At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if Disney started sending out buses that pull up to the resorts displaying “Magic Kingdom” overhead, pick up a bus full of excited tourists, and then change the sign on top to “Hollywood Studios” as the bus driver laughs like a maniac and drops bewildered guests at the “Hollywood that never was and if construction continues at this pace, probably never will be.”
I will level with you. While I have been to the Studios five or six times over the last month, I have always returned home to judiciously crop and resize my quick service menu pictures, only to decide that there is nothing really to say. Not that such circumstances have stopped me before as one does occasionally struggle with what to say about Chester & Hester’s DinoRama when it comes up for the 450th time, but the Studios’ stasis is perhaps unparalleled. At least in that which we can see.
There is perhaps no subject more crucial to global politics and the enjoyment of your vacation than seasonal cupcakes as fish seems to be the flavor du jour.
Blueberry with buttercream icing…I…I just don’t know.
In related “why are you doing this to me” news, I am not sure if anybody has ever eaten breadsticks and actively wished that they had a tub of Ken’s Caesar as an accompaniment. Maybe after seven or eight of those lemonades you wouldn’t notice that it’s not marinara.
While Starring Rolls closes at 3pm or 4pm daily, Trolley Car Cafe Starbucks across the way serves two sandwiches of its own.
That’s in addition to Starring Rolls’ own Pastrami Sandwich, which is served on a pretzel roll. As a reminder, that Toffee Nut Cupcake is the same as the old Butterfinger version.
You’ll find the sandwiches in an easily transportable to-go container next to the fruit and beverages. I would probably walk it down to Backlot Express for some air-conditioning, particularly if the tables out in front of the Starbucks are all occupied. Sunset Ranch Market or Min & Bill’s would have outdoor picnic table seating available.
I would reiterate that the pastrami is pretty good, albeit potentially weak on the amount of meat you’ll receive.
For those of you looking to get #dazzled, Disneyland 60th anniversary mugs are available. The outlets have them for a lot less, though they are on sale here at 1 for $20 or 2 for $30.
“Echo Lake Eats” continues to be a group of three kiosks that should look familiar to anyone that’s visited during Food and Wine.
But it suffers a bit because you just don’t know when or if the various kiosks are going to be open. When they are, they usually close at 5:30pm or 6:30pm, so you would want to plan for lunch at a minimum.
It’s potentially a shame as the various menus are relatively imaginative, though the side of Lay’s chips is kind of lame.
They also accept the Disney Dining Plan, which seems positive.
Oasis Canteen, which used to serve funnel cakes outside and to the right of the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, continues with its chicken nugget menu.
It is a no-fuss outlet in case you are in a hurry because there is virtually never anybody in line that isn’t either asking for directions or where they can purchase funnel cakes. The sweet-chili glaze here is above average, though there is not necessarily much value in paying $10 for this basket of food.
The Mickey Brownie was too adorable to pass up, particularly after the cast member working the Canteen talked it up as being made “personally by chefs.”
“Chef” is either used loosely here or it explains a lot about the current culinary landscape at the Studios. The brownie was virtually inedible – dense, undercooked, and with that same artificial flavor as Tomorrowland Terrace’s Rocky Road Brownie. You might have better luck.
In potentially positive Times Guide news, The First Order March, which sees Captain Phasma and friends march from the area to the left of Star Wars Launch Bay in Animation Courtyard out and around the stage, is now listed.
That currently starts at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 3pm, and 4pm.
Are you flirting with me, TK-132137?
I’m going to need to teach a shoulder kid how to properly tilt the camera.
A few shots on The Great Movie Ride, which was running at half capacity, causing the standby wait to hit 50 minutes:
With FastPass+, the total experience time was 35 minutes, which is exactly what the website estimates.
Star Wars Path of the Jedi continues playing in the old Sounds Dangerous building, which means the movie previews keep pushing One Man’s Dream Out. That means the preview for Pete’s Dragon is now playing over there.
Olaf meet and greet waits at Celebrity Spotlight have been nonexistent as Disney seems to have a knack for installing characters precisely one moment after the last person stopped caring.
Lousy signage and an awkward location don’t help. But if you were to ask me what I expected out of wait times for an Olaf Meet and Greet at Hollywood Studios a year ago, I certainly would not have guessed “less than ten minutes.” But maybe I am bad at this.
It probably doesn’t matter when you get in line, though waits look to be reliably short after 5pm and only get shorter as closing time approaches. But you can easily gauge how long it’s going to take by the length of the line.
If the line is as long as in the picture one above this one, then it’s going to be about ten minutes until you’re inside the building and a total of 20 minutes before you’re back out front.
Crowds have been incredibly low so far this summer. Most of these pictures are from last Saturday, June 25th. Here’s a look:
Even after eliminating the four meet and greets, the overall average wait is still just 25 minutes. Toy Story, with the additional capacity helping standby waits significantly, sees an average wait of just 34 minutes. Those of you skipping the Galactic Spectacular Fireworks should be able to cycle through Toy Story several times after 9pm if you prefer.
There’s no visible progress on the Streets of America.
This is all still here.
There’s a considerable amount of work going on in front of the old Pizza Planet facade.
With the new Muppets show canceled, it will be interesting to see what Disney does with the property. The characters stand well enough on their own, but it certainly isn’t selling as much merchandise as Frozen, Toy Story, Star Wars, Cars, etc.
Not too much to see otherwise, which seems like it could be the Studios’ tagline.
Bulldozing continues in the distance though just about everything immediately behind this wall is still here.
The “lounge” that Disney opened in the old Writer’s Stop space continues to be one of the least utilized locations in any Disney theme park. Cast look visibly startled when someone walks in as it happens so infrequently. This sign listing what’s offered doesn’t seem to help. Even the bird is walking in the opposite direction of the entrance.
Same view as last month…and the month before that…
Red Carpet Dreams has proven to be a bit more popular than Olaf on the other side, here across from Sci-Fi Dine-In.
Still, the overall average is 20 minutes with the shortest waits before 11am and again beginning at 9pm. Capacity and staffing do come into play in case Disney elects to halve both, in turn doubling the amount of time that you’ll wait.
Toy Story standby waits continue to be significantly shorter with the increase in capacity and very small increase in the number of FastPass+ experiences distributed over the course of the day.
The path in between Pixar Place and the walls blocking off the Backlot area behind where this picture was taken has seen some tables/chairs added and the addition of a snack cart. Closed before 6pm, of course.
No visible progress on the Backlot Tour.
Or towards Studio Catering Co.
They are liable to take away my ability to shoot at f1.4.
Disney quietly introduced new entertainment in the Pixar Place area in the form of this troupe of army men that put on a little training exercise with some guest “volunteers.”
I think they were expecting longer lines to form outside the ride’s entrance with the new standby queue route through the building.
Back to Center Stage, where it’s hard to overlook these two projection towers.
This is just before 6:30pm and there are two tables at the Brown Derby Lounge occupied.
There is so little for staff to do that the greeter and manager are just hanging out at the door.
One does wonder if prices have perhaps reached a tipping point. With only one entree under $30, there is not a lot of variety in pricing.
$15 would buy you an adult entree at a lot of off-property restaurants.
Not what you would expect to see on Sunset Boulevard early in the evening on a sunny summer day.
In case you’re wondering who’s behind the removal of your jalapeno and sweet cream cheese pretzels.
Catalina Eddie’s, which is part of Sunset Ranch Market, dropped its Chicken Flatbread in favor of the Meat Lover’s Pizza. These are still the old style frozen pizzas. It will be interesting to see if Eddie’s continues serving them after Pizza Planet reopens with the same handmade pizzas as Pizzafari.
In gate news, this painting is new.
Ten minutes at Tower of Terror. At 6:30pm. In late June.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was still posted at 65.
The standby line was not particularly long, but FastPass+ return also spilled out the door so it is hard to say how long the actual wait would be. The greeter was threatening those headed into standby that the wait could be longer than posted. This is probably closer to 45 than 65 minutes though.
With Aerosmith embarking on what may or may not be their final tour, one wonders if the fact that the band may not exist anymore will be the catalyst for change. Just about any band could be shoehorned in here with minimal effort.
With that said, Disney recently released about 50 new branded items.
Though only about 20% of it mentions Aerosmith in any capacity.
We had booked FastPass+ around 5pm and didn’t have any trouble booking R ‘n’ R for an hour later, which would have been unusual in March or April but seems to be ordinary over the summer. Our total experience time was 18 minutes, which is also on the short side.
Tower of Terror up to TWENTY MINUTES!! I thought late June was a low crowd time!!
Disney now offers these branded cooling towels manufactured by Coolcore.
I looked them up online and it seemed like $20 was the regular price, making $16.90 ($18 with tax) seem reasonable in comparison. I will probably pick one up myself the next time I see them.
I believe that I’m on the record stating that Sci-Fi Dine-In is my favorite table service restaurant at Hollywood Studios, though there is not a ton of competition when it’s pitted against the likes of Mama Melrose, Hollywood & Vine, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Obviously, Brown Derby serves the best food being a much more expensive signature restaurant.
Brown Derby Lounge would be my choice for a meal given cooler weather and I would have no qualms about stopping at the restaurant for lunch when the $19 Chicken Sandwich pictured above and the $23 Wagyu Burger are options. But if I’m dropping 50 bucks on a steak, my personal preference is to be removed from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks and enjoy one of Disney’s resort restaurants or potentially Disney Springs.
Anyway, I give Sci-Fi major points for its unique atmosphere in what “feels” like an indoor drive-in theater.
As will be pointed out in any Sci-Fi review, the seating situation is a little funky with most cars seating guests in three rows of up to two people each.
That setup can make it a little difficult to communicate for parties larger than two, which by day five of your vacation, might be a good thing. As a pair, we were seated in the last row of a car that already had a family of four occupying the first two rows. If you have kids, you might stick them in front of you so that you can keep a better eye on them.
Another reason why I like Sci-Fi is that it offers several relatively inexpensive entrees:
With quick service hamburgers hitting $15 at Cosmic Ray’s, $16 at Pecos Bill, and $13.49 over at Backlot Express, sandwiches in the $14-$17 range don’t necessarily seem unreasonable.
It’s difficult to get decent pictures at Sci-Fi in what is almost a pitch-black room, but I’ve enjoyed the Salmon BLT in the past. Maybe if I put the food directly on the table.
And their burgers are a cut above what you’d receive at neighboring ABC Commissary.
The drink menu is better than some also:
Certainly the Orbiting Oreos milkshake would be decadent as a drink or dessert and the bottle list isn’t too shabby either with the Bear Republic a little rarer now that the draft version has been pulled from Epcot. I’m not sure anything Napa Smith is particularly great, but their Lost Dog Red Ale is hiding down there on draft and at 7.2%, would pack a decent punch.
Tom “Tower of Terror Bar” Corless again joins us for dinner as we were seated in the back corner of the restaurant where we belong. As I mentioned, we were planning on hitting Echo Lake Eats, but they had closed literally 30 seconds after we arrived. Short on bloggability elsewhere, we tried for a walk-up table at Sci-Fi, which you would think would be somewhat unlikely given peak dinner time on a Saturday, but they were able to accommodate us with a 30ish minute wait. With plans to stay for the fireworks, it worked out swimmingly.
I was bemused to see my initials on the license plate of the car ahead of us, though they are a couple months off of my birthday. I will see about getting that fixed.
I again apologize for the quality of these pictures as it was the best we could do with an iPhone flashlight app as our primary lighting source.
This is the $19 Sci-Fi Appetizer Sampler – Honey-Barbecue Chicken Wings, crispy Onion Rings, and Fried Dill Pickles with Spicy Ranch and Horseradish Dipping Sauces. I thought the portion was somewhat paltry for the money. Splitting it equally in half, for $9.50 each we came away with two onion rings, two chicken wings, and one-and-a-half deep-fried pickle spears. But everything was nicely prepared and the sauces in particular were surprisingly spicy and really helped carry, at least in my eyes, the overall value. Those looking for more onion than batter might be disappointed in the rings, which had just a thin strip inside a light and crunchy exterior. The wings were tender and meaty, but the sauce was not particularly noteworthy.
I was expecting diced pickle chips rather than spears for some reason, but the spears work a little better in my estimation as it helps trap the juice inside with the pickle retaining its classic snap with each bite. The batter was nicely spiced and they dipped splendidly into the spicy ranch.
The sampler should be a half portion of each of the appetizers, which comes out to $14.25 worth of food if you halve the price of each appetizer and add them up. You’d be better off splitting three full size appetizers, which would cost you a little more than $19, or picking two to share. But this does offer a sampling of flavors with a $5 upcharge for the privilege.
I ordered the $14 Southwest Vegetarian Burger – Black Bean and Vegetable Patty topped with a warm House-made Tomato Jam, Arugula, fresh Tomatoes, and Avocado Mayonnaise on Toasted Bun with choice of Cucumber Salad or Sweet Potato Fries (or Regular Steak Fries).
Sci Fi’s fries are worth the couple dollar upcharge alone compared to quick service in my opinion, perfectly crunchy, meaty, and nicely salted. With few exceptions, I would beam these fries over the side that comes with the majority of quick service entrees and most table service sandwiches/burgers. The vegetarian patty, while larger than most served on property, had little flavor and had that exterior crunchiness around the edges that made it seem like it had been microwaved a little too long. The tomato jam was slimy and made an already-slippery-sandwich more difficult to eat. And the bun was laughably stale. While disappointing, for 14 bucks I can’t hate too much. It’s a large portion and you will likely have better luck on the bun front. I’d probably skip the tomato jam and opt for ketchup if I was going to order it again. And bring my own bun. And my own burger. Basically just the fries please.
Tom ordered the $14 Smoked Turkey Sandwich On Fresh-baked Multigrain Roll – Smoked Turkey, Hickory-smoked Bacon, Lettuce, and Vine-ripened Tomatoes with Avocado Mayonnaise. Again, this is dirt cheap by Disney table service standards where 50’s Prime Time’s Fried Chicken is up to $21, Hollywood & Vine’s dinner is up to $51/adult (with tax), and Mama Melrose’s least expensive pasta dish is $18. Half of Brown Derby’s appetizers are more expensive than this sandwich.
The creaminess of the avocado mayo contrasting with the saltiness of the bacon and turkey is where most of the flavor comes from. The turkey is your typical lunch meat. You might remember me joking about how excited I was that there was a piece of cheese on my chicken sandwich at Tomorrowland Terrace, but you might also note that neither of these sandwiches arrives with a slice. A nice melted slab would have gone a long way in improving that veggie burger and a a slice of provolone would certainly liven this sandwich up. Overall, “it is what it is” so to speak – a turkey sandwich that will fill you up for not a whole lot of money. But nothing about is going to be memorable, I don’t think.
Dessert is another area where Sci-Fi usually shines, particularly under the milkshake banner. We sampled the current specialty shake, which has been strawberry shortcake for a couple of months now. I am not ordinarily a strawberry shake person as they typically taste artificial, but this was excellent with a nice, subtle strawberry flavor amidst the decadence of the cream and some crumbly cake in between the shake and the ripe strawberry on top. Our server was nice enough to split it up into two glasses, making it a terrific value at $5.50 for both. I suggest budgeting the calories to indulge, whether alongside your meal or as a treat afterwards.
This might be my creepiest menu picture of all time, which fits in with the theme of the clips that play up front:
If you’re in the mood for something a little heavier, I recommend sharing the Candy Bar, it is “out of this world.”
A couple dessert-y beverages are also an option.
Sci-Fi is otherwise a lot of fun and provides an atmosphere that you’re not going to find anywhere outside Walt Disney World. I didn’t love my entree, but that is of little consequence when the damage is $2 more than a burger next door at ABC Commissary. Sci-Fi can be surprisingly difficult to book for whatever reason, so try to make reservations as soon as you know you want to eat here.
Check out my tips on seeing Star Wars Galactic Spectacular in this post in case you missed it. I will be at the first Star Wars Dessert Party hosted inside Star Wars Launch Bay on the 10th and will report back on how those changes affect the value of the event.
I will be spending a lot of time updating my guidebook over the next few days, but will add some juicy content here and there. I have something like 75 Disney Springs restaurant reviews to write, in addition to wide ranging looks at what’s going on at Epcot and Animal Kingdom, in addition to a visit to Magic Kingdom for PinQuest and perhaps the 4th of July fireworks. We’ll see.