'What Will You Celebrate?' Launches: New Immersive Fun, 'Techno-vations,' Delectable Eats, Resort Experiences, Free Birthday Visits in Store for Walt Disney World Guests in 2009
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - In 2009, Disney Parks poses the question "What Will You Celebrate?" in response to a travel trend that finds American families hitting the road to mark life's special occasions. And to put guests in the spirit, Walt Disney World Resort is offering free admission to everyone who visits one of its theme parks on their birthday in 2009.
"Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake as we extend this 'celebration vacation' trend to Disney Parks.
"We see our parks as the ideal setting for a personal celebration," Rasulo continued. "Guests can immerse themselves in their favorite stories and their favorite characters, creating a visit they'll never forget."
Walt Disney World guests can choose from experiences ranging from breathtaking (magical fireworks cruises, sunrise safaris, diving the depths with undersea creatures) to mirth-making (Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, character dining, kids' pirate adventures) in order to personalize their celebration. Even the Disney florist has gotten into the act, creating special offerings that silently scream "surprise!" when vacationers open their guest-room door.
And to aid guests as they plan their personal celebrations, a new Web-based tool at www.DisneyParks.com helps guests sort through the possibilities - whether the occasion is a birthday, anniversary, reunion, personal accomplishment, first visit or something else.
New immersive fun in theme parks
Disney Parks' initiative to create more immersive experiences continues in 2009 at Walt Disney World Resort with premieres in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Here's what's in store:
* "The American Idol Experience" (Disney's Hollywood Studios) - Starry-eyed Disney guests will get a taste of TV's pop culture phenomenon - up close and personal - when Disney's Hollywood Studios grand opens this "American Idol" attraction in mid-February. It's another immersive opportunity as guests will be able to experience the challenge of auditioning, the rush of performing on stage in competition or the thrill of judging the performances in a live interactive setting modeled after the "American Idol" set. There will be several showtimes daily. Guests advancing through the screening process have the chance, in the nightly final competition, to win a guaranteed reservation for a regional audition for the "American Idol" TV show.
* Disney's Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure (Epcot) - Inspired by Disney Channel's Emmy Award-winning "Kim Possible" animated series, guests of all ages will become secret agents to save the world from various comical villains and their mad inventions in this ultra-interactive adventure packed with mystery and excitement. Guests team up with members of Team Possible in this high-tech experience slated for a late-January opening in seven World Showcase pavilions representing countries on three continents.
* "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! Street Party" (Magic Kingdom) - It's party time beginning in mid-February when a cast of Disney characters, stilt walkers and other performers processes down Main Street, U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle to high-energy tunes such as "Breakout" and "I Like To Move It." Five floats decked out as gift-wrapped packages are part of the procession, and near the castle, Mad Hatter, Genie, Lumiere and Sebastian - the life and light of the party - pop out of four huge boxes. They join about a dozen other Disney characters headed by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to mix and mingle and dance in the street with Magic Kingdom guests during a 12-15-minute party scheduled to take place three times daily.
New high-tech innovations on land and sea
High-tech innovations will help guests navigate theme park fun and treat guests to new thrills on both land and the high seas:
* Verizon (in Disney theme parks) - Marking a first in both the travel and mobile industries, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Verizon are teaming up to enhance the guest experience at Walt Disney World Resort (and at Disneyland Resort in California). Guests will be able to access an array of features on their Verizon Wireless phones including the ability to easily locate shows, restaurants and the Disney characters anywhere inside the parks; get real-time attraction availability information; access mobile games; receive messages from characters and more.
* Disney Digital 3-D (aboard Disney Cruise Line ships)- Movie entertainment at sea is being revolutionized with the debut of Disney Digital 3-D, a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience just introduced onboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Guests will delight as first-run, feature Disney films leap off the silver screen and take on a whole new dimension in the onboard theaters. Tridimensional images will combine with lasers, fog, streamers, and special lighting effects to create an immersive movie-going experience like no other at sea. During these once-a-cruise special engagements, guests will feel the rush of being part of the hottest show in town.
* The Hall of Presidents (in Magic Kingdom) - An Audio-Animatronics version of President Barack Obama will join representations of the previous 43 presidents of the United States as part of an attraction that has been celebrating American history since Walt Disney World Resort opened. Disney Imagineers are also updating a broad array of show elements. Reopening is slated for early July.
'Re-imagining' Downtown Disney
Following the fall 2008 opening of T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover, the "re-imagining" of Downtown Disney continues with:
* Transformation of the Portobello Yacht Club - The name of this long-time favorite restaurant is shortened to "Portobello," and an all-new menu reflects a new, warm, Italian trattoria décor. Portobello is open daily for lunch and dinner and is owned and operated by Levy Restaurants.
* New waterfront dining spot - A high-energy restaurant and bar opening in spring 2009 will feature Mexican and South American cuisine, an international wine bar and a tequila bar of more than 50 kinds of tequila and 10 signature frozen margaritas. The new as yet unnamed restaurant is being developed by E-Brands Restaurant Group, a multi-concept restaurant group which currently owns and operates Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bars, Samba Rooms, Taqueria Canonita, Aquaknox, David Burke, Salsa Orlando and Canonita Express in a number of cities across the United States. The Downtown Disney restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m. until late night with nightly entertainment.
'Re-branding' the sports complex
Aligning the world's No. 1 family vacation destination with the worldwide leader in sports, Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN are joining forces to "re-brand" Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex with the ESPN brand, creating an entertaining and immersive experience for the nearly 2 million athletes, coaches and spectators who come through the sports complex each year. Plans for the re-branding initiative are still in the development stage, but initial concepts involve:
* Renaming the sports complex and incorporating the signature elements of ESPN - Throughout the 220-acre facility, which is a leading venue for amateur and professional sports in the country, the project aims to enhance the experience of both athletes and spectators by connecting them to their favorite ESPN programs, personalities and elements and making them feel like they've made it to the "big time."
10 new places to go, 4 new places to settle down
In 2009, Disney Cruise Line is charting two new eastern Caribbean courses. Meanwhile, Adventures by Disney is adding eight destinations, including some of the most exotic and remote locations in the world, to its list of trips. And Disney Vacation Club is offering guests visiting Disney Parks four new resort experiences. Here's a look at what's coming:
* New eastern Caribbean itineraries (Disney Cruise Line) - St. Croix will be a featured stop on one new seven-night itinerary, and Tortola will be featured on another seven-night itinerary, giving Disney Cruise Line guests more choices than ever before to explore the beautiful islands of the Caribbean. Both islands are new to Disney Cruise Line, increasing the seven-night Caribbean choices on the Disney Magic to four itineraries (Disney's traditional eastern and western Caribbean itineraries will continue). Itineraries with St. Croix and itineraries with Tortola sail select dates throughout 2009.
* New family-friendly adventure vacations (Adventures by Disney) - An expedition to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, a safari in Africa, and an exploration of Alaska are among eight new adventures in 2009, giving guests a total of 23 vacation options to choose from. Other new Adventures by Disney itineraries: Italy and Switzerland; Boston, Newport, New York City; Central Italy; Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco; and Glacier National Park and Banff National Park.
* New 'home-away-from-home' accommodations (Disney Vacation Club) - Four new options in 2009 will combine to revive "treehouse living" at Walt Disney World Resort, immerse guests in the African experience " in Florida, bring vacation ownership so close to Magic Kingdom that families can blow Tinker Bell a kiss goodnight and use Cinderella Castle as their nightlight, and provide the first Disney Vacation Club accommodations on the West Coast:
* The Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa - Treehouse living, a cherished tradition from 1975-2002, returns with the opening (scheduled for summer) of 60 three-bedroom villas elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest glens where they are nestled, providing Saratoga Springs with a new room category.
* Kidani Village at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Having completed the conversion of select rooms at Jambo House (at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge) into vacation villas, Kidani Village is taking shape (for phased openings in the spring and fall) with thatched roofs and hewn timber design. Kidani means "necklace" and the building is shaped like a piece of native African jewelry with guest villas forming the beads, garden-like walkways creating the knots in between and the lobby representing the ornament or jewel at its center.
* Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort - The 15-story curvilinear tower (slated for a fall opening) is designed to complement the fabled styling of the original building, which opened with Magic Kingdom on Oct. 1, 1971. The crescent shape, which features 295 two-bedroom-equivalent villas, promises to deliver some of the most dramatic views available anywhere at Walt Disney World Resort - some of scenic stretches of Bay Lake, others with views of Magic Kingdom.
* The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Offering 50 two-bedroom-equivalent vacation villas (in late fall), this expansion of the existing hotel at Disneyland Resort is an architectural and artistic celebration of California's renowned Arts & Crafts style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.