We’ll head out to Hollywood Studios on the evening of March 17th, 2013. This is exactly one week after the last time we visited. Hollywood Studios was the most recommended Park both times. Last week, the overall crowd level was a “9.” Today, it’s a “7.” If you really want to confuse things, the crowd levels on this website sort of work like a bell curve, where there are more fours, fives, and sixes than there are 1s, 2s, 9s, and 10s. That’s an attempt at showing the extremes on either end of the spectrum. It also means there’s more of a difference between a “7 and a 9” than there is between a “4 and a 6.” I don’t know if this makes mathematical sense, but this website isn’t run by a fake statistician out of Ontario. You get what you pay for.
Walls remain up at most of the Studios’ turnstiles. This is the last major chunk of turnstiles still closed. We’ll visit Animal Kingdom next, where there are no walls, just like there are no walls at Magic Kingdom. Epcot still has a few turnstiles behind walls. Beginning yesterday, March 20th, Annual Passholders could begin exchanging their Tyvek (paper) Annual Passes for the plastic RFID tickets that work on any turnstile. I’m happy to report that it looks like that’s going off without a hitch. For you Premier Passport Passholders, it sounds like you’re going to have to wait a little longer. Disney forgot about you.
It’s 5:45pm, which is about an hour later than our last arrival. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. The wait times haven’t been updated in at least a half hour, as you can see the FASTPASS return times are for 6pm – 7pm. Which is impossible, since the earliest they could be right now is 6:25pm – 7:25pm. By the time we get over to Tower of Terror at 7:30pm, the posted wait will be 20 minutes. But as I mentioned a few weeks ago, Tower of Terror is having some serious problems and often runs at half capacity (or worse).
Word on the street is that Disney Channel Rocks! and the 3pm Parade, Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! will have their last performances on April 6th. There are no replacements, meaning the Studios will not have a daytime Parade after April 6th.
I teased a major announcement last week. I probably shouldn’t have. I don’t like to discuss rumors because so many turn out to be untrue. And the, “Well, things changed” excuse is as lame as it gets. Two days after I mentioned a major announcement coming in the first week of May, Disney dated a two-day media event coming up on April 25th – 26th, or the week before. These “media events” are hit or miss. From the description of the event, it sounds like media fluff. But at the same time, it seems unlikely Disney would fly in people only to discuss the Mine Train Coaster for the upteenth time and a Monsters University promotion this summer. Disney is about to throw 500+ million dollars at the Studios. The question is when they’ll announce. And that’s a tougher date to pin down.
Last week, the line for Great Movie Ride was lined up all the way outside. Today, it looks like we have a straight shot.
This is a new addition to the queue.
A chess table.
Let the Wookie win.
I wish Disney had more movie paraphernalia available for guests to look at. Hollywood Studios would be a lot more interesting if they had a warehouse or two full of movie stuff that was changed out every few months. Imagine being able to walk through Pirates of the Caribbean movie sets or look at costumes from whatever that new Wizard of Oz movie is called. The Orlando Science Center has a traveling Star Wars exhibit that people are willing to spend $27/head to experience at the moment. Just imagine all the stuff Disney has in the vault.
Great Movie Ride will have to do. It’s a walk-on with around 15 people in line.
One more rumor for you just because I like people telling me how stupid I am and how terrible this website is and how I’m desperate for traffic which is why I don’t promote the site at all and don’t have any advertisements and hide a one sentence teaser in the middle of a post with 7,000 words and 108 pictures. Instead of Great Movie Ride getting a modern makeover, I’d look for it to get a (Turner) Classic Movie makeover.
A few more:
Two letters out! Another example of terrible maintenance!
More peeling posters!
I keep meaning to watch White Heat.
If you do want to discuss broken effects, and I know it’s your favorite thing, this car is supposed to pull forward with the gangsters shooting from inside. Instead, it just sits there the entire time.
Alien – probably the best scene in the ride, but it’s kind of a shame it’s included.
Alien is the only thing keeping this from being a perfectly family friendly attraction. It even freaks me out a little bit. I’d stroke out if I was seven.
Oz the Great and Powerful is doing incredibly well in theaters, despite mixed reviews, much like Alice in Wonderland.
250+ million worldwide so far.
FASTPASS+ at American Idol Experience LOL. It seems like Disney is planning to use a lot of wheelchair/ECV ramps for FASTPASS+ admittance. I’m not sure where the 19 people that opt for a FASTPASS+ at American Idol Experience will congregate prior to the start of the show. I’ll probably just stand there shaking my head.
We walked on around 6:25pm with no wait. The standby wait had bumped up to a whopping ten minutes after we disembarked, but we went on again with no wait.
Fighting the crowds over to Muppet Vision 3D.
The posted wait was 60 minutes, despite the cast member out front letting people know that it was two minutes to show time.
More FASTPASS+. More head shaking. As I mentioned a month or two ago, the problem with FASTPASS+ is that it isn’t a capacity-increasing device. The capacity is the capacity. So with a ride like Toy Story Mania, there might be 4,500 total FASTPASS+ times available over the course of a 10 hour day. And 25,000 people visit the Studios on a given day. So once those run out (quickly), Disney has to have other options, which is the reason why FASTPASS+ is popping up at attractions that “don’t need it.” Yes, FASTPASS+ is completely unnecessary at Muppet Vision, American Idol Experience, Great Movie Ride, and others, but they’re only added so Disney has something to offer people who show up without any reservations. Or as we’ll probably see in the future, people staying off-property.
I really like Muppet Vision. Once or twice a year is enough, but it’s certainly fun!
I think this is the first time I’ve actually heard a cast member say, “Sit wherever you want.” Usually they’re hellbent on yelling, “EVERYONE PLEASE MOVE TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ROW” even if you’re the only one in the auditorium. Enjoy your show in the front row on the far right.
You’ve probably seen the Muppets. If you haven’t – you should. It blends 3D animation, in-theater animatronics, and Sweetums.
And the Swedish Chef. Note that they don’t call him the Swiss Chef.
He’s armed, dangerous, and takes sides. Like Great Movie Ride, Muppet Vision is best saved for the afternoon or evening.
7:30pm wait times, as inaccurate as they may be. We’re headed down toward Tower of Terror, where the posted wait will actually be 20 minutes. We’re joined again by Craig and family. You may recognize him as the moderator of the Photography forum.
As I’ve mentioned before, virtually all of the Studios’ quick services shut down early, often three or four hours before close. Pizza Planet, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Company and others all shut down at 5:30pm with the 8pm close.
That creates longer lines at the two quick services that are virtually guaranteed to operate through close – Sunset Ranch Market and ABC Commissary.
The 20 minute wait at Tower of Terror. Craig and family had pulled FASTPASSes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster shortly before I arrived, so we headed over there to use them.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s guitar scrim is down. We arrived at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 7:35pm and disembarked at 7:50pm. We’re headed to a 7:55pm reservation at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, but we could have theoretically gone back on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or over to Tower of Terror for one last ride. Assuming we got on Tower of Terror, we would have been able to do Great Movie Ride, Star Tours twice, Muppet Vision, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror in just over two hours. That’s with a cumulative wait of around 15 minutes including all attractions. That’s the way you want to orchestrate a late arrival. Pull FASTPASSes for a major attraction that still has them available upon arrival, then visit minor/high capacity attractions until 60 to 90 minutes before close. Then head over to the major attractions when fewer people are around. In the Studios’ case, people either leave or head over to Fantasmic at the end of the night.
Craig had invited me out to dinner that afternoon and I popped online to see what reservations were available. There were dinner reservations for all of the Studios’ restaurants, including Fantasmic packages for Brown Derby and Hollywood & Vine for that evening.
Like most Disney restaurants, Sci-Fi offers one menu all day. Thank the Dining Plan. But it also means some inexpensive items appear on the dinner menu as well, including three entrees under $13.
Standard 350% markup for wine and a boring cocktail list.
Sci-Fi is located in between the Writer’s Stop and ABC Commissary in kind of an awkward location near Star Tours and the Streets of America. The lobby of the restaurant is as unassuming as it gets with just this little kiosk greeting guests. Along with some movie posters:
Yes, these are all real things.
The nondescript entry sets you up perfectly for one of Disney’s best-themed restaurants. It’s like a real drive-in!
With an authentic snack bar (kitchen) in the back.
Seating may be described as a bit awkward. Each car has three rows that each seat two people. If you have a party of six, you can forget about the people in the front seats talking to the people in the back seats without relaying information through the middle row. And if the people in the front row want to talk to the people behind them, they’ll have to turn around to do so. There are also some picnic tables in the back that would make conversation easier, but they lose some of the ambiance. Seating shouldn’t be a deal breaker, just be aware of how it’s set up.
While you dine, movie trailers play on-screen in the front of the theater.
Being mostly 1950s B movie horror flicks, the trailers are more campy than scary. I don’t think there was anything here that would startle or offend most sensibilities, but you’re welcome to weigh in if you feel differently.
I started with what turned out to be a $4.99 Chocolate Shake. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I had ordered the Oreo. Nevermind, it was an old-style shake made with thick ice cream and blended well. It was barely possible to drink through the straw, which is the perfect consistency in my opinion. Recommended, though it was not served with a spoon.
We started with the $8.49 Crispy Onion Rings with Horseradish Sauce. This is one of those rings. There were probably a dozen more, most larger than this. They were lightly fried and had a crisp onion flavor – nothing overpowering. The horseradish sauce seemed tangier than the one served at 50s Prime Time Cafe, but that may just be my perception at the time. They were very good, but probably not awe-inspiring. I would like to try the Fried Pickles and Ribs if anyone else wants to go.
The lighting in Sci-Fi is terrible and I forgot my flash, so just pretend like these are iPhone 2 cell phone pictures or it’s 1992 or something. I ordered the Picnic Burger – Flame-broiled Angus Burger Patty topped with Grilled Hot Dog, Sauerkraut, and Sauteed Onions, crowned with a Pickle Spear served with a choice of Cucumber Salad or French Fries – $15.99.
haha. Wow that looks gross. Wow.
Let’s scroll a little bit.
Okay. The server asked how I wanted my burger cooked, which seemed like a good sign. I replied, “medium,” and she seemed to oblige. The burger came well done, dry, and mostly flavorless. It reminded me of a Dairy Queen patty that was cooked to death and then broiled again for good measure. The burger was begging for a slice of cheese. As it stands, it was okay. The sauerkraut, meat, and hot dog combine to make for a very salty meal, especially when you’re adding 100% of your day’s sodium from the pickle on top of the french fries. It was a little much.
The fries were good though. Disney would be wise to serve these at their quick service outlets. Overall, it was worth $5 more than an ABC Commissary burger, which is really what we’re talking about here. You get the addition of the ambiance, a smarter burger, and better fries, along with a wider options of drinks and free refills if you go for a fountain beverage.
Craig ordered The Reuben – Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island Dressing on Marble Rye Bread served with Pickle Spear and choice of Cucumber Salad or French Fries – $12.49. Pictured is only half. This looked to be a hearty sandwich, but Craig thought it lacked flavor and the corned beef was on the dry side. Still, for two bucks more than a quick service sandwich, it’s a good value – especially with better fries.
There basically isn’t even a point in showing this disgusting looking glob of Grilled Chicken served with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Carrots, and Sliced Apples – $8.99. This is one of the new “Mickey Checks” meals for kids and I give Craig’s daughter, Courtney, credit for trying it. She described it as very good and one of the better meals she’s had on property. It certainly is a healthier seeming meal than your typical Mickey burger and fries.
Craig’s wife, Tammy, ordered the Build Your Own Angus Chuck Burger – $14.99 and thought it was one of the best burgers she’s had on property – even better than the defunct Le Cellier Burger. Going cheese may be better than going hot dog.
Overall, Sci-Fi was satisfying. I would have been more impressed had the burger been prepared to spec, but that’s probably more of a bad luck thing. The ambiance is certainly a lot of fun and destroys what you’d find next door at ABC Commissary. I don’t have any qualms about recommending Sci-Fi if you’re looking for a fun, inexpensive meal. Just be aware that the food isn’t going to garner a Michelin Star and it may be difficult to chat up people behind you. But chances are you’re sick of talking to your mother-in-law anyway, so this is a good excuse to point at the screen and say “Zip it, I’m trying to watch ‘The Curse of the Living Corpse’ here.”
Sci-Fi was taking walk-ups right through Park close and it seemed like they were taking a couple soon after that. Consider visiting right before close to maximize Park touring time. A lunch reservation to rest up and get out of the sun is also smart.
One of the fun things about a dining reservation right before close is that when you’re done, you’ll be walking around a theme park that’s virtually empty.
While walking around the Streets of America, a manager-type came over and warned us about an impending cheerleader parade that would be coming through “in about five minutes.”
This seemed like “one of those lines,” but there were indeed a thousand-or-so cheerleaders huddled around the Sorcerer’s Hat, prepping to practice their parade of fear.
Hollywood & Vine. You’d think they would switch out the characters or something. So much potential.
Not a whole lot going on at the Studios at the moment, but I would expect that to change in the imminent future.
One last chance to race ECVs up Hollywood Boulevard.
Next up we’ll see some of the detailed analysis for October 2013 and visit Animal Kingdom.