The Grays of Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios Week: celebrating Disney's Hollywood Studios with Disney on Wheels blog for the week leading up to the theme park's birthday!

Last night, on Twitter, my friend Mike (a.k.a @JamboEveryone) said to me, “It could be a great park again.”

And, folks, he is so right.

I know I shared some of my thoughts on just how great park Disney’s Hollywood Studios is but I hope that I also foreshadowed that while I do accept it and love it, I do recognize the flaws.

But, frankly, there is just so much about it I do not understand.

the hat

You could start a social media war when you bring up the politics of the Sorcerer’s Hat, thrown smack dab in the middle of the park to celebrate Walt Disney’s 100th birthday back in 2001. It ruined a massive hidden Mickey, detracts from the gorgeous Mann’s Chinese Theater replica, and serves no purpose right now other than being a merchandise area. While is continues to be a great photo opportunity, I feel like it takes away from the flow of the park and just has no place where it actually sits. (Move it to the Animation Courtyard, please?)

the theatre

There is absolutely no reason why the only two live shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are the same ones from the early years of MGM Studios. Not when a great amount of new animated classics have hit the big screen (synergy!) and especially when (and I say this with great emphasis), The Disney Company has brought several successful Broadway shows to the New York and London stages. All over the world, even.  It baffles me when a company like Disney that, let’s be honest here, loves to make money and capitalize on other sections of their vast departments does no put in the effort to market their Broadway shows in the park and also improve the live theater that is already there.

(Brainstorms: NEWSIES poster above New York Street, a brilliant variety show featuring many of their hit tunes, how an animated movie becomes a Broadway show.)

the magic of movies

It seems logical to me that a company that makes movies on a frequent basis would also have access to memorabilia. Maybe something simple like upcoming movie trailers? Then why do I feel like I’ve stepped into the 80s or early 90s when I am in Hollywood Studios? Sigh. I always thought demolishing Residential Street to make way for Lights, Motors, Action was a horrible idea. I loved when the Backlot Tour would tour the facades from The Golden Girls and Ernest Saves Christmas. But without that and the constant loop of the Pearl Harbor action sequences (not to mention the automated tour guide), I have sadly passed on what used to be my favorite attraction many times in a row.

The fact that the Indiana Jones Stage Show can’t have two versions going on at the same time fits into this category too. No wonder the lines to Toy Story Midway Mania are always so long. If you are a repeat guest to the park, there’s nothing really “new” to check out time and time again.

I know The Great Movie Ride is a point of contention too. I do believe it could be and should be updated, when I think about how that should happen, what movies should be deleted and which ones should be added, I get a very small headache. How do you decide if a movie is timeless enough to belong in there? I can’t even begin to imagine.

quick service food

Pizza Planet is fun the first few times… but that’s about it. When I’m planning out a Walt Disney World trip, I can’t say that the quick service stops in Hollywood Studios stand out to me. We try to make Mama Melrose’s a stop for dinner… but that’s about it. We’d rather sit at the bar at Tune-In Lounge, or maybe even go over the Boardwalk for a beer and an appetizer. That’s a pretty bad sign, isn’t it? I would love to see a fun new quick service restaurant with really good food somewhere in the park.

animation courtyard

It goes without saying that the shut down of the animation department in Orlando was terrible. Oh, how fun it was to take the Magic of Animation tour and see talented people at work at the movies we would be seeing at the theaters a few years down the line. (I loved to see what fun toys and decorations they had at their desks.) I also can’t forgive the replacement of that adorable Robin Williams / Walter Cronkite film with the “meh” Mushu one. This is just another tour that doesn’t get refreshed enough, and ends up falling flat after a few visits. (Can we at least have a few opportunities to talk to different characters other than Mushu?) Even without a working animation studio (or backlot for that matter), I do think Disney has a great opportunity (and ton of space) to showcase what they do best (what they are known for) while educating the guests as well.

american idol experience

What? Why? That is all.

See what I mean?

Lack of updates (even small ones), under-utilized space, and poor decisions when it comes to placement of new attractions or “experiences” (Phineas and Ferb near the Muppets? Why not in Animation Courtyard?) all contribute to the frustration I feel when I think about Hollywood Studios. If other attractions were given some attention, would this not even out the playing field when it came to Toy Story Midway Mania? Maybe you wouldn’t have to spend a good chuck of your day waiting in line for it, and waking up at the crack of dawn before all the FastPasses were gone.

It’s funny to me that there is such a huge campaign of people adamantly calling Animal Kingdom a half-day park when DHS actually has 20 “attractions” (including Fantasmic) and Animal Kingdom has 21. (If you think about it AK’s attractions including trails with no wait time at all.) Just the makeup of Animal Kingdom, ruled by living and breathing animals, guarantees a different experience each time without even a little bit tweaking from the higher powers at all. Perhaps, just perhaps, that keeps the park fresher when compared to DHS.

I know it’s so easy for me to sit here and say: well they MAKE movies and television shows, they CREATE theatre, the Muppets are STILL popular. Why do they not utilize these connections in their own theme park? I’m sure money, time, and maybe a general lack of understanding when it comes to what the true purpose of Hollywood Studios is all come to play here.

I’m not asking for a total do-over. Not even close. I’d love past cinematic treasures to live in tandem with the work of today and the future. I’d love to see more props, more appreciation for their stage work in New York and beyond, and a little bit more of a reason to say “Hooray for Hollywood!” instead of  “Oh, that again?”

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

9 thoughts on “The Grays of Hollywood Studios

  1. Thanks for the shout out. I agree with almost everything you said except Mama Melrose’s. Not a fan. Sorry

    I just think the current DHS is a mess and mish mosh. I would retheme the Rock N Rollercoaster to fit with Sunset Blvd. I would redo the shows for Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. To me, Phineas & Ferb for the former, Tangled for the latter makes the most sense.

    I would bring back the glory of the Animation Building but demolish the Backlot Tour and LMA. Build out Pixar Place and Star Wars in that huge space. Monsters Inc coaster? Incredibles dark ride? sure why not.

    As for GMR, two spots come immediately to mind for replacement: Tarzan and Alien. Not sure with what, but those could go easily for me.

  2. Lots of great points here, and I agree with most all of them. It is funny you should mention quick service food. Just the other day in the most recent Beyond the Berm podcast, we were talking about how they removed a good restaurant, the Soundstage Restaurant, and replaced it with the Playhouse Disney show. How is that right? And I haven’t even bothered seeing the Mushu film in Animation, because I know it can’t beat Robin and Walter.

    Also, as Safari Mike also mentioned, as much as I enjoy Rock N Roller Coaster, it feels really out of place. You walk down great recreations of Hollywood Boulevard (except for the big hat) and Sunset Boulevard, and then all of a sudden you are back in the present at G-Force records. Huh?

  3. DHS is my least favorite of the parks. It says a lot when my favorite visit was actually during the Wine and Dine half marathon, because the park was so awesome and seemed SO HUGE when we ran through it. I actually got everyone to go back the next day because I had a strange love for it after. But we were gone by noon, so we didn’t have to eat anything for lunch there. 😉

  4. You make lots of great points here. The food issue is always a big one for me. The quick service is severely lacking. So is the table service, really. I’ve done 50s Prime Time and SciFi, and both were a lot of fun- but for the atmosphere, not so much the food. I’d love to try Brown Derby, but so far it’s been out of my price range. I can usually only swing one signature spot, and I’m reluctant to forgo some of my other signature favorites to try Brown Derby. Maybe one day…

    I absolutely love the feel of DHS, the art deco, the old time Hollywood look, and the Streetmosphere- but with only a handful of attractions that I have on my must-do list, and the complete move away from the actual, working entertainment production features- this is the park that needs the most revamping for me.

  5. You have really gotten down to something haven’t you! It’s true, HS has the ability to one of if not the greatest park but it just falls an inch short across the board at the moment.It makes me sad. I think the icon is a big issue, dealing with underdeveloped areas that just feel like a vacant city, building up Star Wars brand & Pixar Place is a must. They need to really re-imagine the dining and drinking experience as it is truly lacking for a park that is clearly more adult in both theme and rides.

  6. I never thought about any of this, but it makes so much sense! 2 of their big attractions, ToT and Star Wars, I don’t ever ride either. I do have a soft spot for Fantasmic and Animation Courtyard, though. It’s total wishful thinking to have them expand that especially with all the lay offs of their animators, but being a designer, I totally geek out with that stuff.

  7. You make some great points that if the right people heard them, should have seemed obvious. I love movies- this should be my park, but I find the layout odd, the excitement waning and Im just there for the Cobb salad sometimes.

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