Walt Disney World: Part III – Hollywood Studios and More!

Today was the day I was to finally ride the original Tower of Terror.  I was SUPER excited!

At last!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a smaller park that’s more focused on shows and entertainment than attractions but the few attractions they do have really pack a punch and the shows are among the best I have seen at a Disney park.  Orlando seems to be a haven for film and stage hopefuls with plenty of roles to go around.  Really top notch stuff coming out of these parks!

So we entered through some familiar looking gates — the new Disney California Adventure Park gates, while modeled after the Pan Pacific park theatre are actually modeled after Disney’s own Hollywood Studios park.  I had no idea until DCA’s walls were about to come down in front of the new gates and a buddy of mine showed me a picture of the Hollywood Studios gate.  I was surprised and thought that DCA’s walls had come down early.  It’s striking how similar these parks look from the front!

And that’s not all.  There’s even a Carthay Circle Theatre (which is a shop rather than a restaurant) and a lot of the same building replicas DCA has in it’s Hollywood Blvd. area.  Even the gas station looks a lot like Oswald’s at DCA.  I went to high school in Hollywood and lived there for about 5 years and they really nailed a lot of the tiny details.  Their Crossroads of the World replica (information station at the park) is uncanny and their Max Factor building (a shopping plaza) is spot on.

Hollywood Studios’ Carthay Circle Theatre
Looking back toward the main gate.

After taking in the main drag Hollywood Blvd., we took a right and headed down Sunset Boulevard toward the Hollywood Tower Hotel known as Tower of Terror.

A beacon for the show business elite!

We took tons of photos of this attraction which seems to house more homages to the show than our DCA counterpart.  Traveling through the 5th dimension caused me to laugh out loud in glee the first time the doors opened and we moved forward.  It’s really neat and almost too stimulating upon the first ride.  There’s just no way to sell how incredibly detailed and awesome this ride is.  The day we came home we went to DLR and rode Tower and while it’s still a great ride and superior in a few areas, as a whole, I would have to say that Hollywood Studios’ version of the ride is in a completely different league.

A hidden Mickey!

Next it was onto Rockin’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith.  We had done this at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Paris and I remembered really enjoying it.  The queue in Paris seemed a little more detailed but the facade was much better at Walt Disney World.

Huge guitar here!

This ride has some great holograms for the pre-show and a nice story and great theming.  We are granted backstage passes to a concert that’s happening in 10 minutes and Aerosmith has demanded that their manager sense a limo our way to get us there.  Unfortunately there’s traffic but our “driver” seems to know some back-alley shortcuts.  We take off into the dark night past some hollywood landmarks along with some rockin’ tunes.  It’s a whirlwind thrill and if I had to compare it to something, it would be a mix of Space Mountain and California Screamin’ at DCA.

We grabbed a quick bite at the farmer’s market area.  What was nice was the even though this was standard theme park fare, it’s pretty regional so BBQ baked beans and cole slaw are common hot dog toppings.  I loved it!  They also had bacon macaroni and cheese toppings.  A great treat I have yet to discover at our 3rd and Fairfax farmer’s market.

This walking magician puts on a great show!
More magic at Hollywood Studios!

Our first new-to-us attraction at this park was The Great Movie Ride.  While it’s a great ride, it seems to be a lot like Jungle Cruise in the way that your “skipper” can make or break the ride, and you have multiple ones so landing multiple good hosts can be difficult.  We had two pretty bad ones but there are some great things to look at.  I liked how large the ride vehicles were.  They really move a lot of people in there!

The Magic Castle on the mural?
Singin’ in the Rain!

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid was a fun show with some cool laser effects and some great puppetry.  However, there’s a whole scene where Ariel is live on stage singing a song and animated Ariel is singing and swimming on a projection right next to her.  Seemed like a mixed message.  It’s also a very truncated version of the film’s story.  You should go into this having already seen the film.

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Great Ursula!

Star Tours!  While exactly the same as ours in almost every way including the queue (minus a few things), the exterior of this one is superior to Disneyland’s.  There’s an AT-AT out front walking through the Endor Moon terrain.  Super fun to look at and walk through!

The Endor Moon!

Walking straight into the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, we had no idea what to expect.  We walked into a very large set so we figured there’d be a lot of col stuff to see while the actors made their way from section to section in what may be a 15 minute show, or so.  However, after the entire set gets used in the first scene, I was worried there wasn’t going to be much more to see.  Then, the set change happened.  This has to be some of the most incredible set design I have seen at any Disney park!  The scenes are HUGE and the stunts are great.  I highly recommend this show!

So awesome!

On our way back to Tower (I know, I know…), we stopped into the Beauty and the Beast show.  Yet again, if you’re an out of work actor, make your way to Orlando because these shows are just top notch!  Absolutely terrific performances all around and this show is a little longer than The Little Mermaid show although there’s still some plot holes if you have not seen the film.

Tale as old as time…
We were in the area!

Next was more of a showcase of all things Walt.  Put together by D23, One Man’s Dream is a huge love letter to Walt with props from his boyhood desk with his name etched into the wood to his Glendale, CA office as it would have been seen on the lot.  It’s a wonderful museum of Walt Disney treasures with an amazing film at the end that’s sure to bring tears to your eyes.  Well done!

Bring a tissue or 5!
Walt’s Office

After this, we wandered the park awaiting Fantasmic! at 7pm.  We planned on grabbing good seats at the amphitheater so a 5:30 arrival was key.  We walked thru the Pixar area where their Toy Story Midway Mania was.  We skipped it as the lines were just outlandish and we aren’t huge fans of the DCA version so we figured we weren’t missing anything.  We saw Pizza Planet (having my birthday there next year for SURE! (I kid…)), a huge Muppet store (we skipped MuppetVision 3D), the backlot area (the backlot tour was down for the duration of our trip there), and skipped the Lights! Motor! Action! stunt show as we had seen it in Paris.  After some sightseeing, it was time to go see the East Coast version of the Disneyland classic.

It sure is different!

I took a little nap while waiting for the show but we certainly had GREAT seats!  While it’s different, it was cool to see some added scenes with rarely seen characters like Pocahontas.  Their dragon is like our old dragon and they have a smaller and sort of dinky version of the Mark Twain for the finale.  All in all, it’s still a magical show but in the amphitheater setting, it seems a little too far away.  I was still able to grab some awesome pictures.  See if you can spot the Mickey with the weird eyes. What’s THAT about?

Mickey encounters the snake!
Slaying the dragon

Tons more Fantasmic! pictures below!  After leaving Hollywood Studios for the night, we headed over to The Magic Kingdom to take advantage of the extra magic hours.  We headed over to the Tiki Room but they closed early so we went to Tomorrowland to check out Space Mountain which wasn’t bad.  It’s very different and more like the pre-1998 DLR version.  I really liked the star effect inside the queue — it was very convincing.  Unfortunately we were not able to play with the interactive queue.  Has anyone done it?  Is it any good?

En Route to the Magic Kingdom
The Mountain!
Great end-queue visuals

Before we left for the night, we went on TTA’s Peoplemover. It moved a lot faster than I expected and was visually different from our old Disneyland version but it was still a great ride with some incredible park views!

TTA: Peoplemover

Another perfect day at WDW in the books!  Nice touch upon exiting the Magic Kingdom for the night and retiring to our hotel room once again.

Nicely done!