Day 6: DHS

Woke up at the normal time today (6:40 or so, I think), got breakfast at Pop, and boarded a bus to Hollywood Studios for the first time this trip. We were there kinda insanely early. We were definitely the first in line at our turnstile. There might have been one other group at another one. Amanda and I amused ourselves by playing a Scrabble-ish game on my iPhone while we waited.

When the turnstiles finally opened, we got right up to the rope at Sunset & Hollywood. Vladamir Putin and his assistant came out for the opening show. It’s effectively the same show it has been for 2 or 3 years no, except that the name of the movie he’s filming is Celebrate You rather than Year of a Million Dreams. I really think he needs to change the bit about “You have 11 hours to get from here to the Tower of Terror, please don’t run”, though. Who goes to ToT first any more? The mad rush has been to Toy Story ever since it opened.

When the rope dropped, we sped-walked with the rest of the crowd over to Toy Story Mania. Seeing that there was already a line forming at the FP machines, Amanda asked if we shouldn’t just go to the regular queue first and get FPs afterward. I convinced her that was not the best plan. We got our FPs and then got into the queue. I love this queue. Quite possibly because I had pretty much every one of the games and toys when I was a child (including the lincoln logs, viewfinder, Monkeys in a Barrel, checkers, Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, etc).

This was the first time I’ve ridden TSMM since they updated it to add the Toy Story 3 characters. Relatively well done. The one game they changed (the balloon pop) is still basically the same game, just with a different theme. Although, it does somewhat ruin the storyline, as the new characters from TS3 didn’t know the Andy’s Room toys when they were all living in Andy’s Room. But that’s just me overanalyzing. 🙂 (Fwiw, much like Buzz Lightyear, I faired much better than Amanda at teh game – seeing as she’d never played before.)

After the attraction, Amanda understood why we got our FP’s first – the line to *get* FPs now extended to about the Narnia attraction. Yeesh.

By the time we got down to Sunset, both Rock N Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror had insanely long waits for only 9:20 in the morning. So we got into the Single Rider line at RnRC. There was a bit of an odd situation when we got close to the merge point. There was a Brazilian girl just standing there apparently waiting for her parents to get off the ride. The English-only Cast Member unsuccessfully communicated with her, trying to explain that her parents wouldn’t be exiting the same way they went in. Another older Brazillian girl in the queue eventually explained it to her, at which point she started crying. Oops. The CM was able to radio to someone and got a Portuguese speaking CM to come join them, at which point he walked with the girl to the exit to meet her parents. I though it was very well-handled.

We finally got on Rock N Rollercoaster, separated by maybe 3 or 4 cars, on the same train. Amanda still seemed to not be able to get over the fact that the ride vehicles have pouches to store our belongings. Hehe. We both enjoyed the coaster, of course. Amanda was especially impressed with the launch.

We got our FastPasses for Tower of Terror next. As we had done Great Movie Ride last night, we skipped that step on the Touring Plan, and went to the Animation Pavilion. It’s still a cute show with Mushu, even if it could possibly stand some updating with a newer movie. We went down to the character meet-and-greet and got in line to meet Lotso. The queue area is themed to be Sunnyside Day Care, complete with children’s drawings of the Toy Story characters and LCD monitors that look like windows to the outside. Very very well done for such a small area. And yes, Lotso’s meet-and-greet area is scented like Strawberries. 🙂

The line to meet Sorcerer Mickey was very long, and the next Animation Academy class wasn’t starting for another 30 minutes, so we decided to get lunch first and come back later in the day. We went over to the Backlot Express, and were actually there before they started serving. So we sat down for a minute or three. Then when we got back up to see if they’d started serving, a Brazilian Tour Group had flooded the restaurant. D’oh! In any event, we eventually got our lunch, rested for a bit, and then left.

Ange needed me to buy her a “Judge Me By My Size, Do You?” shirt for a friend of hers, so we went to Tatooine Traders to get that, and then got FastPasses for Star Tours as well. Then it was back to the Animation Pavilion for the Animation Academy. We drew Winnie the Pooh, who I hadn’t drawn in any of my previous trips, so that was pretty cool. Amanda was amazed at how much more she enjoyed it than she expected to. And I have to agree – seeing your paper gradually evolve from a bunch of circles to a recognizable character is pretty awesome.

Leaving the Animation Pavilion, we went back over to Toy Story Mania with our FastPasses. Amanda did marginally better, but I still kicked her butt. 😛 Then it was over to Tower of Terror to use those FastPasses as well. I do wonder if they’re going to keep the new effect in the 5th dimension scene after Summer Nighttasic is over. FWIW, the effect worked better for us this time than it had the evening of our first day.

At this point, we had basically done all the attractions we wanted to do, since Amanda had no interest in doing any of the shows (and I’d seen them all so often that skipping them didn’t bother me in the least). And since we were basically dead tired from all these long days and the heat, we decided it might be a good idea to do something I’d never done before – go back to the hotel and take a nap during the day. Shocking, I know!

We went over to the Dining Reservations booth and successfully changed our Hollywood & Vine reservation from 5:30 to about 7:10 or so, and then left the park. We got back to Pop Century and went swimming in the Bowling Pin pool for 10 or 15 minutes. Then we went back to the room, showered, and took a nap. We slept for a good 2 or 3 hours.

That nap was probably the best plan I’d had in a while. I woke up very rested and relaxed and significantly happier. We took another bus back to Pop Century, and went back to the Animation Pavilion one more time, for a picture with Sorcerer Mickey. Then it was over to Hollywood & Vine for our dinner reservation. I was pretty happy with it, but then, I’m not remotely picky when it comes to food.

We had some time before we needed to get in line for Fantasmic, so we went over to Muppetvision and watched that one more time. Then over to Star Tours to use our FastPasses – which were completely unnecessary at this point, as the Standby line had 0 people in it. I don’t even think our entire shuttle was full. Amanda has never seen the Star Wars films (I know, I know), so I did my best to bring her up to speed on the storyline, but I don’t know if I was entirely successful.

We went over toward Sunset and saw that the line wasn’t too bad just yet, so we did one more ride on the Tower of Terror before getting in line. When we did get to the line, the madness started. We were in line for the 2nd show of the evening. The one that’s theoretically less crowded. By the time we got to the line, it was about half-way down Sunset, about at the Watch Maker shop. And when I say “line”, what I really mean is “unruly crowd of people about 10-wide, with the Cast Members doing all they could to keep us confined to only half of Sunset Blvd so people can still walk up and down the other half”. 20 minutes later, they still hadn’t opened the ropes into the main walkway yet, and now the mob/line extended ALLLLL the way down Sunset, right on up to Hollywood Blvd. This is insanity. I hope Disney’s saving A LOT of money on this idiotic twice-a-week schedule, because if they’re not, it’s hard to see how they can justify it.

Eventually the queue opened up, slightly. Every 10-15 minutes, they’d extend the rope drop another so far, to get people starting to clear out Sunset. When we finally got up to the actual theater, we managed to get seats pretty close to the center, only about 5 or 6 rows in. It took FOREVER to seat that many people, however. The two end sections were still being filled, people still walking down the steps, when the show finally began.

Now, all that complaining being said, I have to say that Amanda’s reaction to the show COMPLETELY justified it. Her jaw dropped and her eyes bugged out when she realize the water fountains were actually projection screens. And they didn’t return to their normal state the entirety of the rest of the show. It was fantastic. I’d done my absolute best to not tell her anything about the show beforehand, even responding vaguely “Kind of” when asked “So it’s fireworks, right?” And my decision paid off in spades. Her reaction was priceless.

When the show ended, we left the theater with the rest of the crowd, got back to the bus stop (for the first time, there wasn’t a bus there waiting for us – we had maybe a 10 minute wait), back to Pop Century, and slept.

The Good: making the brilliant decision to take a nap mid-day
The Bad: the insanity of the crowd size waiting for Fantasmic
The Magical: Amanda’s reaction to Fantasmic

Thanks for reading. Days 7-9 coming soon.

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