News and Views around Walt Disney World-last of April
There is a lot going on this week so let’s get started! First some exciting expansions of the FastPass+ program; make three FP+ selections in one park one day, as before, but after those are used you can get a rolling new FP+ selection, and after using that one, get another, and on like this until park closure. This is exciting, you can also park hop after your first three FP+’s are used in that first park! These additional FP+’s have to be made at a FP+ kiosk in the actual park you want the additional FP+’s in, you won’t be able to do it any other way.
If you try to do it on your smartphone app, it will give you an error message. Disney continues to say this is still in the “testing phase” and they are simply adding these experiences in response to Guest feedback. This does indeed answer two of the top complaints about the system. Also added this week is the capability of choosing the Spanish version at the FastPass+ kiosks by choosing Spanish as the language, prior to touching your card or MagicBand to the reader. There are more languages on the way to help those Walt Disney World guests who are more comfortable with languages other than English.
In other news that affects all of us who use the counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World there is a price increase of 30-cents on the regular fountain drink prices bringing it to $2.99, but the large fountain drinks are holding at $3.19. Remember, if you are thirsty you may already be dehydrated. You can ask for a complimentary glass of ice water at these same counter service locations. Bring a little more cash with you many of the food prices at these locations have also increased a bit. You are permitted to bring in food and drinks with you to the parks as long as they are not in glass or metal containers. Another suggestion is to bring in your own water bottle and refill it in the water fountains, maybe choosing to bring the small powdered drink flavorings to add to your water bottle for some variety during the day.
This is a big week for two parks in particular; Magic Kingdom will have a two-day Media Event presenting the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride and Hollywood Studios will be celebrating their 25th Silver Anniversary on May 1.
We have seen all of the walls brought down in the past week revealing all of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride that will be officially be presented to the Media on May 1 and 2. There is a large temporary stage at the end of the ride nearest to Pete’s Silly Sideshow with CM’s posted there to keep people off of it. During these Media days parts of the Magic Kingdom will be closed off to Guests. On May 1, beginning at 5PM until Park Close, Guests will be excluded from the New Fantasyland area of the park, specifically Gaston’s Tavern, Bonjour Gifts, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto, and extending into Fantasyland to include Storybook Treats, Hundred Acre Goods shop and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. On May 2 from opening through 11AM the Tomorrowland Speedway area and the New Fantasyland attractions Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Barnstormer, Pete’s Silly Slideshow, and Big Top Souvenirs will be closed. In addition Monsters Inc, Laugh Floor will be closed until 1PM on May 2, presumably because it is nearby and air conditioned providing an area to communicate with the media.
I don’t believe the Fantasyland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad will be open during those times either. We are all certainly excited to get to experience the new ride, but no dates have been announced for the CM soft opening, Annual Pass soft opening, or official opening date for Guests. The CM’s standing outside of the ride do not know/they will not tell you when the ride will open, and they must be very tired of hearing that question. Of course this is hard to resist. I heard a young boy ask the CM at the front entrance of the ride yesterday if he could ride that day. The CM was really great in talking with him explaining that the Dwarfs are still busy inside and until they tell her she can let people in, she can’t. She said she would like to ride it herself but the Dwarfs would not let her. He said the next day was his birthday and the manager standing nearby confirmed they could not change the Dwarfs mind even for something as important as a birthday then they wished him a happy birthday.
“Next Month” or “Spring” are the answers they are giving when asked about the opening date. Now, we have also confirmed that Fantasyland CM’s did get to ride briefly yesterday, but some technical difficulties ended that. CM’s are being trained so we are getting closer! The Times Guide, usually given for the week, are only dated April 27-30 for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios this week. The Magic Kingdom Guidemap also does not show Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride yet, perhaps we will see it on there later this week, or maybe not until it officially opens to the public. Once the opening date is officially announced, guests should be able to book FP+ times for the ride on the smartphone app, or MyDisneyExperience website. We see that the fans being installed just a few days ago have all been painted to blend in better, but the sand bags and wires resting on the staircases are still seen, so it is not ready for guests yet.
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Other news in Magic Kingdom is the refurb of Pirates of the Caribbean this week which will reopen to Guests on May 2. Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid closed at 7PM on Tuesday and the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant is temporarily closed. The crowds in the parks this week is much lower than the last two weeks as school Spring Breaks come to a close. New on the scene, just in the Magic Kingdom so far, are two locations that offer Phone Charging Lockers, found inside the Space Mountain gift shop and also opposite Bay 2 in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, both in Tomorrowland.
You will find them on the wall and if a locker is available you will see a blue light, if it is occupied it will shine red or green. Red for phone charging, but not fully charged. If the phone inside is fully charged it shines green. If you would like to use one of these free Charging Stations to charge your phone, swipe your credit card and choose between an Apple 30-pin (supports legacy iPhone and iPod devices, iPhone 4s and earlier), Micro USB (supports Android and other non-Apple smartphones) and Apple Lightning (supports new iPhone and iPod devices, iPhone 5 and newer), to charge your phone. Then a locker door will open and you will be instructed to connect your phone to charge the battery, one phone per chamber. Close the chamber door and return at any time to retrieve your phone. Swipe the same credit card to access your phone. There is no charge to your credit card; it only serves as your “key” to the chamber. Remove your phone and close the chamber door. It even wishes you a Magical Day! These chambers are not large enough for anything like a Kindle or iPad. An iPhone in an Otter Box Defender case just fits so the larger screen phones may not fit, especially if they are in a larger case. This is a test of the Charging Stations and if they are successful we could see more of them throughout the park. Because so many guests are needing their smartphones charged in order to use the app for their FastPass+ and other reservations as well as at hand information throughout the park, this is a good thing. There are still charging locations throughout the parks but none other provide a secure location for your phone to stay plugged in and safe until your return to retrieve it.
Hollywood Studios is being very tight-lipped about their 25th Anniversary celebration on May 1. The Times Guide writes about a “grand motorcade, dance party, special experiences, limited-edition merchandise and a spectacular fireworks show. Be sure to pick up a commemorative Times Guide and Guidemap with event details on May 1”. Park hours will be 9am-11pm. I don’t understand the secrecy of the schedule and even the Guide Map, but there maybe something very special about them, or in them. Since much of the Fantasylands will be closed from 5pm to close that evening I expect many to visit Hollywood Studios. Expect parking to be a bit crazy and in anticipation of this occurring HS will only be allowing cars in by way of the World Drive entrance to the park. During the Villains night last year it was gridlock with both entrances open so this is a good thing. HS is a much smaller park and when they have these big events it becomes almost impossible to move so if you want to enjoy HS go as early as you can. There will be a special presentation made just prior to park opening in the morning. Expect a parade around 7pm. The Walt Disney World website shows the Anniversary Dance Party will take place from 7:30PM to 11:30PM and it mentions a “Character Meet and Greet” during these same hours.
The Anniversary Fireworks is scheduled for 9:30PM. Fantasmic follows at 10pm. The fireworks shows here have been exceptional in the past, so expect this one to be amazing as well. There has been no early release of the limited-edition merchandise so if you want any of that, arrive prior to park opening and be prepared to stand in long lines especially for this merchandise. If you would like the same logo that is going on these limited-edition merchandise visit the DisneyParksBlog to download the wallpaper. The special merchandise is Duffy the bear in a ball cap, t-shirt and shorts sporting the 25th Anniversary logo, collector’s pins, pin sets, special pin for Annual Passholders, Mystery Pin Set, lanyards, key chains and messenger bags. You will find a temporary merchandise location inside Soundstage 1, which is located between the Studio Backlot Tour and Toy Story Midway Mania, you may remember it from its “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” attraction previously housed there. All items will be available at park opening “while supplies last”. Those who can’t be there can still purchase some of the merchandise online at www.DisneyStore.com/ParkEvents starting May 1 through May 5, 2014. The shirts will ship in 6 to 8 weeks after orders are completed. The characters appearing on the merchandise are of a vintage feel with outfits from the golden age of film.
You can visit an expanded preview of Disney’s Maleficent in 3D at Hollywood Studios. There are several new pieces of merchandise featuring Maleficent in Beverly’s including dishtowels and a novel based on the movie telling us the dark fairy’s back story; essentially what turned her into Maleficent. In the sweet shop end of this store we see Cheshire Cat, Kermit the Frog, Minnie Mouse and Sorcerer Mickey-inspired designs. Oswald is making a bigger splash into the merchandise area of the parks with new apparel, plush, mug designs, hats, ears, antenna toppers, even metal signs.
There is no celebration for May 4th this year for Star Wars fans due to the fact that an additional Star Wars weekend was added for 2014. If you plan on coming for Star Wars weekends, you may want to make reservations soon for the special character meals that will be offered at Hollywood Studios during those weeks.
One of the things HS does when there is something special going on is to create a limited-edition cupcake. They have created a very special cupcake for their 25th Anniversary that is a chocolate cupcake with hazelnut buttercream frosting topped with a bit of chocolate ganache, sprinkles and a chocolate disk with a 25th Anniversary commemorative picture of Mickey in silver. You can pick one of these up on May 1 at Fairfax Fair, Rosie’s All American Café, ABC Commissary, Starring Rolls Café, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co., and Pizza Planet for $5.19, or a Disney Dining Plan snack credit. If you want to create it at home you can find the recipe for the cupcake on the DisneyParksBlog.
One other thing I have noticed in the parks lately is a limit on some merchandise. The Disney Vera Bradley collection has a “limit of two per style” on signs wherever the merchandise is displayed. That seems pretty tough for taking family gifts back home for fans of both Disney and Vera Bradley. Also I noticed signs on Frozen merchandise limiting people to five of any one Frozen item. These limitations are for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Disney Vacation Club.
If you aren’t able to be here during these exciting days, keep checking in with us for the latest news updates and photos to help you at least “feel” like you are here, or to help with your trip planning for your anticipated vacation here.