Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for August 15 – August 21, 2011
Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions
DVC President Jim Lewis fired | Monorail Peach to join the fleet this fall | Meet Mark at the D23 Expo! | Meet Mark this fall in Florida! | Man arrested for molesting young girls at Typhoon Lagoon | Tower of Terror on-ride photos now available on Photopass | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update
Disney announced last Friday that Jim Lewis was leaving as President of Disney Vacation Club. This is highly unusual since DVC is just a few weeks away from its official grand opening of Aulani, its newest resort, in Hawaii, but also because trusted unofficial sources say that Lewis was in fact fired.
Officially, Disney has only confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that Lewis is no longer employed with the company. "We wish Jim Lewis well in his future endeavors and we plan to announce his successor in the near future," spokeswoman Rena Langley told the Sentinel. However, in virtually every circumstance, announcements state that executives have resigned from their position. Additionally, other trusted unofficial sources have been circulating word that Lewis was fired.
Why was Lewis fired just weeks before Disney is opening its new Aulani mixed-use resort, with rooms split between DVC and standard hotel rooms? Unofficial word states that it was largely due to a major problem with paperwork for Aulani that resulted in DVC being unable to sell ownership interests in the resort for over a month. Indeed, an online search of the Hawai'i Bureau of Conveyances website cannot find any new deeds recorded since May 20, 2011. In addition, according to the Hawai'i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Business Registration Division, many of the resort's trade names, including "Aulani" and "Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa" were registered in April 2011. Admittedly, this search of necessity took place over a weekend and therefore state offices were closed, so we were unable to contact anyone to confirm whether or not the databases were up to date and whether our interpretations of the data are correct.
With the resort likely to be promoted heavily at the D23 Expo coming up this week, and the resort scheduled to open on August 29, this could be an olive branch to the government of Hawai'i to help get things back on track, and to avoid having Lewis making the announcements when the government is angry with him.
Alternatively, it could just be a continuation of the shake-up of the Parks & Resorts division in the wake of the reorganization last month that had Lewis' previous boss Al Weiss moving out of a day-to-day role and Lewis instead reporting to Karl Holz, who added DVC to his portfolio, which already included Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger's tenure has been marked by moving suboptimal performers into different roles that better suited them. For Lewis to be dismissed outright, it is likely that there was something that signified that he was no longer suitable for employment at Disney.
Online reports from cast members and DVC members alike seem to indicate that when Lewis was named DVC President in 2006, all were impressed by him and his approach; however, they also seem to agree that over the ensuing years he became less focused on excellence and more on exercising power. Changes were made with no advance notification, from the end of complimentary valet parking for DVC members to a change in compensation formula for DVC advance sales associates.
It will be interesting to see if Holz makes the DVC/Aulani presentation at the D23 Expo on Friday, or if a new President is named by then. We hope to have a little more clarification of what actually happened, and we'll let you know what we find out.
Walt Disney World's monorail fleet will finally return to its full complement of 12 trains this fall with the addition of a new monorail, to be designated Monorail Peach (No "your monorail is in a different station" jokes, please). The fleet has been short since the July 4, 2009 accident that killed monorail pilot Austen Wuennenberg and severely damaged monorails Pink and Purple. The intact front end of Monorail Pink and back end of Monorail Purple were put together to create the new Monorail Teal, which brought the fleet back to 11 trains in November 2009.
Monorail Peach is made from a combination of the remaining leftover pieces of Pink and Purple and newly made parts. The new train is expected to begin testing in the coming weeks, though it will not get its final paint job until much later, before it goes into service
The monorail system has had some cutbacks in its hours, now ceasing service to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom just one hour after park closing, regardless of whether or not the parks remain open for Extra Magic Hours. This was to accomplish both a longer maintenance window for the trains and to cut the hours of monorail pilots. It also has the effect of stopping monorail service before the extremely late hours in effect at the time of the 2009 crash. Last month, the fleet dropped from 11 trains on line to 10 while the "TRONorail" was returned to its previous state as Monorail Coral.
Let us know if you see Monorail Peach out for a training run!
Are you going to the D23 Expo this week at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland? Make sure that you stop by the MousePlanet LOUNGE to say hi to Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber and the rest of the MousePlanet staff. Mark will be there all three days of the Expo (when he's not covering an event), so please stop by the LOUNGE and let him know what you like and don't like about the Update.
More info about the MousePlanet LOUNGE:
The MousePlanet LOUNGE is the place to come mix and mingle with MousePlanet readers and staff, and meet your fellow MousePad members and Community Leaders.
Kick up your feet and relax in our comfortable LOUNGE, check your e-mail, browse MousePad, and even print your boarding passes for the flight home. While you're there, be sure to pick up your MousePlanet and MouseAdventure buttons and decals.
Our Prize Squad will wander the exhibit floor throughout the Expo looking for readers wearing MousePlanet buttons, hats or stickers—show your MousePlanet style, and you could win fantastic prizes from our MousePlanet sponsors!
Mouse Tales author and MousePlanet columnist David Koenig will be at the MousePlanet LOUNGE on Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21 to meet readers and sign copies of his books (books will be available to purchase at the event, or you can bring your own copies).
MousePlanet columnist J. Jeff Kober will be at the MousePlanet LOUNGE on Friday, August 19 to meet readers and sign copies of his book, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney (books will be available to purchase at the event, or you can bring your own copies).
We will once again offer our popular Camera Check service, where you can safely leave your electronics before you head into any presentations where cameras and phones may be prohibited.
MouseAdventure players, be sure to stop by the booth each day for a new challenge. Bring your "A" game, and you can win cool MouseAdventure prizes! Walt Disney World players, bring your World Explorers sash and receive a special MouseAdventure gift.
To help our readers who are attending the Expo, we've set up a special Twitter account just for the show. Follow @MPatD23Expo on Twitter for live updates, announcements and contests throughout D23 weekend.
Do you want to meet Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber, but can't make it to the D23 Expo in California this week? Fear not, there's a fun event coming to Walt Disney World this fall. Join Mark on Sunday, November 13, at 4 p.m. through park closing for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do.
We'll wander the last day of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, sampling cuisines from around the world, taking pauses to watch each of the three performances by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (one of Mark's favorite groups) at 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 p.m. on the final day of the Eat to the Beat concert series. After the last performance, we'll get one last snack, secure some international desserts, and then find a place to enjoy the evening's performance of Illuminations.
You can RSVP on Plancast, or by email. You can also just show up, but if Mark can snag some swag from the MouseAdventure goodie bag, he'll want to have enough for you! We'll select a starting point for our adventure in another month or so, so watch the Plancast plan or this page for that information. You can also follow @MPMark on Twitter for updates on November 13 if you want to join the group later on in the day.
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.
Typhoon Lagoon was the site of yet another child molestation incident last Friday, when 39-year-old Moses Velasquez was arrested for inappropriately touching three girls. Velasquez was at the water park with his wife. It has been reported by both the Orlando Sentinel and Central Florida News 13 that Velasquez is a registered sex offender who was convicted of lewd and lascivious battery for having sex with a minor 10 years ago.
According to the arrest report, the alleged victims—all related and on a family vacation—were approached during the periodic "tidal wave" generated by the wave pool. Velasquez reportedly would let the wave carry him near the girls, where he would remain underwater and touch them. One girl, age 16, claimed that he kissed her buttocks underwater. The second said that, on three consecutive waves, he pulled her bathing suit bottom down twice, and then he punched her in her crotch. The third girl also claimed that he punched her in the crotch.
Velasquez was observed by park manager Clint Bronson, who had the man removed from the wave pool. Bronson escorted Velasquez and his wife to the park's administrative offices. Bronson also radioed Robert (John) MacDonald, an off-duty sheriff's deputy working as park security, that he was needed to investigate the incident.
Velasquez was issued a trespass warning for all Disney property, and booked into the Orange County Jail on two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under 18. The younger two girls are reportedly aged 12 and 13. Since the first girl did not notice the incident and could not locate the person who informed her of the kiss, charges could not be brought in that case. Bail was set at $5,125.
You can now put your on-ride photo from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios directly onto your Photopass card. A new sign now states that you can get photo downloads delivered online at DisneyPhotopass.com either by themselves or as a package with printed photos. A single photo download costs $14.95 plus tax, with additional photo downloads purchased at the same time costing $9.95 each. Each photo download involves a high resolution file and a limited license agreement.
If you'd prefer to get an immediate print as well, you can get your first download with an 8x10 photo for $18.95 plus tax, or with two 5x7 photos for $21.95 plus tax. In each case, the additional photo downloads are still available for an extra $9.95 plus tax apiece.
Send us your menu photos
Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Plaza Ice Cream Shop – construction.
- Magic Kingdom Splash Mountain bypass bridge – carpentry.
- Magic Kingdom backstage between Jungle Cruise and Railroad tracks – installation of concrete sidewalk.
- Epcot Innoventions Waste Management display – facility removal package.
- Epcot Walt Disney Imagineering campus – construction.
- Epcot United Kingdom pavilion Rose & Crown Pub & Restaurant – refurbishment.
- Downtown Disney Marketplace – construction.
- Downtown Disney West Side DisneyQuest – construction.
- Downtown Disney Pleasure Island Adventurers Club – construction.
- Downtown Disney Pleasure Island admin trailer – construction.
- Downtown Disney Pleasure Island Apricot Lane Boutique – installation of signage.
- Downtown Disney Little Miss Matched – building sign installation.
- Downtown Disney Marketplace Chase Bank kiosk – electrical.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa main building – removal of overhead rollup door.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa snack bar – electrical.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – construction.
- Polynesian Resort – construction.
- Contemporary Resort pool slide – general contractors conditions.
- Beach Club Resort first floor corridors – wallcovering work.
- Yacht Club Resort first floor corridors – wallcovering work.
- Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village – automatic door electrical installations.
- Port Orleans French Quarter Resort lodging buildings – construction.
- All Star Music Resort all guest buildings – room refurbishment.
…Last week, the South Florida Water Management District approved Walt Disney World's permit application for waterway and wetlands modifications related to the construction adjacent to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, believed to be a new Disney Vacation Club resort building.
…Don't forget that reservations for special events at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival open Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. EDT.
…Last week, the Disney Parks Blog posted a video of how Imagineers are using new technology (including tablet computers) to help in construction projects like New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Take a look:
…With the theatrical run winding down for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the in-park promotions will be wrapping up as well. Saturday will be your last chance to have a meet-and-greet with the pirate Angelica.
…Apricot Lane Boutique officially opened at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island last Friday. The chain, which carries a variety of trendy fashions for women and girls, had recently opened another location at the Disneyland Resort's Downtown Disney area. There are currently 54 Apricot Lane locations in the United States, with more on the way.
…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 Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the individual half marathon and half marathon relay are now full. The 5K is 60 percent full, and kids races are 94 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 82 percent full. The Marathon is 62 percent full and the Half Marathon is 58 percent full.
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."
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.
- 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.
- October 20–23: Childrens Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
- November 10, 2011 to January 3, 2012: Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
- November 11–13: Festival of the Masters.
- 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 – closed since July 10, to reopen as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. No date yet announced.
- 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.
- Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment October 3–6.
- Fantasmic – will not be performed January 5 through February 12, 2012.
- 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 through late September
Disney announced a two-tiered free dining package for Disney Visa Rewards cardholders. 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 are QUH for Value resorts and N23 for Moderates and above.
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.
Free dining for October 2011 through Spring 2012
A new free dining offer has been released for Walt Disney World for dates through 2012. From now through October 29, guests can book free dining packages for select arrival dates from October 2, 2011, through March 31, 2012.
The 2011 dates run from October 2 through December 17, with breaks for Columbus Day week, PGA Tournament week, Veteran's Day week/Jersey week, Thanksgiving week, and Pop Warner week. Available arrival dates are:
- October 2–8
- October 23 to November 5, with limited availability October 23–29
- November 13–19
- November 27 to December 3
- December 11–17
2012 dates run from January 8 through March 31 (the end of Disney's second fiscal quarter), with blockouts for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday week, and several popular spring break weeks. Available arrival dates are:
- January 8–14
- January 22 to February 4
- February 12–18
- March 4–10
- March 25–31
- August 19 to September 29 (Canada residents only)
Package eligibility is based on arrival date and is valid for the length of the reservation, so if you arrive on the last day before a blackout period and stay through a blackout week, you'll still have the free dining package for the length of your stay. Conversely, if you arrive on a Saturday that is the last day of the blackout, you will need to make a one-night reservation and then book the free dining package starting on your second day, during the availability period.
Guests staying at value resorts will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, and guests at moderate or deluxe resorts will get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. As with all packages, park tickets must be part of the package. Packages are available for a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 14 nights.
No group rates or other discounts apply. The offer excludes suites, campsites and 3-bedroom villas. Advance reservations are required. The free dining plan excludes gratuities and alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3–9 must order from children’s menu if available. Some table service restaurants may already have limited or no availability.
You can book through October 29 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the package are D3X for Value resorts and J4J for Moderates and above.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-1880, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Passholder discounts released for late summer/early fall
Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays from mid-August through the start of October. The discounts provide 20 to 35 percent off for stays most nights from August 14 to October 1. As with the summer deal, 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, but be aware that rooms may go fast, as 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) 939-7643, or your travel agent and using booking code Y3H. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Passholder discounts released through year-end
Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays from the start of October through the end of 2011. The
discounts provide 30 to 40 percent off for stays most nights from October 3 through December 24, with a Thanksgiving blackout period of November 23-25. Passholders will save 40 percent at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.
Passholders must book by September 4. Be aware that rooms may go fast, as 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) 939-5696, or your travel agent and using booking code W4K. 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 September 30, 2012.
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.