DHS Wonderful World of Animation

May 2, 2019, 7:36 AM

It was May 1st 1989 when Disney opened their 3rd park at WDW in Orlando …. MGM studios. As it happened, we would be making our first ever visit to Florida later that year, so we would get to experience first-hand what the new park had to offer. Looking back thru my souvenirs (I still have the guide map and show times info) I see our favourite was the 2 hour backstage studio tour, with catastrophe canyon and the water effects tank being the highlights. Other attractions included the great movie ride, Indiana Jones, magic of Disney animation, monster sound show, superstar TV and the Hollywood plaza with the star motorcade and handprint ceremony. Some great memory inducing photos showed us standing by Herbie, next to a New York police car, and of course the original Earffel Tower.

It truly was a magical and exciting time. My son was a mere 6 years old, and it had taken us an eternity to save up for the trip. I still clearly remember that OIA door sliding open and being hit by the wall that was the heat and humidity of an October Orlando evening. We had never experienced anything like it in our lifetime. Looking back, it was most probably that singular moment in time, that unbeknown to us, would change our lives forever. Sub-consciously a decision had been made that one day we would leave the chilly shores of Blighty and head for a new life in the warmth of Orlando. It took until 2002 for that to be realised, and now here I was walking into Hollywood Studios to experience the 1st day of what was to be a celebration of those 30 years at Disney’s third park. Oh my, how things have changed. For many years it felt nothing like what we’d hoped for, but as time passed, and I accepted all of what life threw at me, the dream we all had back in 1989 slowly became a reality. Now, I’m a divorced, still (very happy) single grandparent to an amazing little guy. With my son and his family living local, the journey is almost at an end. (Yes, they are Disney pass holders … LOL) I just need to retire for that final piece of the jigsaw to drop into place, and it’s getting close … very very close.

Work is now just a conduit to get to retirement, so when home time rolled around I was up, running and on my way to DHS. I’d primed myself the previous Saturday by visiting the MK to specifically watch the absolutely awesome Happily Ever After fireworks and projection show. After the last time, when I was closer to Main Street than the castle, I’d made up my mind to be near the front, so 2 hours !!! prior to the start of the show I grabbed a good spot just in front of the castle to witness what is fast becoming my favourite attraction at the Magic Kingdom. If the Wonderful World of Animation was half as good as Happily Ever After, then it was going to be worth watching.

WWofA was due to start at 9:05pm, so I had plenty of time to check out the 30th anniversary souvenirs and enjoy my FP+s. Not quite sure what’s going on with TofT lately, but it’s proving to be almost as difficult to get as Slinky. It all worked out OK in the end though, and on arrival I headed for Toy Story Land and a quick dash on Slinky Dog. Aerosmith was next, and being a gold level pass holder I still have fun trying to get that perfect on-ride photo. The camera on the Rock ‘n roller coaster is up and to the right as the train blasts off … and it’s surprisingly tricky to get that perfect shot. TofT is still my favourite at DHS, especially when I stop off at Joffrey’s on the way out for a coffee and chocolate chip muffin …. :) It was now almost 8pm, so I wandered over to the plaza in front of the theatre, (did they really have to take away Mickey’s sorcerers hat ??) to plop myself down and wait for the show to start. Star Wars: A galactic spectacular would follow, but I’d been there and done that, so at least I’d be heading out before the mad rush.

It wasn’t that crowded, as Fantasmic was showing at the same time. I assume Disney will eventually change the timing, so visitors can watch both on the same day …. or is it a dastardly ploy by Disney to get people into the park twice ?? Time will tell. 9:05 rolled around, the lights dimmed and the theatre was turned into a giant projection screen with a black and white Mickey starting the show off. From there it was a 10 minute blitz of every animation character Disney has ever created. (I’m guessing, but that’s what it seemed like) I even spotted Bo-Peep with Andy at one point. Toy Story, The Incredibles and Snow White had some of the longest screen times, but mostly a character was there, and then they were gone. Standing just to the left of center towards the back of the plaza I had a great view, although the 2 structures to the left and right of the theatre were also part of the show, so a lot of the peripheral ‘stuff’ was difficult to see. I would think being at the front is going to make that even worse, so where I stood turned out to be a good compromise. One thought did cross my mind as I watched the show …. those 4 palm trees in front of the theatre need to go …… !!

It’s a million miles away from Happily Ever After, but it’s a good addition to park that I feel is still trying to find its own identity. The show ended, and it started to rain, so it was a soggy walk back to the Jesse parking lot. There wasn’t a great deal of 30th anniversary celebration going on in the park, plenty of banners on lamp posts, and screens with the 30th logo, but that was about it. I did succumb to one photo op, and that was in front of TofT holding a sign that said “I was here, May 1st 2019” Pretty cool to think it was 29-1/2 years ago that I made that first trip to what was then MGM studios.

As a summary, I saw no one craftily vaping or smoking, and there were definitely no stroller wagons. Trees are beginning to appear in GE, and the land itself looks really good. By all accounts there will be an entrance to GE from TSL. I’m still tempted to go to the opening on August 29th. Crazy maybe, but for a once in a lifetime event I just think the atmosphere is going to be insane, and maybe something not to be missed. I have my room at the Swan booked for the 28th ….. just in case ... :)

Replies (4)

May 2, 2019, 9:48 AM

Fun write up Mako. I miss how that kind of 2 hour experience impacts your day at the park. It could feel like the whole morning, or that major event you did after lunch. I miss all the optimism.

Thanks for this report. It felt good to read.

May 2, 2019, 2:01 PM

What a great encapsulation of how DHS has changed over the years. Honestly, it's a bit of a personal preference, but as the park has changed, it has de-emphasized the experiences/shows in favor of rides. IMHO, I think most theme parks should have a mix of attractions, but still have a ratio of 2 rides to every show/experience. When Disney/MGM first opened, it was almost exclusively shows/experiences, and even the "rides" were more experiences than rides with a duration of over 5 minutes. By having mostly shows/experiences, it reduced the repeatability of the park. While a lot of Disney rides given similar experiences every single cycle, there's something to be said for riding Space Mountain over and over again for that rush of adrenaline or PotC to see new intricate details you may have missed on the first time through. The Disney/MGM attractions were mostly 1-and-done with just a few exceptions. When Disney did start adding rides like ToT and Rock 'n Rollercoaster, visitors gravitated to those to experience over and over again (to the point where Disney started mixing up the experiences to make each ride a little different from the next), and strayed away from the static, "seen-it-once-seen-it-a-thousand-times" shows.

As a result, Disney has had to re-balance DHS to reflect guests' desires for an ever changing experience and shows that are more awe-inspiring than a 2-hour diversion. After all, who wants to stand in an hour-long line to watch a show they've seen before that never changes over a handful of rides that have dozens of different variations? Do I miss some of the long lost shows and experiences, sure (definitely miss Who Wants to be a Millionaire), but I definitely don't miss wasting hours of my expensive theme park day to see something I've seen many times before and is not dramatically different than what can be experienced at other places around the world (most notably working movie studios).

May 2, 2019, 3:25 PM

Absolutely loved reading this, mako. Thank you for sharing with such intimate detail!

Edited: May 3, 2019, 11:26 AM

I've just read the new post on the CA smoking ban, and that's one thing I should have mentioned in my report. As you might have expected, as you exit the park and walk away from the entrance you will get hit by a plume of smoke as people are lighting up after a day of no smoking inside the park.

I don't smoke, and I'm not an anti-smoker, but it's a knock-on effect that I hadn't seen mentioned in any of our discussions on the subject so far ?

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