We rewind a bit to National Menu Update Day on March 1st, 2016 to get caught up on some comings and goings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before heading back to Epcot for some general updates and a wide-reaching look at the Flower and Garden Festival that doesn’t have anything to do with two bites of grouper.
Of course, we are waiting to see what happens come April 3rd when Lights Motors Action? Benign Driving Exhibit closes, in addition to just about everything that makes up The Streets of America, including Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground, Studio Catering, Writer’s Stop, etc.
For a moment in time there was no stage in front of Great Movie Ride as the dance party that took place here is no longer scheduled.
That is no longer the case as construction on a new stage began on the evening of March 9th to house the new Star Wars stage show, Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away coming April 4th. There was some chatter that the show would be staged in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater that houses Fantasmic! but that fell through, perhaps leaving the theater open for something else. The stage show should be scheduled multiple times throughout the day and will hopefully be easy enough to see. You’ve probably seen the announcement:
The Force will officially awaken at the park April 4, with the debut of the brand new Star Wars stage show, “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.” The new show will play out iconic moments from the film saga on Center Stage (in front of the Chinese Theater), and will feature appearances from Star Wars characters like Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, Darth Vader and Darth Maul.
And starting this summer, fans won’t want to miss the grand debut of a new Star Wars fireworks show, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.” This new nightly show is the next generation of the current Star Wars-inspired fireworks show. The show will combine fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections that will turn the nearby Chinese Theater and other buildings into the twin suns of Tatooine, a field of battle droids, the trench of the Death Star, Starkiller Base and other Star Wars destinations. The show will be punctuated with a tower of fire and spotlight beams, creating massive lightsabers in the sky. This new show will be the most elaborate fireworks display to take place in the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Also starting April 4, Captain Phasma will begin leading a platoon of First Order stormtroopers on a march from Star Wars Launch Bay to Center Stage multiple times each day.
One thing to note here is that the Phasma-led Procession and stage show are starting April 4th, while the enhancements coming to the fireworks are arriving in “summer.” The Star Wars fireworks as they appear now will continue until the new show debuts, which is a departure from the original plans. The fireworks here were supposed to end around the time Rivers of Light came online. But I think Disney realized that they don’t really want 15,000 people sticking around Animal Kingdom until 11:30pm at night and it would be less expensive and more profitable to hold them here at a Park that is otherwise used to staying open until 10pm in the summer. There would be relatively little interest in a rehash of Frozen Summer Fun.
So while you might argue that it’s sort of a down time at Walt Disney World with entertainment cuts etc., the summer should be booming with two new nighttime spectaculars and significant additions at Studios and Animal Kingdom, in addition to the Frozen additions and new film at Soarin’ opening at Epcot, and then the new stage show coming to Cinderella Castle. So the news isn’t all bad.
Speaking of cuts, I was somewhat amused to see Pluto and Goofy meeting separately. Every time I’ve visited over the last five years they’ve met together.
10 of 29 Streetmosphere characters will not have their contracts renewed. One assumes that if this guy was actually hustling guests out of money that he would probably still have a job. But while cuts like these make headlines, this is not the sort of thing that will impact most guests’ stays in more of a macro sense. It’s significantly reduced staffing at the more routine front- and back-end-of-house side of things. Ask any cast member what their hours going into spring break look like and they’ll tell you that they’re reduced about 25%, assuming of course that they were around last year, which is becoming less and less common.
Changes at the Studios’ quick services and restaurants are not as “interesting” as Animal Kingdom so I will not waste your time going over 20-cent price increases on hot dogs. It’s potentially worth noting that Min & Bill’s has made yet another round of changes.
Above is the current menu.
This is what they served back in December.
This was just last month. The “Golden Fried Chicken” actually sounded pretty good and was a large portion. You may also note the “unique and craft beers available” designation on the sign. Both of those things are out. Now it’s just Yuengling and Bud Light. I will reiterate that the Foot-long Hot Dog is legit – much longer and thicker than what they serve at the other Parks. Looking at you Casey’s Corner. It’s otherwise difficult to find much value in a $17 to-go container of Yobogoya-style beef, I think.
I was also surprised to see ABC Commissary’s menu cut back so much:
This is in the wake of Pizza Planet closing down for what will still be about 7.5 more months and in addition to Studio Catering, a pretty significant quick service, closing in just about three weeks.
Above is about half of the old menu – note the uniqueness of the burger with the Sriracha and fried shrimp.
Part 2 of the old menu. The Salmon, which is still served at Columbia Harbour House, was pretty decent and a nice topping on the Asian Salad as well. That and the shrimp and fried fish are not part of the current menu. Neither was very good, mind you, but it’s hard to advocate a reduction in options.
The first part of the new menu is above. There are so few options that they don’t even have an entree to list in the fourth box.
We’re almost to the point where there’s more cupcake choices than entrees.
Three options for kids.
I’m not sure if anyone has had a better experience with the steak than I had. I was served a very dry, overcooked piece of meat that tasted much more like an old hamburger than a “New York Strip.” I am actually an advocate of Liberty Inn’s steak, where what I was served was very good. Feel free to weigh in if you’ve tried either.
The BB-8 and creepy Chewbacca head are up $2 a piece while the TIE Fighter is actually down $6 to match Disneyland’s price. The Han Solo replaces the Darth Vader Helmet.
Backlot Express continues its kind-of-Star-Wars-inspired menu. They dropped the “Corellian-spice Fries” in favor of a unique-sounding Caprese Sandwich that actually looks pretty good. The Royal Guard Burger is up $1, Bacon Cheeseburger is up $1.30, and Nuggets are up 20 cents. With tax, the Chewbacca is 17 cents less expensive than the outdoor vendors.
Oh good the Chili Cheese Dog is still there said no one ever. That and the iffy “Galactic Salad” are the same price as they were a month ago. The Blue Milk Panna Cotta is no longer available.
Also, the two drinks advertised in this image of the original menu are no longer available.
Woodbridge is back as Zipz gets the bootz. Sea Dog Sunfish Ale is also available here for $8.50.
Drinks are otherwise the same price.
Over at Studio Catering, the only change is the Spicy Chipotle Ranch Chicken is up 30 cents. You wonder if enough people will order it between March 1st and April 2nd to pay for the sign necessary to print that increase.
Beers are up 75 cents each, Beso Boxed is up $1.05, Woodbridge again replaces Zipz. Note that the Walgreens on my corner sells 1.5 liter jugs of Woodbridge every day of the year for $9.99.
Sam Adams seems to be on the way out, though its seasonal was still on tap at High Octane Refreshments next to Studio Catering. Almost every Epcot location dropped it.
The price of all these drinks is up.
Over to Sunset Boulevard, where we’ll find Sunset Ranch Market on the left after the stores.
Prices on the alcoholic drinks at Anaheim Produce are higher.
Here we are. Note the new awnings and roofs as walls are down throughout much of the seating area.
Though not all, at least as of last week.
Here at Fairfax Fare, the Chicken/Ribs is up from $15.69 to $17.19, the ribs are up 50 cents, the chicken is somehow the same price, the pork sandwich is up 50 cents, the Chili Cheese Hot Dog is up $2 and likely the same as what’s served at Min & Bill’s, and then the other two hot dogs have been eliminated (macaroni & cheese with bacon and truffle oil and the barbecued pork & coleslaw). Pricing is a little strange as the same chicken will run you $13.79 at Cosmic Ray’s and $13.99 at Flame Tree.
I would reiterate that I like the Fairfax Salad here a lot and it’s a relative bargain at under nine bucks.
Turkey Legs are served here when nearby Toluca Legs is closed, which it often is.
I haven’t gotten over here to try the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, which sounds like a unique and interesting vegetarian dish. The price on that stayed the same while others went up.
With Pizza Planet closed, this is your shot at a reheated frozen pizza. The Chicken Pesto Flatbread introduced last August sounds like it has some promise.
Starring Rolls added a couple of sandwiches a few months ago, including a Pastrami and Roasted Vegetable, in addition to dropping sushi.
The $8.19 Funnel Cake remains one of the most expensive snack-credit-eligible items.
Path of the Jedi is still showing in case you want all six of the “original” movies ruined in nine minutes.
Jedi Training signups remain in between Indiana Jones and 50’s Prime Time. Disney continues to try a few different things with getting kids signed up for a show. You may be able to sign up well before the rest of the Park opens, which would give you a better opportunity at positioning yourself for the rush to Toy Story Mania. With the show doubling in capacity, you can very safely head to Toy Story Mania and potentially Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror before needing to sign up. The problem with that is the signup process is lengthy and very long lines can form later in the morning. And I really don’t want to be the guy that says “oh no don’t worry about signing up” only for some girl scout troop to take every spot on the day you visit and leave you out on Hoth.
It sounds like the Olaf Meet and Greet is coming here where the walls are up across from Backlot Express and in front of Star Tours. That doesn’t make a lot of thematic sense. But then what is the theme of Hollywood Studios other than cold and sadness.
Mickey and Minnie are expected to move inside in the back of the building that houses the Frozen Singalong across from Sci Fi.
Disney’s reluctance to add new characters in a timely fashion is sort of strange. Frozen obviously came out years ago and we’re just now receiving the snowman. Obviously with a sequel in production, the characters should have significant staying power. On the other hand, Joy and Sadness from Inside Out will debut at Epcot next month, a full ten months after arriving in theaters. And they’ve had those costumes available literally the entire time. And even if there were plans to make a sequel, you know it’s like eight years off.
Now that each Jedi Training show features twice the number of kids, the viewing area has in turn been expanded.
Kylo Ren has replaced Darth Maul towards the end of the show in what I’m told is an improvement.
Darth and the 12th Sister still appear.
My guess is that we’ll see walls here to the left of Sci-Fi once the Streets close.
It’s kind of strange to see the even numbers on Disney menus. For years, it would have been $14.99 instead of $15. With the price of quick service food increasing so much, it makes a sit-down meal look a bit more attractive. For just 50 cents more than the Royal Guard Burger at Backlot Express, you can sit down and enjoy a Smoked Turkey Sandwich in comfortable air-conditioning and darkness. The food at Sci-Fi is by no means great, but it’s also not much more expensive than Fairfax Fare.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if, after one too many Chivas, Walt had said, “Everything you see will be here forever. I promise.”
The website has long advocated in favor demolishing the Streets of America – they are undoubtedly a colossal waste of space. But at the same time, I think I’m going to miss it.
Hopefully we’ll all be reunited with a Duffy-staffed Pretzel Garden in heaven.
Pizza Planet is behind walls:
Somebody gets paid way more than both of us to come up with this stuff.
With Toy Story being consolidated behind Pixar Place, it’s hard to imagine that Pizza Planet will reopen loosely themed to Toy Story. I’ve long said the quick service is the most disappointing single thing in all of Walt Disney World. Pizza Planet in the movie is every kid’s dream. Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios pretty much sums up the rest of the Park. Maybe the Swedish Chef makes a higher quality pie.
Walls still line the area that used to house Phineas and Ferb and the Premier Theater.
Oh, the s’mores thing at Herbie’s is no longer available.
In something I never thought I would ever do, I actually waited in line for 15 minutes for the seating area to Lights, Propulsion, Idle! Routine Process Lark to open. I then walked up all of those stairs to take this picture of the Catastrophe Canyon demolition.
While Disney is not typically known for its speed in construction, it pulled this down in a jiffy as evidenced by this more recent photo.
I guess the only way to relive Backlot Tour will be to watch Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive.
Toy Story Mania will be closed March 15th as Disney works on connecting the third track, which will open sometime in “summer.”
Sorcerer Mickey continues meeting here in between Toy Story Mania and One Man’s Dream to what are still usually short waits.
This is maybe ten minutes worth in the middle of the afternoon.
Previews of Disney movies continue to be shown in One Man’s Dream. After Zootopia it will be The Jungle Book.
Kylo Ren has proved to be considerably less popular than Darth Vader with lines that are typically about half as long.
Inside, the line was only about 20 people long with a posted wait of ten minutes.
Star Wars Launch Bay saw some 10ish minute waits on the day it debuted, but appreciable waits have been rare since then. You still have the option of watching the short movie, which you’ll have to wait for, or you can just stroll right in. Here at 5pm there is nobody else in this room, which fills once the 10ish-minute long movie concludes and viewers exit through here.
Otherwise, lighting in here has improved. You could probably write a book on the soap opera that was the construction of this thing.
Chewbacca remains popular with longer lines.
Since opening, Disney has added a Rey figure in front of her speeder.
In addition to BB-8.
Not much action in here where Jawas sometimes trade with guests.
Lighting has improved in here for those wanting to spend $100+ to get into a theme park only to play Angry Birds on someone else’s iPad.
Some customized MagicBands.
And phone cases, so long as you have a recent Samsung Galaxy or iPhone.
How can you hate?
Some Zootopia and Lion Guard merchandise is available:
Zootopia is otherwise breaking records right and left to nearly universal acclaim.
This has literally never happened.
It will be interesting to see how popular Olaf is, not to mention Frozen Ever After and the future meet and greet over in New Norway at Epcot. Two summers ago, you wouldn’t be able to get close to the merchandise as waits for Anna/Elsa at Epcot and then Faitytale Hall were routinely more than three hours long. Here at the Frozen store at Epcot, the poor cast member paces away from me nervously with nobody else interested.
Anna/Elsa waits at Magic Kingdom have dropped to an average of something like 45 minutes. Other characters often see longer posted waits.
Probably not the direction I would have gone with it. You might want to get that looked at, Elsa.
Studios does have a new-ish line of merchandise:
It’s perhaps a bit gaudy, which otherwise plays to the Studios’ strengths.
And finally, bag check on the far left is again operational as Disney has installed a metal detector.
I’m headed to Magic Kingdom at Diamond Horseshoe later today and perhaps we will rope drop the Studios to see how that Park is faring under spring break crowds next week. Though it will be a lot more interesting come the beginning of April.