Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Day Without Freak-outs. . .

Wednesday morning found us waiting at the resort bus stop, waiting for the bus that would take us to Disney's Hollywood Studios.  It didn't take long, but riding the bus can be a pain with a stroller because it has to be folded.  (I always felt rushed to get the stupid thing folded up while everyone else climbed on board the bus because I seemed to be the only one that could do it.  Not that it took more than 10 seconds to fold it, but if there was stuff in the bottom it wouldn't fold.  One advantage to having your own stroller:  You know how it works.)

The great thing about Hollywood is it's size. . . small.  If you compare a map of Hollywood to a map of any other Disney park, you will see the difference.  Instead of sprawling across the land, this park is set up like a city.  So everything is sort of layered, with attractions tucked in behind each other.  There are a few exceptions, like the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

We started by heading to Star Tours to get a Fastpass, but Tommy, Tom, and I ended up getting in line because the wait was 20 minutes.  Inside, the scenery was straight out of Star Wars, as was expected, but seeing it in person was pretty cool.  We got pulled to the front of the line because they were looking for a group of 3.  Very cool.

And the ride. . . WOW!  You're riding in a "Starspeeder 1000" that takes you on a crazy 3D adventure throughout the world of Star Wars.  Every "tour" is different, utilizing "light speed" to transition between settings.  The "ship" rocks, rolls, and shakes to make it feel like you're really flying through space.  Even "light speed" forces you back in your seat.  It was an incredible ride, and when we came out, through the gift shop of course, Tom bought Tommy and Bug each a shirt.  (Tommy was staring at the "build your own light saber" station with greedy eyes, but he already has like 5.)

While we were on Star Tours Mom and Dad went to get Fastpasses for Tommy, Mom, and me for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  When we were all back together, we headed down one of the streets of Hollywood.  I marveled at the buildings, which were designed to capture Hollywood in its heyday.  The street ended at Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Fantasmic!  (We skipped Fantasmic! because we were unsure how Bug would react.  Some books said it could be frightening for toddlers.)

Time for the Tower of Terror!  But before we could get in line, we checked the Fastpass times for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  Unfortunately, the time was while we would be at dinner. . . again.  So, we deeded that, while it was probably an awesome ride, we would skip it because only Tommy and I would ride it.  

Tower of Terror was for Mom, Tommy, and me.  The inside was set up like an abandoned hotel, cobwebs and all.  Then we got packed into an old library and watched a clip from an "episode"of The Twilight Zone about the Hollywood Tower Hotel before the lights went out.  Then a bookcase opened and we got in another line that wound through the bowels of the hotel on the way to a freight elevator which was the "only elevator in the hotel that still worked."  The atmosphere was amazing.  The designers really did a great job with this one.

Note the partially open door below the sign. . .
That's where it shows you just how high you are.
The three of us sat in the middle of the elevator's three rows of seats.  It took us up, then, surprisingly, it opened up to a floor of the hotel where we watched ghostly scenes before moving forward through the hallway and in to The Twilight Zone.  (My mother was probably eating this up because she loves the show.)  Our trip ended in a pitch black shaft.  We knew what was coming.

We went up, then plummeted several stories.  All three of us broke out in uncontrollable laughter.  Occasionally, we would stop in our ascent, and the elevator doors would open to reveal the outside world and give us a feeling of just how high we were.  Then we would drop again, a free-fall into darkness.  I don't remember how many time we went up and down, each time to different levels, but it wasn't enough.  It was too much fun to have it end that quickly.  Definitely a highlight ride, a "must ride" ride.  

Through the back alleys of Mos Eisley, and past Star Tours again, we headed toward the hot air balloon with the face of Kermit the Frog.

Outside of the Muppet 3D Vision theater we delighted in the fountain featuring Miss Piggy decked out like the Statue of Liberty while Fozzy Bear filmed, Gonzo directed and Animal caused his usual trouble with the water pipes.

The line for the show wasn't bad.  We might have waited about 20 minutes before we were ushered into a room where we were told to "move all the way forward and fill in all the empty space" because they wanted to squeeze 600 people into a room that felt only big enough for maybe 200.  Talk about claustrophobia.  But then the doors opened and we moved into a huge movie theater where we watched the Muppets in 3D for 17 minutes.

Was it worth it?  Yes, as long as you love the Muppets and don't have to wait long.  The glasses were cheap and hurt my face.  Bug would't wear them at all, but then, he is 2 and doesn't really get stuff like that yet.  What I liked best was Sweetums coming out from "back stage."  Sweetums is one of my favorite Muppets, along with Animal and Beaker.

We found a place for lunch after the Muppets.  Tommy got to watch a Jedi Training session while we were there.  He didn't believe me when I told him that what those Storm Troopers were doing outside the window, though.  He insisted that they were there sort of like the Disney characters.

They drove around like this!
After lunch we rushed to catch the Lights, Motors, Action!  Extreme Stunt Show.  We missed the first couple minutes while we climbed an infinite staircase at the back of the bleachers in order to get to the top.  The stands were packed, and we had to split up.  Tom and I sat with Bug, while Tommy, Mom and Dad went a little further down the stands.

It was a great show, with explosions, flying cars and motorcycles, jet skis, and the highlight of the show for Bug. . . Lightning McQueen!  He seemed unimpressed until that red race car with eyes for a windshield pulled in.  After that, he was captivated, even after Lightning left.

Bug first sees Lightning McQueen

Beginning of grande finale
This show was a "must see" for us because of my car-lovin' husband and son, but it was hot and loud.  Boy was it loud.  Bug did not enjoy the volume of the people shouting into microphones whose speakers projected directly into the stands.  We were trapped between metal bleachers and metal roof, the raucous echoing around us, abusing our ears.  It wasn't the cars, or even the explosions.  It was the microphones amplifying the voices that should have been talking into them, but had the intonation of shouting.  Tom thought the set up was poorly thought out in so many ways, but it worked.  Other wise, a good show, though.
"Hero" car disappears
in burst of flame

I wanted to catch Disney Junior--Live on Stage! now, but it was getting late and we all were hot and tired.  So. . .

Hold on to the rail!
Grandpop & Bug on the bus.
We walked back to the buses after that, headed home for our daily afternoon nap.  But dinner found us back in Hollywood, waiting in the "living room" of the 50's Prime Time Cafe.  This restaurant is made to make you feel like you're sitting in Donna Reed's kitchen in the 1950's.  There are booths set at angles with small black-and-white TV's mounted up on a shelf in the corner.  The idealistic family shows play while you eat, interspersed with advertisements for Disneyland in California.  If I remember correctly, Walt Disney, himself, make appearances in some of the ads.  Very cool.  Oh, and the chairs were those metal-framed, padded vinyl types with silver flake on a black background.  You know Tom loved them.

The food was fantabulous, "home-cooked" meals.  I would recommend anything on the menu.  Our server was "Dad," even if he was a bit--how do you say--flamboyant.  Tom and I had vanilla malts reminiscent of the "5 dollar shake" from Pulp Fiction.  Bugs meal, a hot dog and french fries, came on a  Mickey Mouse-shaped plate, which he thought was pretty cool.

While we waited for Tom to visit the "bad boy area" (read "smoker"), Tommy had fun with hula hoops.  He was really good.

Afterward, we headed toward the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show.  Mom had said it was lame when she came with her high-school girlfriend a few years before, but it was a sit-down show with no line, and Bug could enjoy it, too.  (Although my little man flirted with the girl in front of where he sat with Grandpop for part of the show.)  We all enjoyed it.  Well, maybe Ms. Critical didn't enjoy it as much as the rest of us, but she's so picky, you know.

At this point, we had missed the last Disney Junior--Live on Stage! show.  I know that Bug didn't know what he was missing, but I was a bit disappointed.  There isn't a whole lot for little guys like him, and he loves Disney Junior's shows and characters, but oh well.  It wasn't the first thing we missed, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

So I stayed outside with Bug while everyone else went for another trip "far, far away on the Starspeeder 1000."  It was a different trip than the one I took with Tom and Tommy in the morning.  This time they ran into Darth Vader and visited some snowy planet.

Then we cut through the alley again to find Mater and Lighting McQueen.  The line was nice and short, and we only waited about 10 minutes.  Bug wasn't too sure about it at first, but he calmed down enough to get a couple good pictures.  We also started using our Photopass at this time. . . finally.

It was getting to the point where people were getting cranky because of the long, hot day, so we started back to the park entrance.  But on our way, I wanted to find Buzz Lightyear for Bug.  After checking the map by the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat, we made a u-turn around a building and down a ramp, ending at the entrance to Pixar Studios.  "Pixar" is Bug's first sight word, and when he saw it spanning between the buildings he said, "Pixar!"  We walked down and back, looking at all the props straight out of Toy Story.  The character meet-and-greet had a line that, at almost 9 pm, said was a 75 minute wait.  75 minutes!  That let at night, shame on parents who have their little ones stand in line for that long.  I don't care what it's for.  Bug didn't know he was missing out, so we left.

On the way out, we stopped for another Photopass photo with all of us in front of the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat.  A good way to end the day.

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