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Ears the News with Richard

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad refurbishment has been pushed back to April. Originally scheduled to begin on March 4 through to March 7, it is now scheduled for April 27 – 30.

Disney's Winter Summerland mini-golf reopened to guests on February 18 2015, after completing its refurbishment early. The mini-golf course located next to the Blizzard Beach water park was expected to be closed through until March 2015.

The refurbishment project at the Flame Tree Barbecue has been extended through to late April 2015.
Originally set to reopen on March 1, the refurbishment is now listed through to April 22. During the refurbishment, some of the Flame Tree dishes are available at nearby kiosks.

Construction walls are now up inside the Space Mountain gift store, with the former arcade area completely walled off along the entire length of the store. The phone charger outlets remain accessible, along with the massage chairs and the photo booth kiosks.
Disney has also filed construction permits for the area, although there are no details on what the space will be used for.

Disney is now in the process of rolling out a new 'Direct-to-Room' capability for guests arriving at Walt Disney World Resort hotels.

Using MyMagic+ MagicBands, guests will be able to arrive at their hotel and then choose to go either directly to their room without visiting the front desk, or enter the lobby for a traditional check-in with a Cast Member. The room number will have been communicated via email or text message prior to arrival, and the MagicBand will function as the key to the room. If on arrival, the room is not available, the guest will be notified and will be updated later once the room number is ready.
To take part in the Direct-to-Room service, guests must have completed the online check-in process before their arrival, which includes paying in full for the stay, or adding a credit card and pin number to their account. A phone number to receive text messages or an email address is also required as part of the process.
The service is currently being rolled-put on stages, with some hotels already participating as of mid February 2015.
·         Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House
·         Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village
·         Disney's Art of Animation Resort
·         Disney's Contemporary Resort
·         Bay Lake Tower
·         Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
·         Disney's Pop Century Resort
·         Disney's Port Orleans Resort French Quarter and Riverside

Expected to be available from February 25 2015

·         Disney's BoardWalk Inn
·         Disney's BoardWalk Villas
·         Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
·         Disney's Grand Floridian Villas
·         Disney's Wilderness Lodge
·         Disney's Wilderness Lodge Villas
·         Disney's Yacht and Beach Club
·         Disney's Beach Club Villas

Expected to be available from March 10 2015

·         Disney's All-Star Resorts
·         Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
·         Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
·         Disney's Old Key West Resort
·         Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort


STAR WARS WEEKENDS

Disney has confirmed that 'Symphony in the Stars' Fireworks will once again return as the nightly finale, along with the 'Summon the Force' pre-show to the fireworks featuring character appearances.

James Arnold Taylor will be back as the host for each weekend, and Darth's Mall merchandise will be in a new location near to the Streets of America at the 'Final Take Terminal.' The former merchandise location in Soundstage 1 is being converted into additional capacity for Toy Story Mania so is unavailable.

Perhaps the biggest change this year will be the relocation of the celebrity shows from the Premiere Theater to the Theater of the Stars - home of Beauty and the Beast on Sunset Blvd.

The Premiere Theater is currently hosting the Frozen Sing-Along, and although that will ultimately be moved to the ABC Theater at the former home of American Idol, the Premiere Theater will not be available during Star Wars Weekends. Beauty and the Beast will continue to be performed in the mornings, with a quick turn-around into a Star Wars set for the afternoons each weekend. Theater of the Stars has more capacity, but unfortunately lacks the air conditioning of the Premiere Theater.

There is still currently no information regarding the celebrity guest list.

The dates for the 2015 Star Wars Weekends are:

Weekend I: May 15-17, 2015
Weekend II: May 22-24, 2015
Weekend III: May 29-31, 2015
Weekend IV: June 5-7, 2015
Weekend V: June 12-14, 2015

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