Walt Disney World/Hollywood Studios

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can help Indiana Jones escape from the Nazis, take a wild limousine ride through Los Angeles, get shrunk to the size of a gnat, and immerse yourself in iconic scenes from Hollywood's past and present.

This compact but fun-filled theme park is located at a major crossroads in the Walt Disney World Resort, with plenty of thrill rides and effects-laden shows. The ESPN Wide World of Sports is nearby.

Understand

"The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywoodnot a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never wasand always will be." Michael D. Eisner, May 1, 1989

Walt Disney World's third theme park opened in May 1989 as Disney–MGM Studios, joining the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. The park, billed as "the Hollywood that never was", features live shows and attractions based on movie and television favorites, from classic Golden Age films to modern-day blockbusters. In addition to the well-known Disney-branded productions, several Disney subsidiaries also have inspired rides and shows here; it's the place to go for fans of Lucasfilm properties, Pixar films, ABC television, and Jim Henson's Muppets.

Among the top attractions are two exceptional thrill rides, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a 13-story vertical drop) and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (a launched coaster, 0-60 in 2.8 seconds), and a ride through a Toy Story-themed shooting gallery.

Just south of Hollywood Studios is the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves and host to countless other sporting events throughout the year.

History

Productions at the Studios

The 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club (or MMC) that was filmed here starred, among others, JC Chasez, Keri Russell, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera. The first movie filmed here was the poorly-received Splash, Too, the 1988 direct-to-TV sequel to 1984's Splash.

The genesis of the "Studios" theme park was as a new pavilion for EPCOT Center's Future World that would provide an animatronic ride through cinematic history, much as World of Motion did for transportation and Spaceship Earth did for communication. This spark of an idea was so inspiring, however, that then-CEO Michael Eisner suggested that the new ride instead become the marquee attraction in an all-new theme park.

The original vision for this new park was to combine a traditional theme park atmosphererides, shows, restaurantswith a real working production studio. A team of animators began work even before the park opened to the public, working on real Disney animationMulan and Lilo & Stitch, among others, were animated entirely at the theme park. Live-action was also filmed here, from movies like Newsies and Ernest Saves Christmas to television shows such as Mickey Mouse Club and Adventures in Wonderland. Most importantly, all of these production facilities were viewable on the park's Backstage Studio Tourguests could actually see animating and filming as they occurred, if their timing was right; if not, they still got to see the real sets and real studios where their favorite productions were created. A backlot was also created and placed on the tour, with house façades used in actual films and television shows and authentic props from movies like Flight of the Navigator and Star Wars.

Those days are gone; the park's sound stages have been converted to rides and stage shows, the animation facility has closed down, and even the backlot tour is no more. The original ride idea, the one planned for Epcot, survives as the park's centerpiece, The Great Movie Ride, and new thrill rides have opened up and become the park's main draws. Despite all the changes, though, the park retains its enthusiasm for the fantasy worlds created on film, and guests can still enjoy being able to "step into" their favorite productions.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, or some small fraction thereof.

Get in

By car

Hollywood Studios is just southwest of Epcot; it's on Buena Vista Drive, which is accessible from either World Drive or Epcot Center Drive. Parking is $20 per car, although Disney resort guests can park for freejust show your "Key to the World" card at the toll gate.

Parking is free at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, which is on South Victory Way, south of Osceloa Parkway.

By Disney transportation

From Epcot and nearby resorts

From Epcot, the BoardWalk, the Yacht and Beach Clubs, and the Swan and Dolphin, you can take the Friendship ferries to Hollywood Studios. There is also a nice wide walking path that follows a similar route. Note that if you are coming from Epcot, you must exit through that park's rear entrance: the International Gateway, located between the United Kingdom and France pavilions in World Showcase. From Epcot's main entrance, there is a bus that goes to the Studios.

From the Magic Kingdom

Take the monorail or ferry to the Transportation and Ticket Center, then board the Studios bus.

From Animal Kingdom and other resorts

From other areas of the property, simply go to the bus stop and wait for the Studios bus to arrive. You will be dropped off in front of the Hollywood Studios gates.

From Disney Springs

Disney Springs does not have direct buses to the parks; you will need to make your way to a resort, then go from that resort to Hollywood Studios. The best option here might be to take the bus to the Swan, which is the closest hotel to the Studios, then take the Friendship or the walking path to the Studios. Another option is to walk or take the boat to the Saratoga Springs resort, then the bus to the Studios.

To the Wide World of Sports

Public transportation to the Wide World of Sports is limited. Buses are available only from the All-Star Resorts, the Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Pop Century Resort, so you'll need to get to one of those hotels before switching buses. The buses regularly run only Thursday through Monday, from 5PM to 11PM. If there's a special event going on outside of those days and times, bus service will start one hour before the event and end no earlier than 11PM.

Get around

Map of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Upon entering the park, you'll find yourself on Hollywood Boulevard, the park's equivalent of the Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A. Shops line both sides of this street, perfect for grabbing a souvenir on your way out at the end of the day. (Feel free to browse on the way in, though; you can always come back later, or you can have it held for you or delivered to your Disney resort.) Here, it's perpetually the 1930s, so keep an eye out for young starlets, ambitious directors, suspicious policemen, eager autograph hounds, and the likethese Streetmosphere actors play out comedic vignettes throughout the day, and they may just pull you into their stories. At the end of Hollywood Boulevard, you can see the beautiful replica of Hollywood's Chinese Theater, the centerpiece of the park.

As you travel down Hollywood Boulevard, you'll find the famous intersection with Vine St., a smaller street that heads off to the left towards Echo Lake. The next intersection is with Sunset Boulevard, another major thoroughfare that branches to the right. Here you'll find more shops and more Streetmosphere, and looming in the distance is the 199-foot-tall Hollywood Tower Hotel, which houses the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. (Why 199 feet? If it were one foot taller, it would require a blinking red light at the top under federal aircraft regulations.)

Past Sunset, as you approach the Chinese Theater, to the right will be a large gateway, through which you'll find the Animation Courtyard. Through the gate and to the left, starting around behind the Chinese Theater, are Mickey Avenue and Pixar Place, where former soundstages have been converted into the Toy Story Mania attraction.

From there, behind the Chinese Theater, you pass the former backlot, and enter the Streets of America, where Lights, Motors, Action and Muppet*Vision 3-D are located. Commissary Lane connects this area to the plaza around the Sorcerer's Hat. Coming back toward the front of the park, you end up at Echo Lakejust look for the giant Dinosaur Gertie. The Lucasfilm attractions are nearby.

See and Do

The unfortunate façade of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. If someone offers you a ride to the thirteenth floor in the elevator, you may be in for a ... let-down.

Disney or Universal?

Disney's Hollywood Studios is sometimes confused with the two parks at the other big Orlando resort, Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, in particular, is very similar in concept, but its licensed properties include Men In Black, Despicable Me, The Simpsons, E.T., and Shrek. Universal's other Florida park is Islands of Adventure, where you'll find Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and King Features cartoons.

Even though Marvel Comics is owned by Disney, a pre-existing contract with Universal means that Islands of Adventure is still the place to go to find Spider-Man and his friendsat least for now.

Hollywood Studios' attractions separate into one of two camps: sedate but fun stage shows and up-tempo thrill rides. There's very little in-between; even The Great Movie Ride is more like a theater production than a ride. Toy Story Mania! may be the first attraction that could be said to bridge that gap.

FastPass, the system that allowed you to go to an attraction and get a ticket to come back later and skip the standby queue, is no longer available. All Studios guests will be using FastPass+, where you choose your own return time for each of three attractions. FastPass+ queues are available for virtually every ride in the park, along with some shows and character greetings.

FastPass+ kiosks are located at the service counter to the left as you enter the park (the former Sid Cahuenga's shop), at Guest Relations, at the Wait Times Board, at Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and at the Tower of Terror. As FastPass+ is new, cast members are stationed at nearly every major attraction; they have tablets and can help you schedule your FastPass+ reservations if the kiosks are too confusing, or not convenient. If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can also use a smartphone with the My Disney Experience app to schedule your FastPass+ reservations.

For parade and stage show performance times, which change daily, please see the Guide Map and the Times Guide you'll receive when you enter the park. You can also check the Wait Times Board at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, which lists current wait times for rides and show times for shows.

The denotes rides with safety restrictions. See Stay safe in the main Walt Disney World article for more information.

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard is mostly a location for shops, restaurants, and Streetmosphere, but at its far end is where you'll find the park's centerpiece attraction, the Great Movie Ride. While you're at the Chinese Theater, be sure to check out the cement plaza in frontjust like at the real Chinese Theater in Hollywood, you'll find a number of celebrities have placed their handprints and signatures there. Everyone from Donald Duck and R2-D2 to Carol Burnett and Michael Jackson has left his or her mark.

Sunset Boulevard

You are traveling through another dimension...

In The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror's pre-ride video, Rod Serling speaks the line "Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a..." This actually comes from the episode "It's A Good Life", which aired on November 3, 1961. The rest of the dialogue was spoken by a voice actor.

In addition to more shops, restaurants, and Streetmosphere, Sunset Boulevard is home to the Studios' two major stage shows and its two popular mega-thrill rides.

Animation Courtyard/Pixar Place

Through the iconic gate is this courtyard, which segues into Mickey Avenue and Pixar Place as it heads toward the back of the park. The courtyard was once the gateway to the backstage tour, with access to the animation department and the Backlot Tour; the Animation building is now the Star Wars Launch Bay. And there used to be working sound stages along Mickey Avenue, but they've been converted into semi-permanent exhibit space and, of course, Toy Story Mania!.

Streets of America

A motorcycle stunt from Lights, Motors, Action!

In the Streets of America, you'll find façades set up to give the illusion of walking down streets in New York City and San Francisco, using the movie-making technique called "forced perspective". A variety of attractions are arrayed around the edges of the area.

Cars fans will find Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater parked at The Winner's Circle, ready to pose for pictures. A musical group called Mulch, Sweat, and Shears roams the area in their gardening truck and performs several times daily.

Echo Lake

Obscure snack-stand references

"Min and Bill", of Dockside Diner fame, was the name of a 1930 MGM film starring Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, but the name also serves as a reference to Minnie Mouse and Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse's character in the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack. Gertie the Dinosaur, on the other hand, was made famous by cartoonist Winsor McKay as one of the first-ever animated characters.

On one side of Echo Lake is a large steamboat, known as Min and Bill's Dockside Diner; on the other is a large dinosaur, with Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction. Around the perimeter of the area are attractions based on Lucasfilm properties, restaurants, and a couple of soundstages.

Annual events

Star Wars Weekends

Disney's popular Star Wars Weekends annual event is no more; the 2015 edition was the last.

ESPN Wide World of Sports

South of Hollywood Studios is the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex (formerly Disney's Wide World of Sports), a state-of-the-art sports complex with fields, stadiums, and arenas for a variety of sporting events.

The complex is the flagship facility of the Amateur Athletic Union, which has its headquarters on Hotel Plaza Boulevard in the Disney Springs area. Regularly-scheduled AAU-sanctioned events are held at the complex from January to August. Outside of that time-frame, whether you'll find something going on is hit-or-miss. If there is something happening, it's probably a high school game with just a handful of spectators.

Admission to the complex counts as one of your "Fun Visits" if you've added the Water Park Fun & More option to your Magic Your Way tickets, however, considering the low cost of admission it could be said that it's better to save your "Fun Visits" for one of the more expensive options. Admission is $15.50 for adults and $10.50 for children ages 39.

One-time events

Coming in 2016:

Buy

Shops line Hollywood Boulevard on both sides, while tourists fill the space in between.

Shoppers will find plenty of generic souvenirs and apparel, of course, making up the lion's share of merchandise found along the main shopping areas (Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard). One of the less generic establishments on these two streets is Sunset Boulevard Shops, with menswear, timepieces, housewares, and collectibles.

But Disney's Hollywood Studios is an especially rich location for themed merchandise that's hard to find elsewhere. Most of these locations are found at the exits from associated attractions. Fans of the Muppets, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones should be particularly pleased.

Eat

Disney's Hollywood Studios probably has the most unique restaurants on the property, with most themed around movies and television.

See Eat in the main Walt Disney World article for information on the Disney restaurant pricing system, character dining, dietary restrictions, and advance dining reservations. The telephone numbers below are for extraordinary circumstances only; for reservations and most health or diet issues, call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Please note that exact opening and closing times may vary with the park hours; check your Times Guide for official restaurant hours. Breakfast is usually served until 10:30AM, and dinner usually starts between 3:30PM and 4:30PM.

Counter service

Table service

Don't bring your own car; the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater has one already parked and waiting for you!

Resort dining

At the Caribbean Beach resort, you'll be heading to Old Port Royale for meals; it's the central location of the resort and where all the shopping and dining is.

At the Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, you'll dine at a food court:

Wide World of Sports

Drink

The Hollywood stars of the 30s might have enjoyed a libation or two in their day (at least once Prohibition was repealed), but the nightlife around Hollywood Studios is virtually nonexistent. The Tune-In Lounge is attached to the 50's Prime Time Cafe and themed the same; it's often crowded with "family members" waiting for their table in the restaurant, but if you need a drink, Dad's liquor cabinet is open. The Hollywood Brown Derby also has a lounge, just opened in 2013, with drinks and tapas-style appetizers. In fact, all of the table-service restaurants have drinks of some sort available; Mama Melrose's has some particularly interesting cocktails. Each resort has a poolside bar as well: Banana Cabana at the Caribbean Beach resort and Petals Pool Bar at Pop Century.

If you're looking for something more, just take a leisurely walk or ferry ride from the Studios to Disney's Boardwalk, or take a bus from one of the resorts to Disney Springs.

Sleep

There's more to do at the Caribbean Beach Resort than just eat and sleep.

If you really want a hotel close to Hollywood Studios, you'll want to stay in one of the Epcot-area resorts. The Yacht and Beach Clubs, the Boardwalk, and the Swan and Dolphin are all within easy walking distance of both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and the Friendship ferries connect the two parks and five resorts.

The three resorts listed here are not very far from Hollywood Studios, but there are no provisions for walking. You'll be taking a car or bus no matter which park you want to visit.

Note that according to Disney's official classifications, Caribbean Beach is in the "Epcot resort area", while Art of Animation and Pop Century are in the "Wide World of Sports resort area".

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.