After a great second day at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the next stop on our Walt Disney World vacation with my parents. I know the question on everyone’s mind right now: could DHS pull off a tremendous “upset” victory, and somehow surpass our exceptional Epcot experience???
No, of course not. Don’t be crazy. As I shared in our “That’s a Wrap!” tribute post, the Disney-MGM Studios was my parents’ favorite park when I was younger. We spent an inordinate amount of time there, even as the fledgling park was trying to find its footing.
The era of the Disney-MGM Studios ended some time ago, and if I were to name off the studios’ attractions that most stick in my memory from childhood, almost all of them now fall in the extinct category. While most Disney fans lament the loss of EPCOT Center classics, I’d say the changes at Walt Disney World’s third gate have more profoundly changed it…
While the entrance is the same, this is not the same park that opened in 1989.
The key difference between it and EPCOT Center of yesteryear is probably that nothing that’s truly a classic has disappeared at the Studios. Sure, the loss of the Backlot Tour is significant, but the way it was slowly neutered over time made that less impactful than if it were to suddenly close overnight.
Other favorites of ours, like SuperStar Television, fizzled out over time as they were not refreshed with new source material.
While I look back at these two attractions fondly (and even weird stuff, like shows featuring Dick Tracey, Goosebumps, and the Rocketeer–note that these were all separate shows…although it would’ve been pretty cool if they were somehow integrated into one), I don’t feel the same sense of loss for them as I do the original Journey into Imagination at EPCOT Center.
Moreover, for many longtime fans, I think there’s a sense of optimism with Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Investments in the park are long overdue, but they’re finally happening–and on a large scale.
Aside from the hardcore folks who feel Star Wars has no place in Disney parks (nevermind the fact that ship sailed with the 1987 opening of Star Tours at Disneyland), most people are optimistic about the direction Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going.
Suffice to say, even though Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in that awkward teenage phase (nevermind that it’s older than a teenager…I guess you could say it was a ‘late bloomer’ 😉 ), I’m still pretty enthusiastic about its future.
That contrasts with Epcot, where I think most fans (myself included) are desperately clinging to the past, knowing there is no brighter future. (At least as far as our interests are concerned.)
Okay, so that’s a pretty heavy introduction. How about a bit of levity with the above photo?
I had run off from everyone else. My parents were shopping and I think Sarah was getting coffee. I saw an opportunity to photograph a beautiful sky with low crowds.
So, I set my camera on the ground, angled up with the fisheye lens attached. There was only one problem, which I’ll let you discover for yourself… (Actually, the photo wouldn’t have been any good regardless, so I guess there were multiple problems.)
Having no success with that photo, I headed off to the side for a unique side view of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The Aliens scene used to terrify me as a kid. Now, I chuckle as it startles first-timers. This might seem mean, but I’m sure this made me cry at some point, so consider it “empathy laughter.” 😉
Great Movie Ride is still a must-do for us, but my position on it has softened over the years. If you go through our back-catalog of trip reports, you’ll likely find some ardent defenses of the attraction.
Even in the last 10 years, I don’t think Great Movie Ride has aged well. The TCM deal gave it a temporary shot in the arm, but if the attraction is going to last another decade, it needs a rethinking.
I don’t think it’ll receive that–I think the Great Mickey Ride will come to fruition. While that will be another ‘end of an era’ for the park, it’s probably the right direction, particularly if the replacement does feature Mickey Mouse.
For lunch, we had made a surprise ADR for my parents at 50’s Prime Time Cafe.
This was another mainstay of our family visits as a kid. I don’t recall whether we ate here every trip or if the premise of the restaurant just made it stick out in my head, but it’s one of the more memorable experiences we had on family vacations.
Despite our ADR, we waited forever to be seated at 50’s Prime Time Cafe. This is one of the things I really dislike about this restaurant–long waits seem to be a regular thing.
Some of you asked in the previous installment of the trip report where my dad’s dog goes when we do attractions or eat. The answer is with him.
There are some attractions that either cannot accommodate this, or on which it’d be unpleasant for the dog, but almost all of those would also be unpleasant for him, too, so this tends not to be an issue.
In restaurants, we let them know in advance that we would have a service dog, so they could plan accordingly. Usually, this meant being seated in a corner or away from crowds, which is a win for all parties involved.
On a semi-related note, the previous day at Via Napoli, I had let them know about the service dog at the podium, and they initially tried seating us right by the entrance in a heavy traffic spot. I reminded the host we had a service dog (which was plainly obvious, I was just trying to be polite), who then seated us in a less in-the-way spot, but still in a crowded location, which was particularly odd since half the restaurant was empty and there were plenty of far more out-of-the-way tables.
On another semi-related note, I’ll echo the remarks other commenters made about Via Napoli: our experience with service there has been poor most of the time. I rarely make a note of service in Walt Disney World restaurant reviews since it’s so inconsistent, but Via Napoli is a consistent offender.
I chalk this up to service being fairly poor in Europe, generally. It’s something we’re willing to tolerate because the pizza is delicious. Look at it this way: you’re getting an authentic European experience–poor service makes it just like being there. (Seriously, at a good 75% of table service meals we’ve had in Europe, the server acts like our very presence is a burden.)
As compared to that Via Napoli meal, this food at 50’s Prime Time Cafe was somewhat of a disappointment.
We love the whole experience of 50’s Prime Time Cafe (and would still recommend it), but the food was mostly just okay, and the final bill was over double what our Via Napoli meal cost.
Not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison since we got milkshakes and an appetizer at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, though.
Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast was the highlight of the meal. Perfectly tender, slightly fatty, and great flavor. I’d get this again, for sure.
The meal was ultimately worth the cost, if only to watch my dad interact with our server. As she put on her performance, he ‘matched wits’ with her perfectly.
I told my dad after the meal that through his sterling combination of natural orneriness and penchant for corny dad jokes, he would be perfect for working at 50’s Prime Time Cafe…and he wouldn’t even need to act. (If you want to blame anyone for this blog’s corny comedic stylings, he’s probably the main culprit.)
After lunch, we stopped at a nearby shopping stand, where I snapped this little gem.
DAD, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR POSTING MY BABY PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK AND TAGGING ME IN THEM FOR ALL MY FRIENDS TO SEE. 😉 On Page 2, we’ll continue with the rest of the afternoon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and evening at Epcot.