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This week has been an extremely busy one at Walt Disney World, with new characters confirmed for Epcot, increased hours at one of Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants, plus new rumors have surfaced about increased fees being considered for both hotel and regular guests. 

Programming note: Though we normally devote some time to Orlando-area parks outside Lake Buena Vista, there has been so much going on at Walt Disney World (and so little going on everywhere else) over the past seven days that we decided to forgo the “beyond” for just one week. You’ll hear about all the news from Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando in next week’s update!

1. Characters on the move at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

This week, work on Center Stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios began in preperation for Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, the new show which will begin regular performances next month. As a result of the light construction around this area, the character meet and greets which used to take place in this central spot (which have included Goofy, Donald, and Daisy plus Chip and Dale in the past), will now take place in the courtyard next to the entrance for The Great Movie Ride from now until mid-April. 

2. Reservations now available for Minnie’s Springtime Dine 

Image: Disney

Now that spring has officially sprung at Walt Disney World, Minnie’s Seasonal Dine has switched over from its wintertime silver screen theme to a fun springtime experience. Along with being able to check out new outfits for Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, guests who book this experience can sample new menu items, meant to recall a classic picnic. Some highlights from the new menu include coconut-lavender lemonade, basil-lime fruit salad, barbecue meatballs, buffalo baked chicken, lobster and shrimp mac ‘n cheese, and herb-roasted pork. The springtime menu will also include new sweets, including passion fruit cheesecake, key lime tarts and banana cream puffs. Reservations for this new experience are now available. 

3. New parking and resort fees proposed 

This week, news broke that Walt Disney World was considering adding several new fees on to its already hiked admission prices. The first of these additiona would affect those staying on property at Walt Disney World hotels, as it would see an additional $15 nightly resort fee added on to the cost of all guests’ stay, regardless of resort. The other rumored fee would be levied on guests who want to park as close as possible to the gate of any given theme park. While the former is only a rumor for now, the later is said to be heading to the test phase soon, and guests could see a preferred parking option available at the theme parks as soon as later this month.  

4. Gi-Tar Dan performs final day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Rafiki’s Planet Watch got a little quieter this week as Gi-Tar Dan, who began entertaining guests at Camp Minnie-Mickey before moving to Rafiki’s Planet Watch several years ago, has been permanently removed from the entertainment lineup at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. No replacement acts for this area of the park have been announced. 

5. Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon gets new events & schedule changes

Image: Disney

Several changes to the 2016 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend were announced this week, including the revelation that this runDisney event will expand to three days this year with new events and a modified schedule. The main half-marathon event, will now begin at 5:30AM (instead of during the evening) and will take runners on a modified course through ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. 

This year’s event will also include the all-new Disney Wine & Dine 10K, which will take place on Saturday November 5th and will be a part of the just-announced Lumiere's Two Course Challenge (which also includes the half-marathon event).

Registration for this event begins March 29th. 

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