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Disney World News: Mobile Checkout, Parks Full, Mickey Replacing Creepy Clown?!

We’re back for another Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up! This one begins with the new Merchandise Mobile Checkout, park hours for February 2021, an official statement from Disney on the the new (Mickey Mouse?!) look for BoardWalk Inn’s creepy clown pool, and more!

Let’s start with some good news. Walt Disney World is testing out a new ‘Shop in Store’ feature, which allows guests to make purchases on their smartphone via the My Disney Experience app. Also known as ‘Merchandise Mobile Checkout,’ this allows you to purchase items in-store without waiting in line at select retail locations around Walt Disney World.

Merchandise Mobile Checkout just began rolling out around Walt Disney World, and right now it’s only available at a couple of locations: MouseGear in EPCOT and Everything Pop Shopping & Dining at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Here’s a look at how the Shop in Store feature works in My Disney Experience…

Basically, the process is just like self-checkout at the grocery store or other retailers, except there’s no physical kiosk in the store–it’s all via your phone and My Disney Experience. Here are the steps:

  • Grab a designated mobile checkout shopping bag in the store
  • Scan the items in My Disney Experience that you want to buy, then add them to your bag
  • Tap “check out” when finished shopping and ready to pay for the items on your phone
  • Show your QR code to a Cast Member upon exiting the store and you’re all set!

For Annual Passholders, that discount is automatically applied during checkout.

We’ve yet to visit EPCOT or Pop Century since the new Merchandise Mobile Checkout system rolled out, but it sounds pretty simple to us, and similar to other self-checkouts in countless retailers. The primary difference is that it’s via your phone, which is definitely a technological leap forward.

Given that we are quick to criticize Disney IT, we want to pause here briefly to applaud them for the myriad enhancements made during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World. Merchandise Mobile Checkout, Table Service To-Go, and Walk-up Waitlist are all solid improvements to the guest experience and at least two of those work really well. (We assume Merchandise Mobile Checkout also works well, we just have yet to use it.)

While we have concerns about the societal ills of over-automation and how it’ll lead to more impersonal and isolating experiences, those are more generalized. Of all places, Walt Disney World is the least concerning on that front since you have so many interactions with Cast Members throughout the day. Even with another half-dozen features like this added to My Disney Experience, that won’t change.

Rather, we view these app additions as unequivocal enhancements to the guest experience. Since waiting in line is such a significant component of visiting Walt Disney World (and will be regardless), the parks & resorts disproportionately benefit from automation like this that eliminates some lines and friction points.

We’d imagine that these features were coming at some point, and have simply had their timeline accelerated due to the reopening. Either way, since we do a lot of complaining about Disney IT’s many shortcomings, we have to give kudos here on this trio of resounding successes.

Once the initial test & adjust proves successful at MouseGear and Everything Pop, we’d anticipate Merchandise Mobile Checkout to be expanded to countless other locations at Walt Disney World. Hopefully, that’ll happen during the holiday shopping season.

Sticking with buying stuff at EPCOT, Annual Passholders can enjoy 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages when using cashless payment at select Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Holiday Kitchens, 7 pm to park closing now through December 31, 2020.

Here are the participating Holiday Kitchens and food kiosks:

  • Refreshment Port
  • Citrus Blossom
  • Mele Kalikimaka Holiday Kitchen
  • Holiday Sweets & Treats
  • Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen
  • Shanghai Holiday Kitchen
  • Refreshment Outpost
  • Bavaria Holiday Kitchen
  • American Holiday Table
  • Sapphire Holiday Kitchen
  • L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen
  • Festival Favorites
  • Prost!
  • Holiday Hearth
  • Yukon Holiday Kitchen

Continuing on the snack front, here’s a quick tidbit that’ll likely matter to very few of you: Epic Eats has reopened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is the funnel cake kiosk across from Dinosaur Gertie and nearby the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

We’re actually pretty big fans of Epic Eats, and it has been mentioned on a few ‘best of’ lists for its Funnel Cake with Strawberry Topping and Soft-serve Vanilla Ice Cream. However, that’s because that $8+ item is an exceptional use of a Disney Dining Plan snack credit…which obviously is totally irrelevant right now. Still, something to remember for the future. On their own merit, we cannot recommend paying $8+ out of pocket for the ice cream topped funnel cakes.

In an interesting under-the-radar update, Walt Disney World has quietly confirmed that the beloved or infamous (depending upon your perspective) creepy clown pool water slide at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn will have a new look when it reopens (file photo above–it has been removed and is now behind sky blue walls). Per a statement to theme parks writer Brooke Geiger McDonald, Disney revealed:

“We look forward to Mickey and his pals clowning around at Luna Park Pool. Guests will enjoy the same great ride down Keister Coaster slide with a brand-new look.”

Now, obviously this is not concept art or an express statement of what’s coming, but Disney is always deliberate with its verbiage–it’s no coincidence that Mickey Mouse is mentioned. The inference we draw from Disney’s brief statement is that the Keister Coaster slide will be re-themed to Mickey & Friends.

While it’s “hip” to knock the proliferation of IP integration around Walt Disney World, this one would make complete sense to us. Replacing the creepy clown with a pie-eyed Mickey Mouse and using era-appropriate character models would be nice enhancement that also maintains thematic integrity at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

It doesn’t even require a vivid imagination to envision this being successfully and tastefully accomplished. Imagineering did a great job with something similar during the first overhaul of Paradise Pier at DCA, before undoing that success via Pixar Pier.

As for when work will be complete, there’s no update from Walt Disney World on that. The project has been underway since October, and was originally slated to be finished this month.

A banner on DisneyWorld.com’s BoardWalk Inn page reads: “Luna Park Pool at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort may look a little funny as work takes place on the Keister Coaster waterslide. We expect the waterslide to be available again before the end of 2020—though dates are subject to change. Work in the pool area will continue through the end of this year. Luna Park Pool, as well as 2 leisure pools at this Resort hotel, will remain open during this refurbishment.”

Another week, another park hours update. More hours were recently posted to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com for February 14-20, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates that week through February 20, 2021:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • EPCOT: 11 am to 7 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 10 am to 7 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm

When it comes to these hours, note that Walt Disney World has returned to its normal, pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours “far” in advance. Those hours are then later extended based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections closer to the dates.

In short, these initial “lorem ipsum” Walt Disney World park hours are a placeholder, and serve as a minimum baseline for what the ultimate hours will end up being, with hours only extended and not reduced. These will almost certainly end up being longer, but probably not as long as during the holiday season. Unfortunately, nothing has been extended (like what happened last week), so a relatively uneventful park hours update.

Despite no changes this week, more park hours extensions might be on the horizon, as we’re noticing decreased availability on the Disney Park Pass calendar for the remainder of the month. This is true not just for Annual Passholders or at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, either.

In fact, all four parks are fully booked today (December 5, 2020) across all three buckets of reservations. Capacity closures also happened following Thanksgiving, but we had anticipated a bit of a post-holiday slowdown. Judging by the Disney Park Pass reservations, that will not be the case–at least not on weekends. In this week’s Magic Kingdom Crowd Report, we also observed higher than expected weekday wait times.

Finally, the Walt Disney Company has announced that it will webcast its Investor Day 2020 on December 10, 2020. The event is scheduled to begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. Eastern and is expected to last approximately four hours.

During its most recent quarterly earnings call, Disney indicated that the Investor Day will focus on the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services. Since then, there was a leaked trailer for “Disney 18+” for adults-only content (that name is so bad we assume it’s fake) and rumors that the company will consolidate Disney+ and Hulu. Obviously, theme parks are our focus here and not streaming, but we’ll be watching closely to see what, if anything, is announced for Walt Disney World (and beyond) or for mention of the implications on theme parks as a result of DIsney’s increased focus on streaming services. So stay tuned for that!

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? Will you use Merchandise Mobile Checkout, or stick with the registers? What do you think of Luna Park Pool getting a new look? Will you be sad to see the creepy clown go? Think pie-eyed Mickey Mouse is a potentially good replacement, or would you prefer no IP? Looking forward to Disney’s Investor Day? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and 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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