Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for July 11 – July 17, 2011
Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions
Monorail service cut back during evening Extra Magic Hours | What does the shuffling of Parks & Resorts execs mean? | "Lunch with an Animal Specialist" launches | Artist Showcase this Friday with Maggie Parr | Armed Forces Salute details | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update
Walt Disney World has decided to cut back on after-hours monorail service during Extra Magic Hours. Starting today, the Epcot monorail ceases operations one hour after regular park closing. The Magic Kingdom monorails cease operations one hour after regular park closing in a few weeks, beginning on Monday, August 1.
It's likely that this change is designed to allow for more downtime for the monorails and their drivers. It was at the end of a late Extra Magic Hours evening at the Magic Kingdom the night of July 3-4, 2009, that a fatal monorail crash occurred, taking the life of monorail pilot Austin Wuennenberg. It's possible that the late hour was a contributing factor in the crash, both in the fatigue of those involved, and in the fact that the monorail supervisor was taking a dinner break away from the monorail station at the time of the accident. It's also possible that this in an attempt to make the monorail resorts a little less attractive, and to shift the demand for resorts to other locations around property.
In addition, with the "Tronorail" being converted back to Monorail Coral, the system is down to 10 trains again until August.
Since Extra Magic Hours are for resort guests only, monorails between the parks and the Transportation and Ticket Center are less necessary because most guests get to the parks via bus. However, for those guests staying at monorail resorts, losing the ability to take the monorail back to their resort and having to take a boat or a bus is much more of a hardship.
What do you think? Will cutting monorail service during Extra Magic Hours make it less likely that you'll stay at a monorail resort? Join the discussion on our MousePad discussion forums.
Late yesterday, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs announced some changes at the top of the division's leadership structure on the heels of Al Weiss' retirement announcement just two weeks ago. While speculation was that a reorganization would be coming, nobody really thought that the movement would be so swift, as Weiss' retirement isn't effective until November.
This reorganization of the Parks & Resorts division follows the November 2005 shakeup where then-Parks & Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo moved Weiss to the President of Worldwide Operations position and shuffled other jobs and the "One Disney" reorganization of February 2009. These latest changes basically make Weiss a minister-without-portfolio for the remainder of his tenure at Disney. Most of his duties will go to Meg Crofton, who becomes President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, as well as retaining her position as President of Walt Disney World Resort. In her new position, Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis and Euro Disney SAS President Philippe Gas will both report to Crofton.
Karl Holz, previously in charge of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Options, has added Disney Vacation Club to his portfolio and moved out from being under the Parks leadership to report directly to Staggs. Bill Ernest will continue as President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations Asia, and now report to Staggs instead of Weiss.
Serving two masters—or at least reporting to two bosses—are Jeff Vahle, Executive Vice President for Facilities Operations Services, and Erin Wallace, Executive Vice President for Operations Integration. Wallace, who replaced as Executive Vice President for Operations at Walt Disney World prior to moving to her current position in 2009, will add Revenue Management to her portfolio. Vahle and Wallace will report to both Crofton and Ernest.
The Sales and Marketing groups will be combined under Leslie Ferraro, who will serve as Executive Vice President for Global Marketing and Sales. As part of the consolidation, Randy Garfield, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Travel Operations for Disney Destinations and President of The Walt Disney Travel Company, will report to Ferraro.
Crofton and Holz will join Staggs' Executive Committee. Ferraro already serves on this committee, and Weiss will remain on the committee until his retirement. Also currently on the committee and remaining there are: Nick Franklin, Executive Vice President for Next Generation Experience; Kristin Nolt Wingard, Senior Vice President for Worldwide Public Affairs; Jim Hunt, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Julie Hodges, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion; Craig Russell, Chief Design and Project Delivery Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering; and Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering.
So a few people are changing their responsibilities. But what does this all mean?
The moves are a big indication of the increasing importance of the Disney vacation options that don't involve theme parks. Holz, who has done a tremendous job with the Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney (and previously had served as Senior Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World and as Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney SCA, the holding company that runs Disneyland Paris Resort) adds the Disney Vacation Club to give him command of all vacation operations not related to theme parks. Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis now reports to Holz instead of Crofton.
Holz will be responsible for the growth of these independent operations, which will continue to spread the Disney vacation experience away from the parks. As Staggs noted in his announcement, "Karl will be responsible for creating consistent and engaging guest experiences as they expand to new markets and destinations outside the berms of our theme parks.… These operations are an important driver of growth in our segment and a critical part of our efforts to build upon and broaden Disney’s reputation for delivering magical experiences to our guests, both inside and outside the berm."
The changes also strengthen a split between the Western world and the Eastern world. Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris Resorts all report up to Crofton, who will doubtless try to standardize as many policies and procedures as makes sense across those resorts. However, Crofton will also be charged with preserving the uniqueness of each resort. Staggs noted that "Meg understands and respects the unique heritage and characteristics of each of our theme park resort locations, which gives me great confidence in her ability to fulfill this role while preserving and enhancing what makes each of our properties so special in their own right."
Meanwhile, Ernest will have control over Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and the under-construction Shanghai Disneyland Resort, as well as support operations for Tokyo Disney Resort (which is wholly-owned by the Oriental Land Company). As the Eastern world has a different cultural approach that is less-familiar with Disney products, effective operation of those resorts will require a different approach, and so Ernest is being given freedom from the Western approach being taken by Crofton.
At the same time, those areas that are unaffected by culture, Facilities Operation, Operations Integration, and Revenue Management, will report to both Crofton and Ernest, making those standardized services available to all Disney theme park resorts.
Tying marketing with sales makes a great deal of sense, as the two organizations are strongly related. Tighter integration will allow for better information flow between the two, making each one more effective and efficient.
This is Staggs' first major structural change since he took over as Chairman of Parks and Resorts in a job swap with Jay Rasulo, who took Staggs' former position as Walt Disney Company Chief Financial Officer. From my seat, Rasulo is better suited for his current job, while Staggs shows the flexibility and understanding to excel at both positions, and has made a number of smart moves already in his 18 months in his new job, most notably toning down the former princess-and-fairy focus of Magic Kingdom park's New Fantasyland.
These moves bring the Parks & Resorts operations more in line with Staggs' approach, which will make it easier for him to manage the division in the manner that he wants it to run. If his first 18 months is any indication, this will turn out very well in the long term.
Calling all with a spirit of adventure!
Are you ready for MouseAdventure: World Explorers III? The third iteration of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 12 at Disney's Hollywood Studios (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 10 years now). Do you think that you know Disney's Hollywood Studios? We bet you don't know them as well as you think you do. Test your wits against those of our puzzle masters. For more information, check out the MouseAdventure information page and sign up now.
A new dining experience has been created in a similar vein to the popular "Dine with an Imagineer" program. The "Lunch with an Animal Specialist" experience is available at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Sanaa. The program includes a four-course lunch with one of the resort's animal specialists for $49 for adults and $29 for children ages 3-9 (with a special kids' menu), including gratuity and a $5 contribution to Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund.
Lunch includes naan bread and dips, tandoori entrees, desserts, and more. You'll get educational information about the food at Sanaa as well as stories about the animals that walk past just outside the windows. There will be plenty of time to get your questions answered, too.
Each lunch is limited to no more than 12 people. The Disney Dining Plan will not be accepted for this experience.
During the initial period, you can make a reservation by calling 407-938-6992, option 3, or by visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge's concierge. As of August 1, the experience will be available to book online or by calling the main Walt Disney World Dine Line at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).
Occasional MousePlanet contributing writer, former Disney Imagineer and artist Maggie Parr sailed aboard the Disney Dream yesterday as a special guest. She'll be hosting signing events, receptions, and a presentation entitled "The Fine Art of Painting Disney Characters." In addition, she'll be doing a painting live on the ship.
Parr created a number of the "mouse-terpieces" that are "stolen" as part of the Mickey's Midship Detective Agency game aboard the Dream. You can see them in the middle row on her website.
When the ship returns to Florida on Friday, she'll be doing an Artist Showcase at Art of Disney at the Downtown Disney Marketplace from 5-7 p.m. Several of her pieces will be available for purchase at the signing as giclees ($35) and prints ($550 to $795). For more information, go to the event website.
While Walt Disney World still hasn't updated its Armed Forces Salute page to reflect the extension of the program through September 2012, we finally have some confirmed information via the Shades of Green Resort's Facebook page. According to the page, Disney has stated:
"In order to further clear up any confusion related to frequency of purchase/activation/utilization of “Salute” tickets now that we have extended the validation date until September 30, 2012, I’ve attached a tangible example...
EXAMPLE: If a qualified military Guest used two tickets last Fall (anytime after the October 3, 2010 “Salute” start date), that same Guest would be eligible for another ten tickets (for twelve total tickets) over the life of the promotion (which now ends in September 30, 2012). We will continue to keep track of utilization at our ticket windows. We will have a limit of activation of six tickets maximum per day. Once a Guest has reached their allotment of twelve tickets, they will not be able to purchase/activate/utilize any further “Salute” tickets.
Qualified military Guests are eligible for twelve total “Salute” tickets throughout the life of the promotion (October 3, 2010-September 30, 2012). They may never purchase/activate/utilize more than six per day."
So that's how the special Salute tickets will work. Those tickets cost $138 for 4-day passes with a choice of either Park Hopper or Water Park Fun and More options. Adding the second option would cost an additional $27 per ticket. All Salute tickets do not expire until September 30, 2012, regardless of when they are first used. Military can also purchase "Stars and Stripes Tickets," which are 2- to 10-day length-of-stay passes that include all options. Of course, Magic Your Way tickets are also available.
Military tickets can be purchased at ITT offices, at Shades of Green, or at the park ticket windows. Only those tickets purchased at ITT offices can be obtained tax-free.
Send us your menu photos!
We've recently completed a major update of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see the list. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to email@example.com to help us keep our listings updated!
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
- Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – construction work.
- Epcot The Seas with Nemo and Friends flower bed – electrical work.
- Epcot The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion – construction work.
- Epcot The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion gift shop – refurbishment of cabinetry and graphics.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids – plumbing and electrical work.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Camp Minnie-Mickey main entrance walkway, Mickey's kiosk, Minnie's kiosk, Forest kiosk, Jungle kiosk – fence installation.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Pocahontas-Grandmother Willow – installation of 7 light poles with lights along walkway.
- Downtown Disney Entrance Road 4 work area – civil engineering.
- Wilderness Lodge pool – construction work.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge – construction work.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge The Mara kitchen – mechanical work.
- Coronado Springs Resort – construction work.
- Port Orleans Riverside Resort – construction work.
- Pop Century Resort – construction work.
…With the opening of the Paddock Pool complex (including the Paddock Grill) at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, the Congress Park leisure pool closes from August 1 through September 2. Following that work, the pool team moves on to the Magnolia Bend leisure pool over at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort, which then closes September 5 through October 7. The Magnolia Bend pool should be ready in plenty of time for the first Royal Guest Room visitors.
…Two quick-service eateries at the Magic Kingdom will be out of commission for the first half of September, with the Lunching Pad closing on August 29 followed by Casey's Corner on August 30. They're scheduled to reopen within a couple of days of each other, with Casey's Corner returning on September 15 and Lunching Pad on September 17.
…Tinker Bell and her fairy friends are finally moving from Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Epcot on July 27, where they've been since the start of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival this year, to their new location at the Magic Kingdom the next day, July 28. The fairies are taking up residence at the Adventureland Verandah, which was the location of choice for the Disney Princesses between their eviction from Toontown and the opening of their dedicated space in the Town Square Theatre.
…We're hearing that the Magic Kingdom park will test running two performances of the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade daily, at noon and 3:30 p.m., from July 18 through 31.
…After being used for the grand reopening of Star Tours, the Hyperspace Hoopla during Star Wars Weekends, and the Mulch, Sweat and Shears performance in conjunction with the July 4 fireworks show, the stage in front of the Sorcerer's Hat icon at Disney's Hollywood Studios has been taken down (for now).
…After an extended refurbishment, Anaheim Produce on Sunset Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios has now reopened.
…From now through August 31, the AMC Downtown Disney 24 is offering the ETX Challenge. If a guest is not convinced that the premium theater experience provides crystal clear sound and a better movie experience, they can visit guest services after the show to receive a refund of the premium experience charge ($4 upcharge for regular movies, $5 for 3-D movies). The complex's ETX theater provides a screen that is 20 percent larger than the other screens, extra-high definition image and a 13-speaker surround sound system. In addition, ETX viewers during the month of July can get a fountain drink for just $1 when they return for an ETX movie in August. For more info about the theaters, go to the AMC Downtown Disney 24 website.
…Registration for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon is now open.
…Registration is now open for all races during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend of October 1. Sign up now for the Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the individual half marathon is now full. The half marathon relay is 70 percent full, and kids races are 77 percent full.
…Registration for the events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 7) is now open. Note: Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is now 80 percent full. The Marathon and Half Marathon are each 50 percent full.
Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the Web site of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."
Join our networks
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.
- June 12 to July 31: Sounds Like Summer concert series.
- September 7–8: Nights of Joy.
- September 30, October 1: Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.
- September 30 to November 13: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- November 10, 2011 to January 3, 2012: Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
- November 11–13: Festival of the Masters.
- November 20–23: Childrens Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
- November 24–25, 27: Old Spice Classic.
- December 3–10: Pop Warner Super Bowl & National Cheer & Dance Competitions.
- January 5–8, 2012: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
- February 24–26, 2012: Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend.
- Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
- Main Street Fire House – closes July 10.
- Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management – closed since January 13, due to a fire. Expected to reopen with its original, classic show on August 16.
- Fronterland Shootin' Arcade – closed for refurbishment through September 30.
- The Lunching Pad – closed for refurbishment August 29 to September 16.
- Casey's Corner – closed for refurbishment August 30 to September 14.
- Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 8 to November 17.
- No known current refurbishments.
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid – closed for refurbishment August 13 to September 3.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment September 4-24.
- Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment September 5-24.
- Lightning McQueen replaces Herbie the Love Bug at Lights, Motors, Action! – begins later this summer.
- Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through September 14.
- It's Tough to be a Bug! – closed for refurbishment August 15 to September 30.
- Saratoga Springs Resort Congress Park leisure pool – closed for refurbishment August 1 to September 2.
- Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend leisure pool – closed for refurbishment September 5 to October 7.
- Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment October 30 to December 3.
- Typhoon Lagoon – closed for annual refurbishment December 4 to March 17, 2012..
- Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Free dining returns
Last week, Disney announced a two-tiered free dining package for Disney Visa Rewards cardholders, and the package becomes available to the general public today. The free dining plan is available for stays August 28 through September 24. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (you can upgrade them with any of the available add-ons), a 20-page Disney's PhotoPass Photo Book, and the free dining plan. You may add additional pages to your Photo Book, at standard cost, if you wish.
If you choose a Value resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). If you'd prefer to stay at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort, you'll get the free standard Disney Dining Plan (one table- service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per night). Those at Value resorts can upgrade their Quick Service Dining Plan to the standard plan for the difference in the plan's cost. The dining plans do not include gratuities or alcoholic beverages.
Note: Since these dates are already within the 180-day booking window, some table-service restaurants might already be completely booked, so don't assume you can book any specific restaurant without checking first. Of course, if dining is the most important part of your trip, you can book your dining reservations first to lock in your favorites, then find a resort for those nights. You can always cancel the dining reservations if you can't get a resort for those dates.
You can book through August 27 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the Disney Rewards Visa package are I25 for Value resorts and O2M for Moderates and above. The codes for the general public were not available at publication time.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7211, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Room-only discount for late summer/early fall
If your travel dates don't quite link up with the free-dining promotion or if you'd rather get a room-only discount and buy your food yourself, you're in luck. A new room-only discount has been released for Walt Disney World stays Sunday through Thursday nights during the period from August 14 through October 1, 2011. Rates start at $69 per night for Value resorts, $129 for Moderate resorts, $189 for Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and $209 for Disney's Saratoga Springs and Old Key West Resorts. Note that these rates are not available for Friday and Saturday nights.
The offer does not includes suites or three-bedroom Grand Villas. Some other restrictions apply and the number of rooms available is limited. You can book your reservation now through August 13.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7837, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations and MouseEarVacations.com.
Passholder discounts for summer
Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays through mid-August. The discounts provide 20 to 35 percent off for stays most nights through August 13. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort are excluded for all date. Passholders will save 35 percent at Deluxe Villa resorts, 30 percent at Deluxe resorts, and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.
Passholders can book through the day before arrival. Beware, though as rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-bedroom Grand Villas are not included. An adult passholder must show their pass at check-in. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7414, or your travel agent and using booking code QT9. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Passholder merchandise discounts extended through 2011
Walt Disney World passholder merchandise discounts have been extended through the end of 2011. Epcot After 4pm, Weekday Select, Seasonal and Annual Passholders get 10 percent off purchases at selected locations, while Premium Annual Passholders (including bicoastal Premier Annual Passholders) get 20 percent off. The discount is available at Walt Disney World-owned and operated shops, but not those stores owned by "operating participants" (third-party stores). The discount is also not valid on a long list of products, and can not be combined with other discounts, offers or promotions. For a full list of what is not included in this discount, check out the Art of Disney Parks Web site.
Military ticket offer
From now through September 28, 2011, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after October 1, 2011.
Disney has stated that the offer will be extended through September 2012, but as of press time the Walt Disney World website has not been updated to reflect this.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than six tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or their spouse, but not both) for themselves, family members, and friends, and all tickets must be purchased at the same time. If the immediate family has more than five dependents, additional tickets may be purchased for the dependents, however, additional tickets for guests may not be purchased. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call 407-939-7830 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.