Observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios: May 1, 2013

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044Today marks 24 years since Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened (although then it was called Disney-MGM Studios). Even though it wasn’t a big anniversary with a celebration like I attended at Animal Kingdom last week, I still wanted to visit the park to commemorate the day.

I’m going to be honest. I’m not the biggest fan of Hollywood Studios. I think some of the shows are stale, the theme doesn’t excite or interest me, and there aren’t many rides. However, even though it isn’t my favorite park, there are still several things I enjoy there, so I was off to hit the highlights and check out a couple of new things.

The Crowd Calendar had Hollywood Studios predicted at a 4.8 out of 10, and it was raining, so I knew crowds wouldn’t be too bad. I arrived at the park late in the morning, and even though I was hungry I decided to go straight to Toy Story Mania to see if there were any FASTPASS┬átickets left for the day. There were! But the return window did not start until 7:15pm. I then headed to ABC Commissary to try the Seafood Platter that had been recently added to the menu.

006The Seafood Platter had fried fish, fried shrimp, and french fries for $9.49. It tasted about as good as you would expect cheap, fast food seafood to taste. It wasn’t inedible, but I definitely don’t think I will order it again. The shrimp were much lower quality than the ones used at Columbia Harbor House in Magic Kingdom, and they also weren’t as fresh. There are several other inexpensive lunch options in the park that I really enjoy (hello, Macaroni and Cheese Hot Dog!) so I wouldn’t waste a meal on this again.

After lunch I headed over to the Studio Backlot Tour. This is one of the attractions that I really don’t enjoy. It’s boring, stale, and downright awful compared to similar attractions at other theme parks. But, it had been a very long time since I had been on, and I wanted to see if any new props or sets had been added. Unfortunately, it was all the same. Despite my disappointment I did have a wonderful time lingering in the prop warehouse before boarding the tram, and I didn’t have to worry about getting wet during Catastrophe Canyon since I was already decked out in my rain gear.

015At the end of the actual ride was my favorite part: The American Film Institute Showcase! I really enjoy looking at the props, costumes, and scripts on display from classic and current movies. They also play a great music loop consisting of music from several of the movies features as well as other favorites such as Singin’ In The Rain, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music. I hadn’t spent much time in this area since it was last redone, so I took a long time looking at all of the new exhibits and reading all of the cards describing it all. I highly recommend checking out this area. If you don’t want to experience the Backlot Tour first, you can enter through the store at the exit and bypass the ride.

When I finished there I decided to spend some time over at One Man’s Dream. It’s so fantastic to see all of the old models and artwork! If you haven’t spent time here, you need to see it. It really inspires greater appreciation for Disney animation, theme parks, and innovation. The only downside was that when I went to watch the movie it was so dirty, scratched, and jumpy it was unwatchable. I actually had to leave because the jumpiness was bothering me. I let Guest Services know on the way out, so hopefully they can get it fixed up.

038From there I headed to The Magic of Disney Animation. I had heard the Production Gallery had replaced the Wreck-It Ralph display with art from Monsters University, and I was eager to see it. I was already excited for the upcoming film, and the exhibit only enhanced those feelings. There were sketches, models, and up-close looks at new characters. There were three cases of artwork, each representing a different aspect of Monsters University: Campus Life, Greek Life, and Student Life. In addition, in the center of the room were three separate stands with maquettes of Mike, Sully, and a new character from the movie.

Next up, I spent some time visiting my favorite attractions while waiting for my Toy Story Mania FASTPASS to become valid. I hit Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and utilized the Single Rider queue at Rock n’ Roller Coaster. When I finished up all of those it was time for Toy Story Mania! I planned to stick around for Fantasmic!,┬ábut the weather radar wasn’t looking to promising, and I was worried it would get rained out. Since I plan on being back at the park this Saturday for the Limited Time Magic Event “May the 4th Be With You” I figured I can try to catch it then when it will (hopefully) be less wet. I took one more quick lap around the park and then headed out, ending my day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Posted on May 1, 2013

33 Responses to “Observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios: May 1, 2013”

  • What a sad sounding day. It’s always been my belief that, as awesome as the Disney theme parks are (and they are all awesome in their own way), going there too frequently can make one jaded. This article confirms this thought for me and makes the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” true.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 2, 2013, at 9:05 am EDT

      I don’t think my issues with Hollywood Studios are caused by frequency. I remember even my very first trip 3 years ago being massively disappointed with the Backlot Tour. And Lights, Motors, Action and the Indiana Jones stunt shows felt forced and bored me. I think this may have to do more with the fact that for 20 years I was an annual pass holder at Universal Studios Hollywood which is actually a working studio and has a phenomenal backlot tour.

      There are many things I’ve seen at Disney that still feel like the first time. I’ve seen the Welcome Show at Magic Kingdom literally hundreds of times, and I still cry every single time. I still get excited for so many things in the parks…but Hollywood Studios has never been one of them.

      My day definitely wasn’t sad. I mentioned several things I really enjoyed like AFI Showcase, the new Monsters University display, and riding the parks headliners.

      Thank you for your feedback. I will try my best to get my points across in the future without sounding jaded. :)

  • Justin, I agree. But it is nice to know that the things that were there when I was 7 (20 years ago) are still the same and boring like i remember. I am skipping this park when I go in November with my DD 5yrs old.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 2, 2013, at 9:07 am EDT

      I think part of my dislike for this park comes from a lack of nostalgia. My first visit to Hollywood Studios was 3 years ago as an adult.

    • by kaykool101 on May 3, 2013, at 2:24 pm EDT

      Before you discount Hollywood Studios for your 5 year old. Remember this is the park with Disney Junior Live on Stage, Toy Story Mania, and the Woody and Buzz meet n greet. These are my 4 year olds favorite attractions at Disney World. If your daughter loves Toy Story and Disney Junior this is a must do. Disney Junior Live on Stage has recently added Sophia the First and Doc Mcstuffins. Also, Hollywood and Vine is the only character dining experience with Disney Junior characters (I am not saying the food is good). This is hands down my twins favorite park. If she is a Disney Junior fan then this isn’t a park to miss. Even if you just go for a portion of the day. The first time we took them, we expected this park to be a snooze for them since they can’t ride some of the bigger draws like Rockin Roller coaster and Tower of Terror. I think we under estimated just how much they love Disney Junior. We could not tear them away from animation courtyard and pixar place. These were the characters they wanted to meet and the type of entertainment they were interested in.

      • by Scarlett Litton on May 4, 2013, at 12:01 am EDT

        I think this is an excellent point. While I dislike the Studios, my toddlers adore it. In addition to Disney Junior we spend hours in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground.

  • We went last week and had a wonderful time. To be honest we only make it down once every few years. Toy Story Mania is a lot of fun and a must do, and of course RNRRC and TOT are the best. The Macaroni and cheese hotdog is to die for (literally lol). The dissapointments- skip The Captain Jack Sparrow one- what a waste of time for such a long wait, and the shortened Indiana Jones and Light Camera Action shows (excuse was weather, but there was no rain only cloudy). The Muppet one could use a revamp as well. All in all great day and great fun.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 2, 2013, at 9:09 am EDT

      I agree with all of that! There are some really great rides at Hollywood Studios, though not many of them, and the macaroni and cheese hot dog is amazing. I enjoy Jack Sparrow, but you’re right, the line is way to long for what it is.

      I’m glad you had a fun day!

  • I love DHS–the concept of “Hollywood that never was and always will be,” the architecture, the music they play on Sunset Boulevard, etc.

    And although I thoroughly enjoy the main E attractions like Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster, and also love the “minor attractions” like One Man’s Dream, I always leave there thinking the park could be so much more. The Backlot Tour isn’t what it used to be, Lights Motors Action hasn’t had staying power and Indiana Jones doesn’t have much re-watchability, IMHO. That’s a lot of real estate which could be put to better use. And the counter service restaurants definitely need some re-working.

    I hope they give the park some TLC. I know it’s hard to take out an attraction like LMA and put in something brand new, but I wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to upgrade the menu at ABC Commissary, or plus up the Backlot Tour to what it used to be.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 2, 2013, at 9:32 am EDT

      You hit the nail on the head! I always leave there feeling like there should be more. I don’t hate the park…I just think it doesn’t stand up well to the other parks. The amount of space taken up by Backlot and LMA is huge! I agree that it should be put to better use.

  • I can totally see how someone who has zero nostalgia for this park can become jaded pretty quickly based on exactly what you said. For me, being in the Studios brings back childhood memories of eating in the Prime Time Cafe with my parents, seeing my dad on Superstar Television, riding by residential street on the Backlot Tour, and riding Tower of Terror when I was 11 and it had just opened. While I still enjoy the Studios today, it is getting sadder to go back each year and see the eroding Backlot Tour and empty LMA shows.

  • And we think this is one of our favorite parks. We are among the minority that really think EPCOT is our least favorite. Especially if you are going to base appreciation on the number of rides.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 4, 2013, at 12:08 am EDT

      My decision isn’t based just on number of rides, but I agree that Epcot is disappointing. But I really enjoy going to eat there, and Living with the Land and Gran Fiesta Tour are 2 of my favorite rides on property!

  • by Andrew Drummond on May 2, 2013, at 1:22 pm EDT

    I have a very important question for you since we seem to share similar tastes…

    Are there foods in other parks that are “must haves” like the Mac and Cheese hotdog? The only other one I had was Figaro fries and that was a long time ago…

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 4, 2013, at 12:07 am EDT

      Mac n Cheese hot dog is for sure a favorite. I also really like the pretzel dog at Min and Bills. Other must haves are Cream Cheese Pretzel at Lunching Pad and Potato Leek Soup at Be Our Guest (both in Magic Kingdom). In Epcot I really love the Cappuccino Mousse at the France Bakery and almost anything at Tutto Gusto. Also, for sure cookie sandwiches and French Toast cupcakes from Babycakes in Downtown Disney.

  • by Judy Ingersoll on May 2, 2013, at 1:23 pm EDT

    We spent an evening in the park on a recent visit to WDW. My granddaughter and I enjoyed popcorn and soda while waiting in line for Fantasmic! while the other two members of our group rode Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster (twice!). I think the “vibe” of the park is more adult than the other parks. And an evening was enough for us–but we LOVED Fantasmic!

  • We went when I was 9 and the park had recently opened in 89 (this was 90). That park, was an amazing park. The Backlot tour actually took us through the houses they taped for the front of sitcom houses. The Sound Stage was actually a mini show of how they do sound effects. They also had a “show” where people from the audience were green screened into famous scenes. My mom was Ethel in the candy- factory scene. That is the park I am nostalgic for.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 4, 2013, at 12:04 am EDT

      Stories like this always make me sad I didn’t get to see the park back then, it sounds like there was some really fantastic stuff!

  • I actually just listened to the podcast of Len Testa and Jim Hill walking through HS. I have always felt that this was by far the weakest of the parks, and the podcast explains a lot. There were such great plans for this park that just never came to fruition, for various reasons, mostly financial. It’s really too bad.

  • by Bob Traeger on May 3, 2013, at 2:13 pm EDT

    OK Scarlett, where do I get a Macaroni and Cheese Hot Dog? I never knew such a thing existed.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 4, 2013, at 12:02 am EDT

      Fairfax Fare. At the end of Sunset Boulevard near Tower of Terror. You can also get them at Restaurantosaurus in Animal Kingdom.

  • It’s my favorite park in Disney World. I love everything from the art deco entrance, to the Hollywood themed town center. Tower of Terror is the best ride ever and is better in Disney World than in Disneyland. I’ve been on Toy Story in Disneyland but am looking forward to riding it later this year. We never miss going to the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater for lunch. The whole park just takes be back to my childhood and makes me giddy. I find the park charming.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 6, 2013, at 3:35 pm EDT

      That’s the best part about Disney World…there is something for everyone! I’m glad to know you love the park. I agree that Tower of Terror is phenomenal. So many people who really like the park say it reminds them of childhood…I wish I had seen it back in the early/mid 90′s at it’s peak.

  • Thanks for these “Observations from…” posts. I appreciate hearing from a park veteran with a more down-to-earth perspective. Fair, constructive criticism, and a refreshing lack of hype.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 6, 2013, at 3:33 pm EDT

      Thank you so much! That’s what I’m going for…I’m really glad you enjoy them.

  • Wow. My wife and I went To DHS the first year it opened and felt it was a so-so experience back then. We are going on June 2nd for the first time in 23 years with our sons to the Star Wars Weekend event at DHS. I hope the rumors are correct in the possibility of opening an expanded section to this park that would be Star Wars Themed. It would soar to the top of our charts if they did.

  • I can understand that DHS would be on most peoples list of least favorite park. For me there is not much that really interests me with the exception of Muppets and the Streets of America (love that area). I’m hearing about Star Wars Land coming in and unfortunately that doesn’t really interest me either. I wish they would do a Toy Story Land, now that I would totally go for. Also, I can’t imagine anyone putting Epcot on their least favorite list. If it wasn’t for Epcot, both my husband and I probably wouldn’t even be going to WDW. Different strokes for different folks…I guess.