Florida 03/22 – Hollywood Studios
Day 2 – Hollywood Studios
This was by far our most anticipated of the Disney days and the only one we’d made any kind of arrangements to return to later in the trip if needed. And oh, how it needed it.
And here it is.
Shows how little I knew of this place in that the Chinese theatre being the centrepiece was a complete surprise to me.
Things started off casual with some Muppet-Vision 3D. The preshow room was a bit of a drag, but I loved what they did with the theatre, having animatronic Statler and Waldorf up in the stage left balcony. Film itself was hit and miss with the comedy and I think the finale fell a bit flat. This isn’t why we’ve come.
For me, it was this. Star Wars land, and what a true visual stunner it is. I’ve missed those jaw-dropper moments from Disney as of late and this one takes the cake. I don’t think I’ve ever cared more about a theme park IP than I have for this franchise, it’s one I’ve always been really invested in, for better or worse, and the fact that something of this magnitude came to a place of this calibre at such a late point in it’s history just had me hyped up like little else before it in the theme park world. This was my Florida moment.
Anyway, The queue for Smugglers Run was stretching around the Falcon as we hopped on the end for a long wait.
Eventually it heads inside where there’s plenty of detail to keep guests distracted. The amount of effort for a simulator feels insane.
Then you get into the preshow and there’s a ridiculous animatronic.
Then you get batched and you’re actually on the ship, floor panels and everything. It’s such a heart in mouth moment if this means anything to anyone because the time spent amongst the most incredible parts of the theming are so fleeting and ultimately such a tease.
I’m not sure the ride itself quite delivers after all the build up. For all the intricacies throughout what you’ve just witnessed, it doesn’t feel much like you’re sitting in the Falcon at the end of it. The simulator sequence itself is ok at best, they try and throw in a little interactivity by assigning different roles and making you press a button at certain points but it doesn’t do a whole lot with it. The story is kinda there, if a bit woolly and I don’t really know what to think at the end of the day. At least it’s only the low tier attraction of the area.
It’s got nothing on the headline act, with a waiting time posted at 160mins. Well, here comes the longest queue of my career. Bad luck, Taron.
In stark contrast, the indoor queueline sections for Rise of the Resistance are rather repetitive and underwhelming. Rocks, cages, a lone screen like the people watch the Hoth attack from. Two hours with the question of ‘why are we here?’ rattling around the head.
Suddenly things get a little intense for the first preshow, all the familiar faces start appearing along with ludicrous animatronic BB-8. Oh, and actual Star Wars holograms are a real life thing now?
Then you see daylight for the first time in forever and this happens. Before you get a chance to think, you’re boarding the Derren Brown’s stand-up spaceship simulator flown by astounding animatronic squid head. Turns out it’s a trap, people die and you’re tractor beamed onto a Star Destroyer.
Suddenly daylight becomes this, and I love it even more. The bad guy staff batch you into various prison cells for an interrogation with Bill Weasley and big Kylo himself comes to force all the light out of the room and make it shake.
They make their excuses and a droid cuts you out through the wall of the cell and into your actual ride vehicles, a double team of 8-seater trackless beasts all driven by their own little evil-turned-good droid.
I feel like I’ve probably spoiled too much already but to do a play-by-play of the actual sequence of events is to do it an injustice. I knew so little going in and yet expected so much. I think it actually met those expectations, perhaps in a different way. The ride technology alone still blows my mind, I probably love the geeky side of that most of all. Watching the dance of the trackless vehicles has always been a firm favourite of mine, but to see it in this context with all the other cool stuff going on is…
Live blaster holes in the ceiling, sets of epic magnitude and visuals, casually driving into an elevator, animatronics creating legit tension, the pacing of the thrills, casually turning into an escape pod simulator and ENDING OUTSIDE.
Once again it’s far too much to take in, especially off the lethargy of a near three hour wait, though I think that adds to the mystique somewhat.
It is, technically and by pretty much all other measures, by far the best dark ride I’ve ever experienced or even hoped to witness. But it left a void. It didn’t warm my heart. It didn’t even come with a cup of tea.
Something I learned after we were done is that the ride has several B-mode moments allowing it to continue operating while some of the more advanced effects are temporarily broken. Without this knowledge I noticed two of the three Bs we had on our cycle, in moments that felt a little off:
1. Being chased into an elevator with a lightsaber, only to then have a crude screen of what looked like nothing more than welding in the ceiling.
2. Having that chase then abandoned, only for Kylo to be crudely hovering outside in space in his pointy Tie-Fighter trying to shoot us through a window and getting taken out by random crossfire – our victory moment.
The part I didn’t notice is that some giant cannons firing out into space are supposed to be physically recoiling as the little droid dodges our way past them.
Once again though, the promise of it being even more life-changing next time, that’s reason to come back and queue again, right?
With over half the day gone and no sign of a lull in the crowds, it was time to get a little tactical and hit all of our intended attractions in order of shortest queue first, to try and maximise any and every opportunity. This moment was punctuated with some comedy in the form of a man screaming “90 minutes?!…………… and then what?!” at his family beneath the entrance to Toy Story Midway Meh-nia. Glad we don’t need that one.
For us it begain with a mere 70 mins for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a ride that was described to me as the sleeper hit of the trip.
And it was. I’d basically barely even heard of this thing, along with not knowing this building was here, how was I supposed to know what it contained? The attraction name, to me, had conjured images of a powered coaster, an indoor Casey Jr. at best.
So what a pleasant surprise it was to find an elaborate cartoon preshow that turns into a ‘how the hell did they do that?’ visual effect. Guests then enter into the cartoon for the remainder of the queue and it gets a whole lot wackier from there.
I was trying to soak up the moment at the air gates when the ‘train’ pulled in towards us. There’s nothing joining this train together. Is this yet more tantalising trackless dark ride tech? Yes it is.
This thing is like Hunny Hunt x1000 for being weird and wonderful and once again there’s no way I can do it justice with words. Oh, and it’s violent too. The power of those vehicles scares me. Much love for this attraction.
Something slightly less high tech was waiting around the corner in the form of #1 Rock’n’Roller Coaster. This sucked so bad, but the cred withdrawal was seeping in. Two hours for a trash clone. And my feet hurt.
I think we got to skip the preshow in Paris, and good, because it wasn’t needed. I just don’t get on with this thing.
At least the speakers weren’t broken this time, but I spent half the ride thinking about how it’s not loud enough for a ‘rock concert’ to really get you in the mood it’s going for and the other half thinking ‘this layout is mostly right turns’. It was an endurance at worst, a relief to sit down for two minutes at best.
By now the sun had long gone of course, leaving time only to complete the +1s of the park. #2 Slinky Dog Dash was better than I was expecting to be fair to him. I even liked the theming details, initially only really expecting ‘Toy Story = roller coaster = money’ and instead being continuously shown that Andy was gifted a backyard coaster kit from Mack Rides, designed it all carefully and runs his dog around it.
The layout is fun, has an interesting flow and some poppy moments in the first half. Usually pausing on the second launch would irk me, but he does more with it and backs up a bit, building the tension with various effects before bursting up into a high section consisting entirely of amusingly sequential hills. Good variety, great family ride.
With that success we were left with only one major hole from the day, a certain ride that had also been attracting eye-watering wait times due to what appeared to be capacity issues. I suppose the other hole, though it was fully expected, was the lack of a Fantasmic show to end on. Instead there was a half-baked attempt at projections and fireworks on a central building, including my old mate Coco again. Not seen that before.
As we headed out once again to our inconveniently located shuttle bus at the front of Epcot, there was a transport conundrum. In the morning the driver had been ranting on about how the bus system was broken and how it takes people two and a half hours to get to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom from the TTC these days. It felt like scare tactics in order to tout for a few tips really, which we had in fact taken advantage of that morning to save precious Star Wars time.
However, on reaching the official Disney man at the HS bus station he loudly and proudly declared that ‘we don’t do buses to Epcot’ despite literally standing in front of a sign saying where to get the bus to Epcot. Instead we were recommended the cable car system that runs, in a roundabout way, to the bottom of the park, via various resorts and hotels.
This was rather fun in itself, bouncing between different areas we hadn’t seen in the dark and eventually landing sort of where we needed to be, except it was the entirely wrong end of the park. Everyone was leaving said park after their own night time spectacular and the cable car drops you just outside of the security entrance, with the masses surging straight towards us.
We can get in though, I assume? The question was asked to a nearby staff member. “Oh… you can’t really go through the park to the bus station from here, you’d probably have to get on your knees and beg for them to even let you in. The best way from here? I’d probably take an uber.” From the park, to the park. Huh.
Well we went to security anyway and were waved straight in as though it was the norm, walked straight through the park as though it was the norm and got to bus with time so spare.
Winging it was still paying off, with or without their help.
There, I’ve spent longer writing about buses than I have about the most advanced ride in history. Entertainment.