Your cultured food critic visited the Hollywood Studios this evening to take another stab at Fairfax Fare’s “Gourmet Hot Dogs” and to check on Fantasmic crowds, among other things. Up until this week, we’ve had Fantasmic scheduled twice every night since the end of June. Even when Fantasmic was only scheduled on a limited number of nights during the week, we almost always had two Fantasmic shows scheduled on nights that it was available. If you were intent on seeing Fantasmic, the second show was always substantially less crowded than the first. We continue to have Fantasmic scheduled most nights through the end of 2011. However, crowds are much lower than the summer and Disney has decided that one Fantasmic each night is enough to meet demand. The only current exception is nights that Hollywood Studios is hosting evening Extra Magic Hours. Because those days are busier, two Fantasmic shows are scheduled.
Here we are arriving at 7:20pm. Not a lot of people around. Note the single 8:30pm Fantasmic and 8:30pm close.
A few people on Hollywood Boulevard. We’re headed into Mickey’s of Hollywood to see if there’s any Halloween merchandise worth reporting.
A 3D Placemat type thing for $4.95.
A votive candle set – $24.95 I think.
Cute little lanterns – also $24.95 as I recall.
A Mickey head thing full of Candy Corn. Sort of creepy – $12.95.
These tins are full of shortbread cookies or a variety of popcorn flavors. The popcorn is $12.95 and the cookies are a whopping $18.95.
Looking good. Hollywood Studios was a recommended Park.
This is a live telecast of the American Idol finale show that’s going on inside the theater. It’s a fun way to catch a few minutes of the show, especially if you want to grab a treat and chill out for a minute. There are a bunch of picnic tables within viewing distance.
Not a lot of people outside Star Tours. There was actually a Jedi Training Academy show scheduled for about ten minutes from now. Star Tours officially had a 10 minute wait. The “actual wait” was basically the time it took to walk the queue and line up in front of the simulator.
Not a lot of people on this side of the Studios, but there is “literally” nothing going on over here. Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is long over, Backlot Tour stopped operating at 7pm, Studio Catering Company stopped serving at 5:30pm., Phineas and Ferb are off at 7pm.
Speaking of Studio Catering Company, it can be a hassle to find a quick service that’s open for dinner at Hollywood Studios during the “off season.” Starring Rolls closed at 4pm, Backlot Express closed at 5:30pm, Studio Catering Company closed at 5:30pm, Toy Story Pizza Planet closed at 7:00pm, ABC Commissary stopped serving at 8:00pm. Even Mama Melrose took its last reservations at 7:30pm. And the Studios is open until 8:30pm tonight with Fantasmic running until 9pm.
For one reason or another, Disney is intent on keeping Toy Story Mania’s posted wait time above 60 minutes. The actual wait time here is 26 minutes and I doubt it was 60 minutes at any point in the last couple of hours.
Here we are at Animation Courtyard. Voyage of the Little Mermaid is closed for refurbishment through tomorrow. There’s basically nothing to do in this section of the Studios either. Disney Jr. Live on Stage had its last show at 5:50pm. Winnie the Pooh leaves at 6pm, the Incredibles stop appearing at 6:30pm, and Mickey goes backstage at 7:30pm. The Animation Tour is the only thing running.
Whoa!!!! Did someone announce free Mickey Ice Cream bars at Min and Bill’s or something? Actually, this is the crowd leaving the American Idol Experience finale. If you see them coming – move. Or race to wherever you’re headed in the opposite direction.
Marching up Sunset Boulevard just past 7:45pm.
Headed up the walkway with everyone else at 7:50pm. It’s a pretty good distance from Sunset Boulevard up to Hollywood Hills Theater – at least a few minutes. Stroller parking is at the very top.
Disabled seating along the top.
This is Fantasmic Dining Package seating off to the right. Plenty of room in the corner, but the slightly better seats closer to the center are mostly full.
The center sections are all full, but there are still ample seats on the far side of the theater.
This is the Fantasmic Dining Package entrance, which is close to Tower of Terror’s gift shop in the hotel courtyard. Technically, you can also use the regular walkway too. The actual checkpoint is at the top of the walkway on the right side.
I probably couldn’t have timed this meal much worse. Virtually all of the quick services are closed at this point. Only Sunset Ranch Market is offering food of substance. Fairfax Fare isn’t a particularly efficient quick service. They also ran out of their Jumbo Turkey Legs at 7:50pm. I thought a riot might erupt.
You may recall my last meal at Fairfax Fare, where I had two major complaints before the meal even began. Disney has since rectified both – we have a new menu up at each window indicating the hot dogs come with chips rather than coleslaw or baked beans and the smaller menus with pictures/explanations of the hot dogs are back.
This is the Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Oil Gourmet Hot Dog. I’m not sure where the truffle oil comes into play. My understanding of it is that most truffle oils are made with artificial ingredients anyway. The truffle oil certainly didn’t make a discernible difference in the overall flavor as far as I could tell. Otherwise, it’s about what you would expect. It’s your basic Disney hot dog topped with macaroni & cheese from the kids’ menu along with a sprinkle of bacon bits. It certainly wasn’t bad. My biggest complaint with Disney quick service is that the food is very rarely hot. This hot dog wasn’t any different. Granted, I fiddle around with my camera for a moment before digging in, but it doesn’t take me any longer to do that than it would take an average parent to get their child seated and taken care of. The macaroni and cheese basically gives the same flavor as the hot cheese sauce at Casey’s Corner. The dogs here also come on different buns than Casey’s Corner, Cosmic Ray’s, etc. unless they’ve changed buns there in the last week too. It’s possible. Overall, this isn’t a compelling value. It’s a relatively small portion and there isn’t a whole lot to it. That said, it was miles better than the Burrito Dog and not a bad choice all things considered.
This is the Fantasmic seating section with about 15 minutes to the start of the show. There are a few seats to the far side, but it’s packed solid in the center sections. As unfortunate as it is, you really need to arrive 60+ minutes early to get prime seats.
While I’m sure Disney would disagree, it’s nice to see the Studios so empty. You could have walked right into the preshow areas at Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after 7:30pm. Even Toy Story Mania had actual waits of less than 30 minutes. While Fantasmic remains popular, you could have at least gotten seats had you arrived just ten minutes in front of the start of the show. I’ll keep an eye on it moving forward.