Monday, October 21, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 7 – Hollywood Studios

People like to complain on Disney message boards about Animal Kingdom only being a half day park, but I can’t recall a time where I’ve left that park before closing. Hollywood Studios is a park from which I’ve left early on evenings where there wasn’t a showing of Fantasmic! This is the one park where you should have plenty of time to revisit your favorite rides if you’re spending the whole day there.

We got to Hollywood Studios pretty early which was good because there was a Monsters University topiary out in front of the park complete with PhotoPass photographer. We stopped to get some pictures there and still had plenty of time before the park opening. Even though we had a FastPass for Toy Story Midway Mania! at 10 AM, we decided that we were going to hop in that line first while the wait time was relatively short. I think we waited 30-40 minutes, but it seemed to pass pretty quickly. This trip through, Jenne had the high score from our bunch. Cassidy has yet to master the intricacies of the launcher and you’ll hear, “Please allow the cord to go all the way back in” for half of the ride. While I do love this ride, I couldn’t see waiting more than an hour for it. This is the ride that I’m most interested in seeing what happens once FastPass+ goes live. There won’t be any relief until Disney adds a Cars Land and/or Star Wars Land, but that’s a long way off.

With our first ride on Midway Mania completed, we made our way up Sunset Boulevard so that I could hop on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. No one ever uses the full names, but I think that Hollywood Studios easily takes the cake for longest ride names. I’ve always been a fan of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, but it has been even better on the last two trips when I’ve been wearing contact lenses. I can actually see everything inside of the ride. I was a bit bummed out because they didn’t have the cast member go into the studio and grab the guitar, but that doesn’t happen often during the “slow” season. That’s minor though. I got right into the inside line courtesy of the single rider line and was done in no time at all. From there, we made our way over to Tower of Terror where the listed time was 30 minutes. I don’t think the actual wait time was anything close to that, but I could be wrong.

I checked out of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and we made our way back to Pixar Place to use our Midway Mania FastPasses. This time though, I had the high score and I think my highest score ever on the ride. The wait time to meet Buzz and Woody was ridiculous so we decided to skip that for now. We made our way towards the back of the park and saw that Mike Wazowski was out for pictures. We hopped in line and once we had been in line for a minute, James P. Sullivan came out and joined the fun. This area has been completely redone for Monsters University and feels a little more complete than the previous picture area.

101_0369 After a brief stroll through the Streets of America, we came upon the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet area. It looks cool, but you can tell that the whole thing could be taken down in a couple of hours. Even though this is their most popular TV property, possibly ever, the company is still unwilling to put a Phineas and Ferb attraction in the park. It’s kind of disappointing. I’d rather have one P&F ride than a whole Avatar Land.

The interaction here was awesome though. The cast member running the line was singing along with all of the songs from the show and he and Phineas banged out the beginning of “Ready For the Bettys.” When it was our turn, we got to spend a good amount of time with the characters. One of the cast members noticed that I had Ferb on my MagicBand, but there was no Phineas to be seen. That sent Phineas off to wallow against the fence while Ferb celebrated with me. The only bad part of this experience was that “There’s a Platypus Controlling Me” didn’t come on the fake radio station.

We didn’t have to go far for our next destination as the Cars meet and greet is right around the corner. There was one person in front of us and before long we were saying goodbye to Lightning and Mater and were off again. Since we were right there, our next attraction had to be MuppetVision 3D. I was very excited to see this show because it had just come out of refurbishment and I was expecting it to look like new, but I didn’t notice anything different. Then again, it’s been three years since I had last seen the show so it could have been in bad shape before the closure. We got to see the whole pre-show which is great. It gave us plenty of time to check out the net full of jello and the rest of the great decorations in the room. They did such a great job on this attraction; I always get bummed out that the proposed Muppet Studios never came it be.

It was now time for our next FastPass (12 PM – 1 PM). so we made our way over to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. I probably haven’t been on this since 2006 since it was closed on our last visit and I don’t think we went on it when we had a 2-year-old Cassidy with us. The new version of this ride is phenomenal. There’s somewhere around 54 different versions of the ride film that you can get, so there’s a reason to visit this ride again and again. There’s also an added fun aspect of one of the people on the ride showing up as the Rebel Spy stashed away on your spaceship. It’s still pretty much the same simulator ride and even feels a little smoother than I remember. I’ve always liked this ride, but the new version is leaps and bounds better than the original.

At this point we were all getting hungry so we decided to grab some lunch. We’ve always had good luck with the ABC Commissary and decided to eat there again since it was close and would likely have something that all of us would enjoy. We ate, rested, recharged, and watched a bunch of previews for last season’s ABC shows. Nothing fancy, but we had plenty of fancy booked through the rest of the trip.


Our next stop was the The Magic of Disney Animation. How this attraction has been gutted kills me inside. I’m pretty sure that on one trip I saw the animators working on Lilo & Stitch. Now, there’s no more pen and ink animation done by Disney and the Orlando studio had been closed even before that terrible decision was made. After watching the short film with Mushu (I preferred the one with Robin Williams myself), we made our way into the main building and got in line for the drawing class. He can use a little more work and would look better once inked, but I surprised myself with how good my Mike Wazowski ended up looking for a quick drawing. Cass didn’t win the teacher’s drawing (in spite of me giving her the answer: What is Boo’s real name?), so I gave her my drawing to cheer her up.

101_0372 From there, we made our way to Game Central Station so that we could visit the Sugar Rush game where we would meet Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz. I loved this movie. I probably would have loved it just because of the video game theme, which Disney did a great job with, but they also put together an amazing cast. Jack McBrayer (Wreck-It Ralph, Wonder Over Yonder, Phineas & Ferb, Despicable Me) is quickly becoming one of my favorite voice actors and then you’ve also got John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. This was the only meet and greet that we did since the lines for Sorcerer Mickey and The Incredibles were very long. I’ve met Mickey lots of times and we did The Incredibles on the past two trips.

We left Animation to a light drizzle. As we started walking, the rain started getting harder and then the thunder and lightning began. Our original plan was to check out Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, but a ton of people had the same idea and this attraction had a line quickly. I like to take my time to check out the exhibits before the movie and a crowd in there would annoy the crap out of me, so we passed. Since we were still on the lookout for new experiences, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow caught our attention. Jenne is a huge fan of the Pirates films and the attraction had a huge, covered queue area, so we hopped in line. The line moved quickly, but that didn’t matter since the current downpour made staying dry the priority. I’m glad we hopped into this line though. This seems like an attraction that most people would end up skipping (I skipped this ever time it was just a collection of movie memorabilia), but they’d end up missing a cool attraction. Disney employs technology very similar to what Universal uses on the Harry Potter ride to make it look like Jack Sparrow is right in the room with you fighting evil pirates. There were some cool special effects and humor that added up to a fun experience. It’s a nice little addition to the park.

This was the perfect place to wait out the storm and when we exited the attraction; things had slowed down to a drizzle once again. We walked past the gutted and neutered Studio Backlot Tour. Catastrophe Canyon is cool, but it’s not worth spending 35 minutes on the rest of the boring tour just for that. I miss the old 2 hour long tour that showed you active soundstages and actually had something to do with the creation of movies and TV shows. That time has passed for the park and this ride needs to be one of the first things to go so that space can be made for Cars Land.

There were new pressed pennies to be had at the gift shop near the exit to the Backlot Tour, so we hung out there for a little while. This little shop used to be so cool back when I was a kid and it was full of Roger Rabbit stuff. They got rid of most of it to make space to sell more merchandise and now it’s just another generic shop. At least I’ve got my awesome picture from when I was a kid of myself sitting in Benny the Cab with Roger along for the ride. The photoshopped pictures that they do now just aren’t as cool and they aren’t even that popular any more.

We came across a random cast member with hula hoops, so we stopped and wiggled our hips for a little while. It was well worth it as I walked away with a Woody sticker. From there, it was time to ride Star Tours again. The wait time was listed as 10 minutes, but we walked right on. This trip was even better than the first. We had to flee from Darth Vader to star our journey and Cassidy was revealed as the Rebel Spy. The only unfortunate thing was the picture that they took while she was itching her nose made it look like she was knuckle deep. (It wasn’t a pick, it was a scratch!) After the ride, this led to me taunting Cass with “Gold!” as a walked down the hallway in my best prospector imitation.

After purchasing the “I Am the Rebel Spy” shirt for Cassidy, we were greeted by another downpour. We got out our ponchos and made our way through the rain. We stopped at the nearby bathrooms and the rain promptly stopped. Away go the ponchos again. It was now pin shopping time under the giant Sorcerer Hat. On some trips, I’ve had problems not buying every pin in sight, but on this trip there weren’t as many pins of the characters that I like (that I didn’t have at least). We checked out the hand and foot prints in the concrete and then hopped on The Great Movie Ride. We had the gangster version of the ride which I like better. While I like this ride a lot, I can’t help but to wonder what the proposed Great Muppet Movie Ride would have looked like.

There was still more time before dinner, so we made our way back to Sunset Boulevard because we had to spend some time browsing in the Villains shop. I also took second trips on both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Had a great cast member in the Tower. “But you’ll want to sit in the front row, that way you’ll have a shorter distance to fall.” “Don’t worry, I’ve only lost 5 people today. That’s pretty good.” The best reaction was on my first ride. The cast member leading us into the library said, “We’re sorry, but your rooms aren’t ready yet. Please wait here in the library and when it’s time, we’ll lead you to your dooms… rooms.” Little kid: “What did he say?”

101_0379 At this point, it was getting close to our 6:25 dinner reservation at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, another place that I hadn’t eaten at before, so we trekked back across the park again. We got there a little early, but were told that they were running 15-20 minutes late. This didn’t bode well for our Fantasmic! FastPasses, so we started to stress out a little bit. Luckily, we were called just 5 minutes after our reservation time and our waitress was awesome about taking our order right away and getting things out as quickly as possible. She earned herself a huge tip. I had the Chicken Campanelle which was good, but not great. We took our Tiramisu to go and booked it over to the theater for Fantasmic! We got there just before our FastPass time of 7:45 ended, but we were still able to get great seats. The FastPass section is right in the middle of the theater which is awesome. There was a long wait to grab a couple of snacks, but I got back to my seat right as the show was starting.

I love Fantasmic! and was bummed that we didn’t get to see it on our last show. That being said, they either need to invest some money into improving this show or they need to replace it with something else. There was no big steamship at the end of the show which bummed me out. I’d much rather see the show improved and invested in, but Disney doesn’t seem to like it. After getting rid of it almost completely for the ridiculous American Idol attraction (which they have to beg people to go to now, trust me, we saw it) to stripping bits of the show here and there. It’s sad how much of this park has been stripped away through the years.

After the show, we did our usual browsing on the way out of the park and got some PhotoPass pictures taken. From there, we called it a night and got ready to visit the competition.

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