This park is officially Hollywood Studios, but my daughters refuse to acknowledge the change so as a ‘hats off’ to them – MGM is in parenthesis. Besides, there might be some guests who don’t know they changed the name! There is more to do here than there used to be. I was there on Day One when the park opened its gates for the first time. Very little to do and over crowding was the norm. But, as the years have passed, they’ve added attractions. There is plenty to do here – great restaurants – a unique place to shop – and attractions for everyone in your family. This is probably the smallest of all four Disney parks. Easy to do in a day.
PARKING: When arriving, the ‘Kids of the Kingdom’ will direct you to your parking space. Trams are available. As with all parks, if you are parked close enough to see the front – WALK. Yes, it might be some extra work on your feet but it is just easier! If you have a stroller, remember they must be folded before boarding a tram. Sometimes, it is just easier to walk. If you are walking, head towards the front of the park but keep to your left! There is actually a walkway for employees to use with a silver railing when you get out of the parking zone. If you do not see it – you are not in the right area. Cross the road near the buses if you have to and continue on the sidewalk. I stress this because they have their own security gate here and it is much quicker to get through than using the same entrance as everyone coming off the trams (where 100s of people are waiting all at once).
ARRIVAL: Arrivals have you going through the security gate directly in front of the ticketing area. You can access ‘guest services’ and a restroom without entering the park.
ENTRANCE: After going through the turnstiles, you are there! In a magical world of the Hollywood that never really was. There will be characters dressed in the 30s and some comedy acts. To your left is the ‘unique’ shopping I mentioned, Sid Cahuna’s One of a Kind Shop. Movie memorabilia lives here. Across the street is a camera shop and of course, as you continue down the street in front of you, you’ll be ‘in’ the park.
WHERE TO GO: Continue down the street – and you’ll run into a street exiting to the right. Down that road is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock and Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. This is also the road to the stage show for Beauty and the Beast, and the way to the night time extravaganza known as Fantasmic! See NIGHTIME tab for more information.
Continuing down the street to the right, is the ‘tip board’. This board will give you the wait times and show times for all attractions for the day. This is updated regularly. This building also houses the scheduling for the restaurants not only at the park but all Disney resorts/parks.
WHAT TO DO FIRST: Like Epcot’s Soarin’, Hollywood Studios has an attraction that fills up quickly and wait times can be extreme even on slow days. I call it the ‘Andy Ride’ but it is known officially as the Toy Story Mania ride. This is a slow moving ride for four through a video game. Each seat has a ‘gun’ where you pull a knob to shoot video components in front of you. It is really popular and the kids love it. If this is important, head to the right as you get to the Chinese Theater, go past the Little Mermaid show and into the Pixar section of the park. Most likely, there will be a wait – you can get a fast pass here and come back later.
TIP BOARD: I live by the tip board. Go to the things with a shorter wait time first.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: This really is a fun ride, not your typical ‘drop zone’ type of ride but a dropping ride none-the-less. The queue goes through an old deserted hotel and the story is told in a short film with Rod Sterling. It goes like this: years ago this was a great hotel. One night it was struck by lightening, propelling some guests that were stuck in an elevator into the ‘Twilight Zone’. Then you board a freight elevator in the basement – which is really a ride car, you sit – you don’t stand. The story is told a bit more and without realizing it, you’ve moved to the top of the building. You know it because the doors of the elevator open and you are shown the outside world. Quite scary! Then the doors close and you drop. And, then the ride becomes something new each time. Sometimes you zoom back up and drop one more time, or two more times, or six more times! It is a fun ride – not a really scary ride. It is over before you know it and everyone leaves laughing.
Rock N Roller Coaster: The story goes, Aerosmith needs your help getting to the concert – or getting you to the concert, I haven’t quite figured it out. You board vehicles that look like long limos and take off at like 65mph through an indoor roller coaster ride. There are hills and loops here. Aerosmith is playing full blast and it is a fun ride.
Great Movie Ride: In the front of the park, this used to be the ‘icon’ of the park. Now, they’ve built a big hat in front of it that serves as a store. It makes no sense to me but for legal reasons, I think they had to do it. The ride itself is fun. There are two different things that can happen. The ride is in long rail car type vehicles sitting about 5-6 per row with about 8 cars attached to each ‘engine’ car. If you ride in the front 8 cars, you will be hijacked by a cowboy. If you sit in the back 8 cars, you will be hijacked by a gangster. Either way – the a little cheesy spiel told by your guide as you slowly go through the different movie sets inside the building. It ends with a big movie screen showing of classic clips of movies through the years.
Star Tours: This is a 3D simulation ride. The vehicle seats approximately 30 guests a ride. The ride queue has visitors going past C3PO and R2D2, which slows down the line as guests tend to take pictures along the way. Boarding the ride, you take a seat, buckle up and get a ‘new’ ride every time. Evidently there are 50-100 (depending on which Disney info you’re listening to) different versions of the ride. Personally, I’ve ridden this 10 times and probably have had the same ride 8 of the 10. I’d like it to vary more but I don’t think it does. I can’t ride this more than once a day but considering I can’t ride most ‘motion simulator’ rides – that’s actually saying something. There are some I will never ever ever ride again (Harry Potter over at Islands of Adventure for instance).
Studio Back Lot Tour: Before you board your tram, you witness a show of how special effects are created. Ask if you can volunteer – or better yet – volunteer someone else in your party! It is a cute show. Then, you board red trams that take you through different ‘sets’ of the park. You enter an area marked ‘hot set’ and get caught up in ‘Catastrophe Canyon’ – where your tram experiences an ‘earthquake’ of sorts.
Beyond the rides mentioned above, Hollywood Studios is full of shows.
Muppets 4D: This auditorium seats hundreds and is typical Muppet comedy. It’s fun for the kids and a little boring for adults who don’t like Kermit and Miss Piggy.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: Another way to volunteer! Watch and learn how different stunts are created in the Indiana Jones setting.
Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage: A short version of the movie, this is a very nice open-air show.
Jedi Training Academy: This used to be just during ‘Star Wars Weekends’ but popularity has taken over and any child 12 and under can be a Jedi if they sign up in time. Sign up is in the building across from Indiana Jones.
Lights Motor Action! Extreme Stunt Show is located near the end of the Studio Back Lot Tour. This area used to be part of that ‘tour’ but they dismantled things and created a huge open air stadium for the car show.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid: If you liked the movie, you’ll love the show. It is a quick version of the movie – with special effects.
Disney Junior: In this show, the Disney Channel’s favorite shows come to life. Children sit on the floor alongside their parents and bubbles go through the air. If you do not have a child 5 and under, you might feel a bit overwhelmed with all the kids dancing and singing.
The Magic of Disney Animation: Have you always wanted to see ‘real’ artists at work? If you said yes, you need to take the Animation tour to see how animation/movies are made.
The American Idol Experience: Volunteers must be 12+. Much like the television show, guests are chosen as Disney Idols every day.
PARADE: Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! This is a stop-and-go parade. The floats travel a bit, stop, have entertainers do a bit of a dance, start back up and do it all again along the parade route.