USA Part Eight - Hollywood Studios and re-visits to all of the parks!

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October 3rd 2013
Published: October 5th 2013
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As planned, we were up early the following morning to go to Hollywood Studios; the last of the four Disney World theme parks (though we still had the water parks to visit!). We caught the bus at 8:45am and got to the park just after opening, making a beeline first to the ‘Toy Story Midway Mania’ ride to pick up a fast pass – Emma had read online that this is always crazy busy as it is the newest ride. Yup, the queue was already thirty minutes and growing and the fast passes had return times between 12pm and 1pm – ridiculous! We secured ours anyway as we didn’t fancy queuing for it, then walked back to the ‘Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror’ ride, which had a much more reasonable five minute wait!

This is where we discovered one of our new favourite rides EVER and started a new addiction for both of us; we have actually lost count of how many times we have rode this now, we just can’t stop ourselves from going on “one more time” repeatedly! Anyway, the ride is located inside the large “Hollywood Tower Hotel” and it starts with a bit of a preshow explaining how in the 1930’s a group of people went into the elevator at the hotel, which then got struck by lightning causing the people to enter the twilight zone. The theming inside and around the hotel is amazing and really effectively creates the illusion of an old, abandoned hotel. Anyway, you then get into the elevator and sit in the rows of seats before the doors close and you ascend a few floors. The doors open and you see a hologram of the group of people beckoning you towards them. The doors close once again and you climb further up the tower, until you reach a floor where the elevator then moves forwards, passed a few weird holograms before everything goes pitch black and then the fun starts! The elevator starts dropping and/or shooting up and then dropping back down multiple times and every now and again the windows on the tower open so that you can see that you are right at the top before you plummet right back down again! The ride is completely random so you never know what will happen (especially at the beginning, you may just drop or you may shoot upwards!) and it means that two rides are never the same – hence the reason that we are always so keen to re-ride straight away!

So after we had been round a couple of times, we then moved onto the ‘Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, featuring Aerosmith’. This is an indoor roller coaster in which you are supposed to be in Aerosmith’s stretch limo shooting around the streets of LA to get to their concert, all the while of course being blasted with the music of Aerosmith! We were quite surprised that this went upside down a few times, something that we have never experienced before and being in the dark and not really being able to see what’s coming next really adds to the thrill. I have noticed that so far we had taken no photos as we had been having so much fun on the rides, but I assure you that the photos should match up to the blog from now on (we did take some photos of these rides later on when we revisited).

We then went on the Backlot Tour, which consisted of a small show in which a few members of the audience helped to shoot a scene on a sinking navy ship, and then a tram tour around a few soundstages, a little like the backlot tour at Universal Hollywood, though not quite as good! Once off the tram we had a walk around the costume and prop museum owned by the American Film Institution (hence why there are props from non-Disney pictures), seeing costumes and props from films such as ‘8 Mile’, the original ‘Superman’, ‘’The Sound of Music’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Shining’.

It was almost time for us to ride Toy Story, so we headed back to Pixar Place, snapping a photo of Mike and Sully from ‘Monsters Inc.’ as they came out for a meet and greet. We then walked past the HUGE queue for the ride (I believe it was around 80 minutes by this point, probably three times longer than ANY other queue that we have seen!) and got straight on with our fast passes. It was actually a really fun ride – each person has a mounted gun with a string pull and you travel around on the track, stopping at large screens for a couple of minutes at a time as you have to aim at targets (all themed like carnival games) to score as many points as you can. Each screen had a different type of game, for example on one you may be throwing balls at plates, and on another you would be throwing hoops over things or shooting darts at balloons. The technology was really good and even though your gun wasn’t technically shooting anything out, it really felt that you were due to the 3D effects, aided by the glasses that you are given to wear. Of course, there were plenty of appearances from the Toy Story characters during each game too!

Once off the ride, we headed over to the ‘Star Tours’ ride – a simulator ride in which you climb into a spaceship and fly around the Star Wars universe – encountering many obstacles and enemies along the way, of course! This ride is also random so you are unlikely to have the same ride twice – there are actually 54 different experiences – though the main aim in all of them is to safely deliver the Rebel spy, which was usually an unsuspecting rider whose face would be flashed onto the screen at the beginning!

We then had a wander around and saw that the ‘Indiana Jones’ stunt show was just about to start, and we watched as they set up and played out several different scenes, such as one set in a temple with Indi dodging several traps before being chased by a big rolling boulder, another set in Cairo where there were a few acrobatics and a chase scene in the buildings above, and finally one set in the desert with a fight scene and an explosive finale. It was all pretty impressive, and it was quite amazing how quickly they were able to change the sets for each scene.

We had a bit of a walk around before returning to our new favourite ride at the Hollywood Tower Hotel for a few re-rides, and another on the Aerosmith roller coaster. The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ show was starting at 3pm, so we went to get a seat at 2:30pm so that we could enjoy the air-conditioning (every day has been HOT here by the way, not sure if I’ve mentioned it before) and rest our feet for a bit! The show was really cute, with the cast performing each of the songs from the film as they retold the story. The costumes were really impressive (they must have some pretty short people under some of them!) and the singing and dancing was all incredible.

After the show, we decided to call it a day and return to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours, before going back out to Downtown Disney later in the evening to enjoy a few more hours at DisneyQuest, this time getting a few photos as we played on the many games that were once again free to play! We also snapped a few pictures of the large Lego figures that are placed outside around the Lego shop, such as Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and even a huge dragon that sits in the lake opposite. We also remembered to take a photo of the towel swan that the maid had created on our bed back in the hotel room – she would often create random things like this most days – our Mickey toy is currently sat on the curtains like a swing displaying ine of our ‘First Time’ badges on his chest!

We had a bit of a lie in the next morning but were up and at Animal Kingdom by around 11:30am to catch some of the things that we missed last time and to re-ride some of our favourite rides. ‘Expedition Everest’ was of course one of these, and we went on this several times as the queue was only around ten minutes for most of the day! We had the camera out this time, so made sure to get some photos of the queue line, and also a few on the ride – you can see the part where you reach the ripped up track just before you go backwards, and then a few glimpses of the Yeti as the ride goes on! We also revisited ‘Primeval Whirl’ and ‘Dinosaur’ as we enjoyed both of these on our first visit.

We also watched the showing of ‘Finding Nemo: The Musical’ which was a re-telling of the story from the movie, with a few catchy songs thrown in, sung by each of the characters. This time, the characters were all puppets, though the actors playing/controlling them sounded EXACTLY like them and really got their mannerisms down perfectly! It was a really cool show and very cleverly made, and we both had some of the songs stuck in our heads for a while after – they really were catchy!

As we came out, we caught the end of the ‘Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade’, then returned to the hotel to relax for a little while as we had planned to return to Hollywood Studios later in the evening to watch the ‘Fantasmic’ show at 8pm. We caught the bus to Hollywood Studios at 6:45pm, and once there headed straight to the massive outdoor seating area in front of the stage on the lake at the back of the park. We had a bit of a wait before the show but we had some great seats in the centre, and we were all entertained for a while with a bit of a sing-song with a few cast members in the warm-up show.

Finally, the show started and Mickey appeared in the centre of the stage, surrounded by lights, fireworks and water fountains, and the audience is taken on a journey into Mickey’s imagination. Projections from all of the different Disney movies were then shone onto these huge water fountains (though I couldn’t get any decent photos of these), all along with songs from each of these films. In between the fountains, there were also some live re-enactments of parts of some of the films, such as the fight scene from Pocahontas, and dancing/love scenes between some of the Princes and Princesses. The Wicked Queen from Snow White then turns up and transforms into the hag (which used to TERRIFY Emma as a kid) and the show takes a darker turn, turning Mickey’s dream into a nightmare. The villains from the films were then projected onto the fountains, before Mickey comes across the giant cobra from Aladdin, and then Maleficent, who transforms into a huge dragon. Of course, Mickey defeats them with the power of his imagination, conducting the water to smother the flames from the dragon and using a magical sword to shoot sparks, effectively killing the dragon – the ‘death’ scenes from each of the Disney villains were also projected onto the fountains at the same time. At the end of the show, all of the characters appeared on a large boat that sailed along the front of the lake for the finale, with more fireworks and water fountains adding to the atmosphere, and leaving everyone on their feet once the music finished.

After the show, we figured that a lot of people would rush out to the buses, so we decided to stick around for a bit and get a couple of rides on the Hollywood Tower, which was a walk on! Unfortunately, we got two rides in before running around to the entrance to find it was closed – in fact, everything was closed (the park closed at 9pm) so it was time to go! The queues for the buses had died down by this point so we were soon back at the hotel, where we watched TV for a bit before going to bed.

We again had a bit of a lie in the next day before going to Magic Kingdom for the afternoon, getting there just before lunch time. We snapped a few pictures in front of the castle before heading to the ‘Be Our Guest’ restaurant. We had heard many good things about this place and decided to spend a bit more money to eat here (we usually just split a meal somewhere to keep costs down). As it only opened this year and offers a much different experience to most quick-service restaurants, it means that there is usually a bit of a queue to get in. We got into the queue just before 12pm and eventually got inside the Beast’s castle at 12:30pm. We walked past a row of suits of armour before being given a ‘magical’ rose and guided over to the touch-screen menus where you order and pay for your food. We had both already decided to have the braised pork with potatoes and vegetables and also a chocolate cupcake for dessert, so we were soon finding a seat inside the ballroom. The theming, as you’ll see from the photos, is absolutely INCRESDIBLE in here – the chandeliers and the ceiling is exactly like in the film, and they even have another seating area in the West Wing, complete with the rose and torn up pictures on the wall.

We placed our rose on our table as instructed and within a few minutes, a waitress appeared with our food on a silver trolley – they must be able to track the location of the rose (we guess using some sort of GPS technology or something?) to bring the food to you, but it’s all very clever! The food was DELICIOUS – the pork just fell apart and was really tender, the vegetables were beautifully cooked, the mash was lovely and creamy and the sauce/gravy was very tasty – we can definitely see why this place is rated so high, the whole experience was just wonderful! The cupcakes were also amazing, lovely chocolate cream on the top and, to our surprise, chocolate sauce in the centre – mmmm!

Nice and full up, we then had a wander around taking a few more pictures before heading out of the restaurant and back onto Main Street, where we watched the end of a little show with Mickey and his pals in front of the castle. We then spent the afternoon riding the three mountains, grabbing a fast pass first for Splash Mountain which we had not yet been on, before going on Big Thunder Mountain twice as we waited. It was once again a very hot day, so we were quite glad to get a bit wet on Splash Mountain to cool us down! We were quite pleasantly surprised at the length of the ride – we expected it to be shorter than it was but we were taken through quite a few indoor sections telling the tale of Brer Rabbit and his escape from the Brer Fox as we were dropped several times down the flumes, before finally going down the big drop at the end.

Our final stop was Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain, and to also have a quick ride on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Spin (lol @ Craig’s intense face on the picture), the People mover and to watch the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor show, where we thankfully were not picked again to be embarrassed on the screens! We returned to the hotel in the early evening and had a night in as we had quite a long day planned ahead!

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