Arrived in Orlando just before 5am, our flight was early even. Stopped for some breakfast in the food court and then boarded a Magical Express Bus to the Boardwalk. After waiting about 5 minutes the bus was dispatched with only our group onboard. Checked into the Boardwalk, changed clothes, checked our bags, and then relaxed for a few minutes. Shortly after 7am decided to go outside for a bit then walked to Disney’s Hollywood Studios arriving a little after 8am. The tap points were opened a few minutes after we got in line, around 8:10am. We were held on Hollywood Blvd then until about quarter of 9 and then the large crowd was walked out to Toy Story Land. Some in the group went into the standby queue for Slinky Dog. I opted to wander around to take pictures and then a spin on the Alien Swirling Saucers. Met up with the group and we all went through the standby wait for Toy Story and then I managed to swap our Toy Story FastPass+ for later in the morning for a nearly instant one on Alien Swirling Saurcers so went for a spin with the full group. Grabbed a FastPass+ for Star Tours as I walked that way and walked right on then grabbed another for Muppets which we visited right after and only had to wait a few minutes for the show. It was around 11:30am so decided to get some lunch. Some at ABC Commissary others at Catalina Eddies. After lunch some of the group headed back to the Boardwalk to relax and hope for the room to be ready (it was not) and I stopped by One Man’s Dream then circled Toy Story Land. After taking some pictures decided to walk out by Echo Lake. The lighting was really bad so opted to pull up a bench and post some pictures. Then walked back to the Boardwalk to check on the rest of the group. The room was still not ready so decided to head to Epcot. They took the Friendship Launch and I walked. As I reached the International Gateway got the text the room was ready so boarded the boat and returned to the Boardwalk, grabbed our carryons then went to the room to unpack a bit and prepare for the evening. After a brief rest and organization of the room we set off for Epcot again. Just missed the boat so walked over to the park instead. Ended up heading toward Future World. Decided to grab a quite bite at the Electric Umbrella then stopped by Mouse Gear to pick up the AP magnet. At this point the rest of the group called it a night and I decided to go roam around Future World stopping by the former Universe of Energy area then out to the front of the park. Decided to catch performance of the Jeweled Acrobats and then the German group before the Candlelight. After the performance I walked around to find a spot for Illuminations Reflections of Earth and ended up using a FastPass+ I picked up earlier in the day. After the show hiked back to the room to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- My journey to Orlando started at Los Angeles International airport as usual. If you have not visited in the last year or so the current Delta terminals are not good. They are renovated these terminals but it is a slow process. I saw a sign that the Sky Club in Terminal 3 has a 2021 completion date advertised so its going to be this way for a while. The flight itself was uneventful. There was a good tailwind and we arrived in Orlando well under 4 hours flying time.
- At Orlando Airport it was nice an quiet with an early morning arrival which is great. Magical Express was a ghost town. We boarded a waiting bus and within 10 minutes they gave up waiting for others and we ended up with our own bus to WDW. One odd quirk, one of our group’s Magic Bands did not scan, it worked fine at the resort though.
- This visit we were staying at the Boardwalk in a 1 bedroom villa. The checkin area was empty.. just a couple cast members. So the process was easy. As you would expect the room was not ready. We did find out we were assigned a room at one of the furthest points from the lobby possible. After talking with the CMs they were able to find a room about half the distance for us which was great.
- Since we were early and had plenty of time until park opening we decided to walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from the Boardwalk. This offered us the opportunity to see some of the Skyliner and bus stop construction. The walk takes a left turn not long after passing under Buena Vista Drive. You then snake your way through a series of construction fences before reaching the temporary Disney bus stops then you pass through a wider corridor of fences toward the park. This added several minutes and steps onto the walk. It appeared Disney is was working to open the new walkway in the very near future. Landscaping was being done and other finishing touches. You could also see a new set of construction fences/walls up closer to the construction.
- The temporary Disney bus stops are a good hike from the front gate and feature fairly exposed queues and cramped walkways. There are a couple of umbrellas over the queue but no real cover from the sun or rain. The new bus stops look to have quite a ways to go from what you could see. For those taking the bus the new location means a slightly shorter bus ride since you no longer have to pass through as much of the parking lot and the Buena Vista Drive entrance is for buses only. But it means a longer hike to the park for all.
- The Disney Skyliner project continues to move along. Disney has said it will open in 2019. There will be stops at Disney’s Hollywood Studios & Epcot and three hotel stops (Riviera, Caribbean Beach, and Pop Century / Art of Animation). There will be three lines with a transfer point at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Cables were being strung between the towers during our trip.
- We arrived at the front gate just after 8am and they were just starting to let guests onto Hollywood Blvd. I always find it funny to watch people literally run once they get into the park only to come to a screeching halt a few hundred feet later. Just before 9am they played a brief announcement and then Cast Members led the mass of guests toward Toy Story Land. It looked if you were going elsewhere it was a traditional rope drop and you were free to move at your own pace.
- This was my first visit to Disney’s 4th Toy Story Land. I had previously visited the Hong Kong Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, and Shanghai Disneyland versions of the land. Each has a similar feel and elements. The attraction line up varies between them. The one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios feels the largest thanks to Slink Dog Dash which really opens up the land. Also it is the only one to feature the Toy Story Mania attraction. I think Orlando has the strongest attractions over all.
- I found it odd that the Orlando version had no gift shop (just two carts) and one relatively small counter service location. There is also a shortage of shade and seating within the land as many who visited during warmer times have complained about. Right now the land is a dead end until Star Wars opens next year. The transition from the park to the land is a bit awkward and dull. Just a wide concrete walkway between the buildings. I was hoping they would have done something else with the area. The transition to Star Wars looks like it will be equally unimpressive with just a path with a turn it in. The entrances to Star Wars at Disneyland seem a little more in depth. From Toy Story Land you get a good view into Black Spire Outpost and can see a lot more of the land than you can in Anaheim.
- The Alien Swirling Saucers are the same ride system as Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Anaheim and Woody’s Round up in Shanghai. The one major change is the attraction is covered. I enjoyed the experience and put it on par with the other two. At night the lights add a little more to the experience. Out of the three I enjoyed the Shanghai version the best. I thought the queue and western town backdrop were both great.
- Toy Story Mania has had the entrance/exit flipped around to work for Toy Story Land vs Pixar Place. This means longer walks to and from the game trams, especially the exit route. I think Disney missed an opportunity to reposition Mr. Potato head somewhere where more guests can see him like in Anaheim and Tokyo vs buried in the queue.
- There is a Christmas Overlay to Toy Story Land. It is mild but works. The elements are a nice touch for the land. I was surprised by how much Disney marketed the overlay. First it is a new land and secondly it is only a couple decorations. It really seemed on par with the Bugs Land decorations of years past in Anaheim not on a level of say Cars Land decorations.
- FastPasses for the Toy Story Land attractions are the hot ticket this year. I had friends who tried 60 days out and could not get a Slinky Dog Dash FastPass+ for any day/time during their 7 day trip. We were able to secure a couple of FastPasses during our initial booking window. Also I noticed the day of there was some availability for Alien Swirling Saucer and Toy Story Mania that would pop up from time to time. For example the first morning I was waiting for my group so checked to see what was open and pictured up three Alien Swirling Saucer slots about 10 minutes out only, which was much better than the 40 min standby wait!
- Stopped by the Muppets and was surprised to find a 2/3 maybe ¾ full theater. Considering the park did not feel that crowded and other wait times were moderate this seemed out of character. Did they reduce the number of shows? Is this common now a days?
- Stopped by the Studio Store after the Muppets and it still has the Muppet theme outside and props inside but almost all the merchandise is for other franchises or generic. Only one rack of Muppet merchandise was left in the store when I walked through.
- Nearby Rizzo’s has changed to seasonal operation and was closed during our entire stay. Based on how empty it was last time we visited this is not a surprise but I missed dinning there. The same pizza is available at Catalina Eddies but you have to eat outside. Also I still found it annoying that with the app you could not order a pizza by itself you had to have a salad or wait in line to order one without a salad.
- Decided to walk back to the Boardwalk. It took only about 15 minutes but felt a lot longer due to the round about path through the construction. Once there checked to see if our room was ready, it was not so set off for Epcot. Of course as soon as we arrived at the International Gateway we received a text that the room was ready so we returned to the resort to unpack and check out the room before retracing our path to Epcot.
- For dinner we stopped at the Electric Umbrella since it was closest when we were hungry. The meal left something to be desired. The sandwiches were on the warm vs hot side with the cheese solidifying for some already.
- Stopped by Mouse Gear to pick up the Annual Passholder Magnet. There were at least three stations scattered throughout the store and the process was quick and easy. I found it a little odd to have three random positions that consider of a cast member with a scanner and magnets in a basket. I guess the CM is there to answer questions too.
- Walking through the east side of Future World is disappointing now a days. The former Energy building is partially dismantled. It is empty right now and you can actually see through it. Behind it a very large show building for the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster is a new landmark for the park (a giant box). The former Wonders of Life is not in use. Mission Space and Test Track are still there but neither interests me as much as the original pavilions.
- Stopped by the Candlelight Procession this evening to hear Neil Patrick Harris. The ceremony was also webcast via the Disney Parks Blog and a replay is available through the end of the year. He did a great job as usual and the show was well done. No substantial changes jumped out to me this year. I always enjoy the Candlelight and this was no exception but seeing it three nights after the Disneyland version was a bit of a let down. The Anaheim version seems more a spectacle/special event where as the Orlando one more a regular show. I also like some of the arrangements and music better in Anaheim.
- Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is scheduled to run through the end of summer 2019 at which point it will be replaced by a temporary show then in 2020 a new show will take over the lagoon. The show seems like it will be limping vs sprinting to the finish line based on what I saw. On this first viewing of the trip the inferno barge was used sparingly. Only a few smaller bursts. The laser effects all seemed to be slightly higher and less powerful than my previous memory, the holiday tag is missing the opening effects due to a misfire last week and the show seemed slightly higher and the finale was less than year’s past.
- It is always a challenge to walk back to the International Gateway as soon as Illuminations ends. The majority of the crowd is coming right at you trying to get to the front of the park. Most guests are ok, but there are always some that no matter how far to one side you are run right into you.
Pedometer Information for the day:
Addition Blog Picture Posts from today: