By: Don Myers
Harambe Nights set to heat up Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park this summer and a Disney’s Polynesian Resort POLL. Plus… Disney puts the “Village” back in Polynesian Village Resort, official opening date announced for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster, and more!
Things are really heating up as the sizzling summer season approaches the Vacation Kingdom of the World. There’s a ton of exciting news to report so let’s get to it. Time for the latest edition of the WDW Radio Newswire….
We begin this edition of the Newswire at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park (DAK), where the summer is set to ignite with Harambe Nights. The hard ticket event will take place from 7pm-1030pm on Saturday’s between June 7th and August 9th in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of The Lion King. A special welcome reception inside Harambe Village will get the festivities underway at 7pm. Guests will then be ushered into the brand-new Harambe Theatre for a special performance of “The Lion King- Concert in the Wild.” Singers and dancers in vibrant costumes will accompany a live orchestra and choir as they bring the story of Simba’s amazing journey from cub to King to life. A celebrity narrator will also be on hand each week as well, with names like David Alan Grier, Michael Beach, and Joe Morton set to appear. But the fun doesn’t stop there, as Guests will then be welcomed back out into the streets of Harambe Village for a nighttime extravaganza of food, music, and entertainment. Buffet stations will serve up delicious African-inspired dishes and beverages. A live DJ will be on hand spinning tunes well into the night, and dancers, stilt performers, and Lion King Characters will also be on hand to add to the fun. Harambe Nights is a separate ticket event, with prices set at $119 (plus tax) for Guests 10 and up and $79 (plus tax) for kids 9 and under. Premium floor seats are also available for a price of $134 (plus tax) for Guests 10 and up and $94 (plus tax) for kids age 9 and under. These premium seats are extremely limited and are going fast, as premium tickets are already sold out for June 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, July 5th, and August 9th. For more info on Harambe Nights, or to purchase tickets, call: (407) 939-1319 or visit: https://disneyworld.
For more news out of DAK let’s shift our focus over to Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. It’s been rumored for months now that Disney had marked the parade for extinction, with word of an official announcement grimly looming. Well that announcement has finally been made, as the date of the final performance of the parade has been confirmed for Saturday May 31st. After that, Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade will fade into the realm of extinction. Unfortunately, there are currently no plans in place for a new daytime parade at DAK at this time, so if you wish to experience some afternoon entertainment at DAK, you have until May 31st to do so.
Time to park-hop over to Magic Kingdom® Park now, as the official opening date for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster has been announced. The dedication ceremony for the attraction took place on Friday May 2nd. Snow White, Doc, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Bashful were all on hand (complete with wheelbarrows and buckets of gems and jewels in tow) for the dedication ceremony, as was Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, Tom Staggs. It was at this ceremony where Staggs made the official announcement that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would make its Grand Opening on Wednesday May 28th. Cast Members have been observed on the coaster at various times throughout the last couple weeks, so if you happen to be visiting the Magic Kingdom® Park between now and May 28th you may be lucky enough to experience a “soft opening” of the attraction.
Time to park-hop over to Disney Hollywood Studios® now, as loyal members of both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire are about to converge upon the park. I’m of course referring to Star Wars Weekends, and no, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for… The big event kicked off on Friday May 16th, and this year’s celebrity lineups are the talk of the galaxy. The ABC Sound Studio Lobby and the Echo Lake area will play host to the celebrity autograph areas, with each of the five weekends featuring a grand array of Star Wars alums. Here’s a look at the lineups for each weekend:
Weekend II: Fri May 23rd-Sun May 25th
James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Jeremy Bulloch, Warwick Davis, Tiya Sircar
Weekend III: Fri May 30th-Sun June 1st
James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Ray Park, John Ratzenberger, Taylor Gray
Weekend IV: Fri June 6th-Sun June 8th
Mark Hamill, James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Billy Dee Williams, Ray Park, Taylor Gray
Weekend V: Fri June 13th-Sun June 15th
James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Cat Taber, Matt Lanter, Steve Blum
Once again, James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein will both be on hand each weekend to play host to events inside the Premiere Theatre, with Taylor hosting “Stars of the Saga” and “Obi-Wan and Beyond” and Eckstein hosting “Behind the Force.” These sit-downs feature the weekends’ visiting celebrities in an intimate theater setting, and have become perennial favorites amongst Jedi and Sith alike. The Legends of the Force Celebrity Motorcade will also be a part of this year’s festivities, and the Padwan Mind Challenge will be back for another stint at the Sorcerer Hat Stage as well. And yes, Darth’s Mall will be back in business again this year to satisfy all your exclusive merchandising needs. There’s also a few new additions for 2014, including the “Symphony in the Stars” Fireworks Spectacular and not one, but two new Character Dining experiences! Early risers can enjoy the Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. And if dinner buffets are more your thing, you can book a meal for the Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine.
Our final newsbits take us over to the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The Resort is in the midst of quite a transformation. From the building of the new DVC Villas to the re-design of the Great Ceremonial House, Nanea Volcano Pool, and Capt. Cook’s, the Polynesian is certainly undergoing quite a makeover. Well, several more announcements were recently made, the first of which is news of an upcoming name change. In a blast from the past move, the property will be going back to its original moniker of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Concept art was recently released depicting new signage for the Resort with “Village” back in the title where it rightfully belongs.
The second bit of Poly news comes from inside the Great Ceremonial House itself. It’s been rumored for sometime now that the waterfalls, rockworks, and lush landscapes that serve as the lobby’s centerpiece were slated for removal during this refurbishment. Well, that has now been confirmed, as concept art was recently released showing a far more open lobby area without the tropical waterfalls in the middle. This is a very big disappointment to me personally, as the atmosphere inside the Great Ceremonial House simply won’t be the same without the beautiful two-story waterfalls as its centerpiece.
Our final bit of Poly news is a welcome addition to the Great Ceremonial House, as it was also recently announced that Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto will be opening inside the Polynesian‘s main building. Modeled after the popular tiki bar at Disneyland Hotel, Trader Sam’s will offer up the finest cocktails this side of Samoa. Construction at the Polynesian is ongoing on several other projects, with phases of the extensive overhaul slated for completion in 2015.
Well, that’s gonna do it for today’s update. But before we call it a wrap, let’s take a look at the results of our previous poll. The question was:
What is your favorite in-park fountain at WDW?
Fountain of Nations (Epcot)
- Epcot Entrance (Epcot®)
- Journey into Imagination (Epcot®)
- Miss Piggy (Hollywood Studios®)
- France Pavilion (Epcot®)
- Cinderella (Magic Kingdom® Park)
- Tribute to Gaston (Magic Kingdom® Park)
And the winner is….
Fountain of Nations at Epcot® with 32% of the votes! The Epcot® Entrance Fountain brought home second place honors with 23% of the votes, and the jumping fountains at Journey Into Imagination rounded out the Top 3 with 18% of the votes. Once again, a big thank you to everyone that took the time to vote. Okay, now on to this week’s question:
(Images copyright Disney)
Don Myers covers news and recent events in Walt Disney World. He has been enamored with the World of Disney since his first trip to WDW in 1986. As they say, the rest is history! Don also has been a contributing writer for Celebrations magazine since 2009.