Sunday, June 12, 2011

disney: hollywood studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios was on tap for today. We did not realize when we booked the trip that we'd be in Disney World during one of the Star Wars Weekends. and as far as Jacob was concerned, that was a happy coincidence, as there were lots of extra Star Wars activities on the menu!

When plotting out our day, the first big decision was whether Jacob wanted to try to participate in Jedi Training Academy. I was pretty sure that he would, given that he spends approximately 3 hours per day wielding a light saber even when we're not in Disney World, but somewhere in the middle of the Disney research he did before our trip he decided that Jedi Training Academy was more for younger kids and that he was "too old" for it. I told him that I did not think that was the case at all (the info. about the attraction says it's for kids 4-12, so he'd be right smack in the middle of that range) and that if he wanted to do it, we would try to do it, and that his fellow padawans would surely include some kids younger than him, but also some kids older than him. But he didn't waver on this -- he decided that he did not care about doing it. Which was fine with David and me, as it saved us from having to get to the park an hour before rope drop to line up for it! {But don't think he valued our extra sleep that much; what he REALLY wanted to do was get autographs of some of the Clone Wars stars on Saturday, which would require us to line up nearly 3 hours before rope drop. More on that later.}

We grabbed a quick, character-free breakfast in the lobby, then the kids looked for the hidden Mickey in the oversized globe in the lobby:

And then we started the walk to Studios. Unlike Epcot, which is just a 5 or 10 minute walk away, Studios is over a mile from the hotel. So it's a bit of a hike, especially for little legs, but a pretty one, and the kids managed it fine.

The requisite Studios shot in front of Mickey's Sorcerer hat:

We sent David to get fastpasses for Star Tours, and the kids and I wandered towards the general vicinity of Toy Story Mania:

David caught up with us, and the stated wait for Toy Story Mania was something in the 45 minute range, so we got in line.

Er, I was trying to get their silhouettes in front of Mr. Potato Head. Yeah, that's it!

I tell you what, when I was a kid, we didn't have these cushy indoor, climate-controlled Disney World lines with attraction-appropriate decor and talking Mr. Potato Heads to entertain us. No, we inched our way uphill into the blaring hot sun and passed the time by counting how many times we zigzagged past the same dude in the Pink Floyd t-shirt, and we liked it!

Not only was the Toy Story Mania line super pleasant, it was shorter-than-advertised as well! We caught up with the fastpass line after only 25 minutes and hopped onto the ride. Now, I can take or leave the roller coasters, but put me in a decorated slow-moving vehicle that is propelled on a track past animatronic robots and I'm in theme park heaven! So Toy Story Mania was my kind of ride. Even my thrill-seekers loved this one:

And it met with the approval of the most discriminating member of our travel party:

After Toy Story Mania the big kids wanted to meet Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, and of course Caroline would have none of that, so she and I wandered around while David took Jacob and Elizabeth celebrity stalking.


Jacob and Elizabeth showing off their autographs:

Elizabeth really wanted to go to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!, so we headed in that direction next, stopping first to snap a picture in front of a bush shaped like Sorcerer Mickey. If you put it up to a family vote, I'm sure that my incessant random photo demands would easily earn me the "Most Annoying Travel Companion" award. Still, they {mostly} indulged me.

Here are my miniaturized kids, riding an ant and dwarfed by the blades of grass at Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!

This particular attraction was really fun until it wasn't. I've blocked out the details, but I think it involved Elizabeth and Caroline fighting atop the ant. Perhaps over who got to sit in front. I remember removing them from the insect and leaving in a hurry. I'm sure the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground has seen worse {please God, let the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground have seen worse.}

To cool everyone off, David took the girls to see Muppet Vision 3-D, and I took Jacob for his second spin through Star Tours. He loved it the first time he rode it with David, and he loved it again the second time. After we finished the ride, we were funneled into the Star Tours gift shop, naturally, and Jacob took me over to the photo art area to show me the souvenir that he had been coveting ever since his first Star Tours ride earlier that day. After issuing the obligatory "are you SURE? If you get this, that is it for souvenirs" warnings and being assured that there was no doubt in his mind, this was the one, Jacob lined up to have his photo taken.

Behold, Jacob-wan Kenobi:

After seeing the finished product, Jacob and I agreed that it was really, really cool, and maybe just a little bit creepy.

After all this morning fun, it was time to think about lunch. We had a reservation at the Hollywood Brown Derby, which I made mainly to get priority seating at Fantasmic, a highly popular fireworks and water show that people start to line up for hours ahead of time. But it was clear by lunchtime that there was no way we were going to make it all the way through to Fantasmic, and going back to the hotel for a few hours and returning later wasn't really looking feasible either. Therefore, we decided to save Fantasmic for our next trip and cancel the Brown Derby.

Oh, as an aside, I'm sure it sounds like we had an insane number of meal reservations for this trip. And we did. But the reason we did is because we were on the Disney Dining Plan, which was supposedly "included" with our package. While I believe in Disney Magic as much as the next person, I HIGHLY DOUBT that we ate at Disney World for a week for free. But still, we ended up having three meals per day (table service or quick service) plus two snacks per day per person. The meals included an appetizer, and entree and dessert. And because of the recent popularity of the Dining Plan, it is apparently much more difficult to get meal reservations than it used to be if you wait until you are in the Parks. So we made all of these meals reservations six months ahead of time (knowing that we could cancel them if we didn't want them when the time came) in an effort to get our money's worth out of the dining plan (you know, on the off chance that the Mouse was not actually paying for it).

Anyway, we decided that we did not want to bother with a sit-down lunch, so we cancelled the Brown Derby and ended up outside at a quick service joint. The kids really enjoyed the break. Elizabeth broke out the figurines in her new Aladdin playset and had many adventures with Abu and her french fries:

David & Caroline:

After lunch we heard blood-curdling screams coming out of the Tower of Terror, so naturally we decided to stop for a picture in front of it:

Next, the Ariel ride:

Then Jacob and Elizabeth wanted to meet Buzz & Woody, so I took them to do that while David and Caroline wandered off somewhere. David had the camera, but fortunately I had my iPhone with me to capture the kids enjoying the various line diversions, such as strapping themselves to dynamite:

And posing with Stinky Pete:

Finally it was time to meet Buzz & Woody!

We then got another breather as we sat in a covered amphitheater and watched Beauty & the Beast. Caroline did not love the Beast, but only said "I want to go home!" twice, and was cheering enthusiastically by the end of the show.

Beauty & the Beast:

We had five fastpasses to the Tower of Terror, so we decided that Jacob and David would ride it once before dinner, and I'd ride it with Jacob again after dinner. The girls and I sat and chatted with a super-friendly cast member who sang Disney songs, asked the girls who their favorite Disney character is, etc. while we waited for the boys to emerge from the Tower of Terror. Once they (giddily) did, we headed for dinner at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theater, by far the kids' favorite meal (at least non-character meal) in Disney World:

You eat in a car in a darkened drive-in theater; how cool is that?

The kids all had Glow Soda with their meal; Caroline had a glowing Tinkerbell:

After dinner, the plan was for David to head back to the hotel with the girls while I took Jacob on the Tower of Terror one more time. I said to David, "Do you think it's a good idea for me to get on the Tower of Terror right after eating a huge dinner?" And he replied, "oh, you won't be getting right on it; you still have to walk there." For some odd reason, that answer seemed satisfactory, so ten minutes after leaving the restaurant Jacob and I handed in our fastpasses to get on a ride that involves numerous 30-foot free falls and multiple jerking stops. I worried for a minute there that I might add a new dimension of terror to the ride, but thankfully, my dinner stayed put. FYI, you might want to consider waiting an hour after a meal before stepping into the Hollywood Tower hotel.

Jacob and I chatted the on our walk back to the hotel about how fun and exciting it is to be at Disney World at night. I hate to be completely cheesy, but it really was another magical day.

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