DVC Parks and Resorts Update for February 22nd, 2021

EPCOT Spaceship Earth light show concept for Disney World's 50th Anniversary

In this week’s Parks & Resorts Update, you’ll learn which Disney park has reopened and which DVC resort remains mired in legal battles. Oh, we should probably talk about #DisneyWorld50, too.

So, you’ll learn a lot more about your DVC visits over the next 18 months.

Coming This October…

The other day, Disney introduced a new word into the lexicon: EARidescence. You’ll hear plenty more about it in the coming months, as it’s the buzzword for part of Walt Disney’s World’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Last Friday, Disney employed a bit of synergy to announce its upcoming plans. On Good Morning America, the company revealed five different ways that it’ll zhuzh up the festivities, although four of them seem similar.

All four major landmarks at Walt Disney World theme parks will light up with unique celebratory decorations. Yes, starting on October 1, the actual 50th birthday for Disney’s Orlando campus, Cinderella Castle will add a few tricks.

Imagineers already modernized the castle with a bolder color scheme. Once the anniversary begins, Cinderella Castle will also introduce a legitimate Pixie Dust effect. You can look at an artist’s rendering here:

Reimagined Cinderella Castle artist rendition for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will again employ the Hollywood Tower Hotel as a backdrop for a basement-to-ceiling digital display. Similarly, fireflies will buzz around the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here are pictures of both:

Hollywood Tower Light show concept art for WDW 50th Anniversary celebration

Fireflies lighting up the great tree at Animal Kingdom for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary concept art

However, Disney has saved the best for EPCOT, which will undergo a permanent improvement. From now on, Spaceship Earth will spend the nights aglow in beaming lights. New technology allows Disney to turn various triangles at Spaceship Earth into what I can only describe as a classier disco ball. It’s mesmerizing:

Concept art for lights added to EPCOT in 2021 for WDW 50th Anniversary

Along with these changes, Disney announced that Mickey and Minnie Mouse will wear unique costumes throughout the 50th anniversary celebration. The colors on these outfits match the royal blue and gold from the Cinderella Castle makeover. They’re pretty spiffy:

Mickey and Minnie's EARidescent outfits for 50th Birthday Celebration

All five of these enhancements reflect Disney’s commitment to EARidescence. Get it?

The Particulars of the 50th Anniversary Celebration

Of course, as a DVC member, you care more about the details since you were going to visit Walt Disney World anyway. Here’s where it gets interesting. Disney has confirmed that the anniversary will last for 18 months.

So, the starting date is the actual birthday on October 1. Then, the event will continue through March of 2023 and possibly even into April. Disney didn’t state a cutoff date yet.

Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary: The World's Most Magical Celebration

The next time you plan how you spend your DVC points, the 50th anniversary party should factor into your plans. To help you out, Disney revealed a bit more about upcoming trips.

I previously mentioned that the parks will require masks throughout 2021. Disney remains hopeful that they won’t be necessary for 2022. However, the company has already indicated that Park Passes are here to stay, at least for the time being.

The Park Pass reservation system has updated available dates. The calendar now stretches into January of 2023. The last calendar date currently listed for Park Passes is January 14, 2023. At that point, the 50th anniversary celebration will still have about ten weeks left. Don’t be surprised if Disney stretches the calendar at some point to match the end of the 18-month party.

The other piece of news is actually something that didn’t happen. Disney just released a slew of new vacation packages for 2022. Along with those offers, the company revealed daily admission ticket prices for next year. Perhaps unexpectedly, prices have gone up a bit from 2021 and 2020.

Disney anticipates heavy park traffic next year once most of society has received immunization. Still, the company has hedged its bets a bit. The Disney Dining Plan remains unavailable next year. Now, its status could change at any time, but Disney appears unwilling to commit. Since the dining plans are quite profitable, the company must still have doubts about when various restaurants can increase capacity/reopen.

Don’t Call It a Comeback, Hong Kong Disneyland

The Hong Kong Disneyland yo-yo continues to spin. The park has reopened for – I kid you not – the third time since the pandemic.

Chinese officials have asked Disney to shut down anytime a local outbreak occurs. This request has wreaked havoc with the park’s operation.

Hong Kong Disneyland closed on January 26, 2020, well before the pandemic reached the United States.

Then, the park reopened on June 18, only to close again on July 15. The second comeback occurred on September 25.

Then, another closure took place on December 2 before the latest return on February 19. It’s…been a lot.

Frustratingly, Hong Kong Disneyland isn’t guaranteed to remain open this time, either. Another outbreak will shut down the park yet again.

In future years, people will write books about the chaotic nature of the pandemic for members of the theme park industry, particularly Disney.

A Mess at Saratoga Springs

A non-DVC member friend of mine recently asked me about Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. He wanted to know about the goings-on at the hotel. Specifically, he referenced all the lawsuits that received more media attention last week. Yes, the resort’s back in the news.

The latest updates stem from an Orlando Sentinel article from February 18, which is an extension of a story I covered last year. On July 1, 2020, Validus Construction Services filed a lawsuit against Disney Vacation Club Management.

Saratoga Springs DVC resort at Disney World

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Validus, described as “one of Central Florida’s most heralded woman-owned construction business,” argued that a project that should have earned them millions of dollars collapsed. Her company uncovered fire code violations during prep work for a renovation.

This information stems from a previous Orlando Sentinel story. In it, a Disney Property Manager experienced conflict with the female head of Validus. She claimed, “In so many words, Mr. Gavin accused Validus of refusing to maintain a conspiracy of silence.”

Regarding the flaw, the reporter indicates the following: “The defect was the lack of proper fire protection in the cavities between floors, the lawsuit said.”

Disney eventually fired Validus last April. This caused ripple effects, as Validus had subcontracted services to at least seven other businesses. Those companies have now sued Validus for “a total of $1.58 million in payments.”

These smaller companies have really felt the squeeze, which the pandemic magnified more. From a meta-perspective, Disney fired and refused to pay Validus. Then, that larger contractor lacked the cash flow to pay its subcontractors. And now everybody’s suing everybody.

Here’s the kicker:

“For Disney and Validus, the legal fight is expected to cost each side more than $500,000 in attorney fees plus up to $200,000 in additional expenses if the lawsuit reaches trial, according to an October court filing.”

If you do the math here, the two primary businesses will spend almost as much in legal fees as they would in paying the subcontractors the amount owed. Yes, there’s more involved in what would have been a $48 million project for Validus, but that part is so ridiculous it’s hard to ignore.

Despite everything, the renovation at Saratoga Springs remains on target to complete by the end of summer this year.

Parks and Resorts Updates

The Disney Parks Blog provided a welcome surprise last week. The next time you visit Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, you’ll receive twice the character greetings!

Angel has joined her fella, Stitch, in putting on some shows at the resort. Stitch fans know that Angel, Experiment 624, possesses magical musical powers, but Experiment 626 has proven immune to them. Stitch still has a big crush, though.

For Valentine’s Day, Angel and Stitch shared a box of chocolates as a new bit of Aulani entertainment. However, Angel appears to be a permanent addition as a resort character. It makes sense because Disney has nuiMOs to sell.

Finally, I don’t usually dwell in rumors, but I’ll bring this one to your attention since you’re probably wondering. While we were at Disney, cast members indicated that the EPCOT monorail line could return soon. Then, the entire system went offline last Tuesday.

While Disney has done some testing and debated reopening the EPCOT monorail line, it doesn’t appear likely in the short term. Apparently, the testing didn’t go especially well, and the main monorail has proven mercurial in recent weeks. Disney lacks the staffing to troubleshoot both. So, I don’t think you should expect the EPCOT lines to return anytime soon. I’d love to be wrong, though.

Okay, that’s everything for now. Stay safe and smart, my friends!

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