Thursday, March 1, 2012

Disney Hollywood Studios

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Here is everything you need to know to spend a day at Disney's Hollywood Studios park.
Tips for planning your day at Disney Hollywood Studios #disney #disneyworld #disneykids #disneyvacations #tips #tricks

Note: The information has been updated & revised on Oct. 1, 2014 to bring you the most up-to-date information possible!

Disney's Hollywood Studios

This fun park is geared towards feeling like you stepped on the set of a movie; it is also home to the Pixar characters (Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up, etc.)

Although there are fewer rides than the Magic Kingdom, there is still plenty to do and lots of shows to fit it so it will take you a full day to see it all.

Note: If you have children 7 and under it may not take you all day as they may not be interested in all the shows or rides.

Disney Hollywood Review for Family Vacation

Eating at Hollywood Studios

First things first, if you haven't already made your dining reservations and you are less than 180 days before you trip - make your dining reservations ASAP! Guest favorite restaurants fill up quickly.

At Hollywood Studios I recommend eating . . . .

  • 50s Prime Time Cafe - table service meal; need reservations (see review)
  • Mama Melrose - table service meal; need reservations (see review)
  • Toy Story Pizza Planet 
  • Backlot Express - mainly because of the free drink refills!
Note: Since Disney updated where Fantasmic Diner Package Guests enter and streamlined the main line, I no longer feel that a Fantasmic Diner Package is necessary or a "great deal".

Planning Your Day at Hollywood Studios

Note: One of my top 2 favorite shows is at this park – Fantasmic. It does not run every night so make sure you pick a day to come where it will be showing!

Plan to arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before it opens. 

Like all the Disney parks, you will need to go through security before entering.  Hollywood Studios does a cute “show” to open the park where someone dressed like a movie producer gets you (the extras) ready. When he yells action the park opens. Even though it seems like a lot of people there when the park opens, it will get waaaay more crowded – trust me!

(Hint: If you are a Disney Resort guest, try to do this park when you get morning or evening magic hours!)

Disney Hollywood Studios Toy Story Mania Ride

AS SOON as the park opens, immediately go to the Toy Story Mania ride! 

Don’t know where it is? Follow the crowd; they do! Toy Story Mania is an incredibly popular ride, and for good reason!  Everyone can ride this interactive and playful ride. After walking through the cutest line filled with larger than life toys, you will get in a car, put on your 3D glasses, and get ready to use your shooter/canon. As you go through there are different screens where you shoot rings, darts, pies, etc. But it is better than 3D because if you hit a balloon air will blow at you, etc. This is SUPER fun for kids and adults of all ages!

Tip: This is one of the rides I highly recommend getting a Fastpass+ for. See more about how to set up your Disney Fastpass + and other Best Rides to Pick for Disney Fastpass + for more details.

Morning Priorities at Hollywood Studios

Jedi Training Academy
If your child would like to participate in the Jedi Training Academy, send at least one adult & that child to go get a ticket. It is a first come first serve kind of thing that will fill up within 1-2 hours after the park opens!  

Meet the Sensational Six in their hollywood clothes

Disney Characters
  • The sensational six (Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) are all available under the iconic hat during the first couple hours of the morning only. They will be wearing their "hollywood" clothes.
  • Buzz and Woody have a wonderful meet and greet opposite of the Toy Story Mania ride. The line just gets longer throughout the day so if this is a priority, go ahead and hop in. You will probably wait up to an hour, but there are fun photo ops along the way. You may also run into the Green Army Men patrolling in front of the Toy Story Mania ride. All three of these characters either sign or stamp their autograph.  
  • Note: You can see Buzz, Woody, and Jessie in the Magic Kingdom, but Buzz and Woody won't be together and the Green Army Men are unique to Studios.
meet Toy Story Green Army Men at Hollywood Studios

Filling up the Rest of Your Day at Hollywood Studios

Once you've seen the Toy Story Mania Ride and done any morning priority items for your family, it's time to plan the rest of your day.

If your group is made up of older children & thrill seekers you will want to hit the following attractions (suggested order based on crowds & location):
  • The Hollywood Tower Hotel
  • Rock 'n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
  • Star Tours
  • The Indiana Jones Stunt Show
  • Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • Beauty and the Beast 
  • Fantasmic!
If your group is made up of families with children 8 and under, you will want to prioritize the following attractions:
  • Beauty and the Beast 
  • The Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Disney Junior Life
  • Meet Mike & Sully from Monsters Inc
  • Lots of characters inside The Magic of Disney Animation 
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area
  • Muppets in 3D
  • Star Tours (you must be 40" tall to ride)
  • The Hollywood Tower of Terror (must be 40" tall to ride)
  • Fantasmic!
Meet Monsters Inc characters Sully and Mike at Hollywood Studios

All of Hollywood Studios Rides & Shows at a Glance

Star Tours: The Adventure Continues

Disney Vacation 2009 478Star Tours is especially fun if you have a Star Wars fan in your home, but it is great either way. You will need to be 40” tall to ride – this is one of my kiddos favorite rides! You go through a super fun themed line then wait for your shuttle to be ready. You board your (simulator) aircraft. You watch a cute safety video with Chewbacca and other Star Wars Characters as if you are on an aircraft. 

With the update several years ago they added more ride options and new characters. You will get to enjoy one of 54 different stories on your ride. Ride it again; chances are it will be different!  Isn’t that cool!! One of our favorites has Chewbacca jumping on the front of our craft – it was AWESOME!!

Hint:  We usually get to this ride just before lunch and then again in the later afternoon or evening.

Hollywood Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios

Tower of Terror 

The theming on the Tower of Terror  is INCREDIBLE! You will enter an old hotel that is all dusty as it is no longer open. Then you will watch a short movie from the Twilight Zone (it is cheesy so my son wasn’t scared – he thought the big eye was hilarious!) where you learn more about the hotel’s past. You will then head to the ‘basement’ where you will get on the ‘only working elevators’ – the freight elevators. In this ride you will go up and see different floors with the ghosts of the family that vanished in the elevator long ago. Your car will actually move forward through a floor (super cool how they made that work!) It is all dark. Then comes the thrilling part – as you face outwards so you can see the Hollywood Studios park (and how high up you are) your elevator will drop quickly then bounce back up & drop again. I think it is GREAT! But if someone doesn’t like the dark, slightly scary content, or the quick drop/bounce & drop – you may decide to skip this. You need to be at least 40” tall to ride and not be too frightened. My just-turned-6 year old LOVED it! He wanted to go again & I was happy to do so!! (My hubby who has a more tender stomach did not go on this)

Hint: This attraction is now linked to your magic bands! Pictures and 15 second video from your ride will be automatically uploaded onto your account!
Step into a recording studio where you see  Aerosmith wrapping up a practice session The show is at the other end of town and they are going to be late; they invite you to come along and board your stretch ‘limousine’. This ride is FAST from the moment you move! FYI- It goes upside down. There are some neon signs you pass along the way as you are zipping along. You need to be 48”  tall to ride (my kids were all too short to ride). I love roller coasters and enjoyed riding it once, but I don’t think I’d feel the need to ride again. Why? It is very jerky and my neck ended up being sore afterwards. It is also VERY loud (Aerosmith music) with 125 speaker, 24 sub-woofer, 32,000 watt, onboard audio system. So although I love the speed, I could pass on the noisy neck pain. (Do I sound older than I am or what?!) 

Star Wars Jedi Academy allows kids 4-12 to dual Darth Vadar himself

Star Wars Jedi Academy

The Star Wars Jedi Academy is a show that runs about a dozen times throughout the day on the stage in front of Star Tours. Basically a Jedi will train a group of young Padawans (ages 4-12) when they are interrupted by Darth Vadar himself. Each participant will get a chance to dual with Darth Vadar himself. 

I really only recommend it if your kid is in the show (which you will need to get the free tickets early in the day if you want to participate!). For families with kids in the show it is AWESOME and the experience of a lifetime! But unless your kid is up there, you may walk by & watch for 5 minutes and be done.

Note: if your child is participating there will be a Disney Photographer who will take pictures and give you a number to claim the images to add to your photopass if you like – he took some cool pictures. Plus then you know you can focus on getting a video of the memorable event 

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    Meeting Characters inside The Magic of Disney Animation

    Looking for more autograph & photo ops? Go inside The Magic of Disney Animation building. There are always a variety of rotating characters here. There are usually 5 characters at any one time, and by the time you get through them you may be able to get in a line to see the new ones. Here are some characters we’ve seen here in the past: Captain Hook, Geppetto, Pinochio, Mr & Mrs. Incredible, Sorcerer Mickey (we call him Magic Mickey), Meeko, Frozone, and characters from Winnie the Pooh.

    Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage show at Hollywood Studios is amazing!

    Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage

    The Beauty and the Beast show (which is right next to Fantasmic) retells this popular story in the most spectacular 25 minute live show! It is filled with amazingly talented vocalists and stunning costumes. This is really good show - don't miss it!

    Hint: Try to do this at the beginning or end of the day as it is in a covered outdoor theater that gets warm!

    Voyage of the Littler Mermaid

    This show runs continuously throughout the day so no need to run here right away. But not only is it a great chance to sit down in some air conditioning, it is a chance to enjoy the retelling of The Little Mermaid through impressive props (like a huge Urusla), special effects (bubbles filling the auditorium), and live acting & singing.  The show lasts about 15 minutes.

      Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios

      Indiana Jones Stunt Show 

      This show is in a covered, outdoor auditorium so it gets hot towards midday (although a few fans do a nominal job at keeping the air moving). This is really fun look at how movies do stunts. They run through various scenes in this 30 minutes show. I still remember seeing this as a kid! Kids 8 and up will enjoy it, younger children may be frightened by the special effects and slower pace of the show.

      Disney Junior Live on Stage 

      This show is aimed at the preschool crowd. If your kids watch Disney Channel shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny, and more they will be delighted to see them come to life.  There is 1 or 2 Disney actors that interact with the 3 foot tall animatronic characters that pop out of the floor (the characters look bigger when you are sitting on the floor). It was cute & okay to see once, unless you have a HUGE fan you may want to skip this. as this show has a LONG line usually.

      Note: You will sit on the floor, but there are a couple benches at the back of the room for grandparents or people with mobility issues.

      Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show 

      We have actually never seen this. I’ve heard it is hot (not just from the open air seating, but the stunts they do) and noisy. I’ve never thought it would be a good fit for our family of young preschool/infant children. With that being said, it now features Lighting McQueen so the next time we visit we will probably try to plan to see this 33 minute stunt show.

      The Great Movie Ride

      This ride is Disney's tribute to great movies over many, many decades. You will begin by entering a replica of Hollywood's historic Grauman's Chinese Theater. As you weave through the line you will see costumes from various movies. Then while you wait you will watch clips from classic movies .

      When it is your turn you board large vehicle with your guide. (There are 2 slightly different rides you may take - either with live acting with gangsters or in the wild west.) You will go through scenes from some classic movies like Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Alien, Tarzan, Radars of the Lost Ark, and more. When you get to the 1930s gangster area there will be a shoot out with live actors popping out of the scene and your guide will pop out to interact with them (my preschoolers were a little startled, but okay sitting on Mommy or Daddy’s lap). This is a fun look back if you like movies and will take about 20 minutes (assuming there is a minimal line).

      Note: Although there is no age/height requirement, some of the movie clips, movies represented, and the live actor segment of the ride may be too scary for younger children.

        Honey I shrunk the Kids Playground at Hollywood StudiosHoney I shrunk the Kids Playground at Hollywood Studios2Honey I shrunk the Kids Playground at Hollywood Studios3

        Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area

        If you have elementary age children they will be delighted to get some play time in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area. The will love sliding down a blade of grass or climbing up the giant ant. It is a LOT of fun, but it can be hard to keep track of the kids as the pathways interconnect. So make sure you keep a close eye on them.

        Muppets Vision in 3D

        Whether you like the Muppets or not, you will enjoy this silly, fun 12 minute show. The show is in 3D with special effects that will fill the theatre. Your kids will not be frightened as they may be in other 3D shows.

        This 20 minute video will show you how Disney brings their characters to life. If you are looking for a way to get out of the heat, this may be a good option for you. I would say it is best for older children who have an interest.

        One Man’s Dream 

        This is a self guided tour through memorabilia helping you to learn more about the man who started the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney! The grandparents enjoyed browsing around and said they’d gladly go back. I never really wanted to spend the time and though my kids were too young to appreciate it. We will plan to do this when our oldest hits mid elementary.

        Fantasmic! is one of my favorite night time shows at Disney world


        Fantasmic! is one of my top two shows – DON”T MISS it!! It doesn’t play every night so plan carefully! Some nights it plays at 7pm and 9pm, others it only plays once. You will want to line up 45-60 minutes early to get in. It is a huge open air amphitheater with lots of seating. The middle towards the lower third might be ideal, but there really is no bad seat.

        In the show Magic Mickey fights off the Villains (so there are parts that can be scary for toddlers or preschoolers). You will see fire tricks, water tricks, images in the water, fireworks-ish, Villains, and Princesses riding by on boats in the water – this show has EVERYTHING!!  It lasts 25 minutes .

        Hint: You are welcome to bring snacks or drinks into Fantasmic, so feel free to grab something to keep your kids entertained while you wait for the show to start!

        CLOSED (September 2014) - The American Idol Experience 

        I’ve never even been tempted to do this. I LOVE to sing, but with the auditions and then if you get picked I feel like it would just eat up a bunch of your time. But if singing is your dream you may want to try. I’ve heard that if you actually make it to the finals you get a special pass that allows you to get on attractions with little to no wait.

        CLOSED (September 2014)  Backlot Tour

        This is an interesting ride/attraction. You will start by standing in three rows to see how they do a stunt scene in the water. There will be a couple folks picked to participate: think missals that make water spray and fire from explosion. My kiddos were all okay, but ready to move on. Then you will go through an old warehouse with lots of props from movies (that was pretty cool) and board your tram. The tram will take you on a tour of the backlot – you will see the mickey water tour, costume department, see old planes & props, and hear about the Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Show. This 35 minute attraction is interesting & fits in with Hollywood Studios well. We try to do it every visit, but it is not one of my top attractions.

        Toy Story Parade HollyWood Studios

        CLOSED - Pixar Pals Parade

        Don’t miss the 3:45 (check for current times) Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade. This is the only park that features all your favorite Pixar friends from Toys Story, A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Monsteres Inc, and Up. 

        Meet lots of Star Wars Characters at Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekend

        Star Wars Weekends 

        Star-Wars-WeekendsIf you coming during the super fun (but VERY busy) Star Wars Weekends, don’t plan on having time to see many ‘normal’ shows. Your time will be spent meeting unique characters, parades, and waiting in line!! We waited in line 2 hours to meet Chewbacca!

        If you are a Star Wars fan this is a lot of fun – you will find characters all over the park and just strolling around. There are stormtroopers that guard the entrance to Hollywood Studios when you arrive – it’s a hoot!  The Star Wars Disney friends can now only be seen as part of the Star Wars Dining and it fills up very quickly.  

        Would I do it again? Jury is still out – it was VERY cool! But it was unbelievably crowded and if you want to see any of the "regular" rides and shows at Studios, you need to allow 2 days.

        You can meet Darth Goofy and Storm Trooper Donald at Disney Hollywood Studios Star Wars Days

        *Please visit Disney’s website for any updates, changes, and current ride closures/refurbishments.

        Check out other helpful topics in the Dreaming of Disney Series below!dreaming-of-disney7122221
        1. When to take your kids (what is the 'perfect' age)
        2. Planning for your trip (time of year, how long to stay, Disney hotels, and affordability/deals)
        3. Tidbits (20 tips from the best place to see Mickey to strollers to super cool Disney features you may not know about)
        4. Dinning: My top picks for snacks, quick meals, and reviews on 12 restaurants (including character meals)
        5. Magic Kingdom
        6. Animal Kingdom
        7. Hollywood Studios
        8. Epcot
        9. Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, CA


        1. This is Very Help Full..........So nice & Great Post...Thanks...........
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        2. Oh my goodness... I cannot wait to check out the other links. We are going to Disney in May with a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 6 month old. These are great tips!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        3. We love the lights camera action show and so does our 2 year old. It does take a while to walk all the way to the seating area and it is pretty hot out since the show is in the middle of the day but well worth it for us. We grabbed some lunch from a stand right outside the entrance (corn dogs) and brought it to eat during the show. Lightning McQueen is only there for a few minutes and Mater appears by voice and on a screen above the set. The rest of the show is loud and fun filled with stunts and then an explanation on how they did it. We try never to miss this show.

        4. ok i just need to ask do u have the downloadable touring plan for the other three parks like you do for magic kingdom this is very helpful and awesome just wondering Thank You

        5. Do you have any more advice on Star Wars Weekends? Hubby and I went last year for his birthday and there were some cool photo ops with Star Wars characters and the big shopping tent thing, but other than that, we didn't really notice much extra (other than special appearances by not-very-well-known Star Wars cast/crew). :(

          1. Elizabeth we really enjoyed doing it once - for the special characters & parade. But it was VERY crowded and we would probably not need to to it again... at least for a LONG time!

        6. Get ready for some BIG changes. Indiana Jones, Stunt Show, and American Idol are all going away to make way for a new Star Wars expansion, Radiator Springs, and an Avatar ride. The Muppets are also moving to the Magic Kingdom.

        7. Oh, and for those who had easily startled little ones the Great Movie Ride has TWO different spots where you can have a gun fight: in the New York themed area with gangsters or in the Wild West themed area. We found that the gangster gun fight was more frightening than the wild west gun fight for the kids because the big city was a little scary to them to begin with. Also, there is a nifty boat ride between Epcot and this park so you can miss out on the lines for the buses and take a nice relaxing ride on a boat to Epcot if you want to try Hollywood studios and Epcot in the same day.