Welcome to Part 9 of our Walt Disney World Honeymoon series! Today we are covering everything we did and ate in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios is Disney’s Hollywood-themed park that puts a big emphasis on movies, film, production, and animation. It hosts some pretty popular attractions but is the smallest park of the four in WDW. We had a lot of fun exploring Hollywood Studios, though it's probably the park you could devote the least amount of time to or only spend half a day in if your WDW schedule is tight.
Hollywood Studios is split up into a few different areas, all with distinct Hollywood and Los Angeles themes. I’ll cover everything we experienced in each area as well as the food we tried. Keep reading!
Upon entrance to the park, guests step onto Hollywood Boulevard, a re-creation of the real street in Hollywood, California. It is similar to the Hollywood area of California Adventure, with streets lined with facades of Hollywood buildings but also including an exact replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It also has a replica of the Brown Derby, a famous chain of now-shuttered restaurants in Los Angeles and Hollywood Studios’ signature eatery. It’s a very cute area and makes you feel as if you stepped onto the set of a movie. We enjoyed walking around and looking at all the shops.
What I Ate
While on Hollywood Boulevard, we stopped at the Trolley Car Cafe, which is a Starbucks that also sells some delicious Disney pastries, including the Peanut Butter Crunch Cupcake ($4.99). We saw this cupcake pop up a few times in our Disney World research as a must-try snack, so we did just that. The cupcake was huge! It had a deep chocolate flavor with a delicious chocolate filling and was covered in crushed Butterfingers. It’s very rich, and we couldn’t finish it, even with the two of us splitting it. This would be a great option to grab on your way out of Hollywood Studios to enjoy in your hotel room or split with a couple of friends and enjoy with coffee. It was very, very tasty, and I can see why it's so highly recommended.
Sunset Boulevard is located just off of Hollywood Boulevard and resembles the historic street in Los Angeles. It also hosts the Tower of Tower (TOT) and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, two very popular rides. Hollywood Studios doesn’t really have an “icon” like the rest of the parks (the Castle, Tree of Life, and Epcot Ball), and we noticed that the TOT somewhat served as this park’s icon in marketing material and merchandise.
Real talk: I sometimes experience a lot of ride anxiety with the bigger rides and can’t always bring myself to get on them. This was true the day we were in Hollywood Studios, so I unfortunately didn’t ride Tower of Tower. Since then, I have rode Guardians of the Galaxy about 100 times and think I could handle it if I return. But at the time, I decided to skip TOT and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. However, Zach rode both and shred with me his experience and thoughts on these two attractions.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Most of you are probably aware that California Adventure once had its own TOT, which has since been reimagined as the current attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout (GOTG). Zach has ridden both TOT and GOTG in California Adventure, so he can compare his experiences to his time riding TOT in Hollywood Studios. Overall, he thought it was a better version than the one that used to be in California Adventure and thought that a lot of the effects now look dated. It also felt notably less intense after riding GOTG so many times. He definitely thinks its a “cool ride” that should stay in the park, but it could use some refurbishments to bring it up-to-date with current ride technologies.
Another cool aspect of TOT is the gift shop at the end of the ride. It had so much awesome TOT merchandise, including TOT hotel robes, towels, and home decor. We ended up buying a magnet and a TOT room key. We love the creepy, haunted, sci-fi hotel theme and thought they did an excellent job with the merch.
Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
For starters, does everyone else find it hilarious that there is an Aerosmith-themed ride in Disney World? Like, WHY? Zach said Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster is like an indoor California Screamin’, a medium-sized, intense, but not overly crazy, coaster. From what I understand, as you enter, it’s dark inside except for several neon lights and signs and you go on a ride through Hollywood with Aerosmith with their music blasting. It was really silly and fun, though Zach found it very dated with minimal effects, and he thinks it’s definitely time for it to go. Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster would be a prime candidate for retheming.
They also have a store at the end of the ride selling Aerosmith merchandise, rock-themed apparel, and, like, Mickey Mouse with guitars. So if that is something you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.
The Animation Courtyard hosts a lot of attractions for kids, mostly shows and meet-and-greets featuring popular Disney Jr. characters like Sofia the First and those pirate kids.
One Man’s Dream
In Animation Courtyard, there is a big walk-through exhibit called “One Man’s Dream,” which takes guests through the history of Walt Disney and his creation of Mickey Mouse, the theme parks, and how the parks got to where they are today. I really enjoyed this exhibit and learned a lot about how Disney developed, and how it all truly started with a mouse. It was especially interesting toward the end with information on the creation of the international parks and everything new coming to the Disney parks (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land, etc). At the end of the exhibit, there was a short film to watch on Walt Disney and the creation of his empire. The exhibit might be a bit boring for kids, but if you’re a Disney nerd and enjoy learning the history, it’s awesome.
According to Wikipedia, the Echo Lake area is supposed to mimic the “California Crazy” architectural style from Hollywood’s Golden Age. After doing a little research, California Crazy encompasses a lot of the oddball architecture that you can find roadside in many cities. These were typically used to attract motorists traveling throughout California ー for example, coffee shops that look like coffee pots, donut stores with giant donuts, or this crazy dog that sold hot dogs, chili, and ice cream. Anyways, after learning this, I can see how this area is supposed to be reflective of the era.
There is a big dinosaur in the lake, which I thought was random at the time, but now that I know the intent of the area, it makes sense. It’s quirky, eye-catching, and draws you in to the little dinosaur-themed ice cream parlor right in front of it. The lake itself is also really lovely and lined with palm trees, perfect for the California theme.
The area also features attractions based on George Lucas films, including Star Tours, an Indiana Jones Stunt Show, and Path of the Jedi. Of the three, we only went on Star Tours.
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
Star Tours in Hollywood Studios is essentially the same as Star Tours in Disneyland, though the entrance to the ride is quite different. There is a giant AT-AT at the entrance of the ride, which looks so cool and is a great photo op. Other than this, it really was the same ride, so we enjoyed it as we would in Disneyland.
What I Ate
Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater Restaurant
The Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater is a very popular restaurant in WDW that requires advance dining reservations unless you’re willing to wait a while. The restaurant is built to look like you’re outside at a drive-in theater, and all the tables are cars! There is a big screen showing clips or short videos of silly sci-fi movies and cartoons. It’s a really calm and relaxing restaurant since it’s not overcrowded, the lights are very dim, and people for the most part are quietly eating and watching the movie clips. We ordered spinach and artichoke dip as well as a southwestern bbq burger. Both were really good! It was nothing groundbreaking, but we enjoyed it, and the experience was overall really fun and relaxing (and it’s hard to find relaxing in WDW!).
The Grand Avenue area is designed to resemble the real, historic Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. It’s a fairly small area, and its only attraction is Muppet Vision 3D, a 4D show featuring the Muppets. From what I’ve read, the entire area was intended to become “Muppet Studios” once Disney acquired Jim Henson’s Muppets. Unfortunately, this never panned out, but it’s still full of a lot of Muppet-themed charm, including PizzaRizzo, aBrooklyn-style Italian restaurant owned and operated by Rizzo the Rat.
While we didn’t actually buy food here, we LOVED PizzaRizzo. It’s themed to resemble a very stereotypical Italian restaurant. The walls are covered with black-and-white pictures of Italy and New York, and upon closer examination, some of these photos include Rizzo or his family from the past. We loved that not every picture had Rizzo in them, so you really had to pay close attention to these subtle yet awesome and hilarious details. PizzaRizzo also has a banquet hall and is advertised with the slogan “A real classy joint.” The banquet hall is perfect, with tacky flowers, a disco ball, and cheesy dance music playing the whole time. They make it clear, too, that food is not included in the rental of the hall. While it’s not obvious, there is hilarious Muppet humor all over the restaurant if you take the time to check it all out.
Muppet Vision 3D
Muppet Vision 3D is located in the Grand Arts Theatre within Grand Avenue’s Grand Park. This is a 3D video that features all your favorite muppets, hosted by Kermit. The premise of the show is that you’re on a tour of the Muppets’ 3D lab.
We absolutely love this show, especially because my husband is a very big fan of the Muppets. It used to be in Disney California Adventure but has since been shut down, and we miss it dearly. The preshow is probably one of the best parts. Once you enter the theater, there is a large queuing area with several TV screens set up. The Muppets appear on the screens to tell jokes, sing songs, and entertain you before the show. It’s full of wit and puns and is just so, so silly that it’s perfect. The room is also filled with props for the Muppets, so it’s important to get there with plenty of time to check everything out as well as watch the preshow. We actually stayed for two cycles of it because we miss it so much in our park!
In the actual show, they end up creating the “Spirit of 3D,” who wants to be a part of the Muppet show and causes chaos as the Muppets try to demonstrate 3D effects. Overall, the show is sweet and full of classic Muppet humor. It also features some characters in real life, too, as well as some special effect. It’s definitely NOT full of cheap 3D tricks.
Pixar Place is a Pixar-themed area of Hollywood Studios that resembles Pixar’s campus in Emeryville, California. It looks really cool, and if you have ever seen photos or Google Maps images of Pixar, then you’ll see how much it resembles it. The only attraction in the area is Toy Story Mania, which is a 4D shooting game also available in Disney’s California Adventure. There are a few shops as well as meet-and-greets with Woody and Buzz, but other than that, it’s mostly a pretty facade and Midway Mania.
Toy Story Midway Mania
Midway Mania is the exact same ride as the one in California Adventure, which is really fun. The music is awesome, with a great reimagining of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and a variety of quick, exciting shooting games hosted by our beloved Toy Story characters. The experience for this ride is a lot more impressive than at California Adventure. Once you enter the line, you are transported into Andy’s bedroom with large toys, game boards, books, and Christmas lights, making you feel like a toy yourself. It’s awesome, making the ride experience even better!
Overall, Hollywood Studios could definitely use a lot of love. It’s a bit dated, lacking in rides and attractions, and just a little too small. However, a lot of new and exciting things are coming to Hollywood Studios, including TWO NEW LANDS. Yes, TWO! Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will both be opening in Hollywood Studios, and we couldn’t be more excited. Toy Story Land opens June 30 and will feature new rides, restaurants, shops, and I’m sure a ton of adorable theming. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will essentially be the exact same land they are building in Disneyland, opening in 2019, and is rumored to be the most immersive land Disney has created yet.
We have started making arrangements to visit Walt Disney World again to see Toy Story Land this coming July (we are going to DIE in the Florida heat), which we are SO excited about.
Lastly, this is my last park-specific article, but I will continue to post more on WDW with our upcoming trip as well as a few reviews of restaurants we dined in that were not in the parks. Thanks so much for tuning in!
Walk this way, talk this way,