Sadly we’re now on the last stop of the Disney theme park tour as we arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Of course some of you may be wondering if I’m rubbish at Maths because there’s in fact FOUR Parks at Walt Disney World, but sadly we missed out Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year and so I decided to skim over it for this year’s review.
I will admit I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to fit it in considering that Pandora – The World of Avatar opened up earlier this year which looks stunning from the footage I’ve seen of it on YouTube. But, honestly, the main reason we didn’t go back to Disney’s Animal Kingdom was because me and my partner just didn’t enjoy it that much when we went last year. I remember that I went with my family and constantly wondered years later why I couldn’t remember much about it. Then we went back and it quickly dawned on me, it’s not very exciting and lacks anything impressive.
It’s rather dull in our eyes. And once you’ve done it, you’ve basically done it. There’s little (to no) reason why you should go back really. The only reason I wanted to pop by was because I wanted to check out Pandora – The World of Avatar, and that’s it! It would’ve been a quick how-do-you-do and then left to go to another Park. The only element that I can say particularly stands out is Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (and to a lesser extent It’s Tough to be a Bug! and Kali River Rapids) and that’s it. Sorry if that’s upset anyone who really likes Disney’s Animal Kingdom but unfortunately that it is our opinion and I hope you can respect that.
Anyway, moving back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a rather strange one to talk about as there’s not actually a lot there at the moment. The whole Park is in renovation mode, preparing for grander attractions down the road, thus leaving rather little to entertain in the meantime, making the entire Park feel rather empty. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost its charm because it still holds that in abundance. I really like Disney’s Hollywood Studios for having yet another different spin on Walt Disney World‘s ideas of discovery, this time concentrating on the glamor of Hollywood itself.
You can definitely tell this Park is about swank as it shows off its inner colours as a regular little Movie-Star, parading around showing off its talents and all their cool, hip friends within the business. Again, like Epcot, it feels rather different in its approach to entertain its guests compared to Magic Kingdom, and thus (like Epcot) doesn’t feel straight-forward Disney. But that’s okay because it has plenty of unique ways to entertain you, and like Epcot, has some really cool themes to allow itself to stand out against the other Parks and find news ways to attract your attention and gaze your eyes with wonders.
Everything is set up like yee-old Hollywood, right down to the restaurants, the way the buildings present themselves, and even down to the types of stores you can visit. Plus, it goes about to showcase Hollywood, rather than just Disney’s own position within the grander world of Movie-Magic, granting you a terrific journey into the world of your favourite cult classics, right down to listening to a few classical themes as you walk around the Park.
I was lucky enough to hear my favourite score from Hook twice which inevitably made me feel truly happy and buzzed about the Park’s unique atmosphere. It’s actually surprising what films Disney has gotten the rights to over the years (but obviously in recent years they officially own them) and how they utilise them for the purposes of entertainment.
However, it’s sad to say goodbye to one of their greatest gems The Great Movie Ride, a literal journey into the Movies as you interacted with many of Hollywood’s iconic moments, such as Dorothy discovering the mystical world of Oz and Ellen Ripley’s first terrifying encounter with the Xenomorph. It’s a shame it closed a month before we arrived as we enjoyed riding it last year and unfortunately never got to ride it one last time.
Although to lighten the mood I’m actually going to do something I haven’t yet done within my Theme Park reviews, and that’s recommend a particular place to eat, in this case the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant. We tried it out this year and it was amazing. Great burgers, lovely shakes, and fantastic theming. It’s done up so that your tables are cars parked up to watch a movie, to which there’s a big screen in front of you showing off old cartoons and corny old film trailers. I implore you, if you get a chance to go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios dine here and get the full Hollywood experience.
Like I said earlier, there isn’t many rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the moment. Four in fact. And we only ride two of them. I will warn you now, we don’t ride the Park’s pride and joy The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I don’t like drop rides, and neither does my partner. So you can see why a ride that prides itself on terrifying you about a haunted elevator, before plunging you up and down in almost complete darkness, is certainly enough to put us off. Although going from my mum and sister’s reactions to it back in 2008 they said it was a funny experience, to which they didn’t scream throughout their multiple durations but rather laughed. So, yeah…
We do ride, however, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, to which you fly aboard a star-cruiser with C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels) piloting the craft through different scenarios from the first six instalments of the Star Wars franchise. It’s a rather bumpy simulator, to which can you make feel rather ill part way through. I know we felt a bit sick coming off of it. In fact, I felt rather quilty considering I begged to go on the damn thing (my partner’s not really a Star Wars fan – please don’t judge) and in the process nearly made her vomit. Sorry…
Still though it’s fun for any Star Wars fan. But I’d like to admit that even I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan. I just like it. I honestly don’t see it as this massive “cult” franchise that must be praised at all times. The Original Trilogy holds a “good” narrative, but is let down by bad pacing at times, idiotic story choices, and laughable special effects, whilst The Prequel Trilogy has its obvious character flaws (and a painful first instalment) but I still end up liking them more because of the fantastic action sequences.
Plus, the latest outing was far from great and ended-up just being a rehash with non-interesting new characters, annoyingly implicated mysteries, and a Mary-Sue protagonist. Please don’t string me up…
Still though, I enjoy all the Star Wars themed areas and attractions scattered throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, I still haven’t done them all. I haven’t watched all the live-shows yet, simply because my partner doesn’t like Star Wars and thus forcing her to watch these shows would be rather mean. And I did force her to endure all the other attractions last year, consisting of Stars Wars: Path of the Jedi, a special short feature video documenting Star Wars legacy within its iconic narrative, as well as Star Wars Launch Bay, a special area in which you can walk around and look at models, props, and costumes from the films, as well as meet-and-greet some of your favourite characters.
At least my partner is repaid tenfold with Toy Story Mania!. She absolutely loves the Toy Story franchise and to see her face light up with excitement, joy, and pure passion makes me feel extremely happy, and so I tried to allow her as many goes on the ride as I could. Sadly it only amounted to two goes over two short trips to the Park but that was more than enough to satisfy her. And I will admit, it’s a really fun ride. Hurts your wrist like Hell but it’s definitely worth it.
Basically it’s another shooting ride, similar to Magic Kingdom‘s own Toy Story attraction Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but with some really cool additional tweaks. First and foremost Toy Story Mania! is a 3D ride, to which your shooting at a cleverly constructed screen where the films’ characters egg you on to shoot the moving cinematic targets coming towards you. In order to shoot them you must pull the string on your gun (which is where the wrist aching comes into play). But what makes this one work better is the targets are much easy to hit, the aiming is fair, and your static for the duration of each section in order to give you freer movement.
Plus, instead of it being a simple lock-on game, you throw different objects at the targets depending on the scenario and each target holds a certain amount of points, meaning it’s entirely up to you how you wish to play to win, whether you want to take it carefully by racking up as many easier targets as you can (and hope for the best) or take a dare at hitting the tougher targets to gain faster points but risk either wasting time or in the long-run hit lesser targets.
Either-way, Toy Story Mania! is a terrific attraction which is just plain fun and I’m glad it made my partner extremely happy because when she’s happy I’m happy. Also, we have Toy Story Land to look forward (scheduled to open 2018), a brand-new area for Disney’s Hollywood Studios to celebrate one of Hollywood’s greatest animated accomplishments filled with a great themed area, many fun-filled attractions, and plenty of character interactions. Honestly, I can’t wait to one day take a trip there, and I know my partner definitely can’t either.
Where Disney’s Hollywood Studios lacks in rides it certainly makes it for with shows. You have the swash-buckling stunt show, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, to which features Harrison Ford‘s very own stunt-double performing some carefully constructed stunt sequences before a live-audience and a professional film-crew, allowing you a first-hand look at how Movie-Magic is brought to live in all its explosive glory.
And if that’s too dangerous for you why not check out something more gentle and charming in the form of Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. This brilliant stage-show allows you to experience a live version of the classical 1991 animated feature, featuring all of your favourite songs such as “Be Our Guest”, “Gaston”, and “Beauty and the Beast”, along with a lot of Alan Menken‘s infamous music from the film, including the beautiful piece “Transformation”.
It’s sad that it’s only an abridged version of the animated film, thus only lasting around 30 minutes, but it’s fantastic to see this legendary classic come to life in a Broadway styled performance, combining live-actors singing along with re-usages of some of the voice cast from the film, making for one very faithful and magical adaption (unlike the 2017 live-action film, which I have already given my negative thoughts on).
It’s a shame we didn’t get to fit it in this year but I’m glad we at least got to do it once last year. The show was extra special for me because it reminded me of my Gran, whom loved the film very much before she sadly passed back in 2002, so in my eyes that moment in the holiday was dedicated to her. Love you so much Gran.
Finally, you can end your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in but two ways, either attend Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular or Fantasmic!.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a massive pyrotechnic and projections show in front of The Great Movie Ride (or what will soon by Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway) where you’ll be enthralled with John William‘s mesmerising score playing as you watch iconic moments projected onto the walls alongside some awesome fireworks, granting you one of the best Star Wars experiences imaginable where you can just lose yourself and embrace the Force. My partner doesn’t like Star Wars and even she really enjoyed the show for what it was, and that’s saying a lot.
Fantasmic!, on the other-hand, is a massive collection of Disney’s greatest moments starring the host of Walt Disney World himself, Mickey Mouse. It’s a magical journey, combining live-action with clever water projections, and pyrotechnics, to tell a narrative about fighting against the inner evils of the mind in order to stand tall and believe in yourself so that you can be true, filled with imagination in order to be whatever you want to be no matter what.
As Mickey prepares for some epic adventures within the Land of Dreams he is confronted with Disney’s darkest creatures who all try to destroy our iconic hero, led by the twisted and sinister Maleficent. But with the help of Mickey’s friends, and his strong will and pure heart, he manages to defeat her and her alliance of villains just in time for Mickey to have a song and dance with Disney’s heroes. It’s a wonderful performance and something that highlights Disney’s Hollywood Studios‘ attempts to deliver magic and discovery in a different light, filled with cameras and Hollywood shine.