Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DISNEY WORLD REPORT: Disney's Hollywood Studios

It's been a while since my last Disney World Park post, so check it out here and hopefully I will get to all of them. Now, as I was saying...

Disney's Hollywood Studios is the only Disney Park in America that I hadn't been to within the past 10 years, so it was a totally new experience for me. Having grown up in Los Angeles, it was absolutely bizarre to see an amusement park that was so heavily modeled after my hometown. Despite having the least amount of attractions to offer, this park was still a fun experience, and can easily occupy a day's worth of activities.

The last time I was here, it was called Disney-MGM Studios

Echo Park Lake, the namesake Echo Lake
in Disney's Hollywood Studios
As I mentioned before, much of Disney's Hollywood Studios is a replica of Hollywood, down to the street names, buildings, and even the lake. Some of the recognizable landmarks include Crossroads of the World, Carthay Circle Theater, Echo Lake, and literally dozens of others. The tributes to LA's architecture are both touching and accurate. It was truly inspiring to see so much care and detail put into an amusement park as an homage to our beautiful city on the other side of the country.

Hollywood Studios includes The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride, Studio Backlot Tour (now defunct), Toy Story Midway Mania!, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. With the recent closure of the Backlot Tour in late September, only The Great Movie Ride and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster are unique to this park.

Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror

The Tower of Terror was a new experience for me, since I'd only ever been on the one in California. For those who don't know, the two are considerably different. Although both rides reach the same height, the tower in Florida is actually 16 feet taller, since the California one was built with all the machinery underground. Interestingly, the Florida Tower of Terror is 199 feet tall, since FAA regulations state that any building 200 feet or higher must be topped with a red light beacon.

Waiting in line for this ride was a schlep. A considerable portion of the queue is outside, snaking around the gardens and grounds outside the tower. Not to mention that the Florida temperature at this time was brutal. As with most rides, the wait time for this Tower of Terror is exponentially longer than its California counterpart. I went on this ride a few times just to get the feel of it, but I see no reason that I should ever ride it again. The elevator moves along a track before ascending to the drop tower, passing by strange images familiar to Twilight Zone fans. The whole extra show is dumb and pointless, and I think the decision to get rid of it for DCA was the right one. It would have been a much better decision to use that space for a creepy abandoned hotel hallway or something, but instead there are weird images from the show's intro. It's just strange, when it should have been scary.
On the other hand, the building's facade is a lot more detailed and interesting, so it is better in that aspect.

Star Tours

Not much to say about this one. The line and outer decor of this ride are way cooler than the Disneyland version. It's got a large AT-AT and the entrance looks like the Imperial Endor Bunker from Return of the Jedi. Plenty of cool photo-ops for Star Wars fans. There's also a life-size speeder bike you can take a picture on. I did notice during the ride that the intro and outro segments are different, but the ride is otherwise the same.

The Great Movie Ride


Another ride that was a totally new experience for me. The entrance for this ride looks like the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood (it will always be the Mann's Chinese Theater to me). Being very familiar with that theater myself, I enjoyed that the interior really did feel like the inside of the Chinese Theater. You enter a large ride vehicle and pass by famous scenes from various movies recreated with wax figures while a cast member narrates. This ride is unique in that cast members actually interact with the scenery, stopping the ride and interacting with animatronics and performers. During the western scene, a cowgirl hijacked our ride vehicle, but the ride has multiple different possible scenarios. It was an interesting twist on the Disney dark ride formula. At the conclusion, you watch a montage of great films throughout history. An interesting tribute to Hollywood's rich history.

Studio Backlot Tour

This was a different experience as I had no idea the ride was due to close only a couple months after I went on it. The ride is basically a knock-off of the Universal Studios backlot tour, only without the historic movie sets. What it lacks in sets, it makes up for in awesome props and vehicles used in famous movies. The warehouse where you wait in line is filled with actual movie props cluttering the shelves. The tram takes you through the costume department where you get to look at famous costumes from iconic movies, and large-scale props like airplanes from Michael Bay's travesty, Pearl Harbor, and a Snowspeeder that was used in The Empire Strikes Back. There's also a demonstration of special effects, where the tram enters a desert scene with an exploding oil well. My least favorite part of this ride was the fact that they shamelessly branded historic airplanes with those stupid eyes from the movie Planes: Fire & Rescue. Shame on you, Disney, using Walt Disney's private jet to plug your summer B-movie.

In conclusion, I totally loved my trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's easily the least notable park in Disney World, but it's still awesome. I think that a new patron who's never been here could easily spend a full day at the park, but seasoned visitors will likely only spend a couple hours before moving on to the next park. Especially with the closure of the backlot tour, this park is in dire need of some new attractions. However, it has plenty of shows and live performances, including live bands, a stunt show, and an Indiana Jones stage show. Not to mention that this park has some pretty rad restaurants, one of which I will be covering in a future review. Stay tuned!

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