The original version of this post debuted in 2016 and has been updated every year since. We will try to keep this updated throughout the year as attractions open and close.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a park in transition and will be throughout the course of 2018. Four years ago, the Backlot Express Tour forever left the park and Hollywood Studios lost 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 were/are aging, 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 face-lift.
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 park hit rock bottom in 2016 and spent most of 2017 in that same cellar. 2018 finally sees the park climbing stairs back to respectability.
Major construction projects continue for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, and will continue through much of 2018. Thankfully, Toy Story Land will wrap construction and open in summer. More on that in the following paragraphs… While these projects are ongoing, other attractions are coming and going as well. 2017 saw The Great Movie Ride close to make way for the upcoming Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway which will open in 2019, most likely.
All these changes are good in the long run as Hollywood Studios will almost be a brand new park in 3 years. But, what good does that do guests visiting in 2018? Well, they will benefit those that visit later in the year! 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 2018? 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.
- Rock N’ Roller Coaster
- Star Tours the Adventure Continues
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Slinky Dog Dash (Opening Summer 2018)
- Alien Swirling Saucers (Opening Summer 2018)
Four literal rides to start the year and six by summer. That’s not great. The worst land in Walt Disney World (DinoLand U.S.A.) has 3 attractions that you physically ride. On the bright side, the first four attractions on the above list are all good to great attractions. The big problem with so few attractions are capacity issues. 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 4 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 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. I’d argue that all 4 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 four attractions although it does depend on how long your stay is and if any of these are your favorites.
As far as the Toy Story attractions, I think the Slinky Dog Coaster will be interesting. I’m not sure if it’s worth a special trip to the park but I at least think it will be interesting. The Alien Saucer ride is just a spinner ride and I do not think it will be very interesting. It might be cute though? Cute is what we’re hoping for.
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:
- Walt Disney Presents
- 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 Walt Disney Presents are both quality attractions. Walt Disney Presents 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 the film. 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 and Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular are both nice productions but nothing more. Like Muppet-Vision, I think these shows are a little tired and I’m guessing it’s most interesting to first-time guests and not frequent visitors. While all of these shows are good, I don’t think any are standouts. Voyage of the Little Mermaid falls into the same boat. Pun intended.
When you include a few shows from the above list along with the quality attractions that makes for a pretty solid day here. I’m not sure that’s worth the money on its own but if you have a Park Hopper ticket then it’s probably worth a half day.
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, storm troopers march through Hollywood Studios. 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 around (of course, some might argue). Star Wars Launch Bay is new and opened to average reviews, as did the film Star Wars: Path of the Jedi. There are some interesting models in Launch Bay 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!
Over the last year, Disney has started to add some temporary entertainment to Hollywood Studios. Last summer featured the excellent Music of Pixar Live! Hollywood Studios is also starting to have more holiday offerings. If that continues in 2018, then temporary offerings may be worth looking into.
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. This is a fireworks show featuring lasers and projections that are set to some of the classic scores from Star Wars. I enjoy this show and 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 2018.
Disney premiered a new projection show called Disney Movie Magic that plays in the same spot and before Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. This is a nice little addition that makes seeing the Star Wars fireworks even more worth it.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a fireworks show that debuted for the holidays in 2016 and again showed in 2017. I think an iteration of this will likely be back in November and December. While the show drew mixed reviews when opening, it has improved and will continue to do so.
Ambiance, Food and Intangibles
I’ve added this category for 2018 because I do think that Hollywood Studios offers a few things that I haven’t mentioned. Let’s start with another look at Toy Story Land.
When this new land opens in the summer, I think it will be worth seeing. While my hopes aren’t exactly high for the land, it is still enjoyable and interesting to see new areas come to life. The attractions coming here aren’t all the interesting to me but Disney has improved in atmospheric lands in the last decade. Hopefully Toy Story Land will be a place that is enjoyable to spend an hour or two regardless of rides. Time will tell, but it’s still fun to brag to your friends that you saw the newest land before they did.
Other areas in Hollywood Studios have a nice ambiance. I’m fond of Echo Lake. especially after sunset. Hollywood Boulevard is also a fun street albeit a bit crowded. As a mega-fan of the Muppets, I’m also fond of Muppets Courtyard (Grand Avenue).
As far as food goes, I don’t think Hollywood Studios offers much. 50’s Prime Time Cafe is highly thought of but I have never eaten there. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater offers a great atmosphere but is lacking in the food department. Stay away from the counter-service here. All in all, Hollywood Studios offers a few unique table-service restaurants but is otherwise lacking and not worth a special trip for.
While Hollywood Studios is gearing up for a great 2019, my verdict for 2018 remains nearly the same as years prior. 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.
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. One caveat here is once Toy Story Land opens you can probably stretch out a full day here, especially if there are some shows that interest you. I would still probably recommend doing a half day that includes some nighttime entertainment, but a full day is doable with Toy Story Land and some shows.
For frequent visitors, you’ve likely made up your mind already on whether to visit Disney Hollywood Studios in 2018. Speaking for myself, I’m excited to see Toy Story Land and am hopeful for some more fresh entertainment. I probably won’t spend more than half a day at the park though. With Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom being top-tier parks, and Epcot’s World Showcase being one of the best areas anywhere, I think time spent elsewhere is more worthwhile than at Hollywood Studios.
I’m excited to see where this park in 2019 but 2018 seems to be another pretty lean year for the Studios. Come the summer though, this park’s stock will start to go up and keep rising for the next 2 or 3 years.
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 Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.