Characterpalooza has a new schedule this summer. One set will occur daily at 6pm on the Streets of America. You’ll find characters in the circled area on the far end of the Streets of America near Sci-Fi Dine-In and Star Tours and potentially characters down the street where the arrow is pointing.
That’s Rafiki on the bottom left and Evil Queen visible a little above him. The woman in the white/red shirt and shorts near the front of the frame is standing in front of Jessie. Chip and Dale are hard to see but they’re even further up on the left.
A look from the other side where Pluto is visible at the front with Pocahontas and Jasmine down to the left.
The good news about the change is that Characterpalooza now begins after the rush from Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show. You may remember that when it started back up again in May, that characters appeared first at 5pm, which was right around the time thousands of people filed out of the Lights, Motors theater.
On one hand, it was a lot of fun for those guests to happen upon the jumble of characters all greeting at once. That’s Stitch to the right of Genie and Gepetto and Pinocchio behind him on the left.
On the other hand, it’s nice for those of us “in the know” to not have to deal with said 5,000+ extra people.
Other characters meet out on the main drag.
Captain Hook, Smee, Chip, Dale, Stitch, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Evil Queen, Genie, Rafiki, Jessie, Queen of Hearts, Stitch, Pluto, Minnie, Pinocchio, Gepetto, Mary Poppins, and Penguin(s) are all common appearances these days, though no character is guaranteed to appear.
Last month, when one Fantasmic was scheduled, characters appeared twice daily in two different spots.
This is the characters’ first appearance in front of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at 4:30pm. The characters appeared for 20 to 30 minutes before disappearing and then reappearing at 5:30pm on the Streets of America as described above.
When two Fantasmic shows were scheduled, as they are through August 20th, the characters only appeared at 6pm on the Streets of America. We may or may not see that schedule continue this fall.
For now and every day through August 20th, characters should appear right at 6pm on the Streets of America.
You’ll have to rewind all the way back to May 12th for lunch at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.
Lunch is avec the Milz family. You may remember them from our last visit to Mama Melrose. Above is the current menu, which differs slightly from the old menu:
The Four-Cheese Flatbread, which was the cheapest item on the menu, has been removed. They can most likely prepare it for you anyway. Chicken replaces the Tuna. Pork and fish preparation are slightly different. Fettuccine looks to be added.
While the Stella Artois and Terrapin Rye Pale Ale (RECOMMENDED) are not listed on the drink menu (that I see), they are under the entrees.
The restaurant is otherwise unchanged. It’s a bit on the dark side and heavy on the kitsch.
Lots of wood.
The atmospheres at Sci-Fi and 50’s Prime Time are better in my opinion, but Mama’s is a pleasant setting in its own right. It certainly isn’t relying on a gimmick like B-roll movie trailers or a potentially obnoxious server.
Lunch and dinner begin with bread service – this time warm rolls and olive oil.
I ordered the $20.99 Shrimp Campanelle – Wood-grilled Shrimp and Campanelle Pasta tossed in a Four-Cheese Sauce with Broccoflower, Sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach, and sweet onions. Or with Chicken for $18.99.
This is an incredibly rich, creamy dish that was prepared well – served hot with a nice array of shrimp and vegetables.
Mixed up and missing a bite for your viewing pleasure. Your server will offer to grind some fresh parmesan on top of just about everything on the table. Overall, it was a filling meal that may be a bit too heavy for those looking to stay light on their feet. Several of the other pasta dishes would arrive with a lighter marinara.
Steve ordered the Oven-baked Chicken alla Parmigiana – Breaded Chicken Breast with Marinara Sauce topped with Melted Mozzarella. My initial reaction was that the presentation in the corner of the plate was kind of on the sad side of things.
I’ll let Steve interject a more detailed opinion if he likes. I don’t recall any complaints.
Sorry if this is a disgusting looking picture. The lighting in the restaurant is not great and I forgot my flash. This is the most expensive item on the menu and sure to delight Dining Plan users worldwide – the $29.99 Charred Strip Steak with Five-Cheese Baked Macaroni, Aged Balsamic-Shallot Butter, and Chianti Wine Reduction. The size of the beef was more impressive than the chicken and it packed a lot of flavor. Peggy and I agreed that it was a lower quality cut than the Be Our Guest Restaurant steak, but this one had a distinct, more pronounced flavor. Charred steaks are not usually my preference because I feel like they often just taste “burnt,” but this one didn’t seem to suffer unfavorably from the presentation. We’ll be taking a look at the Filet Mignon at Brown Derby shortly.
The macaroni served underneath was similar to the Campanelle. I thought the pasta was a little firmer, but the sauce was nearly identical.
If you’re looking to spend a little less money, the Flatbread options are very good at the $14 price point. That’s only about $4 more than Pizza Planet and would include bread and unlimited soda refills if you wanted to go that route.
The Kids’ Menu.
And the Kids Parmigiana, which looked to be at least half the size of the adult portion. If you’re looking for a lighter meal, they shouldn’t have a problem bringing you or someone in your party a Kids Picks, even if the person ordering is over the age of nine. Disney really doesn’t say no.
Having been to 50’s Prime Time, Mama Melrose, Brown Derby, and Sci-Fi two times each in the last six months or so, I think I’ve enjoyed Brown Derby and Mama Melrose the most. Brown Derby, which we’ll take a look at later, is a much more expensive proposition. Of the one-table-service-credit-restaurants, I like Mama’s the most with Sci-Fi coming in second. I haven’t had much luck on the service or food quality fronts at 50’s, though their deconstructed chicken pot pie was very good. For $4 – $10 more than a quick service meal for most entrees, I think Melrose is a good place to look for a Disney table service meal on more of a budget, particularly for dinner.
FASTPASS+ testing continues with another large “public” test at the end of June. Guests staying at the Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge resorts have been contacted over the last few days to see if they would be interested in participating. This is FASTPASS+ at Muppet Vision 3D.
Perhaps the only thing that’s impressed me about FASTPASS+ so far is the theming of the RFID scanners in front of each attraction. Here at Tower of Terror, the scanners don’t really look out of place. Sure they’re ruining our lives, but I feel like most cute things get a pass.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show…
No signs of FASTPASS+ at Studio Backlot Tour, Animation Academy, One Man’s Dream, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Legend of Jack Sparrow (which is getting a reduction in show length by about a third this week), but you can expect to FASTPASS+ installed just about everywhere else. That includes attractions that have no real use for FASTPASS, like American Idol Experience, Lights Motors Action, and Muppet Vision. As I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t the attractions that need the capacity – it’s the Park itself. There simply aren’t enough FASTPASS+ opportunities to go around for the attractions people actually want to experience. Assuming one ride per person, less than half of the people that visit Hollywood Studios on an average day can ride Toy Story Mania over the course of a 12 hour day. Assuming half of the capacity is allocated to FASTPASS+, we’re talking about less than a quarter of the people that pass through the turnstiles having a FASTPASS+ reservation for Toy Story. After the top-tier FASTPASS+ opportunities have been allocated, Disney still needs to have other options for guests who are unaware of how FASTPASS+ works or didn’t bother making reservations until much closer to their trip. That’s why FASTPASS+ is available at high capacity attractions that have not historically offered/had any use for FASTPASS. When the Smith party of five arrives at the Studios at 10:30am on December 23rd with zero reservations and dreams of riding Toy Story Mania, Disney is going to need to offer them something. They can’t simply be sold out of all opportunities.
I don’t talk much about FASTPASS+ because I’m more of a “wait and see” kind of guy. Almost all of the information available in the past couple of years has proven to be erroneous and I don’t see much use in worrying about things that aren’t going to happen. We should have a better idea about what the process will look like at the end of the month.
Switching gears again, it’s now lunchtime on May 17th. Kenny from CharacterLocator.com and KennyThePirate.com joins us. Kenny works tirelessly to bring you the most up to date character information available, including exact meet and greet times for individual characters.
Brown Derby is one of three signature restaurants inside the theme parks. The others being Monsieur Paul and Le Cellier. And you could technically include Cinderella’s Royal Table. While the dress code officially “applies” at Brown Derby, you’ll find that dress is much more casual than the other signature restaurants, particularly those at the Grand Floridian and Crescent Lake area (Yachtsman, Flying Fish). You can pretty much wear whatever and you won’t stand out. Actually, you’d be much more likely to stand out if you were actually dressed well.
“Dine in an authentic replica of the famous Brown Derby, a Tinseltown landmark steeped in glamour and glitz.”
“The walls are adorned with caricatures of famous faces—a tradition that began with the original restaurant.”
“And the upscale atmosphere harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.”
The scene at 2:10pm on Friday the 17th, which was a busy day for the first Friday of Star Wars Weekends. The restaurant was, at most, 25% full.
Brown Derby does not have a bar where you can sit. I wish they did. It would be awfully nice to pop in on a whim and order a drink and a couple of appetizers in a less formal setting. Speaking of the menu:
The drink menu here is more imaginative than most. I like to order a drink from the menu at restaurants and often find myself trying to decide whether the Whipped Cream Mojito or Cotton Candy Cosmopolitan sounds more manly. Here, you’ve got your choice of several bourbon, cognac, and gin drinks.
Kenny set this shot up for your viewing pleasure. Unlike a recent meal at Be Our Guest, waters arrived immediately and the bread even came out before the appetizers or main courses. It’s so magical!
The rolls served are similar to Mama Melrose. They may even be identical now that you mention it – warm and fluffy on the inside, accompanied by a whipped butter with some sort of spice or salt or something sprinkled on top.
I forget what it was exactly, but I’m a huge sucker for whipped butter and ate three rolls.
On the recommendation of our server, we started with the Blue Lump Crab Spring Rolls, Snow Crab Claw, and an Asian slaw with spicy Miso Aioli – $13. Did she merely recommend the Spring Rolls because they were the most expensive appetizer? Maybe, but they were light and crispy and stuffed with crab. The aioli also had a light spiciness, but wasn’t at all overpowering. We both enjoyed the dish and for the money, it was a reasonable way to begin the meal with two rolls cut into four pieces. The Claw served on the side also contained a couple large bites of crab.
Kenny ordered the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef with a Red Wine Reduction, topped with a Cabernet and Roasted Shallot Butter, over White Truffle Oil Wild Forest Mushroom Mashed Potato, Sauteed Haricot Verts, and Golden Beets – $42. White Truffle Oil Wild Forest Mushroom Mashed Potato. That’s a mouthful.
The Filet here is excellent and has been for years. If I could only have one steak on property, I’m not sure which I’d pick, but Brown Derby would be high up on that list. I think I prefer the presentation here to Monsieur Paul and Jiko. It’s better than Be Our Guest and Mama Melrose. I think you’d have to put it head to head with Yachtsman. Anyway, this is a ton of food with almost a dozen long green beans and a generous dollop of potatoes. If you’re looking to spend $40 on lunch or dinner around the Studios, you probably don’t want to look much further than this.
I ordered the Spit-roasted American Bison over Wilted locally grown Winter Greens, tossed in a Herb-Shallot Vinaigrette with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and a Cocoa Espresso Barbecue Sauce – $38.
Only served medium rare, the bison really is that pink. Also extremely tender, served with a sauce similar to the one (that used to be?) served with the Filet Mignon at California Grill. The bison has a more subtle flavor than the steak. I didn’t think it was at all “gamey.” Or at least not the bad kind of gamey. This was not the overwhelming portion of food that came with Kenny’s steak, but it seemed to be “just right” if not a bite or two too much. I’m not too enthusiastic about the wilted greens that accompanied the bison, but it certainly didn’t ruin the dish.
Service was very good. This is one of the most expensive restaurants inside the theme parks, but you also get what you pay for. I think you could say it’s worth the money over the likes of 50’s Prime Time and Mama Melrose. Of course, you could do better for your money off-property. The atmosphere may also not be what you’re looking for. While the food and prices are “fine Disney dining,” the restaurant is decidedly more casual than most other signatures. I don’t mind, but if you’re looking for a “special meal,” this may not be the setting you’re looking for.
In other Studios news (is there such a thing?), the Sci-Fi Dine-In menu has been updated with craft beer bottles. Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports8/scifi.jpg. The menu is otherwise unchanged. That’s a pretty decent selection of “craft beer” with an emphasis on my favorite variety – the IPA. The Session Lager would be similar to your run-of-the-mill lager, only it’s much more flavorful and refreshing. I’d personally order the Dogfish or Bear Republic.
The onslaught of souvie cups continues with this forgettable creation at Studio Catering Co.
Also in souvie land, these adorable Lightning McQueen buckets are available at most Studios quick service locations. I had to Google Jammy Sammy.
Pocahontas seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Her dresses have been available for years, but they were historically difficult to find. It seems like they’re being rolled out at more locations – this is the gift shop to the right of Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Why every little girl doesn’t want to be a Virginian Indian kidnapped and held for ransom until dying of an unknown disease at the age of 22 befuddles the mind.
Here at 6pm on May the 12th with Hollywood Studios being this website’s most recommended Park and TouringPlans’ only “Park to Avoid.”
When I arrived at 1:45pm, wait times were a touch longer, but this seems reasonable for peak crowds.
Since it was over a month ago, I won’t bore you with more crowd pictures, but it was a nice day to visit.
And one of the last nice days to visit until the end of August.