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Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide
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Brian Bennett

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Disney / MGM Studios Attractions

Brand new, officially opening October 1st, 2001 and running throughout the 15-month 100th Anniversary Celebration (this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney) are three new attractions at the studios.  Information on these attractions is listed below (this page is organized geographically), but here are bookmark links if you  want to drop right down to see what's new:  Sorcerer Mickey's Hat  |  One Man's Dream  |  Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage.

Before describing the attractions in the Studios, I think it's necessary to point out some issues regarding small children and the attractions in this park.  Although most people realize that the studios is oriented more towards teens and adults than young children, it's worth a reminder than young children may be restricted from some attractions due to height and age requirements and that some of the studios' attractions are very intense.  Even The Voyage of the Little Mermaid has some frightening moments.  The Great Movie Ride, The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and others all have content that may be startling for children.  Beware!

There's a lot more information on this issue in the section entitled "Special Considerations for Park Touring" earlier in the planning guide, including a complete list of the height requirements and "fear factors" that you will want to be aware of for the various attractions.  There's also a description of the "baby swap" policy that will be helpful for families with smaller children.  If you have kids under the age of thirteen that will be going on your trip, I encourage you to read through that information in detail before leaving for Florida.  For disabled guests, there's a brief amount of information that you may find helpful on the page titled, "Touring the Parks with Disabled Guests."

Hollywood Boulevard Area

Click here for a great photo tour of the Hollywood Boulevard area.

Sorcerer Mickey's Hat

Sorcerer Mickey's Hat had been under construction at the studios for several months before it was finally unveiled on September 28th, 2001.  The hat, which stands over 100 feet tall, was constructed right in front of the Chinese Theater for the 100th Anniversary (and which, in my opinion, is out of theme for the park).

The hat is constructed on a raised brick patio.  Inside the hat are two things worth noting.  First, there are some interactive information kiosks titled "Discover the Stories Behind the Magic" which are fun for a few minutes of browsing.  The other thing is that the hat houses a small shop with 100th Anniversary trinkets.

The hat is worth seeing, briefly, but I certainly hope it's history after the celebration is over... like the awful "cakesickle" that covered Cinderella's Castle for WDW's 25th!

The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride is kind of like "That's Entertainment" on wheels. During the ride, you'll see scenes from the old MGM musicals, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns, science fiction and horror, adventure, and fantasy. The Wizard of Oz scene is heart-warming, Casablanca is heart-rending, and Alien is heart-stopping. You'll have a lot of fun and a lot of good memories will be rekindled. You'll also leave with the desire to rent some old videotapes when you get home. This is definitely one of the premiere attractions in all of Walt Disney World. Don't miss it!

Echo Lake Area

Star Tours

When I was a kid, and saw Star Wars in the theatre, I dreamed about what it would be like to attack the trench on the death star. It would be so spectacular to writhe across the surface of the station in an X-wing, rogue squadron in support. Tie fighters and the station's own defenses would be at full alert while the entire rebel fleet worked our attack plan. If you, too, have ever wondered what it would be like, wonder no more. Captain Rex, a droid pilot, will take you on just such an attack run...along with several other misadventures along the way. I personally think that this is still, Disney's best ride ever. The stirring Star Wars music along with stunning visuals and fight simulator technology are top notch. May the force be with you.

Sounds Dangerous

This 3-D audio attraction stars Drew Carey.  I won't give away the story (which has many examples of irony and high-tech slapstick), but suffice to say that the star of the show, other than Drew of course, is the binaural sound.  Binaural sound is three dimensional sound recorded with two microphones at about the same locations as your ears...in this case, the sound was recorded with microphones in Mr. Carey's ears.  The effects are, to say the least, interesting.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Harrison Ford and Karen Allen "stunt doubles" show their stuff in this show. As the show proceeds, explanations of how stunts are performed in a safe manner -- while still appearing to be death defying to the audience, are made. This is another fun show, and it's very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies. Be aware that the crowds are enormous when the show lets out, so watch out for the stampede. Also, notice that many of the bodies that exit this show head directly over for the ABC Sound and Superstar Television shows.

Sunset Boulevard Area

Click here for a great photo tour of the Sunset Boulevard area.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

This is Disney's most intense attraction (in terms of motion, anyway) in North America!  If you like coasters, you MUST ride this one!

The themeing, as usual for a Disney attraction, really sets the stage.  The exterior of the attraction building is decorated with a huge guitar and a ride vehicle is mounted upside down (a little foreshadowing for ya), as you walk up to the queue area.

The story is is this: you are visiting the G-Force Records Studios, where Aerosmith is recording.  The 1950's themeing of the studio is great (but really would be better suited near the 50's Prime Time Cafe, not 1930's Sunset Boulevard...but I digress).  Unfortunately (or not), the group realizes they have visitors (you) at about the same time they have to leave to make their concert appearance.  Before leaving, they insist to their agent that all of the guests be provided with transportation to the concert.  The agent calls for a limo, and you head back to the parking garage (i.e. loading area).

After you load into your the limo, a broadcast of the Aerosmith concert begins playing (the soundtrack makes the attraction much more intense, just as Space Mountain's does at Disneyland).  Then, the limo pulls around the corner and stops at an entrance to a tunnel.

The rest of the ride is VERY intense.  You'll be flipped upside down no less than three times.  Don't think this is just another "Disneyfied" roller coaster...this is a real ride.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

If you've never ridden this ride, let me just give you a taste of what happens. First, you enter the lobby, which appears to be the central part of a hotel that's been fixed in time from the 1930's. As you enter, you are asked to join some other guests in the library. There, in the upper corner of the room, a television set comes to life...and Rod Serling gives you a brief introduction to the rest of the attraction. It seems that back in the golden era of Hollywood, an elevator-full of hotel visitors were zapped into the twilight zone when lightning struck the hotel and consumed a portion of the building. Since the original elevators have been obliterated, the only way to follow in their footsteps is to take the maintenance service elevator. You exit the library, and enter the downstairs maintenance level of the hotel. Heater boilers and other machinery are everywhere, but eventually you make your way to the elevator (there are several in the hotel...each providing a virtually identical experience). I won't describe the rest of the ride...but suffice to say, it's fascinating.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is probably the most detailed and interesting attraction Disney's ever produced. From the time you walk into the hotel lobby, until you're seated in the maintenance elevator for the ride up to the 13th floor, the details are amazing. After you've gone up and down, and up and down, and up and down you might not be sure you ever want to ride again, but you'll have to. Take note, the screams that you'll hear as you walk up Sunset toward the hotel are the real thing.

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage

This show is a half-hour live actor production of the well-known Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. You'll see Belle and Beast, along with many of your other favorite characters. This is just a classic. Take time to see it. On the other hand, ff you've never seen the Disney movie, the show might be hard to follow.

Mickey Avenue / Backlot Area

One Man's Dream

New for the 100th Anniversary year, One Man's Dream, is a walk-through celebration of Walt Disney's accomplishments.

The exhibit includes a model of Disneyland's Main Street USA (along with a turn-of-the-century photo of Marceline, Missouri for comparison purposes), a demonstration of the multi-plane camera (the old Wonderful World of Disney clip narrated by Walt himself), an animator's desk, and more.  My personal favorite, though, was the actual dancing man model of Buddy Epson doing a simple jig dance. It was one of the earliest animatronic models ever.

Models of the park castles (Sleeping Beauty's, Cinderella's, and Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Paris), the Peter Pan "fly through" attraction, Disneyland's Adventureland, the Tower of Terror, Miss Tilly (the shrimp boat high and dry atop of the mountain peak at Typhoon Lagoon), a portion of Tokyo's Disney Seas, Walt's working office, some movie paraphernalia from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Zorro, and Mary Poppins, and finally a display on the original EPCOT concept round out the walk-through portion of the attraction.

A FANTASTIC film biography of Walt Disney hosted by Michael Eisner, mostly narrated by Walt himself is shown at the end.

Be aware that strollers are not allowed and no photographs may be taken in this attraction.

Backstage Pass

This tour gives an overview of various film and television production techniques including special effects (including blue screens), editing, and sound work.  One thing you'll see as part of the tour is a top-down view of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It! set.

Backlot Tour

The Backstage tour is a tram ride through the backlot areas of the studio. You'll see the costume department, the bone yard (where old props are stored...perhaps to be used again someday, perhaps not), the facades of several false-front buildings and a few other things. Catastrophe Canyon, where several special effects are demonstrated, is a highlight, too.

The Magic of Disney Animation

If you're into Disney, this is a must. The first part of the tour is a brief film hosted by Walter Cronkite and Robin Williams in which the process of producing an animated film is explained. Then, you walk through an area where you can see animators, painters, and photographers at work. Be aware that there are usually very few people actually working in the area...I supposed the "fishbowl" feeling discourages the artists, but there will probably be a few of them at work...and you can certainly see the equipment that they use.

Toward the end of the tour a Disney animator is available to demonstrate the drawing of a character and to field questions. Finally, to wrap up the tour, a film showing several classic scenes from the Disney achieves is shown. This really is a fascinating tour. I also love to see what new films the studio is working on, something you pick up just from taking the tour. Don't miss this one! Honestly, don't!

Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage

This is a new for 2001 20-minute show that replaced the Bear In the Big Blue House show that had run in soundstage 5 for a couple of years.  Playhouse features costumed characters from "Bear in the Big Blue House," "The Book of Pooh," "Rolie Polie Olie" and "Stanley" -- all shows that are part of the Disney Channel afternoon lineup.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a combination of live actor, puppet, and special effects presentation of the Little Mermaid. The presentation is extremely well done. Like Beauty and the Beast, it's hard to follow if you haven't seen the film, but it's still an excellent production. Elementary-aged kids, especially the girls, really seem to love this one. No big surprise there.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It!

As guests wait for the next show, a cast member comes out to ask trivia questions.  The ten folks that win are allowed to sit in the ten designated "fastest finger" seats (the ones that the real contestants sit in on the actual TV show). However, here at the Disney - MGM Studios the "fastest finger" seats are only there for show. EVERYONE plays the game here, the fastest finger seats are only there for window dressing.

The rules of the game are similar to what you see on TV, but you shoot for points, instead of dollars... and you can only "phone a stranger" (someone picked at random from the queue out on Mickey Avenue is your "stranger") although "ask the audience," and "50/50" are the same as the TV version.  The host of the show looked and acted more like Jim Carey than Regis, but that wasn't all bad.

One other thing that is a big part of the setup... the ENTIRE audience plays along with ALL the questions.  After the first fastest finger question (when the first hot seat person is selected) the other contestants are all taken from the top scorers from among the entire audience.  The highest I ever got was fourth place (they show the standings periodically), so I never even got close to the hot seat, but it was still fun.

Fans of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire! television show should make sure they catch this attraction.

New York Street Area

Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3-D

Muppet Vision 3-D is another new technology developed on-site at WDW (so the story goes). The 3-D effects are a riot, and the typical dry Muppet humor only adds to the experience. The best part, in my opinion, is the two old critics....I guess I can relate...on both points. If you're a Muppet fan, don't miss this...if you're not, don't miss it either. One other comment, don't miss the pre-show, especially if you're a fan of Kermit and company. It's almost better than the main show itself.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

This is a static playground area for the younger set. It's a really fun idea. I can't wait until Allan is old enough to try this stuff out. It will give me a chance to play around a bit too. If you have a kid in your group under the age of 99 or so, stop by for a bit.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- A Musical Adventure

This show is a short, live actor production of Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. Quasimodo, Esmerelda, Frollo, the gargoyles, and the rest of the characters are up close and personal. One of my favorite moments in this show is when Esmerelda sings "God Help the Outcasts." The actress did a great job, and it's a wonderful moment in the film. Too bad they skipped it in Disneyland's "Festival of Fools" show. In any event, see this show...it will be worth the time.

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