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Ears the News with Richard

The winter side of Winter Summerland Mini Golf is closing for refurbishment from 1/20/2014. There is no reopening date yet available, other than 'closed until further notice'. The summer side will remain open as normal. Rumor has it that the original contractors botched the last refurb and a new contractor has been hired to correct it.

Some significant changes are coming to 'Tables in Wonderland,' including an increase in blackout dates for some restaurants, changes to the credit card policy, and removal of Victoria and Albert's. Tables in Wonderland gives guests a 20% discount on over 100 restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Beginning 8/1/2014, 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana (Dinner Only), Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, and Le Cellier Steakhouse will be subject to the additional blockout weeks of: 11/23-29, 2014; 12/21-27, 2014; 3/8/2015-4/4/2015; 5/31/2015-6/20/2015. This is in addition to the regular blackout dates of Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. 
Beginning 8/1/2014, Victoria and Albert's will no longer participate in Tables in Wonderland.
Credit Cards used for payment must match the name on the Tables in Wonderland card and the state identification. While this rule has been in the terms and conditions of Tables in Wonderland for quite some time, it is now being enforced.

Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog
Disney has just announced that a Maleficent float will be joining the upcoming 'Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade,' opening this Spring at the Magic Kingdom.

Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog
The Steampunk-inspired dragon is 35ft long and 26ft tall, and designed with Michael Curry, who has previously worked on Epcot's Tapestry of Nations parade, and 'Finding Nemo - The Musical.'




The dreaded construction crane is now onsite at Cinderella Castle for the removal of the castle dream lights and refurbishment work on the castle. Work begins on 1/13/2014 and is expected to run through until the end of March 2014. Work will be taking place between 11:30 PM and 7:00 AM daily.
Heritage House in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square has reopened as a MyMagic+ service center. 
The former gift shop, located just outside of Hall of Presidents, closed on 1/4/2014. The MyMagic+ service center allows guests to access FastPass+ reservations and get help from Cast Members.
HGTV and DIY Network designers return for the 2014 International Flower and Garden Festival, which takes place from 3/5/2014 to 5/18/2014.

Appearing for the first time are Matt Blashaw from “Yard Crashers,” Matt Meunster from “Bath Crashers” and Alison Victoria from “Kitchen Crashers.” Here is the full lineup.

March 7-9 – Vern Yip, “Design Star”
March 14-16 – Chris Lambton, “Going Yard”
March 21-23 – Matt Blashaw, “Yard Crashers”
March 28-30 – Matt Meunster, “Bath Crashers”
April 4-6 – Taniya Nayak, “House Hunters on Vacation”
April 11-13 – Amy Matthews, “Renovation Raiders”
April 18-20 – John Gidding, “Curb Appeal”
April 25-27 – David Bromstad, “Color Splash”
May 2-4 – Chip Wade, “Elbow Room”
May 9-11 – TBD
May 16-18 – Alison Victoria, “Kitchen Crashers”


The final two remaining parks still using legacy paper-based FASTPASS will be switching to FastPass+ for all park guests next week.

Disney's Hollywood Studios will transition from legacy paper FASTPASS to FastPass+ on 1/21/2014, and Epcot will follow on 1/23/2014. This will complete the FastPass+ rollout for all guests at all Walt Disney World theme parks.

Operating in the same was as at Disney's Animal Kingdom and at the Magic Kingdom, offsite guests will be able to make 3 FastPass+ selections for same day/same park, at one of the in-park kiosks. They will not have access to advance reservations. Onsite guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel will be able to continue to make advance reservations.

Legacy paper-based FASTPASS will be discontinued at each park as FastPass+ becomes available.

Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot will continue to provide tiers to their attraction selections. See the details below for the attraction groupings.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Experience Group 1 (select one experience from this group)

Toy Story Midway Mania!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Fantasmic!
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

Experience Group 2 (select two experiences from this group)

Voyage of the Little Mermaid
The American Idol Experience
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
The Great Movie Ride
Muppet*Vision 3D
Disney Junior – Live on Stage
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show

Epcot

Experience Group 1 (select one experience from this group)

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Maelstrom
Character Spot
Soarin’
Test Track

Experience Group 2 (select two experiences from this group)

Captain EO
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Land
Mission: SPACE
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush

FastPass+ Kiosk locations

Disney's Hollywood Studios FastPass+ kiosk locations

Tip Board
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Voyage of The Little Mermaid
Muppet*Vision 3D
Epcot FastPass+ kiosk locations

Tip Board
International Gateway
Future World West Breezeway
Future World East Breezeway
Mission: SPACE
Soarin’



Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog
It is official, Disney has broken ground on AVATAR at Disney's Animal Kingdom. 
Camp Minnie Mickey closed just days ago, and already the site is a sealed off construction zone. Earlier this week leaders from Disney and Lightstorm Entertainment took part in a ceremonial ground breaking. 

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is already home to some of our guests’ favorite attractions,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “With AVATAR, we are adding a spectacular new world and an exciting set of attractions unlike any our guests have experienced. The expansion now under way will make the park a true full-day, must-see experience.”


AVATAR is expected to open in 2017.

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