Walt Disney World Announces Date That Skyliner Takes Flight

A new era in Disney transportation is right around the corner!

Today Walt Disney World announced that on September 29th, the Disney Skyliner gondolas will officially begin transporting guests around Walt Disney World Resort.

In the Disney fan community, this date is possibly the most anticipated, just short of when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was opening.  Now that I think about it, since SWGE opening was announced a few weeks ago, this probably was the currently most anticipated.

Disney Skyliner will connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four of its resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort which is scheduled to open in December 2019.

The gondolas will feature graphics based on Disney films, attractions and characters. Disney has previously featured a few of the character cabins on the Disney Parks Blog, including those with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Chip & Dale.

Some of the other Disney themes featured will include:

  • “Coco”
  • Goofy, Pete, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow
  • “Finding Dory”
  • Haunted Mansion
  • “Monsters, Inc.”
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • “Ratatouille”

Walt Disney World Announces a Number of Closures and Relocations in Epcot’s Future World Transformation

Walt Disney World has announced that there will be a number of relocations and closures related the the re-imagineering of Epcot’s Future World.  If you are heading to Walt Disney World this fall or winter be aware of the information listed below.

Disney has confirmed the following….

Closing on September 8th, 2019 –

Art of Disney – eventually moving to Heritage Manor (American Adventure)

Fountain of Nations

Innoventions East – Colortopia and Nanooze Break

Epcot’s Character Spot (Innoventions East) –

  • Mickey and Goofy will be moving to Imageworks
  • Minnie will be moving to the World Showcase Gazebo
  • Daisy Duck will be moving to The American Adventure
  • Joy, Sadness & Baymax will be moving to a location yet to be announced

Closing Late Fall 2019 –

  • Fountain View (Starbucks)
  • Club Cool
  • Pin Central will operate temporarily from a new location while refurbishment is underway
  • Camera Center will close to become a new home for Pin Central.

Closing Winter 2019 –

  • MouseGear to be Re-Imagineered (will be relocated to a temporary location)
  • Electric Umbrella (new dining location coming later)

 

Space-Themed Restaurant to Open in Epcot Later This Year

Some people go to Walt Disney World for the attractions, others go for the food.  Some will say that food at the Disney parks is an attraction.

Well, if you’re a fan of eating at Walt Disney World, Disney has announced that Epcot’s space-themed restaurant will open later this year.

The restaurant was initially announced last summer. Disney has not announced a name for the new restaurant either.  And, so far, few details have been shared about its menu or price point.

The new Epcot establishment is going up in Epcot’s Future World, in a space between Test Track and the Mission: Space attractions.

According to Disney…

“No dining experience on Earth can match what’s in store, because this new restaurant will take you into outer space for incredible dining experiences that are out of this world.”

Patina Restaurant Group will be operating the table-service restaurant.  It has “developed a menu that features internationally inspired cuisine, more than 1,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines and a wide selection of craft beer,” according to Disney. Patina says the executive chef will be Theo Schoenegger who created the cuisine.

Patina also operates the Epcot restaurants Tutto Italia and Via Napoli in the Italy pavilion plus Disney Springs restaurants including Morimoto Asia, Edison, Maria & Enzo’s, Pizza Ponte and Enzo’s Hideaway.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to eat here.  When it does open I expect it to be very popular and it will be a hard reservation to get initially.

Walt Disney World Increases Prices on Annual Passes and Overnight Parking

Ahead of today’s opening of bookings for 2020 and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge   opening on August 29th, Walt Disney World significantly increased the prices on their annual passes overnight.

Perhaps hardest hit were out-of-state Annual Passholders. Florida residents’ and DVC members’ prices are still markedly lower but have increased as well.

Here’s the breakdown (you may want to sit down for this) –

Non-Resident Annual Passholder (Pre-Tax) –

Platinum New  – was $894  now $1119 (25.2% increase)

Platinum Renewal – was $759 now $951 (25.3%)

Platinum Plus New – was $994 now $1219 (22.6%)

Platinum Plus Renewal – was $844 now $1036 (22.7%)

Florida Resident and DVC Member Annual Passholder (Pre-Tax) –

Silver (FL Resident) New – was $479 now $519 (8.4%)

Silver (FL Resident) Renewal – was $407 now $441 (8.4%)

Gold New – was $609 now $699 (14.8%)

Gold Renewal – was $517 now $594 (14.9%)

Platinum New – was $749 now $899 (20.0%)

Platinum Renewal – was $636 now $764 (20.1%)

Platinum Plus New – was $849 now $999 (17.7%)

Platinum Plus Renewal – was $721 now $849 (17.8%)

So what do you get with your Walt Disney World Annual Pass?

The passes get you access to the applicable parks for the year, effectively giving you a park hopper. They’ll also get you certain discounts on food and nonalcoholic beverages and merchandise, special event ticket discounts, and AP resort room offers. By having an annual pass you will also get access to exclusive Passholder merchandise, early runDisney registration, certain VIPassholder ticketed events, and giveaways,  such as car magnets and other items given out during Epcot’s festivals.

While not a direct monetary value, but we should also mention that when the parks reach capacity the current process is to restrict entry in four phases, AP holders are not blocked from entering the parks until the fourth and last phase. So AP holders are effectively given preferential treatment on the parks’ most crowded days.

By being a Passholder (or DVC member or Florida resident) you also have access to the Tables In Wonderland card, which currently costs $150. TIW gets you 20% off food and drinks (including alcohol) at most table service restaurants on property and some others. That adds up quickly, especially as a local.

Also announced today was that Walt Disney World is increasing the prices for overnight parking at its resorts.

For reservations made before June 18, 2019 for arrivals in 2019 or 2020:

  • Disney Value Resorts: $13 per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $19 per night
  • Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night

For reservations made on or after June 18, 2019 for arrivals in 2020:

  • Disney Value Resorts: $15 per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $20 per night
  • Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per night

Guests with cars staying at the Value Resorts seem to be getting hit the hardest with a 15.4% increase.  Guests staying at a Moderate and Deluxe resort will be seeing rates increased by 5.2% and 4.2% respectively.

Disney Retires Shop Parks app, shopDisney to be Sole Online Shop

Earlier today Disney announced on the Disney Parks Blog that shopDisney.com is set to become the one-stop online shop for all things Disney as the Shop Disney Parks app will be retired at the end of the month.

According to Disney, the Shop Disney Parks app will be retired on May 31.  When this happens shopDisney.com and the shopDisney app will become the ultimate online retail location for all things Disney including Parks merchandise.

If guests go to the Shop Disney Parks app they will see a message upon opening which explains the retirement of the shopping application and providing a link to download the shopDisney app.

Disney has stated that shopDisney will offer an even larger selection of favorite items from Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and more.

At Walt Disney World Resort, My Disney Experience will continue to offer popular shopping features for guests including an availability map or the ability to ship select merchandise to home (U.S. addresses only) when guests order through the My Disney Experience

Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Members will also continue to receive their eligible discounts through the My Disney Experience app.

This does not really surprise me.  Disney had to have realized what I have always experienced with the Shop Parks app.  I have rarely had a pleasant experience.  The availability function with the app was essentially useless.  There have been many times when the app said that an item was out of stock at particular locations, yet there were dozens on the shelves. That was on top of the duplication of the shopping experience.  You never knew where to look for things.  Stuff that should have been park exclusive was seldom available on Shop Parks, yet at times could be found on shopDisney.

I admire the intention of developing and implementation of Shop Parks, but it just never met expectations and was a disappointment.  I’m glad Disney realized this and is moving on.

 

Walt Disney World Announces Limited Time Extra, Extra Magic Hours…Includes Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

May the Fourth be with you!

Honoring this special Star Wars Day, Walt Disney World gave us all some very interesting news.

Today Walt Disney World announced that guests of Disney Resort hotels and other select hotels will be able to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours benefit with Extra, Extra Magic Hours for a limited time at the theme parks!

Extra, Extra Magic Hours will include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as  Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom theme parks.

Here are the details:

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios — Daily from September 1-November 2, the park will have Extra, Extra Magic Hours from 6-9 AM  which will include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, plus Toy Story Land and select other attractions through out the park. Access to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its experiences will be subject to capacity.

Disney also announced that that on August 29-31, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open at 6 AM for all guests. There will not be Extra, Extra Magic Hours on those days.   

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Extra, Extra Magic Hours will happen daily August 29-November 2, from 7-8 AM, featuring Pandora – The World of Avatar and other attractions throughout the park.  The attractions available will be the same as today’s morning Extra Magic Hours offerings.
  • Magic Kingdom Park —Extra, Extra Magic Hours will happen daily from August 29-November 2, from 7-8 AM, the attractions available in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland will be the same as the current morning EMH offerings.

Extra Magic Hours will also continue to be available on select days at Epcot.

If guests are visiting this fall, they are reminded that the Extra, Extra Magic Hours benefit at the Walt Disney World Resort requires a valid theme park admission and hotel ID.

Walt Disney World Announces End Date for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

A while ago Disney had announced that “Illuinations: Reflections of Earth” would be ending sometime this fall.  Today Walt Disney World finally announced that the final performance of the long running Epcot nighttime show would be September 30, 2019.

The show “Epcot Forever” will be replacing “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” and will debut on October 1, 2019.

According to Disney –

“Epcot Forever” will be an all-new, limited-time spectacle of fireworks, music, lighting, lasers and choreographed, special effects kites. The show will take us on a journey through the past, present and future of Epcot. Featuring a stirring collection of songs that paint a colorful picture of the park, this nighttime extravaganza will offer both a trip down memory lane and a look towards the future and all the magical possibilities still to come.”

“Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” has been a long time fan favorite.  I personally loved the show.  I’m sad to see it finally end, but it’s had a good run.  It’s been going for twenty years!  Can you believe it?

“Epcot Forever” will continue into 2020, when the next epic nighttime extravaganza makes its debut.  So, this new show is just a placeholder until the “real” replacement takes over sometime in 2020.

While I’m sad to see the show finally end, I’m really excited to see the new show that will debut in 2020.  Based on what Disney has done with “Happily Ever After” at the Magic Kingdom, I’m excited to see what they come up with.

Disney Parks Going Smoke-Free May 1st

In the Disney Parks Blog today Disney made a series of announcements that will affect many guests.  The biggest of which was that beginning May 1st, smoking will no longer be allowed inside Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or Downtown Disney in California.  In the announcement Disney stated that designated smoking areas will be available outside the entrances of the areas listed above and at Disney Springs in Florida.  For guests who have room or dining reservations, smoking areas are also available at Disney Resort hotels.

The next announcement was in regard to strollers.  Also beginning May 1st, Disney is requiring that strollers be no larger than 31″ (79cm) wide and 52″ (132cm) long.  According to the announcement many strollers on the market, including many double jogging strollers, fit within these size guidelines.  They also reminded guests that wagons will not be permitted in the parks beginning May 1st.  According to Disney, these updates are designed to help with guest flow and ease congestion.  While Disney is stating that this is an “adjustment” to the stroller guidelines, I’ve been told that this might actually be an “emphasis of enforcement,” but I don’t have definite information on that.

The final announcement affects guest bringing in coolers into the parks.  Beginning today, loose or dry ice are no longer permitted in the parks.  Ice packs will be permitted though.

Disney Reveals Initial Concepts for Epcot Transformation

Earlier today Walt Disney World announced three new concepts along with some concept art that will be included in the multi-year transformation of Epcot.  This transformation was originally announced at the D23 Expo in 2017.

From Disney’s announcement –

The ongoing evolution of Epcot includes plans for a play pavilion that’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever seen at the park. This new space will be devoted to playful fun and feature an innovative city that’ll come to life under the dome of the un-named pavilion previously known as Wonders of Life. The pavilion’s city will be bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hands-on activities and engaging entertainment when it opens just in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort!

“This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot,” said Zach Riddley, portfolio executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive ‘city’ where you can explore, create, and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters. This is an experience worthy of our bold vision for Epcot – and another signature element of our transformation.”

Walt Disney World also announced changes to the entrance of Epcot.  As you can see above the plaza will welcome guests with new pathways, sweeping green spaces and a newly reimagined fountain.  From the announcement and the concept art this new design will pay homage to the original park entrance with fresh takes on classic elements.

In case you were wondering, Disney announced that the Leave A Legacy photos will be moving into a beautiful setting just outside the park’s gateway.  Disney also mentioned that significant redevelopment will also begin between Spaceship Earth attraction and the World Showcase Promenade.  Details will be announced at a later date….my guess is that we’ll probably hear something about this at the D23 Expo in August.

Guests will soon be able to look what’s coming at a new Experience Center coming to Epcot later this year. The Experience Center will be located in the Odyssey Events Pavilion and feature interactive exhibits to help visualize park projects throughout this unprecedented period of transformation.

Many of us have been wondering whether the transformation of Epcot was still going to happen since we haven’t seen or heard anything…even concept art since the project was announced in July of 2017 at the D23 Expo.

I for one, and from what I’ve seen and read I’m not the only one, am very excited about this exciting announcement.

She’s Baaaaaaack!

Maleficent will be making her long awaited return to Disney’s Festival of Fantasy parade today at the Magic Kingdom today.

The tall steampunk-inspired dragon has been missing from the parade since it caught fire on May 11, 2018.

While she still has her same Steampunk style and signature wicked smile, the Maleficent dragon will be sporting a refreshed look, but includes enhanced safety features for the flame effects. Also returning to the parade are Prince Phillip; the Fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather; and the mischievous “Ravens” who fly around Maleficent.

I don’t know about you but the parade hasn’t been the same since the unfortunate accident that removed her from the parade.  I cannot wait to see her again in all her glory.