I thought I would start a “new series” where I take you along for the ride as I wander the theme parks aimlessly trying to come up with information to keep the site relevant in 2k11. Future iterations will likely be more focused.
Today, against my better judgement, we are off to Hollywood Studios. The May Crowd Calendar indicates that it’s the worst Park to visit, going so far as to state: “You won’t want to be anywhere near the Studios if you don’t care about seeing Fantasmic.” Hollywood Studios is “not recommended” for a number of reasons today. First, we have short hours and no evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom because of Grad Nights. That means a lot of people will be waiting until tomorrow to visit or will have visited last Thursday when it was open longer and featured both Wishes fireworks and Main Street Electrical Parade. Thus, they will be headed elsewhere today. Second, the morning Extra Magic Hour will attract a lot of Disney resort guests that have been putting the Studios off for later in their trip. Third, we have a rare Fantasmic scheduled in the evening. With only three opportunities for visitors to see Fantasmic this week, many of them will naturally visit today, especially with Magic Kingdom closing so early. We also have the longer hours of operation to go with it, which will lure a lot of people who tend to visit the Parks whenever they’re open longest. What does all of this translate to exactly? Let’s have a look.
First off, a little bit of background on Saturdays at Hollywood Studios. More often than not, the Park with morning Extra Magic Hour will not be recommended. As we have all come to learn, Extra Magic Hours attract a lot of the 75,000 or so Disney resort guests that have access to them on any given day. This routinely makes the Parks that are offering Extra Magic Hours busier than they would be otherwise. We see this week in and week out at Epcot, which is almost always at its busiest when it’s “featuring” evening Extra Magic Hours. The same is true on Wednesdays at Animal Kingdom for morning Extra Magic Hour and most often at Magic Kingdom when it’s hosting morning Extra Magic Hour (and occasionally evening Extra Magic Hours too).
Hollywood Studios is a little bit different now that Disney has cut down on the number of showings of Fantasmic. Fantasmic is extremely popular and the fact that it’s only shown two or three times most weeks has funneled visitors towards the dates that it is scheduled. Couple that with longer hours of operation, and we have seen that Hollywood Studios is actually busier on Fantasmic nights than it is on most days with Extra Magic Hours. On top of that, morning Extra Magic Hour isn’t as popular as evening Extra Magic Hours. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details in this brief(?) summary, but suffice it to say that most Disney resort guests prefer to attend evening Extra Magic Hours. In other words, we have at least three days each week that Hollywood Studios will be busier than on morning Extra Magic Hour day – at least two Fantasmic days and evening Extra Magic Hours day. Sometimes, there will be four or five days busier than a day with just morning Extra Magic Hour. That’s why you may see Hollywood Studios recommended on a Saturday with morning Extra Magic Hour, especially in the fall during Mickey’s Party season when Magic Kingdom and Epcot are so popular on Saturdays.
Today, however, we have the quadruple whammy of Fantasmic, longer hours of operation, no evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom, and no evening Extra Magic Hours at any of the other Parks. The Studios should be pretty busy, despite the below average overall crowd level.
I will spare you the gory details of my morning and we will pick things up at 8:45am as I pulled up to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in my chariot (aka Disney bus).
8:45am outside Hollywood Studios. Not soooooooo bad.
One of the problems of going to the Park with morning Extra Magic Hour when you aren’t a Disney resort guest is the fact that you won’t be allowed to go through the turnstile until 9am. On a day without morning Extra Magic Hour, Disney would allow you to go through the turnstile prior to 9am and line up for “rope drop.” Of course, there’s also the fact that a couple thousand Disney resort guests are already there in front of you by 9am, even if they don’t arrive until 8:53am. In the distance, you can see signs that say “Extra Magic Hour Guest Entrance” above the opening. If you were a Disney resort guest arriving at 8:53am, you could go through that turnstile and skip ahead of the rest of us. I was about 12 people back in line and didn’t enter the Park until 9:06am and they weren’t even running the fingerprint scan. There’s always one person in front of you that wasn’t informed they needed a ticket – trust me.
Click below to continue reading, as it stipulates.
The crowds streaming in ahead of me at 9:08am
Wait times billboard as of 9:10am. It’s located at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, off to the right. You might think that in 2k11 an 80 billion dollar worldwide media conglomerate would use something other than chalk to record wait times, but you would be wrong. I guess it adds a little bit of “authenticity” to the experience, though I doubt they used much chalk on Cars 2 or Tron: Legacy.
A beautiful day over the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The weather is getting hotter moving into next week. Highs are expected to be in the low to mid 90s. Luckily, today was gorgeous.
In case you’re wondering what I’m doing here (other than keeping the site relevant for 2k11), my main focus was gathering images of all the menus for the website. Don’t worry, the high resolution shot is more than readable.
And seating areas
Crowds incoming at precisely 9:30am
Pixar Place crowds outside Toy Story Midway Mania at 9:33am
FASTPASS return time at 9:35am for Toy Story Mania – 4:00pm to 5:00pm. Remember when I tell you to go straight here every single day on the Crowd Calendar? That’s why.
50 minute standby wait at 9:35am. Yep.
Next time I’m going to order just the pickle on my credit card.
You won’t see a lot of people on the Streets of America until after 11am. You may want to get over to Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground if it’s of interest to the kids. It gets much hotter and more crowded after 11:30am or so.
Pretzel Garden – not the place to sprint to at rope drop. I have never had a pretzel from here though. Maybe they are only open from 9:00am to 9:05am and the joke’s on me.
Admittedly, I am a huge dork. But wouldn’t it be cool if this actually was a library, full of plush chairs, books, computers, and the Internet? As far I know it’s just a facade. I’ve banged on the concrete plenty and no one has ever let me in. You might have more luck.
Not a whole lot going on outside Star Tours.
The poor girl touringplans.com has stationed outside Star Tours all day waiting for soft openings that aren’t coming. I would never make you do that. Wait, what are you doing tomorrow?
American Idol Experience auditions take place behind the American Idol Experience theater during regular Park hours. There may be a person stationed outside the theater entrance out front with a sign that says “auditions” too.
10:00am and the wait is only up to 60 minutes. Could be worse. FASTPASS return time is 5:25pm – 6:25pm.
People going into Prince Caspian in droves at 10:05am? I always feel bad for people in line for this attraction. I went ahead and walked through just to make sure they hadn’t added any redeeming qualities since yesterday and lo and behold. They hadn’t.
This may be my favorite invention in all of Disney World. It’s a timer that counts down to the start of the next One Man’s Dream film. They also make announcements over the intercom too. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of seating. I always thought they should use this space for some kind of overflow seating for Fantasmic with a live feed of the show. Might not be plausible. I highly recommend One Man’s Dream and the accompanying movie. The theater is extremely comfortable and well air-conditioned. You’ll also have a better idea of where some of the popular Disney jargon comes from – WED, Marceline, etc.
10:39am. Still a lot of people coming in on the ave.
A non-scheduled meet and greet with Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore. Chip and Dale were also out nearby.
I got to meet Chewbacca. We are friends now so if you have anything bad to say about the website I am going to tell him you are being mean to me!!
Tow-Mater meet and greet. “He” drives around and talks. Very cute.
Pixar Place at 10:59am. It’s not like the crowds are going to be lower or the wait time is going to go down later in the afternoon, so if you don’t like the wait at 9:30am, you’re really not going to like it at 11am.
Up to a respectable 70 minutes. FASTPASS return time up to 8:30pm – 9:30pm.
FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania ran out at precisely 11:15am. I don’t think the guy that got the last one appreciated the fact that I yelled “THAT GUY GOT THE LAST ONES!” but hey, I’m a jerk what can I say.
The crowds for the 11:00am Disney Channel Rocks show. No problem seeing, at least if you’re 6’2″ and don’t really care if you can see or not. You’d probably want to get here about 10 minutes early if you want to get a front row seat for the kids.
Pardon the interruption, but I am about to go Disney Food Blog on you. This is the menu for Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, which is a quick service location located inside of the boat on Echo Lake across from American Idol Experience and close to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. I thought I would give it a whirl since it’s been a while and I’m not crazy about most of the other Studios’ quick services. I like Toy Story Pizza Planet and Starring Rolls Cafe, but sometimes you’ve got to mix it up a little. The menu isn’t extensive by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a bit of variety depending on your mood. The option to add a chocolate shake is hard to beat too.
The left side of the boat that houses Min and Bill’s.
I ordered the Frankfurter in a Pretzel Roll, which also came with a small bag of chips. The pretzel crust was delicate and chewy with a pronounced pretzel flavor. Unfortunately, the dijon mustard didn’t add much to the mix. There wasn’t a lot of it and the flavor didn’t pop like you might expect from a spicy mustard. Luckily, regular mustard and ketchup were readily available. The kettle-style chips were what you would expect – crunchy, salty, and sort of potato-y.
The inside of the pretzel roll.
Overall, I would recommend Min and Bill’s if the menu sounds appealing and you’re not in the mood for pizza or a sandwich. It certainly beats the offerings at Backlot Express, ABC Commissary, Studio Catering Company, and all of the other smaller kiosks and stands. While the girl working assured me it’s open every day, that’s not necessarily the case.
Toy Story Mania still climbing. It would top out in the triple digits.
Studio Catering Company seating is pretty full at 12:15pm
Wait times board at 12:50pm. Definitely not where you would want to be today.
All in all, Hollywood Studios was everything that it should have been – busier than any other day this week. With the below-average overall crowd level, it certainly wasn’t impossibly busy, but it was certainly the busiest Park, relatively speaking (technically, there are almost always more people in Magic Kingdom and Epcot than Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom). I was at the Studios on Thursday and the wait at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster was posted as 10 minutes at 6pm, but there was actually no wait other than the time it took for the next pre-show to begin. We’ll take another in-depth look at Hollywood Studios on a recommended day and see how much things can change.
Finally, let’s compare wait times at Hollywood Studios, our least recommended Park, and Magic Kingdom, our most recommended Park at 4pm.
Backlot Tour: 30 minutes
Great Movie Ride: 20 minutes
Rock N Roller Coaster: 80 minutes
Tower of Terror: 60 minutes
Toy Story Mania: 90 minutes
Big Thunder Mountain: 20 minutes
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 15 minutes
Haunted Mansion: 10 minutes
It’s A Small World: 10 minutes
Peter Pan’s Flight: 30 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean: 10 minutes
Space Mountain: 20 minutes
Splash Mountain: 25 minutes
Town Square Mickey: 10 minutes
Town Square Princesses: 10 minutes
Winnie the Pooh: 20 minutes