Disney Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

On our third day at Disney World, the six of us piled into our rental minivan and drove over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (nee MGM Studios). Perhaps the lack of lines at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot made us a bit lax, but we didn’t bother getting to Hollywood until well after it was open. So there was to be no avoiding crowds by getting there early. Despite that, we did everything we wanted with little trouble.

Oh, and did I mention yet that there were busloads of cheerleaders all over the place? Yeah, it was the Feigenbaums and the National High School Cheerleading Championships, together again for the first time.

It took us a bit to get going, and so we first grabbed a batch of Fastpasses for the Toy Story 4D ride. They were already going for the middle of the afternoon, so we started to plan our day around that. We then got on line so that Julia could—at long last—meet Daisy Duck, but Daisy disappeared and turned into Chip and Dale before we got to the front of the line. In my opinion, that’s a significant upgrade.

Finally, we hit up a ride:

  • The Great Movie Ride. There was no line for the Great Movie Ride, probably because it’s long since been upstaged by lots of newer rides. But the Great Movie Ride was one of my favorite memories of the last time I was at MGM, so I was glad to make it our first ride of the day… I couldn’t have been more disappointed in it. We ended up in the back row of the two car convoy, which meant half the time we were in a different room from where the action was going on. Add to that the fact that both our guide and our kidnapping mobster were both unenthusiastic and bad actors, and the ride was a giant disappointment. The Wizard of Oz room was still great, though.

We met up with Mom, who was feeling a bit under the weather, and she and I hung out in the beautiful weather while the rest of the gang went and saw the Little Mermaid show. Randi, Scott, and Julia then headed off to meet some characters, and Mom, Lynn, and I went over to the “animation courtyard.” The short film about Disney’s animation processes was cute, but the real highlight was:

  • The Animation Academy. We didn’t know what to expect, but Lynn was dying for the chance to do some drawing, so we waited fifteen minutes or so for the next drawing class. What we found was a 25-minute class in which a Disney animator led us through the process of sketching a Disney character—Jiminy Cricket in our case—from scratch. While it was a bit challenging to keep up with the pace at times, this was a ton of fun and we left with three impressive renderings of the little guy. (Well, ok, Lynn’s was really impressive, mine was not half bad, and Mom’s looked a bit like Jiminy’s aging father, but all three still exceeded our expectations.) Mom enjoyed it so much that she returned later in the day and drew Goofy.

We capped off a slow morning with a rather pedestrian meal at one of Hollywood Studios’s fast-food restaurants. We finished eating, squeezed past the street performance of High School Musical 3, and got on line for our next attraction:

  • Lights, Motors, Action! An old favorite, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, was closed for the day so that the high schoolers could compete for glory and ESPN air time, so we made sure to go to this big time vehicle stunt show, imported from Eruo Disney. I thought that the show was pretty entertaining. It was a good mix of informative, amusing, and entertaining, watching high speed car chases, boat and motorcycle stunts, and a few explosions thrown in for good measure. Well done, and I’d go back.

We headed back to Toy Story 4D so that the other five could ride while I took a nap outside. I think that they universally preferred the Magic Kingdom Toy Story ride. Around now I was starting to get a bit frustrated that my relative efficiency was greatly lacking compared to the two previous days. Randi had agreed earlier to go with me on two of the park’s headliner rides—Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith roller coaster—so we headed over that way next to scope out the situation. Turns out that while there was a 30 minute wait for Tower of Terror and a 70 minute wait for the roller coaster, both had Fastpasses available. With the help of Lynn and Scott’s tickets, we picked up Fastpasses for both.

To kill the hour or so we had, Lynn and I wandered around and watched a “block party,” a bunch of cheery-eyed singing and dancing and shenanigans. It was loud and colorful, but not particularly mindblowing. We then met up with Randi and Scott and Julia once more, and Randi and I went on…

  • Tower of Terror. I’d never done this before, having been too scared when I was younger. This was fantastic. Easily the best attraction at Hollywood Studios, and in the same “heads and shoulders above the rest” category as Splash Mountain at MK and Soarin’ at Epcot. The atmosphere is creepy, the confined setting with 11 other screaming people is immersive, and the ride itself is fun. I ended up grabbing a new Fastpass when we left and riding it a second time a couple of hours later, and it was a mostly different experience the second time around. Who would have thought that a plunge in an elevator could be so much fun?

We split up once more because we had a few hours until our roller coaster Fastpasses. Lynn and I headed to the other side of the park where Lynn watched a bit of the cheerleading (lots of teenage girls in tears by this point in the day; no joke) while I checked out another old favorite.

  • Star Tours. The line was non-existent for what used to be the top headliner. Kind of sad, but the ride has held up pretty well over the years. It’s a straightforward, fast, and relatively smooth simulator. They don’t fool around too much with extra story, you just get on your spaceship and go. Terrific, still. (Far better than MIssion: Space, if you ask me.)

Lynn and I stopped by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences “Hall of Fame” to brush shoulders with some busts of Hollywood greats. We meandered back across the park, peeking in again at the cheerleading and stopping to watch a street comedy/improv show that was pretty funny. I ran off a bit before the end to ride Tower of Terror for the second time, and then headed a couple of hundred feet away to meet up with Randi.

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Even with the Fastpass we had a 10-15 minute wait. Randi got a bit nervous as we got near the front, but not nearly as much as the poor girl whose friends/family were literally dragging her and carrying her onto the coaster against her will. This was a great roller coaster. The most intense part was the 0-to-60 acceleration into a loop right at the start. (We thought it was probably a loop at the time though we couldn’t tell; Wikipedia confirms that it is.) The rest was a very smooth and fast ride past all sorts of neon street signs. Way better than Space Mountain, but still pretty short. I just don’t quite understand why people wait on line over an hour for an 80-second ride.
  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. An abridged version of the classic Disney movie. Excellent singing, dancing and production values for a show they put on a bajillion times a week.

We had dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, where, when my Mom complained that pot roast in the 50s never looked quite so professional, the waiter astutely responded that they didn’t have multicolored “glow cubes” in the drinks in the 50s either. Staying somewhat true to the theme I had the fried chicken, which was crispy and tasty if a bit greasy and a ton of food. Drove back to our hotel and retired for the night.

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This page contains a single entry by Lee Feigenbaum published on February 16, 2009 8:51 PM.

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