Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Rumors and Additions

Let’s visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You’ll be surprised that some new things big and small are happening. And while we’re there, let’s look at some new rumors:

Disney motorcoach showcasing Antman. It's no Jurassic World, but it's making a good profit, especially in light of the fact that it only cost $130 million or so to make. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disney motorcoach showcasing Antman. It’s no Jurassic World, but it’s making a good profit, especially in light of the fact that it only cost $130 million or so to make. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Addition: The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride continues to be plussed on under the new TCM sponsorship. That includes new display cases with costuming and props from a very wide array of classic films. If you seek to ride the attraction, be aware of two things: First, at the beginning and end of the day they take off ride vehicles, so often their capacity is half of what it is mid-day. It takes longer to move through the queue–even if the queue doesn’t seem that long. Second, they’ve moved the re-entry point for those with a FastPass+ much further up in the theater, so now the queue from that point on is more than twice what it was before. Hopefully that’s an operational tweak that will change back soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the new TCM preview film while in the theater. It really is quite entertaining and informative.

This dress comes from the 1944 film, Gaslight. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This dress comes from the 1944 film, Gaslight. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Addition: Ice Palace Boutique

Many have heard that an Ice Palace Boutique providing Frozen-style princess makeovers is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Part of this will take place in the space once dedicated to auditioning guests singing in the American Idol Show. But it also appears to be taking the space adjacent as well. This space, the exterior of which is seen below, was originally a corporate lounge for Sony when they originally sponsored Superstar Television. It’s really been the only corporate lounge the Studios ever had, and since Sony’s departure parks catering has used it for different events. It was one of my favorite spaces to use with groups I brought to the park as it was so elite, and yet so apart from the hustle and bustle of the crowds outside.

Preparation underway for opening the Ice Palace Boutique. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Preparation underway for opening the Ice Palace Boutique. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Rumor: Star Tours is Going Away.

I know I’m not the first to suggest that this is going away. And frankly, I don’t buy it. But I do have sources that indicate that this attraction may be on the chopping block. I get the reason for doing it–the attraction already covers too much of the Star Wars story, and may not tie well to an actual built-out themed land. Still, that’s an expensive–and popular attraction to simply remove. I’m dubious as to whether it will go away. Hopefully we’ll know better at D23 in August. One thing is for sure–we probably won’t know before then. They keep changing the code names for this project. Even those just outside the inner circle are confused by what’s really going to happen.

More about Star Wars at the end of the article.

Rumor: Pizza Planet Going Away–Muppets Moving In

Hot in the controversy about the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has been a big discussion whether Muppet Plaza would remain. Most in the last few years have dismissed the Muppets as not being relevant to the Studios. But sources on my end has shared that not only will Muppet Plaza remain, but that Pizza Planet is being revised to a Muppet theme, making the entire area more complete. Again, anything could change. But with the standing ovation response Muppets got to their preview during Comi-Con in San Diego, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of this mini-land remaining and of Pizza Planet being under the direction of the Swedish Chef.

Pizza Planet across from the Muppet Vision 3D. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Pizza Planet across from the Muppet Vision 3D. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

 

Rumors and Addition: Pixar Studio Area

It was over a year ago when I first announced that an additional track was being added to Toy Story Midway Mania, along with an additional theater for Soarin’ at Epcot. There were some vocal doubters among the blogger community, but I came out right on that one. Why isn’t it built yet a year later? Two words–Shanghai Disneyland. That has slowed down all sorts of projects going on around the parks including something I’ve been announcing would eventually come–Story Maker. Story Maker should have come out at the same time that MyMagic+ was rolled out. Millions of dollars have been spent on props as well as the software up front needed for the props to interact with guest bands. The problem was they hadn’t created the software on the back end to connect it with anything. And so the rest of FastPass+ and everything else was rolled out without Story Maker, leaving what I believe to be the magic out of MyMagic+. The good news is that the funding to complete the project became available. But there are so many people who have been re-assigned to focus on getting Shanghai Disneyland opened, that projects like Story Maker and even finishing out the Toy Story Midway Mania interactions is taking longer. It also is what has pushed opening the Frozen attraction in Epcot back to next year. But I’ll save the further details for another article.

Placed in the queue at Toy Story Mania, this is two-sided, allowing both queues to interact.
Placed in the queue at Toy Story Mania, this is two-sided, allowing both queues to interact.

And what about Toy Story Playland? It seems to be coming as part of the overhaul, but with two attractions not three. At least that’s what my sources say. Having spent time in Hong Kong Disneyland’s equivalent, that seems like a very incomplete land with only two attractions. But that is what I’m hearing is happening.

This themed land worked better than I thought it would when I visited Hong Kong Disneyland. It is also one of the most popular parts of the park for visitors. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This themed land worked better than I thought it would when I visited Hong Kong Disneyland. It is also one of the most popular parts of the park for visitors. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Addition: Cool Seating at Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Summer is blissfully hot. I’ve already talked about the additional break area added to Innoventions about a month ago. So I was intrigued by the signs inviting guests to come take a break from the heat inside this attraction, which just a year ago housed The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.

What a mess. It wasn’t the attraction that was opened per se, but just the small indoor foyer/lobby that led to the attraction. It was a tight space that still had the skull and cross bones over the door. Only now random pictures of Walt Disney have been added along with some benches. There’s a small children coloring table, but that’s it. It really screams after thought.

For all the talk Disney makes about telling a story, nothing makes sense in this little nook--even if it is air conditioned. By the way, that same 2011 article also mentioned that Shanghai Disneyland would cost $4.4 billion. Wall Street Journal reported at the first of this year it would be $5.5 billion. That's a whole lot more. But that includes a big park, two major hotels, and an entire infrastructure. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
For all the talk Disney makes about telling a story, nothing makes sense in this little nook–even if it is air conditioned. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Rumor: One Man’s Dream is Going Away

Yes, as painful as that may seem, my sources also say this is leaving, and it’s leaving soon. This confirms what other blogs have been sharing over the last several weeks. Sad to see it go. But since it has a museum element to it, it could be used as a “Blue Sky” facility to promote the changes to the park, in the same way Disney California Adventure took over the Seasons of the Vine theater. Remember, that the Fantasyland addition was promoted here at One Man’s Dream. So this is not a stretch for this space. I would hope they would do something with the latter half, and keep the Walt Disney section up front. But my sources say that the One Man’s Dream component itself is leaving. Maybe that means there is so much to showcase, they need the entire space.

Previous exhibits like this one for the New Fantasyland would give you the sense that this space could easily be adapted to a "Blue Sky" exhibit for everything being created at the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Previous exhibits like this one for the New Fantasyland would give you the sense that this space could easily be adapted to a “Blue Sky” exhibit for everything being created at the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Rumors and Additions: Animation Courtyard

You may know that The Magic of Disney Animation closed just recently. You may also know that Screamscape suggested that a copy of the Star Wars Launch Bay expected for Shanghai Disneyland may by coming to where The Magic of Disney Animation tour has been. I have no additional insight on this, but I should tell you that the building is not simply another building. It’s designed to be a museum. I learned this years ago when I used the facility to do some filming after hours. I had to have the curator of the museum with us during that time (yes, Disney has employed curators). We had to go through all sorts of protocols to use the facility. It’s not your ordinary building. And so if there was a Star Wars Launch Bay coming to the Studios, this along with the One Man’s Dream facility would be perfect. But what makes this location more conducive is the idea of re-doing the exit store to tie into Star Wars.

If I can just add one more thought to all this–It’s difficult to imagine all of that going away when so many additions have been made in the couple of years. Not only was Minnie given a lavish meet ‘n’ greet area, but there were also Story Maker interactives added to Mickey’s meet ‘n’ greet. Now it’s all going away? Hmmm.

It's hard to imagine that something just set up is suddenly on the chopping block. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
It’s hard to imagine that something just set up is suddenly on the chopping block. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Meanwhile, next door Disney Junior Live on Stage looks like its footprint is getting bigger, not smaller. Below you can see some additions that have recently been made to the attraction.

Queuing had always occurred in the corner between Disney Junior Life on Stage! and The Art of Disney. But now the entrance to that queue is also there, rather than front and center of the building. It appears that they’re entering the theater from a side door in this corner. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
A new photo meet 'n' greet for Doc McStuffins.  Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Moving the queue entirely to that corner now allows for a new photo meet ‘n’ greet for Doc McStuffins. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Addition: Revised Brown Derby Bar

I guess this outdoor experience at the Brown Derby is working, because they’ve made the bar much more permanent and functional. It also looks more a part of the entire restaurant space.

New exterior bar to Brown Derby Restaurant. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
New exterior bar to Brown Derby Restaurant. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Addition: Fantasmic! Seating

Fantasmic! is trying a new approach to its shows by inviting guests to get a complimentary pass (beyond the 3 already allotted). You can pick them up near where kiosks are found for FastPass+. Here’s what the pass looks like:

The Fantastic! Pass includes  a designated section, row and seat with your ticket. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The Fantastic! Pass includes a designated section, row and seat with your ticket. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Obviously this is a trial. I appreciate the park making efforts to make that more workable.

Really Big Addition: The New Premiere Theater

While Muppet Plaza’s fate is still not completely certain, one thing that has been announced is that the Premiere Theater nearby is being removed with a new replacement being built next to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Plaza. And what a theater! This thing is huge. I supposed it would look similar in size to the old Premiere Theater. But this thing looks more like the size of the the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure. It looks like it could easily have a balcony. They are spending some serious dollars on a venue that has usually been used for just special events. Check it out! You don’t need to go around the fence to see it. It along with the crane is prominently displayed in the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Courtyard. Perhaps this is a hint of how big things are soon going to get.

The new Premiere Theater going in next door to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The new Premiere Theater going in next door to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Rumor: Disney’s Hollywood Studios Improvement is Costing 3 Billion

A few weeks ago Bill Donnelly in This is Famous pointed out that the overhaul for Disney’s Hollywood Studios was going to cost $3 billion. I was dubious. That seemed like a lot of money. I felt the changes to this park was comparable to what happened at Disney’s California Adventure. And that was $1.1 billion. So $3 billion seems way over the top.

However, one inside source told me that Bob Iger wants the build out for Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to be bigger than the over $1 billion being spent on Avatar. Whoa! $1 billion on Avatar? Way back in 2011 an article spoke about the Avatar project costing some $500 million. That seemed right to me give the cost of Radiator Springs at Disney’s California Adventure, and that this was somewhat roughly similar in scale. That’s a big price difference than what was suggested in 2011. Frankly, I see 1 billion being spent on all the changes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to include the new Pandora land. But 1 billion for just Avatar?

By the way, that same 2011 article also mentioned that Shanghai Disneyland would cost $4.4 billion. Wall Street Journal reported at the first of this year it would be $5.5 billion. That’s a whole lot more. But that includes a big park, two major hotels, and an entire infrastructure. So is $3 billion what is needed for a park that has already been one of the top parks world-wide for over a quarter century?

Construction on Avatar. I had no idea that floating islands could cost so much money? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Construction on Avatar. I had no idea that floating islands could cost so much money? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I’m still thinking the total price for the overhaul at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is between $1 and $1.5 billion. But if the goal is to beat Avatar with the Star Wars offering, than I am very excited about what lies ahead–no matter what how many billion are spent.

What do you think about the rumors and additions going on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? What makes you most excited? What is for certain, is that it’s not coming soon enough.

While you’re waiting for all the fun to come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, may I recommend a great read? It’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. It’s the most complete volume written about this park. It’s filled with fascinating details about its operations and about the Hollywood legacies behind it. It’s available in print and through Kindle. While the park may be changing, the lessons in the book are timeless.

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