Hollywood Studios: Is There ANYTHING To Do There?

When we left our heroines, they were eluding detection as wedding stalkers by making their getaway on a slow-moving Friendship Boat to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

When we were first planning our day together, Jensey and I were worried that I would be a complete wreck from taking a red-eye flight the night before. She suggested that we get a wheelchair so I could sleep in between rides and shops and she would wake me up for the fun stuff.

So our first order of business when we got to DHS was to get a novelty shot of Jensey pushing an exhausted Lurkyloo around in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, however little Disney may train Photopass cast members in photography, they train wheelchair rental cast members even less!

Can you even tell what’s going on here?

But you get the idea….

Today happened to be Disney Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary. And if you thought Epcot’s 25th anniversary celebration was low-key, wait til you see (or rather don’t see) this one. I saw no signs, no ceremonies, no parades, no merchandise to speak of. I didn’t even hear about the anniversary until a couple of days before my trip. By that time it was too late to make plans to go to the one cool thing Disney did to celebrate, a free panel discussion of the park’s history with three Imagineers. (It was held during my morning nap.)

Reportedly one of the things hinted at in that discussion was that the love-it-or-loathe-it Sorcerer Mickey Hat may finally be removed from its spot in front of the park’s actual “castle,” Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Let us bid it a premature farewell with several gorgeous photos!

"So long, Hat! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

The only other thing Disney did to commemorate the anniversary was slap a couple of “opening day-inspired” desserts on the various restaurant menus and create a special cupcake at Starring Rolls Bakery. Now you know me – I love desserts, and I especially love cupcakes! But I was pretty disappointed to learn that the anniversary dessert at the Brown Derby was the same old grapefruit cake with an anniversary sign on it. LAME! After hearing that, we didn’t bother to investigate the anniversary desserts at the other restaurants. We did, however, investigate the cupcake!

Starring Rolls was already on my To Eat list because I’d been tipped to its chocolate peanut butter cupcake. The first cast member we spoke to when we got there hadn’t even heard of the anniversary cupcake. The next one said she had to go look in back and see if they had one. We waited.

Yet another celebratory cupcake. Judging by the green Mickey balloon lurking at the back, I’d say this one was designed to Celebrate the awesomeness of “Today.”

Gee, that Chocolate Butterfinger Cupcake looks like it might be even better than the Chocolate Peanut Butter one!

Still waiting…


At last, our helper returned with the Anniversary Cupcake!

Happy Birthday, DHS. All we got you was this cupcake.

I know you guys are going to be asking, but I don’t remember what flavor it was—and according to my Web search, no news outlet or blogger felt it worthy of description! I think she said it was chocolate chip with white frosting, and one blogger reported that there was a chocolate kiss under the hat. You will be even more shocked to learn that we didn’t try any of the other cupcakes either – we were just too dang full from the BoardWalk Bakery! Part of me feels that I have failed in my duties as a cake-crazed trip reporter, but part of me feels that I may have matured a little by admitting I can’t eat it all….

We went back out to the fountain near the ride times board and plotted our next move.

This one's for Patrick!

"Oh, are you still here?”

Time for another step outside the comfort zone in the name of investigative journalism! Normally, there is no way you’ll get me into any kind of stage show at a Disney park when I could be, you know, riding a ride or eating something delicious. And considering that I’ve never even seen American Idol and have absolutely zero interest in it, I figured the American Idol Experience was probably the last attraction I’d ever sit through at DHS.

But dang if that Jensey isn’t persuasive! First she got me to a princess breakfast, then she started working on me about the American Idol Experience. She assured me that between the rigged competition and the histrionics of the judges, we would be laughing our patooties off. After all that cake, I could stand to laugh some of my patootie off, so I agreed to go. As it turned out, I didn’t just step outside my comfort zone, I lunged!

Oooh... sparkly!

We walked right in just before showtime and chose seats at the back of the half-empty theater so I could make snide comments without disturbing anyone around us. The warm-up guy was cracking up the front rows. I found him… mildly diverting.

I’m going to include a few of my own shots here because it turns out you really can’t take a bad photo of that dazzling stage set!

The Ryan Seacrest clone was not as irritating as I’d feared, and I liked how he walked that fine line between clever and stupid. Jensey had already seen the show multiple times, and each time the winner was the last person to perform, so I had my radar on for the ringer.

The first contestant was a middle-aged homemaker with a husky voice who belted the H outta “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” Her performance was a little rough around the edges, but I liked her! She seemed real, and she was really having a ball up there. I gave her the Lyman Gilmore Middle School Standing O (leap to your feet, make an “O” with your arms above your head, shriek “Woooooo!”).

The next contestant was also a middle-aged homemaker, but her voice was smoother and she was the kind of real-looking pretty that Disney zeros in on when they need to show actual guests in marketing campaigns. Frankly, it was hard to judge her singing because they buried her vocals in the mix. I think she sang a Kelly Clarkson song.

OK, let's pretend this is a picture of the second contestant

The last contestant seemed like he could be the ringer. He was a young, fresh-faced fellow who belted out “Circle of Life”—the song choice alone made me suspicious, plus the fact that they gave him a more elaborate package of his backstory than the others got (previously assembled footage of each contestant is shown before they sing their songs).

The “judges” (many of whom have been spotted performing in other entertainment roles at WDW, like the Adventurer’s Club) were laughably fake. Each one took his or her stereotype and hammed it up—my favorite being the “Paula Abdul,” whose attempts at hipster lingo included declaring that the audience was getting “banged off” by the performance. Huh???

Word is that they just regurgitate the critique that a real vocal coach gave each contestant when he or she first tried out for a spot in the show. This bugs me because it means the contestants are being given no chance to improve between when they try out and when they appear on stage—no matter how good (or bad) their second performance is, the feedback they get in front of the audience is based on their first performance.

After all three contestants had performed, there was a “seventh-inning stretch,” if you will, while the “votes” were “counted.” (Whoops – there goes my daily quota of sarcastic “scare quotes.” Crap! Now I’m one set over!!!) They exhorted the audience to get up and dance, and I—inhibitions vaporized by Jensey’s encouraging laughter and my disdain for the proceedings—obliged.

Fortunately for you, Jensey provided only one photo from this episode. I think the one of me doing what you might call “the Stripper Shake” was snagged by the censors. It also caught the eye of the roving cameraman, because I ended up on the AI Experience’s giant screen! However, just like at a ballgame, the instant you see yourself up there, you stop doing whatever was entertaining and just stand there gaping and pointing at the screen.

Finally, maybe cuz the votes had been tallied or maybe cuz Lurkyloo had broken the camera, they brought the host back out to announce the winner. As we had expected, Contestant #3 won—and I know it must be rigged because I had pressed #1 on all the voting pads of every empty seat I could reach!

Two burly security guards hustled me out of the auditorium as I shrieked “FRAUD!! FRAUD!!!” and Jensey slinked after us with her hand shielding her face. Outside the theater we stumbled on the Statue Garden of Random TV Personalities. Oh, I’m sorry—I guess it’s called the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza.

Some of the likenesses were pretty good….


And some of them were very, very bad…


Jensey and I staggered around in the heat some more trying to remember what the two good rides were at DHS.

(OK, Toy Story Mania doesn’t count because it’s impossible to get on after park opening.)

Ah yes—there’s one!

But the standby line was too long.

Fortunately this one never has a wait longer than 13 minutes!

View from the inside

I asked Jensey to take a picture of Tower of Terror’s gift shop display windows, which I’d “discovered” on my solo night at DHS during our anniversary trip. It was hard with the reflection, but I like these!

We saw some Streetmosphere….

And a stop signal…

At this point, our trip was boring even us! So we got Jensey a lemon slushie at the Farmer’s Market and sat down to reconnoiter. Then I remembered that today was DIS bride Sarah’s DHS day and she was in the park at that very moment! But according to my iPhone notes, she was eating at the Brown Derby at that very moment…. But this might be my only chance to meet her! So I broke all the etiquette rules and called during dinner. It turned out that she and her husband were almost done eating, so we made our way over.

Nathan & Jensey had shot Sarah & Jeff’s wedding Epcot’s Italy Pavilion just a few days before my trip (the timing was lucky for them, cuz I woulda crashed their wedding too!). They held their reception at the same place we did, the Attic, and I was so excited when Sarah and Jensey Tweeted a picture from the reception for me.

Some highlights:

The Roots always get at least one “OMGthebridelooksAMAZING” shot...

So, with Jensey in tow, I barged into the dining room at the Brown Derby and started poking around for Sarah and Jeff. When we found them, I planted myself in the narrow aisle and grilled them for wedding details as servers squeezed by me and their waiter reached around my huge hat to give them the bill. I wish we’d had more time to talk because I would love to hear the full details of the day!

The one that stuck in my mind was that they didn’t like the peanut butter cup layer of their cake, which I felt personally responsible for since I had been singing the praises of that dang flavor ever since my wedding. It wasn’t until we had it again on our anniversary that I realized it wasn’t really that great, and now I feel as though I have lead scores of Disney brides astray! (However, I was relieved to see Sarah’s post today that the cake gets better after a few days in the fridge – whew!)

Before we parted, Jensey took some pictures of us (wearing my wedding colors!).

Here’s what we’d look like if I were not Gigantor

Now I think these pictures are cute, but just in case Sarah is not crazy about them, let us turn our gazes once again to this:

At that point, Jensey and I needed to hustle over to the Swolphin for our reservation at Shula’s Steakhouse, so we booked it out of the park…

…And made our way to the Friendship Boat dock.

This is why Jensey is afraid of fish.

Up Next: Dinner at Shula’s Steakhouse and Crashing Lori’s Dessert Party!


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