This iconic underrated park is going through some major changes this year. I really think this park is overlooked too often and has some beautiful hidden gems that make Disney the impeccable magical place that it is. Let me show you what has changed recently and where the park is headed in 2017.
One of the greatest perks of visiting Hollywood Studios is the atmosphere and attractions. These are the special little charms that you don’t have to wait in line for but completely add to the experience. The first 2 attractions I want to mention, you will encounter right away as you enter the park. The first is the hourly March of the First Order
March of the First Order: Storm troopers seem to arrive out of nowhere and direct everyone to the sidewalks in order to clear the streets. Then in a perfectly sequential march, Captain Phasma in all her glory glides through the main street of Hollywood Blvd followed by a gang of Stormtroopers. “Come witness a daunting demonstration of the First Order’s obedience and strength!”
Citizens of Hollywood: This is so fun. The park invites you to relive the golden era of the movies by interacting with some of the funniest improv character actors you will ever see. All over Sunset Blvd, at any moment these actors will pop in and start interacting with the crowd. You’ll swear they were transported directing from the 1940s & 1950s.
As you walk down the long opening street (Hollywood Blvd) you will see shops to your right and left. Disney souvenirs that range from toys to fashion to kitchen accessories. Don’t miss the cute older cast members hiding behind light poles with Mickey Puppets. They are live “Hidden Mickeys”! The kids will love interacting with them. At the end of the street is a replica of the Manns Chinese Theater that houses The Great Movie Ride. It is a slow moving ride that takes you through the past 50 years of memorable movie moments. The lobby for this ride may be my favorite part, I enjoy it almost as much as the ride! The lobby is a museum for movie props and amazing costumes. They have the real ruby red slippers that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz.
To the Right, heading down sunset Blvd you will encounter multiple restaurants and stands. This park has 23 different spots to grab a delicious bite! Isn’t that nuts? (Speaking of nuts, stop by the Sweet Spells treat shop for some Maple Nut Fudge or a Pecan Praline.) If you love to eat, you cannot pass up Hollywood Studios.
Farther down Sunset Blvd you will see the theater than houses the romantic Broadway style musical of Beauty and the Beast –Live on Stage. The show is 30 minutes long and tell the entire beautiful story. AS we are approaching the new live-action film remake of Beauty and the Beast, Disney isn’t skipping a beat. There is a new exhibit inside “One Man’s Dream” attraction where they have an extended never seen before preview. There are also props and costumes from the film displayed! A fellow Disney insider told me that they currently have the magical rose displayed with its glass bell jar! Disney has another hidden delight, before the Live on Stage show, a father and daughter will be chosen from the audience and will be invited onstage to sing along and have a magical moment on stage!
Tower of Terror & Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster are at the very end of Sunset Blvd. Tower of Terror is a 199 ft tall structure, it is the tallest building inside the Disney World resort. It is a thrilling ride where you plummet 13 stories inside the “elevator” of the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel – based on the Rod Sterling stories of the Twilight Zone. Beside the tower is the attraction of Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. It is an AeroSmith themed rollercoaster ride that twists and turns you from aerosmiths recording studios to landmarks around southern California. It is thrilling and worth the long wait times. This is one you definitely want to try to get fast passes for!
To the Left, heading off Hollywood Blvd is Echo Lake area. There is an adorable little ice cream and snack stand inside the dinosaur names “Gerthie”. Gerthie the Dinosaur was one of the first silent moving cartoons. Walt Disney himself was enamored with Gerthie and it always inspired him. He had a plan to incorporate Gerthie into the Hollywood inspired park long before Hollywood Studios opened in 1989. You can see the original post about Gerthie and my favorite ice cream spot here in this previously written post.
In front of Gerthie is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. This titles sets up for high expectations and the show does not disappoint. Professional stunt men and women recreate scenes from the Indiana Jones movies and seeing it live is so much better than seeing it in the movies! Hopefully Spielberg moves forward with Chris Pratt in the 5th Indiana Jones movie! Maybe they will add to this area in the future when the movie comes out.
Nearby is the location of the For the First Time in Forever Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Wordy title much? I love it! It tells the story of the movie frozen with sing along as the story progresses. It is adorable and the two “town gossips” who tell the story are hysterical. The jokes are will have the parents laughing out loud! At the end, all the characters come out and sing “Let It Go”. As every single child is screaming the lyrics perfectly word for word, snow begins to fall from the ceiling. You will find yourself singing loudly along and getting a chill from the sight of snow falling and child gasping in their innocent awe.
Just past the Sing Along, try to get that song out of your head as you head toward the Star Tours – The Adventure Continues ride. This is a 3D motion ride that takes you all over the galaxy with the familiar star wars characters. As you are waiting in line listen for the robot who is paging “Egroeg Sacul “ That is George Lucas spelled backwards. Just a little homage to the creator and genius of Lucas Films. At the entrance of the ride is the Jedi Academy Training Stage. This is one of the coolest free features of entering the park. The academy is open to kids ages 4-12. They teach you how to use a lightsaber. Then on stage you battle Seventh Sister Inquisitor or confront Darth Vader. They give you a Jedi cloak and light saber to wear during the training and afterwards you get an official Jedi certificate that says your name. Beside the stage and the ride Star Tours is a Star Wars themed gift shop called Tatooine Traders. Here you can buy anything and everything Star Wars – even parts to build your own droid!
As you exit the Star Wars gift shop, to your left is the Muppets Courtyard. Remember Jim Hensons The Muppets? Here there is a fun and silly attraction called Muppet Vision 3D. It is a 3D show showcasing all your favorite muppets. It is old but stands the test of time. The muppets are so lovable, go on and explore this whole courtyard. Much of the area is still under construction, preparing for the Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land being built next to that area. The Iconic Muppets hot air balloon has been removed along with the New York City backdrop and Streets of America facades.
Down the street, Commissary Lane, is an almost hidden attraction called Mickey and Minnie Starring in the Red Carpet Dreams. This is a brand new attraction that opened recently. It is the one plan you can definitely meet Mickey and Minnie inside Hollywood studios. Mickey is dressed as the Sorcerers Apprentice (it will make you miss the hat), and Minnie is dressed to the nines in her best red carpet worthy outfit!
Keep walking down this Commissary Lane and you’ll end up in Pixar Place. This area is going to be where Toy Story Land will explode. They have green army men, Buzz and Woody wandering around looking for a photo op! The whole area is very Toy Story themed with a restaurant and 4D ride called Toy Story Mania. Ok, this is my favorite ride in the whole entire park right now. My kids could ride it, it’s a long ride, it’s all in 3D and it’s a competitive game at the same time. It is based on the Pixar Toy Story films, you play arcade style shooting games to gather points at the end. It’s the most fun I had with my babies on a ride in Disney! TIP: there is an expresso stand by the entrance of the ride – that was the best shot of expresso I ever had…more on that in a later post…
As you continue past the Toy Story Mania ride and out of Pixar Place you will enter the Animation Courtyard. Here is the wonderful and not-to-be-missed tribute “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”. This is an exhibit dedicated entirely to the incredible man who dreamt and worked hard to create what is Walt Disney World. I love him. I love this attraction. I can talk about this all day, instead here is a completely separate blog post about it…..
Also inside the Animation Courtyard is the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid”, it is a 17minute live show with puppets and live actors that perform the stories and songs from the movie. Across from this attraction is the Disney Junior Live! Show. Children can meet and singing along with their favorite Disney junior characters like Doc Mcstuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Princess Sophia the First, and of course the Mickey Mouse clubhouse gang. My kids went nuts for this little show and the opportunity to see their favorite cartoons come to life.
Last but certainly not least, the back of this courtyard houses the brand new Star Wars Launch Bay. It has a humble simple entrance (for now) but as you walk inside you realize how much is back there. It is yet another location in the park for fans to nerd out on all things Star Wars. There are Storm Troopers wandering around with blasters uttering “Greetings Citizens”. There are hug galleries featuring replicas of scenes and costumes from the movies. There is actual memorabilia, interactive video games, and special not-sold-in stores Star Wars merchandise. My favorite part of this “Launch Bay” was the life size replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina – complete with the music playing in the background! I flipped out for this and took way too many pictures.
TIP: There will be little Jawas wandering in pairs around the Launch Bay. They are always looking to trade something. They will trade pens, maps, tiny droid parts (the kind bought in the Tatooine Traders store next to Star Tours), and Disney pins. Just walk up slowly to them and whisper, Want to make a trade? They will nod yes or no and then show them what you want to trade. They will give you something in return – you never know what they might trade. This is a fun experience that makes you feel like you are in on the Disney magic as well! TIP: I heard from another Disney blogger that her son traded a colored picture of C3PO and the Jawa gave him a droid piece for it!
The force is strong in this park. Coming in April, Disney has announced a special ticketed event called Star Wars: Galactic Nights. It will take place after hours 7pm – midnight. It will cost $129 for adults and $124 for kids. You are allowed to come in costume for the event. It will be a mini Star Wars Weekend wrapped up into one night of Star Wars. Here are some of the events that have been revealed:
- “Rebel Base” activities in the center of the park including dance parties, trivia and special shows.
- Inside the Saga: Celebrity Chat Show panel featuring special guests talking about the making of Star Wars films.
- Star Wars photo ops against iconic Star Wars backdrops, including Han Solo cast in carbonite, Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, the Hoth Wampa Cave and more.
- Galactic Nights Stars in Cars Motorcade which will feature Star Wars celebrities and characters marching down Hollywood Blvd.
- Imperial March & March of the First Order – Darth Vader will lead a battalion of stormtroopers on a dramatic march down Hollywood Blvd to the Event Stage and Captain Phasma will also lead a unit of First Order stormtroopers through the park, pausing to give a demonstration of power and strength.
- Seize the Saga Interactive Scavenger Hunt – this family-friendly challenge will allow guests to collect Star Wars themed pieces at the photo backdrops throughout the park, revealing a surprise when all items have been collected.
-Credits to www.themeparktourist.com. Thank you so much!
All of the Disney parks have a closing ceremonies event. Magic Kingdom has the One upon a Time Castle Projection Show and then the Fireworks show Wishes. Epcot has the lake side Fireworks show Illuminations. Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life Awakenings and the *NEW* Rivers of Lights water and light show. Hollywood studios is no different. This park has the beloved Fantasmic show. It is a 30 minute show that combines pyrotechnics, lasers, dancing water to show case the best heroes and villains. It takes place in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater next to the Beauty and the Beast Live Theater Stage. There is a new way to end the night and it is (of course) Star Wars themed. It is a fireworks, laser lights, and projection show deemed “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular”. I’m not sure what gave me goosebumps more, the giant flame throwers or hearing Carrie Fishers voice calling out, “Help me Obi One Kanobi, you’re my only hope.” It almost felt like a tribute to John Williams, the composer – which is equally as spectacular.
I will admit, Hollywood Studios is turning into a Star War park. The majority of the park feels star wars themed. After the huge success of the Star Wars Weekends in May – Disney knew they had to expand and give more Star Wars year-round. I have a deep love for all things Star Wars, but I hope Hollywood studios doesn’t lose its charm of celebrating the origins of old Hollywood. I’ll never stop accidentally slipping and calling it “MGM”. Well, there you have it, that’s Hollywood Studios 2017 for you. I hope you choose to go, it’s a lovely calmer park with all the magic that the other parks have. How do you feel about the changes that have happened and that are coming?