If you get two Disney fans into one room, you’ll probably end up with three opinions. Probably the most polarizing park at Walt Disney World right now is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although almost everyone can agree that the park needs some help at this point, whether or not to visit the park still divides people up into teams. With the upcoming opening of Toy Story Land, there’s a view that it will be worth it to visit the Studios again—but is that true? Here’s the two sides of the debate from Julia and James:
Julia: Skip Studios Now, Skip Studios Later
In my view, if the Studios was a skip before Toy Story Land, it is a skip after Toy Story Land.
I watch a rather large amount of HGTV shows involving tearing down walls for open concept floorplans and adding potfillers to subway tile backsplashes. (I draw the line at shiplap, though.) In these shows, watching the demo day is entertaining, as is the final reveal of the amazing house that you find impossible to believe was done in seven weeks and under budget. When Pandora opened at Animal Kingdom, there was a sense of the park being “finished”. Yes, there likely will be changes in the future at Animal Kingdom, but the idea of the park as being a half-day park has largely disappeared from the modern lexicon.
Once Toy Story Land opens, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which had been a park under construction and a half-day park, it will still be a park under construction and a half-day park.
In many ways, the attractions for Toy Story Land are nothing spectacular. If you have a young child or other individual who doesn’t meet the height and safety requirements, both new rides are off limits. Even if you do meet the requirements, you’ve got an off-the-rack roller coaster (which my family calls Barnstormer, the extended mix) and a spinner type ride, which makes me think of Mad Tea Party 2.0. With this land opening during Florida’s wet season, the Slinky Dog Coaster will need to shut down during the afternoon thunderstorms, and waiting in outdoor queue areas for Alien Swirling Saucer (even if under shelter) may be less than pleasant when that famous Florida sideways rain appears. Even if the weather is good, while you could spend time wandering around Pandora because it was fascinating and jaw-dropping to “visit” an alien planet, how many people will be amazed at visiting a suburban-style backyard where a kid hasn’t cleaned up his toys?
Simply put, if you arrive early and are savvy in your use of FastPass+, you’re still finished with the park’s major attractions (including a stroll through Toy Story Land) in around a half a day. If you want to grab lunch, the menu at Woody’s Lunch Box (although offering tater tots, which is a plus for some people) is limited and I wouldn’t expect to be any more impressive than the current food offerings at the Studios. Keep in mind—the signature desserts are $4 pop tarts.
There’s plenty on the horizon for the Studios, but it just isn’t there yet. Adding a Toy Story-themed version of Dinoland USA (thankfully minus the carnival games at this point) isn’t enough to make me feel I’m getting my money’s worth to fight through opening crowds at Toy Story Land for the cost of a full-day park ticket. So for me, the Studios has been a solid option to skip for quite some time—and the opening of Toy Story Land doesn’t have any wow factor for me to change that view.
James: Toy Story Land Adds Value to a Studios Visit
Here’s the thing. I get it. Studios isn’t currently a full-day park, and it isn’t going to take you half a day to explore a new land, so even with this addition, it STILL probably isn’t a full-day park. Does that mean it’s entirely skippable, however? Nope.
Let’s start with the gigantic plush elephant in the room, Toy Story Land. Rewind briefly, and you may recall that there was a TON of grousing about Disney’s decision to put Pandora in Animal Kingdom because many fans — myself included — didn’t feel a sufficient connection to the subject matter. You know what happened? Disney absolutely crushed it, and created an incredibly immersive land that appeals to people regardless of whether they give a flying banshee about the world of Avatar. I don’t know that I’ll bother to see Avatar 2-12 when they come out, but I always make a point to visit Pandora when I’m at Walt Disney World now. It’s simply incredible.
With that being the case, I have every confidence that when Disney opens this new land that is based upon a franchise that I DO care about, it’s going to be really well done. The subject matter lends itself to the inclusion of lots of details, fun pop culture references, and lots of room for exploration– even if I didn’t have the opportunity to try any of the new attractions, I really look forward to just checking out the new land, identifying all of the games and toys from the movie and my past, and otherwise just soaking up the atmosphere.
There WILL, however, be new attractions. While the ride systems may be “off-the-rack,” Disney has never been the company to rely upon the in-your-face use of bleeding edge ride technology to wow its visitors. For example, if you strip all of the Disney magic away from Space Mountain, you would find a very pedestrian wild mouse coaster that might not turn your head if you saw it on a carnival midway. What Disney does is combine these rides with fantastic storytelling and other elements to deliver an experience that is more than the sum of their parts. These rides are also notable in that they are appropriate for the younger set, which has been a shortcoming of the Studios for a while.
Even setting aside Toy Story Land, however, the truth is that what the Studios currently lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Two of the best thrills Disney World has to offer — Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster — are located at the Studios, and you can expect that they’re going to be easier to ride than ever with most guests directing their attention to the newest addition. Also, as this goes to press, it’s the only park that has TWO, count ‘em, TWO nighttime spectaculars — oh, and one of those spectaculars is Star Wars-themed. Speaking of Star Wars, the Studios is the exclusive home to that franchise and the Disney Junior characters — if you want to meet those characters, you’ve got ample reason to visit Hollywood Studios right there. Finally, the Studios hosts the best in-park place for craft beer available, Baseline Tap House — so if the attractions aren’t your thing, you’ve still got options.
So, in closing, perhaps you STILL won’t be able to spend an entire day at the Studios after Toy Story Land arrives, but that’s frankly not something we typically recommend anyway. Maybe you do it on a day when you’d planned on visiting Disney Springs and exploring. Maybe you do it on a day when you were wanting some extended pool time. But should you make it a point to see Disney’s latest new land during the relative calm before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge arrives? Of course you should.
What do you think? Will Toy Story Land make you feel some love for the Studios or will it still be Disney’s least-loved park? Let us know in the comments where you stand on the Toy Story Land debate.