Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for November 21 – 27, 2011

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News and Views

Sorcerer Mickey to welcome 2012 Flower & Garden Festival guests | Disney Cruise Line keeps winning awards | 2012 DVC dues released | Disney characters virtually visit Times Square | Reservations clerk found not guilty | Dining options added for Thanksgiving | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Sorcerer Mickey to welcome 2012 Flower & Garden Festival guests

Characters from Fantasia will welcome guests to the 19th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival next spring. When the Festival opens March 7, 2012, an eight-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey topiary will stand atop a 12-food-tall mountain cliff, with dancing broomsticks, buckets, hippos, alligators, elephants, and mushrooms from scenes in the film.

Other topiaries will include Lightning McQueen and Mater (Cars); Buzz, Woody, and Lotso (Toy Story); and the Fab Five (Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto) outside the Festival Center (formerly Wonders of Life).

Bambi's Butterfly House and the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden will return this year, at the Imagination and Test Track walkways, respectively.

Plantings outside the Italy and Norway pavilions will have a new look for 2012, with overflowing containers of flowers and herbs at Italy and geraniums, violas, snapdragons, poppies, and alyssum at Norway.

Popular acts will once again return for the Flower Power concert series, including Jose Feliciano, Chubby Checker and The Wildcats, Davy Jones, and Paul Revere & The Raiders. Once again, the concerts will be limited to Fridays through Sundays.

HGTV returns as a sponsor, with celebrities from the network appearing each weekend at the Festival Center. Mondays through Thursdays will feature other recognized garden personalities.

There will again be themed weekends during the festival, including Art in the Garden March 23 to 25; Florida Federation of Garden Clubs April 27 to 29; and Fresh from Florida Farmer’s Market May 4 to 6.

The Festival runs through May 20, 2012.

Epcot's Christmas tree once again features huge internationally-themed ornaments. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Disney Cruise Line keeps winning awards

Last week, we noted that Disney Cruise Line had won a Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association for the new Animation Magic show coming to Animator's Palate on the Disney Fantasy when it sails next year. Two more organizations have announced awards for the cruise line. Cruise Critic named the Disney Dream the Best New Ship and also honored it for the Best Inside Cabins, and the entire Disney Cruise Line won the Best Standard Cabins award.

The Best New Ship award recognized the Dream for the AquaDuck water coaster, Remy restaurant, and interactive artwork, while the Best Inside Cabins unsurprisingly noted the virtual portholes. The Best Standard Cabins award cited DCL for the split bath set-up, iPod docking station, wave phones, and cabin size.

Meanwhile, the cruise line won three awards from the readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine in its 13th annual Readers' Choice Awards. DCL received notice for Most Family-Oriented Line, Best Children's Programs, and Best Entertainment.

Duffy the Disney Bear is in his Christmas-themed attire for his meet-and-greets. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

2012 DVC dues released

DVCNews.com is reporting that 2012 dues increase information has been released for all Disney Vacation Club resorts.

Here's a list of dues by resort, as reported on the site:

Resort 2012 Dues Increase
Animal Kingdom Villas $5.4356 +8.40%
Aulani (Subsidized) $4.4794 +3.93%
Aulani (non-Subsidized) $5.9607 +4.02%
Bay Lake Tower $4.2219 +8.41%
Beach Club Villas $5.5043 +4.34%
BoardWalk Villas $5.6160 +2.95%
Grand Californian $4.3255 +6.28%
Hilton Head $5.9290 +4.47%
Old Key West $5.2035 +4.44%
Saratoga Springs $4.7309 +4.84%
Vero Beach $7.1163 +5.02%
Wilderness Lodge $5.6096 +4.99%

Dues cover operating costs of the resort, as well as allocations for repairs and upgrades. This is in addition to the pass-through property taxes levied by the municipalities in which the various resorts reside.

Disney characters virtually visit Times Square

Disney Parks hosted a special augmented reality event in New York City at the Disney Store's flagship location in Times Square. There are currently no plans to bring this event to other locations or to reprise the event in New York at this time, but one never knows when special events may show up again. Check it out!

Disney Parks projects a huge image of Cinderella Castle on a nearby building during the augmented reality event in New York City. Image © Disney.

Participants stood on or near a blue circle, and Disney characters were added to their image on the display above The Disney Store. Photo © Disney.

Disney characters interact with guests via augmented reality.


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.

Reservations clerk found not guilty

Wilbert "BJ" Brookins, who was arrested in February for allegedly raping a guest, was found not guilty of the crime by a jury last week. Reportedly, the lawyer for Brookins (who is a married father of two) did not even mount a defense during the trial, and merely poked holes in the prosecution's case during closing arguments.

Dining options added for Thanksgiving

With the parks getting crowded for Thanksgiving week, the Magic Kingdom is adding another dining venue: the Diamond Horseshoe. From Sunday, November 20, through Saturday, November 26 (except Thanksgiving Day), the Horseshoe will serve counter service lunch from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. From Sunday through Wednesday, November 23, it will also serve table service dinner. On Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, table service lunch and dinner will be served. Expect seasonal fare similar to what's available at the Liberty Tree Tavern, whose kitchen the Horseshoe will be sharing. It's likely that the location will remain open for lunch through the end of the year, but we haven't confirmed that yet.

If you can't find a seating elsewhere, Fort Wilderness will be serving Thanksgiving Dinner at the pavilion that hosts Mickey's Backyard Barbeque at 12, 2, 4, and 6 p.m. A full Thanksgiving Dinner will be served, at a cost of $52.99 plus tax for adults and $31.99 plus tax for children ages 3-9. For those who have not been to the outdoor pavilion before, the buffet-style meal will feature character interaction and family-style seating, so a small party will likely be sharing a table with new friends. After dinner at each seating, there will be live entertainment.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is currently running during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. It'll become part of the daily entertainment on December 19. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The gang wishes you A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. Part of the Christmas Party entertainment until December 19. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Skyway Restroom – unspecified work.
  • Magic Kingdom Fantasyland tunnel – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Dumbo – facility fit-out package.
  • Magic Kingdom Country Bear Jamboree – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom switchbeam building – construction.
  • Epcot main entrance stanchion – unspecified work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Fantasmic – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safaris north savannah work area – general construction, plumbing.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace – kiosk sign package.
  • Disney's Wedding Pavilion – miscellaneous scaffold screening.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort Reception Outpost – electrical.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort – construction.
  • STOLport Contractor's Row – electrical.

Quick takes …

…In response to those who complained that the 9:30 p.m. showtime was too late, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue will be testing earlier showtimes, moving each show up by one hour. Through February 11, 2012, showtimes will be 4:00, 6:15, and 8:30 p.m. We'll have to wait to see if people now complain about the 4 p.m. show being too early.

…Last Monday, the first tree was planted in the new Fantasyland Forest area under construction at the Magic Kingdom. Planting in the far western area of the expansion has continued, as the horticultural teams start bringing the color green to Belle's Village.

Imagineers move the first tree into place in the New Fantasyland expansion. Photo © Disney.

…According to MousePlanet's Jeff Kober, inside sources say that Adventureland will be the first land to premiere Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Disney's new interactive game. The game will open somewhere toward the middle or end of the first quarter or 2012, though there will be some public testing prior to that.

…Santa Claus has arrived at Downtown Disney Marketplace, and will be greeting guests through Christmas Eve.

…Visitors to La Signature Shoppe at Epcot's France pavilion this weekend (Friday through Sunday, November 25-27) can take advantage of two special offers. From noon until 8 p.m. each day, guests can receive complimentary engraving with any Guerlain fragrance purchase. Any guest purchasing $150 or more in Guerlain merchandise will receive a complimentary gift.

…D23, the official Disney fan club, announced its 2012 events last Friday, including events across the country (with further information to be announced). There will be a celebration of Epcot's 30th anniversary, but no further details have been announced for that yet, either.

…While Disney Vacation Club Member Services has gone to a seven-day-a-week schedule, it will still observe the same holidays as in previous years. The phone lines will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Members who hit their 11- or 7-month booking windows on those days will need to call the following day.

…Following the close of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the opportunity to buy pizza by the slice at a window outside Via Napoli on Saturdays has been extended until December 17.

…To receive special holiday offers from the Disney Parks Store online, text SHOP to 37275. Standard text messaging rates apply.

New cars are on the track at Test Track. Aside from the paint job, not much seems different. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

…The 2012 version of the Expedition Everest Challenge (a 5K event that also involves an obstacle course and scavenger hunt) 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 67 percent full and Kids' Races are 61 percent full.

…Registration is open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5 to 8, 2012), but events are starting to fill up. If you were considering entering one of these, now's the time. As of this week, registration is at:

  • Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – 93 percent full
  • Marathon – 91 percent full
  • Marathon Relay – 74 percent full
  • Half Marathon – 92 percent full
  • Family Fiesta 5K – 88 percent full
  • Kids' Races – 82 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."

Thanksgiving week is typically one of the busiest at Walt Disney World, and this year is no exception! 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, November 21, 2011 8 / 10
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10 / 10
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 10 / 10
Thursday, November 24, 2011 10 / 10

Crowds will be heavy 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!

  • Expect Osborne Lights to draw dense crowds to the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios at night.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties are this week; remember to account for the Magic Kingdom's 7 pm closings on party nights when you're planning your itinerary!
  • Following a Touring Plan will be especially important this week given the heavy crowds.

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; reopens as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game in early 2012.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment through November 20.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment January 9 to April 30, 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 through February 3, 2012.


  • No known closures.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

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

Animal Kingdom

  • No known closures.


  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool 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 through December 3 for annual refurbishment.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed December 4 to March 17, 2012 for annual refurbishment.


  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show will not be performed:
    • November 22, 2011
    • January 17 to 21, 2012
    • March 20, 2012
    • May 15 to 26, 2012
    • July 24, 2012
    • September 18 to 22, 2012
    • November 27, 2012

Current Discounts & Promotions

Room-only discount for January and February

A room-only discount was released for early next year. 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.

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 UU7. 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. Blackout dates are December 26 to 31, 2011; April 1 to 12, 2012; and July 4, 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 twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. 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, visit the Walt Disney World website, 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.