The moment you drive up to the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studio theme park, you’re welcomed by retro-looking, bright green-blue signage and art deco architecture that reflects the glitz of the 30’s and 40’s when Hollywood became a worldwide phenomenon. As we walked through the gates, the mystique continued, as sidewalks that were dotted with movie marquis, shops and characters dressed as stars. We took in the park over a two day period due to the relentless sun that baked the blacktop, but I’ll summarize our experience in one post for simplicity. In any case, since we’d just left California I felt at home in Hollywood.
This park is divided into several themed areas including Main Streets of America, Sunset Boulevard, The Commissary, Pixar Place, Animation Courtyard, Sunset Boulevard and the Backlot. We started the morning by taking the Studio Backlot Tour, which began with a special effects presentation. There we saw a narrated enactment of Pearl Harbor, complete with bombing and gunshot skirmishes. From there we rode a bus that took us through a realistic plaster canyon, where we were victims of a flash flood. Finally, we rode through a large building that housed real cast members who were creating costumes and set scenery. As we exited the tour, we drove past a studio ‘boneyard’ which held a collection of set props such as an airplane, trucks, and other equipment that had been used in real movies.
Next we went over to the Animation Courtyard, which included a number of interactive booths. There we practiced serving as the voice in cartoons, learned what our Disney character personality type is, and even learned to draw a cartoon. Rich, his mom, and I especially enjoyed sketching Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear! We also enjoyed viewing the impressive collection of awards given to Disney Studios throughout the years, as well as thel fine art paintings and sculptures.
Leaving Animation Courtyard, we wound our way through the Main Streets of America, which was a full street of movie sets, depicting urban settings around the U.S. We stopped at an attraction called The Great Movie Ride, which was very creative and impressive. This ride takes you through the years of movie making in an interactive style, where we became hostages of an Al Capone kidnapping. The scenery was stunning, and the movies covered films of the ’30’s through the present. It ended with a lively Wizard of Oz production – which I learned is one of the most popular movies of all times. I’ve been told that there are a number of ‘hidden Mickey’s’ in this attraction.
Next we decided to stop for lunch at an appealing diner called Prime Time. If you’re planning a trip to this park I recommend that you make reservations for your next meal when you enter, as it was difficult to find lunch during this moderately busy day. Anyway, Prime Time is a period eatery was jammed with other tourists, and the only seat we could get was at the bar. There we enjoyed delicious fish sandwiches and salads, while watching the black and white ’50s style TV shows like Ozzie and Harriet.
After lunch we headed over to the “Lights, Motors, Action” extreme car stunt show, where we sat in bleachers that were shaded from the hot sun. Below us, there was a studio set that imitated an Italian village, complete with a canal, shops, flowers, and the like. Drivers performed various stunts, ending in a fiery motorcycle scene.
We were getting tired by then, so decided to take in the Indiana Jones stunt show to finish the day. It sported authentic scenery that mimicked the adventurous movie series, and we got to see s actors perform stunt fights and blow up a helicopter.
The next day that we spent in Hollywood Studios was fortunately much more temperate, buffered by an occasional breeze. Our friend, Sid, took us down Sunset Boulevard and up to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which was more impressive than the one in CA. Walking inside the faux run-down, c.1917 replica hotel we were ushered into the Twilight Zone, and were jolted up and down the Tower high above the park for a really fun, nerve-wracking ride.
Next Rich, Sid and I hit the popular Rockin’ Roller Coaster ride, which began inside a recording studio, where we viewed a screen depicting the Aerosmith band in practice. Their cast-member agent invited us onto a limo ride for ‘back stage passes’, and we then entered the roller coaster ride while listening to classic Aerosmith tunes. I was surprised by the force of the ride, which I later learned accelerated at 4 1/2 g-force in its’ first few seconds! Anyway, we spun through the dark with black-lite style highway signs before being dropped off backstage at the concert.
For the rest of the afternoon we divided our time between a variety of shows and attractions, starting with the impressive Beauty and the Beast musical-style stage production, which featured stunning, colorful costumes and talented actor-singers.
Meandering back toward the Backlot, Rich and I then climbed through the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, where we had fun kidding around and taking photos of ourselves amongst the 15 foot grasses, over-sized rolls of film, giant tree roots and huge cans of Play-Doh.
We finished the day with the Little Mermaid show, where we got rained on in a stormy sea, as we watched the actress transform from a mermaid to a human, eventually being swept away by her love as we were engulfed into a gorgeous, oceanic backdrop. With all the attractions we took in, we still didn’t see everything that Hollywood Studios has to offer.
Upon leaving the park we took a minor detour to the Wilderness Lodge and Resort. This mammoth structure was patterned after the Yellowstone Lodge, and boasted a gorgeous fireplace, large timber supports, arts & crafts decor and Native American Indian accents. It also contained a stream that flowed from indoors to outdoors, which flowed into a small waterfall carried which deposited it into the large pool, ‘hot springs’ style hot tub, and toward a geyser. If this gorgeous set wasn’t enough, the resort was surrounded by a large, natural lake. Thanks for recommending this stop Sid, it was certainly worth it!
Our day in Hollywood marked the end of our 7 day marathon in Disney World. In spite of occasional exhaustion and some humidity, we all agreed that we’d experienced the perfect amount of Disney World’s offerings for this trip. The help from our Disney expert and friend, Sid was much appreciated, and we ended the evening with a simple but excellent dinner at Perkins Restaurant, topped off with a piece of chocolate cake as we packed up for the night. We bid Sid farewell the next morning, as we hit the road headed toward my daughter, Jennifer’s home in Atlanta, Georgia.