Disney World Early Summer 2019 Trip Report (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our early summer 2019 Walt Disney World trip report. This post covers a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including morning Extra Magic Hours.

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This trip report covers our May 2019 visit to Walt Disney World. It’s designed to provide a final set of notes for visits in summer 2019 before August 29, 2019 when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens.

And two additional review posts:

We’re heavily into Extra Magic Hours and After Hours this trip, so the reports might not be as valuable for guests who won’t have access to Extra Magic Hours. Our next Walt Disney World trip report will probably be the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. That report will cover post-Galaxy’s Edge strategy.

Recommended Reading

Today I was aiming for a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you’d like more background, you should consider the following posts (links open in new tabs):

What’s New at Hollywood Studios

Before we get to the itinerary for the day, I wanted to highlight some new things at Hollywood Studios.

ABC Commissary is under refurbishment for most of May. It’s scheduled to reopen at the end of the month. Conversely, PizzeRizzo has reopened.

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30th Anniversary celebration is here. Hollywood Studios is celebrating its 30th anniversary. You’ll see small decorations throughout the park (and the pictures in this post). Here is a bit of that, plus some of the 30th anniversary merchandise:

There’s new merchandise. I don’t track merchandise by the second, but here are some shots of things that looked new to me, including a very limited selection of 30th anniversary items.

New Cars area has opened. Next to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is the new Cars area. This isn’t in any way comparable to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. It’s a small space with one attraction—Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy—a character photo (Cruz Ramirez) and a small dance party (with DJ). These are all covered more below.

Guest Experience teams are here. I didn’t get a good daytime picture, but Guest Experience teams are now a permanent fixture at all four parks. These are Cast Members in bright blue shirts, and they’re placed to help you with things like making FastPass+ reservations, navigating the app, and finding your way around.

New stuff at Walt Disney Presents. The theater is hosting an Aladdin preview, and Mike and Sully are doing a character greeting somewhere in the space (I didn’t visit).

Here’s the Hollywood Studios map in three slides (click to expand):

And the Hollywood Studios times guide in two slides (click to expand):

Waking Up and Bus To Hollywood Studios

Over the past few weeks, I’d collected FastPass+ reservations for:

  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (11AM)

  • Toy Story Mania (1:15PM)

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (2:30PM)

Without a Slinky Dog Dash FastPass+, I needed to arrive as early as possible for rope drop. I slept horribly after not getting back from Hollywood Studios After Hours until after 1AM. The Extra Magic Hour at Hollywood Studios was scheduled for 8AM to 9AM. I aimed to arrive at 7AM, a full hour before the start of the Extra Magic Hour.

Pop Century is nicely located near Hollywood Studios, which is really convenient for getting to Extra Magic Hours early. I woke up around 6AM and snoozed until the first bus popped onto the app at 6:37AM.

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Eventually it updated to say it was departing at 6:42AM, but I was able to get to it from my room in the 90s building just in time.

Extra Magic Hour Rope Drop Hollywood Studios

Departing at 6:45AM, I arrived at the front of Hollywood Studios at 6:57AM, and we were held outside of security until 7:10AM. I was one of the first through after that as I didn’t have a bag. You can already see some 30th anniversary decorations.

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The 7:20AM arrivals probably did fine as well.

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We were scanned to make sure we were hotel guests just after we were let inside at 7:24AM.

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I wouldn’t have wanted to be arriving at 7:30AM for Slinky Dog Dash. This just about accords with our Hollywood Studios Rope Drop advice. There we suggest arriving 45 to 60 minutes early for Slinky Dog Dash, with a “15 to 30” minute buffer for Extra Magic Hours. In this case, arriving 30 minutes early was about as late you’d like.

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We started moving at about 7:35AM. It was a slow walk. I fell behind at the first right turn (which always happens) and made up the ground by going through the large gate (also always happens).

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I was on row two of the first Slinky Dog Dash ride for the day at 7:45AM.

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The biggest question people want to know about EMH and rope drop is how early to arrive. Honestly, I want to always say at least an hour in advance because that’s how much I hate waiting in lines. This was my perfect start to a day.

Extra Magic Hour Toy Story Land Strategy

With FastPass+ bookings for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania, I didn’t have too much stress for Extra Magic Hour. After Slinky Dog Dash, I knocked off the only other Tier 1 FastPass+ ride on my list, Alien Swirling Saucers. I was off that by 7:55AM.

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Toy Story Land was still not crowded, as everyone was arriving and getting straight in lines.

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Slinky Dog Dash wait opened at 75 minutes.

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Usually, I would just head straight to Tower of Terror, which was probably sitting at 5 or 10 minutes and which I didn’t have a FastPass+ for. But I figured I had a full day ahead of me, so why not just get an extra Toy Story Mania ride in. Now, if I had been planning this, I definitely would have gone to Toy Story Mania before Alien Swirling Saucers.

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As it was, I rode Toy Story Mania after a 15 minute wait, exiting at 8:20AM. I’d guess I would have saved 10 minutes by reversing Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania.

Extra Magic Hour after Toy Story Land

Here’s a look at the 8:20AM waits:

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So, that Tower of Terror wait was a little unexpected. I quickly made a change, swapping my Toy Story Mania FastPass+ for Tower of Terror at 9:50AM.

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Strategically, Star Tours would have been the way better FastPass+ to swap since I could walk on that for the next hour or so anyways. But I was trying to guarantee I had every ride covered, so I was fine giving up the FastPass+ for Toy Story Mania since I’d already ridden it.

The other factor is that I wanted to get through my FastPass+ times as quickly as possible, so I didn’t need to be sitting on a 1:15PM for a ride I’d already ridden.

I went and did a character greeting (and incredible rarity for me), visiting Mickey and Minnie in a span of five minutes.

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All quiet in the back of the park at 8:34AM. Crazy to think how jam packed this section will be in a few months.

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At 8:38AM, I walked onto Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.

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This wrapped up my Extra Magic Hour at Hollywood Studios. If I were really aiming to maximize things, I would have gone for something like meeting a Toy Story or Star Wars character right at 9AM (I didn’t see the Toy Story characters before I left Toy Story Land at 8:20AM).

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Above is a look at the regular rope drop during Extra Magic Hour. You can see Cast Members letting Disney hotel guests in on the right side of the photo and corralling the other guests on the left. Here are the waits they’d be facing:

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Morning at Hollywood Studios

I had “breakfast” at Woody’s Lunch Box. It wasn’t really breakfast. It was a S'more French Toast Sandwich. And I regret eating it.

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From there I visited Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy at 9:30AM. My first visit was the prior night at Hollywood Studios After Hours. This is a fine new show with some clever and cool moments.

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Usually I’d recommend saving it for later in the day, but I was heading to Tower of Terror for my FastPass+ anyways and figured I’d squeeze it in. Cruz Ramirez was available for photos.

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The weather for the afternoon was looking pretty bad. I lucked out and quickly modified my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to 10AM, which allowed me to be off of Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster by 10:21AM.

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It would be pretty hard to put together a better morning at Hollywood Studios. I’d finished all the rides by 10:21AM, plus a major character greeting (Mickey and Minnie) and another attraction (Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy).

I swung by Municiberg—the Incredibles area that now occupies the old Pixar Place. The Super Shindig, one of the interactive dance parties for kids, was going on. Here are some photos from the area (use arrows to navigate).

From there I explored a bit more. Chip and Dale were out.

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I visited Muppet Vision 3D and finished that around 11:15AM.

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It had a long wait because I must have walked in right after a show started. This isn’t a wholly new change, but a full half of the store is an art store now, and the other half barely has Muppet gear.

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I’m in the group that thinks, unfortunately, Muppet Vision 3D is not long for this world. Outside, a cast member was enlightening guests as to PizzeRizzo’s reopening.

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And Goofy was out.

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Usually I would have pushed Muppet Vision 3D later into the day but…

Afternoon Not at Hollywood Studios

The weather was not looking good. Now, keep in mind this is Florida, where weather predictions are usually useless. But that prediction wasn’t changing much and covered a lot of time, so I knew it meant at least a bit of rain.

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Were I an average guest on vacation and this was my only Hollywood Studios day, I definitely would not have left. There’s plenty of indoor activities to survive a bit of rain here. For example, Star Wars Launch Bay, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Walt Disney Presents… are all very near each other and could easily fill two hours together.

But I was exhausted from being up until 2AM and barely sleeping, and I had a lot of writing to catch up on. I grabbed a Venti Cold Foam Cold Brew and headed back to Pop Century at about 11:45AM.

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Here’s a look at the waits as I left:

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The Disney World Skyliner looks to be nearing completion.

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The new Hollywood Studios bus loop is open. It’s gigantic, and a little far from the park (the Skyliner station is between it and the park).

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There was no Pop bus when I arrived at the new bus loop, but one to Art of Animation was leaving after a few minutes. That’s a short, fine walk, so I gladly took that option, and I was back at Pop at 12:10PM.

As expected, the rain did hit. Here are some cool shots from around the resort (all embedded tweets, work is copyright of the authors):

It started earlier than forecasted at about 1:30PM. After a short deluge and a bit more showers, everything cleared up.  At 4:30PM the forecast was clear and I headed back to Hollywood Studios, arriving at 4:55PM. Altogether I missed about five hours of my day. Later I’ll come back to how I could have spent that time.

Evening at Hollywood Studios

On the bus over, I grabbed a 6:30PM FastPass+ for Toy Story Mania. I tried for a few minutes to find a Slinky Dog Dash, but gave up quickly. Slinky Dog Dash remains the toughest same-day FastPass+ in my experience. 

I had my choice of Beauty and the Beast, March of the First Order, and DJ’s Ready! Set! Party Time!, all on their last (5PM) show of the day. I chose DJ’s since it was new to me.

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These small interactive shows must resonate with guests, because Disney is strangely big on them. Like Donald’s Dino Bash and the Super Shindig with the Incredibles, this is a chance for kids to dance around in a themed environment. 

I took a second to eat at Fairfax Fare before watching the 5:30PM Star Wars: A Galaxy Far Far Away, which might just be the worst thing at Hollywood Studios right now.

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When that wrapped up at 5:43PM, I went over to the last daily showing of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. 

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After that show I had a perfect gap before the 7:30PM Frozen Sing Along, so I used my Toy Story Mania FastPass+. I tapped on at about 6:45PM when the wait was 40 minutes, and I was on at 6:54PM. Like much of Toy Story Land, the detailing in that ride is in really bad shape.

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Afterwards, I took a few minutes to explore the Star Wars Launch Bay. They have some early Galaxy’s Edge Gear.

At 7:15PM I headed to the Frozen Sing-A-Long and grabbed a seat in the back row. The two main Cast Members of the show had clearly had a good/long day and were in an especially giggly mood. Usually I don’t care for the non-singing aspects of this show, but I enjoyed it today.

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The tightest part of my evening was getting to the 8:05PM Voyage of the Little Mermaid. It’s a short walk, but the sing along ended a bit after 8PM. I made it with a few minutes to spare.

Generally, I try to avoid the last showing of anything for this reason (among others). Unfortunately, the rain delay earlier meant the only way to maximize my evening was to do the last showings of most things.

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Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a good show and one of the throwbacks to the Hollywood Studios of old. That said, the similar puppet show for Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom has higher production value.

I’m surprised that every so often you won’t be able just to walk into Voyage of the Little Mermaid. As much as I want to support the show, I’d never wait in line for it more than five minutes, and I always try just to walk in at showtime. 

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After the show ended at 8:25PM, I had 40 minutes before the showing of Wonderful World of Animation at 9:05PM. I grabbed a beer at BaseLine and walked around, appreciating that it would be years—decades maybe—before I’d see this area so quiet.

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Sunset Boulevard was busier.

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As was Toy Story Land.

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Between that break and my midday escape from the rain, I had an empty 5 hours and 40 minutes in my day. I hadn’t done everything. 

The Star Wars Launch Bay has three character greetings—BB8, Chewbacca, and Kylo Ren—that I always skip. Same with meeting Olaf. You should always check the app and times guide for additional character greetings. 

As mentioned, Mike and Sully are going a special greeting at Walt Disney Presents, which is also hosting an Aladdin preview.

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I notably missed Beauty and the Beast, which is a fan favorite. It usually only has five or so showings between 11AM and 5PM, and you’ll usually have to actively pick a time to go to it rather than hoping it just works out.

March of the First Order is another one I missed. Usually this only requires you to be crossing through the park during a showing. Once you’ve seen 30 seconds of it, you’ve seen it all.

Nighttime Entertainment at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios continues to use a blended nighttime roster. The biggest production is Fantasmic!, which I pretty much always skip (estimated 267 consecutive visits to Hollywood Studios since I last watched that show…not actually, but close). 

New to the park is Wonderful World of Animation, a projection show onto the Chinese Theater. If you love Disney’s animated films and projections, it’s a great show. 

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And continuing to wrap up the day is Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. I find it a bit too busy of a projection show, but overall it’s fine and Star Wars fans seem to enjoy it. 

Tonights schedule was:

  • 9:00 Fantasmic!

  • 9:05 Wonderful World of Animation

  • 9:30 Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

While it’s theoretically possible to see Fantasmic! and most of Star Wars, I wouldn’t plan on it. The Fantasmic! theater is a short hike from the rest of the park, and the average person on the average day probably misses most of Star Wars if they see Fantasmic!

Since Wonderful World of Animation was new to me, I was planning to watch that and then Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.

Sometime in the past few years, Hollywood Studios guests developed the practice of sitting for the first show. With many guests at Fantasmic!, the first show is not terribly dense.

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Most guests sit, and it’s expected that standing guests won’t be obnoxious and block views. That said, they can be obnoxious if they want, Cast Members cannot do anything about it, and I’ve seen these standers withstand thorough heckling.

For Star Wars, you’re asked to stand and pack in a bit (they do say you can stay where you are, they just suggest you don’t).

I headed out at about 9:50PM, was in line for the bus at 10:03PM, and was back at Pop Century at about 10:45PM. Exiting with everyone guarantees long bus waits, but I’m fine with this timeline.

Recapping the Day at Hollywood Studios

Here’s what my final itinerary for the day looked like:

  • 6:57AM Arrive

  • 7:35AM Rope Drop

  • 7:46AM Slinky Dog Dash

  • 7:52AM Alien Swirling Saucers

  • 8AM Extra Magic Hour officially begins

  • 8:12AM Toy Story Mania

  • 8:28AM Meet Mickey & Minnie

  • 8:38AM Star Tours

  • 9AM Breakfast

  • 9:30AM Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy

  • 9:58AM Tower of Terror (FastPass+)

  • 10:17AM Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FastPass+)

  • 10:59AM Muppet Vision 3D

  • Leave

  • 5:00PM Arrive back at Hollywood Studios

  • 5:05PM DJ’s Ready! Set! Party Time!

  • 5:30PM Star Wars: A Galaxy Far Far Away

  • 6:00PM Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

  • 6:53PM Toy Story Mania (FastPass+)

  • 7PM Star Wars Launch Bay

  • 7:30PM Frozen Sing-A-Long

  • 8:05PM Voyage of the Little Mermaid

  • 9:05PM Wonderful World of Animation

  • 9:30PM Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

There’s not much to say about this schedule. Until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens on August 29, Hollywood Studios will remain a solid one-day park, nothing more, nothing less.

With a total of around six or seven hours going unused in this day, it clearly wouldn’t be hard to visit almost everything Hollywood Studios has to offer in a single day.

Thanks for reading Part 2 of this trip report!

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

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Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.

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