An update to this post for 2018 is available here.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a park in transition and will be throughout the course of 2017. Three years ago, the backlot express tour forever left the park and Hollywood Studios lost a lot of its identity. Honestly, the park had lost most of its identity before that point, as the tour didn’t show guests anything exciting, the shows show their age, and the actual rides were few in numbers. There was a big hat sitting in front of the park’s icon and the theme of the park was, more or less, gone. Once a park that tried to make guests feel as if they were on set of a working studio, the reality of that theme just wasn’t realistic to continue for decades upon decades. The park grew stale recently and it was clear that Hollywood Studios was in need of a major facelift.
We can blame Disney for letting the park sit and rot for too long before deciding to do something. With that in mind, they do deserve at least an ounce of credit for finally deciding to do something instead of letting the park become even worse. Unfortunately for guests and Disney, Hollywood Studios has to get worse before it gets a whole lot better. The year that this park probably hit rock bottom was 2016 and the park will probably not climb out of that cellar in 2017.
As major construction projects continue for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, areas of the park have to completely close down. More attractions are being yanked out of the rotation to pave the way for what’s to come. This is all a good thing in the long run as Hollywood Studios will almost be a brand new park in 5 years. But, what good does that do guests visiting in 2016? Not much, is the short and hard answer. For guests who frequent Walt Disney World regularly, these construction zones will be a promising sign. For those who don’t get to go as often, the construction walls and cranes will be fairly frustrating. While the construction is too bad for those infrequent visitors, I do have to caution that there is no perfect time to go to a Disney theme park. There will always be construction going on as these parks change with the times. I know that’s frustrating, but it’s also a good thing.
With all that being said, should guests completely skip going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2016? Let’s take a closer look at what is offered before we make a final judgment.
Now, I know that Disney doesn’t call them rides but instead refers to them as attractions. I typically do that, as well, but for this post I’m using the term ride literally. These are open attractions that you physically get on to ride.
- The Great Movie Ride
- Rock N’ Roller Coaster
- Star Tours the Adventure Continues
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Yikes. Five. The worst land in Walt Disney World (DinoLand U.S.A.) has 3 attractions that you physically ride. This whole park only has 2 more open than the lowly DinoLand. While all of these attractions are much better than 2 of DinoLand’s offerings (probably all 3, honestly) what we’re really dealing with is capacity issues. Walt Disney World attracts a lot of people and if a park is open then people will go to it. The more attractions that are open, the more the park spreads people out and keeps wait times down. That simply doesn’t happen when there are 5 attractions to ride, especially when they’re all fairly popular. If 100 people are going to go get food at a baseball game then having more concession stands open will limit the lines, even if one of the concession stands is selling pizza that tastes like cardboard (insert
Pizza Planet PizzeRizzo joke here).
Essentially this comes down to if you’ve been to the Studios before. If you haven’t, most of these open rides are must-do’s. Tower of Terror is quite possibly the best attraction at Walt Disney World. There’s not much like Rock n’ Roller Coaster in WDW so if roller coasters are your thing, it’s probably a must-do as well. Toy Story Midway Mania has it’s critics but is generally adored and is the park’s most popular attraction. Star Tours is a classic Disney attraction. The Great Movie Ride is the least popular of the five but is the attraction that best fits the park’s theme. I’d argue that all 5 are probably must-do’s for a first time guest (or an infrequent visitor). Get there when the park opens and you’ll be able to complete all of them before noon, if you take advantage of FastPass+. For a frequent visitor, I’m not sure it’s worth a trip to the to Hollywood Studios to do these five attractions although it does depend on how long your stay is and if any of these are your favorites.
There are a few more options of things to do at Disney’s Hollywood Studios than just rides. There are a decent amount of shows. Here they are:
- One Man’s Dream
- Muppet-Vision 3D
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Disney Junior – Live On Stage
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
- Jedi Training
A decent list, right? Well… Let’s break it down a little more.
Muppet-Vision 3D and One Man’s Dream are both quality attractions. One Man’s Dream has some great exhibits and then a nice little film about Walt Disney. Unfortunately, that attraction is often used for movie previews and isn’t always showing One Man’s Dream. Muppet-Vision is a classic Disney attraction (it’s also the last Muppet entertainment Jim Henson worked on before he passed away) but it is getting a little tired and could use an update.
Beauty and the Beast is a nice production but nothing more. Like Muppet-Vision, I think the show is a little tired and I’m guessing it’s most interesting to first-time guests and not frequent visitors.
I am beginning to despise the Frozen sing-along. I don’t like the format of the show and while it was fine as a temporary addition, it hasn’t been temporary (it will have been at the Studios for 2 years in June). The show has the feeling of a throw together act, which it probably is. Unless you have someone Frozen-crazed in your family, I’m not sure that it’s worth your time.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Voyage of the Little Mermaid follow under the same category as Beauty and the Beast and Muppet-Vision, good but tired.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage is good for little ones but not for many who have ages in the double digits. Jedi Training is also for kids but this show is pretty fun to watch, especially for parents of kids who participate. Get to the show early so that you can sign your child up.
Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away is a pretty bad stage show that debuted in 2016. There isn’t a great plot but it does pay homage to the Star Wars universe which some might enjoy. Before the show they do a march through the park with storm troopers. That’s pretty cool but far from a reason to go to the park.
A few of these shows are probably of interest to first-time guests and rightfully so, they’re pretty good. These shows just aren’t good enough that someone who’s seen them all would base a trip to the Studios for (of course, some might argue). Star Wars Launch Bay is new and opened to average reviews. There are some interesting models but most reviews I’ve read are that it’s not worth making a special trip for.
I did leave meet & greets off this list but the Studios does offer a few unique ones (Kylo Ren and Chewbacca namely), like some Star Wars characters. I guess that could be a pretty big draw to some people, but I have never thought characters meets are worth a trip to a park. Now, when you include it with a few of the other offerings here, then maybe it is worth it to you or your family. Oh, there’s also a dance party. Yippee!
My hope is that Hollywood Studios will begin to offer plenty of temporary entertainment. Whether this is a few new stage shows or many different ‘streetmosphere’ entertainment options, I’d just like to see more options for guests to do at this park. Seeing how they didn’t add much of this in 2016, I don’t think the outlook for 2017 is that bright.
Hollywood Studios has two nighttime spectaculars for guests to enjoy. Fantasmic! is shown in a large amphitheater. Most agree that the show just isn’t as good Disneyland’s version of Fantasmic! Still, if you’ve never seen any of them, it’s probably worth going to. If you have seen Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios before then I doubt it tops your list of WDW priorities.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is also offered at Hollywood Studios right now. This is a fireworks show featuring lasers and projections that are set to some of the classic scores from Star Wars. I thoroughly enjoyed this show in 2016 and I recommend it over Fantasmic! If you like Star Wars and fireworks then this show will impress AS LONG AS you get a good spot for it. Try to be close to the stage in front for the Chinese Theater for the best viewing. I think this show is the reason for frequent visitors to go back to DHS in 2016.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a fireworks show that debuted for the holidays in 2016 and I think an iteration of this will likely be back in November and December of 2017. While the show drew mixed reviews when opening, I think improvements will be made.
If you’ve made it this far, then you probably already can guess my verdict. I think that first time guests should go see Disney’s Hollywood Studios due to some of the classic attractions. Now, if you have a limited time at Disney World I don’t think this park should take priority over the other 3. In fact, I think 2 days at Magic Kingdom is more beneficial than going to this park, even if you are a first-time guest.
Another option is to take whatever day you were planning to spend at Hollywood Studios and go to Universal Orlando instead. This option obviously takes more time and costs more money, but if those two factors aren’t big deterrents to you then I’d absolutely go with this option. While not the biggest Universal fan, I do think those two parks offer significantly more than Hollywood Studios currently. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands are nothing short of incredible and there are other fantastic attractions in those parks.
Back to Hollywood Studios, I also don’t think the park is worth spending a full day in. I would go to DHS when it first opens to get in all of the attractions then see whatever shows that intrigued me. Then, I’d take a break to enjoy my resort, Disney Springs, a water park or another park. I would come back at night to enjoy the fireworks and maybe Fantasmic! Hollywood Studios does have a few fun restaurants, so maybe doing dinner and the nighttime shows would be a good nightcap to this day at DHS.
For frequent visitors, you’ve likely made up your mind already on whether to visit Disney Hollywood Studios in 2017. Speaking for myself, I’m excited to watch Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular again, assuming that it sticks around for a while. I probably won’t spend more than half a day at the park though. There are many new items in 2016 that I’m anxious to check out at Walt Disney World (Rivers of Light and Pandora just to name a few) and I think spending ample time at Hollywood Studios would detract from seeing quality entertainment at other parks.
If you have questions about Hollywood Studios or Disney Parks in general, leave us a comment below and we’d be happy to get to it! Thank you for reading.
Do you think they’ll redo Rock N Roller Coaster? I thought for sure after the whole hand gesture thing and with the park being redone… But haven’t heard any rumors of it. I would think it would go to a Marvel theme!
I wouldn’t be surprised if they change the theme in the next few years. I haven’t heard a ton of rumors but it could be done easily and without much notice.