It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these! There are a bunch of smaller-scale Walt Disney World news stories worth covering, and I don’t have much commentary to add to most of them. Let’s dig right into the updates, with this WDW news roundup covering the return of Cultural Representatives, 2023 College Program, rad race medals, more buffets coming back to Walt Disney World, and remembering the legendary Ron Logan.
We’ll start with the latest release of new operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours, and the current calendar now runs through November 9, 2022. That’s the entirety of the current Halloween party season and includes the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, too. Here are the hours for the newly-added dates in the lead-up to the holiday season in November 2022:
- Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 10 pm
- Epcot: 9 am to 9 pm
- Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
- Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
- Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)
As a reminder, Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate or placeholder hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. This is happening even now, during the early fall off-season at Walt Disney World, so it’ll almost certainly continue in October and November 2022.
It’s been a while since Walt Disney World last extended hours–the ‘full’ calendar currently only runs through October 1, 2022. From now through then, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios open at 8:30 am and Animal Kingdom opens at 8 am. For its part, Magic Kingdom opens at 8 am on party nights and closes at 11 pm on non-party nights.
We’re expecting another big ‘wave’ of park hours extensions for October and potentially beyond any day now. There’s every reason to believe October and November will be significantly busier than August and September. As such, what’s posted for October 2 and beyond is not the final calendar–it’s a placeholder.
Next up, some positive news–more buffets are returning to Walt Disney World!
Over the weekend, the breakfast buffet returned to Disney Junior Play n’ Dine at Hollywood Studios. This features assorted pastries, yogurt parfait, oatmeal, sticky buns, and an omelet station. Classic entrees such as biscuits and gravy, Mickey-shaped waffles, chicken & waffles, and eggs benedict are also available. Then there are signature specialties like salmon and bagel casserole, plant-based frittata, and brioche french toast with bananas fosters sauce.
For lunch and dinner, Minnie’s Seasonal Dine is also once again serving up its buffet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is currently Minnie’s Halloween Dine, with Minnie’s Holiday Dine starting November 8, 2022. We love and highly recommend both the Halloween and Christmas buffets. They’re a great way to get seasonal character photos if you don’t do Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
This buffet offers an array of salads, chilled starters, and various potatoes. Entrees include roasted mushroom farro risotto, macaroni & cheese with shrimp and bacon, oven-roasted chicken, herb-crusted tenderloin steak, seared salmon, and slow-roasted crispy pork belly. Dessert brings some show-stoppers, including seasonal bread pudding, Mississippi mud pie, and a variety of mini desserts!
Tusker House in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will soon switch over to buffet service, too. Walt Disney World has revealed that the modified family style dining currently on offer will stick around until October 31, after which Tusker House’s buffet will return on November 1, 2022.
If you happen to be taking a trip to Walt Disney World and can choose which ‘version’ of the restaurant to book, our strong advice would be to do the buffet. Pre-closure, Tusker House was one of our absolute favorite buffets at Walt Disney World–we considered it “Boma Lite,” which was high praise considering it featured characters and was inside a park.
There’s no guarantee the buffet menu will remain the same as it was in March 2020 upon returning. We’d expect some degree of changes simply by virtue of the passage of two years and inflated food costs.
However, we’d absolutely be willing to roll the dice on that given how mediocre the modified meal is at Tusker House. There are some Walt Disney World restaurants where the family style service has been an improvement. Tusker House is not one of them. We will welcome back its buffet, including whatever that might entail, with open arms.
More good news, as Walt Disney World has started welcoming back Disney Cultural Representatives who have come from around the globe to EPCOT. From their arrival day at Flamingo Crossings Village to their first week of on-the-job training at EPCOT, these Cast Members are getting acquainted with their new roles.
Walt Disney World Ambassador Ali Manion recently met new Cast Members in World Showcase, including those who have been eagerly waiting to return to the program since reopening.
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For some participants, this is their very first Disney Program. Others have experienced a Disney International Program before and were longing to return to discover more and create even more memories. In addition to interacting with guests from around the world, participants get to meet other Cast Members from around the globe and create long-lasting friendships.
“I’m most excited to relive the experience again,” said Marco Cerri, a returning participant from Milan. “I loved sharing my knowledge about my culture and the beauty of my country with guests and learning how to inspire others.”
“It’s so wonderful to be back and reconnect with all the people I used to work with and I’m so excited to meet all the new people on my journey,” said Melanie Bernert, a returning Cultural Representative from Schongau, a small town in Germany.
This is unequivocally good news. For much of the last two years, World Showcase has felt lifeless. A number of entertainment acts have returned since the start of the 50th Anniversary last October, which was a big boost in giving the pavilions much energy. Still, World Showcase lacked the je ne sais quoi and lived-in quality that the Cultural Representatives gave to each host country.
We enjoy the serene atmosphere of World Showcase at night after the crowds have cleared out, but not so much during the middle of the day. Without the Cast Members and all of the live performers that previously inhabited the pavilions, World Showcase has lacked its normal sense of conviviality. The return of the Cultural Representatives should resolve that once and for all.
That’s the big upside to the return of Cultural Representatives at EPCOT, but another benefit is that they will ease some of the strain and help address staffing shortages. Walt Disney World has announced more meal services returning in September, and this is likely one reason why. It’ll be interesting to see what other locations join that list by the start of the new fiscal year.
Our eyes are on Akershus. As previously discussed, the FREE Food & Wine Lounge is Returning to EPCOT but notably is not going to be in Norway (it’ll be in Morocco). This could be because Walt Disney World plans on reopening Akershus before November…or wants to keep the option open. We shall see!
Sticking with this subject, the College Program is now accepting applications for arrival dates between October 2022 and April 2023. Departure dates will begin no earlier than May 2023. The College Program spans 4 to 7 months, with opportunities to extend up to 1 year. You can apply here.
As a Disney College Program participant at Walt Disney World, you will become part of the company that is known worldwide, gain experience working in a front-line role at the Florida parks and resorts, and have the opportunity to participate in unique experiences and activities created just for Disney Programs participants.
College Program participants work and network with professionals throughout the Walt Disney Company, take part in learning and career development sessions, and live and work with people from all over the world. While you work in your role, you will build transferable skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest service, and effective communication.
Disney has revealed the race medals for the the 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, celebrating runDisney’s 30th Anniversary with a dose of 90’s retro vibes, iconic characters, and a glimpse into the runDisney of years past. These medals commemorate 30 years of runDisney with colorful designs paying homage to the decade this race weekend got its start.
Like the race themes themselves, these medals are fantastic. Huge kudos to the team that came up with so much 90s goodness. (Also, well played on doing the medal shoot at Pop Century.) You can see the medal design for each of the races and challenges here.
Following the success of Disney Villainous, game company Ravensburger is partnering with Disney for something even more ambitious: Disney Lorcana. This trading card game will feature Disney characters in original and reimagined art styles set in an all-new world and overarching storyline created for the game.
The game is set in the rich and fantastical world of Lorcana, a combination of the words Lore and Arcana. Players will take on the mantle of Illumineer, a powerful sorcerer, and band together Disney characters from Lorcana’s “The Great Illuminary,” a treasury of all Disney songs and stories ever made. With this card, it would seem that Disney wants in on the collectible card game worlds dominated by Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon Trading Card Game, two behemoth billion-dollar franchises.
Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about trading card games. I’ve never played MTG or Pokémon–they’re total blind spots for me. I’m not sharing this for any other reason than to speculate about whether we might see theme park integration. (Given my ignorance about these games, I honestly don’t even know whether that’s a possibility.)
When I read the press release, my mind immediately went to the now-extinct Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Disney loves synergy, and has already tested an in-park card game…could Disney Lorcana be what revives that? Perhaps we’ll find out at D23 Expo, when Ravensburger will share a first-look at Disney Lorcana.
Finally, Disney Legend Ron Logan passed away on August 30, 2022. He was 84 years old. The former executive vice president and executive producer for Walt Disney Entertainment was responsible for revolutionizing live entertainment at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond. Even if you’ve never heard the name, you are undoubtedly familiar with Ron’s work.
From the late 1980s through 2001, Ron Logan was responsible for creating, casting, and producing all live entertainment at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Entertainment Productions, and beyond. He was the main man behind IllumiNations, SpectroMagic, Fantasmic, Tapestry of Nations, Fantillusion, Festival of the Lion, Sorcery in the Sky, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and many other memorable nighttime spectaculars and parades.
Additionally, Ron Logan produced pitched the idea of a Beauty and the Beast Broadway show based on the version in the parks. This led to the establishment of Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, where Ron served as president for the early years of Disney on Broadway. He also produced five Super Bowl halftime shows, and was an associate professor at the University of Central Florida.
Ron retired from Disney in 2001. After which he was honored with the Disney Legend status in 2007 and a window on Main Street at Magic Kingdom. The window is for the Main Street Music Co., with words below that title reading, “Ron Logan, Leading the Band into a New Century.”
We had the chance to see presentations by Ron Logan a few times at events hosted by WDWNT and RetroWDW. He was always incredibly captivating and charismatic, providing illuminating insight into a bygone era in the parks when things got done. In particular, he had fascinating stories about the creative process and working under Michael Eisner, along with tales of the tight development timelines for the memorable movie tie-in parades of the 1990s. (Ron made entire parades happen with a faster turnaround time than a character meet & greet today. Literally.)
If you’re a child of the 1990s who grew up visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland, there’s a good chance that Ron Logan played a pivotal role in making you a lifelong fan. He will be missed, with his creative vision and legacy living on to honor him daily and nightly at Hollywood Studios and Disneyland.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think about all this Walt Disney World news? Thoughts on the passing of Disney Legend Ron Logan and his legacy creating entertainment for the parks (and beyond)? What about the return of more buffets? Excited to see Cultural Representatives in World Showcase? Excited for the new card game…and hoping it makes an appearance in the parks? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!