Home / News / NEWS ROUNDUP: New Experience & AK Land Re-Opening Date, New Dining Option at AK, New Merch, Toy Story 4 News & More

NEWS ROUNDUP: New Experience & AK Land Re-Opening Date, New Dining Option at AK, New Merch, Toy Story 4 News & More

Summer is certainly heating up at Walt Disney World and there are a few things you don’t want to miss. Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be re-opening this July along with a brand-new animation experience. Burgers and build your own sundaes are the feature in a new dining experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Over at Epcot, you can catch some great live music from our favorite Guardians of the Galaxy (minus Thor) along with some delicious Guardians inspired food items. Toy Story 4 opens this week! Two hot new colors are in Disney Parks, and the Disney Wonder is getting some pretty amazing enhancements! Catch all the news stories and more below!


1 – Rafiki’s Planet Watch Re-Opening Date Announced with New Experience

Last fall Rafiki’s Planet Watch closed for a lengthy refurbishment. We were excited to learn this week that the area will be re-opening on July 11, 2019. Disney has also announced a brand-new animation experience coming to the land. Click here to read all the details about the new experience.

2 – New Dinner Experiences Announced for Restaurantosaurus

Love burgers? Love sundaes? Yes? Then you’ll love a brand-new dining experience that is coming to Restaurantosaurs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For a flat fee, you’ll be able to enjoy hand-crafted burgers and a build-your-own sundae bar. Click here for photos and more information about the experience.

Credit: Disney

3 – Guardians of the Galaxy Live Now at Epcot this Summer

Even though Epcot is now festival free (and therefore concert series free) for the summer, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some great live music. Returning for its second summer, Guardians of the Galaxy-Awesome Mix Tape Live is back in the America Gardens Theater at Epcot. You can catch this show five times a day. Click here for a video sneak peek along with more information!

4 – Toy Story 4 Opens June 21

We couldn’t be more excited about the opening of Toy Story 4 on Friday, June 21! We were able to see a special media screening of the movie and sit down with some of the stars of the film at a press conference. We know you’re going to love this movie as much as we did! Click here for our spoiler-free review of the movie along with some insights from the stars of the movie!


5 – Caring for Disney Animals: Father’s Day Edition

Happy Father’s Day! Did you know there is a very special dad over in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Learn more about Gino, the adult male leader of the family troop of western lowland gorillas, from Disney Cast Member Scott Terrell:

It’s the perfect time to focus on dads and their importance in the animal world. Our animal care team continually cares for more than 2,000 animals at Walt Disney World Resort, and we are always learning new things about their behaviors and family dynamics.

Some species – such as gorillas – have great paternal instincts and play an active role in rearing their offspring. In fact, we have an exceptional gorilla dad here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Gino. Gino is the adult male leader of our family troop of western lowland gorillas.

Credit: Disney

Gino has been at the park since it opened in 1998 and has fathered six offspring during his time with us. Most recently, he had a proud papa moment in early May with the birth of his daughter, Grace.

As the leader of his troop, Gino helps maintain a well-balanced dynamic among all the members within the family, which includes two adult females, Kashata and Azizi, and their offspring, Lilly (9), Cory (4), Flint (4), and baby Grace. Gino’s role in the family isn’t all that different from a human dad – he protects the entire group, serves as a role model for the youngsters, and keeps the peace if things get a little too rowdy.

You’ll often see Gino playing with his older offspring, or interacting with enrichment items near them to model behaviors, such as climbing or searching for food. By engaging in playtime, Gino’s involvement also allows the adult females to have a break from the kids’ rambunctious behavior. He likes to play in a “rough and tumble” manner with the boys and big sister Lilly, and when Grace is a little older, Gino will sit close by and very gently pat at her to play with her.

Credit: Disney

As young gorillas grow, they tend to push the boundaries of the family rules. Gino is skilled as the gentle disciplinarian of the troop – he knows when it’s time to correct his offspring’s behavior with teachable moments through some tough love. For instance, if one of his sons is doing something they shouldn’t, Gino may charge at him, causing him to run away from the area and stop the behavior. This lets the little one that what he was doing was inappropriate without being too aggressive.

Gino and his offspring offer hope for the future of western lowland gorillas, a critically endangered species with a declining population in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, our animal care team works with other accredited zoos to participate in cooperative Species Survival Plans for responsible breeding of endangered species, such as gorillas, so they will have healthy, genetically diverse families for years to come.

Want to learn more about gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the work we do to conserve this critically endangered species in the wild? Visit

6 – Imagination Pink and Magic Mirror Metallic Hits Disney Parks and Shop Disney

This Friday, two brand-new color trends debuted at Disney Parks and Imagination Pink and Magic Mirror Metallic are the hot new colors for the summer. Disney Cast Member Aubrey Gravante shares more details below:

The Imagination Pink Collection is inspired by Epcot and its resident mascot, Figment. This bright and vibrant color is ready to fuel the creative imagination and inspire whimsical Disney looks. Items in the collection range from a spirit jersey and headband to a bracelet and backpack!

The Magic Mirror Metallic Collection is inspired by the Evil Queen’s magic mirror in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The holographic foil treatment against white gives a fairytale appearance, but as we know, looks can be deceiving! Everything from a headband and matching earrings to a backpack and tote are available in this iridescent collection.

Click here to see photos of the new colors and merchandise on our Instagram account.

7 – New Orleans and Princess Tiana Take Center Stage in Upcoming Enhancements to Disney Wonder on Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line is adding some amazing enhancements to the Disney Wonder! Disney Cast Member Melanie Curtsinger has all the details:

The world of “The Princess and the Frog” will come to life in new ways on the Disney Wonder this fall with the addition of an exciting New Orleans-themed lounge that will transport guests deeper into the heart of the city’s iconic French Quarter. A perfect complement to Tiana’s Place Restaurant on the Disney Wonder, the French Quarter Lounge will feature live music and themed activities for everyone in the family. Also debuting on the Disney Wonder will be a sleek new space for teens and a redesigned café just for adults.

At the French Quarter Lounge, guests will get a touch of bayou hospitality as they enjoy live music on the gazebo stage and sip specialty drinks at an updated whimsical bar. This natural precursor to dinner at Tiana’s Place Restaurant is the perfect destination for entertainment and libations before or after dinner, while the space will come alive throughout the day with New Orleans-themed family activities, trivia and character encounters.

The jazzy atmosphere of the French Quarter Lounge, also inspired by the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog,” will evoke an airy outdoor space in New Orleans, surrounded by touches of iconic architecture such as wrought-iron balconies, classic brick walls and shutter-framed windows. Decorative details including a life-size trolley car and nods to the film in the form of signs and facades on the walls add to the ambiance of the space.

Meanwhile, teens and adults will also discover redesigned spaces on the Disney Wonder meant just for them. Vibe, a club reserved for teens ages 14-17, will transform into a contemporary place to hang out with friends while at sea. The space will be given a timeless feel with an open, bright redesign, a light color palette and industrial metal work, while a new coffee bar and updated virtual reality technology add to the list of activities for teens to enjoy during their family vacation.

Adults will have an updated space all their own in the Cove Café, after a redesign that will transform the look and feel of the café into a local coffee shop, complete with warm, comfortable and trendy décor. Ample seating and a relaxed atmosphere will invite guests to indulge themselves in this peaceful retreat, which is the perfect place to sip specialty coffee or tea throughout the day or partake in wine, cocktails and light bites during the evening. Just steps away, Signals Bar is also undergoing a transformation with a similar look.

The new enhancements debut on the Disney Wonder’s four-night sailing from Vancouver to San Diego on Sept. 30, 2019.

If you would like to see these updates firsthand, the Disney Wonder has a variety of itineraries and ways to experience these enhancements in the coming months! From summer sailings to Alaska, cruises to the Mexican Riviera and voyages to the Caribbean and Bahamas, this ship has something for everyone both onboard and in ports all around the world. And don’t forget – for the first time, the Disney Wonder will also call New Orleans home in 2020 with Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries departing from this new home port beginning Feb. 7!

If you’re looking for a taste of New Orleans onboard, Disney Cruise Line is “Gonna Take You There” this fall!

8 – Summer Disney PhotoPass Guide

Disney PhotoPass Service is now offered at more than 100 locations over the Walt Disney World Resort! Disney Cast Member Emily Southard has more details:

We’ve recently added so many new photo and video opportunities to our existing collection of experiences offered year-round, including: new Magic Shots and photo locations celebrating “The Lion King,” a limited-time photo and video experience that captures you in front of Cinderella Castle like never before, our 13th Walt Disney World Resort attraction photo capture opportunity onboard the Haunted Mansion attraction (MagicBand required), and new Animated Magic Shots at select Character Experiences. Just to name a few!

Credit: Disney

We don’t want you to miss out on any incredible opportunities, so we’ve created a Disney PhotoPass Guide to help you locate the highlights available this summer at Walt Disney World Resort. If you’ve purchased Memory Maker, this guide is an excellent way to make the most out of your entitlement and share all of the excitement of your vacation.* Don’t have Memory Maker yet? Learn more about the benefits of Memory Maker and how to purchase it here.

Download your guide here, and let Disney PhotoPass Service capture the story of your summer vacation.

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.


About Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!