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Category Archives: Hollywood Studios

Star Wars and Carland at Walt Disney Worold Hollywood Studios?


With two major themeparks in the Orlando are, Walt Disney World and Unversal Orlando, there is some stiff competition for our tourist dollars. Universal added the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it seemed like Disney responded with the New Fantasyland. Rumors are starting, however, that Disney is about to launch a new response using the recently aquired right to Star Wars and by bringing the success of Carsland east and landing both in the Hollywood Studios.

Of course rumors are just rumors. Many of them seem to originate with a dog that was

Maybe it's not in a galaxy so far away after all?
Maybe it’s not in a galaxy so far away after all?

recently in the pound with a dog that was formerlly owned by someone who knew a castmember or some crazy connection like that. But this one has some good sources on it and is starting to pick up steam. Unfortunately the earliest we can expect a definitive answer will be at the upcoming D23 Expo which will not start until August 9th.

Till then we can indulge in the rumors though! The following are things I have found on various sites.

While rumors on what will go and what will stay vary almost all include the closing of the Backlot Studio Tour and Lights, Motor Action! Extreme Stunt Show. Closing both of these make sense to me. When is the last time you ever heard someone say I cannot wait to get to the Backlot Studio Tour? Never! The Stunt Show, while enjoyable, has to be high cost to put on. Then consider the fact that if it rains the show is cancelled. It’s a good show but it is a lot of space that could be better used.

Some of the other rumored closures include Mama Melrose, Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Sci-Fi is hit or miss. My parents loved it. My wife and I tried it and would have preferred almost any place to what we got and what it cost. I would hate to see Indiana leave the Studios so I am keeping my fingers crossed on that one. I have never eaten at Mama’s.

What are your thoughts? What would you keep and what would you add?

 

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Lightning McQueen Racing Into the Hollywood Studios?


Before you get too excited you should know this is just an internet rumor at the moment which means it may be no more likely than a prince from Africa offering to make  you rich if you send him money so he can get of his.

That being said the rumor is this: Cars Land will be recreated in some fashion at Disney’s H0llywood studios.

While this is certainly just a rumor at this stage there are come compelling reasons to think it might be true.

For example a certain wizard moved in down the road from Walt Disney World and though he might not be drawing away all of the crowds from Disney he is competition. One must wonder how much of the Fantasyland expansion and the announced Avatar land resulted from the addition of Harry Potter to Universal Studios. Adding Cars to Hollywood Studios could just be another step in the continual competition between these two theme park giants.

Read the rest of this entry

Star Wars Weekend Update


Every year Star Wars lands at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Characters and actors show up. Check out this video that gives some of the details from the first week of Star Wars Weekend 2012.

Pics From the Studios


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Is Captain Jack Lost?


First Captain Jack sailed out of the Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom. Then he sailed back into it so to speak. Now it seems he has set sail again and this time will and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This might seem odd. It might seem that he is lost. It might seem that he has lost his mind. Then again that is what Jack Sparrow is, I mean Captain Jack Sparrow is. Isn’t it? We can rest assured that whatever Captain Jack is doing he has a plan of some sort, hopefully, after all he has to be headed towards what he wants most with the help of his trusty compass.

What he must want most right now is to replace the Journey Into Narnia attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Journey was certainly in need of replacement. There was nothing other than a pure love of Narnia to draw any guests to a location that seemed like an after thought. It was more of a walk through with sound effects than anything else and absolutely nothing to inspire one to come back a lot a that left the first time visitor wondering why he stopped by in the first place.

We expect better things from the ever entertaining Captain Sparrow. Details of what to expect are sketchy at best but we hope the imagineers have a better idea of what they are doing than Jack normally does.

What we do know for certain is that the experience is expected to open in the fall of 2012 and a few hints from come from an interview with one of the imagineers:

“Opening this summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow has elicited something of a legend of its own. The word around the Parks is that this mysterious new attractionwill be a first-of-it’s-kind sensory experience in which guests will have a chance to be enveloped by the world of the Pirates of the Caribbeanas seen in the four feature films. Sounds intriguing.

To find out more, we had a chance for a friendly “parley” with Jason Roberts, Walt Disney Imagineering Project Manager and Show Producer for the new attraction. “This is going to be an immersive experience,” Jason told us. “We’ll really delve into the story of Captain Jack Sparrow and put our Guests in the middle of it all in new and exciting ways.

“Story is always the most important thing for us at Walt Disney Imagineering,” Jason continued. “But we’re always looking at new ways to tell the story that our Guests have never seen before. In this attraction, we’ll let you walk in the footsteps of Jack Sparrow. “It’s not ‘the making of’, not ‘behind the scenes’…it is really a firstperson experience.”

Jason wouldn’t divulge any of the state-of-the-art special effect trickery used in the attraction, but he did assure us that the attraction is certain to elicit a “Wow! How’d they do that?” from our Guests. A long-time fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and films, Jason was delighted at his shot to work on the attraction. “We worked with the archives as well as the filmmakers while they were shooting the last movie,” Jason said. “And as a fan, I just loved sitting through those films again and again, going through all the details and leveraging them for this new experience. It’s really been a blast.” ”

Hopefully we are not disappointed.

Hollywood Studios Gallery


Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus is a verb


Okay maybe this should have been included under Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms but this one was so big that I wanted it to have its own section. The following is from the book How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams:

“Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, but not in Walt’s vocabulary. To Walt, “plus” was a verb—an action word—signifying the delivery of more than what his customers paid for or expected to receive.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Walt “plussing” his products. He constantly challenged his artists and Imagineers to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Why did he go to the trouble of making everything better when “good enough” would have sufficed? Because for Walt, nothing less than the best was acceptable when it bore his name and reputation, and he did whatever it took to give his guests more value than they expected to receive for their dollar.”

Perhaps one of the best examples of Walt’s obsession for “plussing” comes from Disney historian Les Perkins’ account of an incident that took place at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the new park at a cost of $350,000. Walt’s accountants approached him and besieged him to not spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade because the people would already be there. Nobody would complain, they reasoned, if they dispensed with the parade because nobody would be expecting it.

Walt’s reply to his accountants is classic:

“That’s just the point,” he said. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”

This attitude is kept alive today. One quick example of this is the new interactive queues they are installing at several of the rides at Disney World. The worst part of Disney World, or any other theme park in the world for that matter, is waiting in line. Disney has realized that our patience is shrinking. Instant coffee, microwave dinners, the internet, smart phones and every other convenience in the world has trained us to want it and to want it now. Disney can not make the lines go away all the time but they can entertain us while we are in it. They are trying to make the unbearable at least more bearable. They also dispatch characters to relieve the monotony. They even use parades to draw people from more crowded to less crowded areas. They monitor line size constantly and even launch more boats on Pirates of the Caribbean for example.

The man who started it all was obsessed with creating a grand show, an illusion that would keep people coming back for generations. Judging from ticket sales he not only succeeded but the dream is still going strong.

Another example can be found in the resorts. They could have just built a bunch of hotels but that isn’t very magical. So each hotel has a theme. Sure the themes at the value resorts is not best in the world but when you move up to the moderate resorts things improve dramatically. If you move to the Deluxe resorts or the the Deluxe Villas they improve exponentially. Even at the moderate resort Port Orleans I love to have one day just to wander around the resort. I could spend a lot of days wandering around the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Not only are the resorts themselves great once you get there you can put your car keys down. Disney will provide free transportation to the parks and Downtown Disney. In fact you can get almost anywhere you need to go without the hassle of driving or paying for a taxi. Sure some of this is self-motivated because they want you somewhere you will be spending money but it is also a great perk. In fact if you fly into Orlando Disney offers the Magical Express. If you make the appropriate arrangements, which are quite easy to make, they will send you luggage tags to your home. You put them on your luggage and when you hit the airport in Orlando you head straight to the Disney center in the airport. They will take you to your resort for free! But the best part is you don’t even have to worry about your bags. They will claim them for you and bring them to your room. When you are ready to leave they will take your bags back to the airport and make sure they are loaded onto your plane.

While your in the parks Disney wants you to shop. They also know you don’t want to carry your packages around all day. Their answer? They will ship them to the front of the park for you. If you are staying at a Disney resort, on property in Disney parlance, they will ship them to your room if you are staying long enough for it to reach you there.

All of these services are “free” and designed to make you happy while at Walt Disney World. Of course they assume, often correctly, that if they make you happier you will either come back more or spend more money. They hope you will do both! Intend to make their dreams come true because they make so many of mine come true.

For more information check out this article from the New York Times.

If you need to catch up or finish this articles here are the links. Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms and Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks

Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms


Walt did everything he could to help people escape from the real world for a little while and spend some time in a place where wishes do come true. Two prime examples are the fact you do not walk right from your car into the Magic Kingdom. Instead you board either the monorail or the ferry boat. Thus even before you get to gates of the park you begin to leave the world behind.

This is all part of Walt’s magic and vision. That vision could not be nearly as complete at Disneyland as it is at Disney World simply because of space. Walt and the imagineering crew also learned a few things from the California park.

Walt’s vision can be explained in a lot of the terms they use at Disney World. Some of those terms are onstage, backstage, cast members, costume, audience,utilidors, imagineering.

Onstage refers to anything the audience can see. Walt did not just want a theme park he wanted to create the illusion that the audience was in another world. To make sure that the onstage area is always in good order Disney spends a load of money on maintenance. Streets are steam cleaned nightly. Things are constantly being repainted. To give some scope to the onstage idea and how important it is to Disney consider the following facts taken from wikipedia:

In a March 30, 2004 article in The Orlando Sentinel, then-Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:

  • More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 750 horticulturists and 600 painters.
  • Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90 percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
  • The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
  • There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
  • There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.

Backstage is something that is not intended for audience viewing. Anything that would lessen the Disney illusion must be kept backstage. In fact, at cast member entrances to the onstage area there are verbal reminders that the cast is about to go onstage. There are also mirrors for a last minute inspection to make sure your costume is in order.

Cast member is the Disney name for employees. They are called cast members because they are not just doing a job they are staging a show for the audience. They are meant to be part of the illusion Disney is trying to create.

Costumes are the uniform that cast members wear. Sure its a uniform no matter what you call it just as cast members are employees. But by constantly reminding the cast members that they are staging a show they reinforce the idea that they need to be in character all the time. Personally I think they do a great job!

The man who started it all was obsessed with creating a grand show, an illusion that would keep people coming back for generations. Judging from ticket sales he not only succeeded but the dream is still going strong.

The audience, put simply, is anyone who is in the park but not part of the cast. They are the guests and are sometimes referred to as such. Either term you use they are still the beneficiaries of a lot of work Disney is putting into making sure we forget our troubles for a while and can dream about a better world.

Utilidors are part of how the illusion is maintained. Story goes that Walt saw a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland as he headed to his post in Frontierland at Disneyland and did not like how it ruined the staging of his illusion. There wasn’t much he could to about it at Disneyland but he filed the thought away for his new project in Florida.

To make the Seven Seas Lagoon a lot of earth had to be moved. Of course even Walt could not make it disappear but the imagineers came up with a use for it. As the Magic Kingdom was being built the entire first floor was designed as a system of tunnels dedicated to utility functions. The dirt was then piled over the the tunnels. Therefore what most guests consider the ground level at the Magic Kingdom is actually the second, and sometimes third, floor. Some of the tours at Walt Disney World will even let you catch a glimpse of these Utilidors. Note you must be 16 or older to get in! For more information on the tours click here.

Imagineering (or Imagineers) is a term originated by the Alcoa company. Put simply it is two words slammed together. Those words are imagine and engineering. Walt adopted the term and the philosophy. He wanted people who could not only engineer he wanted people who could imagine! The sky was the limit. In fact in the creative process of Disney Imagineering the first stage of the project is called the Blue Sky phase. So Walt may not have originated the term but he sure came nearest to perfecting it and we are still reaping the benefits, smiles and memories today.

So now you know some of the terms. Look for grumpy’s follow up articles on the Magic of Disney in

Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus Is a Verb and Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks.

Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part Two


Number 4: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Yes you really do go upside down! And you will be rockin out the whole time you are going!

This one is a no-brainer for me. I love Aerosmith. I love roller-coasters. Put the two together and what could be better!  The ride premise is simple and is established in the pre-show. Aerosmith is inviting you to attend their next concert which is across town in LA. To make sure you get there in style they are providing a super-stretch limo. You leave the pre-show and head to the final queue before climbing into your limo.

Your limo is, of course, the roller coaster car and the cars look the part. Unlike any other roller-coaster at Disney though, these cars come complete with a rocking sound system. You pull up to the launch which is also unlike most roller coasters. There is no steep hill to climb. You go from sitting still on a flat track to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. When they say get ready and push your head back, you better listen!

Then your tour of LA begins accompanied by blaring Aerosmith. The ride is inside, similar to Space Mountain, but is far more energetic. You blast by traffic signs at high speed and even do some inversions before finally arriving at the concert. Unfortunately the concert turns out to be a gift shop. I guess the driver made a wrong turn somewhere.

Even though I have always missed the concert I never miss Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. In fact, my wife and I usually use the single rider line and we have ridden it up to five times in one hour.

Number 3: Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at the Magic Kingdom

An amazing shot of the fireworks with Walt and Mickey in the foreground. For the official Disney page click the picture.

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is the closing ceremony for the Magic Kingdom. It is an amazing fireworks show with a story. Jiminey Cricket is the narrator of the story that revolves around good triumphing over evil. Not real unique for Disney World but hey we are looking for a happy ending to our already glorious day in the Happiest Place on Earth right?

Story or no story the fireworks are amazing. There is something primal about the lights and the sounds, some of which will reverberate through your body, that brings out the kid in all of us. And what kid doesn’t love fireworks? Okay Elijah, my son was scared by his first fireworks display and it was on the backyard variety but he was young. Most kids love fireworks and this display puts the average Fourth of July display to shame. Maybe its the music. Maybe its Cinderella’s castle serving as the backdrop. Oh and did I mention you get to see Tinkerbell fly? That’s pretty impressive too.

During special seasons of the year the show changes up a little bit and on the Fourth of July rumor has it that the number of rockets shot increases to almost double. The best viewing is in front of Cinderella’s Castle but you can see the show from all over the park. There is a special dining package which includes reserved seating and also a special package that allows you to watch the show from the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Number 2: Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King is an acrobatic musical extravaganza featuring most of your favorites from the movie. Click the picture for a sneak preview from the Disney website.

I am going to admit up I might be one of the few people to include this one on a list of Top Seven Must Sees but I offer no apologies. This is not a ride. It is a show. As the name suggests it is loosely based on the Lion King. The key word being loosely. Many of the primary characters from the movie make appearances, namely Simba, Pumba, Timon and of course Scar do make appearances though.

The show centers around the premise of a festival being held. Scar of course is attempting to disrupt it. This is a show but not a play! There is a lot of excellent singing centered around four characters created for the show. There are also acrobatics including a spirited performance by the “Tumble Monkeys”. The finale of the show even involves a character flying high above the audience as the cast sings “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”.

I am not sure exactly what it is about this show that moves me so much but it does! I love it. I watch it every time I go and sometimes multiple times during a trip. Check it out if you haven’t already and let me know your thoughts.

For the grumpy’s number one Walt Disney World Must Sees click here.

If you missed grumpy’s earlier installment of the Walt Disney World Must Sees click here.

 

Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part One


If you have stayed at a Walt Disney World Resort you know that Disney has got it down when it comes to shameless self-promotion. Every time you turn on the TV it defaults to a specific channel. It does not matter what the last channel you were watching was. The TV has been bribed to keep your mind focused squarely on getting you back into the park where chances are you will spend more money. I am not judging. Just saying.

That channel is an endless loop of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World. It updates from time to time as new rides open and old ones close but whenever you turn on the TV  you are going to see it first. In honor of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World I am going to create my own. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Of course the hardest part of any “top” list is figuring out what belongs there. Sometimes its just hard to find anything that would make the list. Fortunately I do not have that problem at Disney World. My problem is narrowing the list down to only seven. But I am up to the task. Of course there are a few things that won’t make my list simply because I have not done them, like Cirque Du Soleil (an official winner on the Disney generated list.) I have completed almost every ride and experience in the parks though. In fact one of the only thing that comes to mind that I have not done is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I was going to ride it last time I was there but it just did not work out.

So without further delay here is my list. I hope you enjoy it!

Number 7:Flights of Wonder at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Okay so it’s definitely not flashy and the story is especially hokey. A tour guide who happens to be terrified of birds finds his tour group (you the audience) has left him behind and has stumbled into, of all things, a show on birds. The tour guide, the last several times I have seen the show it was Guano Joe, spends the rest of the show learning about birds and at the same time overcoming his fears.

My favorite part of the show. They have never let the eagle fly out over us but I still love seeing it.

This show is not like a lot of animal shows you might have seen. Birds will be flying right over your head. Well that is the hope at least. They come so low you have to wonder if they ever hit anyone in the audience. There are singing birds, birds who can “do” math and a bird who literally takes money right out of an audience members hand and delivers it to the show host. Don’t worry the bird brings it back. Last time I saw the show I made sure I took cash so I could volunteer and low and behold I was picked. Unfortunately my wife was too close to get a good picture.

I really enjoy the whole show but what earns its spot on this list is the closing. They bring out a real bald eagle. Now I have loved the American bald eagle since I was a child. They were once on the endangered list but aren’t any longer. To see one up close and personal like that literally brought tears to my eyes. Don’t skip this one. You will be missing out.

Number 6: Soarin’ at Epcot

The Golden Gate is only one thing you will see as you “soar” over California. Click the picture to watch the video from Walt Disney World

Okay I have to admit up front one of the reasons I picked Soarin’ is location. It’s in EPCOT and I didn’t have anything from EPCOT and I would have hate to have left out a theme park completely. That being said it does not mean this is not a first class attraction.

Guests on Soarin’ strap into what looks like a row of theater seats. In fact you are in front of a large movie screen. But do not be fooled. Once everyone is seated and ready to go your seats get whisked up and into the air and the show begins.

The show is a tour over California and it’s coast. (Soarin’ is a transplant from Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.) The seats move and tilt. Obviously this show has a visual impact but there are also cool breezes blowing in your face, the smell of pine trees and the salty pacific. The “movie” will drag you in to the point you will lift your feet to avoid clipping the trees.

Number 5: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The story goes like this, years and years ago some people at a hotel were in the elevator when lightning struck it and they disappeared as a whole wing of the Hollywood Tower collapsed. As the name should imply it happened because of the Twilight Zone.

Not for the faint of heart but if you can overcome your fears you might just like it! Hey I refused the first year I was there but now I ride it and ride it often. Click the picture for the official Disney page and a video.

After winding your way through the abandoned hotel you will enter the last stage of the queue. Here you are crowded into a room with a bellhop as you watch a video that could could be an introduction to the original TV show the Twilight Zone. The narrator even sounds like Rod Steiger. Then you have one more little queue till you enter your elevator car to excitement. They give you a seat but you won’t always need it. You are also given a seat belt. You do need this and I highly recommend you use it!

The car then moves along some dark tunnels. You catch glimpses of the missing guests and then the fun starts. You move into final position and are raised and lowered multiple (and a random amount) of times. This is where you will not need your seat and be thankful you are strapped in. It is an odd feeling to be floating in one direction while you realize the car is moving in the other but don’t worry you will come back together one way or the other!  At multiple points in the ride you will be stopped as windows open up and you get a first class view of the rest of the Studios.

Because of its nature I was at first reluctant to try this one out. But my niece was going to ride and I overcame my shame. I am glad I did! You are enclosed for the whole ride for those who do not like standard drop rides and if you are healthy enough I recommend you try it at least once. It’s a must see after all!

Ready to find out what is next? Click here for the next installment of grumpy’s Walt Disney World Must Sees.

Can’t wait to find out what grumpy’s number one is? Click here.

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