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Appreciating the Underappreciated: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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Few people, outside of a certain proprietor of a website dedicated to the park, will claim the Studios (while I am not so entrenched in the past as to keep calling it the Disney-MGM Studios, I haven’t quite adopted the new name yet, so “the Studios” is my compromise for its name) as their favorite park. I know I don’t. In fact, out of the domestic Disney theme parks, the Studios ranks as my fifth favorite park out of the six parks. I suppose if you add Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach to the mix, its ranking of fifth out of eight sounds a little better, but the point still stands: the Studios isn’t at the top of my list.

"You Unlock this Door with the Key of Imagination"

However, this is not to say the Studios is a bad park by any stretch of the imagination. If it were, this post appreciating the Studios would be somewhat pointless. Rather, it’s much like a flavor of ice cream that isn’t one of your top flavors: it’s still ice cream, and it’s still a heck of a lot better than cauliflower and broccoli. Likewise, the Studios is still an incredibly well done theme park, and should be appreciated as such. But because it doesn’t have the lineup of the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, people often dismiss it as a park. Here are some tips to help you see the true quality of the Studios while touring.

The No-Brainers: Obviously, you’d be remiss if you skipped the Great Movie Ride, MuppetVision 3D, Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. As far as headlining attractions go, this is an incredibly strong line-up. The last of these is arguably the best attraction at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, it (and many of the other items on the list) doesn’t appeal to all guests. Despite this, I strongly encourage you to venture over to the Tower, walk the queue, experience the pre-show, and then take the chicken exit. A good portion of the amazing experience in the Tower of Terror isn’t the main show itself, but the build-up. Everyone should at least experience that.

First Treatise of Future Dinosaur Civilization

The Architecture: From the Pan-Pacific Auditorium inspired turnstiles to the California Crazy Dinosaur Gertie to giant Sorceror’s Hat inspired by…err, let’s just skip that one. With the exception of the Big (insert lewd adjective) Hat, the architecture in the Sunset Blvd, Hollywood Blvd, and Echo Lake areas are really impressive in that they combine multiple styles to create something that flows as representative of the golden era of Hollywood.

The Details: Like the windows on Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom? Then check out the windows on Hollywood Blvd in the Studios. These windows allude to the origins of Walt Disney, Hollywood in general, or contain clever puns. In addition to the windows, you can find references to classic Hollywood films scattered throughout the Studios. This first became apparent to me on the D23 Great Disney Scavenger Hunt, when we had to run all over the park finding them. If you want a fun diversion the next time you find yourself bored in the afternoon at this purported half-day park (it’s not!), have your party split into teams and see who can find more film references throughout the park. Or, you could spend the afternoon enjoying many of the great overlooked attractions at the Studios including the Backlot Tour (it takes a lot of heat, but Catastrophe Canyon alone redeems all of the Tour’s other faults), Voyage of the Little Mermaid, the American Idol Experience, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and One Man’s Dream.

Citizens of Hollywood

Streetmosphere: Dubbed the Citizens of Hollywood, these characters from Hollywood’s past are the glue that hold together the gears of the Studios. As they are not a fixed “Guide Map Attraction,” I fear the Citizens of America are often overlooked. This is a huge mistake, as the Citizens are essentially an E-Ticket (with no lines!) right on the streets. Performing daily on Hollywood and Sunset Blvds, these characters perform entertaining sketches that feature audience participation. The characters range widely from the washed up starlet  “Dorma Nesmond,” who is clearly reminiscent of Norma Desmond from Billy Wilder’s classic film Sunset Boulevard, to police officers who anoint younger guests as honorary officers to help keep law and order on the dangerous streets of Hollywood. The Streetmosphere characters do brilliant work, and are a true gem in the Studios crown.

With all of these positives, you might wonder why the Studios isn’t my favorite park at Walt Disney World. Well, it’s actually only a few attractions away from being a contender for that title. Just for fun, here are the things that I think would make touring the Studios better:

Lady Pig-erty

The Muppet Studios: this idea was actually floated for the Studios prior to Jim Henson’s death, and it’s an idea that I think should be revisited. A Great Muppets Movie Ride, wherein the Muppets spoof classic films, should be the first addition to this land. Converting Mama Melrose to a restaurant featuring the Swedish Chef would be next, followed by converting Pizza Planet to a restaurant spoofing Ratatouille featuring Rizzo the Rat. Since this imaginary world is devoid of budgetary constraints, I’d also add an interactive Fozzie Bear Pie Toss game similar to Toy Story Mania.

Expanded Pixar Place: the Monsters, Inc. family coaster that has been rumored for years is the obvious fit for this area, and Pizza Planet would also round out the land nicely. The real estate presently occupied by the Backlot Tour would make a great location for Radiator Springs Racers, but given the current inequity between family attractions and thrill rides, I would instead opt for a Cars dark ride. Use the concept behind Monsters, Inc Ride & Go Seek! but instead let guests control the vehicles headlights.

The Pixar Studios

LucasLand: replace the Backlot Express with…well, something else. The Studios has already gained a restaurant with these additions, so I’d like to see this replaced with an attraction, rather than rethemed to something Lucas Films. Additionally, the rumored expanded Jedi Training Academy in the Sounds Dangerous building would be nice.

Okay, so if I got my way and everything on this wish list were added, the Studios would undergo a more extreme makeover than California Adventure’s $1.1 billion face lift. For what it’s worth, I think the Studios is a great park to tour even without all of these changes, and if even one or two of these additions/changes came to fruition, it would be an even more solid park. It’s fun to dream and play armchair Imagineer, though!

What do you think? Is the Studios really underappreciated? Do you think these changes would improve it? What changes would you make?

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Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website http://DisneyTouristBlog.com. Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page (www.flickr.com/tombricker) and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/wdwfigment).

48 thoughts on “Appreciating the Underappreciated: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • I would put in an overhaul of The Great Movie ride on my list. Singing in the rain? Who the heck alive has seen that movie?

  • I have look through your other blog post and i enjoy thanks for the worthwhile informations you’ve got shared. Great job.

  • Great article, Tom! It has certainly generated some interesting discussion.

    My relationship with DHS has taken a while to mature. I’ve been visiting WDW since 1971. As soon as EPCOT opened, that became my favorite park. As I lived in Florida from January 1979 until July 1986, including the last few years in Orlando, I came to know the first two parks really well and was reluctant to “try out” a new park once my visits dropped from weekly to only two or three a year.

    Then in 2009, I attended Star Wars Weekends. That’s when I fell in love with the Studios and it replaced the Magic Kingdom as my second favorite Florida park. In addition to the mentioned attractions, there are other things I like about the Studios:

    1) It’s a small park. If you have a broken toe or foot, it is the one park you know you can still manage to deal with. 😉

    2) There are lots of places to hide from the rain–especially, lots of wonderfully themed indoor queues.

    3) There are lots of photo opportunities. While the Animal Kingdom is my favorite park to just take the F4, a tripod and a bag of film, the Studios provide both interesting people shots (the citizens of Hollywood) and architectural shots as well.

    4) You can walk or take a boat to and from EPCOT’s International Gateway and any of the resorts on Crescent Lake. Even if you drive, once you park, you’re there.

    5) You can always get a good meal and a decent martini at the Brown Derby.

    6) And last but not least, One Man’s Dream, because that’s what it’s all about.

  • We visit WDW twice a year for around 8 days each time. We like DHS, but one visit per trip is enough. If the weather is warm, we’re out of the park by 2 headed for a water park.

    DHA suffers from too much thinking and too little judgement by the suits. It has (like too many other aspects of the resort) fallen victem to the “good enough” thinking by management. I seem to recall that the vast majority of WDW vsitors are first timers with repeaters in the minority. Instead of asking why there isn’t more repeat business, I think management is happy to just have everyone visit DHS once.

    DHS has too few rides. Plain and simple. The queues at TSM would die down to reasonable levels if there were more rides. The park needs at least 2 more E ticket rides and 2-3 D ticket ones. Where to put them is a problem, but filling in the lagoon would solve the land problem and probably make crowd flows better.

    Which rides? From a cost prospective, duplicating known successes from other parks makes the most money and development time sense. What if they replaced Back Lot (which takes a lot of real estate) with the Journey to Center of the Earth from Disney Seas? Part of the choice/placement of rides at DHS should be to disperse the crowd about the park. The congestion problem is partly the result of only 3 or 4 choices for rope drop. (You ever see anyone race for LMA at rope drop?)

    The subject of shows is probably harder. As far as I can tell, most of the shows have people that love them and people that hate them. If I were in charge, I’d probably redo or replace Indiana Jones (which I think is more than just long in the tooth). LMA is a nice place for a nap… and the real estate is probably worth more as two rides. A new Muppet movie every 20 years would be nice. Hell, they could rotate the existing one with a newer one of they wanted and probably get crowds.

    I’d kill the Narnia statics and use that space for something newer – shows don’t have to be huge to work well. Look at Little Mermaid. It isn’t that huge, but it works well. And I recall reading elsewhere that the old Hunchback theatre is used for prop storage. Put a dark ride there.

    Replace Sounds Dangerous with anything. Please. Replace Idol with a large mirror and a troop of performing chipmonks. (Or any other performing animal of your choice). In short get rid of the really bad choices of misguided executives who wanted to promote shows/stars with time limited appeal. And stop pretending that it is a working studio. If they want to tie to new releases of movies, they need to scale up simulator technology and bring new (or variant) rides on line more or less at the same time the movie opens (or within a very few months of opening).

    One statistic that I’ve never seen, but would find interesting is how many people park hop from/to DHS. I suspect that it is fairly high. If management ever thought about why people don’t spend a full day, they’d probably find it is (1) not enough rides, 2) so-so dining choices and (3) lack of repeatable shows.

    Of course, I’d argue that AK suffers from some of the same issues, but that’s a discussion of it own.

  • An enjoyable take on what makes the park work and what makes it fail. It’s a park I love being and whilst its not perfect I think it is maligned unfairly at times. In regards to rides TofT is just perfection in my opinion and the stroll down Hollywood Boulevard towards it is always a joy. Where I find it becomes a bit of a muddle is the top end around the Backlot area. I can see merit in the idea of expanding the Star Wars area but find the lack of Pixar themed attractions/environments baffling. A Monsters Inc ride is loooong overdue and to be honest the Backlot Tour is a relic now. Given space is at a premium this is an area that could be put to much better use. If MK is being turned into a land of Princesses, Princesses and a few more Princesses for good measure then DHS needs to up the boy factor to give a few thrills for the wee guys and the big guys.

    That said, what I love about DHS is the atmosphere and style of it and Fantasmic remains my favourite show on property. The Art Deco style of the entrance is a joy to look at and whilst it may not be as iconic to some its a sight that makes me smile and enthuses me for awaits me inside.

    • Meant Sunset, not Hollywood Boulevard, oops

  • Studios Counter Service is generally bad, no doubt about that.

    We’ve had some success recently with the Studios Catering Company. I had a really good sandwich there in May.

  • Great article Tom! The two things that keep DHS lacking in my opinion is a dark ride and decent counter service food.

    A dark ride would be a pretty easy to fix. I love the Monsters Inc ride in DCA and think it could be a pretty easy fix to put it where Backlot currently resides.

    Decent counter service food is really my big beef with DHS: ABC Commissary, Pizza Planet, Backlot Express, Rosie’s, Fairfax Fare (worst food in WDW, imo) and Starring Rolls. The only redeeming one in the bunch is Starring Rolls and it closes at 4pm! Where is the Sunshine Seasons or Columbia Harbor House? I think its pretty unanimous that DHS has the worst counter service food and as someone who likes to spend my time touring and not sitting, this is a HUGE reason why we don’t spend all day at DHS.

    That being said, I do agree that ToT, RnRC, Star Tours, and TSMM are top notch. Redo the Great Movie Ride and I might get on board that one. Also, I know I’m in the minority, but I enjoy LMA. I think its repeatability is much greater that Indiana Jones.

    Overall though, I’d really just like to see something other than bad pizza and dry burgers to eat at DHS for counter service options.

    • I’m surprised at everyone here who doesn’t like the Great Movie Ride. What about it needs to be updated? With the exception of Alien, the films featured in it were old in 1989. They are classic films–GREAT movies. I fear if Disney updated this attraction, they’d put in things like Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure. While enjoyable films, these are far from classics.

      • Ditto. I hear lots of people trash Great Movie Ride as being “dated,” but I disagree–it’s “classic.” While I wouldn’t mind switching a couple of scenes, by and large I like it the way it is and don’t see the need to update it. Plus, that would be like the old Tomorrowland. 5-10 years after you update it, the “new” movies will be dated. To me, Great Movie Ride is the heart of the park.

      • Much love for TGMR. While it could probably use a new scene from a more recent movie, they ones it has are classics, and I enjoy it a lot. I will say that it can depend on whom you get as your tour guide. A poor guide can flat-out ruin the show.

    • Re: Fairfax Faire- the Mac and Cheese Hotdog is my favorite meal in the park if not in Disney!

  • DHS is by far a challenge to expand. Here’s my thoughts:

    – Knock down Voyage of the Little Mermaid (once the new dark ride is done), and move Aladin’s Magic Carpets to that space in the Animation Courtyard (filling in a “Dumbo Spinner” that every park, sans Epcot, should have).

    – Beauty and the Beast gets replaced with Princess and the Frog (that movie has a great soundtrack, and deserves to be featured as an attraction).

    – Narnia can leave. Replace this space with a themed shop.

    – The building next to Toy Story Mania (“Hot Set”) could become a new Ratatouille-inspired dining location.

    – Tram Tour gets lengthened with a new “show stop” (similar to Catastrophe Canyon… maybe that Journey to the Center of the Earth bit?), with the water effects tank being replaced with a new building containing another Pixar attraction (I’d love to see Monsters Inc Laugh Floor move to this park after the Fantasyland Expansion opens… it would better fit this park and maybe stand out more, anyway… besides, this park already has enough thrill rides).

    – Using Sounds Dangerous as the new home of the Jedi Training Academy must happen.

    – The backlot theater (where Hunchback once played) would make a perfect new home for that intolerable Disney Channel Rocks show. No matter how you feel about the Hat, having a big stage blocking it just adds to the tackiness of it.

    – Indiana Jones is looking a little long in the tooth… maybe this would make a good spot for some Marvel attraction down the road?

    – And, uh, maybe Fantasmic could use an update where they try to be more like the one they built in Tokyo?

    Disney, use my ideas free of charge. Just do something with this park.

    • And how about a Pizza Planet that is like the one in the movie? Great idea, terrible execution. You can’t imagine how disappointed I was the first time I ate there and saw that there weren’t robots guarding the door, a claw machine, or slime dispensers.

    • Yes, I am so with you on giving “Princess and the Frog” some love! I was so disappointed to hear the riverboat show was leaving before I could ever see it live– but you can bet I contributed to the YouTube view counts.

    • I sooooo agree on the Pizza Planet disappointment.

      And PLEEEEEEASE Princess and the Frog!!! I TOO was disappointed to have missed the riverboat show! The music is spectacular. (I am very proud of my home made video, of the Sassagoula River Boat ride set to Princess and the Frog Music. :-P)

  • Fantasmic. FantasmicFantasmicFantasmic. That tips the scales for me. If I had a choice on which nighttime show I wanted to go to see, I’d pick Fantasmic every single time. I love the Hollywood feel of the park, I love the Star Wars area of the park, and I love the Pixar area of the park. One Man’s Dream is a must every single time, because it gives a nod to the man who stared everything! I’m not a big fan of the Streets of America, but when I saw the Osborne Lights last Thanksgiving, I realized its potential. Give me a free day at Disney? I’m going to the Studios! (Especially if Fantasmic is showing that night!!!)

    • Ahhh, Fantasmic. Or as I like to call it, Pocahontas-fest! After seeing Fantasmic at Disneyland, the Studios’ Fantasmic just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’ll still go see it, it’s just not top on my list of priorities.

      I think I’m one of the few people who wasn’t really excited about the news that it’s going nightly again.

      I won’t be going during this time frame, but if I were, I honestly wouldn’t be all that pleased with this news, (even though I think it makes a lot of sense for Disney). Here’s why:

      1) Days following showings of Fantasmic! generally have really light crowds. Since we don’t have much interest in seeing F! at WDW, we usually go to DHS on those days to avoid crowds. This will do a lot to more uniformly distribute crowds taking away our low-crowd days we’ve come to enjoy.

      2) If, for some reason, we did want to see F!, we would show up very late on a day with 2 performances (and there invariably seems to be at least one such day on our summer trips). On these occasions, we’ve always been able to show up 10 minutes before the second show started and still ended up with decent seats. This strategy won’t be possible if there’s one show per night.

      So, it seems to me that this news is probably not so great for people who don’t care about F! or who can carefully plan their schedule to attend a 2nd showing of F! However, from the perspective of crowd management, especially during what’s shaping up to be a really busy summer, this is a great decision for Disney.

      • Someday I’ll get to Disneyland again and see their version of Fantasmic. But until then I’ll just enjoy the East Coast version. (There isn’t THAT much Pocahontas!)

      • F! at Disneyland is not even comparable to the F! in DHS, in my opinion. Once you see DL’s version, you’ll understand why Tom refers to DHS’s as the Pocahontas-fest!

        I too am not going during the time where F! will be showing every night, but I agree 100% with Tom about it being a bummer for those of us who enjoy low crowds the day after F!

      • Coming fresh from my first trip in 10+ years to Disneyland, I completely agree about the Pocahontas problem at HS. It was refreshing to see F! that wasn’t so heavily focused on a minor movie that most people don’t care about, and specifically about characters that we barely remember.

        For HS as a whole, as much as I love Citizens, it would take a whole lot more than a few extra rides to move HS past MK or EP for me. Although I agree that AK doesn’t have the substance, I enjoy wandering in AK so much more than HS.

        Anyway, this was a thought-provoking and fairly balanced blog; nice job Tom!

  • The Studios have three of my favorite things in all of Walt Disney World. 1) Citizens of Hollywood 2) Tower of Terror and 3) Muppets. With that said it will probably stay as my third favorite park because EPCOT and Magic Kingdom will always top the list.

    When I take my cousin who is 14, we barely spend anytime at the Studios because there is not much he enjoys. He unfortunately does not like Tower of Terror or Rock n Roller Coaster, so that takes out the two big attractions. You can only ride Toy Story a few times because of how long the line is. That leaves just Star Tours that he is interested in when at the park.

    So while I think it is a great park and I enjoy spending a few hours just watching the Citizens of Hollywood. I would agree that it is not the most family friendly park because of what is offered. Not many young boys want to sit and watch Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. Indiana Jones is fun the first few times you see it. I don’t think Lights, Motor, Action is that great of a show after seeing it once.

    I really hope the next set of updates at WDW include some expansion and update ideas for the Studios.

  • The Studios is my families least favorite park. You can even put the waterparks ahead of it. The all critical stampede in the morning to obtain the coveted fast passes for Toy Story which is one of the way to few rides for the kids is down right scarry at times. This brings up our reason for such a strong distatse for the park, try and keep 3 kids that are not tall enough for any of the rides interested in the park. Our list is quite lengthy for reasons not to go to the Studios. In fact we are currnetly at WDW and have decided to blow off the studios to swim at OKW instead.

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from with regard to the kids, but what about the shows and the other aspects of DHS. Do you not enjoy those? The Studios has a lot to offer besides ToT, Star Tours, and RnRC!

      • We do enjoy some of the shows with the kids. My son enjoyed watching Disney Jr. He remembered Playhouse Disney so the change was nice. I like the suggestions of making something similar to the Cars land in Cali. Studios needs an area a family can experience together. Studios seems to divide the family more so than any of the other parks. The older peeps ride the rides while one of the parents take the kids to a show or a dated ride like The Great Movie ride. Back lot tours is not something the kids seem to like. Younger kids need afternoon breaks the timing of the shows make it nearly impossible to accomplish this. Shows can only keep the little ones interested for so long.

        There seems to be just enough to tease the kids into thinking there is something for them and then lets them down.

        Now there are positives, the new Star Tours was a major hit with my 5 year old. They do still enjoy the Muppets and Disney Jr was a nice change to the Playhouse Disney show. I enjoy as my kids call it “The Walt Disney Museum” and even stay for the movie afterwards.

        The insanity that surrounds Toy Story Midway Mania which is an ok ride should be a very strong signal to Disney that something needs to change at Studios.

        I totally agree with Dave’s post above concerning the lack of connection to the park. I really wish I could walk away with the same feelings as I do the other three parks.

      • What’s up with everyone wanting a clone of Carsland? Isn’t Radiator Springs Racers just a souped-up version of Test Track? I don’t get it. Plus, Studios has it’s thrill quotient full (Star Tours, RnRC, Tower) moreso than the other parks (it beats the other thrill rides at Epcot: Space/Test Track, Animal Kingdom: Everest/Dinosaur/Kali, and MK: Space/Thunder/Splash). Studios could use more family-friendly rides (dark rides or animatronic/interactive shows) and refreshed entertainment. Carsland would be overkill for the park. Plus, can’t we let California have something special (since nearly everything else is cloned elsewhere)?

      • I agree with you completely (as evidenced by “The real estate presently occupied by the Backlot Tour would make a great location for Radiator Springs Racers, but given the current inequity between family attractions and thrill rides, I would instead opt for a Cars dark ride.” in the post).

        However, to call it merely a souped up version of Test Track, I think, would be to call Indiana Jones Adventure a souped up version of Dinosaur. Same ride systems, TOTALLY different experiences.

        Still, your point about thrill rides remains. Plus, the fewer clones, the better.

    • I totally agree with the morning stampede to TSM. It totally ruins an otherwise incredible attraction for me. It’s so bad that I’ve tried to talk my family into just skipping the ride. (They won’t agree to it.)

  • Nice article. Individually the attractions and restaurants are many of my favorites, but after leaving Hollywood Blvd. everything seems disjointed to me. I am most impacted by visiting attractions that are part of a theme/land. This park has never had that effect on me for some reason and I wish it would. It doesn’t do enough to create a sense of place that somehow connects with me as other parks do. I still visit the park every trip and visit most all the attractions.

    • Totally agreed. This is one of the reasons all of my proposals revolved around creating new lands. Can you imagine Muppets and Lucas Lands along with an expanded Pixar (Place) land?!

  • I’d love to see the Studios get a new show. Beauty and the Beast is fine (I remember enjoying the days of Hunchback), but it’s been there for ages and I’d love to see something new that featured less canned singing and more innovation (like Nemo at the Animal Kingdom).

  • Matt, I think your nonstop love for the Studios and my eventual frequent trips this past year to the Studios have pushed this potentially to the top of my Disney park favorite list. I easily even had Animal Kingdom ahead of it before realizing the Studios full potential (I’ve never ridden ToT before a year ago and always felt apprehensive before riding RnR, which was a lot of rides, but now since probably early 2010, I get on every ride at Disney with no fear, just excitement.). I’m sure as Tom said, many people miss out on the thrill of ToT and that bumps it down for some.

    Your absolutely right by saying the Studios has the top 5 attractions at 1 park over the other 3 parks.

    DHS – Rock “n” Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror, Star Tours 2, Toy Story Mania, Great Movie Ride

    MK – Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean

    EPCOT – Test Track, Soarin’, Sum of all Thrills, Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE

    AK – Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Festival of the Lion King, Kali River Rapids

    Those are how I rank my top 5 attractions at each of the 4 main parks, and look how good the Studios stacks up at the top.

    Tom, I really enjoyed the article.

    • Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster can really make a big difference.

      Using your list, I don’t think the Studios’ top 5 beats MK’s. I think it probably beats your Epcot list, but in my mind, American Adventure should be at the top of Epcot’s list. With that change, Epcot comes out ahead. Animal Kingdom’s list is just laughable. That park has some brilliant details and incredible theming, but that doesn’t make up for a lack of substance.

      • We’re not big fans of Animal Kingdom – my husband calls it a glorified zoo.

    • Problem with your list, Nick, is that DHS’ “top 5” includes Great Movie Ride which I don’t think is a very good ride at all. The other issue is that okay, even if their top 5 is on par, what about 6-10 or 11-15? This is where the studios really falls behind.

      Tom, if DHS is #5 on your list, where do the other parks rank?

      Here’s mine:
      1) Disneyland
      2) Animal Kingdom
      3) Epcot
      4) Magic Kingdom
      5) DCA (but this might vault into the top 3 after construction)
      6) Studios

      • Tom, yeah I definitely feel that RnR and ToT make a huge difference. It may be the thrill seeker in me, but those 2 attractions are really amazing. I really loved the new Star Tours and Toy Story Mania (I have to admit, not a HUGE fan as most are of this), but it’s still a great experience and opened up a new future of shooter rides.

        Kevin, as far as the Great Movie Ride, I’m feeling like I do agree with you as well. It’s not a great ride, it’s not a bad ride, it’s a decent ride. And 6-10 and 11-15 is definitely a valid point, I honestly only spend a few hours in the Studios, but feel like it’s the best few hours of the day when I park hop. I don’t think Muppet*Vision 3-D is ahead of the Great Movie Ride, or any of the shows…

        I’m guessing Tom nailed it with the 2 attractions on Sunset Blvd really making a huge difference in my list. Well, and Star Tours 2, what an awesome update to that ride.

      • 1) Disneyland
        2) Epcot
        3) Magic Kingdom
        4) California Adventure
        5) Studios
        6) Animal Kingdom

        If you added the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon would be ahead of Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beach would be after it. I have serious issues with Animal Kingdom. I know it’s a divisive park, but I fall squarely in the camp of those who believe it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from a nice zoo (if it did, the “nahtazu” campaign would have been unnecessary). I think its details are AMAZING but are at the expensive of substantive content, and I think Hester and Chester’s is a joke. To each his own, though.

        Honestly, I wish WDI spent about half as much as it did on Everest (maybe built a cheaper yeti?) and spent the surplus on another C or D ticket. I think AK is 2 dark rides and another non-alive animal based attraction away (at least) from being a really great park. The infrastructure is there, the content is not.

  • Great article, Tom. Like you, the Studios has many of my favorite attractions at WDW (basically, all of the ones you mentioned – including Streetsmophere – plus Osborne Lights at Christmas), but it is my least favorite park at WDW by far. I’ve spent some time trying to figure that contradiction out and here’s what I’ve come up with: it’s the layout.

    With all apologies to Matt Hochberg, the layout of the studios is by far the worst of any Disney theme park. I study the map before I go back, but whenever I actually go in, it takes me at least one day to remember the nuances of where things are. Streets that look like they head somewhere but don’t. Arches that look like a facade, but actually lead someplace. A ‘lake’ that is in the way and serves no apparent purpose. Constant bottlenecks at key points that make a leisurely walk nearly impossible – no insignificant thing, since you can do that at the other three WDW parks.

    I know the excuses: the park was built in a hurry, in response to Universal, etc. And I likely underappreciate the Studios, namely because of the layout. I just think the park would be so much better if they were able to somehow improve some of the layout issues.

    • How did I forget to list the Osborne Lights?! They are my FAVORITE aspect of WDW at Christmas. My wife and I typically spend a few hours back there each trip, and could probably spend even more time just gazing at the beautiful dancing lights.

      While I agree with you on layout (Disney California Adventure is almost as bad), that’s not a deal-breaker for me.

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  • DHS is, in fact, my favorite of the four parks. But I’m a big movie buff, so it scratches exactly the right itch. I seem to get more into the spirit of the park and enjoy the little details at DHS as compared to the other parks, where I’m just largely going from attraction to attraction.

    Also, for some reason, while I’m afraid of heights, and won’t go on rides like this in other parks, I -love- the Tower of Terror. I’m convinced that it’s the themeing that makes it all worthwhile.

    I am very bummed that some of the key Citizens of Hollywood characters are not having their contracts renewed. They’re a huge part of what makes the park so fun, and it just broke my heart when I read that several of the long-time players wouldn’t be returning.

    • I am a huge movie buff myself. Back in high school, I spent a summer going through the AFI Top 100 list and watching every film. (Yeah, you can tell I was REALLY cool!) With the exception of a couple silent films that aren’t easy to find, I’ve seen every Alfred Hitchcock movie multiple times–my favorite director by far–I even did a frame by frame thesis on Notorious in college. If Disney acquired the rights to Hitchcock, I would be elated.

      Likewise, I’m a big Twilight Zone fan. There are so many nods to the episodes in that attraction that I still spot new ones!

      With how Disney has been cutting budgets, I’m not too surprised by the Citizens of Hollywood cut, but I am disappointed. Disney, you can only cut fat for so long before you hit bone. You’re dangerously close there…

      Still, it seems to me the Studios is just missing that little something. I think it’s on the verge of recapturing its greatness, but isn’t quite there yet!

      • I wholeheartedly agree, Tom. I think one of DHS’ problems is that it’s kind of built into a corner and would be hard to expand. That said, two attractions are taking up a LOT of space, and while I enjoy LMA quite a bit, I think it’s the kind of attraction where once you’ve seen it once, you don’t need to see it again. Likewise with even the shortened Backstage area. Disney is doing a great job building in some randomness with rides like TOT and Star Tours, and they could use more attractions like that, where even once you’ve done it once, you could keep going.

        Since Disney seems intent on changing DHS from the “behind the movies” theme towards being more about enjoying the spirit of movies, they should just go for it, and pull out some of the lame-duck attractions. I’d love to see a dedicated Lucasfilm area, more attention paid to the Muppets (especially with the new movie coming), and at least one new E-Ticket.

        Still, I’m going back to WDW for my honeymoon in three short months and Hollywood Studios is our first stop. 🙂

  • Great article Tom. Fair assessment of the park. I still say list the top 5 attractions at any park and I think the Studios comes out on top when you compare the list, especially the further down you go on that top 5 list. Obviously I love the Studios and while it has its flaws (and all the parks do), I think in the past few years it has really offered a lot of new experiences to check out.

    • Looking only at the past five years (with the exception of LMA, which I think is a poorly paced attraction that overstays its welcome by 20 minutes), I think the Studios has improved the most out of the parks.

      Also, since I think one of the biggest reasons why some Disney fans don’t like the Studios is because many of the shows don’t offer as much repeatability (I don’t subscribe to this belief, but I hear it frequently). I would bet that first time guests like the park more than repeat guests, since the first-timers have never seen those shows that (supposedly) don’t offer repeatability.

      I agree with you about the top 5 lists, but I think limiting the comparison to only the top 5 attractions is a bit of an arbitrary distinction.

      I think the Studios is an attraction or two away from really shining and being in the same league as MK and Epcot. Maybe the Monsters, Inc coaster will be announced at D23? It would be great if a family attraction were added to take some of the burden off of TSM.

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