Hollywood Studios Construction Update: September 2018
During our recent Walt Disney World trip, we braved the Toy Story Land crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on several different days to see the park a couple months after this new land debuted. In this post, we’ll take a look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge construction and how things currently stand as the park continues its massive transformation.
We’ve been visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios with frequency disproportionate to its offerings on our last few trips. Part of this is to savor some of our favorite areas of the park prior to the chaos Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will bring with it. Another part is because the park has been changing in a lot of smaller ways that have necessitated updating some of our existing posts about it.
The Disney’s Hollywood Studios experience definitely felt different this trip. Saying the new park is coming into its own would be a stretch, as I think Toy Story Land is a smaller piece of the puzzle than both Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. However, I do think the park has started to turn the corner. Things are starting to congeal, and there are fewer walls.
It also feels like DHS has had new life breathed into it. While my Toy Story Land Review was pretty far from glowing, this land does represent something new and is the first major addition to a park that has spent the better part of the last decade having things cut.
That may seem like hyperbole, but since the debut of Toy Story Mania 10 years ago, here are what I’d consider the major closures at Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
- Animation Academy
- Block Party Bash/Pixar Pals Parade
- Backlot Studio Tour
- Great Movie Ride
- Lights, Motors Action! Extreme Stunt Show
- Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
- Sounds Dangerous
- Streets of America
That’s ignoring stuff like American Idol Experience (in part because it was a one-for-one swap with the Frozen Sing-Along, and in part because I don’t care) and a number of random stage shows that were designed to be temporary, anyway. There have also likely been meet & greets subtracted and added, but again, those are more temporary in nature–and aren’t major.
There might be other things I’m forgetting, but that’s a pretty long list of cuts without substantive replacements. To be honest, with the exception of Great Movie Ride and the Osborne Lights, I don’t exactly mourn those loses (I would mourn the Studio Backlot Tour if we were discussing the original incarnation, but that was gone ages ago and Walt Disney World did the right thing by putting the truncated version out of its misery.
However, I also don’t think with Toy Story Land that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is suddenly “fixed” and now a full-day park. Even with Galaxy’s Edge and Runaway Railway, DHS will still need more. It will obviously be a full-day park to the extent that you’ll be waiting in line all day for the flagship attractions, but it’ll still be in need of a refresh of its aging stage shows. It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s an announcement on replacements for any of those in the next year.
With that pessimism out of the way, I still think that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has started to turn the corner. I hope the next 18 months (or so) includes a mad scramble to refresh and improve other offerings in the park to help soak up Galaxy’s Edge crowds, but I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made thus far.
Let’s take a walk around the park and see how things are looking…
Actually, before even arriving to the park you see both the new bus plaza and Skyliner gondola station.
Due to all of this construction/demolition, it’s now a 13.1 mile walk from the bus stop to the front entrance. (Half marathon ‘I Did It’ shirts coming soon.)
If you walk from the Crescent Lake resorts, there’s an even longer labyrinth of walls, making the trek a full marathon.
Above is a photo of the Skyliner station from the walkway to Epcot.
Inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the first sign of ongoing construction is Grauman’s Chinese Theater, soon to be the home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway…
Walls have gone up around the inside of the theater courtyard as prep work is done for the marquee and entrance of the attraction.
As mentioned previously, I’m taking a wait and see approach with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. I worry that it’ll be primarily screen-based and too short in duration, but hope to be wrong on both counts.
In an ideal world, it would be more akin to a technically-advanced version of Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin 2.0, but with screens and Mickey and friends. That ride is a healthy duration, even if it’s not the 20+ minute, mixed media attraction that was Great Movie Ride.
For the first hour or so Disney’s Hollywood Studios is open, Cast Members outnumber guests 320:1 on the left side of the park.
Moving right along, we come to Muppet Courtyard/Grand Avenue. The atmosphere of this area has really been muted, presumably to provide more of a low-key transition into the world of Star Wars.
Personally, I wish it had doubled-down on its flamboyance. It’s not like anyone is going to remember what they saw in the 30 seconds before emerging from the tunnel into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
We haven’t heard anything lately about rumor that a Muppets show akin to “The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History” is being considered for Grand Avenue but we sure hope that’s still going to happen.
Supposedly, this would consist of the Muppets performing renditions of the various Star Wars movies in the upper level of BaseLine Tap House. The idea is that this would be entertainment for guests waiting to enter Galaxy’s Edge. (We’re assuming the Star Wars land will do timed entry, but there’s still likely to be a line.)
We never covered the opening of Grand Avenue, probably because I don’t really care one way or the other. It’s fine, but clearly is a placeholder. Literally. There area is expected to be a holding space for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds and presumably a conceptual placeholder, too. I’d be shocked if BaseLine Tap House still exists in a decade.
What I do like is that this entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will provide a grand reveal with trees fully concealing the Batuu mountain range.
Construction walls were up during our visit at the old entrance to Pixar Place as a backstage gate was being installed. A day after this was taken, the walls came down to reveal the gate.
So, if you were hoping to get your photo with this trendy #DisneyWall, you’re out of luck.
Toy Story Land is the best location in Disney’s Hollywood Studios for seeing the mountains of Batuu start to take shape and tower over the rest of the park.
I spent one entire morning ride on Slinky Dog Dash trying to get photos, with fairly mixed results. My apologies for the quality, but a moving roller coaster isn’t exactly the most forgiving situation for construction photography:
We hear from people who aren’t fans of Star Wars a decent amount who express emotions ranging from disinterest to disdain for Galaxy’s Edge.
Personally, I think Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is going to blow everyone’s mind, and this includes non fans.
I’m not a fan of Avatar, Cars, or Harry Potter (among so many other IPs that feature in the parks), but I found those lands revolutionary. If what we’ve heard about Batuu thus far is true, it’s going to make those lands look like amateur hour.
Progress here still appears behind Disneyland, but not as far behind as it once did. Of course, work is now occurring within the show buildings, so it’s tough to tell where progress stands on one coast versus the other.
One pleasant surprise is that Toy Story Land was not nearly as busy as expected. While none of the parks were particularly busy during our off-season trip, we’ve noticed that waits for Slinky Dog Dash have died down a bit in general, something that still has not occurred with Pandora at Animal Kingdom.
We’d recommend Walt Disney World regulars avoid a full day and instead go first thing in the morning, following our Morning Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Tips post or later in the afternoon and following our Half-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary. Doing that multiple days is a better approach than spending the entire day in the park, we think.
For now, that about covers it in terms of Disney’s Hollywood Studios updates. Obviously, there’s a lot on the horizon at this park. In the immediate future, Christmas is just around the corner and, it’ll be interesting to see how the first holiday season changes Toy Story Land. We’re also curious as to whether Sunset Boulevard and Echo Lake change at all, after debuting seasonal offerings last year that were something of a mixed bag. We’ll be back with another update on that, plus Star Wars land and other developments at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so stay tuned!
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What do you think of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge construction progress? Excited to see recognizable details from the concept art and model take shape? Will you be visiting DHS in the next year, or are you waiting until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Tom 13.1 mile walk from parking lot of Universal to entrance??â€â™€ï¸â€â™€ï¸â€â™€ï¸ Cant be
Just got back from Disney World yesterday and spent a day at Hollywood Studios. I have always loved the “feel” of this park and I think it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It should be noted that I am a huge Star Wars fan… I loved seeing the Storm Troopers and hearing that music gave me goosebumps! Having said that, I do miss the Old Hollywood nods that used to be given to the history of cinema itself, paying tribute to the great actors and movies of the past. It seems that Star Wars is taking over and as much as I love it, I’m disappointed that everything else seems to be getting pushed to the side. I spoke to a cast member while waiting for the Muppets Show to begin and she mentioned that they have removed everything that could possibly be seen from your view while inside Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge so guest there will be completely immersed in the Star Wars experience. Unfortunately, Muppets was one of the shows that seems to be taking the hit. Still love the park…but hoping Disney will find a good balance between Star Wars and old Hollywood itself.
13 miles? Really? That can’t be right. Please answer! You
He’s kidding but it sure does feel like it, especially when leaving the park. It didn’t help that our bus stop was one of the furthest ones away. But yeah, it’s a very long hike.
Oh, man, really?! Which one was your bus stop? Do you remember which resorts are closest to the entrance? I’ve been trying to find out for awhile, but no one seems to know. I don’t even know why I care, we’ll make the walk regardless! TIA!
He’s joking. We were there the last week in August and while the walk up from the Boardwalk is a bit longer, I’d estimate it only adds a few minutes. Having said that, if you are walking back to the Boardwalk resorts at the end of the night, you are exiting with ALL the guests heading to the buses and passing a large number of the bus corrals. That was the part I didn’t care for as it was MUCH, MUCH busier than we were used to.
I will go to DHS this year to see Toy Story Land and next year to see the new Mickey ride assuming it will be open. I could care less about Star Wars so hopefully Star Wars wont be open when I visit next year. If it is open, hopefully to will take the crowds away from MK, Epcot, and AK.
Thank you for the great construction pictures. You did a great job! My husband and I have our 25th anniversary trip booked for next November. Maybe we’ll get to see Galaxy Edge. I hope so. I really didn’t want to go to Disney at exactly the same time Galaxy Edge was opening but we pushed the trip back six months for cooler weather so… We are planning a long trip so that should help us see everything if crowds descend.
It’s weird to say, but I’m hoping to get back to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland before each Galaxy’s Edge opens. The reason is that it will probably be extremely difficult to visit those parks for a while afterwards. The capacity just won’t be there for handling those crowds. With that said, I’m excited to see what happens with Galaxy’s Edge and can’t wait to eventually see it. Toy Story Land doesn’t excite me as much, though I have appreciated that the lines don’t seem as bad as I expected.
Great update for I live 20 minutes from the parks and have a season pass. Before Toy Story Land opened, we could arrive at this park at 6PM in December and with FP’s go on all of the only 4 rides open at the time and still be done by 8PM to see Jingle Bam. We really to not like the new rides in Toy Story Land so will not be back until Star Wars Land opens in late 2019. Even with that land open, I still do not seeing HS as a full day if you are using 4 Fast Passes. It is going to have to expand or offer Osborne Lights in November and Dec and other special events to make if worth the open to close ticket price. We will always have annual passes so can hit HS for a few hours to hit the rides we want but staying an entire day would be boring to us due to the lack of rides. also, I believe Jingle Bam will be gone after 2018 for it is not that great.
I would add to the list of closed attractions the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground that was also removed to make way for Galaxy’s Edge. It may have only appealed to families with young kids, but it was one of the attractions that I most remember from my own childhood, and one that my own children thoroughly enjoyed. For a park that is already really lacking attractions for young children, that truly immersive playground was a pretty significant loss, in my opinion.
I visited the park in 1993 (?) as part of our high school choir trip and I remember this playground being fun to walk through and play in, even as a teenager. My friends and I took silly pictures there with our camera (which used real film!). I’m sad my kids never got a chance to experience it.
Massive difference between that playground and Toy Story Land, which while initially visually compelling is very lacking in actual ways to explore and have fun. “Look (and wait in line) but don’t touch.” After the first few minutes, my kids (who are in the ideal age group and love the TS movies) didn’t feel there was any reason to be there other than waiting in line for one of the rides.
Great article Tom. Two completely different thoughts on the subject
I’ll be going in February for the first time since 2001 (14yo) and just reading the list of what has been taken out since then, it’s quiet surprising and seems like they are basically creating a whole new park, ( seems like they are trying more to make it a counter to universal studios).
Reading about the Muppets rumors, I’m just surprised, given that they have full ownership of the Muppets franchise, that they don’t do more with it ( rides, character experiences, etc,) especially compared to how much they are doing with Star Wars and Toy Story. They are popular and have a long history, yet I only know of the 3d movie and the american history show at mk
Tangent comment coming up: I like the doors on that Batuu starship. The left one has a 77. The right one is 83. The missing middle one is most likely 80(Star Wars fans know what this means) I’ve yet to see a pic which clearly shows the Aurebesh(Star Wars alphabet, naturally) on the doors themselves. I’m not sure it’s possible to ride Slinky Dog Dash enough to get that shot:)
Could you fill us in on the missing number 80?!
Without checking IMBD to be sure, these are the release dates of the original trilogy?
Make that IMDB.
Just confirmed that! Thank you!
I was wracking my brain trying to figure out the significance of those numbers in the story somewhere…
Sorry…didn’t check back soon enough! Patrick is correct. The number 80 is a reference to the year The Empire Strikes Back was released!
The crowds are what is going to keep me from visiting Hollywood Studios when Star Wars opens. It’s just going to be such a massive amount of people all trying to get to the same place. Disney is great with crowd control, but it sounds like it’s going to feel like New Years Eve every day there for a long time.
Agreed, except I think all four WDW parks are going to be packed once Galaxy’s Edge opens! People will be coming to see Star Wars but on the their non HS days, the other three parks are going to grab the overflow. My family is going spring break in 2019, before the SWGE chaos hits, but I fear that will be our last trip to WDW for quite a while.
Hoping and praying SWGE not open in early October 2019, because I feel the same way. I am a Star Wars fan, but don’t want to be anywhere near with those crowds
I REALLY appreciate your comment about the walk from the buses to the gates of Hollywood Studios. I’m going to need one of those shirts. Taking that journey in August was brutal.
Is it really 13 miles or just feel like that? How would you compare the distance from bus to gate to inside of magic kingdom? Is it similar to walking from the Castle to train station?
Would it be like the animal kingdom walk from the busses?
It is probably similar to the walk from the castle to the MK buses. It feels longer because you walk between a construction wall and a parking lot. Unpleasant views and no shade makes for an exaggerated walk after a day of…well, walking.
No, it’s not 13 miles, that would be ridiculous. But it is very long, and very HOT! There’s no shade so the sun just beats down on you.
Disneyland Star Wars Galaxy Edge is supposed to open Summer 2019….any word on when? June? July? August?
I’m a Star Wars fan, but I am not looking forward to Galaxy’s Edge. From what I’ve heard and read, it will feature some pretty narrow passageways. Imaging the entrance/exit to Pandora, over at DAK, but more narrow. It was impossible for my party of three to stay together in that crowd traffic. I hate to imagine what Galaxy’s Edge will feel like
You’re worried about narrow passageways??
With the bus stop being changed is it a better idea to drive or tame uber?
I doubt it. we took an uber in June to get from DS to DHS and it was pretty convoluted for the driver to get to the designated dropoff spot (which was also not close).
No, the walk from the parking lot is just as long and arduous as the walk to the buses. We did both on this trip and they were equally miserable.
Great update. We took Lyfts to and from the park and it only felt like walking a 10K to get to/from the ride share drop-off area. No special t-shirt for me. 😉
Also, despite your points being spot-on about the park still being lacking in many ways, we had an interesting experience last month. We budgeted 4-5 hours to knock out the best experiences before heading to MK for afternoon/evening fun, but even after staying much longer than planned (and thus doing just about everything the park had to offer by 4pm), my 9yo son was still crying hysterically at the thought of leaving. (Whereas he was totally fine leaving at Animal Kingdom at 12:30 the previous day after an enjoyable morning of Pandora, KS, Everest, and ITTBAB). It took him over an hour to calm down — we were already inside MK by the time he stopped crying, which is NOT normal for him.
This was his first time at HS and something about the park connected with him in ways that none of the other three parks could match — he told us he wanted to stay there forever. I think part of it was the Star Wars element — the Jedi training, stage shows, character meet-and-greets, gift shops, Star Tours, etc. It just felt like it was Star Wars everywhere you turned.
I’m guessing a lot of that will change when Galaxy’s Edge opens, which while ostensibly bringing Star Wars to greater prominence will likely end up diminishing its presence elsewhere in the park (e.g., will Launch Bay and the stage shows still be a thing?). That might very well be best for the park long-term, but having Star Wars experiences relegated to a single land would certainly change the dynamic for visitors like my son.
I was definitely disappointed when I heard about Galaxy’s Edge and now seeing all the changes. You do make a good point though that it’s going to be done very well, and even as a non fan I’m sure it will be impressive. I know things need to change and we can’t keep everything Disney frozen in time for nostalgia purposes, but I just don’t think Star Wars will ever feel Disney.
The funny thing is that, out of the entire list Tom wrote at the top of the post of attractions closed at DHS in the last ten years, only two arguably are “Disney,” while the bulk are not (not even counting American Idol!). In the end, I see the addition of Star Wars as a good thing, but there needs to be more additions announced to really get this park where it needs to be.
That’s very true I really barely noticed when some of those attractions closed. Hopefully Star Wars isn’t the last addition to Hollywood Studios.
Unless you spent the money on “Hopper” options I wouldn’t bother with DHWS until all the construction is finished. Tickets are expensive for just half a park.
We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving 2019 when hopefully everything is open.