Now I know what you’re thinking: “Josh, I might not be a scientist trained to write about travel, but I’m guessing that Star Wars Land is going to be pretty popular. By my calculations, Disney’s Hollywood Cinemagine Adventure is going to need between 70 and 105 parking lot entrances to meet demand.” And as a scientist trained to write about travel, I would say that you are probably not far off base. Disney’s Hollywood Studios currently offers two parking lot “entrances.” Longtime readers are probably aware that the website does not throw around “air quotes” willy-nilly. But I would have to correct you because Hollywood Studios does not have two entrances. It has two exits.
This is because people inevitably arrive at the Studios, realize their mistake, and go Full Weasley, pivoting the family’s Ford Anglia around and driving it as fast as possible in whatever direction they deem to be the quickest way out. Thus, Hollywood Studios has to have two entrances or people would be driving madly through the swampland wondering out loud if Walt Disney ever visited Florida between the months of June and September and if he did, why on earth he would decide to build his Vacation Kingdom of the World in the second least habitable region of the United States. I really don’t know why they don’t put this thing on wheels and travel around the country, heading to the Pacific Northwest in the summer and returning to the southeast in the middle of November. Hey, it worked for the Ringling Brothers…at least until last year.
Beginning November 8th, the Studios will cut its parking lot entrances for guests down to just one with buses continuing to use one of the previous entrances and cast expected to use the other.
Logistically, the new entrance makes some sense and you’ll now be sent straight down the main drag of the parking lot rather than having to loop around endlessly looking for the start of the thing.
That’s the new auto plaza in the distance, which looks to have just five booths and ten lanes. That should be sufficient on a summer afternoon during a major recession, but one wonders what the backup is going to look like at 9am on December 28th of next year, just some number of weeks after Galaxy’s Edge debuts and on what is historically the busiest day of the year for the Parks not-named-Epcot-or-Magic Kingdom. I would imagine some number of people will be driving their Ford Anglias through this ravine and into the general vicinity of the parking lot, perhaps throwing a $50 bill in the general direction of an attendant, given the fact that preferred parking will now set you back that much.
Here’s the main auto plaza as it stands with four booths and eight lanes. Add the booth at the other entrance and the Studios will be operating the exact same number of lanes on the day Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens as it did earlier this year, when there were “literally” three rides running. That doesn’t sound like it will be particularly adequate. Of course, if all the people that say they’re giving up Disney forever because of a 30-cent price hike on Diet Cokes actually stay home, it may just be you and me rolling up in our respective Minnie Vans. Imagine if those Minnie Vans will be able to use the bus lanes and bypass this nonsense completely in a post-Star-Wars world. All of a sudden that $375 ride from the Polynesian doesn’t sound so bad.
I still laugh about the following post quoting a 20+ minute walk from the bus stop to the main entrance:
The walk is much closer to six minutes.
It’s also worth noting that the furthest bus stops in the new bus loop are right up against the temporary line of bus stops. In other words, the distance from the furthest bus stops to the main entrance will be about the same as what you’d experience today.
Your stop could also be much closer.
The walks will probably not be that much different than Magic Kingdom, where you’re in luck if you’re staying at Wilderness Lodge, which enjoys one of the closest berths to the entrance. On the other hand, walking to the Pop Century bus stop can take half a day or more for “an experienced and fast runner” I’m hearing.
The walk into the Park is the same as before marked by barriers on one side and temporary walls on the other. It’s not uncommon for a van full of tourists to drive right into the barrier, back up, and drive right back into the barrier in a futile attempt to get away from the Studios. They probably should have learned something from the velociraptors in Jurassic Park – you never try the same spot twice. I’m still testing the barriers for weaknesses.
A significant amount of work continues on the gondola system as it heads towards and, more importantly, away from the Park’s main entrance.
You can follow the pylons as they head into the station.
Hopefully the system comes off as more sleek than cumbersome.
Despite riding monorails a couple of times a week for the last eight years, the novelty still hasn’t worn off.
On the other hand, trying to ride one can be a very frustrating, very slow, very crowded, very odoriferous affair.
It remains to be seen just how (un)pleasant it will be to ride one of these un-air-conditioned swaying cupboards of destruction in the middle of a flash flood on an otherwise-sunny July afternoon.
A surprising amount of work continues during the day – there’s more than a dozen workers visible here at 12:11pm on October 30th.
There’s still quite a bit of work to be done, including paving the walkway to and from the gondola station.
Then there’s the whole hanging the wire and adding the gondolas thing.
Opposite the gondola station, it appears like we have a new, expanded disabled and preferred parking lot.
Closer to the entrance, the old bus loop still looks like this.
Fortunately, there is still a flower or two to be enjoyed.
We’re still waiting on Christmas at Hollywood Studios, which officially gets underway on November 8th with Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam taking over for the Star Wars fireworks show two days earlier on the 6th.
There was some amount of derision when the holiday stars went up on Sunset Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, but they sort of fit the area year-around anyway. That’s them hanging from the lampposts.
This is what we can expect from Sunset Season Greetings.
The preparations are relatively subtle with some laser beams going in around the Tower of Terror queue, visible there behind the wait time sign.
This screen, which I’m guessing was poached from the Transformers ride at Universal, will play a role in the holiday show as well.
Holiday prep work on Echo Lake isn’t yet visible, but the Christmas tree should be installed here along with a number of other decorations.
Including Holiday Gertie.
Seemingly-unrelated concrete work continues in front of the Chinese Theater.
That means no stage and thus, no A Galaxy Far, Far Away fashion show.
The show is scheduled to return November 18th, but we’ll see how things progress.
Elsewhere on the no-construction-is-visible front, there aren’t any noticeable changes on the outside of the Sunset Showcase building.
It will become the home of what should be a screen-based Lightning McQueen attraction opening early next year.
Disney Junior Live on Stage quietly closed in September to make way for “Disney Junior Dance Party!” The excitement is wholly theirs.
Yes, the same company that brought you Haunted Mansion and Flight of Passage brings you a dance party featuring a character named “DJ Deejay” who is mildly concerned that Mickey Mouse will not descend from the Hot Dog Hills in time to make the end of the show. Hopefully Mickey passed Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. Look for that to debut on December 22nd with a schedule very similar to the previous show. It looks like the first of the day will be scheduled right at 9:40am. I’m sure it won’t be awkward to cover the Dance Party! opening as a single adult male carrying a large camera.
Vampirina, who also joins guests at breakfast at Hollywood & Vine, has proven to be popular since her debut last month.
Part of that could be the time of year, but she should remain popular, particularly considering that this area will be a bigger draw come late December when the Dance Party! debuts. Vampirina will also be featured in that show.
There’s more work relating to the sign/entrance for the new show going on further down to the left, but Doc McStuffins continues to meet back there. You might remember that her meet at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Animal Kingdom has ended with that section of the Park currently closed.
Beginning January 18th, The Incredibles will take over what was Pixar Place in front of the old Toy Story Mania entrance, offering a meet and greet with Edna Mode, a dance party with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible along with Frozone, and an interactive scavenger hunt featuring Jack-Jack.
A preview for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has taken over for what looks like a complete bomb in “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Mike and Sulley will arrive in the meet and greet area in the back of Walt Disney Presents, taking over for Star-Lord and Groot. That meet should begin on January 18th – the same date as The Incredibles debut.
Walls still line the walkway heading to Pixar Place. The Joffrey’s stand, which remains open out of frame back on the left, is probably the happiest about The Incredibles arrival. Maybe someone will notice it again.
Elsewhere in inconsequential refurbishment updates, the section of one of the stores on Hollywood Boulevard that mostly offered Mickey Ear Hats and embroidery is walled off.
It might be Adrian and Edith’s Head to Toe.
The Tatooine Traders refurbishment continues. You might notice that the popular Build-A-Lightsaber stand, which often created a bit of a bottleneck at the entrance/exit, has been replaced with a rack of clothes.
You’ll find an expanded Lightsaber-creation-unit near the back of the store. This may make it a little easier to whisk kids through the shop before they notice its existence.
The “re-imagining” continues.
These mugs are apparently new.
That fact is just enough content to warrant its own blog post, I think.
Five mugs = five blog posts.
Elsewhere in Star Wars news, “Resistance” advertisements have gone up in Animation Courtyard.
Leading up to the Launch Bay.
In the Cargo Bay store adjacent to the Launch Bay, you’ll now see some Lucasfilm LTD merchandise produced for the Disney Parks:
Black Spire Outpost is the setting for Galaxy’s Edge and this pin and lanyard set is currently available to help get you in the mood to wait 300,000 hours to experience it. If you cinch the lanyard up tight enough maybe you can pass out and help pass the time.
Over at the Land itself, not much is visible over the walls from the ground. There’s a pretty cool interactive model of the area here that uses some aerial photos of the construction site. Here’s a recent aerial shot with more here and here and here.
Here we are at the future entrance for Galaxy’s Edge as we look towards Grand Avenue.
It’s pretty crazy to think that we’ll all be walking from the main entrance to what used to be the seating area for Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show to experience the new Star Wars Land. That’s quite the trek.
At least this pathway down from Tatooine Traders should be opened up. If Frontierland cast members are to be believed, the more space we fill in, the shorter the waits will be. If we all hug each other, perhaps we can get that wait to enter the land down to 299,999.98 hours.
While we continue to look forward to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds(?), we do have to remember that Toy Story Land failed to drive crowds and revenue higher at the Park, which has in turn caused a number of things to close.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is “not currently operating.” You’re not missing a whole lot here, of course, but it was something to do and you’d think that the entire operation could be run by one or two cast members. I wouldn’t even mind driving over occasionally and pressing the “play” button on my way to check in on fountain beverage pricing changes. You might remember when the website attempted to spend the entire day at the Studios without repeating any attractions earlier this year with Part 1 here and Part 2 here. It wasn’t as difficult as you might expect with the assortment of shows and characters.
Overall, our day looked like this:
- Toy Story Mania: 9am – 9:39am
- Meet Chewbacca: 9:45am – 9:53am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 10:01am – 10:19am
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 10:21am – 10:42am
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage: 11am – 11:24am
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away: 11:30am – 11:45am
- Star Tours with FastPass+: 11:51am – 12:08pm
- Brown Derby Lounge: 12:19pm – 1:10pm
- Streetmosphere: 1:12pm – 1:20pm
- Walt Disney Presents: 1:24pm – 1:40pm
- One Man’s Dream: 1:40pm – 1:55pm
- Star Wars Launch Bay Theater: 1:57pm – 2:12pm
- Meet Kylo Ren: 2:14pm – 2:20pm
- Frozen Ever After: 2:22pm – 3pm
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular with FastPass+: 3:15pm – 3:45pm
- Sci-Fi Dine-In: 4pm – 5:10pm
- Star Wars: Path of the Jedi: 5:20pm – 5:37pm
- Muppet Vision 3D: 5:40pm – 6:14pm
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 6:30pm – 7pm
- Red Carpet Dreams Mickey and Minnie Meet: 7:10pm – 8:05pm
- Fantasmic: 8:20pm – 9:30pm
- Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks: 9:37pm – 9:42pm
This photo captures the typical size of the audience.
Outside Path of the Jedi, there’s an advertisement for Muppet Vision 3D, but even that has seen reduced operating hours, running from just 10am-6pm with the current 9am opens and 8pm closes. Walt Disney Presents also operates only within those hours.
PizzeRizzo never really caught on, operating from just 11am to 4pm most days since it opened.
Now, it’s closed for “seasonal operation,” which may mean we see it open around Christmas or it may not be defrosting frozen pizzas again until Galaxy’s Edge opens.
The good(?) news is that you can still order the same pizzas at Catalina Eddie’s at Sunset Ranch Market, which is the quick service on the left as you walk towards Tower of Terror.
Of course, PizzeRizzo was more comfortable, both because of the air-conditioning and ample seating, but also because nobody was ever there.
Toy Story Land at least continues to “feel” crowded. The website’s editorial, “Is Toy Story Land a Dud?” was a controversial piece that ultimately came to the conclusion that the new land was not driving crowds nearly as much as Disney had anticipated or hoped.
“But Josh, it’s a minor land.” Well, yes it certainly turned out that way, but I don’t think it was supposed to be given the cost or the amount of advertising.
Pandora, which also brought with it two new rides, could have just as easily been a “minor land” if people cared about it as little as they do about Toy Story Land. Pandora is a big deal because people visiting decided it was a big deal. Toy Story Land could have been exactly the same, but somehow isn’t, despite the fact that it’s one of the most beloved franchises of all time.
But such is life when you don’t build the most obvious restaurant in the history of restaurants in Pizza Planet and what could have been an epic FAO-Schwarz-esque store in Big Al’s Toy Barn. Just imagine what they could have done with that. A small Christmas overlay is expected next week. Maybe they will put a Santa hat on the top of this kiosk.
We continue to wait for Star Wars Land.
We’ll check out some projects going on over at Magic Kingdom before we start holiday coverage posthaste.