Imagineer Joe Rohde Retiring

Earlier today Imagineer Joe Rohde announced that he will be retiring from the Walt Disney Company.  Joe is most well known as the creator of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Joe will retire from the company after a 40 year career and creator of some of Imagineering’s finest work, most recently as the lead on Pandora – The World of AVATAR. According to a post from fellow Imagineer Zach Riddley and current WDI lead for Walt Disney World, Joe will leave his position on January 4 2021.

On Instagram Joe posted –

I’m sure by now many of you have come across the news that I am retiring from Walt Disney Imagineering. It has been 40 years since I stepped foot in the door at age 25, not knowing anything about theme parks, Disney, or what it meant to work for a big company. Every day of my life since then has been a learning experience. I’m very glad to have had that opportunity, and proud of the work that has been done, not just by me, but by all my fellow Imagineers, and especially those who worked by my side over the decades. But 40 years is a long time, and this strange quiet time seems like a great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption. If I wait, I will once again be in the middle of another huge project and by the time that is done, I would be truly old. I’m not that old yet and there are things I want to do that cannot be done here. We encourage a culture of storytellers, not just amongst ourselves but among our guests and our fans, and because of this, there is a strong temptation to take this moment and turn it into a story. But what story? I think it’s a coming of age story. I started at Disney as a child, and I learned almost all my life lessons there, developed my confidence, recognized my skills and weaknesses, and went on to work with both… and do what could be done. I could stay forever, but that is like remaining in another kind of womb. I want to see what a grown man might be able to do on his own. This site here is not really for Disney. It’s for us. I imagine that there are many of you who I will be sad that I will no longer be a daily part of the Disney company, and there will be some of you who will drift away and no longer follow my ruminations because they feel they aren’t relevant. But I will still be here. And I will still be thinking about things, and doing things, and talking about things… Because that’s kind of what I do. I mentioned in my departure note and I will mention here again the tremendous debt that I owe to our guests and our fans who have been so generous. Working as an Imagineer has made me a good designer, but it is all of you who have made me a better person.

Walt Disney World Announces Opening Dates for Crystal Palace, Woody’s Lunchbox & Tomorrowland Terrace

Walt Disney World has announced re-opening dates for three more restaurants following their closures as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Woody’s Lunchbox will re-open on November 25th in Toy Story Land.

In the Magic Kingdom, the quick service Tomorrowland Terrace will be re-opening on December 17th.  When it re-opens it will feature an updated menu including lobster rolls, grilled salmon and New England Clam Chowder.

Also at the Magic Kingdom, The Crystal Palace will re-open on December 13th as a family-style meal without characters. Individually plated entrées will include crispy fried chicken with honey pot drizzle, fire-roasted prime rib of beef, and fried cauliflower. Reservations will open on My Disney Experience on December 1st.

Park Hopping to Return to Walt Disney World

According to an email sent to Walt Disney World Annual Passholders and posted on the Annual Passholder portion of the Walt Disney World’s website, park hopping will be returning January 1, 2021.

From the Passholder Newsletter…

Dear Valued Annual Passholder,
As the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort® continues, we are nearing another exciting milestone we know many Guests have been looking forward to: the return of the Park Hopper® option! Starting Jan. 1, 2021, Guests who purchased a ticket or annual pass with Park Hopperbenefits will be able to visit more than one park per day, with some new modifications as part of our ongoing focus on health and safety.

More details were posted on the website…

  • UPDATE – Beginning January 1, 2021, we’re bringing back the ability to visit more than one park per day at Walt Disney World Resort with some new modifications.
    • We will set specific Park Hopper hours during which this option will be available. Park Hopper hours will start at 2 PM each day and end at the park’s scheduled close time. Guests will soon be able to check DisneyWorld.com/ParkHours and the My Disney Experience app for the most up-to-date Park Hopper hours, as they could start earlier at a later date, depending on the day and park.
    • With the updated Park Hopper experience, Annual Passholders must make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park they plan to visit AND enter that first park prior to visiting another.
    • At this time, a park reservation is not required after the first park, however, reservation requirements are subject to change. The ability to visit another park will be subject to the park’s capacity limitations and applicable pass blockout dates.
  • During the limited capacity period, it may be difficult for Annual Passholders to get park reservations to visit on certain dates.
  • Some pass benefits and features will not be available during periods of limited capacity. Also, park experiences and offerings have been modified and are subject to limited availability or even closure.
  • Annual Passholders staying at select Disney Resort or other select hotels with valid theme park admission are eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their Resort stay(s), in addition to holding up to 3 days of theme park reservations at a time on a rolling basis. Once you use a theme park reservation, you can make another reservation for a future date.
  • All reservations are subject to availability and applicable pass blockout dates. Guests should ensure their pass type is valid for park entry prior to making a park reservation. To enter one of the parks, each Passholder is required to have a theme park reservation in addition to a valid annual pass.
  • Starting July 16, additional Disney Park Pass reservations will be offered to Annual Passholders for select dates in July and August at Magic Kingdom park, Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Please note that this additional Disney Park Pass reservation availability does not reflect an increase in park attendance, which remains limited during this reopening period. View park reservation availability now.
  • Epcot After 4 PM Passholder Update – With updates to park hours starting September 8, Epcot After 4 PM Passholders can enjoy Epcot beginning at 2 PM on dates when the park closes at 7 PM To enter a park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date are required. Please note that park reservations are limited in number and subject to availability.

 

Please know we will be here to help you as we remain focused on delivering a wonderful experience for everyone who visits.

 

If you have any questions, please contact V.I.PASSHOLDER Support at (407) 939-7277. Options to manage your annual pass continue to be available.

 

Please review any advisories or restrictions in place for travel to Florida, and do not travel to or enter Walt Disney World Resort unless you are free of any COVID-19 symptoms and otherwise comply with the requirements of such advisories and restrictions.

Tony Baxter and Greg Hale Inducted into IAAPA Hall of Fame

On Tuesday, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) inducted Tony Baxter and Greg Hale into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.

Tony Baxter, who is a former Walt Disney Imagineering creative executive, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from IAAPA for his decades of work on some of Disney’s most memorable attractions.

Tony began his Disney career working as an ice cream scooper at Disneyland. He started working for Walt Disney Imagineering (then called WED Enterprises) in 1970. Over the next 43 years, he helped oversee and create such attractions as the Land, Seas and Imagination pavilions at EPCOT, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the major refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland in 1983, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. He was also the executive producer who oversaw the design of Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992.

In 2013 Tony received the Disney Legend award at the D23 Expo as well as a window honoring him on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland. Even though he retired later that same year, Tony continues to consult with Walt Disney Imagineering on various projects and mentors the next generation of Imagineers.

Greg was also honored for his extraordinary accomplishments and contributions as a leader and innovator at Disney.

Greg, who is Disney Parks’ chief safety officer, leads a global team of ride design, operations, maintenance and safety professionals around the world that keep Disney on the leading edge of theme park safety, accessibility for guests with disabilities, and technology advancements.  Greg has also received a number of awards in recognition of his commitment to safety and for fostering innovative practices that increase access to Disney experiences for those with disabilities. He holds dozens of U.S. patents and is credited as one of the inventors of Disney FASTPASS Service. He has served on several industry safety boards and associations and has held a number of leadership roles within IAAPA, including as the organization’s chairman in 2017.

Josh D’Amaro Confirms that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to Open in 2021

Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products virtually took the stage at the IAAPA Expo: Virtual Education Conference and among his comments announced that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will open sometime in 2021.

The ride which will be located in the France pavilion had been originally planned to open in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 closure in March and subsequent restrictions on theme park operations that followed the opening  was delayed.  This means that Disney will wait until it can properly market the attraction to drive guests back to Walt Disney World next year.

The exterior of the expansion is largely complete, and we have heard from sources that ride system testing is already underway inside the show building.

All-Star Movies Resort Scheduled to Re-Open on February 2021

Walt Disney World has announced that its All Star Movies Resort at Walt Disney World will re-open on February 9, 2021.

The resort shutdown during the original COVID-19 closure earlier this year in March. Disney has not yet announced a re-opening date for the other All Star Resorts.

Reservations for All Star Movies are now being accepted.

The following Disney Resort hotels are now open and accepting new reservations:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

D23 Members to Get Exclusive Discount at shopDisney Through the End of October

D23 and shopDisney have announced that D23 members will receive an exclusive 20% discount at shopDisney until October 31.

At the D23 member website D23 announced –

We have some exciting news to announce to ALL of our D23 Members!

Disney store and shopDisney.com have given us an exclusive discount on all of the Disney items we love. For a limited-time only take 20 percent off of your purchase of $65.00 or more. Start your Holiday shopping early! But don’t wait… this offer is only good through Halloween.

For the discount code and other particulars, please go to D23’s website.

Disney Cruise Line Announces Date of Maiden Voyage of Newest Ship

It’s nearly two years away but Disney Cruise Line announced earlier today that the maiden voyage of its newest ship will have its maiden voyage is set for the Summer of 2022.

The Wish will weigh in at about 144,000 gross tons and include 1,250 staterooms, according to Disney. That makes it slightly larger than Disney’s current ships, the Dream and the Fantasy. It will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas.

Disney has otherwise been mostly quiet about the ship’s amenities. The company showed off a rendering of a three-story, fairytale-inspired atrium. The stern will feature a picture of Rapunzel, who Disney said embodies the desire to see the world.

Winter Summerland Mini Golf to Re-Open at Walt Disney World

With the fall season beginning and the winter season on the horizon in Florida, Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf will be re-opening to guests beginning on November 6th at Walt Disney World Resort.

Winter Summerland Miniature Golf offers two uniquely themed 18-hole courses, each with their own distinct musical soundtrack. As the name implies, one course draws inspiration from the winter season, including snow castles and ice hockey rinks. The second course represents all things related to summer. Guests navigate surf boards, sand sculptures and even a melted snowman.

When Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf re-opens, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf will close for the season on November 5th and re-open on January 31st next year.

Characters Returning to Chef Mickey’s

Walt Disney World has indicated that Mickey Mouse and friends will return to Chef Mickey’s starting on December 16th at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Disney has also indicated that along with the return of characters,  there will be new menu items that will debut.  When the breakfast returns it will now be an all-you-care-to-eat family style breakfast instead of the previous buffet offering.

As we have seen at other Walt Disney World character meals, the characters will parade though the restaurant instead of visiting tables as they have previously done.

While Disney has not specifically mentioned it, I would expect that they will be returning the price to what it was previously when it had characters.

Reservations for Chef Mickey’s character breakfast will become available on October 17th.

It’s been years since we’ve been to Chef Mickey’s. We considered the character interaction subpar and the buffet food barely average….and it’s the noisiest meal I’ve ever experience…ever. We ate at Garden Grill and Topolino’s last month when we were visiting Walt Disney World and I actually think the way they’re doing the characters is an improvement. With this and the menu changes…if they stay….might actually get us to return.

The other thing that’s important to note….

This significantly increases the number of character breakfasts and character meals available to guests on property.  So, if you are looking for a character meal, this is really good news.