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?

 

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

We’re calling it the “Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip” and in just a few weeks, we’ll be on our way!  Packing lists are made.  FastPasses are booked.  Like all great Disney vacations, new things are in store and include quite a few Disney firsts for us.  Megan and I are more excited than I can describe and are constantly texting each other about our plans.  Speaking of plans…

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

Let’s start with the firsts:  First time at Saratoga Springs, first time on the Quick Service Dining Plan, first time driving to Orlando, and (the most exciting!) first time to see Pandora!  We’ve also booked the “Caring for Giants” tour at Animal Kingdom and are looking forward to seeing the new Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular in Magic Kingdom.

Here are the plans we’ve made day-by-day…

Arrival Day:

Magic Kingdom:  We’ll get there for lunch and grab what sounds good at the time.  We have FastPasses starting right after lunch for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  Between FastPasses, we’ll fill in with the usual favorites depending on wait times.  Those attractions are usually PeopleMover, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Country Bear Jamboree.  For dinner we’ll catch the boat to Wilderness Lodge to try Geyser Point before returning to Magic Kingdom and staying for Happily Ever After.

Day Two:

Animal Kingdom as early as possible.  It would stress me out to shoot for an exact arrival time, but it will need to be early.  FastPasses start at 9:00 am with Na’vi River Journey in Pandora.  We’ll grab breakfast there at Satu’li Canteen either before or after the ride.  Then we’ll have plenty of time to explore all of Pandora at our leisure.  Our next FastPass (Expedition Everest) isn’t until early afternoon.  We’ll do the Caring For Giants tour mid-afternoon then be able to roam around Animal Kingdom at a lazy pace, eat dinner, and use our final FastPass for Rivers of Light at 9:15.

Day Three:Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids

Animal Kingdom again first thing.  Our FastPasses are all in the morning:  Flight of Passage, Primeval Whirl, and Kali River Rapids.  We’ll be hopping to Epcot for the afternoon – so many great quick service options for lunch in World Showcase!  Dinner that night will be at Paddlefish in Disney Springs after which we’ll call it a day.

Day Four:Entrance for Toy Story Midway ManiaWe’ll start by rope-dropping the Studios to ride Rock’n’ Roller Coaster before using our three FastPasses for Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Star Tours.  The unplanned afternoon will be spent at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot before we start the first part of the long drive home that evening.

Yes, we have solid plans for much of the time, but I think we’ve allowed for plenty of free-styling along the way.  Primarily we’ll be focused on exploring Pandora since it’s new, but we’ll also be able to enjoy many of our must-dos in every park while trying a few new restaurants too.  Mother/Daughter time should include a nice mix of new experiences and old favorites while making lots of happy memories.

While we’re away, Joseph has decided he should stay at the house and keep Raymond (and Junior) company.  So while they won’t be going to Disney World, they’ll be guys home alone doing guys stuff.  I think they’re pretty excited about it.

Are you headed to Walt Disney World this summer?  What are you the most excited to see and do?

 

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?

 

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?