by Amy Kawa
There can’t be progress without change, and there can’t be change without some sort of loss. It is within this world of change that we find Hollywood Studios. For many of us Disney fans of old, we’re still getting over the name change from MGM Studios to Hollywood, and now we’ve had to deal with major closures of several attractions that made the park what it was – a celebration of how movies and television shows came to be.
While the future of the park is the brightest it has ever been, there will always be a part of me that will miss the MGM of old. I will miss visiting Catastrophe Canyon, drawing my favorite animated characters, and learning that anything can happen in the movies.
It is obvious that Hollywood Studios is in a transition phase. As we wait with baited breath for the openings of the two biggest in-park expansions in the history of Disney Parks, we have to deal with the growing pains that come with that exciting change. Toy Story Land is slated to open in the summer of 2018, with Star Ward Land to follow in 2019 (presumably opening in Disneyland a few months before the one in Disney World). Early concept art for both lands look undeniably amazing. The theming promises to be “other worldly” and as a fan of all things Star Wars, I cannot wait to fly the Millennium Falcon and have some blue milk at the cantina, actually becoming a part of the stories we love so much.
So, we have to have a little faith here that Disney will come through like they always do. Now, we can’t imagine Magic Kingdom without New Fantasyland or Epcot without Soarin’, and we had to lose a few classic attractions along the way to get there as well. Walt was an innovator and to truly continue his legacy, change is necessary. All of the attractions of old will live on in our memories, and we will smile or even shed a little tear whenever we walk past what used to be.
Here’s to the future of Hollywood Studios… or whatever the future name of the park will be!
For now, here is a list of the current attractions at Hollywood Studios. With only 11 real attractions, this park could be more of a half-day experience than a full day, but with a ride where you can play classic carnival games with the toys of Toy Story, a haunted tower with a nasty elevator, a roller coaster that rocks as much as it rolls, and a nighttime spectacular that proves nothing is more powerful than the imagination, there is still fun to be had morning, noon, and night in Hollywood.
Just like we have done for each of the other theme parks, we have created a list of each attraction in Hollywood Studios and alongside each attraction, you will find our ratings on a 10-point scale as well as how important it is to use a Fastpass+ on the attraction. Our ratings may not be exactly in line with other guide books or Disney websites, but hear us out. The ratings are based on overall impressiveness, fun-level, ability to immerse the audience in another world, and add in a pinch of nostalgia.
Hollywood Studios- Attractions and Shows
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage (9/10)
This tale as old as time is a Broadway-lite stage show down Sunset Boulevard. The quality of the singing and dancing of the performers is truly something you feel like you should have bought tickets for. The plot is somewhat shortened, but all of the songs are there to sing along to, and when the curtain closes you are as captivated by the enchanting story as ever. The only real downside is that obviously the show does not change and the theater is “open air,” so it can get quite steamy in the heat of a Florida afternoon.
*Fastpass+ is offered, and Disney deems this show a tier 1 attraction, pitting it up against the likes of Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster for one fastpass. Go to a show early in the day or one of the last ones of the evening, and you can save that fastpass.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage (6/10)
If you have kiddos who love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, or Sofia the First, then this is the show for you! If you don’t have kiddos who love these characters, then you can probably save 25 minutes and skip this one. Parents are probably more apt to give this one a better review.
Fastpass+ is offered but never needed.
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration (7/10)
Yep, Frozen is still a MAJOR thing in the Disney Parks, so it’s a good thing the music is catchy and the story is as heartwarming as Olaf in summer. In this show, it’s not Anna or Elsa but rather the Royal Historians of Arendelle that steal the show. They are the MC’s of the show and tell some jokes that keep the adults in the theater laughing out loud and the songs from the mega-hit film do what they do best and keep the kids (and some “older” kids) singing along. A loose recap of the story fills in the blanks between songs. We were hesitant to see this show because we thought it was just for Frozen-obsessed kiddos, but it’s now a regular stop during our Hollywood Studios day thanks to the charismatic Royal Historians… and the fake snow!
*Fastpass+ is offered, but this show takes place in a HUGE theater, so save your fastpass for another attraction.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (6/10)
In what now seems a bit of an out-of-place attraction, you can see how the famous stunts of the Indiana Jones franchise come to life and how movie magic is made. After swinging from ropes, surviving being run over by a ginormous boulder, car crashes, and an airplane explosion, a director is on-hand to explain the intricacies into how it all unfolds. The show is awesome for first timers, but after seeing it a couple of times, it can get a little stale. No one likes to know the ending of the movie before they see it, and with most of the behind the scenes attractions shut down for good, it seems like only a matter of time before this one meets the same fate (or a whole new Indy-themed land is built instead!).
*Fastpass+ is offered but not needed for any show.
Muppet*Vision 3D (8/10)
Who doesn’t love the Muppets? People that I don’t want to know, that’s who! This 3D show, showcases the Muppets at their finest – good-hearted, cheesy, and downright funny. Tour the Muppet Labs with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Bean Bunny, Missy Piggy, and all of your favorites! Make sure you get to your show early enough to see the pre-show in its entirety. It is almost guaranteed that you’ll be quoting it for years to come.
*Fastpass+ offered but completely unnecessary.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (9/10)
Get ready to go from 0-60mph in this indoor, launching coaster. Join Aerosmith on their way to their concert in a stretch limo. After a start that takes your breath away, you’ll be racing down the track, going upside down, and will make it to the concert just in time!
*Fastpass+ offered and should be used if this is a higher priority than Toy Story Mania for your tier 1 fastpass.
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (10/10)
Always dreamed of visiting Endor or how about podracing on Tatooine? Want to battle Darth Vader or run into the most notorious bounty hunter of them all, Boba Fett? Then, hop on board a Starspeeder 1000 piloted by C-3PO and become a part of the Rebel Alliance in this 3D motion simulator ride. Star Tours has the ability to reprogram itself, so you can go on a new adventure each time you ride, visiting new planets and encountering new characters!
*Fastpass+ offered and is a good second tier option.
Star Wars Launch Bay (6/10)
Inside the Launch Bay, you can watch a film dedicated to the new installments of the Star Wars saga, meet Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, and BB-8, and see different props from the movies. This building is essentially a stand-in until Galaxy’s Edge is up and running, but for now, it’s a really cool stand-in.
*Fastpass+ is not available for any of these experiences; character wait times hover between 10 and 25 minutes on most days.
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi (4/10)
Another Star Wars celebration movie, this 10-minute film takes a look back at the saga and the rise, fall, and attempt to resurrect the Jedi Order. To us, it seems like another placeholder, but this one isn’t as well done as the Launch Bay.
*Fastpass+ is not available, but would not be necessary; the theater is never full.
Toy Story Mania! (10/10)
Ever wanted to hang with Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and all of Andy’s toys? Then head to Pixar Place and Toy Story Mania where you’re now the size of a toy! In this 4D multi-player shooting game, you use your gun, activated by a pull string, to play classic carnival games: breaking plates, popping balloons, and tossing rings around some green aliens. If you pair up with you partner, you can unlock some awesome bonus levels within each game. From the queue to the ride itself, the theming of this ride is unparalleled and the game-like set up makes for the fastest 5 minutes you’ll have all day.
*Fastpass+ offered and with Hollywood Studios in its current state, this is the best attraction to use your tier 1 fastpass on. A new third track for the ride has lowered the wait times to an average of 45 minutes or so most days.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (10/10)
“On a stormy Halloween night in 1939, 5 unlucky souls disappeared from the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s doomed elevator.” If you want the holy grail of all themed attractions, look no further than this hotel that lurks ominously at the end of Sunset Boulevard. Rod Sterling invites you to enter the Twilight Zone and a haunted elevator. With a random ride sequence, you never know how many drops your ride will take!
*Fastpass+ offered and for some reason, Tower of Terror is known as a tier 2 attraction, making it the perfect choice for one of your two fastpasses on this tier.
Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream (10/10)
A tribute to the man who started it all, this walkthrough museum offers artifacts and multimedia clips that cover the entirety of Walt’s childhood, career, and the history of the Walt Disney Co. There is also a theater that used to show a biographical film on Walt’s life, but has shown previews of the latest Disney film over the past few years. This exhibit’s days in its current state are numbered as it is set to become Walt Disney Presents… and will preview the new additions to Walt Disney World, most notably Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge.
*Fastpass+ not offered or needed.
If you’ve read anything else on this site, you can probably guess that some of our favorite things in the parks happen at night. The park seems to come alive with a whole new level of magic when the sun sets. You’ll find some of the best nighttime offerings in all of Walt Disney World at Hollywood Studios.
I would give this an 11 if I could… Oh wait, it’s our website so I can. In Hollywood Studios’ version of the “Kiss Goodnight,” we go inside Mickey’s imagination, which starts off as a journey through all the good Disney has to offer: princesses, lion cubs, and singing flowers. But, we also learn that nothing is more powerful than the imagination, as Mickey squares off against the all-star team of Disney villains. Does good triumph over evil? It is called “the happiest place on earth,” so we’ll let you take a guess. The music, the colors, the fountains, the water projection screens, the floats – it is quintessential Disney magic, and a must-do for our families every time we end our day at Hollywood Studios.
*Fastpass+ is offered, and Fantasmic is deemed a tier 1 experience. It might be worth a fastpass because Fantasmic is only shown once a night now and it will guarantee you a spot in the theater if you have never seen the show before and CAN’T miss it. If you’re not using a fastpass, you should head over to the Fantasmic entrance 45-60 minutes before show time.
Disney Movie Magic (8/10)
This projection show supersizes the best Disney live-action movies onto the Chinese Theater. Clips from Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and more take on new life on a next-level stage.
*Fastpass+ is not offered; line up anywhere on Hollywood Boulevard
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (10/10)
The ultimate tribute of the Star Wars saga for the biggest Star Wars fans, this fireworks extravaganza is set to the scores of the films, with corresponding scenes from the movies projected onto the Chinese Theater. If you are even remotely a Star Wars fan, this is something to see. However, if you have to pick between this and Fantasmic, pick Fantasmic. Always pick Fantasmic.