Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for October 10 – 16, 2011

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

News and Views

Art of Animation Resort opening date officially announced | New fall discount announced | Monorail Peach reports for duty | Join us for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do meet-up | Whoopi out, Geena in as Candlelight narrator | Fire causes brief Tomorrowland evacuation | Duffy merchandise ahoy! | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Art of Animation Resort opening date officially announced

Walt Disney World has made it official, announcing (as we reported on June 13) the opening of Disney's Art of Animation Resort on May 31, 2012 with the Finding Nemo-themed family suites. The Cars-themed suites are currently scheduled for July 31, 2012, the Lion King-themed suites for September 30, 2012, and the Little Mermaid-themed standard rooms for December 31, 2012.

The resort is under construction on the site previously planned for Pop Century Resort – The Legendary Years (the current Pop Century Resort was to be designated The Classic Years). There will be a total of 1,120 family suites and 864 standard rooms when the new value resort is completed. Announced rates start at $240 per night for family suites and $92 per night for standard rooms.

The Cars-themed section of Disney's Art of Animation Resort takes shape along the shores of Hourglass Lake. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Walt Disney Imagineers talk about the Art of Animation Resort.

New fall discount announced

A new room-only discount for this fall was released last week. These discounts are available for travel most nights from October 30 through December 23 (except for Thanksgiving week):

  • 15 percent at All-Star Movies Resort and Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
  • 20 percent at other value and moderate resorts, as well as Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • 25 percent at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resort
  • 30 percent at other deluxe resorts, and deluxe villas resorts

You must book this discount by November 19. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent, and mentioning discount code J5N.

The new discount we posted last week for dates in January and February is now open for the general public. Use discount code UU7 and make your reservations by December 21. You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent.

MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com, Small World Vacations, and Get Away Today.

The check-in desk for 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort has been moved down by the seating area, alleviating crowds from in front of the restaurant. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Monorail Peach reports for duty

Monorail Peach officially joined the Walt Disney World monorail fleet last Friday, bringing the monorails back to their full complement of 12 trains. The fleet had been shorthanded since the fatal crash of Monorails Pink and Purple on July 4, 2009. Monorail Teal joined the fleet earlier, make from undamaged parts from Pink and Purple. Monorail Peach was also built using parts from Pink and Purple, but the two nose cones were built from scratch. The new monorail train uses the same technology as the existing fleet, for ease of maintenance. If you see Peach out on the track, let us know what you think of the new color.

The Main Street Train Station looks appropriately spooky for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Halloween decor adorns the Main Street lampposts. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Join us for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do meet-up

Meet Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber on Sunday, November 13, from 4 p.m. through park closing for the Big Bad Voodoo Food-Do To-Do. The meet will kick off at the World Showcase side of the Odyssey Restaurant bridge, and Mark will provide location updates during the event via Twitter (@MPMark) and Facebook in case you want to join later on.

We'll wander the last day of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, sample cuisines from around the world, and pause 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.

Whoopi out, Geena in as Candlelight narrator

Geena Davis replaces Whoopi Goldberg as narrator for Candlelight Processional performances on December 2 and 3. The traditional telling of the Christmas story with a mass choir and 50-piece live orchestra runs from the night after Thanksgiving through December 30 at the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot three times nightly, at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:00 p.m. Here is the latest list of this year's narrators.

  • November 25–27 – Mira Sorvino
  • November 28 to December 1 – Michael W. Smith
  • December 2–3 – Geena Davis
  • December 4–6 – Edward James Olmos (6:45 p.m. & 8:15 p.m. shows only)
  • December 7–9 – Isabella Rossellini
  • December 10–12 – Neil Patrick Harris
  • December 13–15 – Lorraine Bracco
  • December 16–18 – TBD
  • December 19–21 – Trace Adkins
  • December 22–24 – Susan Lucci
  • December 25–27 – Blair Underwood
  • December 28–30 – Marlee Matlin

The narrator for December 16–18 is yet to be determined. There will be no public performance of the Candlelight Processional at 5:00 on December 4, as that is the annual Community Day presentation for local dignitaries.

Workers are using a large crane to help install the Cinderella Castle Dreamlights. Photo by Tina Delaney.

The crane is taken down in the evenings, but it is still an obstruction during the day. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Fire causes brief Tomorrowland evacuation

The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland was evacuated at 9:30 Sunday morning when a light on one of the rings of the Astro Orbiter attraction shorted, melted, and caused a small fire and power outage. The fire was quickly extinguished by Reedy Creek Emergency Services.

Although the attraction remained closed for the rest of the day, Tomorrowland reopened to guests later in the morning. The Astro Orbiter was inspected, and reopened to guests on Monday.

A small fire on one of the Astro Orbiter's rings caused the attraction to be shut down all day Sunday. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Duffy merchandise ahoy!

Fans of Duffy the Disney Bear will have a new bit of merchandise to collect this Friday. A new storybook entitled Duffy the Disney Bear, Mickey's New Friend goes on sale at Epcot, with a special book-signing by illustrator Monty Maldovan (the text was written by Jessie Ward). Maldovan will be signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Disney's Traders gift shop in World Showcase on the Mexico side of World Showcase Plaza, across from Duffy's meet-and-greet location. Duffy will be doing his meet-and-greets in his new Halloween costume. The 32-page book tells the story of how Minnie Mouse gave Duffy to Mickey to take along on his travels.

Also on Friday, Annual Passholders will have an extra Duffy merchandise opportunity. The first 750 Passholders who present a valid annual pass at Disney's Traders will receive a special T-shirt for 17-inch Duffy bears. There's a limit of one shirt per Passholder, and the Passholder must be present.

If you can't visit Walt Disney World but want Duffy merchandise, don't despair. There's now a new Duffy "mini-boutique" at the Disney Parks Online Store. The new storybook will be available online starting November 7.

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 Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – construction.
  • Epcot Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion – electrical.
  • Epcot Land pavilion Sunshine Seasons – construction.
  • Epcot America Gardens Theater – roofing.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Oscar's Super Service – roof replacement.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Oscar's stroller rental – mechanical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios '50s Prime Time Cafe – mechanical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant – auxiliary heating unit replacement.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – mechanical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – electrical.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom entrance – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Island Mercantile – roofing.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge The Mara – construction.
  • Typhoon Lagoon overflow parking access – general.
  • Blizzard Beach – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom area water bridge installation of electrical outlet for irrigation controller.
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort – installation of magnetic door holder and smoke detector.
  • Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort Alligator Bayou – room renovations.
  • Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort Magnolia Bend south pool, deck and building – general construction.
  • Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Commercial Building – roof repairs.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort Performance Center – roofing.
  • Disney's Art of Animation Resort – construction.

The Beast's Castle itself is pretty much finished in New Fantasyland. Photo by Tina Delaney.

The scope of the rockwork in front of it makes the Beast's Castle appear to be larger and further away than it actually is. Photo by Tina Delaney.

Quick takes …

…Dumbo the Flying Elephant is scheduled for closure from January 9 through February 17. It is not clear yet whether the return of the attraction on February 18 at Storybook Circus will be just the new counter-clockwise spinner or the final configuration with both the new and the old clockwise spinner. The Great Goofini roller coaster and the new Fantasyland Train Station should open somewhere around the same time.

Disney Parks has released a new time-lapse video showing the progress of work on the Western part of New Fantasyland. Storybook Circus, the Eastern part of the expansion, is off to the right of the frame.

…Big Thunder Mountain Railroad closes for refurbishment from January 9 through March 31, 2012. With this lengthy downtime, the usual annual Splash Mountain refurbishment will not take place in January.

…Pizza by the slice will be available from Via Napoli at Epcot's Italy pavilion for the duration of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

…As part of Disney's healthy-eating initiative, fresh fruit is now sold at popcorn carts and select ice cream wagons at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Lobster roll is a recent addition to the menu at the Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square. Photo by Tina Delaney.

…Disney's Hollywood Studios is closing early next Tuesday for a private event, so there will be no showing of Fantasmic that night.

…If you were plannning to nominate yourself or someone else for the 2012 Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, you'd better hury up. The nomination period closes on October 31. For more information and details, you can go to the Academy's website or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter (@dreamersacademy).

…Disney golf tournament regular Tom Lehman is again scheduled to appear at this year's Children's Miracle Networks Hospitals Classic, as he has been given a sponsor exemption to the tournament. Tickets for the tournament gallery are available from the event website or via Ticketmaster.

…The Reedy Creek Improvement District has submitted an application for a water management permit to add an new right lane on eastbound Buena Vista Drive starting at the exit from Disney's Hollywood Studios, running to a new right-turn lane onto Victory Lane and a new right light on southbound Victory Lane, eventually merging into the two existing lanes before the turnoff for Disney's Pop Century Resort. Also included in the permit are improvements to the median and westbound right lane in front of the Reedy Creek "Dalmatian" firehouse.

…The Reedy Creek Improvement District has received approval of a water management permit application on behalf of Walt Disney World for the addition of the long-awaited Bowling Center, five new soccer fields, additional parking, and an Imagineering staging area at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

…The Reedy Creek Improvement District has received approval of a permit application for a water management plan for the Four Seasons Resort area.

…The 2012 version of the Expedition Everest Challenge takes place on May 5, 2012. No registration date has yet been announced.

…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012). The Princess Half Marathon is 51 percent full.

…Registration is open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5 to 8, 2012). As of this week, registration is at:

  • Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – 88 percent full
  • Marathon – 75 percent full
  • Marathon Relay –56 percent full
  • Half Marathon –76 percent full
  • Family Fiesta 5K –58 percent full
  • the Kids' Races –54 percent full

Disney Cruise Line has provided a video showing executives in charge of construction talking about the differences between the Disney Dream and the under-construction Disney Fantasy

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."

Food & Wine Festival is now in full swing, and it will affect the number of people visiting Epcot. 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, October 10, 2011 6 / 10
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 5 / 10
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 6 / 10
Thursday, October 13, 2011 2 / 10

Crowds will be moderate this entire week. 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!

  • Epcot is our Park to Avoid Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday this week.
  • More Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties this week; remember to account for the Magic Kingdom's 7 pm closings on party nights when you're planning your itinerary!
  • Magic Kingdom is one of the Best Parks Tuesday and 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 in early 2012.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 8 to November 17.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment January 9 to March 31, 2012.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – closed for refurbishment and moving to Storybook Circus January 9 to February 17, 2012.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment January 28 to February 3, 2012.


  • Yakitori House – closed August 10 through November 15 for major refurbishment. Some of the restaurant's menu will be available for the entire length of the refurbishment from Japan's Food & Wine Festival kiosk, located on World Showcase Promenade.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Fantasmic – is not performed January 5 through February 12, 2012.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through October 5.


  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed from September 19 – mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Wilderness Lodge – villas walkway – cedar shake roof repairs September 12 through November 8.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Band leisure pool near buildings 90/95 – restroom refurbishment October 10 – November 11.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou building 36 – building and room refurbishment October 25 through November 11.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – El Centro and Casitas – roof repairs through October 14.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool October 4 through September 28, 2012. The pool will remain open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.

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. The show will not be performed:
    • November 22, 2011
    • January 17-21, 2012
    • March 20, 2012
    • May 15-26, 2012
    • July 24, 2012
    • September 18-22, 2012
    • November 27, 2012
  • Palm and Magnolia Golf Courses – closed October 10–23 for Children's Miracle Network Classic.
  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course – closed October 24 – November 3 for overseeding.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free dining for October 2011 through Spring 2012

A 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 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 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 (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Room-only discount for January and February

A new room-only discount was released for Disney Visa cardholders last Friday, and will become available to the general public on Wednesday. The discounts are available for travel from January 2 through February 20, 2012. Guests receive discount rates of:

  • 25 percent at value resorts except All-Star Movies Resort, which is 20 percent
  • 30 percent at moderate resorts except Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, which is 25 percent
  • 35 percent at deluxe and deluxe villa except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resorts, which are 30 percent

You must book this discount by December 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. For the Disney Visa cardholder offer, deposits must be made at the time of booking with your Disney Rewards Visa Credit Card or Disney Rewards Redemption Card.

While the Disney Visa cardholder restriction period is in play, you must call 407-939-4989 or call your travel agent to make your reservation. Once the offer becomes available to the general public, you'll also be able to make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Web site (link). MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

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, 2012, 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.

Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.