We continue our attempt at spending the entire day at Hollywood Studios, a feat that many people thought would be even more impossible than enjoying The Fast & The Furious: Supercharged. Part 1 is available here.
After disembarking Tower of Terror at 10:42am, we strolled over to Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage for the 11am show. With the prospect of spending 10+ more hours at Hollywood Studios, I’ll admit that I considered rushing the stage, jumping behind the blanket, and hoping that the disturbance would throw the witch off just enough to teleport me to Nomad Lounge or something.
Instead I just sat there and took some pictures:
The stage show, performances of which continue to fill close or completely to capacity, debuted nearly 27 years ago. There’s always chatter about what’s coming next, whether we’re talking about Tangled or Star Wars or Marvel or the Golden Mickeys replacing the show. But one wonders when Disney will make a change given the fact that attendance remains so strong.
Beauty and the Beast ended at 11:24am, which gave us enough time to walk over to the 11:30am Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away show:
The most interesting part of the show may be the progression of BB-8’s height off the ground. You’ll see him all the way up there now.
But he was originally all the way down there. If you know what you’re looking for, his “head” is to the right of the shoulder kid near the front in the middle wearing the hat. The best part of the show is probably seeing the characters enter and exit the stage from the Animation Courtyard area. You can watch that procession by standing off to the right and looking towards Star Wars Launch Bay.
At this point, we figured that we might as well run out of things to look forward to, so we walked over to use our third FastPass+ at Star Tours.
That’s a 20-minute posted wait at 11:51am, but there was literally nobody waiting in standby before the merge point with FP+:
We were back out front at 12:08pm for a total experience time of 17 minutes.
As you can probably ascertain by my positive outlook on life, I subscribe to a whole heck of a lot of self help books. In fact, I’ve found the one that I’m listening to right now, “There’s Absolutely Nothing They Can Throw At You That 7-12 Margarita Flights Can’t Fix,” particularly enlightening. So we decided to stop for a quick bite at the Brown Derby Lounge, which is the bar area outside the restaurant.
The Lounge serves a dedicated food menu all day, in addition to the full Brown Derby menu. You can pull up my most recent review from inside the restaurant here, where I recommend several of the lunch options as some of the best values anywhere in the Park.
The Lounge is first-come, first-served and typically opens at noon each day. For one of the better tables, you might plan on arriving around 11:55am if you’d like to dine between 12pm and 1:30pm or you’ll risk finding the area full. The Lounge is typically less crowded after that.
We are of course joined by your friend and mine, Tom Corless of the illustrious WDWNT.com. He started with the $9.50 “Spiked Sangria – Red Wine blended with Apricot Brandy, Fruit Juices, and fresh Fruit, topped with Sprite.” It was actually really good – not too sweet with the Apricot Brandy showing through all of the sugar and just a little bit of carbonation from a short pour of Sprite. Quite refreshing during the heat of the day.
I went with the $14.25 Margarita Flight with the Classic, Blood Orange, and Pomegranate.
I thought they were a little heavy on the ice and a little watered down. So I ordered a second flight and confirmed that was the case. Still pleasant to sip on. If you’re looking to fill up on booze, go with the Martini Flight instead. That one’s serious.
Food-wise, the $15 “Andouille-crusted Shrimp – Cotswold Cheddar Grits, Micro Greens, Lime Juice, and Piment d’Espelette Oil” is a dish worth seeking out. It arrives with three jumbo shrimp encased in an incredibly crunchy batter with a little bit of spicy sausage on top of some of the creamiest, cheesiest, most heart-warming grits I’ve ever tasted. The Piment d’Espelette Oil that surrounds the Grits adds a little bit more of a peppery, spicy quality and the little bit of lime juice helps cut the delicious saltiness of the crispy ham that dots the outskirts of the dish. It was a 10/10. Note that during lunch hours you can order a similar dish inside the restaurant in the $26 Shrimp & Grits.
Tom went with the $17 Derby Sliders – “Wagyu Beef with Cognac-Mustard Aïoli, Smoked Gouda Cheese, Bacon, and Avocado and Duck Confit, Taleggio Cheese, Chipotle-Vegetable Slaw, Sweet Onion-Orange Conserve, and crispy Leeks.”
The Duck Slider is messy, but worth the effort with a ton of tender duck mixed in with the mildly spicy, crunchy slaw that’s enhanced by the sweet and piquant sauce. The leeks add a little bit of a crispy onion quality to the bite and the bun is incredibly fresh and nicely toasted. Really good.
The Wagyu Slider is more of your typical hamburger situation with a relatively large, meaty patty in between the deliciously soft, perfectly-toasted bun. All of the toppings complement the beef nicely with the cool and creamy avocado contrasting really nicely with the crispy bacon and the smokiness of the gouda. Really good.
In my opinion, the only way you could make this any better would be to switch out the thin potato crisps with the Truffle Fries that come with the Short Rib, but they provide a satisfying intermezzo between the two sliders.
Overall, Brown Derby Lounge is a nice stop for a cocktail and a bite to eat before the temperatures really start to get up there. It remains a bit on the cramped side and the chairs are not super-comfortable, but there’s plenty of delight in being able to watch the people stream by without any margarita flights in hand. Maybe if they read a book or something. Educate yourself.
Since one of the stipulations was “no lingering,” we spent less than an hour at the Lounge and had an opportunity to catch the last half of the Streetmosphere show.
The Incredibles 2 preview doesn’t arrive at Walt Disney Presents until May 18th, so we took a rare opportunity to see the One Man’s Dream film:
Disney released a couple of Toy Story Land teaser videos. Above is a 30-second clip of the Slinky Dog Coaster, which should be about half as long as the actual ride duration.
And a look at the Wheezy animatronic that will appear in Toy Story Land.
We arrived at Walt Disney Presents at 1:24pm and finished up at 1:55pm, which is probably about right, though you could easily spend another 20 minutes in there looking over everything, in addition to spending about 20 minutes to meet Star-Lord and Baby Groot.
After that, we headed in to the Star Wars Launch Bay Theater.
This is where you’ll find a 15-minute promo video about the Star Wars Galaxy featuring the current filmmakers and producers.
It’s far from a make-it-or-break-it attraction, but the theater is relatively comfortable and air-conditioned.
You might ask a nearby cast member how long it will be until the next show. If it’s under five minutes, it might be worth a stop before entering the Launch Bay.
Or if you’re trying to spend the whole day at Hollywood Studios without repeating anything, it’s probably part of Tom and Josh’s Must-Dos.
It was 2:22pm so we thought we’d head over to the 2:30pm Frozen Sing-Along.
We didn’t have any trouble finding a seat after arriving five minutes before showtime:
Eric the Historian’s fill-in was particularly funny during this performance – the website reasserts its “Strong Buy” rating.
After that, it was time for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, a show that will be 29 years old come August:
Despite the fact that this particular day should end up being in the bottom 5% as far as 2018 Park attendance is concerned, there still aren’t many seats to be had and most performances continue to fill to capacity. The premise does seem to be lost on some number of guests now that the Park is no longer a “working” movie production studio. But I enjoy it, even if I see it just often enough to forget when all of the big moments are going to happen and thus, miss the shot.
Five minutes for Star Tours during the heart of the afternoon.
The last three weeks have easily been the quietest period so far this year and perhaps the slowest 3-week period of the last couple of years. The overall average wait at Star Tours, as seen in the bottom right hand corner of the chart, is just 17 minutes from April 11th through May 3rd.
Historically, you’d expect the last ten days in January and into February to see some of the lowest waits of the year, but of course, that’s no longer true. Here’s Star Tours for January 21st through February 14th:
27 minutes isn’t terrible, but it’s still a 58.9% increase over the 3-week period after Easter.
Here’s Star Tours during September of last year:
Even with the hurricane displacing a lot of people, Star Tours still sees a 21-minute overall average wait, which is 23.5% higher than the April period.
We stopped for an appetizer earlier in the day because we had a 4pm dining reservation at Sci-Fi.
I’m a big Sci-Fi proponent – you’re never going to find anything like it outside Walt Disney World and the menu isn’t all that expensive.
One thing to note is the seating arrangement, which puts two people side-by-side in each row with three rows per car. If your group of four or more is looking to hold a conversation during the meal, Sci-Fi is among the worst choices for that. On the other hand, if you’re spending 14 hours at Hollywood Studios with your in-laws, then you might prefer the setup. The fact that it’s so dark makes the atmosphere all the more relaxing, in my opinion. Everybody is either paying attention to the scenes on the screen in front or struggling to read the menu with limited light. Take the opportunity to send out some mean tweets.
Nine entrees come in under 20 bucks and most couples could probably get away with sharing an appetizer, burger/sandwich, and dessert and leave perfectly satisfied. It’s worth noting that the menu has changed considerably from what you see above, despite the fact that this picture was taken four days ago. Pull up the current version here. You’ll still find nine entrees under $20, but they may be different.
Since we were returning guests, our car hop provided us with a personalized welcome back card, which was a nice touch.
I started with a $10.50 “Long Island Lunar Tea – Bacardi Superior Rum, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Hendrick’s, Cointreau, and Sweet-and-Sour with a splash of Coca-Cola,” which was even weaker than I was feeling about the prospect of spending six more hours at Hollywood Studios.
Luckily, the $15 “Vegetarian Falafel Burger – Crispy Chick Pea Falafel Patty on a Brioche Bun with Arugula, Gourmet Tomato, Tzatziki Sauce, and Red Pepper Aïoli” remains on the menu, both because it’s still relevant and because it’s pretty good. The Patty itself is incredibly crispy and the Tzatziki adds some cool mint and cucumber flavors. I would have liked more of the Red Pepper Aïoli to spice things up as the flavor was on the one-note side of things, but it’s still far and away better than any of the quick service vegetarian options available for not a whole lot more money.
I ordered the $19 “California Burger,” which is the current seasonal selection. I expected it to be the $18 Classic American Burger served with a printed warning that consuming it would probably cause cancer along with a $7 surcharge, but it was described as being topped with “House-made Pimento Cheese, a Fried Green Tomato, and Bacon.” This didn’t really compute as I would expect avocado to play a pretty big part in a burger that hails from California, but here we are. Anyway, it was a sizable hamburger patty that was nicely seasoned if not a bit overcooked. I would have liked a crispier slice of bacon to better contrast with the lump of cold cheese. The fried green tomato could have just as easily not been there as it got lost in all of the cheese and the bold seasoning of the meat. It was “just okay” overall, but it was quite filling. The fries were seasoned nicely and served piping hot, which you almost never see at Disney restaurants. The Drive-In Burger is the way to go here, though I’m excited to try some of the new offerings.
Because we really are that precious, Tom and I shared the $6 Mango Shake, which was making its debut as the Seasonal Specialty that day. I thought it tasted closer to orange when mixed in with the whipped cream on top, but it was cold and refreshing through and through and a good value at six bucks.
We spent a little over an hour at Sci-Fi and it provided a nice opportunity to relax and sort of escape Hollywood Studios, if only in our minds.
Star Wars Path of the Jedi debuted prior to the release of Episode VII as a way for guests to get reacquainted with the story and hyped up for the new movie. And it worked pretty well back then. Now that 14 Star Wars movies have come out in the last six months with eight more on the immediate horizon (or so it feels), the hype reel has lost quite a bit of luster.
But it’s still there, playing every 17 minutes or so to theaters that are maybe 5% full.
There might have been 15 people at our 5:20pm show and this is the one thing that we did that I would probably not recommend taking the time to see, though it is air-conditioned and you’ll have plenty of room to spread out in peace.
We proceeded to Grand Avenue for Muppet*Vision 3D.
It was fun to see the pre-show with Sweetums coming through to say hello.
Now in hour nine, I think he’s looking around the theater for something to do at Hollywood Studios.
We arrived at 5:43pm and were back out front at 6:14pm.
And it was time for Tom to grab a FuelRod and me to take a picture of Sunset Boulevard on the way to Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
You might have caught this gem on Twitter:
It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets nominated to be the head of NASA.
We headed over to the 6:40pm Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which was maybe half full.
Me getting dragged to Hollywood Studios.
Me after 12 margarita flights at Hollywood Studios.
Me finding out there aren’t any more margarita flights.
Me finding out there actually is another margarita flight.
Whatever the rest of the show is about:
At this point, it was just after 7pm with Fantasmic scheduled at 9pm.
Ten hours in, we had honestly not run into any trouble finding suitable things to do. I don’t think we waited more than 15 minutes for any shows to begin and the longest wait of the day so far was about 25 minutes for Toy Story Mania to open the day.
Since it was the Park’s 29th anniversary, it seemed prudent to congratulate Mickey and Minnie Mouse on years of conning people into coming to Hollywood Studios.
While the posted wait was 35 minutes,it ended up being just over 40 to Minnie Mouse:
We arrived at 7:10pm and weren’t back out front until 8:05pm.
At which point we grabbed a couple of Diet Cokes from ABC Commissary and went to see Fantasmic.
And the conclusion of the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks, which started at 9:30pm.
Overall, our day looked like this:
- Toy Story Mania: 9am – 9:39am
- Meet Chewbacca: 9:45am – 9:53am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 10:01am – 10:19am
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 10:21am – 10:42am
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage: 11am – 11:24am
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away: 11:30am – 11:45am
- Star Tours with FastPass+: 11:51am – 12:08pm
- Brown Derby Lounge: 12:19pm – 1:10pm
- Streetmosphere: 1:12pm – 1:20pm
- Walt Disney Presents: 1:24pm – 1:40pm
- One Man’s Dream: 1:40pm – 1:55pm
- Star Wars Launch Bay Theater: 1:57pm – 2:12pm
- Meet Kylo Ren: 2:14pm – 2:20pm
- Frozen Ever After: 2:22pm – 3pm
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular with FastPass+: 3:15pm – 3:45pm
- Sci-Fi Dine-In: 4pm – 5:10pm
- Star Wars: Path of the Jedi: 5:20pm – 5:37pm
- Muppet Vision 3D: 5:40pm – 6:14pm
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 6:30pm – 7pm
- Red Carpet Dreams Mickey and Minnie Meet: 7:10pm – 8:05pm
- Fantasmic: 8:20pm – 9:30pm
- Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks: 9:37am – 9:42am
We never did find that kid for Disney Jr. Live on Stage, which means we skipped that, in addition to never running into March of the First Order. We also didn’t spend much time watching Jedi Training Academy or visiting Star Wars Launch Bay, though I could have added a couple of minutes of both in the timeline above. We also skipped a number of Meet and Greets, including BB-8, Olaf, Buzz/Woody, Goofy, Chip/Dale, and all of the Disney Jr. characters. And there was no way to see both Disney Movie Magic, the projection show that precedes the fireworks, and Fantasmic on the same night given the overlapping showtimes.
Overall, it ended up being a pretty good day, particularly with the sunny skies and the low crowds. And there was no problem at all filling up a whole day even without repeating anything or spending six hours at BaseLine Tap House chugging beer.