The Disney Mom's Panel has just ushered in their Class of 2011 and I thought it might be fun to get to know some of the moms on the Panel and what their thoughts are regarding Disney's Hollywood Studios.
What is the Disney Mom's Panel? It's a group of men and women who Disney has selected to help answer trip planning questions about Walt Disney World and other Disney destinations. To say the least, they answer a lot of questions and do a great job with it.
Today's Disney Mom Panelist is Suzannah DiMarzio, although you might know her better as the author of the wildly popular Zannaland blog. Suzannah lives in the Tampa area of Florida and she's someone I've seen around Disney World quite often and always has a smile for everyone. Let's get to know the Hollywood Studios side of Ms. 'Zanna!
When was your first visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios/Disney-MGM Studios?
My first visit was back when the park was still Disney-MGM Studios, probably the year it opened, when I was 14. My family was living in Virginia at the time and drove down that summer. I believe that was the first time we stayed at Disney's Beach Club resort as well. My dad was a huge fan of old Hollywood and absolutely loved The Great Movie Ride and all the background music from old movies that played throughout the park. I remember reading up in the Birnbaum's Guide about all the exciting new things we'd see. I loved the original Backlot tour with Residential Street and the special effects walking tour (which my husband later worked at before we were married). Another fun memory is when my dad was picked to perform in Superstar Television and played someone on a soap opera. I miss that attraction too!
What is your favorite attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios?
My new favorite attraction would have to be Toy Story Midway Mania. (I'm not a thrill-ride person!) Although I love the ride and trying to beat my old scores (I'm not very good), I feel like sometimes it's stressful having to "compete" while you ride. So for that reason, I have mention The Great Movie Ride as my second choice. I know it's dated now, but I still love everything about it, from the pre-show movie trailers to the "Action!" call before the ride starts, to the smell as you approach the Nostromo. It took me so long when I was younger to actually open my eyes during that scene. It also always reminds me of my dad, who could name every movie at the closing montage. It's pretty rare that I ride it and don't tear up during that ending.
Favorite counter service and full service restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios?
My favorite counter service always used to be Backlot Express. However, as the Park's menus (and my tastes) changed over time, I really love the choices at the ABC Commissary. Our favorite table service has always been the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theatre. I could stay in there all day (especially in the summers) and though the menu there has changed as well, we still love the atmosphere and experience. I love the 50's Prime Time Cafe as well, but sometimes you just want to enjoy your meal without worrying about finishing all your veggies.
Attraction you think is most overlooked (but worth checking out) at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Hopefully this has changed with the recent refurbishment, but I think Walt Disney: One Man's Dream is pretty over-looked. A lot of times first time visitors especially want to get to all the "big" rides and overlook something like this that's more of a discovery piece than an interactive ride or show. However, seeing into Walt Disney's history as a boy and young animator, and the dreams he fulfilled creating Disneyland and Walt Disney World is a gift to be experienced and learned from. The new additions really bring the past to life and the movie at the end brings tears to my eyes every time. (Hmm, I'm sensing a pattern here!)
Another over-looked area is the The Magic of Disney Animation. I think with the addition of Lotso last summer there was some more interest, but the attraction itself has changed a lot over the years and while it's not quite so interactive anymore, there are some special experiences to be had, especially Animation Academy where guests can learn to draw a Disney character. That is a hidden gem of the park, in my opinion.
Best advice to someone visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios for the first time
My advice to someone visiting the park for the first time would be, depending on your areas of interest, craft your day around what you most want to see, like the three most popular rides - Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock n' Roller Coaster (and when it re-opens Star Tours too!) but make time to enjoy the amazing shows (especially Lights, Motors, Action!) and other experiences within the park. At this point in time, I can't really recommend the Studio Backlot Tour if you have time constraints, so I'd avoid it to fit in other areas like Muppet*Vision 3-D, One Man's Dream, and the Beauty and the Beast stage show. Fantasmic! should not be missed by first time visitors and trust me, the wait is worth it. The Studios is also a place where I love to just walk around and enjoy the details. Each shop has a slightly different decor and theme, the props all over the park reveal hidden references and puns (always read the boxes as you walk around!) and it's those details that make it such an enjoyable place to experience "the Hollywood that never was - and always will be."