Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for July 25 – July 31, 2011

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

News and Views

Refillable mug test starts this week | ESPN The Weekend cancelled | Disney Cruise Line news | Art of Animation Resort tops out | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Refillable mug test starts this week

Walt Disney World is beginning a test of new technology this week that could effectively enforce a policy that has been flouted by guests for many years. Refillable mugs, by policy only valid for the length of each guest's stay, will be managed by RFID chips on each mug. A proximity sensor on dispensers will know whether guests have purchased a length-of-stay mug or not. Old mugs, which do not have the RFID chips, would not activate the dispensers.

When refillable mugs were first introduced, guests were encouraged to bring them back on future visits, but the policy was later changed so that mugs could only be used during the length of the stay during which they were bought. Since there was no way to prevent guests from refilling the mugs, many people continued to bring them back anyway, and a number of sites advised guests to do so as a cost-savings measure.

The test, taking place at the All-Star Resorts, will institute the use of RFID chips and scanners to control the beverage dispensers at the food courts. The 16-ounce refillable mugs cost $13.99 plus tax, and entitle guests to unlimited refills of fountain beverages, coffee, tea, and hot cocoa at their resort during the length of their stay. The mugs are currently included in the Quick Service and Deluxe Dining Plans, and will be included in the standard Disney Dining Plan in 2012.

There are several related rumors going around, none of which Disney would comment on. Let's take a look at them:

Rumor #1 "Disney will undertake a similar test at Disney's Hollywood Studios later this year" – Disney could not comment on this, but the probability is high that this will be the case unless the trial at the All-Stars is a dismal failure. It's unknown whether mugs will be interchangeable between resorts and parks for the length of stay, or whether there would be single-day mugs like those at the water parks. It would be interesting if the mugs could be used at the resorts, theme parks, and water parks. That would greatly increase the value of the mugs to guests while not greatly increasing the cost to Disney. This could easily justify an increase in the cost of the mugs, and therefore increasing the profit to Disney.

Rumor #2 "Single-use disposable paper cups will also have RFID chips that would indicate one-time usage, so that they can be differentiated from old refillable mugs" – Again, this one would seem to be highly probable. If the disposable cups don't have an RFID chip on them, how would the dispenser know to fill them but not the old mugs? We'd be interested to hear confirmation from anyone staying at the All-Star Resorts in the next week or so.

Rumor #3 "Dispensers will have a five-minute "block-out" period after filling a mug before it can be used again" – This is to prevent guests from filling a mug many consecutive times, using that mug to fill other mugs or cups. One MousePlanet reader had even seen a person using a refillable mug to fill an extra-large thermos with a fountain beverage. We'll give this one a strong likelihood of implementation. Of course, if you're really thirsty and chug your first drink and go to refill it immediately, this will slow you down a bit. Also, if there's something wrong with the beverage you initially fill your mug with, you could have a bit of a wait before you can refill with another choice.

We had a number of questions beyond asking about the rumors above, but a Disney spokesperson stated that it would be putting the cart before the horse, because they're just conducting a test. If this goes beyond the test stage, or if the test expands significantly, we'll ask Disney the questions again.

This steel structure behind the current Dumbo attraction will be a castle turret on the wall separating Fantasyland from the new Fantasyland Forest. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Fake trees are being placed around the foot of Beast's Castle. This is intended to provide additional scale for the structure. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Decorative theming is being created around the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant. Notice in the foreground that the stream the bridge in front crosses over appears to be in the process of being dug. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

From the Walt Disney World Railroad, you can see the back side of the Be Our Guest Restaurant. The height appears taller than on stage because the facility actually drops down to the utilidor level. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The structure for Gaston's Tavern is framed out and ready to be enclosed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

ESPN The Weekend cancelled

The popular ESPN The Weekend is no more. While the event was created in 2004 for help raise the profile of Disney's most profitable television property, the rebranding of the Wide World of Sports Complex to the network and many of the co-branded sporting events throughout the year are now taking the lead in that synergy. Because of that and the year-round nature of the co-branded events, Disney has decided to discontinue the weekend event at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

ESPN The Weekend follows in the footsteps of the former Super Soap Weekend, which also served its purpose for many years before being halted due to the idea of a national promotion campaign that was believed to be more effective. It is unknown at this time what effect the weekend's discontinuation will have on the Champion 5K, whether it will continue independently, or be terminated itself. With Disney's apparent preference to have all 5K events be in conjunction with other, longer runs, it's quite possible that the Champion 5K will no longer happen. Disney, however, has made no statement at this time.

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.

Disney Cruise Line news

Disney Cruise Line guests traveling as part of a party with Concierge guests or Platinum, Gold, or Silver Castaway Club members, but without that status on their own, will no longer be able to check in at the special check-in areas at the port with the rest of their party. All guests must now check in at the appropriate location for those traveling in their stateroom. Disney Cruise Line has instituted this policy to maintain the integrity of the exclusive benefits provided to Concierge and Castaway Club passengers.

Disney Cruise Line guests are now able to pre-purchase beverage packages that provide six-packs of selected beers in 16-ounce aluminum bottles. For $27.50 per six-pack, guests can have any of these choices of beer provided to them for their voyage:

  • Bud Light
  • Bud Light Lime
  • Budweiser
  • Michelob Ultra
  • Miller Lite

Much of Prince Eric's castle has been put into place. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

A longer shot of the rock work for The Little Mermaid attraction. Newer drawings are featuring less water (particularly water falls) for the attraction than was originally depicted. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Recently, all of the fencing around planters was removed around the Mad Tea Party. The good news is that it's easier to find a place to sit down (the railing took up half of the brick). The bad news is that people are now walking through the planters, knocking down vegetation and even decorative items. It's uncertain whether this is part of the Fantasyland construction, since the walls come up to but do not engulf the planters. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Art of Animation Resort tops out

Last Thursday, construction crews at Disney's Art of Animation Resort held a "topping out" ceremony to mark the placing of the highest piece of structure on the frame of the building. This ceremony was held at a building in the Lion King portion of the resort. The resort opens in May 2012 with the Finding Nemo section opening first. The topping out ceremony dates back to the Vikings.

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 menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Mad Tea Party – completion of construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Astro Orbiter – completion of construction.
  • Epcot Imagination pavilion work area – general construction.
  • Epcot Imagination pavilion – completion of construction.
  • Epcot Mexico pavilion work area – general construction.
  • Epcot Innoventions East central base – fire protection.
  • Epcot The Land boat storage – fire protection.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios main entrance – completion of construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House ice machine – electrical and plumbing.
  • Contemporary Resort – contractor general conditions for fourth floor overhang replacement.
  • Boardwalk Resort – contractor general conditions for convention services storage room.
  • Boardwalk Resort – contractor general conditions for lobby and porch.
  • Boardwalk Inn – contractor general conditions for Garden Suite #1205.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – elevator rehabilitation electrical work.

A long shot of Storybook Circus still very much under construction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Circus queuing tent for Dumbo the Flying Elephant is in the process of being enclosed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The old Toon Town Fair train station has been completely removed and a new structure is going in its place. The map in the foreground depicts the new station being put into place. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Quick takes …

…After some delays, Lightning McQueen has joined the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show. McQueen, one of the stars of Cars 2, appears in a new sequence in the show. With this, the changes for Cars 2 at Disney's Hollywood Studios are complete. The updated meet-and-greet location with McQueen and Mater opened last month.

…Raglan Road at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island will celebrate "Half Way to Paddy Day" on Septembe 17. There will be anumber of special events and performances throughout the event, from the 5 p.m. start through closing time. Performers include Na Fiamma (an Irish traditional and ballad group), U2 tribute band Elevation, and the Raglan Road dancers.

…If you're a vegan or just a big fan of the famous vegan BabyCakes NYC bakery, you're in luck—you can now request BabyCakes items for dessert (from their at the Downtown Village Marketplace location) when you make your WDW Dining Reservations.

…The Disney Jazz Celebration, held at Walt Disney World for the last three years, will be headed to the Disneyland Resort next year. The talent showcase (including instructional opportunities) will run from February 24 to 26, 2012, at the Disneyland Resort.

…Registration for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012) 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 87 percent full, the 5K is 50 percent full, and kids races are 92 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 is 55 percent full and the Half Marathon is 53 percent full.

The Fantasyland Skyway station has been removed to the point where only the foundation remains. The adjacent tower (not pictured) is still intact. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Construction continues on the roof and in front of Pinocchio's Village Haus. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The Main Street Firehouse is currently closed as it is prepared to become the headquarters for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Crowd update


Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website 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."

Crowd levels will be high all week long as we're in the height of the summer "tour group" season. These numbers are greatest impacted by vacationers and tour groups descending upon Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Monday, July 24, 2011 9 / 10
Tuesday, July 25, 2011 8 / 10
Wednesday, July 26, 2011 8 / 10
Thursday, July 27, 2011 6 / 10

Crowds will be very high at the beginning of this week as vacationers descend upon Walt Disney World Resort; expect lighter crowds towards the weekend. Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • The Magic Kingdom is our Park to Avoid on Monday and Wednesday this week.
  • The Magic Kingdom and Epcot are the both the Best Parks on Saturday and Sunday.
  • In addition to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom are also Best Parks on Sunday.

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.


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Coming up

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
  • Main Street Fire House – closed since July 10, to reopen as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. No date yet announced.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management – closed due to a fire in January. 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.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • 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.

Animal Kingdom

  • 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.

Water Parks

  • 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.

Current Discounts & Promotions

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 (which you can upgrade 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 website.

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.



  1. By TheKaz

    $27.50 for a six pack of Bud or Michelob?!? seriously?!?

  2. By Drince88

    Quote Originally Posted by TheKaz View Post
    $27.50 for a six pack of Bud or Michelob?!? seriously?!?

    At least Disney lets you bring your own on board, if you prefer. Most other cruiselines officially discourage that practice. But I'm not sure if the beverage chiller in the room would get Bud cold enough for me to drink. The farther away it is from a microbrew, the colder I have to have it!

    And thanks, Mark, for trying to get info from Disney about the mug testing. Sounds like the official line is that this really is a test - so they don't want to commit to any details that could change as the testing continues/before rollout.
    So those that are staying at the All Stars in the near future during this testing, make sure you let Disney know about any issues you have with it - so that when/if they DO roll it out everywhere, they get the biggest things taken care of!

  3. By stan4d_steph

    Quote Originally Posted by TheKaz View Post
    $27.50 for a six pack of Bud or Michelob?!? seriously?!?

    I agree, that's just a ridiculous price. You'd have to be drunk already to pay it.

  4. By GusMan

    I find it interesting that Disney releases a free dining offer for dates that are, in essence, right around the corner considering that TS eateries are most likely going to be pretty full up by this time. Sure, its not impossible to get a TS ADR at this time, but you have to be flexible in your location choices and dining times.

    New visitors to WDW, especially those who do not necessarily understand the DDP, may have a difficult time getting what they want.

  5. Discuss this article on MousePad.