Disney World News: Star Wars Permit, Frozen Ride Refurb, Dining Returns
We’re back with another Walt Disney World news round-up! As usual, this one covers a range of topics, including the Walt Disney Company’s 2020 financial results webcast, more restaurants returning in the parks, Frozen Ever After’s upcoming downtime, progress on the Star Wars hotel, Park Pass availability, and more. Before getting started, we want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support in response to our Help Give Back to Disney Cast Members & Community initiative.
Many of you have contributed, either via monetary donations or in spreading awareness, and we are incredibly humbled and heartened by that. Our fundraiser has now eclipsed over $50,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, making it the largest virtual food drive in the history of the organization. As some of you have noticed and shared in the comments to the original story, the fundraiser was picked up by some media outlets. That was great for helping shine a spotlight on a great cause, albeit mildly unnerving for us as introverts.
We want to reiterate how grateful we are to all of you for your generous support, more of which is still desperately needed as the Orlando area reels from economic devastation. This fundraiser doesn’t make the news of Walt Disney World Cast Member and other layoffs any less heartbreaking, but hopefully it shows those who have made the magic just how important they are to all of us, and plays a small role in starting to make things better.
In our last Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup, we shared additional thoughts on the layoff of 28,00 Cast Members in Florida and California. We noted there that we do not plan on offering analysis or commentary about the specific divisions and areas of these job losses; along those lines, we are not going to be reporting on unconfirmed reports or rumors of layoffs.
It’s one thing to miss the mark with a rumor when it comes to a replacement for Stitch’s Great Escape, overdue update to Journey into Imagination, or the perpetually ‘almost greenlit’ Brazil pavilion. It’s another entirely to get things wrong when it comes to careers, futures, financial wellbeing, etc. We kindly request you refrain from spreading such rumors or speculation in the comments, as well. Just because someone is a high-profile Imagineer or something of that sort doesn’t make them fair game.
On a related note, the Walt Disney Company will release its fourth quarter results for the last fiscal year after the close of regular trading on November 12, 2020. Thereafter, Disney executive leadership will discuss 2020 financials via a live audio webcast beginning at 4:30 pm EST on this page.
We will once again be listening and offering our analysis that evening on the blog after the webcast concludes. While this is not the type of event that usually results in specific or tangible theme park announcements, it does provide high-level insight into the health and trajectory of Walt Disney World, Disneyland, etc., which in turn guides specific decisions. Given the unprecedented nature of the last six-plus months and the significance of the new fiscal year, this webcast should over important forward-looking insights.
In terms of less significant forward-looking insights, we’re starting to see more action on the 2020-2021 Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar. We’ve already updated you on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, draining of the Rivers of America, and likely 2021 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad downtime.
Now a 5-day closure of Frozen Ever After has been added to the downtime list. EPCOT’s popular boat ride will go down November 2-6, 2020 and will reopen on November 7, 2020. No word on what the project entails, but judging by the duration, it’s for routine maintenance.
Larger scale construction projects have also resumed and accelerated the pace of their work. We’ve been providing updates on the renovation/gutting of Electric Umbrella & MouseGear, new roof on the future Play Pavilion, and the canopy progress on Tron Lightcycle Run.
In addition to those visible in-park projects, work can be observed continuing on both the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve Hotel Tower in the Crescent Lake area and Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort behind Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A new permit filed by Walt Disney Imagineering indicates that work inside the upcoming Star Wars hotel is also progressing.
This new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort permit is for “set items” and InterAmerica Stage, Inc. as the contractor. That company is “established leader in the entertainment industry” with a focus on overhead rigging, specialized stage machinery, structural design, and engineering. Their portfolio includes a lot of theater work, and they’ve collaborated with SeaWorld, Universal, Legoland, and others in the past.
As you might recall, Walt Disney Company’s CFO Christine McCarthy specifically addressed the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort at a conference last month. She indicated that this was one of a handful of theme park projects that are already underway that will be prioritized going forward. As we state in our post covering Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort, we still expect changes to the nature of the experience between what was announced and what opens.
Next, there have been a lot of restaurant updates in the last few weeks. You’re probably already aware that Minnie’s Halloween Dine has returned, Chef Mickey’s is getting a new menu and bringing back characters for Christmas, and Chefs de France reopens this week.
However, a bunch of smaller-scale additions have also occurred. Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland Spring Roll Cart returned last weekend, Via Napoli’s counter service window resumed operations, as did the Friar’s Nook, among several other locations. Many of these will only be open as dictated by demand. For October, that likely means weekends only.
What we really need to do is update our List of Reopening & Closed In-Park Restaurants at Walt Disney World to include all of the little snack stands, kiosks, etc. We know it’s difficult to keep track of all the changes–so that’s on my agenda for later today.
Also on the restaurant changes front, there are now more options for Mobile Order to Go. This started with Sanaa (review coming soon!) and has since been expanded to Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and is coming soon to the Wave of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This is a really great addition that helps expand dining capacity at a time when it’s really needed.
Next, our latest check on Disney Park Pass availability.
There’s a predictable near-term dearth of reservations for Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend (October 9-12, 2020) and the week thereafter, although there are oddly more options for APs than the other buckets on some dates. However, we want to focus a bit further out…
For Annual Passholders, weekends in November are already filling up and the same is also starting to happen for early December 2020. This isn’t just Disney’s Hollywood Studios, either–it’s every park except EPCOT.
If you’re a local AP, it’s an objectively bad idea to book reservations that far into the future unless you have a specific reason for doing so or a certain must-visit date. Upon quickly glancing at the calendar, you might disagree with us, thinking it’s “necessary” to book weekends far in advance given the shortage of near-term options.
However, this overlooks the reality that the bucket of reservations for Annual Passholders is regularly refilled for dates in the immediate or near future. For example, last Thursday night or Friday morning you could’ve booked reservations for that weekend, but not one 4 weeks later. The same scenario has played out time and time again, to the point that it’s a clear pattern.
Ultimately, some Annual Passholders locking in their allotment of visit dates far in advance (and thus not competing for closer dates) benefits everyone else. So we are thankful for those individuals. However, if you’re reading this blog our goal is to offer advice to help you “beat” the masses, and this falls within that purview. Unless something changes dramatically (always a possibility in these uncertain, ever-changing times), the much better approach right now is making reservations for closer dates, having a strong refresh game, and checking the availability calendar–especially on Thursday evening and Friday morning.
We’ll close with a quick site update. Several readers who haven’t recently received our free email newsletter have contacted us, wondering if we stopped doing the newsletter. (No, the last one went out yesterday.) Upon closer inspection, I found that the vast majority of these were readers with yahoo or hotmail email addresses, and this is a known problem with their mail filtering. We also frequently purge the list of inactive members, so it’s also possible you were unsubscribed. There’s nothing we can do about either of these issues, but you can subscribe again here.
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 are your thoughts on the latest Walt Disney World news? Disappointed that upcoming refurbishments might impact your trip, or think that’s probably for the best? Happy to see more Disney Park Pass options for Annual Passholders? Thoughts on the decision to plow forward with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and 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!
You’ve probably already seen/heard this but people myself included were able to score Boarding Groups from outside the parks. I am in Colorado and got BG 25. I feel bad for those in the parks as this is a hot mess in an already mess of a park! I just wanted to practice I didn’t think I’d ACTUALLy get one!
Love your daily updates and beautiful photos. What kind of camera do you use for your gorgeous photos?
Any word on the reopening of Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian??????
Wow!! $50,000!! That’s awesome! Thank you for what you’ve spearheaded to help cast members. That will be so appreciated! On another note, do you think that any jobs could’ve been saved if Disney had out the Stars Wars Hotel project on the back burner, or is it the reverse- jobs to be added once it’s completed? Thoughts?
Tom, thank you for your wonderful information and updates; I read your blog every day. I so enjoy the pictures that you include; is it possible for you to give the location for the ones for which this is not obvious, maybe in small print under the picture? I apologize if this is a frequent question! Thank you, Donna
What’s the latest on the Port Orleans complex? I have contacted Disney a couple times. Either they don’t know are not saying. Do you have any idea why it has remained so long?
I would appreciate any information the share.
Congratulations on the success of your fundraiser and on gaining some attention to this great cause! I was so excited to see a headline about a fundraiser supporting the cast members and seeing the names of my favorite Disney bloggers attached to it! Hoping that the publicity will equal more donations.
Congrats on your fundraiser, Tom & Sarah!! That’s awesome. Seriously.
Now, can anyone tell me if breakfast is being served anywhere at WDW? I tried to book ADRs for breakfast & it appears that’s not an option at our favorite restaurants, sadly. It’s our favorite meal at a Disney! What about at CBR? I’m hoping we can at least eat a good breakfast at our resort??
Many places are serving breakfast! The Plaza Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom, CBR only has a quick service option for breakfast, but most of the deluxe resorts are offering breakfast. Topolino Terrace at the Riviera resort (right next to CBR) has a character meal for breakfast. Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian Cafe at the GF, Kona Cafe at the Polynesian, and both Chef Mickey’s and The Wave at the Contemporary all serve breakfast & are just a hop away from the Magic Kingdom. The Ale & Compass at the Yacht Club is just a hop away from Epcot & Hollywood Studios. And that’s not including Disney Springs
Everything is probably just booked already. Lots of restaurants open for breakfast
When does Christmas start at WDW, and what do we know will happen so far this year?
We went the week before Thanksgiving one year and there wasn’t a single Christmas decoration up, but then the day we left, almost overnight, there were Christmas decorations everywhere. I think they start putting Christmas decorations up the Sunday before Thanksgiving and have them all completed on or the day after Thanksgiving.
I just read this to my family (the food bank portion) and my 8 year old said very matter of factly, “Disney people care, Mom. They watch out for us, and we watch out for them.”
It made my heart swell. So true.
Because I am an older solo traveler with back and neck problems, I come for character greetings, shows (including stuff like the Dapper Dans and the African music groups in Animal Kingdom), parades, fireworks, and food. I loved the interactions with foreign cast members in World Showcase. I can ride gentle rides like Gran Fiesta and Navi River Journey, but thrill rides, roller coasters, sudden drops, Test Track are out for me. I also like interacting with my fellow guests in lines or in crowds. Is there any point in me trying to return to WDW for a couple of years? I live to “talk” with Minnie, dance with Donald, and hug Goofy! Any advice? Thanks so much!
A local AP holder here ( in my 70’s) –fortunately without physical limitations. I’m not much on character interactions (except as audience)–but enjoy talking with fellow guests and foreign cast members. I love the shows-parades, meh. We are actually enjoying the new WDW experience (overall); it’s not something we want to experience forever. We hope that by next fall we will see the return of many WDW experiences. Our advice to family members who had hoped to visit this year–and to you because of your specific WDW magic– is to plan to wait at least a year. Wait, watch, then come when your magic returns.
Thank you very much – besides, I would have to fly from Virginia, and have “co-morbidities” that would make it very bad if I caught COVID, say on the plane.
Yes get your butt in there and do what you can. It’s all good and magical!
I like to dance with the group at Animal Kingdom that plays near Discovery Island on the way to Dino-Land! I hope they come back. Once I got the girls working at the shop nearby to come out and dance with me (and everyone). I like the African guy who plays the kora (African harp) and the Bollywood dance group they started having. I like the cool theming, because, having been to India and Bhutan and Africa, it is so accurate – like you are there! I like getting Chip ‘n’ Dale to dance the bump with me at the Garden Grill at EPCOT! I like being a silly girl with Minnie! I want it BACK!!!
Question – With all the restaurants now wanting us to do mobile ordering, are they allowing Disney gift cards for payment or still only credit cards? I’ve been building up my gift card in preparation for our trip to Disney. I started before the pandemic so it’s enough to pay for most of our meals. But now I worry I won’t be able to use it
Looking at the WDW website, it says that you can “pay for your order using a credit card, debit card, Disney Gift Card, Disney Rewards Redemption Card, Apple Pay or Disney dining plan.” I think you are good to go!
We’ve been using gift cards on mobile orders since reopening without a problem – it can be a bit of a hassle to have to enter the number in each time, but it’s definitely a great addition for those of us who like to use gift cards for all our park purchases.
To make it faster enter the gift card number in a “note” app somewhere on your phone then you can “copy & paste” quickly when asked for gift card number on mobile order, it worked great for our trip.
Great idea, S.Luke! Thanks!
We stayed at a Disney hotel and gave them our gift cards on checkin, then just used magic bands to deplete the card balance. I had an approximate idea of how much we would spend on food, so I knew I would run out of gift card credit and the rest would be on credit card, but I checked my balance a couple of times at front desk to be sure. Worked fine. I bought all my cards at Sam’s club with a discount.
We were there 2 weekends ago and used our redemption card for mobile ordering.
We were there a few weeks ago and used gift cards for every meal.
PegP – When I went in August and did mobile ordering it automatically used my credit card on file. This was frustrating as I to use Disney Gift Cards. If there was a way to use my gift card, I never figured it out. Just wanted to let you know.
Congrats Tom and Sarah on the success of your fund raiser. $50,000 and still going. WOW! And a shout out to all the readers of this blog. Disney people are special people.
Can’t believe I opened Yahoo news to find Disney Tourist Blog on the front page! Nice work Sarah and Tom! Proud to be a part of the virtual food drive. $47,000 plus in a week is incredibly impressive.
We have a trip planned for the 17th-24th, and I’ve checked ThrillData and compared yesterdays times with a similar monday this time last year and I noticed the wait times were pretty similar.
We can still expect to hit the big rides at each park if we’re going through the weekdays right, as long as we prioritize which areas to visit at which times? It seems like you’re the only site (including youtubers) who are calculating actual wait vs reported weight. Everyone else seems to just look at the times posted and make judgements from there.
Should we be worried about the wait times being similar to last year, or are we getting into our own heads?
Go to the Touring Plans website, buy a one-year subscription, and read their recent blog posts about posted vs actual wait times.
Their app and systems are fantastic, showing the posted and expected waits for all attractions.
Is the “bucket” refilled for theme park ticket guests (non-resort) close in as well? For example thanksgiving week has no HS availability.
Thanks again on using your platform to direct much needed resources to a great cause!
You aren’t kidding with this one, “helps expand dining capacity at a time when it’s really needed.“
We fell into our 60 (+10) day window and I subsequently checked to see what reservations were still available the other day to try and justify waking up at 6am to book dining. The availability for table service is terrible, and it seems like it is the last perk that matters a little for on site guests.
Is it worth the premium? Probably not, but we are suckers for the Disney bubble.
WOW! $50,000 is AWESOME!!! And the park availability calendar is crazy….Is there a separate park availability calendar for AP’s and general public? Sorry if I missed clarification on that in the article.
If you look at the oval tabs above each calendar it shows if it’s for the Hotel Guest Bucket, the Ticketholder Bucket, or the AP Bucket. There’s definitely different allotments for each, with Resort Guests prioritized.
What do you think will be the slowest week for the remainder of 2020? Thanks
I second this question. Here here!
Me too! I’m thinking of going the first week of November (no weekends) after Halloween and before Christmas goes up. Any thoughts, Tom? Thanks!
Michael that’s the week I was thinking as well. Hope not too many others think that is a good week.
Traditionally the first week of November and the week immediately following Thanksgiving are the slowest remaining weeks of 2020.