I invite you in to yet another Hollywood Studios update with what may be the most generic, off-centered welcome sign of all time (of all time). It probably looks like it’s photoshopped over the top of a blur that vaguely resembles Hollywood Boulevard, but just as surprising as the fact that Hollywood Studios is still open, the sign is very real.
And while it’s always nice to be acknowledged, something like this might prove more helpful to your average tourist.
Progress continues on the gondola project, which looks more and more like it’s going to be a blight on the skyline. I think of gondolas and I think of being rich somewhere in the Swiss Alps while being carried five thousand feet up amidst beautiful mountains and gorgeous vistas. Here at Walt Disney World, it looks like we’re going to barely clear the back end of the All Star Sports. Above is where they were at almost one month ago on May 9th.
And here is the progress on what will become the Studios’ Skyliner station in a picture taken five days ago on June 6th.
These pylons travel all around property, through parking lots, and over roadways, often dwarfing structures near them, despite the fact that they’re a lot lower to the ground than I was expecting. At least we’ll be able to high-five some trees when the windows pop out and we get stuck up there somewhere along the way. Imagine barreling along in one of these death traps, swinging side to side in the middle of July, when the RealFeel is 115, it’s raining Aristocats and Dugs, and the lightning is striking all of the people that have been waiting to enter Galaxy’s Edge for six months in what’s become a little shanty town just outside Muppet Vision 3D. Welcome to Igerville.
As has been true since construction started years ago, the vast majority of the work is out of sight from inside the Park
These pictures do nothing to capture the immense size of the towering project, but it’s huge. Here is what the project looks like from the sky. “Late fall 2019” is as much guidance as Disney is currently offering on when Galaxy’s Edge will open. Dave over at yourfirstvisit.net has some interesting thoughts on what the opening will mean for the Studios and the rest of Walt Disney World in this post published on June 10th. We’re looking at 50% more guests visiting the Studios in 2020 than did in 2017, which is a huge number.
And while it’s not going to be anywhere close to enough, Disney is making significant upgrades to infrastructure, including the construction of what should become an expanded bus loop.
And new, much more expansive entrances and exits.
There’s a new cast services building with all cast members parking further away from the main entrance. I don’t know if it’s a good thing to give them more time to reconsider their positions and turn back.
The old cast services building, located just outside the Park behind the theater for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, is closed.
The boat dock at the Studios is temporarily closed, perhaps to aid in construction of the gondola system rather than any upgrades to the watercraft situation. You’d think they’d want to at least double the capacity of the FriendShip boats that connect the Studios to the Swan/Dolphin, BoardWalk, and Beach Club/Yacht Club Resorts, in addition to Epcot.
The gondola system, with the Studios’ station sitting just a couple of feet away from the bus stops as they currently stand, may end up being much more of a necessity than a luxury moving forward. Disney likely chose the system because it will prove to be safer and more cost effective than other options and potentially ignoring the fact that it will actually end up being a lot closer to ugly than futuristic. But we’ll see. You’d think the Skyliner would be operational inside of a year.
Here’s what the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge looks like from the inside. After 3-5 years in line, we’ll all be entering through this tunnel.
I’m sure the trees blocking the rest of Star Wars Land will keep people’s minds squarely on Grand Avenue and PizzeRizzo.
There isn’t much to see over the walls at the future entrance to Toy Story Land, which is set to open in just about three weeks. The grey structure ahead is expected to be a new DVC kiosk, but may end being more of a triage center. It wouldn’t surprise me if some members of the rope drop crowd decide to climb over it rather than wait to merge in with everyone else. We have to adapt our strategies too. Why throw elbows when you can drop them from the sky?
We’ve known for a while that construction has been behind, but supposedly there will be no significant cast member previews or soft openings before June 30th. This seems like a recipe for disaster with what will assuredly be a hot, humid, and wet opening week leading up to the July 4th holiday.
I think we all remember opening day at Frozen Ever After, which was hyped much less. The vast majority of the queue for the roller coaster looks to be outdoors and unprotected. And if you thought the payoff for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was iffy with its “short” duration and beautiful views of Fantasyland, I’d hate to hear what you have to say about Slinky Dog. Blink and you might miss it. Here is what Toy Story Land currently looks like from the air with a look at the queue for Slinky Dog here and a closeup of Alien Saucers here.
Speaking of Toy Story Mania, the ride is currently closed. When it supposedly reopens on the 19th, the entrance will still be on this side in Pixar Place. It seems like a shame that they couldn’t figure out some way to keep the ride working while making some final adjustments to the entrance on the other side in what will be Toy Story Land.
It’s been a wild ride here over the last several weeks with the ride sometimes operating with or without FastPass+ and sometimes with one or three tracks operating. All of the dates given for the various transitions have been inaccurate as delays have slowed work or things that were supposed to happen, didn’t.
Here’s a look at wait times over the last eight weeks or so for posterity:
It will be interesting to see how touring Toy Story Land and Hollywood Studios as a whole shakes out. My assumption is that Slinky Dog will be the Flight of Passage of the new land and the ride that 90% of people are headed towards at rope drop. That should open up Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania for easy rides, much like Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom. Those able to get FastPass+ for Slinky Dog, which are currently as hard as Flight of Passage to obtain, should be able to visit the other two Toy Story attractions with ease in the early morning and then move on to other rides. Those unable to get FP+ for Slinky Dog will likely want to ride Slinky Dog first and then probably ride Toy Story Mania immediately after and use FastPass+ at Swirling Saucers, if available. Otherwise, it’s probably going to be Slinky Dog then Swirling Saucers and then Toy Story Mania later in the day with FastPass+.
Of course, the Studios is offering morning Extra Magic Hour every day for the first 6+ weeks of operation, which will complicate things considerably for those that are ineligible to use it. Those that don’t qualify for the EMH will probably not be able to get FastPass+ for Swirling Saucers or Slinky Dog either, which means a late night visit to Toy Story Land is your best bet. But we’ll try a number of things and take a hard look at the wait times once the new land opens. Pandora wasn’t a tough cookie to crack, despite the popularity.
There’s no hope for Star Wars Land, though.
I’ll miss the quaint details in Pixar Place.
Maybe some of this stuff will turn up elsewhere.
With that out of the way, let’s see what else is going on.
With the influx of people expected come Galaxy’s Edge, a number of projects are also going on around the Park.
From Backlot Express down to the area outside Hyperion Theater/Frozen Sing-Along, there’s concrete work going on, which either narrows or closes the pathways out here.
On recent visits, I’ve run into both situations.
The path is narrow, but still passable, which isn’t a very big deal.
Here’s the same path looking back towards Backlot Express and then Star Tours.
On a rainy visit the next day, the path was completely closed, which meant we had to walk through part of the queue for the Olaf Meet and Greet to get to the opposite side, which let out in front of Sci-Fi Dine-In.
It was a strange setup without any signage or cast member direction.
Because of that, you’ll see signs pointing guests in what would ordinarily be the wrong direction. This sign is posted outside of Star Tours, which means Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is much closer to the right than to the left.
But Disney is trying to keep as many people as possible away from the area with all of the concrete work. And given the Studios’ convoluted layout, just about everything is located to the left and to the right if you’re willing to walk far enough, so the signs aren’t wrong.
Grand Avenue signage.
I’m not sure anything is in focus in this picture, which is in theme with the Studios’ current vision.
Moving away from pictures of signs that I’ve happened to take over the last month and back into things that somewhat matter, Disney Jr. Live on Stage will see its final performance on September 1st. It doesn’t sound like the transition will be seamless and the new show, which will be a Disney Junior Dance Party housed in the same building, may not start up on September 2nd. Thankfully, the Studios does have the capacity to spare, so why would one show end September 1st and a new show start September 2nd? There’s plenty of stuff for the kids to do here…
Disney is pushing Incredibles 2 hard with a semi-takeover of Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom and a preview of the film here at Walt Disney Presents.
Initial buzz sounds positive and Pixar is not known to disappoint, unlike its former chief creative officer.
There’s just a few figurines related to the movie and a couple pieces of artwork in the back of Walt Disney Presents. I’d probably skip the preview unless you’re unsure about whether you want to see the movie and spoiling ten minutes of it is the only way to base your decision. The Incredibles have always seemed ripe for an attraction – a next generation version of Universal’s Spider-Man ride might be smart where you could go along with the team as they fight crime, experiencing each of the heroes’ abilities throughout the caper. Imagine charging through the streets of Metroville with Dash only to be saved by Frozone’s icy powers before falling off some cliff while Mrs. Incredible stretches out and boomerangs you to safety. I have not put any thought into this, but it’s still a better idea than Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
A couple of Black Panther costumes are also on display:
Interestingly, movie production companies typically sell off all of the props for pennies on the dollar after filming concludes. Then they find out the sequel is coming out and they have to make everything again at twice the cost of the originals.
What was Sunset Sweets is still closed while it converts over to what’s supposed to be a store selling Toy Story Land merchandise. It occurred to me that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to sell Toy Story stuff so far away from Toy Story Land, but just because the land officially opens on June 30th doesn’t necessarily mean that anything inside of it will. But you’ll still be able to buy the t-shirt regardless.
The bubbles come out of the top of Buzz’s helmet, which seems kind of morbid. I suppose he could be underwater or something.
Reel Vogue is full of Incredibles merchandise.
The costumes will probably be played out for Halloween, so this is an opportunity to wear a full-bodied, bright red plastic body suit in Florida in June if you so choose. Officially Disney will tell you that “costumes are not allowed,” but they can’t do much if you can show them proof that it’s how you always dress.
Once Star Wars Land opens, it will never rain on Hollywood Studios. Or if it does, I certainly won’t know because I’m not getting within 300 miles of this place come December 2019. People don’t even realize this is the heyday of this Park. Sure, Flight of Passage is fun, but is it really worth a 20% increase in Park attendance and a 45% increase in wait times at attractions that have been open for 10+ years? I guess we’ll see.
There’s more to get to at Hollywood Studios. I’m sure you’re as happy about that as I am.