The Disney Hollywood (MGM) Studios is one of the 5 theme parks here in Walt Disney World Orlando, Florida. Parks here include the Epcot, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks and the Animal Kingdom Zoo on top of the flagship Magic Kingdom park. All these parks span a huge area in this Disney world and are well served by buses, monorail and ferries, we will be taking the ferry to the park this time. The ferry is a large 2 deck passenger boat, able to take an odd of about 200 hundred passengers across the Disney central lagoon on 15-20 minute trips each, dropping you off at the ticketing sector of the world. The loading bays by the ticketing offices are also the best place to catch the daily 10pm Magic kingdom fireworks at the park’s daily closing.
As iconic as the Epcot globe can be, the Hollywood studios here is another independent park by itself, represented by Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. It is the 5th most visited amusement park in the United States and 8th in the world. This portion of the Disney parks focuses more on the Hollywood and acting part of the Disney line of entertainment, with mainly lots of fantastic live shows, including stunt spectaculars coupled with lots of pyrotechnics. It can’t get anywhere more Hollywood than this.
Undoubtedly, the Sunset boulevard is one of the best looking portions of the park, which leads up to the Hollywood tower of Terror. Many gift and souvenir stores dot the sides of the walkways here of the boulevard, including a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which is home to The Great Movie Ride. The ride here is essentially a dark indoor ride, paying homage to several classic films, including Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
With all the Hollywood Boulevard action here, leading up to the end of the road is the rad-looking Aerosmith rock and roller coaster, just beside the Tower of Terror and the entrance to the Fantasmic show. The other far end of Hollywood Boulevard stands the Blue Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat, sitting above a large open air performance stage where events can be held right at the heart of the park. Towards the west of the park behind the large blue Hat sits The Echo Lake sector of the park. The lake, together with small steamer cafe boat sits in this small man-made lagoon area with several theaters around it. This is where you catch the daily shows of the live Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
The American Idol Experience theater resides here too, which is a something like American idol live, with auditioned contestants being park guests themselves, performing or singing for live audiences within the park. If they are good, they can potentially win a special front-of-the-line pass for the annual real tryouts of the actual TV series.
The Streets of America after the Echo Lake is a recreated movie set of various iconic cities of New York, complete with landmarks, ambient sounds and street fixtures alike. it’s here too where you can catch the Motor stunt show complete with gun totting, stunt man falling, explosive car chases in the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. The other key attraction here in MGM is also the Studio Backlot Tour with a tour through actual movie props (not real hot sets) and the disaster flood showcase at the Catastrophe Canyon.
The Disney animation avenue is a showcase of animation excellence with the animation courtyard. Educate yourself with a walk in the path of Walt Disney’s dream of making animation a reality, as well as going through the development process of creating and bringing an animated character to life. Live performances here includes the Voyage of the Little Mermaid which employs neat glow-in-the-dark puppets, water effects and lasers to re-create favorite scenes of the movie, all acted out by human actors. Next to the avenue is the Pixar Sector, and place of the Toy Story Midway Mania, an interactive 3D attraction inspired by classic carnival midway games.
The Fantasmic is one of the main highlights of the show, no trip to the Hollywood studios is complete without it. The show itself runs 3 times daily in the evening at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater located just outside the park grounds. The entrance to the amphitheater is just short walk off the Sunset boulevard beside the Aerosmith coaster. With the summer months bring more daylight into the day, it is generally recommended not to catch the first 7.30pm show but rather the last 10.30pm one, as the Fantasmic pyrotechnics are best enjoyed in the dark at night. That is of course after you are done with all the ride and attractions by the park’s closing at 10pm. It was quite a gamble for us to catch a later show with the impending evening lightning storm which threatened to pour anytime. Florida weather is notorious where it will always rain throughout the evening after a long hot sunny afternoon. That day was not an exception either, but thank goodness it didn’t come down.
Fantasmic was a great sell out show and man, was the amphitheater totally packed. The show itself is a showcase of various Walt Disney’s works, with a combination of water screen projections from various Disney animated movie scenes. Then comes the story portion of the show, with the baddies having a win over Mickey, who then turned the tables and took back control, overpowered them with his imagination and magic. The show concludes with a fireworks display with lots of fiery fire over water as Mickey defeats the evil witch and dragons at the ending of the show. As with all Disney endings being a happy ending, the final scene of the show features various characters from the Disney movies coming together on a boat, parading their success over the evil characters in pure Disney’s fairy tale ending style. I particularly liked the techno remixes of several old classic Disney songs such as the Eurobeat Beauty and the Beast song played throughout the attraction’s intermissions.
We rocked the Rock and Roller coaster after Fantasmic. The Aerosmith coaster always never fail to disappoint. It’s an indoor dark Vekoma launched roller coaster, which starts with a pre-show stating the Aerosmiths needs to get you to their gig fast and what other better way to do it but with a LIM launched powered super stretch limo complete with your own personal on-ride stereo to boot. Having said that, you start off blasting you right into the Californian traffic (like how they do it in Hollywood) right into the first corkscrew inversion of the ride, the rest is pretty much history.
Last but not least, the last of the rides here include the iconic Tower of terror. The tower as seen at the end of the sunset boulevard looks even more awesome in the night, complete with glowing lighting effects making the twilight portions of the real seem unreal. The tower of terror here in Orlando is the first variant of the dark indoor tower drop ride created by Disney Imagineering. In a nutsehll, you can say, is the original ride featuring the forward traveling elevator cars into the twilight zone before entering the drop shaft sequence of the ride. This is unlike the ones in Tokyo DisneySea and Paris Disneyland, where the ride starts in the elevator shaft and goes straight into the show-drop sequence. The ride here also employs the faster-than gravity free fall pulley systems courtesy of Otis lifts as well as the Pepperghost effect as seen on the Haunted mansion attraction.
The park is general have alot to see, the park is after all an independent Disneypark which you can literally spend a whole day in if you are looking to cover every single attraction and stage performance show. The park closes at 10pm as with most of the other Disneyparks here, so you are otherwise fine too by covering all the key attractions with a park hopper on half a day.
That is Hollywood studios for now, next up, Universal Studios!
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