Day 5 – Hollywood Studios / Epcot
When last I visited the Studios, they went under the “MGM” banner and were much, much different than the present incarnation. Actually, nothing’s different except the giant Fantasia hat in the middle of the park, which Melanie insists was there when it was still called MGM Studios. So, maybe nothing’s changed.
I don’t have too many memories of the park aside from Star Tours (an attraction from which I stole a sliver of wood off an Ewok tree as a “souvenir” in the 90’s) and the studio backlot tour (during which a truck with an annoying horn is lit on fire). So I was only too eager to make new memories and see if they lived up to my piece of tree bark.
First up, we were fortunate enough to be visiting the park at the same time as two of our heroes, Betty White and Angela Lansbury (who isn’t a fan of “Murder, She Wrote?”).
Both refused to give us autographs.
Spirits dampened by their disdainful arrogance, we then had to sprint to secure Fast Passes for the Toy Story Mania ride, by far the most popular attraction here. The line stretched down the street and the wait time was already 60+ minutes. Kids and parents alike are rabid in their appetites for toy-related rides. Melanie started taunting me with threats of her imminent “domination” during the ride as there is a point-scoring system built into the ride as the riders fire projectiles at targets on video screens. Melanie was exceedingly confident in her apparent ability to kick my butt. Time would tell. Fast Passes for that afternoon in hand, we took off to other areas of the park.
Along the way to the studio backlot tour, Melanie squealed in delight upon seeing her favorite Disney-related character, Sully from “Monsters, Inc.” I would later squeal in delight upon seeing Darth Vader attacking a bunch of kids, so I couldn’t begrudge her affections for a giant, stuffed monster.
Pictures safely captured, we partook of a studio backlot tour not quite as exciting as I remember, though the piercing horn of the flaming semi truck blared in annoying fashion, just as I fondly recall.
One other memory I have from my previous visit to MGM Studios is the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, which my grandfather and mother got to participate in as extras back in the early 90’s. I recall their roles consisting of donning robes and shrieking as Indiana Jones fights various foes. I’m glad to say my memories held up pretty well: the show as it stands today is unchanged from what I saw a couple decades ago.
Harrison Ford, however, seems to have had significant plastic surgery or apparently has a “toy packaging stunt double.”
After the Indy show, it was finally time to leverage our Fast Passes and battle to the (mock) death in Toy Story Mania. Melanie continued to belittle me and my apparent lack of theme park shooting game/ride abilities. I just kept quiet as we made our way through the line to the ride, ready to show her what was up. A picture’s worth a thousand words.
After Melanie’s stunning defeat, we took a ride on the Tower of Terror twice, peeing our pants in mock fear as we plummeted to the ground ten stories below.
Melanie, in dire need of a pick-me-up after her domination by yours truly at Toy Story Mania, suggested we go to the live Beauty & the Beast show. It was actually pretty impressive: a tightly-compressed version of the Disney movie narrative featuring some talented performers and guys dressed up as giant clocks and candlesticks.
Next up, it was time for me to squeal with delight for…STAR TOURZ!
I was VERY excited.
Star Tours had been recently redone with all new 3-D material from the horrendous prequel films, but the footage on the ride was impressive nonetheless. And to top it all off, we found a new friend, Jub-Jub the Ewok.
We had no intention of buying the little fella, so we put him back on the rack but — lo and behold — he followed us throughout the park. Yes, he’s alive, sentient, and followed us, going so far as to purchase a seat on our plane home. Jub-Jub now resides atop my dresser, staring silently at us while we sleep. I’d normally think our lives were being threatened, but Jub-Jub’s buck teeth rob him of the malevolence typical of stuffed animal criminals.
We had two things left to accomplish at Hollywood Studios, the first of which was the Animation Studio, a very cool attraction in which everyone is taught how to draw a notable Disney character. We were lucky enough to get Pluto and were able to draw him pretty successfully thanks to our teacher. Based on his speech patterns and slightly disheleveled appearance, I can only imagine he was creeping slowly toward insanity after having drawn countless cartoon dogs, pigs, mice and ducks that day for screaming children. I sincerely hope no one’s been stabbed with a pencil since we left.
Our last objective in the park required us to get the quintessential Disney souvenir: embroidered mouse ears. We had a great chat with the gentleman taking our ear order, a retired police officer from New Jersey who delighted in giving us a good-natured hard time. I can only imagine how he treated Jersey street toughs. That aside, I’m happy to report the ears turned out fantastically, though all should note I am now apparently Mexican and in charge of everyone.
I debated whether or not to keep my “Jefe” ears, but eventually opted to have it corrected. We were both very happy with our finished ears. Aren’t we adorable?
The spectre of Food & Wine Festival passport completion ever looming, we departed Hollywood Studios to change back at our room before heading to Epcot for the remainder of the evening. In between food stands, we had our picture taken by a great gal from Puerto Rico approximately 86 times. It felt wrong not to include her in one of my pictures, so I thus give you Andrea and her new best friends.
Our third iteration of IllumiNations was just as captivating as the first, as we sat together quietly and sipped our German beers as the spectacular fireworks lit up the sky overhead.
The park had extended hours post-fireworks, so we continued to drink beer and started thinking about souvenir shopping. I’ll let the bullet points take over from here.
- Pickles are apparently very good luck in Germany and one risks defying Germans at their own risk. Thus, we bought a pickle.
We will proudly display said pickle on our tree come this Christmas.
- DEMON SNOWMAN BECKONS YOU TO ENTER HIS INTER-DIMENSIONAL WORMHOLE
- JEFF AND MELANIE BECKON YOU TO THEIR MAGICAL HUT OF CHINESE FOOD
- Can someone explain why the metal face on this motion sensor above the urinal is worn?
Nevermind; I don’t want to know either.
- I’m not going to explain this in great detail, but the word, “maelstrom” took on an altogether different meaning during our stay in Orlando.
We thought we’d cap the night off by butting in line with the other 5-year olds and get our pictures taken with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy. We were thrilled beyond words to fulfill our childhood dreams of meeting a sweaty guy in a giant, furry duck costume.
Ah but wait, there was one more activity beckoning our sore feet and tired minds before departing the park: Spaceship Earth. The “ride through history” inhabiting the giant golf ball dominating the park entrance was interesting in and of itself, but it was the custom video presented each rider at the end of the ride that had us laughing uncontrollably.
Yep. Exhausted but content, we waved good-bye to Epcot as Day 5 drew to a close.