Late last night, speculation began that a major event will be taking place on Thursday causing Disney to make sudden and drastic changes to its entertainment schedule. Today it has been confirmed by the White House that President Obama will indeed would be visiting Walt Disney World on January 19, 2012 to discuss the economy and tourism, elaborating on his “We Can’t Wait” job-creating initiative.
UPDATE: Obama’s speech will take place inside the Magic Kingdom theme park beginning at 12:35 p.m. using Cinderella Castle and Main Street USA as a backdrop. He will introduce a “strategy” to improve tourism and travel, including discussion of improving methods for obtaining travel visas for foreign visitors. Obama will be leaving Central Florida immediately afterward.
Guests in attendance at the park will not be able to see the President or his speech, as Main Street USA will be closed and off-limits, without an official White House invitation, from prior to park opening through Obama’s departure. Backstage areas will be used to allow guests to access the rest of the park from the entrance area, bypassing Main Street. Guests who enter the Magic Kingdom via a single-day ticket and are unhappy with the situation surrounding Obama’s speech will be offered access to another of Walt Disney World’s three theme parks for that day only. Most dining and experience reservations will still be honored, but guests should be prepared to adjust their plans. The exceptions are park tours scheduled on Thursday and reservations at Tony’s Town Square are being cancelled.
Video of President Obama speaking at Walt Disney World can be found here.
Disney has shifted its entertainment focus away from the Magic Kingdom theme park, adding Extra Magic Hours to its three other parks as well as a special fireworks show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that night. Additional parade audience control (PAC) shifts have been added to the Magic Kingdom between 7am and 3pm as well to help guide guests around Main Street and answer questions throughout the park. The afternoon parade start time has been moved back to 3:30 p.m. Disney cast members / employees are unable to use their IDs to get access to the Magic Kingdom that day.
Those visiting Walt Disney World on Thursday should be prepared for traffic and transportation delays associated with the President’s visit, particularly in the Magic Kingdom area.
With regards to the effects the President’s visit will have on guests visiting Walt Disney World, a Disney spokesman told me, “There will be a great deal of security surrounding the visit as is customary with any presidential visit. […] As a result of the visit, we have adjusted our park hours and offerings at the theme parks to accommodate our guests.”
Officially, Walt Disney World does not endorse President Obama but is “honored” to host his visit to discuss tourism.