Sort of like that mole on your back that you ignore because it’s probably not cancerous and will most likely just go away, we return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
An unprecedented number of construction projects continue across property.
Some projects, like the gondolas or Star Wars construction, are publicized more than others.
But a lot of the current work is related to infrastructure. Even though “nobody visits Hollywood Studios because it only has four rides now,” you may find yourself somewhere back in the boonies due to so much of the parking lot being closed.
And while it has been rare here during the desolate summer, those arriving in the early evening may find themselves directed to park at Epcot and take a bus over here with about a third of Studios’ parking behind walls.
Inside the Park, the size of the Star Wars construction is becoming a bit harder to hide behind 8-foot construction walls.
This picture shows the scope of the overall project from the air with this aerial view zoomed in on what will be called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge towards the bottom and Toy Story Land in the upper left. A lot more aerial photos of the construction are available here.
Inside the Studios, the name of the game continues to be closures as the last opening-day attraction in The Great Movie Ride closed forever on August 13th. It will be replaced with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway as described here.
The obvious question is, “Why close The Great Movie Ride before Toy Story Land opens, leaving the Park with just four rides?” The obvious answer seems to be construction logistics. Disney has a huge staging area behind Pixar Place, which will disappear once Toy Story Land opens, probably around Memorial Day of next year. Since the new Runaway Railway ride will rely largely on screens, gutting the interior and installing a trackless ride system shouldn’t take as long as say….anything else Disney has seemingly built in the last five years. But you’d think we’d be talking about an opening sometime before Star Wars and after Toy Story.
The website is not one for nostalgia, really, but it does seem like a shame to close the last of the Studios’ opening-day attractions to make way for yet another screen-based ride. The most recent incarnation of the Movie Ride was far from perfect, but it was a fun blend of narration, live action, animatronics, and physical sets over the course of a 22-minute ride. I expect Runaway Railway to clock in around four minutes, if we’re lucky, with no animatronics or live actors in sight. But the good news is that the Mickey ride will probably be a fun, zany, whiplash of an experience. We can certainly hold the bulk of our judgement until the new ride opens.
One Man’s Dream will be re-imagined into “Walt Disney Presents,” with at least some of the historical models, photos, storyboards, etc. from the One Man’s Dream exhibit continuing to be displayed. The meet and greet inside, which is currently home to Star-Lord, will also continue. But Disney is also moving in a never-before-seen model of Toy Story Land, part of the model of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, concept art for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and some other items, which will assuredly take up some of the real estate previously devoted to current exhibits. “Walt Disney Presents” should open sometime in mid-September. The full announcement is located here.
In a move that’s been planned for at least a year, the temporarily-named Muppets Courtyard will become “Grand Park” this fall.
From my extensive PizzeRizzo review, you might remember that Rat Pizza is a New York-themed pizzeria that situates itself on Grand Ave. in Downtown Los Angeles.
The long-running backstory for Mama Melrose’s Ristorane Italiano, which I last reviewed here, is that it’s located inside of an old backlot warehouse in Hollywood.
So the Downtown L.A. transition into what should become the main entrance into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge makes some thematic sense. And we do see some of the old Streets of America survive the transition from Hollywood Studios to Not Hollywood Studios.
Otherwise, the “news” surrounding this area is that “BaseLine Tap House” will take over for Writer’s Stop in the same space, featuring California beer and wine, in addition to select cocktails and “small bites,” like jumbo pretzels and charcuterie boards. Themed to a “small pub,” I’m hoping to see a nice selection of draft beer, but a limited bottle menu may be more realistic. Disney will probably start serving some obscure California craft beer before moving closer and closer to a list that features your choice between Michelob Ultra and Bud Light.
Otherwise, nothing that you’d currently find in Muppets Courtyard should change in any meaningful way.
Otherwise, we’ll see how much thematic sense it makes to see Downtown Los Angeles situated in between the Star Tours space travel agency and a Millennium Falcon ride.
In incredibly minor news that would still probably be enough content for a feature post elsewhere, the projection towers for the various shows are receiving some very minor thematic touches.
Here’s the other.
Rey continues to appear during Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Far, far away is probably where you want to be in relation to this show.
If not, the show currently begins at 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, and 5:30pm.
Because the stage is right at shoulder-kid level, I like to watch it off to the side, where you can typically see the stage better. On a repeat visit, you might position yourself behind the stage on the left side as we look towards the show to watch the characters enter and leave the stage up close.
In other news, Disney has added yet another way to pay money to see Fantasmic, this time with a $40 dessert box that includes a beverage and a reserved seat to see the aging nighttime spectacular.
Here’s the details:
This offer begins September 8th and is available every night through the end of the year with the full details and online booking available here. We’ll see what the dessert box offers, but some guests visiting over extremely crowded times may find the offer desirable. You might remember that the Fantasmic Dining Package no longer includes the appetizer come January 1st, 2018.
The Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! show will replace Star Wars Galactic Spectacular nightly beginning November 9th and continuing through the end of December. There is of course a dessert party available for that as well, with full details available here.
Changing subjects, here’s a look at wait times from yesterday, August 19th:
Whether or not you care about riding The Great Movie Ride, its departure has an appreciable effect on wait times and FastPass+ availability at other Studios attractions. Over the course of a 12-hour day, Movie Ride would distribute around 10,000 FastPass+ experiences and a few hundred people would typically find themselves in the standby line at any given time. 10,000 fewer FP+ experiences to go around obviously means less FP+ availability everywhere else as people gobble up whatever’s available in lieu of Movie Ride. In other words, someone that might have selected Great Movie Ride as their 4th FastPass+ will now be selecting another attraction, which will decrease availability for everyone else looking to book additional attractions throughout the day. And obviously, you’ve got a few hundred more people at any given time milling about the Park occupying other areas and queues, in turn increasing crowd “feel.”
That may be offset slightly by a downturn in attendance, particularly after prospective visitors take a look at the lack of FastPass+ attractions available to book. In the chart above, waits are relatively nominal for the most part, though it looks like some capacity issues cause spikes at Toy Story and Tower of Terror, but it looks more than doable. Saturdays are typically the best day of the week to visit the Studios, though wait times are typically a little higher than during the week due to an uptick in overall crowds on weekends. But with higher wait times everywhere, the bump at Studios is typically less, making a visit more desirable.
But Great Movie Ride’s closure shouldn’t adversely affect most touring plans and eliminating the 35 minutes it would take to experience it may open up your day to try something else. What that is….I’m not so sure.
As it stands, the Studios is pretty ripe for a late morning or afternoon arrival, particularly aided by the ability to book FastPass+ at priority attractions ahead of time. The website always recommends visiting Disney Springs during the day when possible, rather than rushing out to the Park early and then heading over to the Springs in the evening when everybody else has the same idea.
Toy Story Mania is basically a walk on for the last 45 minutes of operation every night as Star Wars Galactic Spectacular and Fantasmic siphon off so many people. Sunset Boulevard is a little less chill with the entrance to Fantasmic bringing 10,000+ interested people down the walkway each evening, but wait times are typically around 15 minutes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Tower during the last half hour of operation and only go down as Park close approaches. As always, you can get in line for any operating ride just before close and ride, regardless of the posted wait. With a 9:30pm close, getting in line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 9:28pm makes a lot of sense.
Otherwise, the Studios will continue to stumble forward for the next 9-ish months. The new preview area opening in the old One Man’s Dream space is set to open in mid-September, followed by the Grand Avenue dining and retail shortly after. Hopefully we’re shooting for a Memorial Day Weekend 2018 opening on Toy Story Land. And then hopefully we can expect Galaxy’s Edge about 15 months after that.
The Studios still offers a number of quality attractions:
- Toy Story Mania
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Tower of Terror
- Star Tours
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Frozen Sing-Along
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- Muppet Vision 3D
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
- March of the First Order
- Disney Jr. Live on Stage
- Character Meet and Greets – Mickey, Minnie, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, BB-8, Olaf, Goofy, Chip, Dale, Doc McStuffins, Jake, Sofia, Minnie, Pluto, and more.
- Jedi Training Acaemy
- Walt Disney Presents
- Disney Movie Magic projection show
- Star Wars Galactic Spectacular
And more pop-up entertainment. Add a relaxing lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby enjoying their burger or chicken sandwich (or go big) and a quick service dinner, and you’ve got more than you could probably hope to accomplish over 10+ hours.
For an Hollywood Studios updated map, new touring plans, FastPass+ tips, etc. see this post.
We’ll see what’s next.