Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for August 29 – September 4, 2011

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

News and Views

D23 provides new details about known projects, no new projects | Jim Lewis and the Aulani snafu | Free dining dates changed | Meet Mark this fall in Florida! | Night of Joy performance schedules released | Fastpass crackdown | John of the Jungle | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we did not publish a Walt Disney World Resort Update last week. A combination of dehydration, exhaustions, jet lag, overtime at work, and family issues prevented the Update from getting written. However, this week we make that up (despite an earthquake and a tropical storm disrupting things) with lots of content covering both weeks.

D23 provides new details about known projects, no new projects

At the D23 Expo, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation and "Carousel of Projects" pavilion featured more details about some of the projects that we've already heard about, but were very short on any information about new projects. Disney Cruise Line and the Golden Oaks development were not mentioned in the presentation, and the expected and hoped-for announcement of the Grand Floridian Villas did not materialize. As far as Walt Disney World is concerned, the only real information that came out was about the New Fantasyland construction at the Magic Kingdom.

The new wall being built down the middle of Fantasyland will help to thematically divide the Castle Courtyard from the Fantasy Forest, allowing the Imagineers to not worry about matching the castle courtyard theme beyond the wall. This will allow them much more latitude in the design of Beast's Castle, Belle's village, Prince Eric's castle, and other Fantasyland attractions "behind the wall." The Carousel of Projecys pavilion had a scale model of the new construction area. Take a look at the fly-through of the model below. There are a number of close-up pictures of the model after this story to give you a better feel for some of the areas.

The first major attraction to open will likely be Ariel's Undersea Adventure. The ride will be identical to its California cousin, but the outside theming of the attraction will be tremendously different, in keeping with the Fantasyland location. Guests will stroll along the seashore on their way to the attraction queue. Once in the queue, guests will help Flounder and Scuttle on a scavenger hunt as they work their way to the attraction's entrance. The ride building will be themed to appear as Prince Eric's castle. The all-new ride building is being built behind the site of the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride vehicle.

Exterior construction work is pretty much completed on Beast's Castle, which will be the home of the much-anticipated Be Our Guest restaurant. The mixed-service dining facility will have three themed dining areas. Adjacent to the castle will be Belle's village, which will include Gaston's Tavern and Maurice's cottage. Within the cottage will be a new animatronic Lumiere figure that helps guests to find their way through a mirror to meet Belle inside the Beast's castle for Enchanted Tales with Belle, an interactive and personal meet-and-greet experience. The 2.5-foot-high Animatronic character is one of the most difficult that Imagineering has ever had to construct, and is only possible due to the latest technology.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will blend thrill ride with dark ride, and is the first theme park attraction to be completely based on the dwarfs from Snow White. It is inspired by the scene of the mine cars racing through the mine. Watch the CGI rendering below of a virtual ride-through of the attraction. The scenery is still very rough, but it gives a great idea of what the overall tone of the ride will be. A mockup of the ride vehicle was on display at the Carousel of Projects pavilion.

A mockup of the Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train Coaster vehicle shows how the cart will rock within the chassis to provide the rollicking feel of the mine carts careening along the track. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Other topics covered at the presentation and pavilion included Aulani in Hawaii, Shanghai Disneyland, three new areas at Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney California Adventure park (including the new Buena Vista Street entry and Cars Land), and some interesting leading tidbits about Disneyland Park. Also on display at the pavilion were a model of the Disney Fantasy cruise ship and The Amazing Destini, a new interactive "living creatures" initiative where a fortune-teller figure interacts with guests using sensors to find out things about the guests. The technology was being tested out at Disneyland Park last year, but this time Imagineering showed some of the technology behind the interaction so guests could see how it actually worked.

As for Walt Disney World, though, there was no other news. Let's hope that we hear about the next set of projects soon.

This long shot shows Maurice's cottage, Beast's Castle, and Belle's village to the left, and the Seven Dwarfs' cottage with the entrance to their mine at right, with Prince Eric's castle behind. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

This image of the Fantasyland courtyard sets the scene, with the carrousel to the left, Pinocchio Village Haus and the restroom facility to the back, the open space left by Dumbo in the center, and the new castle wall to the right. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

You can see in this image how the more staid architecture within the new castle walls differs from the more fanciful cottage and rockwork beyond. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

In this view, you get a better view of Belle's vilage in the background, with the Seven Dwarfs' cottage in the front, including mine car tracks that lead into their mine to the right. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Here we see the rest of the hill hiding the Seven Dwarfs' mine (and its coaster), with Prince Eric's castle behind and the tents of Storybook Circusland to the right. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

From another angle, Princess Fairy Tale Hall is at right, with merchandise and food locations adjacent. The walkway outside the new castle wall leading toward Storybook Circusland is at left. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Here the Seven Dwarfs' mine coaster is at center left, with Storybook Circusland tents behind it. The Great Goofini and the new queue-less waiting area for the Double Dumbo are visible at back right. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Great Goofini ascends the track in the foreground, with a glimpse of the Double Dumbo to the left. Storybook Circusland takes up most of the rest of the image, with Prince Eric's castle in the back left. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Double Dumbo and the air-conditioned, queue-less waiting area are near the entrance to Storybook Circusland. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Jim Lewis and the Aulani snafu

After we ran the story of Jim Lewis' firing as the President of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), more information came to light, as written in the next day's Disneyland Resort Update. Along with Lewis, two others were fired after Disney discovered that the dues being charged to new purchasers of the Aulani DVC resort would not be sufficient to cover the regular expected maintenance costs of the resort.

Once the paperwork snafu was discovered, Lewis was fired, along with Jim Heaney, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Disney Cruise Line and travel operations, and Lawrence Smith, former director of finance for DVC. Sales of Aulani were halted on July 9 and new paperwork filings were begun with the State of Hawaii with appropriate annual dues numbers. Named as the new Senior Vice President of DVC is 23-year Disney veteran Claire Bilby (there will not be a president for the time being), who now reports directly to Karl Holz, who had recently added Lewis and DVC to his portfolio in the recent restructuring of the Parks and Resorts division.

Rather than imposing huge dues increases on those who purchased early interests in Aulani based on the advertised dues costs, Disney is making it right with them in a similar manner to how they handled early purchasers of the Disney's Vero Beach Resort. Those who purchased early interests at Vero Beach had dues calculations based on a full 266-unit build-out of the resort. When Disney decided to halt the construction at 175 units, they recalculated standard dues based upon the smaller number of units among which to divide the cost. However, rather than penalize those who had already purchased Vero Beach membership, all existing members received a dues subsidy that remains in effect for the remaining terms of their memberships in order to avoid an unfair imposition on those who purchased early in good faith. In the same way, early Aulani purchasers will receive a dues subsidy that will approximate the reduced figure that their original dues were calculated on.

It appears that Disney has completed the necessary paperwork, and interested parties can once again purchase an interest in Aulani.

Free dining dates changed

Last week, Disney changed the booking dates for the free dining plan that is available from October through March, and must be booked by October 29. The new dates better match our original day-of-week projections for the deal. We had originally theorized that the offer dates would be for periods that ran from Friday through Thursday, but the original offer was announced as Sunday through Saturday. This change puts the arrival date windows to run from Saturday through Thursday, which will better control the weeks during which guests are on the plan.

Guests who have already booked the free dining package on dates that are no longer valid arrival dates will be allowed to keep their existing reservation with free dining, but any further bookings will be subject to the new dates, as well as any changed reservations.

The new valid dates for the free dining offer (along with the original dates for comparison's sake) are:

  • October 1–6, 2011 (originally October 2–8)
  • October 22 through November 3, 2011 (originally October 23 through November 5)
  • November 12–17, 2011 (originally November 13–18)
  • November 26 through Decembe 1 (originally November 27 through December 3)
  • December 10–15, 2011 (originally December 11–17)
  • January 8–12, 2012 (originally January 8–14)
  • January 21 through February 2, 2012 (originally January 22 through February 4)
  • February 11–16, 2012 (originally February 12–18)
  • March 3–8, 2012 (originally March 4–10)
  • March 24–29, 2012 (originally March 25–31)

Thanks to AJ of the Disney Food Blog for the new dates.

This new Mickey pretzel is in a testing phase at the Magic Kingdom park, but it is expected to remain long-term. In the meantime, you can find it (with cheese and/or chocolate dipping sauces) at the Frontierland Pretzel Wagon next to the turkey leg cart. Image © Disney.

Meet Mark this fall in Florida!

Do you want a chance to meet Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber? 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.

Night of Joy performance schedules released

The performance schedules for next week's Night of Joy Christian music festival have been released. The two-night hard-ticketed event runs Friday and Saturday, September 9 and 10, from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night. Tickets are still available in advance for $51.95 plus tax for a one-night ticket, or a two-night ticket for $92.95 plus tax. For night-of-event purchases, the price goes up to $59.95 plus tax. Groups of 10 or more can save $5 per ticket (one- or two-night) with advance purchase.

Here are the lineups (schedule to change, as always):

Friday, September 9

  • Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
    • 7:45 p.m. – Jeremy Camp
    • 9:50 p.m. – Newsboys
    • 11:55 p.m. – Skillet
  • Galaxy Stage
    • 7:30 p.m. – Francesca Battistelli
    • 9:25 p.m. – Group 1 Crew
    • 11:25 p.m. – Matthew West
  • Rockettower Plaza Stage
    • 7:45 p.m. – Disciple
    • 9:15 p.m. – Disciple
    • 10:50 p.m. – Sidewalk Prophets
    • 12:15 a.m. – Sidewalk Prophets

Saturday, September 10

  • Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
    • 7:45 p.m. – Jars of Clay
    • 9:35 p.m. – Gospel Music Association Winner
    • 9:55 p.m. – TobyMac
    • 11:55 p.m. – MercyMe
  • Galaxy Stage
    • 7:30 p.m. – Sanctus Real
    • 8:35 p.m. – Disney Gospel Choir Fest Winner
    • 9:45 p.m. – Kutless
    • 11:50 p.m. – Marvin Sapp
  • Rockettower Plaza Stage
    • 7:45 p.m. – Vashawn Mitchell
    • 9:15 p.m. – Vashawn Mitchell
    • 10:50 p.m. – Chris August
    • 12:15 a.m. – Chris August

For more information, visit the Night of Joy website.

Fastpass crackdown

According to our partners over at TouringPlans.com, Walt Disney World has begun a test to crack down on the ending times of Fastpass return periods. It has been standard practice that—if Fastpass tickets werereturned past the end of their designated return window on the same day—guests could still enter the attraction. This was done to avoid penalizing guests for various late-making issues such as not wanting to wake sleeping children, transportation delays, or getting stuck in a restaurant or by a storm.

This new test, however, entails sporadic enforcement of the time window and no longer advising guests that they can return beyond the end of the window in case of extenuating circumstances.

TouringPlans.com's R.A. Pederson speculates that this may be related to the upcoming Next Generation initiative in the parks. MousePlanet's Jeff Kober has previously written about the "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" interactive game coming to the Magic Kingdom park. It is uncertain at this time, however, how the game might be related to the enforcement of Fastpass end times.

John of the Jungle

Pixar head John Lasseter announced an unusual contest at the conclusion of the Cars Land presentation at the D23 Expo last week. You see, Lasseter started out as a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland Park in 1977 and 1978. He got to reprise that experience during the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, of which there are many photos. However, Lasseter does not have any photos of him as a Jungle Cruise skipper from his original stint. So John has announced the "John of the Jungle" contest to search for any photos that may exist of him.

Anyone that finds a photo of Lasseter as a skipper during his original stint can submit it on the JohnoftheJungle.com website for a chance to win a VIP trip to the grand opening of Cars Land and a private Jungle Cruise with Lasseter himself.

To help narrow it down a bit, Lasseter said that he was trained around Thanksgiving 1977, and he worked Holiday 1977, Easter 1978, Grad Nite 1978, and summer 1978. He will post a photo of himself around that time on the John of the Jungle website to make it easier to identify him in a photo. For those who would try to doctor their own photo, Lasseter reminded everyone that "Pixar invented digital compositing. We know a fake when we see it. They don't count!"

John Lasseter announces the "John of the Jungle" contest which awards a trip to the opening of Cars Land for a person who can find a photograph taken of Lasseter when he skippered a Jungle Cruise boat as a cast member in 1977. MousePlanet video by Steven Ng.

Lasseter himself will authenticate the photos, and if more than one is submitted, a winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries. Good luck!

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 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 Haunted Mansion – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Splash Mountain by-pass bridge – carpentry.
  • Magic Kingdom Adventureland tunnel – plumbing modifications.
  • Magic Kingdom Adventureland gas valve – mechanical.
  • Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – electrical, telecommunications, structural, and finishes.
  • Magic Kingdom Cosmic Ray's tunnel – electrical.
  • Magic Kingdom Main Street U.S.A. auxiliary heating unit 14 (AHU-14) – electrical.
  • Epcot Spaceship Earth geodesic dome – electrical.
  • Epcot fireworks marina – installation of storage trailer and deck.
  • Epcot Rose & Crown Pub & Restaurant – refurbishment.
  • Epcot American Adventure pavilion – electrical work for proposed Christmax tree location.
  • Epcot American Adventure – steel for backstage fall protection.
  • Epcot American Adventure – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Catastrophe Canyon – mechanical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Tune-In Lounge facade – refurbishment.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant – refurbishment.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Friendship dock – refurbishment.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – structural & electrical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios American Idol Experience & Sounds Dangerous theater complex – electrical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – electrical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios post production building – mechanical.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – coating for parking lots handrail rehab.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris Nile crocodile bridge – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Camp Minnie-Mickey – drainage.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tusker House umbrellas – roofing.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Harambe Fruit Market – roofing.
  • Downtown Disney West Side Wetzel's Pretzels performance location – electrical.
  • Downtown Disney West Side AMC Plaza kiosk – electrical.
  • Downtown Disney Pleasure Island Portobello – installation of 6 feature lights in dining room.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Captain Jack's – construction.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Once Upon a Toy performance location – electrical.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace performance location – electrical.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace building 4 – mechanical.
  • Magnolia Golf Course hole 14 – roofing.
  • Bonnet Creek clubhouse at Osprey Ridge – mechanical.
  • Contemporary Resort 16th floor antenna farm – electrical & mechanical
  • Contemporary Resort 5th floor HVAC chase – mechanical.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Resorts – contractors general conditions.
  • Yacht Club Resort guard shack – electrical.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Resort old bus entrance fast arm gates – electrical.
  • Beach Club Resort guard shack – electrical.
  • Boardwalk Resort main entrance – electrical.
  • Boardwalk Resort bus entrance – electrical.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort Congress Park pool complex – mechanical.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – path of travel site modifications.

Quick takes …

…A couple of menu changes of note: fountain beverage prices have gone up 40 cents (16-18 percent) around the World, with a small beverage increasing from $2.19 to $2.59 and a large beverage going from $2.49 to $2.89. In addition, there have been some menu additions at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom. Cosmic Ray's has gotten a bunch of new sandwiches, including vegetable and turkey sandwiches and a deluxe chili cheese dog, added gelato, and changed the regular-option 1/3-pound Angus burger from a cheeseburger to a hamburger (which cuts the fat and calorie count on the menu). Harbour House has added baked salmon with couscous, a lobster roll, and broccoli peppercorn salad. They've also added steamed fresh broccoli as a new side dish option for all meals, along with the previously available apple slices and french fries.

…Responding to complaints about a lack of quick-service dining options at the Animal Kingdom Villas' Kidani Village, Sanaa introduced quick-service breakfasts for guests on Friday, August 19.

…Last week, Walt Disney World filed a permit application with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for site work related to watershed management for the future Four Seasons Resort Orlando. The resort will be located in the center of the Golden Oaks development, surrounded by the single-family vacation homes. The permit application shows the site layout, including the resort tower, parking lots, water retention ponds, and recreation areas (which include such features as twisty water slides, teen club, "ruinous mansion," lakeside restaurant, "waterfall feature," basketball and tennis courts). The "ruinous mansion" sounds very interesting, but no further details are currently available. If you'd like to look at some of the permit documents, you can find all documents related to the project at the SFWMD website by searching for application #110825-4, permit #48-00714-S.

…According to multiple sources, including Studios Central and TouringPlans.com, Journey Into Narnia closes September 10. While it's still uncertain what will be replacing it, it had previously been rumored as the future site of the Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet location for Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Perhaps this will move them out of Adventureland Verandah.

…The Disney Fantasy cruise ship is moving closer to completion, with the final building block of the ship—the 260-ton tip of the bow—scheduled to be welded to the rest of the ship on September 3. Once the last of the 80 sections is in place, work can fully shift to fitting out the interior of the ship. The Fantasy's maiden voyage is scheduled for March 31, 2012, when it begins its seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

…Last Wednesday, the elephant herd at Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomed its sixth baby since the herd was assembled and the park opened in 1998. The as-yet-unnamed male African elephant was the second calf born to Vasha, a 25-year-old who gave birth to the herd's second calf, the female Kianga, in 2004. Mother, baby, and sister are all fine and bonding well. The new calf will acclimate to the rest of the herd over the next several weeks. Vasha became pregnant through artificial insemination 22 months ago, in October 2009, and did not suffer any complications in this birth. Other surviving offspring of the herd include males Tufani, born in 2003, and Tsavo, born in 2008. Other surviving females include Nadirah, born in 2005, and Luna, born in 2010. This brings the count to three males and three females. All six remain at the park, and the birth brings the herd's size to 11 members. Keep an eye out for this young bull calf on the savannah later this year.

…Don't forget, the application period for the 2012 Disney World Moms Panel opens on September 12 at 9 a.m. EDT. Applications close a minute before midnight on September 16. More information is available at the Disney World Moms website.

…The entertainment schedule for Disney's Hollywood Studios has been updated, and Fantasmic will now be shown nightly through the end of March 2012, aside from its scheduled refurbishment from early January through early February and a few other selected dates.

…If you're a Verizon Wireless subscriber who wanted to try out the official Disney Parks Mobile Magic app for Android phones but didn't want to pay for it, you're in luck. The app is now free for all Verizon Wireless customers. Go to the Android Market and download it for free! A version of the app is in the works for Verizon iPhone users, but is not yet ready. Those using other wireless carriers will probably have to wait until Verizon's sponsorship deal with Disney Parks & Resorts expires.

…According to our partners over at the TouringPlans.com site, Walt Disney World was offering room discounts to those guests who couldn't get home due to travel delays caused by Hurricane Irene.

…Hurricane Irene kept the Disney Dream from its scheduled stop at Castaway Cay last weekend, instead spending an additional day in Nassau.

…Beware of possible delays near the Magic Kingdom October 28–31. Vice President Joseph Biden will be attending the Florida Democratic Convention at the Contemporary Resort Convention Center, so security measures may cause substantial delays with monorail traffic through the Contemporary and the Magic Kingdom bus depot.

…Walt Disney World has signed a 20-year deal to have Arnold Palmer Golf Management run the five remaining golf courses at the resort (Eagle Pines was plowed under to create the tract for the Four Seasons resort and the Golden Oak vacation home development). Palmer will also modify the design of the Palm course during an upcoming renovation. The company manages more than 70 private clubs and championship courses. The Palm and Magnolia courses host the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic each year, with this year's tournament scheduled for October 20–23. The other Walt Disney World courses are the Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge, and Oak Trail courses. All are 18-hole courses with the exception of the nine-hole Oak Trail course.

…Two weeks ago, Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba presented its 6,000th performance at its theater in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World. The show opened on December 23, 1998, and last month entertained its 8 millionth guest.

…Two weeks ago, Walt Disney World filed a permit application with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for site work related to watershed management for a sports field expansion and construction of the long-promised 100-lane bowling center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. If you'd like to look at some of the permit documents, you can find all documents related to the project at the SFWMD website by searching for application #110816-11, permit #48-00714-P.

…Dates have been announced for the next biannual Disney Honors music festival. The non-competitive program for middle and high school vocal and instrumental groups will take place at Walt Disney World from February 28-March 3, 2013. More information can be found at the program's website or the Disney Youth Facebook page.

…The Disney-sponsored MEAC/SWAC Challenge football game between representatives of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference will take place at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando on September 4. The game pits representatives of two conferences of Historically Black Colleges and Universities against each other. The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats of the MEAC will face off against the Prairie View A&M Panthers in the seventh annual game, which will be televised on ESPN. Some festivities will take place at Walt Disney World prior to and after the game.

…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 72 percent full, and kids races are 99 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 84 percent full. The Marathon is 65 percent full, the Marathon Relay is 51 percent full, the Half Marathon is 61 percent full, and the 5K is 52 percent full..

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."

Crowds lighten again, as vacation and "tour group" season is basically over, but with a flurry of promotions beginning, don't expect things to lighten up too much! This week will still be busy, and it's still very important to have a good strategy for avoiding crowds! 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, August 29, 2011 5 / 10
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 2 / 10
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 4 / 10
Thursday, September 1, 2011 4 / 10

Crowds will be moderately high at the beginning of this week, but 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!

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios is our Park to Avoid every day except Wednesday this week.
  • Resort-wide crowd levels will be a 4 on Saturday--not bad for a holiday weekend!
  • Magic Kingdom is one of the Best Parks Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
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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.
  • 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.
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment October 3–6.
  • Fantasmic – will not be performed January 5 through February 12, 2012.

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 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 1 to 6
  • October 22 to November 3
  • November 12 to 17
  • November 26 to December 1
  • December 10 to 15

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 to 12
  • January 21 to February 2
  • February 11 to 16
  • March 3 to 8
  • March 24 to 29
  • 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.

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  1. By jcruise86

    And if anyone comes across a young Kevin Coster working on the Jungle Cruise, that would be even more interesting for the public than a photo of John Lasseter. No offense, John.

    Also, feel free to put pictures of ANY Disneyland Jungle Cruise photos from 1986--1987. I've never seen a photo of myself working on it. I bet there are a few in Japan. I remember posing for photos for Japanese guests in the mid 1980s. Bless them for wanting a picture of me!

  2. By danyoung

    I know that the news wasn't broken in this update, but I'm still thrilled that Fantasmic! is going to be peformed nightly. I haven't been to the DHS show since they foolishly and cheaply went to 2 nights a week. It just guaranteed that the show was going to be swamped! Now, with it happening nightly, I'll be seeing it again this September. Of course, this show is still far inferior to DL's version, but it's still a pretty great show!

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