|Monster Mike Wazowski on Epcot's Spaceship Earth // All photos by Maureen Stone|
Walt Disney World in Florida has unveiled a series of summer special events and new attractions that pack the 2013 calendar and present a good problem for travel sellers. There is real danger a vacation planner not paying close attention may easily miss a compelling, but time-sensitive, reason for one of their clients to book a getaway to central Florida. Many events, known collectively as “Limited Time Magic,” are shared promotions with Disneyland Resort parks in southern California.
At a recent media presentation at Walt Disney World outlining the Disney activities for the weeks ahead, Walt Disney World Resorts President George Kalogridis delivered a rundown of enough fast-moving travel entertainment opportunities to fill a Disney daily news program. Some Limited Time Magic events flash by quickly enough to be over by the end of May, and seem designed to attract last-minute impulse guests to Walt Disney World. Fortunately more magic is always looming on the next page of any Disney calendar.
While Disney promotes mid-2013 as its “Monstrous Summer,” the action goes well beyond Labor Day and includes new permanent attractions as well as Limited Time Magic daily and weekly events. And it is by no means limited to the several events connected with “Monsters University,” the Disney-Pixar animated film prequel to Monsters Inc. that opens in theaters on June 21. The film’s one-eyed monster Mike Wazowski helped introduce the summer theme from his massive animated image projected on the side of EPCOT’s iconic Spaceship Earth. But Kalogridis noted that the emphasis on summer is a decided effort by Disney hosts to attract family visitors during the resort’s prime vacation season.
|Recent family crowds on Main Street USA|
Limited Time Family Memories
“Summer is a time to continue our tradition of presenting experiences that are immersive, fun and innovative,” said Kalogridis. “There is a limited time in life to create special memories for families.” The Walt Disney Worlds Resort President added that the fleeting quality of shared family time is a basis for the company’s creation of the Limited Time Magic events. Each is meant to be uniquely memorable with a limited window of opportunity.
That said, there also appears to be much on the Disney plate for older youth, as well as the college crowd, starting in May. Here is a brief rundown of much, but by no means all, of what’s ahead at Walt Disney World.
• The annual one-day May 4 celebration of “Star Wars Day” took place in Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. The event included dozens of Star Wars characters mingling in the park, an evening dance party and a one-time Symphony in the Stars fireworks display with the movie as a theme. It is based on the fan slogan “May the Fourth Be with You.” Expect it again next year.
• Popular Star Wars weekends take place each weekend in Disney Hollywood Studios from May 17 through June 9. Special Star Wars parades, 60 roaming Star Wars characters , and Jedi Academy classes for parents with their kids, a daily Star Wars talk show, and nightly dances are included.
• “Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection” is newly opened in the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot. This collection of historic art and documents from 400 years of African-American history will be on display with rotating content from the collections of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey over the next three years. (See here for details on the exhibit.)
|A new Festival of Fantasy Parade debuts in Spring 2014|
• A rare Disney “All-Nighter” to celebrate the Monsters University film opening takes place in the Disney World Magic Kingdom, as well as Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park in California from 6 a.m. May 24 to 6 a.m. May 25 on Memorial Day weekend. The monster characters will appear in Tomorrowland and at the Magic Kingdom parade. Disney characters will don pajamas, and special overnight dance parties will take place at Cinderella’s Castle.
• Disney’s 4th of July celebration will last from July 1-7 with patriotic nightly fireworks.
• The Car Masters Weekend is a classic auto show at Downtown Disney on Father’s Day weekend, June 14-16. Lighting McQueen and the Pixar “Cars 2” stars plus 150 classic cars will be there.
• Friday, Sept. 13, will be an “Unleash the Villains” day in Disney Hollywood Studios, and Disneyland in California. Captain Hook, Maleficent and other Disney villains join an evening dance party until the late closing at 1 a.m., which Disney calls “the 13th hour.”
• Jack Sparrow and his Pirates of the Caribbean will be a major presence in multiple locations around the Disney parks in the months ahead. Look for a Pirates Week at a yet-to-be set date in mid-September. And an interactive game called “A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas” is now in tests in the Magic Kingdom and opens soon. Young guest pirates join Jack Sparrow and his crew on five adventures to fight villains and follow maps to buried treasures.
• This is the first summer for the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow attraction at Hollywood Studios. This is an immersive, walk-through experience in which guests conquer villains from the four Pirates of the Caribbean films and ultimately meet Jack himself.
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rises in new Fantasyland|
Princesses, Seven Dwarfs and Avatar
Several much-anticipated Disney features and attractions are either nearing their launch dates by 2014, or now in early creative development stages for later openings:
• The Princess Fairytale Hall opens in the Disney Magic Kingdom’s new Fantasyland this fall. Disney Assistant Producer Pam Rollins described the attraction as “an immersive experience in which guests are royal subjects going to meet your princesses.” Expect to meet Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora and others located in chambers that will allow for two princess greetings per visit.
• The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is rapidly nearing completion of construction as the last piece in the new Fantasyland. Lead Imagineer Dave Minichiello said the five-car coaster ride with its unique swiveling cars will be geared to the entire family. “There will be new things to discover,” he said. “It’s all about the [Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs] story and creating effects from the story in new and exciting ways. There will be surprises.”
• Disney Resorts President Kalogridis said Disney Imagineers are now hard at work on early-stage creation of a new land for one of its theme parks based on the James Cameron film “Avatar.”
• The complete renovation of Downtown Disney into a new entertainment area called Disney Springs is now underway. A Disney spokesperson said the May 6 groundbreaking will lead to more than 150 retail and entertainment outlets over the three-year project compared to the 80 outlets currently in Downtown Disney. Disney Springs, whose landscape will include a mix of current and new waterways, will double the area’s existing footprint with boutique and anchor stores. Disney has big plans to make Disney Springs a shopping mecca with a small-town theme.
“We ultimately would like to get brands and shops not currently available in central Florida,” said the spokesperson. “There will be some co-branding and we will be looking for opportunities. There may be brands that are new to Florida or even new to the U.S. market.”
• A new Festival of Fantasy Parade will debut as the daily Magic Kingdom attraction starting in Spring 2014. “This will replace the current parade with new characters and new floats and will be unlike anything we have ever done before,” said Kalogridis.
|A unique Disney character encounter at the Grand Floridian Hotel|
Mobile Apps - My Disney Experience
Trying to help travel agents and clients organize the staggering abundance of Disney entertainment content available to them in Walt Disney World on a given day is no easy challenge. But Disney is making a bold attempt, especially with two cutting-edge pieces of theme park technology that put the personal organization of a Disney visit on the wrist or in the hand. One is the continuing development of “My Disney Experience,” a free mobile app for the iPhone and Android smartphones and the iPad. Tech-savvy guests can use the app as a one-stop shop to find out wait times for shows and attractions, make dining reservations, read restaurant menus, get park directions or learn character appearance times.
Another tech device launching soon to be included in Disney hotel guest stays, or available for purchase by other park guests, is the Disney Magic Band. This device, made of rubber in colorful colors, will be a room key, park pass, fast pass, touch-pay device and customizable Disney park experience all rolled into one. This is now in a final test phase before upcoming launch.
Kalogridis summed up Disney’s management philosophy on the abundance of ongoing new activity at Walt Disney World, as well as at the California Disney parks, by quoting the founder. “As Walt used to say, ‘Our parks will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world. We are always in a state of becoming.’”
|Monster topiaries at Epcot Garden Show|