Disney · Omnibus · Trivia

WDW for the Single Guy: an experiment, Part 15 (Disney’s Hollywood Studios, pt III)



[DISCLAIMER: The following was originally written by Jerry Skids back in 2009. He is a big Disney fan. He has his own WDW-themed podcast, which you can find here, or here. This is 100% Jerry’s words, completely unedited, out of respect to Jerry. If you are confused by any of the acronyms, check out the previous posts. My comments are listed in [ ] – anything in ( ) are all Jerry’s words. I have not fact-checked any of this information. Obviously some things have definitely changed since 2009, and should be used for comparative purposes only, as many attractions have come and gone since the time this was written. However, that does not invalidate his suggestions one iota. This is still useful, and I think this is so amazing, that I want to share his knowledge and wisdom. Thank you Jerry! Posted with his permission. – Editor]

WDW For The Single Guy: an experiment,

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – part 3

[Note: in case you missed the first two parts, Jerry, like many WDW fans, still call DHS by it’s old name, MGM.]

The Backlot

This area comprises of half the park. There was originally an entire Muppet area planned with Muppet-themed rides, restaurants, and shows, but it was condensed into a backlot area. Also here, we have the Streets of America (originally just New York St.), and the actual studio back lot. The whole area was a compilation of replicas as well as actual sets and memorabilia from famous films. Overtime, it has deteriorated, but we will go into that when we talk about:

The Studio Backlot Tour (pre-show: A-; attraction: B+ if you love movies, C if you are looking for anything substantial)

Originally an hour long attraction, this one was supposed to compete with the original Universal Studios Tour. And it almost did!

See, originally you could see the working studios, costumes, props, and set departments, as well as actual studios where they made some shows for the Disney Channel and ABC. They also showed you the actual sets for “Empty Nest” and “Golden Girls” as you drove down Residential Drive. Because of a really stupid French stunt show, they demolished history, and Residential Drive is no more. Also, since this is no longer a working studio, the costume, prop, set departments are all fired. So here’s the Backlot Tour now. The pre-show is awesome and incorporates three guests into a “Pearl Harbor”-esque special effects naval battle scene using optical tricks that “turn the seemingly impossible into on-screen reality.” It’s cool and they edit it together at the end putting the guests into a highly funny short film. (While you’re waiting, you can see displays of memorabilia from war movies). Then you go to a prop room to wait for your tram. It’s mildly interesting. Then you get on your tram, which is narrated by a CM. They take you through the fake departments and then past the actual steamroller from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a bunch of props from Star Wars, stuff from Mars Attacks!, Pirates of the Caribbean, and other films. You also get to see the Earful Tower, which (as I said), used to be the MGM Weenie. You can see Walt’s private jet and other things. Then you check out Catastrophe Canyon, where you are thrown into a helluva psychotic special effects simulation. There’s other stuff, but you get the jist. It’s nice to do, and the wait is never too long.
When To Go: From 12 PM – 3 PM (the attraction is about 35 minutes).

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Playset Adventure (C-)

The only reason it’s a “C-” is because of the nostalgia of the film. It’s really an elaborate playground with tunnels, slides, rope, ladders, and many over-sized props. It really looks like you are in the film. You can ride a giant ant, get doused [by] a lawn sprinkler, and make your way through a maze of grass blades. I heard that this may change to A Bug’s Life play area since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is from 1989, and kids have no fucking clue what it is. The nearby restaurant is supposed to become a Pixar-themed eatery as well. But we shall see. (Pixar Place is right near here). This place is what it is. A giant playset aimed towards kids. A quick look should suffice, but please don’t miss Quark (the dog from the movie [not the Ferengi from “Deep Space Nine”]), who is hiding and looking for you. He sniffs you out and sometimes sneezes and barks. It’s kinda cool.
When To Go: Whenever – it’s a quick walkthrough.

Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show (F) (C- because they make fun of one kid in the audience each time) (C+ if you love chase sequences in films and that’s it) {FP}

Here come the French! First they tear down Residential Drive for this show… then the show sucks! Originating in Disneyland Paris (Lights Moteurs Action), this stunt show features cars and motorcycles driving around and doing stunts we could care less about. They do the stunt with engines all revved up, they explain the stunt, and then they replay it with different camera views on a variety of movie screens. Yeah. This happens about 3 times. In a 30 minute show, there is only 6-8 minutes of actual action, and the only interesting thing is the final sequence when the guy drives a car, crashes, gets on a motorcycle, falls, rides on a speedboat, and then catches on fire. That’s cool. Oh, and at one point, they trick some poor kid into thinking he/she is controlling a real car by a remote. When it is revealed that they are not, the kid always looks so disappointed. This began your obsession with making people cry at WDW. Anyway, this show sucks. There’s a cameo by Herbie the Love Bug. That… SUCKS… Fuck this show (3,000 seated stadium).
When To Go: There’s only 3 shows a day for this gas guzzling travesty. The FastPass system is not linked to the other attractions, so you can get a FP here anytime, and not worry about the waiting time. If you must go, go to the 2:55 PM show, then rush to the Indy show.

Jim Henson’s Muppetvision 3-D 4-D (A+++)

This 3-D movie starring the Muppets is what’s up! You must see the show AND the entire pre-show. Ask a CM when the next pre-show starts and go then. It’s like watching two back-to-back 17-minute Muppet films. The entire holding area is themed to Muppet madness. Everything has a joke. Basically, you are in the Muppet theatre backstage area where you will watch them all preparing for a special show (with a glorious three-hour finale). The backstage area is filled with sight gags such as a net full of Jell-O. (Annette Funicello). As you can see, some gags are extremely obscure, but after a while, you’ll get it. Then you don your 3-D glasses after the pre-show, and head to the theatre to watch the Muppet Show. Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Gonzo, and the gang take you on a tour of Muppet Labs and stupid Ben Bunny ruins everything.
Best Fuckup: After Ben Bunny fucks up Piggy’s song (with a jet ski), her head flies off her body. It’s something very easy to miss. Anyway, it’s 4-D because you actually feel and can grab some of the 3-D gags. Don’t miss Statler and Waldorf above you, the Swedish Chef running the projector, Sweet’ums actually appearing, and many in-jokes for Muppet fans.
When To Go: Between 10 AM – 12 PM, or after 4 PM. Beware of when Indy lets out. A group of people will be headed this way.

Star Tours (unbiased opinion: A-; Biased opinion: A++++++) {FP}

star-toursMy old job! This is an indoor space flight-simulation ride based on the Star Wars movie series. I believe in the canon, it takes place during A New Hope, as the rebels attack the Death Star. The story here is that you are on a commercial flight to the moon of Endor with your idiot pilot, Rex (voiced by Paul Reubens), a droid who was JUST programmed to fly. He takes you the wrong way, and you end up at the Battle of Yavin 4, where Luke is about to destroy the Death Star.I’ve heard it said that it takes place after the Battle of Endor, and that another war takes place since C-3PO does the announcements. [We can put that rumor to bed.] But I say that C-3PO recorded his announcements while chillin’ with the Antilles crew before Vader raided it to find the [stolen] plans. [I can buy this head canon.] ANYWAY, this attraction CAN cause motion sickness issues, because it is quite turbulent.Sit in the 5th Row (the back)for the most turbulence and in the front for a more calm ride. This was the very first modern simulator ride modeled after those used for training pilots and astronauts. The ride is 7 minutes long and you are taken through hyperspeed, light speed, an asteroid field, a war, and the wrong end of a flight deck. Look closely at the end for a young George Lucas in “control.” The queue is awesome. The outside of the building is built to look like Endor with a little Ewok village above (the characters chatter away once it gets dark). An AT-AT Walker shoots water at unsuspecting guests. Once in the building, you are instantly in the middle of a spaceport waiting for your flight. You get to see C-3PO + R2-D2 arguing away while on line, which is great because they make awesome animatronics. A giant screen shows different destinations for travel including Hoth [huh?], Tatooine, Imperial City (Coruscant), Alderaan (little do they know…), and of course Endor, where you are headed. Also, announcements are heard calling different characters including Egroeg Sacul, which I find hilarious. In the next room, a small droid interacts with you and your family, if you have one. He’s funny and keeps getting in trouble and being shut down. Finally as you climb up to the Gates, another droid is very excited about the new Starspeeders. After you watch your boarding instructions (and are sent to your gate) you take off to Endor. Only problem is… you land on Tatooine. I’ll explain in the shopping section. This ride is fucking awesome. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you will like it even if it was shit. But it’s not. So the point is moot. If you get motion sick easily, you can ask for a test flight if it’s not busy. This means the movie with no movement. Pussy.
When To Go: It’s best to get here before 11 AM, but anytime with a FP is good. Watch out for the Indiana Jones crowds; they bump up the wait time from 10-40 minutes. The wait times are usually fairly low during “value” season (January, September, etc.), but still… DO NOT MISS THIS ATTRACTION. 🙂

Streets of America (N/A)

Full of elaborate sets that represent New York, California, Boston, Chicago, and a random Chinatown. It’s just a bunch of sets and stuff. Nothing crazy. You can meet Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, and the Power Rangers here.The Kim POssible characters are so much fun!

Shopping and Other Places

Tatooine Traders – Used to be called the Endor Vendors. It’s the ship exiting Star Tours. Now it makes no sense because you’re supposed to be landing on Endor’s moon, and you exit into Tatooine. Either way, you get T-shirts, magnets, and other stuff from the ride. Special Edition Original Trilogy merch, Prequel merch, action figures, $10 – $200 light sabers, books, costumes, key chains, limited edition merch, and big figs (statues) [i.e.: high-end collectibles] of characters [are also available]. This place is real cool if you’re a Star Wars fan. The theming change happened in 1999 when Episode I came out. The inside and outside are reminiscent of Tatooine, which is really cool.

Stage 1 Company Store – When you exit Muppetvision 3-D 4-D, you will see this store which is full of Muppet merchandise, CDs, plush, books, DVDs, and knickknacks from “The Muppet Show” and “Fraggle Rock.” The Muppet merch has recently been reduced to half of the store, while the other half carries only Disney merch.

Once Upon A Christmas – Stupid Christmas store across from Stage 1.

Writer’s Stop – shop and café. Often overlooked, I’ll mention it again in snacks, but they have books you can’t find everywhere as well as scrapbooking stuff, and many different notepads. They also have CDs that are hard to find, and some kitchen supplies )Disney themed).

AFI “Museum” and Backlot Store – They used to sell Roger Rabbit merch at the backlot store; now they have a little of everything including awards you can personalize (based on Oscars), clapboards, and other movie themed knickknacks — (also a few Disney things). It’s attached to the AFI Museum… (no, not the band [A Fire Inside] – the American Film Institute), which has Darth Vader’s original suit from Episodes IV – VI, Freddy Krueger’s original costume, and much more. Nothing to buy at the museum, but I didn’t know where else to list it.

The ABC Store – At the end of Backlot + Commissary Lane, they have a cart that sells Tool Time merch, as well as other things based on fictional TV companies. But mostly Bonford and Tool Time stuff, which is cool. Don’tcha want a Binford Tool Box?

Youze Guys Merchandise – New York street’s store that used to sell Disney + New York themed stuff (subway magnets with Mickey on it and such) – after the World of Disney NYC opened, they now just have light changers and camera equipment. [which ironically closed shortly after Jerry wrote this, and a regular Disney store opened a few blocks over in 2010.]

Live Entertainment

Mulch, Sweet, and Sheers (B- / C- if you don’t like classic rock) – They do covers. Some songs they change the words. They’re good and full of life, but if you don’t like the music, you’ll be very bored. It’s still high energy.

Al’s Toy Barn – You can meet Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye here.

The Backlot Theatre – Used to house the Hunchback show, which was PHENOMENAL! It combined juggling, magic, puppetry, and actual actors retelling Disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame… It closed in 2002 – there has been a rumor that a Nightmare Before Christmas attraction will finally be implemented here… no such luck. It’s just for “Good Nite”, “Night of Joy”, and stupid cheerleading competitions.

Jedi Training Academy (A+ if you’re a kid / C- if you’re not cos you wish you could join) – An interactive show next to Star Tours, where Younglings are picked out of the audience to train on a lightsaber. They learn a bunch of moves and a bit of the philosophy behind The Force. Eventually, they all have to fight against Darth Vader. [WTH? Did anyone see Episode III when Vader took on the Younglings?… WDW… where kids come to get slain.] Stormtroopers provide comic relief throughout, and it’s funny to watch the retarded kids try to fight. They guy who plays Vader id always trained in stage combat and is really good at it. This started out as a show only done on Star Wars Weekends, but it was so popular, they brought it to the parks for good. Also, on busy days, Chewbacca and an Ewok can be seen running around the area. An actual speeder from Return of the Jedi is nearby as well.

Those Plumbers – [insert your own Mario Bros joke here] Three plumbers ride around the backlot and sometimes Hollywood Blvd in their truck, and then stop in the Backlot randomly to do a Three Stooges-type / Chaplain-esque show.

Dining and Snacks

Backlot Express (Food: B-; Service: A; Price: Decent, but same old) (American fast food counter service) – This counter service between Star Tours and Indy is all right, (better than Sunset Blvd Eateries) but still the same old. Burgers, salads, grilled turkey + cheese, nuggets, hot dogs, a grilled vegetable sandwich, and you can get sloppy joes from the kids’ menu. Besides ABC Commissary, this is the only decent burger in the park. (ABC is better). This place is usually overlooked and is filled with set pieces and such making it seem like a real backlot. The best thing here is the fixin’s bar. When I do my chapter on how to be cheap at Disney, I will talk more about it — but yeah, the fixin’s bar is huge! It’s usually not crowded here, so that’s a plus, but it is still just a burger joint. Here you can get it with fruit instead of fries if you so desire.

Studio Catering Company Flatbread Grill (Food: A-; Service: B; Price: Regular, but portions are small) (a more eclectic Southern-American counter service) – Okay, so this place is good, but it’s open “seasonally” so you may nit see it. Usually it’s open if I go in May, and once in February. They have BBQ pulled pork, chili-cheese dogs, grilled chicken with rice + black beans, chicken caesar wraps, and Greek salads. It’s in the shade with an awning, right next to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playset. The food is surprisingly good and a nice change from the normal burgers, pizza, fries, and nuggets.

Toy Story Pizza Planet (Food: C*; Service: B+; Price: good) (pizza counter-service) – Based on Pizza Planet from the film Toy Story, this pizza place and video game eatery is on par with Chuck-E-Cheese in terms of food and Sardi’s in terms of video games. Meaning shitty food with minimal entertainment… Remember what I said about counter-service pizza in WDW? Stay the fuck away. If you like Dominoes or Pizza Hut [or Papa Johns], I guess you’ll like it, but it stinks. They offer cheese and pepperoni pizzas (plus a veggie one now), salads, cookies, and Mickey Rice Krispy treats. There are probably 4 games in the whole place, making it a poor excuse of an arcade. If you love Toy Story, definitely check it out, but eating here is a pretty big mistake. The reason the food gets a “C” is because the pizza is edible and tastes like fast food pizza, but if you live in NYC, Chicago, or even California, drop down that grade to an “F.”

Herbie’s (snacks/once pork buns) – They used to sell pork buns here. They are great, but almost $3 each. You can get one pork bun in Chinatown here or 8th Ave Brooklyn [or Main St. Flushing] for $0.60 each. Big difference. People did not want to try new things, so now it sells something else.

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano (Food: A-; Service: A++, Price: Good!) (Italian table service) – Hidden behind Muppetvision, this gem is quite good! Looks like a big city restaurant of the 1930’s, with big wooden floors, red-and-white checkered tablecloths, red vinyl booths, and grapevines from the rafters. This place makes you feel like you are at a nice restaurant at home. It’s worn (on purpose) with a very welcoming look. You have to get the flatbreads – the flatbread pizza is very, very good. Otherwise, you can get bruschetta, calamari, panzanella salad, penne ala vodka (yum!) or spicy Italian sausage (keep your jokes to yourself). Bring your girl here because she’ll think it’s fancier than it is. The greatest thing is the portion size is very large, so you could fill up on a couple of appetizers. Many people don’t know it exists, which is fine. I would still recommend 50’s Prime Time over Mama Melrose, HOWEVER the food here is very, very good, and if you are returning to MGM on this trip, I suggest trying this out-of-the-way Italian joint. As I always say, New York does Italian better, but this is one of the best in Florida. ONE OF the best. 🙂

Writer’s Stop (Food: A-; Service: A+; Price: Decent) – Here you can get very good coffee and different kinds of snacks, including peanut butter cookies. YUM! This is also a store [see Shopping and Other Places above], but there’s nice, comfy couches and chairs. It’s a coffee shop, but a nice place to chill.

Fireworks and Parades

Pixar’s Block Party Bash (C+ I Hear) (Daytime Parade)

This opened the day I [left], so I haven’t seen it, but I heard about it when it was first tried out in Disneyland. Basically, it’s floats and characters from Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and A Bug’s Life… (the many Pixar films after apparently don’t matter). There’s singing, dancing, acrobats, and audience participation. Each float stops for 11 minutes at different parts of the park to involve the audience and such. Plus, it’s very loud. Here’s the good: it’s not all clichéd as the daytime parades normally are. Here’s the bad: it takes 33+ minutes to go through the park… which means it’s tough to get from one side to the other if you are trying to: A) leave; B) get to a restaurant; or C) get to an attraction. Also, it’s geared more toward kids, so a lot of adults seem to not care. I give it a “C+” because it sounds really annoying, but has some cool features that I would love to at least check out once. The parade usually starts at 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM. Check your schedule.Try to get your dining reservations right after the parade.

Fantasmic (A++) (night-time mixed-media spectacular)

fantasmicThis amazing show is so much fun! Staged at a 6,900 seat amphitheatre, this show is almost always full to capacity PLUS standing room of 3,000. This show plays to an audience of nearly 10,000 every single night. They condensed it to only 2 nights a week due to budget cuts. 😦 But this is one of the best experiences in WDW. It is the most innovative outdoor spectacle they have attempted yet! So, it stars Mickey Mouse as his character from Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and using lasers, images projected on mist, lighting effects, pyrotechnics, music, acting and fireworks, it takes you through a harrowing tale where the Disney villains all team up to destroy him. The combination of special effects are so stunning, you will hardly believe what you see. Here’s the story: The Snow Queen hates Mickey Mouse, so she sets out to call up evil and destroy him. She sends him into a world comprised of his own nightmares. He is attacked by a giant snake Jafar, and a HUGER dragon, which is really cool, and there’s lots of fire. You have to get there an hour before the show to get the best seats either in the Mickey or Pocahontas section in the center. DO NOT sit on the far left or right, because it won’t sync up. If it suddenly rains, the show will be cancelled, but head over to Hollywood Hills amphitheater anyway because once the shells are loaded, they must be released. So they do a 5 minute show called “A Taste of Fantasmic” to the song “Little April Showers” from Bambi. They also have a Fantasmic Dinner Package which guarantees you seating for a small price which includes a meal at Brown Derby ($47), Mama Melrose ($33), or Hollywood + Vine ($25). The reserved seating is on the far right, so the convenience of not having to wait an hour is not worth it for the terrible view. The worst part is the freakin’ people doing the wave waiting for the show to begin. That’s annoying!! [Jerry is not a sports fan, as you can tell.] This show is so unique, it’s hard to explain it all [in words]. Just see it. You will not be disappointed.

Next Chapter: Tips, hints, and other things about DHS.

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