We’ll head out to Hollywood Studios on the afternoon of December 5th at 12:40pm. I can’t remember the last time I waited more than a minute or two to get into a Park with these Mickey tapstiles and RFID gig. The Studios in particular always seems to have far too many lines open. Not only are all lines open in front of us, but the bank on the far right is also operating with “literally” nobody interested.
This is the last time we’ll “enjoy” seeing the Sorcerer’s Hat in the distance with the holiday decorations dotting Hollywood Boulevard.
The big(?) news at the moment is Turner Classic Movies’ taking over sponsorship for The Great Movie Ride. Full details on the partnership are available here: http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TCM/2015/00112255/images/ride/TCM_Disney_Partnership.pdf.
The website exclusively reported on TCM’s involvement with Disney all the way back in March 2013:
In this post. As far as the theme parks are concerned, this partnership isn’t a big deal at the moment. Expect a new video in the queue and a new video at the end, but that’s about it.
Wait times remain significantly longer at Movie Ride in the FP+ era. The extended queue is in use here on a random day in early December, something you wouldn’t see prior to the implementation of FP+. Wait times over the course of this non-recommended day:
The Studios was not recommended on this website with longer average and peak waits than average. You may remember how short waits were at Animal Kingdom with its recommended status.
The Studios was recommended just two days earlier with the same operating hours on the 3rd. You can see how much shorter average and peak waits were:
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 31 minutes versus 56 minutes.
Star Tours: 14 minutes versus 15 minutes.
Great Movie Ride: 11 minutes versus 19 minutes.
Tower of Terror: 19 minutes versus 42 minutes.
Toy Story: 59 minutes versus 77 minutes.
That translates to lower crowds and shorter waits everywhere else, from shows to quick services to stores.
Posted waits at 12:45pm are pretty rough.
It’s not exactly a big deal, but remember that the main tip board FP+ location doesn’t begin operating until 2pm. Before then, you’ll find many iPad-clad cast members behind what is still the Sorcerer’s Hat.
The Sorcerer’s Hat characters continue meeting around the structure. At the moment, expect to see Chip/Dale, Pluto/Goofy, Stitch, and Donald/Daisy from Park opening through 11am and again from 1:40pm-4pm.
Hollywood Studios can be surprisingly difficult to navigate. In my pre-celebrity-blogger days, I will admit I ordinarily walked right past Sunset Boulevard. One of the nice things about the Hat is how identifiable it is and how easy it is to give directions based on its location. Try to explain where ABC Commissary or Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano are without the Hat…
Speaking of the Commissary, it recently added two new entrees:
The steak and the salmon.
The extended queue used to only be a thing during Star Wars Weekends and major holidays, but Disney seems to keep it up year-round these days. It can be a problem because there are multiple small menus (without prices) posted throughout the queue. People tend to stop at the first one and try to memorize it with the whole queue empty in front of them.
The current menu:
The themed cupcakes are extremely popular on the Dining Plan. It may be interesting that the various quick services offer spendy “holiday-themed” beverages while the major bars like High Octane Refreshments don’t.
The “Roasted Salmon” is the same portion that tops the various salads for more money. Take that into consideration if it sounds good.
Because I’m an idiot, I ordered the New York Strip Steak served with Blue Cheese Butter, Steamed Broccoli, and French Fries – $11.49.
Liberty Inn over at Epcot serves a similar steak for the same money. And after enjoying that steak and reading nearly universally positive reviews, I was interested in trying the Commissary version. Historically, ABC Commissary is considered one of the worst quick services on property, if not the absolute worst. With the addition of the new-ish couscous salad, fried shrimp, and chicken/salmon customizations, it has made significant strides.
Unfortunately, the steak is another travesty, absolutely cooked to death with a sickening, overpowering blue cheese flavor from the “butter.” This is the worst quick service meal I can remember in recent memory and that is really saying something. I can’t imagine anyone has had a different experience, but you are welcome to sound off in the comments.
Min & Bill’s is the Studios’ version of Golden Oak Outpost with its constantly changing menu:
The macaroni and cheese items are similar to Friar’s Nook at Magic Kingdom and were added just a couple days ago.
They’re a good choice if you don’t value blood traveling freely through your arteries.
Hiro and Baymax from Big Hero 6 continue meeting in the Animation Building in the back of Animation Courtyard. They are not listed on the Times Guide:
Their first meet is scheduled at 10:30am daily and they take a lengthy break around 1:15pm and then return at 2:30pm for 45 minute sets that continue through 6:15pm. They typically meet for 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break, and then return for 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, the characters are unlikely to be long for this world. The way these promotional meet and greets work is that Disney’s Studio division is on the hook for paying for the meet and greet as part of its promotional budget. That contract continues through the end of December and it’s unlikely Disney will pick up the tab after the money runs out. The same thing happened with Anna and Elsa if you remember their debut at Epcot was surrounded by questions about whether the princesses would continue their run. One of the main problems is the Baymax costume, which relies heavily on cameras for the person inside the inflatable suit to see. Another is the inflatable nature of the suit itself, which quickly deflates, resulting in some unexpected recharging breaks.
I’m not saying they’re gone for sure, just that it doesn’t look like they will be extended.
Waits tend to be long, particularly with the technical difficulties. My advice is to get in line at 10am or 2pm to reduce waits to 45 minutes or so.
In related unpublished character news, Characterpalooza continues here outside the Tower of Terror gift shop. Characterpalooza schedules look to have normalized a bit with the first set typically scheduled about 4.5 hours before the second Fantasmic. So with Fantasmic scheduled at 6:30pm and 8pm, we have sets scheduled at 3:30pm and 4:15pm, give or take 5 minutes. I would expect Characterpalooza to move back to the Streets of America after Osborne Lights conclude January 4th. The website will continue to monitor the situation.
In unrelated news, the Jack Sparrow attraction is now long gone.
Like most shows, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is FastPass+ enabled. Some of the seating arrangements and policies have changed since the original implementation, so we’ll take another look to see if FP+ offers a superior experience at shows. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)
I booked FP+ for the 1:45pm Indiana Jones on the morning-of around 11am.
The afternoon show is typically the busiest with a 3+ hour delay until the next show at 4pm. With the 1:45pm start, the FP+ return window is 1:20pm to 1:35pm. Like FP+ at virtually any show, the queue is opened much earlier than that.
This is a 1:14pm arrival, 6+ minutes before the FP+ arrival window, and the queue is already open. Unlike the rides, you don’t need to worry about the FP+ window opening 5 minutes early for a show. A large group in front of me said their FP+ window “didn’t open for two more minutes,” and stood to the side, but if you have a FP+ for a particular show, you can ignore the window and get in line whenever the line is open. You can see the FP+ users that arrived 25+ minutes early on our left. ECVs/wheelchairs are finding their seats ahead.
Standby guests are queued up at the same time in a separate queue.
25 minutes before the start of the show, FP+ users are let into the left half of the stadium.
My selection 25 minutes prior to showtime.
Indiana Jones has two “center” sections. The one on the left is designated for FP+ users, while the one on the right is filled with standby users. Basically, if you arrive at the same time, FP+ and standby users will find the same seats in the section either slightly-off-center-to-the-left or slightly-off-center-to-the-right.
With 10 minutes to showtime, the seats on the far, far right are filling in.
FP+ users are finding very slightly better seats to the left at the same time.
By 1:37pm, standby is virtually full.
FP+ is slightly better. Once it’s a minute or two to showtime, standby fills in the rest of the space on the left.
I noticed this poor family had printed touring plans like it was 1994 or something.
Turned out it was the website’s Cheat Sheets. Hopefully that worked out for you.
So much for the show.
So FP+ here is largely useless. It would allow you to show up five minutes before showtime and get seats to a “sold out” show in the upper corner of the theater. And your seats would probably be slightly better in FP+ than standby between 10 and 15 minutes before showtime. But not so much that it would be worthwhile using FP+ here over Tower of Terror or Star Tours in most situations.
Back on the rumors front (HAHA), Indiana Jones theater coming down sooner rather than later is virtually guaranteed. It’s true that there are some outstanding contracts with a variety of dance competitions that use the space a couple weekends a year, but I’d look for Disney to make other accommodations and start work on Star Wars with the land’s attractions focusing on the upcoming trilogy. Of course, “things can change.” A third track for Toy Story and the closure of Lights, Motors, Action also seems like a forgone conclusion. But that’s a lot of construction for once when you add everything going on at Animal Kingdom with Avatar and the Africa Marketplace, in addition to the likelihood that a third Soarin’ theater is on the way.
Speaking of construction, it continues at the upcoming Starbucks installation on Hollywood Boulevard.
Somebody is doing something.
According to the website’s Cheat Sheets, Beauty and the Beast is the lowest Tier 1 FP+ priority:
With the expectation that using FP+ at Beauty and the Beast won’t really save us much time or result in a better seat.
FP+ is a separate line closer to Tower of Terror.
Standby guests being held at 2:30pm for the 3pm show.
The return time for Beauty and the Beast opens 30 minutes before the start of the show and runs up until 10 minutes before – or 2:30pm to 2:50pm with the 3pm show. This is the ramp up the FP+ line with dedicated stroller parking. I’m here in line at 2:30pm and there look to be five or six strollers parked in front of me.
At the same time I arrive at the top of the hill with FP+, standby guests are already filling in the theater on the other side. The theater is basically cut in half to start – FP+ filling in on the left and standby on the right as you look at the stage.
Good seats no doubt with FP+ and an arrival 30+ minutes before showtime.
But looking back a couple minutes later, I would be able to find a similar seat in standby.
Most of the “Disney” fairytales are pretty messed up if you look at the source material, but Beast and his servants may have gotten the rawest deal of any of the various stories.
Moral of the story: Let your parents answer the door or this might happen to you. Or should I say, no matter how fly you feel, you will never be Lumiere fly.
Moral of the story: Money.
Moral of the story: Chest hair isn’t an adequate substitute for a shield (in most situations).
No one waltzes like Gaston!
Don’t worry everyone is okay. There has to be a direct-to-video sequel.
These wands are new to the Glow with the Show or Made with Magic or whatever Disney is trying to market the line as these days. They’re actually kind of neat as you can change other people’s wand, band, and hat colors by pressing a button.
It seems like this would be pretty easy. “The Magic Kingdom ride mom always says she’s going to barf on…” “MAD TEA PARTY!!!!!!!”
These books offer some neat artwork on the cover.
The pages offer a variety of activities for kids.
This book is more of a journal.
You would think 2015 merchandise would be out in force, but it seems like Disney is trying to unload as much 2014 at full price as possible. These phone covers with generic artwork are most of what’s available:
A bunch more stuff is certainly on the horizon.
That’s about it. There are undoubtedly some exciting things on the horizon, but we’re in more of a holding pattern at the moment.