One of the things I love most about Walt Disney World is the attention to detail that Imagineers put in to each one of the theme parks and resorts. It was recently brought to my attention that it seems we have been neglecting one of the parks (thanks Matt Hochberg of Studioscentral.com). Each time I go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I find a new reason to fall in love with it. There is an incredible amount of thought put into the theming and I would like to shed some light on some of my favorite aspects of the park. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my favorite park at Walt Disney World, but I absolutely love it and think there is something for guests of all ages at the Studios.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I have an affection for the days of yore. The classic days of Hollywood are represented beautifully in DHS between the attractions, architecture and design elements throughout the park. In particular, some of my favorite films from the 30’s through the 50’s and even into the 1960’s are showcased. As I enter the park to the sounds of some of the best film scores of all time from Gone With The Wind, to a personal favorite, the James Bond theme, I am immediately transported to a land where movies are made.
The greatest tribute to this golden era of film making is the Great Movie Ride. While not the most thrilling of rides Disney’s Hollywood Studios has to offer, it is definitely an E Ticket attraction in my book. The ride takes guests through classic scenes from the 1930’s with the Busby Berkeley musical numbers, classic gangster films starring James Cagney to one of the most beloved films of all time: The Wizard of Oz. This is just a smattering of movies from the first major decade of Hollywood. Even more classics, new and old, can be seen in the montage ending the Great Movie Ride. The 40’s are depicted in my all time favorite film, Casablanca, and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman still look stunning delivering some of the best lines every written for a movie script. Moving onto the 1950’s, the iconic scene of Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain is beautifully recreated. There are other great movies from the later years of Hollywood, but it is these early classics that are so special to me and are why I keep revisiting this fantastic attraction.
While many guests may just focus on the time of their next fastpass for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, or how long the wait is for Tower of Terror is, I prefer to look up and around at the scenes and architecture on Sunset Boulevard. Oh sure, I often feel the need for speed and love RNR, but more than anything I just like to soak in the ambiance and the recreation of the Hollywood of the past. From the Carthay Circle Theater to the Sunset Ranch Market, Imagineers have seemingly painstakingly preserved that feel of the mid century in Southern California.
Now it is no secret that Tower of Terror is not my favorite ride and was just recently the last attraction that I had to experience at the Studios to complete all of the current attractions the park has to offer. You can read about my love/hate relationship with rides competing with my desire for completion here. While it is not my go to attraction, I love the theming of the Tower of Terror and amazing attention to detail that was put into it. The exterior is rather intimidating with the Hollywood Tower Hotel standing just under 200 feet tall, complete with what appears to be damage from lightning across the facade of the building. As you wind through the queue and the overgrown (intentionally, of course) landscaping to approach the lobby of the hotel, you feel a sense that something ominous has transpired. When you enter the lobby, it appears to be frozen in time. Everything is just as it was on that fateful night in 1939, just covered in cobwebs and dust. The music playing faintly in the background is that of the Big Band era and fits perfectly for the aura of the ride. I’m not going to ruin it for those who haven’t experienced this attraction, but next time you do, pay close attention to the magnificent details that were placed throughout the queue, lobby and library of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, you won’t be sorry.
As much as I’d rather not revisit the D23 Scavenger Hunt from last year, there were a few good things that came out of it, especially at
the Studios. I was reminded of the crates located near Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner and at the far end of New York Street by the Backlot Tour. Two of my favorite crates are from Gone With The Wind and It’s A Wonderful Life. It isn’t just anywhere you can go these days to find homages to films that are 60-70+ years old. I think it is great that the Imagineers have taken the time to design things as innocuous as crates sitting around a dock and given them backstories tying them to films such as The Producers and Casablanca.
This is just another one of those little details like the Villains Showcase put on by AFI at the exit of the Backlot Tour. One reason I almost always find time to sneak back here is to see not one, but two pictures of Sean Connery (my all time favorite actor) on display.
This past week I discovered a picture in One Man’s Dream that I had never noticed before. It isn’t labeled or captioned in any way, but the subject is unmistakable. Salvador Dali was riding the Carolwood Pacific in Walt’s backyard. I knew they had collaborated in the mid 1940’s on a short film called Destino that I viewed a few years ago at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. I guess I was just surprised that I had never seen the picture before and that it went without recognition I imagine from a lot of guests. I did confirm with the nearby Cast Member that it was in fact Dali and she went on to explain their connection with Destino since Dali had been a fan of Walt’s work on Fantasia in 1940. Discovering sweet little gems like this always make me appreciate One Man’s Dream a little bit more each time I go exploring through the attraction. Also in OMD I saw all these great attraction posters for the different lands at Disneyland. The classic look of these epitomizes the mid century nostalgia that I see around many corners of DHS.
In addition to great rides and shows, the Studios offers a great source of live entertainment in the form the always funny Citizens of Hollywood and the tween aimed Disney Channel Rocks show. However, my favorite by far is the band Mulch, Sweat and Shears!!! If youfollow me on twitter and you’ve seen me tweet from DHS, you may have noticed I have an affinity for the bass player, Axe. The band covers a lot of classic rock like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Eagles, etc. and some newer rock songs like My Own Worst Enemy, Enter Sandman and The Middle. If you get an opportunity, please take the time to track down Morris (or Mia), the Hedge, Axe, Sticks and Buzz, as this family of musicians and landscapers rock their way around the park. You may even be “lucky” and get pulled up to “sing” in front of your friends and dozens of other guests.
Fast forward to about 5:30 if you want to see me make an idiot of myself (disclaimer: I’m not responsible for your ears).
Last but not least, I must address my childhood and continuing love of all things Muppets related. I can practically recite the script of Muppetvision 3-D, minus the Swedish Chef’s unintelligible ramblings, as I’m sure can many others. Even the queue and pre-show area of this great attraction hold many humorous jokes. Have you ever taken the time to read the signs in the queue and post-show area posters?
I know I haven’t even addressed some of the best attractions, like Star Tours 2.0 the Adventures Continue, Toy Story Midway Mania and I only briefly mentioned Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. These are all fabulous and I enjoy them, but I think a lot of people aren’t aware of some of the more hidden gems like the Animation Academy. The headliners are fun and I like them, but the reason I love Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park’s ability to transport me to a different time and place. I can see my favorite film Casablanca in several places. The architecture is astonishing, especially when you see how faithful the buildings are to their original inspirations. I hope this brought to light some new things for you to experience next time and that you enjoyed understanding part of why this park is truly magical, especially at night under the luster of neon and swaying palm trees.