Hollywood Studios has a movies theme and is home to Star Wars and Pixar, as well as rides for thrill seekers and some great shows for little ones.
Hollywood Studios takes its inspiration from the world of movies, films and shows. There genuinely is something for everyone – rollercoasters, Star Wars, Frozen and musical shows. And as the only place in Walt Disney World to be able to meet some of their favourite Disney Junior characters, this park is a must-do for little ones.
Hollywood Studios is going through a transitional phase. It is undergoing a huge development, meaning that areas of the park have had to be closed, and the new areas are not yet fully open. Coming soon will be an immersive Star Wars land – building off the franchise and its successful Star Tours and just opened a new Toy Story land, expanding on the current offering of Toy Story Mania in Pixar Place. While the developments don’t particularly get in the way, if you have visited Hollywood Studios in the past, you will notice it feels smaller while this work is going on. However, there is still plenty to do and it well worth a visit.
Disney World’s rides tend to be more about the story and family-friendly thrills than stomach-churning drops, but Hollywood Studios hosts two of the more heart-leaping rides on the property:
Rock n Rollercoaster – a rollercoaster, in the dark that is accompanied by music from Aerosmith. Although the theming and starting video is incredibly dated, the rollercoaster itself is not – a fast-moving limo ride in the dark and one of the few coaster in Walt Disney World that takes you upside down. It is also one of the very few with a single rider line – it doesn’t move particularly quickly but is still a good option if the queues are long and you don’t have a FastPass.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – take a ride in an elevator to the Twilight Zone, and undergo a series of drops. There are a number of sequences, so you won’t know what to expect should you ride it multiple times, and at least once, on each ride, the elevator doors open to give you a view of the park, from the top of the tower. And then BAM – it drops you like a stone!
Star Wars has become increasingly prominent in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and with a new land in development to be completely devoted to it, this will only increase. For Star Wars fans, it is a must:
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue is a 3D, high definition motion flight simulator based on the Star Wars movie franchise. Renovated in 2011, there are now 13 different segments, of which you experience 4 each time, each randomly selected. This makes a total of 96 different variations of the story, so you can ride many times with a different experience. The premise is the same across them all – you are flying with C-3PO and R2-D2 to return a rebel spy safely to the Rebel Alliance.
Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple – bring your little Jedi wannabes to see or take part in the show as they learn the ways of the Force, to battle against various enemies, including, of course, Darth Vader. If they want to be on stage under-taking the training, you’ll need to sign them up first thing – make the ABC Sound Studio building your first stop of the day, although keep a look out for cast members singing people up at the park entrance too. It is hugely popular and spaces get filled quickly.
Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away – a live action show performed several times a day, featuring Storm Troopers parading through the park and culminating in a stage show in front of the former Great Movie Ride.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – a night-time projection and laser show, set to the iconic Star Wars soundtrack.
Although the Magic Kingdom is the obvious destination for those with small children, Hollywood Studios should also be on the ‘not to miss’ list.
Disney Junior Live on Stage brings some of their favourite characters to life – in puppet form. Everyone sits on the floor to watch this show, which has a human host who interacts with the puppets as it rotates through some of the most popular Disney Junior shows – Mickey Mouse’s Club House, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Sophia the First, and Doc McStuffins. If you’ve been to Disneyland Paris, it is very similar to the version found in Walt Disney Studios – only the Hollywood Studios version has been updated more recently with Sophia and Doc McStuffins.
Meet some of their favourite Disney Junior characters in Animation Courtyard, outside of Disney Junior Live on Stage. This can vary, but generally includes Sophia, DocMcStuffins, Jake and Pluto. Note, there is a separate queue for each character. You can also meet these guys (with Handy Manny instead of Pluto) if you go for breakfast at Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine, at Hollywood and Vine restaurant, also in Hollywood Studios. (Note, this is now breakfast only – Minnie and friends cover lunch and dinner here).
Frozen Sing-Along Celebration – two residents of Arrendelle talk the audience through the story, introducing you to key characters as they join them on stage, while showing clips of the film. The words for all the songs appear on screen and everyone is encouraged to sing along – which is as good as the audience’s participation levels. If you have been to the version in Disneyland Paris, you may find this one lacking – it relies much more heavily on the film itself rather than the characters singing on stage. However, it is still entertaining and a must for any Frozen fans.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid – a live stage show, running you through Ariels’ story.
Beauty and the Beast – see the film played out live in this 30 minute stage musical.
Toy Story Mania – so popular that Disney have expanded the ride to include extra tracks, and it’s one of the focal rides in the new Toy Story Land. Sitting in a pair, the ride takes you through a series of arcade-style games, where you use your ‘gun’ to shoot at targets, break plates, burst balloons etc. This gives you points and the aim is to beat your partner. Definitely, one to Fastpass or make one of your first stops.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Show – stunts abound in this Indiana Jones themed show, featuring professional stunt men and women giving you a behind the scenes view of the kind of actions they perform.
Muppet Vision 3D – as the name suggests, a 3D film, featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets.
This is Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ nighttime show, located outside in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre. It features fireworks, water effects, live action, and has a great story. It is set on stage across a waterway from the audience. The story is Mickey’s journey into his imagination – watching as his dreams allow his fear to develop into a nightmare. It features lots of live characters, from Sorcerer Mickey to the princesses, to peter pan and the ‘evil characters’ from the Disney films, both on the stage and on floats and includes images projected onto sheets of water. This show can definitely be quite scary for little ones, with lots of bangs and threatening music, and obviously, it’s in the dark as it’s night time. There’s usually a few people taking scared tots out, so it is worth considering if your kiddos will be brave enough.
It is not shown every night anymore, so be sure to look into when it is on during your trip and plan accordingly. It is however extremely popular and people start queuing for it up to 90 minutes before it starts, in busy periods. The theatre can hold nearly 10,000 guests (which includes 2000 standing) but it is still regularly packed out. Most, unfortunately, will have to queue or take their luck on arriving a bit later. However, there are limited spaces which are reserved for people who have purchased a Fantasmic dinner package. These are specific meals at Mama Melrose, Hollywood n Vine and Brown Derby, where you are also given a ticket to the reserved seating area. These packages are also popular, so need booking well in advance. It’s also worth noting that while you’re guaranteed a spot, some are better than others, so even with these, many still choose to get there pretty early.