Follow us on Twitter Visit us on Facebook Get our RSS feed Visit our YouTube channel
MICEDEALS discounts,
click HERE to save big!

The new interactive game at WDW, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (SMK), tested for the public for several hours on Sunday, but I didn’t get to experience it myself. There are videos and photos available on several fan sites online, but I will withhold comment until I get to see it first hand.

In the meantime, there are a million other things to talk about, too. In terms of construction, the Art of Animation resort opposite Pop Century has not only taken shape, they are adding decorations. At the Grand Floridian, the upcoming DVC wing has meant a large space cleared on the beach and also on the other side of the monorail. Views of the castle from the wedding chapel walkway have been blocked already, so they put a themed scrim in place to keep it looking presentable.

Read what you’re missing...

There have been so many updates, I recently combined all my observations from the Christmas two-week break into a single, long slideshow. Here it is:

• Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, as seen during the daytime
• Swiss Family Treehouse reopened, with new queue and roof over the queue
• Leota cart moved from Mansion closer to riverboat
• Fantasyland update -- new Dumbo testing
• Celebrate the Season stage show
• New stroller parking "lines" in Fantasyland
• Fantastic new waffle sandwiches from Sleepy Hollow Refreshments
• Last (?) remaining DVC with old signage is at Tomorrowland
• House of Innoventions behind walls again; Green House coming
• Christmas booths at Germany
• German train set has Christmas decorations
• Closer look at new sake bar in Japan, and Katsura Grill (replaced Yakitori House on the hill)
• Minor effect replacements in Imagination post-show
• New souvenir pennies at Kim Possible
• New sign at exit to Nemo ride
• Fewer artifacts at Animation exhibit in DHS
• Holiday booths at DHS
• Premier theater at DHS used for cartoons; new holiday decorations
• New Tron souvenir pennies
• Comedy Warehouse holiday special at Sounds Dangerous
• New props at exit to Indy stage show (new to me, anyway)
• New (to me) exhibits in One Man's Dream include Zorro, Shanghai Disneyland concept artwork
• New Year's Eve fireworks at DHS
• DAK using ITTBAB FastPass machines for shows again
• Meet and greet for Dug and Russell
• New merchants in temple outside Yak and Yeti
• New margarita stand outside Flights of Wonder
• New stroller parking for Festival of the Lion King
• New Yak and Yeti dance party
• New decorations at Asia DVC stand
• Fort Wilderness Holiday decorations (trip report)
• New T-shirts around the resort

This past weekend I was again in the parks and saw even more to report about. Plus there are a bunch of rumors and upcoming projects to mention. Rather than build another slideshow, though, I thought I’d try a new format. I’ll type up just a few lines for each item and include only one picture. I’ll get back to more sustained essays next time.


Sunday was the last day for Dumbo, which closed forever in its original location. It will be moved over the next months next to its twin, which is already mostly installed. The twin runs in reverse, so that the Dumbos will “duel” when placed next to each other. I hope they don’t have the problems that Dueling Dragons had.

See you real soon, Dumbo.

Big Thunder

Sunday was also the last day for Big Thunder, which went down for an extended refurbishment. It will re-open in late May. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen during that long downtime, but I expect the loss of the railroad ties in recent months means we’ll get brand new track everywhere. Coasters degrade over time (see Anaheim’s Space Mountain), and that goes double for anything that sits outdoors in Florida’s punishing heat and humidity. Plus they’ll do anything to avoid the symbolism of a THIRD Big Thunder ride having an accident.

The earthquake scene of Big Thunder can sure use new effects.


Friday was the last day for the unspoken, but longstanding tradition of hiding ten paint brushes around Tom Sawyer Island for guests to find in the early morning, to be rewarded by FastPasses for their party. The change is said by some CMs to be permanent, while one claimed it was temporary while Thunder was down (would they have to give out too many Splash ones instead?) I’m not sure I buy the excuse; I think they are just discontinuing the practice. Probably it cost $15 or so per day to replace the paintbrushes that people just keep, and someone bright figured it was therefore a waste of money. Your mileage will definitely vary on that assessment.

Rumor: Tom Sawyer Island Replacement

For some weeks now, rumors have swirled about a possible end to the Rivers of America and to Tom Sawyer Island. It sounds like sacrilege, but this is prime territory if you think about it, and a lot of land… and it’s not very highly used by visitors right now. If you took all of that out, you’d have a ton of space to work with. One rumor suggests a family raft ride (like Kali River Rapids) possibly themed to a frontier (Pocahontas?) design. If this happens, the Liberty Belle would be permanently docked, and the island might not be a destination unto itself (most of it would probably be demolished or repurposed). Nothing is announced, or in fact greenlit and funded, but that’s the rumor.

Unrelated: the DVC sales locations are getting new logos.


Speaking of rumors, we may see a minor addition to Pirates of the Caribbean soon, in the form of mermaids. Details are lacking, but maybe in the ‘beach’ scene at the beginning? A skeleton would fit right in.

Unrelated: Disney’s new promotion for the slow season should lure many locals.


The castle projections (The Magic, The Memories, and You) added a holiday sequence this past season, injecting several seconds into the middle of the show, and they apparently plan to do something similar in February with the theme of Romance (for Valentine’s Day, one assumes). Could they be planning to add something for every season? I’m in favor of that much variation. Stuff like this makes vacations memorable, and differentiates Disney from the competition. And it’s not that expensive.

Unrelated: the ice cream shop is closed for work at the moment.

Meet Russell and Dug

I’ve seen the characters from Up in two places at Discovery Island – hanging around the FastPass machines for It’s Tough to be a Bug, and at their own photo backdrop in a culvert near the Dinoland entrance. This weekend, they ripped out the FastPass machines entirely. There haven’t been that many “former” FastPass locations (Haunted Mansion is another one, and so is the Indy stunt show), so if you’ve got a FastPass to Tough to be a Bug, keep it safe. It’s a collector’s item now. Russell and Dug will move in here full-time and abandon their temporary backdrop location.

No more FastPass at Tough to be a Bug (the machines were often used for shows of late anyway).

Theater of the Stars

Among the dozens of permits Disney files all the time, you’ll occasionally find interesting nuggets. A recent filing suggests a lot of work for the Beauty and the Beast stage show. These things aren’t specific, so it might be nothing. Or, it might be significant. Maybe something like enclosing the theater, the way they did with Nemo at DAK? Or a new show, perhaps Rapunzel? Time will tell.

Unrelated: see those new boxes in the jail? They are presumably
for NextGen, but the purpose isn’t announced yet.

Test Track

This one’s no rumor; Disney has announced they will dramatically refresh Test Track in 2012, refining the sponsor to be Chevrolet only. The preshow will allow visitors to customize a car, which they then ride. That implies the entire preshow will be changed out, and possibly large portions of the ride itself, too? And how will they make it so people ride what they design? Car skins that are just viewscreens? Several rumors have said the ride will borrow some design and thematic elements from Tron (though not the Tron name or universe itself). One thing is certain: the cars are already starting to change. First it was one demo car, but now it’s several. The cars sport new Tron-type designs, but it’s hard to see how these will be customized (they are stickers, maybe paint, but not viewscreens).

One of several new paint jobs at Test Track.

Virtual Tour Guides Needed

A new outfit in Orlando is seeking workers. Normally I wouldn’t mention it here, but it strikes me that some of you may be exactly what they’re looking for. In short, it’s a work at home job, where you use your theme park expertise to provide text-message “just in time” help to people who pay for the service. It’s like being a tour guide, only you do it by smartphone. More info here: http://vtourguides.com/join.php

Pie Festival in Celebration

Bakers of all skill levels are invited to enter the 18th Annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships® to be held April 27-29, 2012 in Orlando. Entry forms will be posted soon at www.piecouncil.org. Those who prefer to appreciate the nuances of pie without all the work won’t want to miss the APC Great American Pie Festival sponsored by Crisco®, featuring the Never Ending Pie Buffet, held April 28-29, 2012 in nearby Celebration, Fla.

Let’s Discuss!

Click on this link to discuss this article on MiceChat!

Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2012 Kevin Yee

Find Kevin on Social Media

Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

On his public Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Google+ account, he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks.

Kevin’s Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

  • Jason’s Disneyland Almanac (co-written with Jason Schultz) is an exhaustive listing of every day in Disneyland history, from 1955 to 2010. You’ll find park operating hours, weather and temperatures, and openings and closings of any park attraction, shop, or restaurant… for every day in the park’s history.
  • The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
  • Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted.
  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.