Silver Anniversary for Disney’s Hollywood Studios

In my own personal experience, a birthday means feeling a little sad that I’m “getting old”, happiness because I’ll be celebrating with people I love, and also — my favorite — reflection. What have I learned this past year? How can I improve in the next one?

I imagine Hollywood Studios is probably having a similar conversation with itself this week. On the big 25th birthday, will a cake of blown out candles signify a year of changes and success or another year of the same?

It’s hard to say.

With every passing year, it becomes harder to sit down and write about Hollywood Studios on what are meant to be joyous occasions. I want to be positive because I do adore this park, but I also can’t sit here and tell you that it’s perfect or even working well right now. Last year, I felt similarly because I wrote two posts back to back about the details in the park that make me happy and questions that constantly bug me about it too.

I keep wondering which year will finally bring a different kind of post — the one brimming with the confirmed reports of a major refurb, where we are no longer wishing and hoping for an executive to pay attention to this identity crisis prone park. It has to be soon, right?

While we wait for something to happen, I still wanted to take some time to talk about a few of the details I love so much about the park and also five teenie tiny adjustments that would at least give guests some kind of temporary hope that DHS isn’t a permanent homage to the early 90s.

5 DHS details to love

  1. Sunset Blvd. Music, theming, people watching — all of that and more awaits you on Sunset Blvd. I wish there was a cute bar closer to Tower of Terror because I’d love to be even more surrounded by this atmosphere. But, alas, I have to settle for a nice bench. This avenue is even gorgeous at night — the neon! — and is one of those spots that I flock to when I just want to kick back and catch my breath.
  2. MuppetVision ice cream cones: Melissa at Rolling with the Magic mentioned the Muppet fountain (which I love love love; can I fit one in my apartment please?) but the next time you are visiting my furry friends, be sure to turn around and look for the ice cream sundaes. (Yep, already I have “I Get You Want You Want” stuck in my head — help!)
  3. Background music: I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday + so many people had trouble choosing their favorites. I know I have about three that I could listen to all the time but then I think of others and my whole list has to be written again! From Animation Courtyard to the ToT loops, like every other park the music is so eclectic, but it just makes me feel at home.
  4. Mama Melrose’s penna alla vodka: I’ve written about this restaurant quite a few times on THP + I can’t help but still love it. (Even if it could use a decor upgrade.) The penne is seriously delicious and sometimes, sometimes I dream about it. (Here’s a recent meal review.) I also have to mention how yummy it smells in that restaurant. Mouthwatering.
  5. Echo Lake: I don’t talk a lot about Echo Lake, which is a shame. I totally should. But this is another one of my “hidden relaxation spots.” Grab a beer Dockside Diner, watch the water, say hi to Gertie, and just… zone out. I haven’t spent a lot of time in California but when I look up at the palm trees surrounding the lake, I feel like I could be there.

Echo Lake Hollywood Studios January 2014

5 tiny changes for Operation: DHS “refresh”ment

  1. “Coming Attractions” attraction. If you’ve been to DHS lately, you might notice there’s a Maleficent preview center taking over the former home of Sounds Dangerous. This is exactly what I’ve been talking about — but I want to see more of it. So many movies coming out, so many spots to advertise them in a running series of trailers + also an excuse for people to get out of the heat and escape the rain.
  2. Remember Disney Channel Rocks? Well, that’s long gone but I would love to see a Disney on Broadway Sings! moving show. I talk about this a lot — too little acknowledgement of the awesome shows that Disney is creating. I want to see them in the parks; I want people to hear the sings; I want people to want to come to NYC and support live theater. Let’s make this happen!
  3. You might know I’m a huge bookworm. It just about stabs me in the heart every time I walk into the Writer’s Shop + I’m browsing at the book selection. It barely changes. Disney has its hand in publishing — young adult, fiction, non-fiction — I want to see more of it in there. I would also love to see them dig out some book relics. Sell stationary, journals, greeting cards, postcards, pens… let’s put a cork in the kitchen stuff, okay? And how about a comfy chair?
  4. Back to my love of background music, let us please update the MuppetVision BGM. We have had two new movies with an Oscar winning song + I want to hear them when I sit by the fountain and wish for more vacations (and more Muppet anything). It’s also a great way to introduce Walter into the fold.
  5. For the love of everything in the world, update the montage at the end of the Great Movie Ride. Has it been 10 years by now? Finding Nemo + Pirates have wormed their way in there, but I think we need a refresher. (But don’t change the music too much because I do enjoy that.) Bonus: change the script for the GMR. I don’t want to hear two cast members saying the exact same things IN TANDEM FROM DIFFERENT CARS. Ahem.

So there’s a little bit of my two cents. I know that fixing any of the above is just a small band aid compared to making this park feel like a full day experience again but at least, DHS would get some of the dusting and TLC it so desperately needs. I’m not sure there is another theme park that throws me into this kind of tailspin — I love it; I don’t like it; I care about it; I don’t want to waste time there anymore. It changes day by day. (Mostly when I think about days spent at the parks vs. the money I’m spending to be there, it’s more worth my while to go somewhere else. Sigh.)

I say this a lot but I think it’s healthy to think critically about the things you love. You only want the best for them, and you want them to live up to their full potential. Here’s hoping that DHS gets that push before it celebrates its next big birthday. Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

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

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