We’re heading inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see what’s going on around the Park in front of the opening of (part of) Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on August 29th. In the last update, we focused on what might happen immediately following the Star Wars opening along with a rundown of what’s happening outside the Park with the expansion of bag check, the new tram loop, and the eventual arrival of the Skyliner, among other things.
Mickey’s of Hollywood and Keystone Clothiers, which in tandem comprise the entirety of the shopping opportunities on the left side of Hollywood Boulevard, remain closed for refurbishment.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on inside, but both spaces have been gutted almost in their entirety.
Over the last 30+ years, Disney has probably received some intelligence on how to reconfigure the stores to maximize sales.
Keystone Clothiers is particularly narrow and you may find yourself spending more time trying to weasel your way past the bloggers taking awkward pictures than actually taking in the merchandise that you will also see in 37 other stores during your trip.
Frankly, I wouldn’t mind a little more room to work my magic, either. I’m guessing we’ll see some changes similar to what we saw with World of Disney at Disney Springs – improved sightlines, where it’s easier to see the merchandise that you’re interested in from afar, and a “less is more” approach to the layouts. Or, they could just be seeing how much Star Wars stuff they can pile in there.
There’s exactly one more Disney After Hours event at Hollywood Studios on the schedule with Friday July 26th as the last date on the current calendar.
You can pull up my review of the event here, should you have interest in what you “missed out on.”
That event, along with the Early Morning Magic event that I reviewed here, will be suspended in the wake of Galaxy’s Edge.
You would think that Galaxy’s Edge would be ripe for an upcharge event, but we may not see one until Rise of the Resistance opens on December 5th. Until then, Galaxy’s Edge is home to just one ride in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. With the Extra, Extra Magic Hours at the Studios running from 6am to 9am every day from September 1st through November 2nd, an early morning event is out of the question during the first two months of operation. But come December, it seems plausible that Galaxy’s Edge would be added to the Disney After Hours lineup with an increase in the price, which is already $129/person with no discounts for kids.
I’m not sure how viable an after-hours event would be in Galaxy’s Edge exclusively, considering a big part of the experience there is shopping at the various stalls and eating at Ronto Roasters. An all-inclusive event, which perhaps could include one lightsaber-building-experience per person, would easily eclipse $500. Even with Pandora’s success at Animal Kingdom, Disney never added a paid Early Morning Magic event there, which could have included breakfast at Satu’li Canteen. People would have gladly paid $79 per person for early, exclusive access to Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. If anything, the fact that Disney somehow never added that event is evidence of their own restraint – that they may not be trying to wring every last buck out of us. On the other hand, with Early Morning Magic at the Studios on hiatus, we may see the announcement of a similar event coming soon to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Everyone has to balance the books, even when the pages show a 5+ billion dollar profit every quarter. Pandora is part of Disney After Hours, though.
An eventual paid morning event at Galaxy’s Edge seems more likely, considering the version that only includes access to Toy Story Land with breakfast at Backlot Express has proven popular at the $79/adult and $69/child price point. With Toy Story Land’s proximity to Galaxy’s Edge, bundling the two Lands together would be easy if that’s the direction Disney wanted to go. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the announcement of some paid events in the coming months.
The Disney Guest Experience Team, as identified by their bright blue umbrellas, continues to help guests with a variety of problems. If I was in charge, I’d just hand people a card that says, “It’s Hollywood Studios. ‘Not great, not terrible’ is exactly what we’re going for here,” but I was not polled before the group’s creation. The Guest Experience Team began as a Magic Kingdom pilot program before moving over to the Studios earlier this year. Much more recently, they’ve taken up residence inside Animal Kingdom in three locations.
Here they are on the walk into Toy Story Land. “Yes, we really did build a land designed for kids with three rides that all carry height requirements.”
And outside Tower of Terror.
At the Studios, my favorite thing about the Experience Team is that they wear blue shirts, just like the bartenders at the various outdoor bars. I’m not sure who would be of more help, but I’m leaning towards the Double Vodka Soda.
Each location also displays the current wait times:
The screen sort of reminds me of high school when your paper needed to be eight pages, but you only had four pages written so you triple spaced it and changed the font size to 14, hoping the teacher was born yesterday. Above is from 2:38pm with waits that are just about as high as they’ll get all day.
Disney unveiled a new logo on May 1st, 2019, the 30th anniversary of the Park. According to Disney, it “emphasizes the transformation Disney’s Hollywood Studios is undertaking. Look close and you’ll see the new logo features BB-8 from Star Wars, Woody and Mickey himself.” If you have to “look close” to see Mickey and the friends that Bob Iger has purchased him, each of which is larger than any of the letters that make up the logo, then you might consider corrective lenses in the near future.
Galaxy’s Edge giveth and Galaxy’s Edge taketh away.
The March of the First Order stepped off for the last time on July 6th.
Fortunately(?), Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away is still offered six or seven times daily with the schedule on the screen up above. The incredible summer heat tends to keep people from waiting more than a couple of minutes before a show starts, which is nice since you can do the same and still find good spots up close.
If you’d like to get an even better look at the characters, head to Animation Courtyard outside of Star Wars Launch Bay six or seven minutes before the Galaxy Far, Far Away show is scheduled to begin.
Most of the characters who participate in the show, including Chewbacca, Rey, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Kylo Ren, and Captain Phasma, will walk right by as they head towards the stage. Once they pass, you can follow them and watch the show.
Also, if a show is canceled due to inclement weather, head into Star Wars Launch Bay and you may catch a rare opportunity to get a picture with Boba Fett or another character who participates in the show. Rey will sometimes meet alongside Chewbacca as well.
Speaking of the Launch Bay, Darth Vader will return for meet and greets in place of Kylo Ren beginning on August 29th, which is not coincidentally the day that Galaxy’s Edge opens. It makes some sense since Kylo Ren will occasionally appear on Batuu. It makes even more sense because Darth Vader is significantly more popular than Kylo Ren. The wait to meet Darth was consistently twice as long as Kylo, in large part because the character is such an iconic villain.
At least in the immediate aftermath of Galaxy’s Edge opening, the Launch Bay will continue to operate inside Animation Courtyard. It seems silly to complain about an expansive, air-conditioned location with three quality meet and greets continuing to exist, but the Launch Bay is a considerable distance away from the new Land and it probably would have made more thematic sense for the characters to meet within Galaxy’s Edge. In Disneyland, Chewbacca roams the new Land, so we can assume that we’ll see the same in Florida. That hasn’t stopped Disney from continuing his meet and greet in the Launch Bay post-Galaxy’s-Edge. Pulling Kylo at the same time, particularly with just a few months until Episode IX comes out, seems a bit odd then. They’re obviously not too concerned about the same character showing up in two different places. Of course, we may not see Chewbacca inside Disney World’s version of Galaxy’s Edge. This is still Florida after all.
These pictures are all from Friday July 19th, here at 3:21pm with just a dozen or so people waiting for BB-8, which translates to a five-ish minute wait.
There didn’t look to be too much excitement going on in the Launch Bay.
But these “Acrylic Layered Designs” looked neat. Perhaps not $225 each neat, though.
You may want to take advantage of one of the wine opportunities with your bottle(s) sent to the front of the Park for easy collection. Compared to the price that you’d pay for the same bottle online, the Sommita Pinot Noir and Skywalker Rose are about $7 more per bottle at the Launch Bay, while the Sommita Chardonnay is $15 more and the Skywalker Pinot Noir is a whopping $30 more. That makes the Sommita Pinot your best bet. It’s a smooth, mellow red that tastes like wine.
The number of oversize figurines you can purchase has been scaled back with just hipster Darth with his back towards us making the cut.
I’m not sure if this person is fed up or is getting up or just wants to know what is going on.
Maybe not by choice, not that I would know anything about that myself.
The Lucasfilm Ltd. merchandise is still available. Occasionally, you may see some signed bottles of wine on the shelves. Rest assured, they’re not signed by George Lucas or Mark Hamill or even me. Rather, it’s probably a Tom Johnson signature, who is the Executive Director of the vineyard as of January of this year. Nobody asked for it, but you can still have it, just like a screen-based, slow-moving bus ride themed to Fast and the Furious. If you’re a little less into wine, then there’s also olive oil on the bottom shelf coming in at $35. Unfortunately, it’s just the Marin, whereas I prefer the Umbria, which is a little more buttery.
It will be interesting to see how much spillover we see from Galaxy’s Edge into other retail outlets at the Park. Disney was at one time adamant about the fact that Pandora merchandise would only be available within the Land, before slowly disseminating it to the likes of Island Mercantile. We may never be able to put a $200 lightsaber together here, but I would guess that some or most of this generic merchandise will be on the way out come August 29th.
You can always take this guy home for something like $4,700.
For a more economical option, the R2 unit is $20 less than C-3PO.
Back outside the Launch Bay, Animation Courtyard is home to four Disney Junior Meet and Greets, each of which currently has a very short line just before 3:20pm.
Fancy Nancy is the newest character to meet guests. It’s a pretty cute meet as she walks over to the line to greet the next guests, then walks them over to her house for a picture, and then walks them out before saying goodbye. If you’re wearing any accessories, don’t be surprised if Nancy adjusts them so they’re at their fanciest.
Vampirina is up next.
Then Pluto and Doc McStuffins. The characters either meet from 9:30am to 6:45pm or from 9:35am to 6:40pm. Waits of about ten minutes per character are common. They’re usually longest during the 20 minutes following a Disney Junior Dance Party! show. If a line is longer than 25 people, consider coming back later.
Across the way at the In Character store, you’ll find a Fancy Nancy makeover station.
“Two” seems to be the magic number at Hollywood Studios as that’s how many makeover chairs you’ll find. It’s basically glorified face-painting with three designs available for $20 to $22 each, but the kids don’t have to know that. I didn’t when I got my face painted and it “felt” a little more upscale – like I was in the Studios version of Sephora.
We’ll head down what was once Mickey Avenue towards Walt Disney Presents with Toy Story Land down to the right and The Incredible Celebration still going on straight ahead. To our left, we have some walls up around the Chinese Theater in front of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opening sometime in “Spring 2019.”
Here’s what it looks like from up above.
As someone who lived through the announcement of Hyperion Wharf at Downtown Disney, only for those plans to be shelved and Disney Springs to sprout up in its place, not a whole lot surprises me anymore.
But I find it shocking that Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway won’t be open in time for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, considering everyone’s thought process was that the attraction would be a way for the Studios to soak up some of the excessive crowds arriving for Galaxy’s Edge. Fortunately(?), it looks like those crowds may not materialize, at least immediately after the opening of Smugglers Run on August 29th.
Instead, the Railway opening could follow Galaxy’s Edge and the Skyliner by six or more months, opening sometime in February or March of next year. I’ve heard all sorts of reasons for the delay. It could be problems with the storyline. It could be problems with manufacturing the sets. It could be problems with the supply of construction workers and equipment. It could be that Disney figured out, albeit too late, that Galaxy’s Edge wasn’t going to be the overwhelming whirlwind that many predicted and they could get away with not opening the ride until spring break of next year, in turn saving 6+ months of operating costs. The good news about Disney rumors is that unless the company deems you to be particularly dishonest, you can say just about whatever you want about just about anything.
I could say that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is delayed due to Mickey being unavailable for the grand opening due to a union dispute. Maybe Minnie broke up with him after being together for 80+ years with no ring to show for it and no longer wants to be associated with him. Maybe there’s a shortage of polka dot fabric. You can pretty much say anything you want about it, other than the ride is being replaced with a marionette show. That’s off limits.
Bust! I choose BUST!
Back to Not Mickey Avenue, you have a rare opportunity to see Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream inside Walt Disney Presents. Typically, a movie preview is playing instead.
Somewhat surprisingly, we never saw a preview for the live action version of The Lion King, which came out in theaters on July 19th.
There isn’t much new inside Walt Disney Presents.
You do have the opportunity to look at a few maquettes.
The jolly holiday dress also remains on display.
Mike and Sulley, who meet daily from 10am to 6pm, remain the most popular characters outside of Woody in Toy Story Land, with waits that are typically 25 to 40 minutes. You’ll find their line at the very back of Walt Disney Presents.
At least the line and the character meet is air-conditioned. To minimize the wait as much as possible, I’d get in line around 5:30pm. Theoretically, everyone in line at 6pm will be able to meet the characters, but you may not want to risk it if they’re an important part of your day.
Just a little over five weeks left.
In the next part, we’ll press further and move on to a Municiberg city block and Toy Story Land.