Chapter 8: Feel the Force at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Today we head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After grabbing some breakfast, we walk out on the dock to wait for the ferryboat to the park. The view from the dock of the surroundings of Crescent Lake gives you the sense that you are at a seaside resort community in the Atlantic North East. Disney resorts, like the parks, are known for their quality of the theming. The boat ride to the park reminded me of a few canal rides I have taken, connecting various towns by natural and man-made waterways.

We arrive at the park approximately 30 minutes after opening, and make our way down Hollywood Boulevard. This part of the park, along with Sunset Boulevard, represents the romanticized ideal of Hollywood during the 1940s. We grew up with the movies and old newsreels that depicted this golden age of Hollywood, which the Imagineers have recreated here in the park.

Our plan is to head directly toward Star Tours, use a FastPass+, then possibly ride the attraction a second time. We take the path behind Echo Lake. We pass Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which is not on our to-do list for today’s visit to the park. I had read mixed reviews of this attraction and we were not sure we wanted to experience it this trip.

As we approach Star Tours, my inner geek is overcome with excitement at seeing the Ewok village and an AT-AT looming over us. The FastPass+ line is empty, so we quickly make our way through the Rebel bunker and into the Star Tours Spaceport. 2014-06-23 10.10.30-1C-3PO and R2-D2 are working on a Starspeeder, along with various other droids. I had thought that the FP+ line would take us on a different path through the queue. However, the FP+ line runs parallel to the standby line and directly pass the various vignettes.

The actual ride is amazing! You wear a pair of 3-D glasses, which bring the digital images to life. There is another layer, or dimension, added by the presence of an animatronic C-3PO in the pilot’s chair. I will admit that I did develop a little motion sickness while on this attraction. However, we enjoy the ride so much that we quickly went back to the standby entrance to ride it again. We did not wait long; the standby line moved very quickly. This ride, this Star Tour, is very different from our first experience. According to the Disney World website for this attraction, with “over 50 story combinations, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue invites you to experience a unique adventure almost every time.” I could have spent hours, and a considerable amount of money, wandering through Tatooine Traders.

Instead, we make our way over to The Great Movie Ride for our next FP+. Most Disney World ‘experts’ recommend not using FP+ for this attraction. To some extent I agree, the lines move quickly. However, if you do not want to take the chance, I recommend using your FP+ reservations to create the type of experience that best suits your touring plans. We enjoy the attraction, probably for the same reason we can appreciate the theming of the park. We grew up watching these movies, albeit many of them as television reruns. Whether it is visiting Munchkinland, or watching Rick convince Ilsa to get on that plane with Victor; The Great Movie Ride immerses you in classic movie moments.

We have some spare time before our next FP+ reservation, which is for the performance of BUnknowneauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. We take a stroll down the Streets of America, and make our way over to Muppet Vision 3D. The action and gags are fast paced, with numerous 4D surprises. And, as a Muppet fan, I really enjoy the humor of the animatronic Statler and Waldorf as they comment from their private balcony. The only regret I have is that we did not take time to explore the queue, which is themed as a movie soundstage with many Muppet surprises.

From the Muppet Theater, we make our way over to Sunset Boulevard to2014-06-23 12.09.14 see the performance of Beauty and the Beast. Our FastPass reservation allows us to enter the theater without waiting in line, and gives us seating in a preferred section. Unfortunately, it is an open-air theater, so there is no air conditioning, just shade and fans. This production is well staged, shorter than the full Broadway production, and very enjoyable.

We decide to explore the rest of Hollywood Studios as we meander our back toward the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant for our lunch ADR. Although we find the park to be smaller and easier to maneuver, the sections, or lands, are not as clearly defined as they are in other parks. There are more adult oriented attractions at Hollywood Studios, including a few we knew would be too intense for us. I am a fan of Aerosmith, but the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not in my wheelhouse. If it were not for those sudden drops, I would really enjoy The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Maybe Disney Imagineers will someday create an alternate version that allows you to experience the haunted hotel without the stomach churning plunges.

Our ADR at the Sci-Fi is at 1:40; we arrive at 1:30. We wait 30 minutes before we were seated, during which time a lot of people are turned away because they did not have a reservation. This is a very popular restaurant in Hollywood Studios, and we can see why. There is a juxtapsci-fi-dine-in-theater-gallery00osition to the theming: the entrance is styled as the back of a Hollywood sound stage, while the dining room is designed as a 1950’s drive-in theater, with tables set into the body of a retro cars. A 45-minute loop continuously plays clips from science fiction B-movies, as well as newsreels and advertisements from the 1950s. The menu offers things like burgers, popcorn chicken, fries, and old-fashion milkshakes, but these are not your basic drive-in staples. The chef has developed delicious variations on these classic American dishes.

As planned, we make our way out of the park after lunch. We take the boat back to the Beach Club for an evening of relaxation by the pool and a light dinner. I have enjoyed our time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and look forward to returning during my next trip. There certainly will be new things to experience in the park in years to come.

Walt Disney knew that change is important and inevitable in the parks. There are certainly many changes in the works for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, not the least of which is an expanded presence of Star Wars and Pixar. At the writing of this post, the Sorcerer’s Hat is down and the Great Movie Ride is undergoing an update due to Disney’s new association with Turner Classic Movies. There are even rumors of a name change for the park. What are your thoughts about Hollywood Studios? What changes would you like to see happen at the park? Which attractions should go, and which need to be updated?

In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse I will review our Be Our Guest Restaurant dining experience, followed be an evening at Magic Kingdom. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.

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