I am sort of like a woman going shopping when it comes to Walt Disney World. What I mean is, I often just make something up that I “need” to do as an excuse to go, much like a woman might “make something up that they need” as an excuse to go to the mall. Two inch heels in just the right shade of turquoise. A saucer that doesn’t clash with the deviled eggs. A flavor of Vitamin Water that mixes better with vodka. You know what I’m talking about.
Today we’re going to Hollywood Studios to get a picture of Mike Wazowski. Something that I didn’t have. Something that I wanted. Something that I needed.
Here we are arriving at 4:45pm. Hollywood Studios was “highly recommended” with an overall crowd level ratcheted up to “4” for the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend. We should see lower than anticipated crowds over the next couple of days with the relatively cold weather keeping some of the locals away. As of 6:03pm on January 14, it’s a freezing 53 degrees!
Looking down Sunset Boulevard right before 5pm. Not too bad. We’ll return to ride shortly before 6pm.
Wait times at 5pm.
The sign for Indiana Jones is relatively new.
Disney is slowly removing the Osborne Lights from the Streets of America. This area, where the “lighting ceremony” took place, is behind walls. I’m not as upset about it as the concrete refurbishment of my favorite spot over at Animal Kingdom.
The Monsters Inc. meet and greet comes with instructions.
It’s located across from Studio Catering Company in the Backlot. Which is in between the entrance to the Backlot Tour and the Lights, Motors, Action!
Outside of the Winnie the Pooh Meet and Greet in the United Kingdom Pavilion, it’s probably the least obvious Meet and Greet at Disney World.
Which usually keeps lines relatively short. Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan are the usual characters, but occasionally only one of the two will appear.
The Backlot Tour’s line closes promptly at 5pm this time of year because it’s dark by 6pm. Not that there is really anything to see anyway.
Anyone want to ride Toy Story Mania?
I hope not.
If there’s anything “good” about the Fantasmic refurbishment that continues through February 12th, it’s that “Characterpalooza” in the Animation Building has expanded hours. If you’re unfamiliar with Characterpalooza, it’s the coined term for the unannounced character meet and greets in the Animation Building. When Fantasmic isn’t scheduled, characters should appear in 30 minute sets from 4:50pm to 6:50pm. There are two sets of characters that switch off.
The first set included:
Minnie and Pluto were meeting guests together. It’s rare to see them together in the Parks.
Chip and Dale. This meet and greet had a Photopass photographer attached as you can see on the left. About half of the meet and greets will have Photopass going – the others will have a cast member that is glad to take pictures with your camera. Chip and Dale are relatively easy to meet at all of the theme parks. Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. Sorcerer’s Hat in the morning at Hollywood Studios. Outside of the Character Spot on the Land Pavilion side at Epcot. Camp Minnie-Mickey at Animal Kingdom.
Jafar! Very rare these days – he doesn’t conduct normal meet and greets.
Pocahontas. Easy to meet at Camp Minnie-Mickey at Animal Kingdom.
Aaaahhh!! He’s coming right for us!!
The second set included:
Genie – rare outside of Mickey’s Parties.
Mary Poppins with her Penguins. Mary Poppins is relatively easy to meet at Epcot or Magic Kingdom, but getting the three of them together is rare.
That was it for tonight. You’ll want to look all throughout the Animation Building to make sure you don’t miss anyone. There are a surprising number of corners, nooks, and crannies in that place. Because the meet and greets are unadvertised, lines are relatively short. Be ready right when the sets begin to find the shortest lines at any of the characters. New characters should appear at 4:50pm 5:20pm, 5:50pm and 6:20pm.
It’s usually a good time to do the advertised meet and greets as well. You may recall the line for Sorcerer Mickey at 10am from a couple of days ago. This is a five or ten minute wait compared to that 30 or 40 minute wait we saw at 10am.
There was no one in line for Winnie the Pooh. The poor guy is just wandering around his tree.
There had been two people in line earlier in the evening.
Handy Manny was out greeting guests in the Animation Courtyard to to the right of the entrance to Disney Jr. Live on Stage.
And Jake. Short lines at both – just a few minutes.
The meet times usually indicate the last time the characters will begin appearing. It’s about 5:30pm here.
Popping over to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Quite the elaborate set.
Wish they would put these in Fantasmic. The seating is relatively comfortable.
Short show. Indy got hit by this boulder and that was that.
Oh, I guess he’s okay.
Despite being updated approximately zero times since it opened in 1989, the show continues to be popular.
It’s quite the production and is absolutely recommended.
It’s just before 6pm. The goal is to ride Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania in the final hour. Spoiler – it’s not going to happen.
A 30 minute posted wait at 5:55pm.
Lined up back here. It should be about 20 minutes.
Back out in front of the attraction at 6:23pm.
20 minute posted wait now.
A 50 minute posted wait at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Knowing it was a bad idea, I decided to head through the “Single Rider Line.” I say it’s a bad idea because the wait in the Single Rider Line is often just as long, if not longer, than the regular line. And there’s really no way to tell how long the wait is going to be. Single riders have the “lowest priority” because they are only seated if there is a group with an odd number of people in the standby line. So when there’s a group of three people, two of them would be in one row and the third person would join a single rider in another row.
This is us in the Single Rider line, which is separated from the standby line by this fence. During the preshow video, single riders stand on an elevated platform and may or may not see the full preshow. I ended up waiting about 45 minutes to ride, ultimately exiting the attraction after the Studios “officially closed” at 7pm. I also saw the people that sat next to me on Tower of Terror ride in the standby line before me. So the Single Rider line really didn’t work out for me. Amusingly, I could have gotten in line at 6:55pm and waited a total of about 15 minutes. By the time I rode, the last people in line were already through the preshow and in line.
So what did we learn? Well, we already knew the Single Rider line isn’t always a good idea. This is a prime example. My assumption is that we got in line behind about 500 people that had exited Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage about ten minutes before. Since the exit is right on Sunset Boulevard, a lot of them may have seen a short posted wait at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and decided to get in line. Ideally, you would be in line by 6:10pm to beat the crowd exiting the 5:45pm Beauty and the Beast show. Or you could wait until just before the Studios is scheduled to close to pop in line. As I mentioned earlier, you would have experienced a much shorter wait at the very end of the night.
Headed out at 7:20pm. All of the stores on Sunset Boulevard were still open.
Most of the stores on Hollywood Boulevard will be open through 8pm, an hour after the Studios “officially” closes.
Overall, a solid two hours at the Studios, though that wait at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was much longer than I would have liked. Characterpalooza was a lot of fun with a chance to meet several rare characters with short waits. Jafar, in particular, was a nice find. And Mary Poppins with the Penguins is great too.
We’ll head over to the Contemporary Resort to catch Wishes.
Here we are on the 4th Floor of the Contemporary, looking toward the Contempo Cafe, Chef Mickey’s, and The Outer Rim.
On the opposite side, you’ll find the observation deck that overlooks Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle.
Walk in that direction and you’ll see these doors on both sides.
Here we are. That’s Cinderella Castle lit up in the background and the monorail beam overhead. There are a couple of rows of seats up front.
The view from the other side.
Tinker Bell. Enhance! Enhance!
From here, you can also head up the fire escape stairs to watch from any of these floors. We have a few people out there preparing to watch.
Up these stairs. If you’re staying at the Contemporary, you can simply walk down to the end of your floor and exit there. Be careful, because the doors automatically lock.
From further back, the monorail beam obscures the view a bit. It isn’t as much of an issue if you’re closer up.
From further back, the beam also obscures the view a bit, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.
It’s neat to see the monorail whiz by during the show. Certainly a unique view.
Here we are up the stairs.
Where the beam isn’t an issue whatsoever.
A great view with the monorail going by down below. This is from the sixth floor. Head up even higher and you basically have the same view at the California Grill on the 15th floor. You could also take the elevator up and exit the doors at the end of the hall.
A few more people have arrived, but it’s far from crowded. Just look two floors up and there are only two people watching.
If someone in your group is apprehensive about the noise, they can watch from inside. It’s a nice way to keep the group relatively together during the Fireworks should that be the case.
These speakers play the Wishes soundtrack. It’s a lot louder and easier to hear than the beach at the Polynesian, where you need to be right next to them to hear anything. I could hear the soundtrack from up the stairs on the sixth floor.
Heading over to the Contempo Cafe for dinner and to check out the goodies. It’s nice to see that “Dirt & Worms” is still a favorite. I loved (my mom) making those (for me) when I was younger!
Makes it healthy?
This is the “Hot Roast Beef Open Face Sandwich” – $9.95 from the Contempo Cafe. I think that’s the wording anyway. It’s code for “French Dip” either way. If you’d like a better look at the menu, options, and ordering process at the Contempo Cafe, check out my Contemporary Resort Holiday Walkabout here. The ends of the sandwich were hot, but the middle was close to ice cold. The bun was nicely toasted. I was so hungry that I almost forgot to see how it tasted. But then I remembered about half way through. There is quite a bit of roast beef on it, but all there is to it. Had it been hotter, it probably would have been better. Otherwise, you can probably imagine what deli-sliced roast beef turkey tastes like on bread. The potatoes were disappointing as well – not a lot of flavor and not particularly hot either. Not necessarily recommended.
Since the Contemporary is in walking distance of the Magic Kingdom, it’s a good choice if you’d like to experience Wishes without the hustle and bustle of the Park. While the sandwich wasn’t outstanding by any means, most of the other options at the Contempo Cafe are better. And it’s rarely crowded late at night. I only saw six people eating while I sat there. We’ll take a look at some other Fireworks viewing locations in the coming weeks.