Hollywood Studios Rope Drop, Queue Boxes, Animation Building Closure, Hollywood Brown Derby Lunch – 2/28/12

Headed out to Hollywood Studios on a day that could have been recommended.  With the shifting operating/Extra Magic Hours schedule and the “One More Disney Day” event on the 29th, things are a little wonky this week.  While today should stack up as being busier than yesterday or this coming Thursday or Friday, it turned out to be less crowded than expected and ultimately would have been a fine day to visit.  At the same time, here are the posted wait times as of 2pm at Magic Kingdom, the most recommended Park today (Tuesday):

Astro Orbiter: 20 minutes

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 15 minutes

Big Thunder Mountain: Refurbishment

Haunted Mansion: 10 minutes

it’s a small world: 10 minutes

Jungle Cruise: 15 minutes

Peter Pan’s Flight: 30 minutes

Space Mountain: 20 minutes

Splash Mountain: 20 minutes

Winnie the Pooh: 30 minutes

With the difficulty in scheduling Magic Kingdom with the busy day yesterday and the odd 6am – 6am day Wednesday, Magic Kingdom remains the better choice in most scenarios.  But the Studios should have been recommended too.

We’re back to the off-peak 9am – 7pm operating schedule with a single Fantasmic after finishing up Presidents Week last week where we saw 9am – 10pm hours with Fantasmic scheduled twice daily.

This is the scene at 8:40am.  You may remember our extended look at Hollywood Studios’ new rope drop procedure last month.  Beginning in December 2011, Hollywood Studios began opening its turnstiles prior to the official opening time.  Guests were no longer held at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat and could freely travel to any operating attraction.  Back in January, the Studios was opening at 8:30am with Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror operating at 8:30am.  Star Tours came online at 8:45am, though most people won’t want to head over there until after 10am due to its higher capacity, shorter wait times, and additional FASTPASS availability.

More recently, the turnstiles have begun opening closer to 8:45am.

Even with the slightly later opening, you can see that we’re still a ways back with the 8:40am arrival.  You’ll need to arrive around 8:15am – 8:20am to be among the first people through one of the turnstiles.

The turnstiles began operating at 8:43am and I was through at 8:54am.  There weren’t any cast members guarding the walkway down the stairs to Toy Story this time and no cast member with a sign pointing people towards Jedi Training Academy sign-ups in the opposite direction down near Sounds Dangerous.  But there continues to be no internal ropes and guests are free to head in whichever direction they choose.

Looking in the opposite direction, you can see how successful the turnstiles are at staggering the crowds.  No more huge clump of people jostling for position near the front of the pack over to Toy Story.

Over to Toy Story Midway Mania at 8:59am where the posted wait time is 30 minutes and the FASTPASS return time is 10am – 11am.  Interestingly, this is the first time that I haven’t seen cast members manning each of the FASTPASS machines early in the morning.  By the time I got back out front after riding, cast members had arrived at each of the machines.

This early in the morning, the wait time is over exaggerated.  There isn’t anybody in line in this room – just people walking through the queue.

This is where the actual line started – right before the stairs down to the loading bay.

The suits continue to monitor the situation.

Looking down the stairs. It should be about a five minute actual wait.

Your chariot.

I was back out front at 9:14am, so the total ride/wait time was about 15 minutes.  The posted wait time remains 30 minutes.

FASTPASS return times have already jumped an hour and twenty minutes in the 15 minutes since we took a look.

And 10 minutes in the time it took me to zoom out.  Instead of the single line feeding all of the FASTPASS machines, people are walking up to and waiting in front of the individual machines.

I hopped back in line right at 9:20am.  We’re lined up this far back, which means a wait of about 15 minutes.

Back out front at 9:45am for a total wait/ride time of 25 minutes.  I was waiting for a friend to arrive, which is why I didn’t immediately get back in line at 9:14am.  Had I, we’d probably be back out about ten minutes earlier.

FASTPASSes all the way out to 1:05pm to 2:05pm, which is almost a two hour jump in the 25 minutes we were waiting.

Backlot Tour is closed for refurbishment through March 9th.  It should reopen mostly/completely the same as it was before.

The Cars Meet and Greet is a little more popular than it has been in the past.  There’s still no hurry to get over here because lines are short and move quickly since the cars don’t do a whole lot other than stare at you with those beady eyes.

Only about ten people in line for Phineas and Ferb just before 10am.

Looking back, we have a Muppet Vision 3D show getting out.

Another look at the incoming crowds.

Right at 10am, Phineas and Ferb went backstage for about two minutes to prepare for another “grand entrance.”  This is the director Cletus Filmore out in front in the yellow show, who will introduce Phineas and Ferb and conduct various activities with people waiting in line.

Phineas and Ferb appear with their guitars with Cletus for a minute and then return to their meet and greet area.

The line that formed shortly after the Muppet Vision 3D let out a few hundred people.  This is a 10 or 15 minute wait compared to the 5 minutes or so that we ended up waiting.

These boxes are appearing at more and more attractions.  What’s inside?  Most likely something having to do with “NextGen,” whether it be some sort of RFID scanner or another such device.

There are still spots for Jedi Training Academy around 10:15am.

As long as you see that “REGISTRATION” sign.  And even if you don’t, it’s worth stopping and asking if there are additional spots or if the standby list is full.  Should a child not show up for their appointed show, a child off of the standby list will be selected.

Tigger and Eeyore were meeting guests over here near Hollywood Brown Derby rather than in back of the Sorcerer’s Hat like we saw last month.

The Citizens of Hollywood remain popular, which is always nice to see. They are a great addition to the Studios’ overall ambiance.

Headed down Sunset Boulevard around 10:10am with few people around.

The posted wait was 20 minutes, but we got all the way up here before we found the line.  The preshow area is just ahead.

A borrowed picture from my Twitter thing.  There were only two people waiting for the first row, so we went ahead and joined them.  When you arrive at the cast member that tells you which row to enter, tell them that you’d like to ride in the front row and they’ll send you over to a separate line.  The front row is the best on this ride, so it’s worth asking if you don’t mind waiting a couple more minutes.  They won’t put you in the front row after they assign you a row somewhere else, so speak up.

Someone asked how much this bag was in a previous post.  Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

It’s a pretty reasonable $29.95.

Another option in the bag category.

Also a reasonable $24.95.

More boxes over at Tower of Terror in a completely different size.

A ten minute posted wait, but we made it all the way here before we encountered the line.  The preshow area is just through these doors.

Lines for the Sorcerer’s Hat characters are much longer now at 11am than they were at 10am.  To find the shortest lines, try to visit before 10am.  Most people will want to hit Toy Story Mania and the Toy Story characters before heading over here, but each character has its own line and wait times can begin to add up after 10:30am as more and more people arrive.

In the Star Tours queue where the posted wait time was 10 minutes.  Because of its much higher capacity, Star Tours isn’t a major priority in the morning.  Most days you’ll run into about a ten minute wait if you arrive before 11am.  It also distributes a ton of FASTPASSes that generally have return times of 40 to 60 minutes in the future.  It’s also a visually interesting queue, so waiting a few minutes in it isn’t the end of the world.

I got a kick out of this shirt.

The Animation Academy has a formal queue for the first time that I’ve seen.

This kid would not get out of the way no matter how long I stood there with my camera.  So congrats kid, you’re famous!  Anyway, the area that houses the Snow White artwork and Oscars is closed for refurbishment.  That means you can’t enter the Animation Building through the Animation Gallery.  It’s also the reason we took that extended look at the Snow White art a couple of weeks ago ^_^

Through here.

Popping over to the Hollywood Brown Derby for lunch.

The menu:

The menu is the same for lunch and dinner now.  As it says at the bottom, this is a signature meal that costs two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan.  They are known for their Cobb Salad and the Grapefruit Cake, among other things.  The smart money is on those two along with the Grouper.

A look around the restaurant:

According to DisneyWorld.com:

The fact that the upscale atmosphere harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood is no coincidence. The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort is an authentic replica of the famous Brown Derby, a longstanding Hollywood landmark and haunt for Tinseltown’s biggest and brightest personalities.

“Meet me at The Derby!” could often be heard crossing the lips of celebrities. Now you can say it, too, and join the glamorous company.

The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant redefines the concept of dining with the stars. The warm wood-paneled walls of this gourmet restaurant are adorned with caricatures of famous faces. The tradition of capturing the likenesses of luminaries began in the original Brown Derby restaurant.

Other legacies carried over to The Hollywood Brown Derby can be found on the menu with the signature dishes. The famous Brown Derby Cobb salad follows the recipe created by Bob Cobb, the owner of the historic California Brown Derby. Another Brown Derby original is the light grapefruit cake with cream cheese icing.

One thing I do like about the Brown Derby in particular is the fact that it’s actually decently lit, unlike most of the other signature restaurants that prefer more “intimate” lighting.  The shape and height of the ceilings also help reduce noise.  The main dining area was decently full for lunch and it wasn’t particularly noisy at all.

Keeping it classy with the flash.  This is actually some of the best bread I’ve ever had – served hot and fresh.  I had three.

The Charred Filet of Beef glazed with a Red Wine Reduction topped with a Cabernet and Roasted Shallot Butter over White Truffle Forest Mushroom Whipped Potatoes 8 Ounce – $41.00.  Ordered by my dining companion Darcie, she asserted that this was the best steak that she had ever had at a Disney World restaurant.  And one of the better steaks she’s had in her life, which is quite the endorsement.

The Spit-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Lyonnaise Potatoes, Garlic Haricot Verts, and a Red Zinfandel Sauce – $36.00.  This was amazing too and a lot more food than it looks.  What you’re looking at is lamb piled high on top of lamb.  Normally, the portion size is much smaller at these signature restaurants, so it was a surprise that it was almost too much food, even with my Disney appetite.  While not quite fork tender, the lamb was prepared perfectly.  The potatoes weren’t to my taste, but Darcie assured me that they were good.

The Grapefruit Cake – $7.00.  Not a personal favorite, but you should probably order one to share.

Service was also excellent.  Darcie mentioned that she never saw anyone fill our water glasses, but it was always full.  And I assure you we were drinking from them too.  Everyone was helpful and delivered information with a smile.  Very impressed.

Overall, I rode Toy Story Mania three times, met Phineas and Ferb, rode Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, rode Tower of Tower, rode Star Tours,  met the Incredibles, and had lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby before 1:30pm.

The 50 minute wait now is probably more accurate.  FASTPASSes are long gone.

Wait times on our way out at 1:50pm.  Not bad at all.

Overall, it was less busy than anticipated.  While Magic Kingdom was the better choice and Hollywood Studios would have been less crowded on Monday or this coming Thursday, today certainly would have been just fine.  The “new rope drop procedure” continues to be a winner.  Anyone lined up prior to opening should be through the turnstiles by 9am when the Studios officially opens.  The turnstiles help stagger the incoming masses, making the walk over to Toy Story much less stressful.  I’m a fan.


  1. keri says

    I wonder what’s going to replace Snow White (and aren’t you wise to get detailed photos). Is there a special anniversary coming up or something? Perhaps advertising for animated classics film instead of Pixar… Speculation time!

    Also, what’s up with the weather lately? It’s been dreary and nasty for weeks, it feels like.

  2. Darcie says

    I’m Josh’s wanna-be girlfriend. Sadly, my husband wont let us date for real so I just stalk Josh when I’m in Florida. I don’t think he wants to be my friend any more though since I totally kicked his butt on TSMM. Twice. Notice he didn’t post that picture!

  3. Dawn says

    Thanks Josh!..great review, nice inside pictures! Ive been trying to remember what the seating looks like inside Star Tours vs Mission Space, in my head I cannot seperate them, I think one is not claustrophobic friendly? …

  4. marlaine8 says

    Thank you for the great review of the Brown Derby! We are eating there for the first time on our next trip.

  5. Kim says

    I really hope they continue with the no internal rope drops. It’s so much more pleasurable, especially with 2 kids in tow. I was there in January with my fiancé and I kept saying to him “it usually isn’t like this…the line is usually out to here etc.”

  6. RebeccaMcK says

    I think I’m the one who asked about the prices on those cool guitar bags/purses. And yeah, that does seem like a reasonable price. Maybe I’ll break down next time and buy one. I’ve always liked them. It makes sense that they’d finally form a proper queue for that Animation Academy (the drawing class, I assume)….people used to just take up any available space near the door, and in October my poor mom (who was doing the class on her own while we took DD around to see the characters in the building) was sitting close to the door and kept getting passed up and she missed one or two chances to get inside the “classroom.” A small group of people finally made sure that she got in the next time (and she really enjoyed the class – her childhood dream was to paint backgrounds for animated Disney films). As for those boxes covering stuff near the ride entrances, it’ll be interesting to see what comes there. Oh, and I LOVE the food and atmosphere at the Brown Derby….I’ve enjoyed both of my meals there thus far (two separate trips) – my hubby didn’t like it much, though, so we probably won’t eat there whenever he’s with me. Sci-Fi Diner will probably suffice for him; he hasn’t tried that place yet. He’s a picky eater, not much of a sauce/gourmet guy. Too bad, because that HBD food is DELICIOUS. Maybe fussy eaters could ask for an entree without the sauce, I don’t know (didn’t occur to hubby or me to ask). The service can seem slow sometimes, or else it just takes us a while to get through a meal there. Last time we ate there (and my mom enjoyed it, too), we were in the smaller room (Bamboo Room, I think it was called?) by a window so we peeked through the blinds at the passing Pixar parade. It doesn’t get better than that, unless we wanted to take better pics of the parade and be closer and outside.

  7. Lucy says

    Thank you so much for remembering my question about the guitar bag! I agree $29.95 is a pretty reasonable price for such a cool bag.

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