The calendar says it’s July, which is a little hard to believe. The weather in Orlando has been very poor the last few days, though today was a bit of an improvement, even with a few hours of rain in the afternoon. Anything under 80 degrees is cold as far as I’m concerned and we’ve had about 2.5 inches of rain over the last 48 hours with temperatures dipping below 80 degrees for most of the day. Afternoon thunderstorms in the summer are a given, but the constant threat of rain and lightning into the late evening has become a bit cumbersome.
Speaking of a change in the air, Hollywood Studios will begin hosting Fantasmic just about every night from tomorrow until at least September 30th. There’s a bit of a question as to exactly what is going on with the show come January, not to mention October through December. Currently, Fantasmic is not scheduled at all after January 4th, 2012. This points to some sort of lengthy refurbishment or adjustment of some kind. It would make a lot of sense that Fantasmic would need to undergo a lengthy refurbishment in January, especially if Disney continues adding Fantasmic to most nights in October, November, and December. The switch to nightly shows came as a surprise to your author and just about everyone else. There have been rumors that Fantasmic would return to a nightly engagement since the show changed to limited screenings at the beginning of January 2009, but nothing indicated an impending switch. As I understand it, the performers received word about 24 hours before the changes went live on the Travel Agent Calendar.
The Crowd Calendar often indicates that crowds at Hollywood Studios disperse in the evening when Fantasmic isn’t offered. We see this for a variety of logical reasons. First, a lot of people see the Studios as a “half day Park.” While your author disagrees with this sentiment, it doesn’t stop the majority of people from skipping most of the stage shows and high capacity attractions. In fairness, many of the stage shows haven’t changed much in the last 20-plus years and you may not have a “need” to return to the same Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular or Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage show. The Studios restaurants aren’t much to write home about either. While I enjoy the fried chicken at 50’s Prime Time and the flatbread pizzas at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to visit either on vacation. The 7pm or 8pm close isn’t late enough for many people to consider an afternoon Park Hop to be “worth it” when taking transportation time and energy into account. And really, the lack of evening entertainment and a discernible “reason” to stay longer is a major factor.
This is something we won’t be seeing for a while. No, not the fact that Sounds Dangerous isn’t operating today. The next time Fantasmic won’t be featured is September 2nd. I’m selling limited edition prints of this image. They are $500 and I will sign them for another $500. I also appear at birthday parties.
You can already tell it’s a bit of a gloomy day. There aren’t a whole lot of people headed into the Studios at 5:45pm.
It’s a little past 5:50pm here. The posted wait for Star Tours is 10 minutes and there are still FASTPASSes available for 6:30pm – 7:00pm.
More wide open spaces in Echo Lake, the Backlot, and Streets of America.
Always check your Times Guide at the Studios if you have your heart set on eating at a particular location. Studios Catering closed at 4pm.
Disney loves to over exaggerate wait times at Toy Story Mania. Actual wait time? 27 minutes.
I’m interested to see what characters will be found in the Animation Building once Fantasmic becomes an every night occurrence. One little known secret is that a ton of characters can usually be found inside the Animation Building from about 5:00pm to 7pm most commonly on non-Fantasmic nights, but also on some Fantasmic nights. Tonight, I saw Genie, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Chip, Dale, Snow White, Evil Queen, Stitch, and a Racoon-Thing (Meeko from Pocahontas) and I only popped in for a minute. It’s a great opportunity to see a lot of characters with short waits because the characters and times aren’t published. These characters are located in the same general area as Sorcerer Mickey, the Incredibles, and Winnie the Pooh. You can get to this area in a couple of ways – the easiest is to simply walk to the large “Disney Animation” sign and go into the right-hand queue. This will take you right into the Animation Building. You can also walk through the gift shop located to the right of the “Disney Animation sign.” You’ll see an exit in the back of the store that will take you through a room full of Oscar awards and images and then into the main Animation building. If you lose your way, ask any cast member where to find Sorcerer Mickey and the new Winnie the Pooh Meet and Greet.
Still a lot of people on Sunset Boulevard, though the posted wait time at Tower of Terror is 20 minutes. I hopped in line and the wait/ride time took about 35 minutes, which was longer than expected and longer than I would have liked. Luckily, I got out right at 6:57pm and darted over to Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. As you’ll recall, I point out that you can enter any ride queue right up until the official Park close. At 6:59pm, there was an official-looking cast member announcing a “last call” for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. I hopped in line and was back outside the front of the building at 7:24pm, meaning the wait/ride time was 25 minutes.
It’s well known that there is boat transportation between Epcot and Hollywood Studios and a lot of people are also aware that you can walk between the two Parks. However, it seems like even more people are unaware that bus transportation is offered all day, every day between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The bus trip is ten or eleven minutes long and will take you from outside the main entrance of Hollywood Studios to the front entrance of Epcot. As you exit Hollywood Studios, the Epcot bus is located to the left along with a number of other Disney resorts and the Animal Kingdom. At Epcot, you’ll be dropped off/picked up in the same are as Pop Century and the Caribbean Beach Resort. The boat ride between Epcot and Hollywood Studios is a good 25-30 minutes long, but you’ll end up in the World Showcase near the United Kingdom and France Pavilions. Depending on your final destination, the boat may be a better option if you’re headed to the World Showcase because it is a good ten or fifteen minute walk from the main entrance to the United Kingdom Pavilion, plus time for the bus to arrive. The line for the Epcot bus looks long here, but a second bus showed up almost immediately and a third bus arrived about five minutes later. All the people you see and then some were on their way to Epcot within about five minutes. The long lineup was due to the bus driver having difficulty buckling a scooter into the restraints.
Here we are at Epcot with the obligatory “golf ball” shot. As you can see, it’s pretty busy in the World Showcase with the Independence Day holiday and the fact that it’s a “non-recommended” day on the Crowd Calendar. The last shot is the American Gardens Theater across from the American Adventure Pavilion in the World Showcase. The Theater is currently hosting nightly cover bands three times per night. This was a Bon Jovi cover band of what I assume was a decent caliber. It took me back to my Guitar Hero days in college. SHOT THROUGH THE HEARRRRT, AND YOU’RE TOOOOOO BLAME……YOU GAVE LOOOOVE A BAD NAME!! There were plenty of seats remaining for the show, so you don’t need to arrive too early unless you want to get close to celebrity singing impersonators for one reason or another. I don’t judge.
Okay, I’ll admit the real reason I ventured over to Epcot was for the Samuel Adams Brick Red beer. The Red Brick is only offered on-tap at Boston area bars and Epcot, at the Fife and Drum Tavern. You may also see a Jalapeno Cheese Stuffed Pretzel pictured to the right. The picture quality is quite poor, but it looks like a beer and a soft pretzel in case you’re unsure of what you’re looking at. I’m not a big $6+ beer guy (unless that’s for a 12-pack), so I really only buy alcoholic beverages in Disney World when the boss is paying, but I wanted to give the Brick Red a try because of its limited availability. Unfortunately, it didn’t strike me as being anything particularly special, but I was still happy I had the opportunity to try it. The Stuffed Pretzel is about what you would expect. It’s no Funnel Cake or Soft Pretzel from the Germany Pavilion, but it sufficed. Just don’t tell my mother I had a beer and a soft pretzel for dinner.
So there you have it – a quick three hours at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Weather permitting, I’ll be back at the Studios tomorrow evening to see how Fantasmic and morning Extra Magic Hour affects crowds.