Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 10 (Still) Lovable Things

So many negative comments are made these days (my own included, I’m afraid) about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I agree that the Studios aren’t what they used to be and fortunately, change is on the way.  The park is in limbo…”Out with the old” has been happening for quite some time.  “In with the new” seems to be taking forever.  Considering the current state of affairs, I can understand why a lot of Disney fans are steering clear of this park altogether or rushing in for a couple of rides and hopping to a park with more to offer.  I’m headed to Disney World in a couple of weeks and am still spending time at the Studios.  Why?  I’ll tell you.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 10 (Still) Lovable ThingsDisney's Hollywood Studios - 10 (Still) Lovable Things

Atmosphere – It’s still awesome!  I thought the Sorcerer’s Hat was cute for a while, but loved the park’s original feel – and that feeling is still there for me.  When I first enter the park, I’m struck by all the colorful details.  So different from every other park!  I love the signs, billboards, sight gags, and storefronts.  I always make time to stroll around looking for some small gem I’ve never noticed before.Disney's Hollywood Studios - 10 (Still) Lovable Things

Tower of Terror – After Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Tower of Terror is my favorite Disney attraction.  Every second from queue to gift shop is as perfect an experience as Disney Imagineering has ever designed.  Classic and thrilling, every visit to the Studios includes at least one visit to the Hollywood Tower Hotel.Disney's Hollywood Studios - 10 (Still) Lovable Things

Rock’n’ Roller Coaster – Staying with that end of Sunset Boulevard, Rock’n’ Roller Coaster is another must-do attraction.  While I still love Aerosmith, I’m not against a change in music after all these years.  The coaster’s just fine as is.  From the ride vehicles to the breathtaking start, through the loops, past the neon signs…it’s a wonderful, exhilarating rush!Entrance for Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania – While I must have a FastPass or I’m not riding this one, it’s one of the best experiences in any park simply for exceptional guest interaction qualities.  Sure, I almost always have the low score in my vehicle, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every second.  The plate-breaking is absolutely the best!

Star Wars Launch Bay – I’m a pretty geeky Star Wars fan and while I do like Star Tours, I LOVE the Launch Bay!  Part museum, part character spot, there’s something about this new-ish offering that satisfies yet hints of things to come at the same time.  If the intention was to get me excited about Star Wars Land, it’s working.

Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards – I can still find Citizens of Hollywood from time to time along these iconic streets.  Shops, snacks, small and large details, the overall feeling of old Hollywood can still be found.  While Toluca Legs Turkey Co. and Starring Rolls Café may be gone, there’s still plenty to enjoy.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage – Way back (a long time ago), the live show at the Theater of the Stars was The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  It was a great show!  I was a little sad to see its run end.  Then along came Beauty and The Beast and I was captivated once again.  No, it’s not a must-do on every visit, but it is well done and offers a relaxing, shaded respite from our normally hurried touring plans.  And there’s Gaston!  If only Four for a Dollar were still performing the pre-show.  Those were the days.

Hollywood Brown Derby Patio Lounge – This is my favorite place in the Studios to stop for a light meal or a snack.  Between FastPasses, Raymond and I have been know to pass the time by enjoying cheese and wine here.  The service is good, the menu solid, and the people-watching excellent!

Gertie the Dinosaur – Most visitors probably don’t associate the adorable giant brontosaurus (Apatosaurus) on the shore of Echo Lake with the park’s original theme.  Considered by many to be the “mother of all cartoon characters” the original Gertie is an important historical figure and paved the way for all the characters, Disney and otherwise, we know and love.

Nostalgia – I was fortunate to marry a Disney fan who introduced me to Walt Disney World shortly after our wedding.  Among my happiest memories are the time we spent in Disney’s MGM Studios shortly after the park opened.  Many of the park’s original attractions, its name, and even entire sections (Roger Rabbit!) are gone now.  But what remains is enough to whisk me back nearly 28 years to those early days when we were just starting out.  We still feel young, we’re every bit as happy, and we still love being together on a Disney vacation…the best feelings there are!Volunteering for the Studios Backlot Tour

While the future will certainly bring many more changes to this particular corner of Disney World, it will always hold a special place in my heart.  I’m super excited about the additions of Star Wars and Toy Story lands and am hoping Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called) will return to being an exciting full-day park for everyone.

Are you a Studios fan?  What’s your favorite memory?  What are your favorite attractions?

 

If The Great Movie Ride Has to Go

Nearly three years ago I wrote this article about the rumored demise of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, which so far has remained unscathed.  The newest Studios scuttlebutt predicts the replacement of The Great Movie Ride with something completely different.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this one.  Let’s discuss!

If The Great Movie Ride Has to GoThe Great Movie Ride

Like much of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in recent years, The Great Movie Ride hasn’t received a whole lot of love.  New intro, change in narration, and nothing else.  The scenes are stale, some of the animatronics don’t work, and the scripts on the two versions are exactly the same…every. single. time. The Great Movie Ride

The premise of this attraction makes it perpetually ready for awesome updates and theme/action changes at regular intervals.  So much Hollywood greatness to be showcased, incredible potential for an infinite number of scene changes and movie genres to explore.  None of that has happened and I still ride it on nearly every visit.  Why?  Nostalgia mostly.  I have a love/hate relationship with many of the scenes.  I love the Casablanca scene, hate Tarzan, love John Wayne and Mary Poppins, hate The Public EnemyThe Wizard of Oz is my absolute favorite and so well done!  If other fans are like me, nostalgia alone probably isn’t enough to keep this ride alive.

If the Rumors are True…

According to speculation from August, 2016, The Great Movie Ride may be replaced by The Great Mickey Ride.  Think about the possibilities!  Trackless vehicles moving guests through the history of Mickey in all his lovable forms.  He’s recognized world-wide and has yet to have his very own attraction!  The original spirit of the Studios would live on and new generations of Mickey fans would learn the story of the world’s most famous Mouse.  Makes sense as Mickey will celebrate his 100th birthday in 2028.  With so much to showcase, this could easily be one of those attractions guests would ride again and again to see what they might have missed on previous visits.The Great Movie Ride

With money and resources currently allocated for Star Wars and Toy Story lands, it seems doubtful that anything will happen in the near future.  Goodness knows, the Studios can’t handle anymore closures without new attractions to fill in the gaping holes.  I can see how the long-term survival of The Great Movie Ride in its current form is unlikely though, and I’m prepared for it to go away.  In the meantime, I intend to ride it a few more times and enjoy one of the last vestiges of what Disney’s MGM Studios originally used to be.

How about you?  Are you a fan of The Great Movie Ride?  Are you ready to see it replaced?

 

Our First Disney World Dessert Party

Walt Disney World’s Dessert Parties have been around for a while.  We’d been curious about what those up-charged special offerings were all about, so I booked a reservation and paid the price for…

Our First Disney World Dessert Party

Seriously, the name alone made the party sound exciting – “Jingle Bell Jingle BAM Dessert Party”.  And even though it was expensive (about $70 per person) to attend, I thought that during the ridiculously crowded Christmas week, it made sense add a special event that included a reserved viewing area for the Jingle Bell Jingle BAM fireworks/projection show.  We were excited about ending our vacation with this extra splurge.

The weather had turned unexpectedly cold and windy on the day of the party.  We bundled up with what we’d packed for cooler weather and spent the day at Animal Kingdom.  I’d moved our Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) dinner reservation to 5:30 so we could enjoy our meal and still get to the party on time and this part of the plan went off without a hitch.  We arrived at the party’s check-in area near the Chinese Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at around 8:00 pm.  We’d even had time to shop for some extra layers to ward off the freezing cold weather for the evening.  I say ‘we”, but it was all me.  I bought a hat and scarf and the purchase-with-a-purchase throw that was being offered.  It was probably only in the mid-40’s, but it was COLD!

At check-in, we were given special bracelets and some hand-warmers (nice touch!) and shown to our assigned table (#3).  I loved that we had an assigned table and that it had a nice tablecloth and looked festive.  It was nice and warm at our table and we took turns going to the different food and beverage stations.  There was a small menu that described the party highlights…those highlights included more than dessert!  We received special glasses to wear for the show that turned all the lights into gingerbread men.  We also got to meet Santa Goofy during the party.  So far, so good!

We’d just finished a great dinner at Jiko, so we weren’t interested in any of the savory offerings at the food tables.  I opted to fill a small plate with sweet treats to share and I grabbed a glass of white wine on my way back to our table.  Raymond got a glass of red wine (which I ended up drinking) before he noticed there was coffee (and hot cocoa) available.  Joseph had a beer and then some hot cocoa.  I had everyone sample the desserts I’d chosen and the verdict was unanimous – poor quality and extremely dry.  Even the frosted small cupcake-shaped rice crispy treat was disappointing.  Our opinion was that the food was not good enough for the price of the experience.

It was time to make our way to the designated viewing area for the show.  A Cast Member handed us a parting gift of plastic-wrapped gingerbread people. (Poor little guy’s arm broke off after I carried him around in my bag.)More Cast Members with light sabers guided us to a roped-off area in front of the theater.  The show was just okay.  Best part? We wore our glasses and when the fireworks started and it looked like multicolored gingerbread men were shooting out in every direction, Raymond and Joseph both burst out laughing…that alone made the experience worthwhile for me.

To sum it up…

Dessert party pros:  Great hospitality, reserved seating, festive atmosphere, adult beverages, extras like the special glasses, Santa Goofy and gingerbread cookie.  The special viewing area was good.

Cons:  The food and price.  We could have watched the show for no extra charge…but the show was just meh.

Would I attend another dessert party? Maybe. Especially for the Galactic Spectacular show that returned to the Studios this month.  For sure, I’d have more realistic expectations about the food and might opt to bring a less-full belly in order to give the savory offerings a try.

Have you attended a dessert party at Walt Disney World?  Which one was it and did you feel it was worth the price?

Disney Dining – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

In theory, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios sounds like a winning place to enjoy a casual lunch or dinner.  A tribute to the drive-in theaters of old along with those cheesy horror movies from the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s and a menu of classic American entrees and sides…it’s bound to be great, right?sci-fi-dine-in-menu

Disney Dining – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

We gave this place a try for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s the verdict:

What we liked:  This place is certainly unique.  We thought the theme was fun, the movie clips hilarious, and the menu broad enough for everyone to find something they were happy with.  Our server was good – she was taking the orders of seven people split between two cars and managed to make us all feel like she was sincere and attentive.  The beer was cold and delicious and our meals arrived in a timely manner.  The food was okay.  Better than typical fast-food, which is good because it was a little pricey (and hard to photograph in the dark!). sci-fi-dine-in-sandwich

What we didn’t like:  The waiting area and the hostess left much to be desired.  Our first impression wasn’t a good one.  We didn’t wait long afraid ter we checked in, but the area we sat in was disappointing compared to other places like 50’s Prime Time Café.  The hostess was so bland and monotone, I thought maybe it was some sort of act.  I’m still not sure, because she never smiled, made little eye contact and spoke in a deep voice devoid of inflection.  She walked us to our car-tables as if she was headed to the gallows.  This made us feel rather like a burden.sci-fi-dine-in-darkness

Our tables were split between two cars with Raymond and I in the back of a car with a random family of four – this seemed weird to me and made me wish I’d done more research on how a party of our size would be handled.  The other five in our group were in the car next to us, but far enough away that conversation with them was impossible.sci-fi-dine-in-ticket

What would get us to eat there again?  We’d go back again if we were with someone who would get a big kick out of the movie clips and drive-in experience.  Ideally, we’d be with an even-numbered party of four or six so we could all eat in one vehicle.  sci-fi-dine-in-signProbably the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater will now be in our once-and-done category simply because I expect the Star Wars expansion to bring with it new dining experiences for us to try.  And I like the food at 50’s Prime Time Café better.

Have you tried Sci-Fi Dine-In?  How was your experience?