Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hollywood Studios

 I'm a little late to wrap up my Disney posts, but I figured I'd live by the old saying "better late than never".  Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) was the last park we visited on our trip.  First opened in May 1989, 9.7 million guests walked through its gates last year, making it the 7th most visited amusement park in the world (behind Magic Kingdom and Epcot but one spot ahead of Animal Kingdom).

As you enter the gates, you cant help but notice the park's icon, Mickey's Fantasia Sorcerer's Hat.  Using our PhotoPass, we grabbed a group shot.
As a guest, you quickly realize that this park draws its inspiration from old Hollywood.  Unlike the other parks, there isn't really a set layout to describe.  However, there are six themed areas.

Hollywood Boulevard is essentially the main entrance that extends down the street to The Great Movie Ride.  The outside of this attraction is a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the inside is a slow moving ride through Hollywood's most famous movies (such as Singing in the Rain, Wizard of Oz, Tarzan, Casablanca, Aliens etc).
2008 Trip
Echo Lake's headline attractions are Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.  Star Tours was actually closed for renovations this year.  It is going to be called Star Tours: The Adventure Continues when it reopens in May 2011.  Back in 2004 though, Dave posed on some of the props (in this case, the speeder) that they have in this area.
Streets of America is currently set up to resemble the streets of San Francisco and New York.  The main attractions here are the Muppet Vision 3DStudio Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.  Muppet Vision is always fun.  I think the 3D is a bit outdated at this point, but is so cute and laugh inducing nonetheless.  We snapped a few pictures as we waited in line.
The backlot tour isn't my favorite ride so we skipped it this year because we were crunched for time due to our 6:45pm flight home.  We did take in the stunt show because the boys were interested.  I could definitely take it or leave it though.  It really is more of a guy thing.

Animation Courtyard has a few walk through attractions, such as Walt Disney: One Man's Dream and The Magic of Disney Animation.  We walked through One Man's Dream and it was pretty neat to see all of photos and various artifacts that formed Walt's life.  There is also a film narrated by Julie Andrews at the end.  It's worth a walk through if you have the time.  We did not have time for The Magic of Disney Animation so I'm not sure if its a must-do or not

Pixar Place is the newest section to the park and it also has the best new ride: Toy Story Midway Mania.   It was actually our last ride at the park (and our entire trip for that matter) and it was nice to go out with a bang.  The ride is described as 4D, taking guests through a series of interactive games hosted by various Toy Story characters.  Because you ride in a two-person car, it has a tendency to cause some healthy competition because your respective scores are tallied in real time.  Dave beat me be a small margin! I need to beat him next time!  I should point out that this ride's popularity is on par with Soarin' in EPCOT.  Thus, I would recommend going straight to this attraction and grabbing your Fast Pass before you do anything else.  If you don't, you may discover at an early hour that all of the Fast Passes are gone for the day.  Here are a few pictures that I took back in 2008 while waiting in line:
Sunset Boulevard in my humble opinion is where all the good action is at.  It is home to The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror.  The 199 ft tower is the 2nd highest attraction in Disney World (2nd to Expedition Everest) and is based in the fictional Hollywood Tower hotel.  The premise of the ride is to take guests through what happened to the hotel guests riding in an elevator when it was struck by lightening back in 1939.  As you are being taken through it, you are suddenly plunging down the elevator shaft.  The ride is always changing so it's hard to predict how many times you will be plunging down and then shot back up, etc.
Next door is another great ride: Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  The steel roller coaster is themed to be a stretch limousine taking passengers to the Aerosmith concert.  With Aerosmith music playing loudly through the speakers by your ears, you are told that you're running late to the concert.  You're then accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, making it the 2nd fastest attraction in Disney (2nd to Test Track in EPCOT). There are a couple of inverted points in the ride, which are a ton of fun! We had to ride it twice this year to get our fill!  I also had to buy the photo they take of you mid-ride since Adam's air guitar was true comic genius.
Sunset Boulevard is also where Daisy and I enjoyed our last Yuengling drafts.  Pity we had to come home and away from Yuengling availability.
It also has two live stage shows, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage and Fantasmic!  It's been such a long time since I saw the Beauty and the Beast show so I really feel incapable of comment.  The Fanstasmic! show is great however and you should definitely make time for this at the end of the night.  We would have but we had to catch our flight!

If you are at the park between mid-November and early January, you should check out The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Streets of America. The light display is made up of over 10 miles of rope lighting that are connected to electronic switches that are set to music (such as Christmas Eve by the Trans Siberian Orchestra and Jingle Bells by Barbara Streisand).  Hence, it appears that the lights are "dancing" to the music.  They also installed fake snow machines to set the scene.  I really enjoyed this area in 2008 with the family.
Here's a video to check out if you're interested:

Hollywood Studios is (i) home to many great rides and is (ii) doable within one day.  At a minimum, make sure to find time for Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, Muppet Vision 3D and Fantasmic!  Some of the other attractions I mentioned are nice to do's but not must do's.

This post also wraps marks the end of the Florida vacation recaps.  Well, at least until I decide I miss it too much and want to do it all again next year... :)

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