughout the season, was all but Streelman's going in to the tourney, as Streelman came in with a two-stroke lead over his nearest competitors. With his birdie on the par 3 hole, he was officially uncatchable.

The tournament has been played, under many names and in multiple formats, since Walt Disney World opened in 1971.

The America Gardens Theater is being prepared to host the Candlelight Processional in just over a week. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Disney and Verizon roll out Mobile Magic

Walt Disney World has announced the new Mobile Magic application, the first product released in its partnership with Verizon Wireless. The new application provides:

  • Updated attraction wait times and FASTPASS return times for the park they are in
  • Locations of their favorite attractions, characters and restaurants, with GPS-enabled maps
  • Restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks
  • Tips on what’s happening in the parks
  • Trivia games to play against other parks guests.

The application is available for download and purchase for $9.99 for a 180-day subscription. Guests can also text MAGIC to 2777 to purchase the application. Data and text message charges may apply.

For those who are not Verizon Wireless subscribers, you can get a smaller subset of information by visiting the Disney online guide at m.disneyworld.com.

Here's a quick look at the application in action:

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Dumbo – wait time clock package.
  • Epcot Innoventions – Liberty Mutual marquee package.
  • Epcot Innoventions – IBM Smart Planet icon graphics package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Studio Catering Company – installation of sign over the menus at front counter.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – milling and overlayment of the bus entrance lane.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – milling and overlayment of the North bus loop.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – milling and overlayment of the exit road.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House – repair of damper in Rotisserie.
  • Transportation and Ticket Center monorail station – painting of the platforms.
  • Transportation and Ticket Center ferry dock area – fabrication and installation of a new floating dock system.
  • Grand Floridian Resort courtyard pool – replacement of the pool equipment enclosure structure.
  • Contemporary Resort 4th floor – core drilling of a 4" x 4" x 6" deep hole in the floor for electrical outlet installation.
  • Polynesian Resort – capping of existing tiki torch piping.
  • Fort Wilderness Resort Pioneer Hall – remodeling of three trailer units.
  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground – milling and overlayment of the bus entrance/exit road by the kennel.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort commercial building – installation of new roof coatings for metal roof.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort commercial building – pressure washing and painting.


Tile work at the Grand Floridian approaches completion. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quick takes …

…There will be no Osborne Lights showing this coming Sunday, November 22.

…It was announced yesterday that Toy Story Midway Mania has become Disney's 10th winner of the Themed Entertainment Association's Best Attraction THEA award.

…The giant gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian opened to the public on Monday. We'll have more about the house with Grand Floridian Executive Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek on next Tuesday's MouseStation Podcast.

The pastry team finishes up work on the Grand Floridian's giant gingerbread house last Friday. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

…Disney has rolled out no-touch hand sanitizer dispensers at all theme park entrances, resorts and many other high-traffic locations. Just stick your hand underneath the machine and it will dispense a small amount of sanitizer into your hand.

…Princess Tiana's new meet-and-greet location behind the buildings in Liberty Square has relocated the former smoking area to the river walk across from the Frontierland shops.

The meet 'n' greet location for Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen has displaced a smoking area. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

…Coming soon to a theme park near you: Vinylmation trading. For more about Vinylmation and pin trading, we'll have a conversation with Steven Miller on the December 3 episode of the MouseStation podcast.

…If you're an annual passholder, don't forget the second annual holiday passholder sale from 6:30-9:30 a.m. at the World of Disney, with possible savings of over 50 percent!

…Walt Disney World has introduced newly-redesigned costumes for the Fanfare Trumpeteers and Spectromen in the nighttime SpectroMagic parade. The new costumes feature environmentally friendly features, while also being cost-effective. The clothing is shared between all characters in the effected units, and allow fast pre-parade replacements of failing components.

The new costumes for the Spectromen and Fanfare Trumpeteers are modular, allowing staff to change just the part that has a problem. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Many still say that the Spectromen and Fanfare Trumpeteers still look like scary clowns. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

…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, several of our volunteers hosts said they want to start coordinating their local events. To help facilitate these activities, we've created a new MousePlanet Volunteers section of our MousePad discussion board devoted entirely to the Year to Volunteer events.

If you would like to coordinate and host a group volunteer event in your area, please visit our MousePad discussion board for more information on how to list your event (link). 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.

Hosts from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Southern Utah, Southern Nevada and Southern Arizona have already started discussions for their area, and are looking for local readers to join their activities. If you live in one of these areas and want more information about local events, please visit MousePad and join the discussion (link).

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon is now at 94 percent of capacity. The Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Disney/Pixar UP & Away Family Fun Run 5K and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest 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

  • 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 Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • 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).
  • Jun. 12. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 1-2. Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Space Mountain – closed through November 21, 2009 for major refurbishment.
  • Donald's Boat – closed November 19, 2009 for refurbishment.
  • Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – closed November 22, 2009 for a private party..
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – closed December 6-19, 2009 for refurbishment.
  • Crystal Palace Restaurant – closed for refurbishment January 3 through February 15, 2010.
  • Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 3 through February 27, 2010.


  • 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 through January 9, 2010 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed January 10, 2010 through March 20, 2010 for annual refurbishment.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. There will be no performance 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.

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

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).

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 December 20. 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 offers "Kids Sail Free" deal

Now is a great time for families to book a Disney cruise, as the Disney Cruise Line has announced a "Kids Sail Free" promotion for most 3- and 4-night Bahamian sailings from January 7 through through April 15, 2010 and 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings from April 24 through May 26, 2010.

Children age 17 and under can sail free when traveling with two full-fare guests in the same stateroom, though government taxes and fees must still be paid for the kids. The offer applies to stateroom categories 4 through 12 and the number of stateroom categories are limited. Other special offers, discounts or onboard credits to not apply, though additional terms and conditions may apply.

Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), via the Disney Cruise Line Reservations phone line (800-951-3532) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link). You must use booking code KFO to receive this deal.

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