Observations at Hollywood Studios: September 16

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This week’s Limited Time Magic event was a walk-through tour of a ride at Hollywood Studios with the Disney Ambassadors. Guests sent in e-mails to enter to be chosen to attend a mini-tour of a ride with the magical representatives and, being fortunate enough to have been selected, I headed to Hollywood Studios yesterday for park opening.

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Lines at park open.

We met with the Disney Ambassadors, two Cast Members who go through a rigorous application process to be selected to represent  Walt Disney World. They gave us a little bit of history on the Studios and how the park came about before we were escorted to the Tower of Terror. At that point, we were given an expert bellhop, T.J., who has been with Disney for 29 years and opened the attraction. Fun fact: he’s the only Cast Member to have opened Star Tours both times that it debuted.

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T.J. also wrote the “story” behind several of the attractions at Hollywood Studios, including Tower of Terror

We got a lot of history on the TOT and some backstory on all of the “props” in the lobby. In order to keep the lobby looking authentic, all of the furniture and decorations inside are from 1939 or before. Those alligator suitcases by the front desk? Really alligator. That beaded lampshade on the lamp at the abandoned dinner table? Made from a vintage flapper dress.

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The tour was fantastic and lasted about an hour, leaving me plenty of time to get a look at what was going on in the Studios. I stopped at Starring Rolls Cafe first because honestly, is there any time of day that a chocolate cupcake in its own treasure chest isn’t a good idea? Starring Rolls is only open until late afternoon, but if you get a chance, check it out. It’s down the steps just behind the Tips and Showtimes Board. The cafe is tucked into the building’s far side but offers a great patio with shaded tables.

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Post-sugar coma I made my way to the Animation Courtyard to check out the newest character meet and greet with Princess Sofia. It’s obvious that she’s a very popular character, as the line was really full. Sofia meets and greets continuously for several hours in the morning (currently 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and the afternoon (currently 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.)  with 5-minute breaks about every 30 minutes. She’s just outside Playhouse Disney Live! on Stage. A word to the wise: there’s really only one place to get a cold drink back there. If you’re headed in for character interactions and it’s a hot day, take something to drink with you.

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Given that both Sofia and Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates) were meeting and greeting simultaneously, the Animation Courtyard was fairly busy. Just past Voyage of the Little Mermaid, the crowds thinned out some.

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Hollywood Studios is promoting the upcoming animated feature Frozen with posters all over the park. They’re gorgeous, but there’s something a little odd about a huge, frosty campaign staring you in the face when the heat index is 104. Frozen debuts on Thanksgiving this year.

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Most of the back of the park was quiet, but Pixar Place was hopping as usual. I squeezed through mostly unscathed, though I always come out of there with something stuck to me. Flyer, candy, you name it. Wait times were accurate on the Touring Plans Lines app. If you haven’t downloaded it, be sure that you do. It’s a life saver. Things got quiet again around Studio Catering Company, though the lunch crowd was definitely working the shaded eatery.

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On any given day when I’m in the parks, I see a number of families with really creative or funny shirts on. I stopped these two gents to ask if I could take and use their picture because I thought these were pretty clever.

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Just past the Catering Company, the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure playground remains closed. Reopen date is set for November 19, 2013. Mulch, Sweat, and Shears rolled by as I was passing the Streets of America. If you haven’t stopped to listen to their show, do so if you get a chance. It’s pretty entertaining. Just around the corner on another angle down the street, it’s becoming really apparent that the Osborne lights are going up. The giant globe was a tipoff for me, anyway. And, you know, the zillion lights strung all over everything standing still.

Osborne Lights duo

The back side of the Studios was quiet with no wait at Mama Melrose’s at around 1 p.m. and not a lot of traffic by the Muppet fountain. This is a great area to take a break in, with several shaded courtyards near Pizza Planet.

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Excepting the Toy Story Mania hullabaloo, the crowds seemed to stay toward the front of the park at the Tower of Terror/Rock’n’Roller Coaster corner, Animation Courtyard, and Star Tours. Star Tours standby was a reasonable wait as usual, but the Jedi Academy brought a fairly good spectator crowd. It’s always fun to watch the very smallest kids whip light sabers around as their Jedi hoods fall over their eyes.

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As I made my way back around to the front of the park, I said hello to Gertie the Dino for my friend and sidled through the crowd that had gathered outside Indiana Jones for the next show. In all, except for the baking heat, it wasn’t a terribly crowded day at the Studios, though it lived up to the Touring Plans prediction of the day’s park to avoid in relation to the other 3. On the way out, I noticed that several My Disney Experience kiosks have been added at the front of the park for those who are unable to use smartphones to access the program. With more magicband rollouts coming in waves throughout September and October, I expect these to be start popping up throughout the parks. At least they’re themed.

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Posted on September 18, 2013

10 Responses to “Observations at Hollywood Studios: September 16”

  • An hour long behind the scenes tour got two pictures and just the comment on the furniture? What else was included?

    And those guys don’t look too thrilled to be in the picture…

  • great post and photos morgan. for a park to avoid that day it sure looked empty.
    re:jedi training academy … we’re heading to the world this Sunday (yippie) w our 4 yr old (first timer) and doing HS on the 27th. if we sign him up at opening can we request a show time later in the day or do we get what we get? what time would all the spots be gone this time of year? can we also expect managable crowds that week?
    cheers and keep up the amusing posts.

    • You can request any show time that still has openings at Jedi academy. The early times tend to fill up the quickest.

    • We went in mid-May 2012 with my son who was 4 at the time. We were staying on property and went during the Extra Magic Hour and many of the spots were already filled, we ended up with a later n the day spot. We heard from others that all spots were gone by the official park opening time. My advice would be to sign up right away to avoid disappointment. If you want a later time spot you can always choose this, as long as there are some still available.

  • by Morgan Crutchfield on September 18, 2013, at 2:55 pm EST

    Hello, Robert. Thanks for reading! The Limited Time Magic tour was just getting started and was open to all Walt Disney World guests who applied via e-mail, so I thought it would be best not to put too many spoilers in. As for the father/son green shirt team, I think I surprised them by asking if I could get a picture and that it was awfully bright in that courtyard. It was really nice of them to grant permission. Cool shirts, too. =)

  • by Morgan Crutchfield on September 18, 2013, at 3:01 pm EST

    Hey Alfie! Thanks so much for your comments. Your four-year-old must be bouncing out of his shoes. With crowd levels much lower than usual, I think you won’t have much trouble at all getting a Jedi Training Academy spot if you go early. Signups are at the ABC Sound Stage and are first-come, first-serve. I do believe you can request any open spot that is available throughout the day. Just a reminder – your son must be present when you sign him up and they’ll ask that you be back thirty minutes prior to his JTA start time. Have a great time! -M

  • Hi, I am heading down in just nine days now, if all Dr tests come back alright, and am looking to get the pink version of the treasure chest cup cake. last time we looked all over and made a special trip to Staring rolls for our cupcake breakfast, aww vacation. We got the brown one that time, but are interested in the pink one now. Was it there as well? Or anybody know where to get one? Maybe someone has a nice one they don’t want any more. We sure could use it to lift some spirits.

  • by Morgan Crutchfield on September 18, 2013, at 11:32 pm EST

    Hi Lita! I’ll cross my fingers that all your tests come back perfect and your trip is a celebratory one. The pink chest was not at Starring Rolls this time, but if I were you, I’d ask if they can make you one. You can also request a special celebratory button at any Guest Relations location for being a survivor. See ya real soon! ;)