I recently went to Hollywood Studios with my die-hard Disney friend, Lynne. I have been living in Florida long enough now to justify buying my first Disney Annual Pass for the occasion, which I guess makes me a local. It has been about twelve years since I have visited this Disney park, which was previously called MGM Studios.
We arrived at the park around 9 AM and were still able to score a convenient parking spot. Hollywood Studios is a relatively small theme park and very manageable; maybe one that can be shared with another park for part of the day if you have a park-hopper pass. Although the iconic Sorcerer Mickey hat is generally on display at the entrance, it is currently being disassembled and being replaced with something else top secret. Cannot wait to see what that will be!
The first thing we did was head straight for the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid”, a 15 minute stage show featuring some amazing puppeteers and special effects. The show was incredibly colorful and imaginative. Ariel is portrayed by a girl who does a very convincing job making you feel as if she is truly under the sea with all all of her aquatic friends. If you are a Little Mermaid fan you are sure to be singing along.
An attraction I really enjoyed was “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”, a museum dedicated to Walt’s vision and collection of artifacts, featuring some of his earliest sketches. Two of my favorite things within this exhibit were the model of Main Street USA from Disneyland Resort and the original Audio-Animatronics Abraham Lincoln figure from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The museum also features a 15 minute film of Walt telling his story and sharing sweet and personal home movies.
The “Great Movie Ride” is an attraction in which you and other guests board a tram with an actor tour guide and ride through a soundstage circa 1930’s for a stroll through classic movie scenes. Some of the movies included Singin’ in the Rain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Wizard of Oz, and Casablanca. The sets are elaborate and spot on to make you feel like you are truly in the movie, complete with state of the art Audio-Animatronic replicas of the film stars. A few surprises happen along the way so keep your eyes open! Keep in mind this ride is not for young children.
Other popular choices are the “Muppet*Vision 3D”, “Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster”, and the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”, in which you plummet to the ground from the 13th story and speed upward repeatedly, quite a few times. The ride only lasts a few minutes but the suspense factor is great! Hollywood and New York City streets are designed to make you feel like you are truly there, taking in the sights such as Graumann’s Chinese Theater and the Empire State Building. These make for fun photo ops.
I would highly recommend making a reservation for each day you are at a Disney park where you can sit down and be waited on. Restaurants that only offer counter service are expensive, and you might only be saving a few dollars from the restaurants that offer table service. Then there is the time spent waiting in line to order and walking around looking for an open table. Having table service gives you an opportunity to relax and unwind a bit before pounding more pavement. We had a lunch reservation at 50’s Prime Time, a high energy restaurant that specializes in comfort foods, waiters that give you “chores” and sometimes nag at you (like a mom), while surrounding you in 1950’s nostalgia. We sat at Formica tables with vinyl chairs. I tried the Dad’s Stuffed Pork Chop with gouda, apples, cranberry and herbs and Lynne chose Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie, venturing out to something different than her usual order of Old-Fashioned Pot Roast. Although the service was a bit slow and the food was good, not spectacular, we had an enjoyable time.
Another interesting and educational activity was the “Magic of Disney Animation”, a studio that features hands-on interactive displays in the lines of digital ink & paint, the sound stage, animation academy, you are a character, and animation gallery. Watch people working behind glass windows drawing and sketching Disney character related scenes. There are also character greetings here and we were lucky enough to see Sorcerer Mickey.
A few things we passed on were the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” and “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Shows”. If you are fans of the movie Frozen, be sure to fast-past your Frozen Sing-Along Celebration as it was the only attraction in the park on a long wait. Everything else was within a 10-15 minute wait all day long. I really liked the fact that this park was not packed with huge crowds like its counterparts, Epcot and Magic Kingdom.
If you are gaga over character greetings, like me, you will have the opportunity to meet some classic favorites, Goofy, Daisy & Donald Duck, Mickey & Minnie, and Pluto. Other kid favorites include the stars of Cars, the Incredibles, Phineas & Ferb, Buzz Lightyear & Woody from Toy Story, and Mike & Sully from Monsters, Inc. On the day we were there, annual pass holders were treated to a 15-20 minute sneak peek of the new Cinderella movie that will be released in March. It looks like a hit!
The best event of the day was hands down the “Beauty and the Beast Live-On Stage” show, which runs several times throughout the day. Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie so it was fitting see this Broadway-style musical performance, and I have to say it was fantastic! The costumes and lavish sets are incredible, plus the characters Belle, Gaston, and Beast sing live and they all had lovely voices. The show lasts 25 minutes and it is condensed from movie to musical length without allowing the storyline to suffer. Belle was fantastic and Gaston truly had that muscular physique, hubba hubba. It kept the attention of the adults and kids alike, and was a visual delight.
There are plenty of shops throughout the park containing unique souvenirs, much different than the ones sold at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. My favorite is the Christmas store and all the limited edition MagicBands. What is MagicBand you ask? It is all the rage right now so let me sum it up for you. The MagicBand is a colorful wristband that stores your personal information you’ve uploaded through My Disney Experience, so that you can enter the park, pay for your purchases, unlock your Disney property hotel rooms, and store your FastPass choices. One band comes free with your Disney property hotel stay as well as with annual pass, but you can buy them from $12.95 and up in many themes, along with MagicSliders (that decorate the “faceplate” and MagicBandits (decorations for the bands). One could seriously spend a fortune on those things!
Overall, I have nothing but great things to say about my visit to Hollywood Studios and will definitely be back in the near future with my family in tow.
Hint: Disney parks have free WI-FI and the connection service at Hollywood Studios was perfect and quick.
Tip: Create a My Disney Experience online prior to visiting the parks so you can make FastPast selections as well as map out your own itinerary before you even get to the park. Get the app on your phone as well.
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