Let’s kick my Walt Disney World Resort series off with Hollywood Studios. I know, its a strange one to start with, right? Well, last I heard, this is the park that my sister and my niece plan on visiting first when they arrive tomorrow because its the last day for the Osborne Spectacle of Lights (if you plan on going to Disney around Christmas, this is a must!) and Beauty and the Beast live on stage will not be performing after tomorrow, and its my sister’s favorite Disney movie. Ever. So, lets get on with the magic!
When you enter the park, you enter right on Hollywood Boulevard. You may meet some celebrities or even become one yourself! If you consider straight on Hollywood Boulevard, you may see the tip of Sorcerer Mickey’s hat, which they have recently blocked with a stage (its quite depressing actually, the hat is gorgeous and it use to be lovely to see when you first walked in). Under the hat is a little shop, selling mostly ear hats and pins. Directly behind the hat is The Great Movie Ride. If you’ve never done it, its worth a trip through, but I wouldn’t say its a “must do”. You ride a small vehicle through, yes through, the movies. You never know who you might meet from these movies while you’re on the trip, either, but be warned, they may not be the heroes of the movies.
To the left of Hollywood Boulevard is Echo Lake, where you can find The American Idol Experience, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Star Tours. I have never seen The American Idol Experience, but when I was there with my high school marching band four long years ago, I heard it was a neat show if you’re a fan of American Idol. I also have never been to Star Tours, as there aren’t any Star Wars fans in my family.
The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is actually really interesting to see, but the show hasn’t changed much over the past few years, so its another one that if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it. I would highly suggest getting there early, though, because it fills up fast and standing room only isn’t fun to try to lean around everyone’s heads to see. What is the show exactly? Its giving you some behind the scenes look at how they perform stunts in shows and movies, like Indiana Jones. Lots of action. I wouldn’t suggest bringing young children, though, because it can be very noisy.
If you go behind Echo Lake, you find the Streets of America, where the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes place during the Christmas season. As I said earlier in this post, its definitely a must-see if you’ll be there when its up! There’s also Muppet Vision 3D, which is the first 3D show I ever went to. Its another one I wouldn’t suggest taking small children to, because I was about six when I saw it and I definitely did not like it. Then again, 3D is very common these days, so it may not be as scary to younger kids anymore. There’s also the Lights, Motors, Actions Extreme Stunt Show, which is worth seeing. This stunt is all about how they do car chases and vehicular stunts – again, lots of action, and definitely some humor. I would say its one of the best stunt shows I’ve ever personally seen; I saw it for the first time four years ago and saw it again this year. They have changed it up a bit (how about a visit from Lightning McQueen?!) and its a good place to rest your feet for a bit if you’ve been walking all day. The arena is huge, but it does fill up – its a very popular stunt show. Also, be sure to check the times! This isn’t a continuous show. The Studio Backlot Tour is also in the Streets of America, and its honestly a neat tour. Be careful, though, you can get wet in one part of the tour. If its a chilly day in Orlando, you may want to skip it…or not be the first person in your row to enter the car. Interested in seeing Walt Disney’s private jet, or some old movie props? Go for a spin on the Backlot Tour. The wait typically isn’t very long for it, and there’s a humorous beginning where they take volunteers from the audience and put them in their own short. I’ve heard they recently changed this tour, but from what I understand it wasn’t a significant change. I know I haven’t been talking about any places to eat, because I figure that all depends on your taste of food, your budget, and the Disney dining plan if you decide to go with that, but if you’re a Toy Story fan, the Pizza Planet Arcade is on the Streets of America. Its about $10 for a personal sized pizza, a small caesar salad, and a drink, but the pizza is delicious and, again, if you’re a Toy Story fan, what better place to eat?
On the opposite side of the park, there are three smaller areas in one large area – Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue, and Animation Courtyard. In Pixar Place is the awesome Toy Story Midway Mania. I have a major tip for this attraction! Get to Hollywood Studios early, and head straight to Midway Mania to get fast passes. We got to Hollywood around 10 am and our fast passes were for 6:00 that evening. They go quick, and the wait is typically over 120 minutes. It is well worth the wait, especially if your trip lasts more than three days. If you get to Midway Mania early enough, you may be lucky enough to get a 45 minute wait or under, take it! It’ll be the shortest line you see, even during evening extra magic hours. This attraction is a ride and a game all in one. Your wait involves going through what looks like a play room, with giant Crayola crayons and all sorts of board games. When you finally get to the ride itself, you’re in a two person car and you “shoot” different targets – paint at Woody and his friends to practice, darts at balloons, baseballs at plates and so forth. The goal? Get the most points in your car, of course! Or, if you’re lucky, the most points of the week, or even the month. It seems childlike, but I have, all three times we finally got to ride it, seen adults without children riding the ride. One time, there was a couple probably in their mid thirties, and they started shooting at my mother and myself, laughing the whole time. This is definitely not just a kids attraction.
On Mickey Avenue, you find The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, which I was significantly disappointed in. It has nothing to do with the actual legend of Captain Sparrow; you simply “help” Jack fend off another attack on The Pearl. The decorations are impressive, however. If you decide to do it, just look at all of the details! Its not a ride, just an attraction. I wouldn’t wait more than say, twenty minutes, for this attraction. There’s also One Man’s Dream on Mickey Avenue, which we did not get a chance to do this trip to Disney. Looking at the map, it describes this attraction as “an exhibition of historical items celebrating Walt’s life” and Walt was quite an intelligent man, I think it could definitely be worth a visit.
If you continue heading down this area, you’ll come across the Animation Courtyard, which is definitely a place to go! Disney Junior Live on Stage is back here, but it is not the only attraction. When I did this, Bear in the Big Blue House was the live show. I’d say its worth a visit if you’re bringing toddlers. The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is also in Animation Courtyard. Its also a live show, where The Little Mermaid is acted out on stage. The sea creatures are illuminated under a black light, the actors dressed in all black. Its an awesome show, especially for any Ariel fans. My favorite part of Animation Courtyard? The Magic of Disney Animation. This is like its on little subsection of Animation Courtyard; back in this section you can see a video on how animated characters come to life, starring Mushu from Mulan. Its a hilarious little short, definitely worth a visit. You also get a sneak peek at some of their newest characters. Last time, we saw the characters from Brother Bear, and this time, it was the characters from Wreck It Ralph. There’s also a drawing class in here – do not pass this up! Sure, the line looks long, and its either a fifteen minute or half hour long class, but its awesome. My parents and I actually went back to this four times and drew Agent P from Phineas and Ferb, Jiminy Cricket, Goofy, and Donald. I’m no artist, and I don’t like blowing my own horn, but my Jiminy was pretty dead on. Be sure to brush up on your Disney trivia – one lucky person in the class gets to take the artist’s signed copy home! You can also get to see some artists’ work spaces and see them draw, as well as meet a variety of characters back here, from Sorcerer Mickey, to Disney’s newest characters. Wreck it Ralph and The Incredibles were visiting when we were there.
Home to attractions like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the Hollywood Tower of Terror, I would have to consider Sunset Boulevard the most thrilling part of Hollywood Studios. Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage is also back in Sunset Boulevard. Like all of the live on stage shows, it is an extremely short version of the movie, but its very, very well done – a must see for any Beauty and the Beast fan. Not a fan? Already seen the show? Save your time and continue on to the other attractions. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, starring Aerosmith, is probably my favorite ride in Hollywood Studios. Who doesn’t want to take a limo ride to an Aerosmith concert where you happen to have backstage passes, given to you from the band themselves? And where else can you go from 0-60 in three seconds and have the first part of the roller coaster be a loop…without a hill leading into it? Now, I am no extreme roller coaster junkie; I actually don’t like extreme rides, but I love this ride. There is a height restriction for this ride, so small children won’t be able to do it, but Disney had a child-swap deal, where parents can wait in line together, one waits with the kid while the other rides, and when the first rider returns, they swap roles. I would have really liked to ride this more than once, but we just ran out of time with everything else we did. Hollywood Tower of Terror is by the Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster, and I wouldn’t consider this one of my favorites, but I know others who don’t consider it a trip to Disney without a ride on it. The line through it is actually really neat – its set up to specifically look like an old, haunted hotel. The drop is definitely not for everyone, but you don’t drop every single story at once – you drop a few, then go back up, and drop more, and it repeats. For the last attraction in Hollywood Studios, we have the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic. This is definitely a show I’d skip with many young children, though the young girl who sat behind us this time loved it. It isn’t as good as it use to be, but it is still a good show. The Disney Villians decide to take over Mickey’s dream and turn it into a nightmare. Mickey then finds a way to defeat them and get his dream back. It went from a stage show with a few clips on water, to lots of clips on water with a little bit of a stage show, but its definitely a unique show, even if Sorcerer Mickey is only in it for a grand total of two minutes anymore. I’d still consider this a must-do, though, every time you visit the park. Be sure to get in line early for this! Its an incredibly popular show and the stadium, though huge, does fill up.
On the way out of the park, especially if you’re leaving from Fantasmic, there’s a Villians shop that has a bakery in it…drop by! Their carrot cake cookies are absolutely heavenly, and they have excellent oatmeal raisin cookies, on top of other delicious goodies. Disney is sure to spoil you with their delicious desserts.
I hope you enjoyed this not so brief overview of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and come back soon to see the next segment in my Walt Disney World Resort series!