Disney's Hollywood Studios
Ah, the Disney Studios.
Although the Studios looks quite different than its early days back in 1989 and 1990, it has successfully grown into an all-day theme park, meaning that with all of the rides and shows, you'll need all day to see and do everything in the park. Some of the changes have been better than others, but as a whole it's a pretty nice park these days.
I absolutely love the 1930s Hollywood theming throughout the park! The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is certainly a delight both visually and the thrilling ride itself.
The Studio Backlot Tour has changed the most since its original version in 1989. And sadly, it looks like even more change has altered the ride. On both the February and July of 2011 visits, the Water Effects Tank at the start of the ride was no longer seeking any volunteers. And yes, that is Herbie the Love Bug now part of the Backlot Tour again. I haven't seen that car on the tour since the days of riding through Residential Street long before Lights, Motors, Action! was even on the drawing board.
And speaking of Lights, Motors, Action!, be very careful when sitting in the upper deck of the arena as very large support poles will block part of your view. Herbie the Love Bug has been fired and now that segment of the show features a couple of characters from the new Cars 2 animated movie. The new segment was okay at best, but nothing that special. People are there to see the car stunt drivers, not cartoon characters.
Muppet*Vision 3D rarely sees the big crowds these days. This time around parts of the show were actually broken. The penguin orchestra stayed raised the entire show, and the Swedish Chef was nowhere to be found in the projector room. Not at the start of the show or during the gunfire at the end.
Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage was a fantastic show and overall a great experience. Arrive early for a great seat.
Evening slowly arrives in the theme park. It's nearly time to head to Fantasmic!
Fantasmic! is an incredible nighttime show that uses a clever blend of live action characters, images projected onto water screens, and of course, some fireworks here and there to tell the story of Mickey Mouse and the power of imagination. It's mandatory to arrive early for a good seat. And by early I'm talking about an hour before the start of the show.
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
Have I mentioned the incredible level of awesomeness in the new version of Star Tours?
The new version of Star Tours is a must-see experience. After thrilling Star Wars fans and thrill ride lovers for over twenty years, Star Tours is back in the spotlight as pretty much a brand new experience. The line queue still has the familiar looking droids, but everything about them is different. The simulator pod now has C-3PO in the cockpit instead of Captain Rex. And just for the fun of making people come back and ride it again and again and again, there are 54 combinations of the events that may happen on the ride.
While the original version of Star Tours took place during the events of A New Hope, this newer version is more of a prequel and takes place between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. This time we're riding a StarSpeeder 1000 (instead of the StarSpeeder 3000), Captain RX-24 (Rex) is still in a delivery box, and the Death Star is not yet operational. But the technology in the ride has been greatly enhanced and now we're riding in style with improved motions in the simulator, high-definition video, and 3-D effects made visible by our special "flight glasses."
So what kind of events can you experience while on the new version of Star Tours?
After escaping from Imperial stormtroopers (or Darth Vader) in the beginning your first destination may take you to an ongoing battle on Hoth, a pod race on Tatooine, or to the dense jungles on the wookie planet of Kashyyyk (complete with a cameo by Chewbacca). After that first destination you'll receive a help message from Yoda, Princess Leia, or even Admiral Ackbar, asking for us to help deliver the Rebel spy onboard our spaceship to the Rebel Alliance. The final destination may be the planet of Naboo under attack by the Trade Federation (cameo by Jar-Jar Binks). It may be Coruscant during an epic battle of the CIS and the Army of the Republic. Or the final destination may be a Mon Calamari Cruiser after first visiting the Death Star and an asteroid field (cameo by Boba Fett).
My favorite combination is the ride starting with Darth Vader, flying to Hoth, receiving the message from Princess Leia, and then finishing on Naboo.
As it was mentioned earlier, this new version of Star Tours is an outstanding experience. From the visuals to the cameos to the music to the action, this is one great ride. Two thumbs up for this latest collaboration between Disney and George Lucas.
Ride Star Tours and then ride it ten more times that day to experience different versions of it.