Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Disney: Hollywood Studios

Going to Disney, anyone?  Hear first hand tips from someone who just got back.

I decided not to go in chronological order in my touring posts.  Since we went to the Magic Kingdom 2 days - Tuesday and Friday, I thought I'd put those 2 posts together next week.  You can look for those on Monday and Tuesday.  Today I'm going to tell you all about our day at Hollywood Studios(If you went there when you were younger, it used to be called MGM Studios.)

Our family was just so excited about our Hollywood Studios day.  My kids love Star Wars, Cars, Disney channel characters, Playhouse Disney characters, etc.  All of those are at Hollywood Studios.  And Tim and I were excited about the shows.  We knew we had to veer off of our original plan to tour in the morning, rest in the afternoon and return in the evening.  That evening we were going to Mickey's Backyard BBQ and we would have to leave at 5 PM to get there, so we had to tour all day instead.

As usual I checked out the touring plan the night before.  We had decided on the touring plan for parents of small children.  Originally we were going to do the tween one because Julie wanted to ride the Tower of Terror and the Rock 'n Roller Coaster, but she changed her mind after hearing someone on the bus talk about them.  The plan called for riding all the rides in the morning and attending all the shows in the afternoon.  Since we were heading out early, we knew we couldn't make it to all the shows listed.  Instead, each family member picked a show that they really wanted to see and we made it our priority to see those.  Anything else was just bonus.

Just like the rest of the week we arrived early before the park opened.  About 15 minutes before opening, they allow you through the turnstiles onto the main street of the park.  But you can only go as far as the rope across the street lets you.  They have this little show, then open the park officially and the rope drops.  Just like the rest of the crowd, our first stop was Toy Story Mania.  In case you haven't heard, this is the hottest ride of all the Disney parks.  So hot, they have a Disney employee walking in front of the crowd pacing them so no one runs for the ride and gets trampled in the process. 

Even getting there with the crowd, we went straight onto the ride without a wait and, let me tell you, it was an awesome ride!!  I know why everyone loves it.  As you ride in the little vehicle, you wear 3-D glasses and shoot at screens, kind of like you're at an arcade.  At one screen you are shooting pins at balloons, at another you toss rings over Toy Story aliens' heads.  And all of it is made possible by the wonders of modern technology and 3-D.  It's really cool.  So cool, that we wanted to ride again.  So after we got off the ride, I hopped on over to the handy dandy Fastpass machines and grabbed 4 passes to ride again later.

**TIP - If you want to ride Toy Story Mania (and trust me, you do), go there first.  Do NOT get the stroller first.  It will slow you down.  Ride the ride first, then go back for the stroller.  If you want to ride again (and you will), get the Fastpasses immediately after you get off the ride.  Fastpasses for that ride "sell" out quickly.  If you wait there won't be any left.

After our wonderful ride, Tim went back to rent our stroller for the day.  In the meantime, my kids had money burning a hole in their pockets.  So they had to find a place to spend it.  Luckily there was a face painting booth right outside of Toy Story Mania and they happily took the kids money.

Don't our pirate and our water fairy look lovely?  Seriously, this is the best face painting job I've ever seen. 
I thought it was great!

Prince Caspian's attraction was right next to Toy Story Mania and our kids are huge Narnia fans, so we decided to check it out next.  It wasn't on the touring plan because the author really dislikes that attraction.  After seeing it, I agree with him.  It was awful - not even worthy of being called an attraction.  Basically they take you into this room with the stone table (if you've read the books or seen the movies, you know what the stone table is).  You're not allowed to touch the table.  So you just stand there as clips from the movie show on screens around you.  That's it.  Seriously, you're Disney and that's all you've got???  

**TIP - Don't waste your time with the Prince Caspian "attraction," even if you are a Narnia fan.  You'll be disappointed.

Unfortunately for my two little Star Wars fans, the Star Tours ride was closed for remodeling (it reopened yesterday).  But the Jedi training academy was still going on.  And that is what David chose as his show for the day.  Now according to my guide book, the master Jedi picked volunteers out from the audience to be trained in the ways of the force.  The guide's advice was to get there early and sit up front.  So we went there next...only to find out that you have to sign your kids up ahead of time.  They don't pick volunteers from the audience any more AND they were all booked for the entire day!  David was crushed.  Luckily the Star Wars store and the chance to spend more money helped cheer him up a little.  After he bought a LEGO Star Wars bad guy ship, he was ready to go watch someone else become a Jedi.

 The little Jedis got to fight Darth Vader.  I really wish David could have done it.
 Looking on, wistfully.
 At least he got to pose on a speeder.
My Jedi princess.

After that, we went on to Muppet Vision 3-D.  That was about the coolest 3-D I've seen (except for Mickey's Philharmagic in the Magic Kingdom - that was a little cooler).  We ate lunch at the fun, but loud Pizza Planet.  Our after lunch plans included catching everyone else's show choices and watching the Pixar afternoon parade.

We headed over to Tim's choice - the Indiana Jones stunt show.  That was really good.  They had a set that kept opening up to new sets with more stunts.  Everyone liked that, even David.  We had a few minutes before Julie's show, so we jumped on the Great Movie Ride.  I thought it was too slow and had bad acting.  You have a live driver who interacts with a live Bugsy character.  They were NOT good actors.  In fact, it really ruined the ride for me.  I thought it was the worst ride of the entire World.  Don't go on it.

After that lame ride, we had 5 minutes to make it to the American Idol experience - Julie's show choice.  We walked right in.  Julie picked a good one.  I really enjoyed that show.  They had 3 singers chosen from the people visiting the park that day.  The winner went onto a finale that evening.  The winner of the finale gets a golden ticket.  With the golden ticket, they can jump to the front of the line at any Idol audition.  Pretty good prize, I think.  It was a full-fledged show complete with a host and judges.  I couldn't decide if the judges were being serious in their critiques or if they were just acting.  But the first judge had the best arm muscles of any female I've ever seen.  I was so jealous.

From there we went to the Pixar parade.  While we liked the parade, I was a little surprised that there were characters from "Up" but no characters from "Cars" or "Wall-E."  My kids loved both those movies and could have cared less about "Up."

 The Incredibles
 A Bugs Life


And, of course, Toy Story

Just after the parade, we waited around on the San Fransisco street and got to see one of David's favorite characters, Mater.  Gotta love Mater!

To finish out the day, we went to my show choice - Beauty and the Beast.  It's always been my favorite Disney movie and the stage show there was wonderful.  I highly recommend putting that on your To Do list for your Hollywood Studios touring day.

We had a few disappointments for the day.  Star Tours was closed (although we knew that ahead of time), the Cars section of the park was closed in preparation for Cars 2 opening this summer and we didn't get to see Fantasmic, the nighttime show that everyone raves about.  But we did have an awesome day and really want to go back again soon to see all the stuff we missed.

And our final fun for the day?  Julie lost a tooth while eating a cinnamon bun and waiting for the bus.  

A cast member told her that if you lose a tooth at Disney World that Tinkerbell comes and puts $50 under your pillow.  Well, Tinkerbell didn't have that kind of money when she visited our room.  She only put $1 under Julie's pillow.  But since that was twice what the Tooth Fairy normally pays, Julie was pretty happy.

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