Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for October 18 – October 24, 2010
Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions
Guest assault on bus driver captured on video | Wild Africa Trek available for booking | Interesting question raised as more Star Tours 2.0 details revealed | One last set of changes and Candlelight narrator schedule now complete | Walt Disney World announces new 2011-12 Ambassador Team | Unions vote down contract proposal | Mother of boy killed in accident files wrongful death suit | Construction update | Quick takes
An angry guest apparently assaulted a Disney bus driver last Tuesday night in an incident caught on video and posted to the Internet. The confrontation, which took place at a bus stop at Disney's Hollywood Studios, apparently took place after the driver informed the guest that he and his family would not fit on the bus and would have to wait for the next bus.
The video shows the man pushing the bus driver, and briefly putting his hands around the driver's neck. According to comments accompanying the video on YouTube, by the time the camcorder started rolling, the most intense part of the fight had already occurred:
"[T]his is what happened: a man and his wife with her baby were waiting for the bus. [T]here wasn't enough room on the bus so the bus driver told them he would call another one. [T]he man was enraged and threw the baby at the bus driver. [T]he woman got her baby and moved back away from them."
It was after this point that the video shows the incident, with those in the crowd calling for security. After the men were separated, the man can be heard telling the gathered crowd, "We were the first ones here and everybody pushed on from the back, and we were in the back!"
Watch the recorded confrontation was posted on YouTube.
After a security guard arrives, the bus driver can be heard starting to explain that the man here tried to force his way, at which point the man cuts off the driver, stating, "He seen me here. I was waiting here in the first, and he tried to block me. He let everyone passing through get on board before us."
The bus driver starts to explain that he pulled up and the man and his wife had a stroller when the man interrupts again saying "We have a baby, you know. We're supposed to get the priority." The driver then left the bus with the security guard to talk and—while he returned to the front of the bus—he did not return to the bus by the end of the video.
The bus driver has been placed on paid leave while the incident is reviewed. Neither man contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Office to press charges.
The bus route, which runs from Disney's Hollywood Studios to Epcot, runs after park closing on nights when Epcot has already closed for the night and there is no way to get back to cars parked in the Epcot parking lot from the Studios. Many guests arrive at Epcot and later "park hop" to the Studios park through the International Gateway exit via the Friendship boat service. On Tuesday night, both parks closed at 9 p.m., so guests leaving the Studios would not be able to reenter Epcot to walk through to their car.
One possible explanation would be that the couple's stroller was not folded and the bus driver rightfully did not allow them aboard with the stroller open. With a large crowd waiting, it's a common procedure to let other guests on while parents fold strollers. This could have allowed the bus to fill before they were able to fold the stroller, resulting in them not being able to board the bus. Bus drivers can not proceed if there are passengers forward of the white line painted on the floor at the front of the bus. If the bus was at capacity, he would have prevented them from boarding. The bus driver would have then called for an additional bus to handle the overflow crowd and asked the remaining guests to wait for the next bus. The man, hot and tired at the end of the day, likely took the Friendship to the Studios and was possibly unaware of the requirement to fold strollers before boarding the bus.
[Editorial: Regardless of the circumstances, assaulting a bus driver is never a good idea, and putting a baby in jeopardy by throwing or pushing it at another person is just plain wrong. If you're in the parks, please remember that bus drivers are people too, and that their job includes ensuring your safety. Keep your cool and you will eventually get to your destination, even if it takes an extra 10 or 15 minutes.]
You can now book the Wild Africa Trek experience at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The tour, which will first be offered on January 16, 2011, is a three-hour expert-led adventure through areas previously off-limits to guests, and will provide guests with close encounters with animals on the African savannas that are part of the Kilimanjaros Safaris and Pangani Forest Exploration Trail attractions.
Among other adventures, guests will be clipped into a harness attached to a safety line that will allow them to cross a "precarious" rope bridge over a river and try "cliff-hanging" at the edge of hippo and crocodile enclosures. Guests will travel on foot through fern and vine forest bushwalks and on custom open-air safari vehicles across the savanna. At the end of the adventure, guests will sample African food at an elevated private safari camp.
This tour also provides the lowest minimum age for tours at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as guests ages 9 and up may participate on this new adventure.
Groups of up to 12 guests will depart daily at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. and 12, 1 and 2 p.m. The pricing for the Wild Africa Trek will vary seasonally, but those booking their adventures for January 16 through February 26, 2011 will get a special introductory offer starting at $129 per person, plus tax. Park admission is not included in the price of this tour.
To book your Wild Africa Trek, call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687).
This week on the Disney Parks Blog (link), Walt Disney Imagineering Executive VP & Senior Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald wrote about some filming done back in April 2009 with Anthony Daniels, better known as the voice and the man in the suit for C-3PO, the golden droid from the Star Wars movies. Daniels was very excited to be back in the gold suit again, and to be part of the latest reimagining of the attraction.
The production team built a full-size replica of a portion of the attraction's new Starspeeder 1000 vehicle to film the scene. From the photos, it appears that C-3PO will be checking in with the pilot of the vehicle prior to takeoff.
One point that has not yet been covered, yet seems quite interesting, comes from this week's construction permits for the attraction. In addition to permits for the electrical package, showset package and audio/visual package, there's a permit for "video capture equipment racks." Hmmm…. Wonder what that could be for?
With John O'Hurley taking the Monday-Wednesday slot after Thanksgiving and Susan Lucci replacing Ed Asner, the schedule of narrators for this year's Candlelight Processional at Epcot has finally settled out. Earlier, Corbin Bernsen replaced the recently-added Frank Langella. The reading of the Biblical Christmas Story by a celebrity narrator, backed by a 50-piece orchestra and a 400-voice massed choir is an extremely popular event, with lines forming well in advance of each performance. Of course, as always, the schedule is still subject to change. Here's the schedule as it currently stands:
- November 26–28: Isabella Rossellini
- November 29 to December 1: John O'Hurley
- December 2–4: Corbin Bernsen
- December 5–6: Susan Lucci
- December 7–9: Jodi Benson
- December 10–11: Whoopi Goldberg
- December 12–15: Steven Curtis Chapman
- December 16–18: Thomas Gibson
- December 19–21: Trace Adkins
- December 22–23: Brad Garrett
- December 24–27: Edward James Olmos
- December 28–30: Marlee Matlin/Jack Jason
Performances are held three times nightly (at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15), running the night after Thanksgiving through the night before New Year's Eve at the American Gardens Theatre across from The American Adventure.
Last Friday at a ceremony in front of Cinderella Castle, the next two Walt Disney World Ambassadors were selected from a number of qualified Cast Member candidates. The new ambassadors come from different roles in different parks, though each has a varied background at the resort. Norman Vossschulte has most recently been performing as a Jedi Master at the Jedi Training Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios. He started at Disney in 2008 as a safari driver at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and he has also served on the Guest Relations team at Epcot. Jennifer Mason currently oversees the Magic Kingdom Custodial team. She started at Disney as a member of Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998, and has also served as leader for Operations teams at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Vossschulte and Mason will undergo two months of training before their term begins on January 1, 2011. They will serve as ambassadors through December 31, 2012.
Ambassadors have been part of Disney Parks since 1964 when, overwhelmed by requests for public appearances related to the upcoming 10th anniversary of Disneyland, Walt Disney selected Julie Riehm as the first-ever Disneyland Ambassador, serving for the year 1965. Vossschulte and Mason will be the second team of Walt Disney World Ambassadors to get a two-year term to represent the entire cast of the resort at hospital visits, community outreach events, press events and internal cast member recognition ceremonies. They succeed the first two Ambassadors to serve a two-year term, Vanessa Rosas and Clay Shoemaker.
“Our Walt Disney World Ambassadors represent our resort, their fellow cast members, and the heritage, tradition and values of Walt Disney. It is a role filled with great significance… and great responsibilities,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “Those chosen as Ambassadors are truly talented individuals who represent Disney Cast Members with purpose and grace, and bring the magic of Walt Disney World to the world at large.”
Last Thursday, the members of the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) voted down what Walt Disney World says is its best offer. According to the STCU Web site, Disney and STCU have signed a contract extension, and the union will request additional negotiation sessions. STCU, an alliance of six labor unions, is the largest labor group at Walt Disney World, representing approximately 20,000 full-time employees and thousands more part-time workers. The contract that was voted down Thursday was for full-time staff only.
Disney claims that the contract offered "competitive wage increases and affordable health care" for all workers, while some of the STCU member unions claim that the raises are not uniform across the board and that the wage increases don't cover the cost increases to their health plans. Two of the STCU's member unions, SEIU Local 737 and IATSE Local 631, had come out in favor of the contract. Three more, UNITE HERE Local 362, Teamsters Local 385 and UFCW Local 1625, were against the contract. The sixth, TCIU Local 1908, remained neutral.
Disney's offer contained a minimum increase of 3 percent for all employees not already at the top of their pay scale, with raises up to 4 percent for some job titles that have proven harder to fill.
Vote totals released by UNITE HERE Local 362 and UFCW Local 1625 showed 86 and 93 percent of those unions voted against the contract, respectively. It is not unusual for Disney's first offer to be voted down by the STCU, and often the second contract is voted down as well, which is why Disney had been offering a $100 bonus to all employees if the contract was approved on the first try.
The mother of a 9-year-old boy killed in an accident at Fort Wilderness in April has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Disney Parks & Resorts and the driver of the Disney bus that hit him. Chase Brubaker died after he swerved his bicycle into the side of a passing Disney bus and was run over by its rear tire. Brubaker had been driving along the sidewalk in the same direction as the bus when he lost control of the bike and crossed a grassy strip into the roadway.
An 11-year-old friend who was riding with Brubaker just before the accident, had told authorities that Brubaker's bicycle had a flat tire and crooked handlebars. The friend was in front of Brubaker and did not see him fall.
The lawsuit blames the bus system and the sidewalk conditions for Brubaker's death, and claims that "contact between a pedestrian and a bus or vehicle was reasonably foreseeable to occur and therefore cause serious injury or death to the pedestrian.” It further claims that the death resulted from the sidewalk being located too close to the road, improper maintenance of the bus and inadequate breaks throughout the day for the bus driver.
The lawsuit will have an uphill battle, as the official Florida Highway Patrol report cited the description provided by Brubaker's friend and declared that the accident was due to the boy's bike being in "unsafe condition."
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $15,000.
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
- Magic Kingdom Adventureland bridge – construction work.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours II – video capture equipment racks.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours II – electrical package.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours II – showset package.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours II – audio/visual package.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Backlot Tour – Catastrophe Canyon ladder replacement.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom – Imagineering character plaster studio facility package, Phase III.
- Contemporary Resort South Garden Wing – roofing work.
- Wilderness Lodge spa collector tanks – mechanical work.
- Fort Wilderness Bus Stop – sign installation.
- Treehouse Villa Bus Stop – sign installation.
- Yacht Club Bakery mechanical & chiller room – mechanical work.
…At this past weekend's D23 Sip & Stroll event, D23 head Steven Clark announced the dates for D23's Great Disney Scavenger Hunt (link) and Destination D: Walt Disney World (link). The Scavenger Hunt will take place May 12 & 13, and Destination D will be May 14 & 15 at the Contemporary Resort. No further information is available at this time, but watch the D23 Web site and the Walt Disney World Resort Update here at MousePlanet for more information.
…Duffy the Disney Bear made his debut at Epcot last Thursday at noon. His new meet-and-greet location is across from Disney Traders, which has swapped out its old merchandise mix to become the source for everything Duffy. Duffy merchandise is available elsewhere at Walt Disney World, including the other theme parks, but the walk-around Duffy will only appear at Epcot for now. If you'd like to meet the relaunched Disney character, he'll be in his gazebo from 12-2 p.m. and 3:40-7 p.m. daily, with intermittent break times.
…Effective November 23, the Mickey's Magical Milestone tour in the Magic Kingdom will no longer be offered.
…Although it's not on the official refurbishment schedule on Disney's Web site, we're hearing from multiple sources that Kali River Rapids will be closed for refurbishment from January 3–29, 2011. Please plan accordingly.
…Show times for "Disney Channel Rocks!" (which premieres on Friday at Disney's Hollywood Studios) are at 10 and 11 a.m., 12, 1, 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. in front of the Sorcerer Hat.
…JoJo and Goliath (from JoJo's Circus) have been replaced by Special Agent OSO at the Playhouse Disney Play 'n Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
…The next annual trading event at Walt Disney World has been announced, and it will honor the 40th birthday of the resort. The Florida Project, which will take place September 9–11, 2011 at Epcot's World Showplace, will feature pins, Vinylmation and other collectibles that will evoke the styles of Walt Disney World at its opening. The backstory of the event is that an alternate, unused Preview Center for the resort has been discovered, and the event takes place at that mythical center. More information will be unveiled in the coming months, but for a first preview you can check out the post on the Disney Parks Blog by Manager of Disney Trading Steven Miller (link).
…Disney Parks & Resorts has renewed its deal with Alamo Rent A Car, continuing Alamo's designation as the official rental care company of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Alamo will continue to maintain its locations at the Disney Car Care Center near the Magic Kingdom and at Downtown Disney at Disneyland.
…Last Tuesday, Walt Disney World received a new giraffe from the Virginia Zoo. One-year-old Willow will join a herd of seven young Masai giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. That herd will eventually be released to the savanna of Kilimanjaro Safaris and serve as new breeding stock. Giraffes and other animals are often moved from zoo to zoo under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in order to provide genetic diversity in breeding stock to ensure the long-range survivability of the species in captivity.
…The Disney Cruise Line continues to rack up the awards. First, readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine voted DCL the Top Family-Friendly Large-Ship Cruise Line in the 2010 World's Best Awards poll. Then, DCL came out on top of the 2010 Readers' Choice Awards at Condé Nast Traveler magazine in the Mega-Ship category. Disney Cruise Line has received over 50 different awards since launching in 1998, but this is the first time it has won the Condé Nast Traveler award.
…There are only two weeks left to submit nominations for the 2011 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine. High school students ages 13–19 who are legal residents of the contiguous 48 United States must be nominated by October 31. Students can be nominated by relatives, friends, teachers, mentors and themselves at the Disney's Dreamers Academy website (link).
…The 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon is 76 percent full, the Half Marathon is 84 percent full, Goofy's Race-and-a-Half Challenge is 80 percent full, Buzz & Woody's Best Friends 5K is 77 percent full, and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest is 61 percent full. If you’re interested in participating in these races, now’s the time to sign up! You can register at the official Walt Disney World Marathon web site (link).
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- September 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, and 30, October 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31, and November 1: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (link).
- October 1 to November 14: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- November 8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 28, and 30, December 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (link).
- November 11–14: Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
- November 12–14: Festival of the Masters (link).
- November 25–28: Old Spice Classic (link).
- December 4–11: Pop Warner Football Championships (link).
- January 6–9, 2011: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (link).
- January 14–17, 2011: UCA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship (link).
- February 11–15, 2011: UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
- February 25–27, 2011: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon (link).
- March 1–31, 2011: Atlanta Braves Spring Training (link).
- March 2 to May 15, 2011: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
- March 3–6, 2011: ESPN The Weekend (link).
- March 12–13, 2011: UCA National All-Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
- April 28 to May 2, 2011: USASF Cheerleading and Dance Worlds (link).
- April 29, 30, May 6, 7: Grad Nites (link).
- Ariel's Grotto – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
- Pooh's Playful Spot – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
- Scuttle's Landing – closed permanently to make way for the Fantasyland Forest makeover.
- it's a small world – closed for refurbishment to October 22.
- Storytime with Belle – closed, to be replaced with a new “play and greet” with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled starting October 15.
- The Mad Tea Party – closed for refurbishment to November 10.
- Pooh's Thotful Shop – closed for refurbishment October 25 to November 7.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – closed for refurbishment October 25 to November 14.
- Mickey's Magical Milestones Tour – discontinued, effective November 23.
- Astro Orbiter – closed for refurbishment December 5–9.
- Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 3–31, 2011.
- No known scheduled closures.
- Star Tours – closed for refurbishment September 8, 2010 through May 16, 2011.
- One Man's Dream – closed for refurbishment through November 2.
- "High School Musical 3: Senior Year – Right Here! Right Now!" – final performance October 2; "Disney Channel Rocks!" begins performances October 22.
- Block Party Bash Parade – final performance January 1; Pixar Pals Cavalcade begins performances January 16, 2011.
- Kali River Rapids – closed for refurbishment January 3–29, 2011.
- Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment January 17 through April 5, 2011.
- BoardWalk Resort – Kouzzina by Cat Cora closed for refurbishment November 29 to December 14.
- Saratoga Springs Resort – Paddock quiet pool closed for conversion to new feature pool opening in 2011.
- 'Ohana – closed from January 17–20, 2011, re-opens for dinner on January 20, 2011.
- Yacht & Beach Club Resorts – The main slide and kiddie slide at Stormalong Bay are closed from January 3 through mid-February, 2011. Guests that wish to use have a pool slide as part of their resort pool experience can use the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort.
- BoardWalk Resort – the Keister Coaster slide at the Luna Park pool will be closed from February 7 through mid-March, 2011. Guests that wish to use have a pool slide as part of their resort pool experience can use the Stormalong Bay pool at the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.
- Typhoon Lagoon – closed October 31, 2010 through January 8, 2011 for refurbishment.
- Blizzard Beach – closed January 9, 2011 through March 19, 2011 for refurbishment.
- Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
- McDonald's at Downtown Disney – closed permanently; the location is being converted to Pollo Campero, opening this fall.
Free dining through September 29, 2011
Free dining is back, with the same split-level implementation as has been the case recently. Those staying at value resorts will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, while those in moderate, deluxe and deluxe villa accommodations will get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. Free dining is available on select dates from this October through next September:
- October 1–7
- October 22–28
- November 12–18
- November 27 to December 2
- December 10–21
- January 1–5
- January 9–13
- January 21 to February 3
- February 11–17
- February 25 to March 3
- May 27 to June 2
- August 19 to September 29
You must book free dining by December 20. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7926, or your travel agent and using booking code NL7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Room only discounts through February 16, 2011
Room-only reservation discounts are available for selected nights from October through mid-February. Guests receive discounts of 25 percent at value resorts, 30 percent at moderates, 25–40 percent at deluxes (varies by resort) and 40 percent at deluxe villa resorts. Discounts are available:
- October 3 to November 23
- November 27 to December 25
- January 1 to February 16
You must book this discount by November 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7926, or your travel agent and using booking code AK9 for 2010 reservations and MM2 for 2011 reservations. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Free Disney Gift Cards through February 16, 2011
If you book a room-and-ticket package and would prefer a Disney Gift Card to free dining or a room discount, you can get a $500 gift card for stays of 5 or more nights at deluxe or deluxe villa resorts, $300 for moderate resorts or $200 for value resorts on a non-discounted Magic Your Way room and ticket package. This offer is valid for the same dates as the room-only discounts:
- Now through November 23
- November 27 to December 25
- January 1 to February 16
You must book this discount by November 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7926, or your travel agent and using booking code ZH9. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Passholder discounts through December 25, 2010
Passholders can save 30 to 42 percent off their room rates for stays at Walt Disney World from October through the end of the year. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel and the resort category at which you are staying.
For any stay from October 3 through December 25 (except for the Thanksgiving weekend of November 24-26), you get some great discounts:
- Value resorts plus Animal Kingdom Lodge – 30 percent off
- Moderate resorts, including Fort Wilderness Cabins, plus Grand Floridian Resort – 35 percent off
- Remaining Deluxe Resorts – 42 percent off
- Deluxe Villa Resorts – 42 percent off
You can book the deal from now through your day of arrival, through the rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site (link), by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7420, or your travel agent and using booking code XO7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Kids sail free on certain 7-night cruises
Children ages 17 and under traveling with two full-fare Guests in the same stateroom sail free on most 7-Night Caribbean cruises from January 8, 2011 through March 5, 2011, excluding the February 19, 2011 sailing.
There are definitely some restrictions and exclusions. The discount applies only to verandah staterooms (except concierge and suites), and it cannot be combined with any onboard credit discounts. Taxes and fees are also not included for the free children.
The number of cabins available at these rates is limited. Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), by calling Disney Cruise Line at 800-951-3532, or your travel agent and using booking code KFO. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.