Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for March 8, 2010 – March 14, 2010

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

News and Views

Downtown Disney | Fantasyland Forest | Give a Day, Get a Disney Day ending | Princess Half Marathon | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Downtown Disney adds new stores, restaurant, and upgraded theater

This spring will see two new stores, a new restaurant, and an upgraded theater at Downtown Disney.

Two stores recently added to the Disneyland Resort's Downtown Disney are coming to Florida. Ridemakerz—a store where you can customize your own radio-controlled car with over 649 possible combinations—opens March 25 on the West Side. D Street, an urban-inspired store similar to Tren-D, will open on the West Side in April and feature apparel, novelties, Vinylmation figures, artwork, accessories and more.

Meanwhile, as we noted earlier, Pollo Campero opens this fall on the site of the current McDonald's at the Marketplace, and will feature chicken, salads, sandwiches, and wraps. The location will also have sugar-free, gluten-free, low sodium and organic options for those with special diets.

These options—in addition to Little Miss Matched, Paradiso 37, Tren-D and Design-A-Tee—show Walt Disney World's support for the "additional shopping and dining experiences" that Disney stated were desired by guests as an explanation for why Pleasure Island was closed. The only problem with this is that—with the exception of Paradiso 37—none of these venues were built on Pleasure Island. Whether the former night-time hotspot ever again becomes filled by locations attractive to resort guests remains in question, but one hopes that Disney will eventually put something there to fill the empty former nightclubs.

Meanwhile, the AMC Pleasure Island 24 multiplex has converted one of its theaters into one of the first "Enhanced Theater Experience" (ETX) locations in the U.S. The theater has a floor-to-ceiling screen that is 20 percent larger than their standard screens, and incorporates 3-D technology; 12-channel, 50,000-watt audio and digital projection that is higher resolution than HD. The theater opened to the public last Friday for the opening of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The theater carries a $2 surcharge for standard movies, with a $4 surcharge for 3-D movies.

Ground broken for Fantasyland Forest

Ground has been broken for the Fantasyland Forest expansion in the Magic Kingdom is an area that is currently inaccessible to guests. While there have been blueprints, concept art and model photos released, attendees at Friday night's D23 special event in the Magic Kingdom were told that many decisions had still not been made. So yes, while the most recent edition of D23 Magazine stated that Goofy's Barnstormer would have a clown theme following the makeover, attendees were told that there was "no decision yet" on the theming of the attraction.

Another bit of news dropped at the event was that a decision had been made that Mickey and Minnie's houses "will not be eliminated." Since every blueprint, piece of concept art and model photo has shown no hint of any location for their houses, it is unknown whether their current houses will somehow be left alone or if there will be new abodes constructed for them somewhere within the new land.

While Mickey's Toontown Fair has not yet closed, it is expected soon. However, it was said that there will be "ample notice" given before the land closes.

Charities prepare to end Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program

The following was reported by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in the Disneyland Update.

During a huge "Celebrate Volunteers" event at Walt Disney World last month, Disney Parks and Resorts announced that over 600,000 people had volunteered or signed up to volunteer during the first six weeks of the “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” program, Disney's 2010 marketing campaign that had the stated goal of encouraging one million people to participate in volunteer events in their community. That number has now reportedly climbed over 700,000, and MousePlanet reader Sharon Flummerfelt alerted us last week that the program might be ending even earlier than many expected.

Late Wednesday night the HandsOn Network sent an e-mail to volunteer organizations who are participating in the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program, advising those groups that "the Give A Day. Get A Disney Day program is forecasted to come to a close very shortly." After MousePlanet contacted the Disneyland Resort for comment, the Resort issued a statement that read "We are close to our goal of inspiring one million people to make a difference by volunteering. This spirit of volunteerism is making a significant impact in communities across the country." A spokesperson would not confirm that the program will conclude once the million-volunteer goal is reached, and could not comment on how many vouchers have been redeemed.

The HandsOn Network e-mail list specific steps that organizations need to take to "wind down" the program, and includes several points of interest to potential volunteers. To summarize:

  • No new applications will be accepted from organizations wanting to participate in the program.
  • All flexible schedule volunteer opportunities were removed from the search database on March 5.
  • Organizations can now post only date- and time-specific opportunities - no "to be arranged" opportunities may be listed.
  • Once Disney reaches its one-million ticket goal, the program ends and organizations will no longer be able to post new volunteer opportunities of any kind for the program.
  • Only volunteers who have completed the registration and signed up for a specific date and time to volunteer before the program ends will get their vouchers for a Disney theme park ticket once their service has been verified.

This announcement came as a surprise to many of the participating organizations, who had just two days notice about the changes to the program. The HandsOn Network maintains a discussion board where volunteer organizations can ask HandsOn Network representatives for help with the program (link), and the recent postings show that many groups are confused and upset by news. Several members worry that their organizations will be unable to attract as many volunteers for events scheduled later in the year, and complain that the program unfairly favored winter and spring events. Since groups can only post events 60 days in advance, organizations who had planned summer beach clean-ups and fall festivals will likely be unable to list their events before the million-volunteer mark is reached.

The early end to the program also presents a challenge for Disney Parks and Resorts, which now gets to deal with having this year's national marketing campaign cut short. (A source speculates that Disney decided NOT to call the 2010 program "the year to volunteer," fearing they would have to scramble to find a way continue the program without giving out any more tickets if the promotion was more popular than expected. If so, whomever was responsible for that decision is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief right now). Disney will likely continue those in-park promotions which recognize and "celebrate" people who are redeeming their volunteer certificates, but return to the "What Will You Celebrate" marketing theme for national advertising. Expect "Summer Nightastic!" and "World of Color" campaigns to dominate local advertising for Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and potentially even an early roll-out of Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary celebration.

The pending end of the program has left many current and potential volunteers confused about their status, so here is a bit of information that may help answer your questions and hopefully alleviate your concerns. First, the basics: While Disney has said that the goal is to inspired one million people to volunteer, information we've received from local charities indicates that Disney is basing that count on the number of people who have registered through the Disney Web site for projects, not the number who actually completed the projects. These groups expect that Disney will "end" the program (close it to new volunteers) once one million people have registered for events.

I've already completed my volunteer service and received my voucher:

  • If you have already completed your volunteer service and have received your confirmation and voucher, you are already "counted." Your voucher is still valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).

I've already completed my volunteer service but have not received my voucher:

  • If you registered through the Disney Web site and have already completed your volunteer service, you have already been counted, and your voucher should be issued within two weeks of your event. Once received, your voucher is still valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).
  • If it's been more than two weeks since you completed your service, the Disney Web site provides the following advice: "If you have not received any communication or seen the status of your volunteer activity change after 2 weeks, please contact the Guest Support Team for assistance. Please keep in mind that if you signed up for the program as part of a household, verification emails are sent to the lead volunteer."

I've already signed up, but I haven't completed my volunteer service:

  • If you have already registered through the Disney Web site for a date-and-time specific opportunity, you have already been "counted." You will receive a voucher once your service is completed and has been verified by the sponsoring organization, EVEN IF Disney announces an "end" to the program before your event date. Once issued, your voucher will still be valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).
  • If you contacted a participating organization through the Disney Web site to schedule a volunteer opportunity and received an e-mail from the HandsOn Network with a link to sign up, you can still use the link contained in that e-mail to register for your selected opportunity until the program ends. You are not "counted" until you complete that registration process. If you have lost that e-mail, you will need to contact the organization directly for assistance. If you can no longer volunteer for that specific opportunity, you may be able to reschedule for another opportunity with the same organization before the program ends - again, contact them directly for assistance.
  • If you contacted a participating organization through the Disney Web site to schedule a volunteer opportunity but never received a reply, you have NOT been "counted." You can either contact the organization again, or register for another opportunity in your area before the program ends to be eligible.

I haven't signed up yet:

  • If you haven't already scheduled your volunteer service, this is the time to do it. The HandsOn Network site currently lists opportunities for the next 60 days, so be sure to get registered before the program ends. You must make sure that you properly register for your chosen event through the Disney Web site (link). If you just show up at an event without pre-registration, the group can not confirm your participation and you will not receive a voucher.

Kelly wins Princess Half Marathon

Gina Aalgaard Kelly finished first out of over 13,000 runners in the second annual Disney's Princess Half Marathon yesterday, completing the 13.1 mile course in 1:23:58. Kelly, 33, of Lisbon, North Dakota, finished almost a half-minute ahead of Heather Schulz, 35, of Orlando, and Nicole Falvo, 35, of Grand Blanc, Michigan, who finished in 1:24:21 and 1:24:25.

Combined with The Princess and The Frog Royal Family 5K and Disney's Kids Races, more than 18,000 runners participated in events over the weekend. Over 400 men participated in the weekend's events in honor of the women in their lives.

Congratulations to all who competed! Registration for next year's event opens this summer (link).

A personal appeal, for the fifth year

On April 25, I will once again be walking to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Over the last four years, largely through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, we have managed to raise over $15,000. This year, let's do something special. My personal goal is to raise $5,000 this year. But you can help in ways other than donating to my walk. This year, for the first time, you can walk with me. Even if you aren't in the Albany, NY area, you can virtually walk with me by joining Team MousePlanet and walking at the March for Babies in your own area. For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate to my walk, please go to my fundraising page (link). To sign up to join Team MousePlanet, please go to the team page (link). Join me and help be a part of saving babies! Let's show how big a heart MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners have!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom main entrance guest relations/stroller rental building – replacement of existing HVAC ductwork.
  • Epcot – Future World restroom signs package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Sci Fi Dine In Restaurant – mechanical work.
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Narcoossee's – removal and replacement of equipment.
  • Polynesian Resort 'Ohana – installation of equipment.
  • Boardwalk Resort – replace boards on Seabreeze Point deck.

Quick takes …

…If you're traveling the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney's Animal Kingdom, you just may see the most recent addition to the family of endangered western lowland gorillas. Lilly, born on February 19 to mother Kashata and father Gino, was named after the late Dr. Alecia Lilly, former senior scientist and vice president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Mother and daughter are doing well, and Lilly has already become an integral part of the family group. the primate team at the park has noted that, despite the fact that first-time gorilla mothers often experience difficulty in knowing how to properly care for their babies, Kashata appears to have taken to the new role quickly and instinctively. Lilly is the third gorilla born at the park as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan which manages genetic diversity among species through detailed records of individual animals.

…The Animal Programs team at The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion released one manatee and took in another recently. Kringle was released back into the wild last month after receiving treatment and therapy. Bock, who was released last year, is doing well and has had his satellite tracking belt removed. Meanwhile, Jasper has been taken in for rehabilitation, and can be seen at the Seas pavilion along with Lou, the other resident manatee. The program continues to successfully rehabilitate the endangered mammals.

…This year's Disney Pin Celebration will take place August 27-29 at Epcot's World Showplace and be themed to "Trade City, U.S.A." The event will be themed to the 10th anniversary "Founders Day" celebration for Trade City, U.S.A., a town in Trading Valley. As always, the Pin Celebration will feature trading activities, opportunities to purchase specially designed pins and to meet other Disney pin traders and collectors from around the world. Registration opens on March 31 at DisneyPins.com (link).

…Guests aboard the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder with a desire for beer in their stateroom can now purchase beer package amenities for delivery to their stateroom upon embarkation. These packages are available on Bahamian, Caribbean, Transatlantic, Mediterranean and Northern European sailings. Each package contains a six-pack of beer that will cost either $18.75 (Miller Lite, Budweiser or Coors) or $22.50 (Boddington Ale, Corona, Guinness or Heineken), and will have a 15 percent gratuity added to the cost.

…Walt Disney World has expanded its relationship with sponsor Siemens AG to include subsidiary Siemens Water Technologies. The companies have signed a 10-year agreement for Disney to use Siemens disinfection and onsite service to resort pools, fountains and theme parks. The agreement, signed in January, provides for more than 50 OSEC electro-chlorination systems to ensure continued pool and fountain water quality at 165 locations.

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The Year to Volunteer

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).


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

  • March 3 – May 16: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • March 12–14: UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • April 23–25: USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • April 23, 24, 30, May 1. Grad Nite (link).
  • May 21–June 13: Star Wars Weekends (link).
  • June 12: Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • October 1–2: Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Tinker Bell’s Fairy Treasures – closed for remodeling to include a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique PhotoPass location.
  • Cinderella Castle – facade refurbishment through March 31.


  • Cantina de San Angel – closed for major renovation in January for an undetermined period of time. Taqueria Del Lago will remain open.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Studio Catering Company – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment through March 27.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Wilderness Lodge Silver Creek Springs pool slide – closed for refurbishment through March 31, 2010. Guests may use the Silver Creek Springs Pool and the Hidden Springs Pool, as well as the pool and slide at Disney's Contemporary Resort, during the refurbishment.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed through March 20, 2010 for refurbishment.


  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney Marketplace – closed through March 5 for refurbishment.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

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 gift-card-with-stay vacation package offer

Walt Disney World has announced an offer that will give you a free Disney Gift Card select vacation packages. The offer is good on vacation packages of five days or longer, and the size of the gift card varies depending on the resort category at which you are staying.

Stays at at Value resorts get you a free $300 gift card per room (essentially $60 per night), Moderate resorts qualify for a $500 gift card per room ($100 per night) and Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts qualify for $750 per room ($150 per night). Obviously, the per-night average decreases for longer stays.

The deal is good for stays through June 3, 2010, with blackout periods depending on resort category, and can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. The eligible nights are:

  • Value resorts – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3
  • Moderate resorts –  Now through March 27, April 11-June 3
  • Deluxe ande Deluxe Villas resorts – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3

The gift cards can be used for merchandise, recreation, dining, special event tickets, sports, recreation, tours and more at participating locations throughout Walt Disney World.

The number of rooms available at these rates are limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code QGX if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7607) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Save big with room-only discount rates

You can save 25 to 45 percent off your room rates for stays from now through late summer. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel, the length of your stay, and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from now through August 14 (except for March 28 to April 10, you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts: 25 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 30 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 40 percent off.

For stays of five or more nights from now through June 3 (except for March 28 to April 10, the discount is five percentage points higher:

  • Value resorts: 30 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 40 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 45 percent off.

The deal can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. The number of rooms available at these rates are limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code QNY if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7607) 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 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) and Small World Vacations (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.