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Disney World News: Florida Flights, No NYE, Journey into Imagination Rejuvenation?!

It’s time for another Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up! This time we have updates on date-based, multi-day ticket policies, non-stop flights between Florida and Hawaii, what’s happening (and isn’t) for New Year’s Eve, a Muppet Christmas miracle, and yet more remarks from legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter about a potential reimagining of Journey into Imagination.

Walt Disney World has issued a policy change for the sale of date-based, multi-day tickets. The ticket system will now allow guests to purchase tickets in limited circumstances when Disney Park Pass reservations are no longer available during the ticket validity window–which is longer than the days of use–so long as there are sufficient Disney Park Pass reservations available at the time of purchase to fully use all ticket days.

That’s probably confusing, but it’s pretty easy to understand with an example. Let’s say you wanted to purchase a 3-day ticket for use beginning today (December 9). You’d be able to purchase this despite Disney Park Pass reservations being fully booked on Saturday (December 12) because you could still fully use the 3-day tickets some combination of today through Friday and/or Sunday…

However, if suddenly Friday through Sunday all became fully booked before you completed the transaction, you couldn’t purchase that same ticket. Basically, this is a common-sense update that enables the ticket system to sell admission that can be used in full, and blocks transactions that cannot. It makes complete sense to roll this out now given that ‘fully booked’ days are going to be increasingly common the next few weeks.

Beyond that, given how common inventory refills and reallocations have become, it’s also entirely possible days that are ‘fully booked’ when tickets are purchased could still be bookable at a later date, or with a bit of diligence in refreshing the Disney Park Pass system. But that’s not what this change is requiring or even anticipating. It’s probably non-news and irrelevant for over 99% of you, but “busy season” for the parks is actually “slow season” for Walt Disney World news, so we’re sharing it anyway.

Next, Hawaiian Airlines has announced that beginning March 11, 2021, it will offer two weekly flights between Honolulu (HNL) and Orlando International Airport (MCO). Orlando is one of the largest U.S. travel markets to Hawaii without nonstop service and a popular vacation destination for Hawaii residents, will join Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) as Hawaiian’s third Eastern gateway city.

Consider this another niche news story that isn’t relevant to the vast majority of you, but is incredibly important to a handful of you (and the article’s author). For Disney Vacation Club members residing in Florida, this will make it easier than ever to use those points at Aulani. That’ll be especially true in the next couple of years when the DVC Point Pool Problem results in limited availability everywhere else.

For out of state visitors to Walt Disney World, it potentially opens the door to a convoluted multi-state Disney destinations trip. Or, perhaps makes the trek to Tokyo Disney Resort a little more manageable, broken up with a stop at Aulani. (It helps that Hawaiian Airlines is a great carrier.)

As Hawaiian Airlines allows multi-stop itinerary booking, this is how we’ll be leveraging the new service. We’ve done that Honolulu “pit stop” a couple of times before, albeit from LAX. (See our post: How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare.) Even if this service isn’t something you’ll take advantage of, it’s nice to have positive travel news signaling that things will start to get back to normal in 2021.

Unfortunately, in the here and now, things remain abnormal without much optimism for the remainder of 2020. No official announcement has yet been made about the cancellation of New Year’s Eve fireworks, but they’re not happening.

That was a foregone conclusion a couple of weeks ago when park hours were extended for December 31 and the latest closing time was Magic Kingdom at 11 pm.

Now, Walt Disney World has quietly updated its Special Events page, with what is happening for New Year’s Eve…at resorts:

  • Create your own in-room celebration with food, beverages and other celebratory items available for purchase
  • Disney Floral & Gifts holiday baskets are available for purchase, including champagne and room décor, along with hats and noisemakers
  • Select resort merchandise locations will be open until after midnight on New Year’s Eve, and will sell champagne in full and individual-sized bottles, along with board games and other activities to enjoy in-room
  • Previously-recorded fireworks shows will stream on in-room TV and the My Disney Experience app—including Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, Candlelight Processional, and New Year’s Eve Fireworks
  • Scavenger hunts and New Year’s Eve crafts, varying by resort
  • Quick-service restaurants, pool bars and lounges at Disney Resort hotels will be open until after midnight on December 31, 2020.

Walt Disney World also indicates that more details are still to come, so there could be something for the parks, but also reiterates that “holiday experiences that draw big crowds will be on hiatus in 2020.” This means we’re not expecting the traditional dance parties or really any of the unique entertainment offered on past New Year’s Eves at Walt Disney World.

We’ve been critical of cutbacks made by Walt Disney World under the guise of safety but, in reality, are as much or more about cost-savings. However, we cannot blame Disney here. Cases are already spiking around the country and that’s only likely to continue deeper into the holiday season. Anticipating as much, many cities have already cancelled their New Year’s Eve festivities.

Both from a safety perspective and given the reality that whatever Walt Disney World does for New Year’s Eve would draw heightened media scrutiny, this is the right move. Walt Disney World’s health safety measures and post-reopening track record thus far has been impressive, but that doesn’t matter. A big bash for New Year’s Eve would draw the kind of negative attention and backlash that Disney doesn’t need. It’s just not worth it.

Our only hope is that something happens in the parks so New Year’s Eve isn’t just a matter of upcharge gift baskets. Even as simple as cavalcades with characters wearing their gala attire or those cheesy-but-fun hats still being distributed. Speaking of which, we still have the 2020 version of the hats from EPCOT…we should probably burn those to exorcise whatever demons of this cursed year might still be hanging around. Just to be safe.

Next, news that has absolutely nothing to do with Walt Disney World, but is huge for Muppet fans and lovers of the best Christmas film. BBC Radio 2 reports that “When Love is Gone,” a lost song cut from the original Muppet Christmas Carol, has been found and reinstated.

Director Brian Henson received a call from Disney telling him the film was being remastered in 4K and he was asked to check the new version. Upon reviewing the reels, Henson was surprised to see the original song restored: “I was like, ‘No, you did not!’ and they said, ‘Yes we did! We found it!’ I was so happy, I was so happy. They are all set with the full-length version again. I don’t know if they are going to get it up on Disney+ in time for Christmas…but it is coming back, the full-length version is coming back.”

In case you missed the #1 title on our Best Disney Christmas Movies List or haven’t noticed this blog’s incessant hyping of all things Muppets at Walt Disney World, we’re huge fans. To my recollection, I’ve actually never seen the original cut of the movie–I cannot wait to see anew this Christmas classic that I’ve watched (literally) more than any other film. This is really great news!

Finally, a bit of positive daydreaming. Earlier this summer, retired Imagineer Tony Baxter appeared during a panel at USC and said of Journey into Imagination, “I just wish we would do the ride over. I would come back out of retirement to do that ride over.” We covered and contextualized those remarks at the time, offering strong caveats about the likelihood (or lack thereof) of anything coming to fruition. Same warnings apply here.

Following that, the Disney+ series “One Day at Disney” (S1E40: Alice Taylor) offered more optimism to old school EPCOT Center fans as it showcased work being done at Disney’s StudioLAB, including brief glimpses of a new character model for Figment. Now, we have more comments from Disney Legend Tony Baxter…

During a VIP reception for the Walt Disney Birthplace’s virtual celebration of Walt’s birthday, Tony Baxter elaborated on his previous statements about redoing Journey into Imagination (via Attractions Magazine).

He started by discussing the first reimagining of the attraction, which “commandeered and turned into a nightmare.” Baxter wasn’t shy about criticizing the current incarnation of the attraction, saying Disney “threw” Figment into the nightmare version of the attraction due to guest complaints, but in ways that don’t reinforce the story. “For those of you who haven’t seen the ride since [before] 2000, you’ve never seen it,” Baxter said.

“I would give anything to be called upon to rethink [Journey into Imagination] and get back to the story that every human being does…There aren’t creative people and non-creative people. Everybody uses [imagination]. It’s just to what extent and I think that that was a really valuable story to tell. It is certainly not told in there now, and I would love to see it get back.”

While I remain highly skeptical anything comes of this given that EPCOT’s project slate is being cancelled and cut back rather than expanded upon, Baxter’s additional insight does make it seem more plausible. He goes on to state that he has prolific friends and business associates in the theme park industry who grew up on Figment, and the character is very important to them. It does make sense that today’s generation of Imagineers would have fondness and nostalgia for Figment and might push for the character’s return to glory.

Beyond that, Tony Baxter has already come out of retirement to help with the Overhaul of Splash Mountain to a Princess and the Frog Attraction. Given that, his previous statements over the summer, the StudioLAB video, and persistent rumors about Journey into Imagination, perhaps this is more than idle daydreaming. It still seems like a stretch at any point in the next few years, but it remains a possibility. It’s also plausible that EPCOT’s project slate being scaled back in the near-term actually proves beneficial for a Journey into Imagination overhaul. With other projects being cancelled, EPCOT will still need something substantial in the next 5 years…enter Figment?

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? Excited for non-stop flights between Florida and Hawaii? Will you use those to visit multiple Disney destinations in one trip? Thoughts on the Tony Baxter comments about Figment? Think there’s any chance that the Mary Poppins, Spaceship Earth, Festival Center, and other cancellations end up being beneficial to Figment? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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