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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.