Today we headed out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which the kids had been chomping at the bit to do all week. Largely, this was in anticipation of getting on the Toy Story Mania ride/adventure/event.

So, we arrived at the park and waited in line to pay for the privilege of parking far away from the entrance. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy paying $11 for parking? Yeah. It’s great. Each day at Disney cost $11 for parking. Sea World was exceptionally better, at $10 per day. I understand that it costs money to maintain and/or rent the parking areas and in Disney’s case to run the Tram’s that shuttle people from the parking areas to the front entrance and back, but wouldn’t it just be nicer and perhaps more convenient to the patrons if there was a $1 surcharge per ticket for parking? Sure, per carload you might not make as much money, but for all the people who don’t park at all, say all the people who take shuttles from hotels into the park, or for all the people who are staying on resort and thus never have to park anyway, you’d make up the money. Then, there’d be no need to have us sit in line waiting for the excessively slow parking attendant (who must also be paid for their services) to take your $11 and hand back a little slip of paper to put on your windshield for the day. I don’t know. Maybe there is some benefit to long lines at the parking payment plaza; I mean, it does get you prepared for waiting in line at the attractions, so maybe that’s where its value lies.

But what do I know?  Everyone else is happy here at Disney so it must be worth the price for parking, right?  I’ve got to stop being so old, bitter and cheap.

Anyway, I plunked down the money for the great parking spot and we prepared ourselves for the Tram ride. Once in the park, we stepped right onto Hollywood Boulevard and into the giant mass of humanity that was already there. Seriously, there was virtually no open space at all in the park, at least from my perspective, and so we entered the constantly moving current of people trying to push each other out of the way.
Actually, I should be fair. It was really only the people who were either a) pushing strollers or wheelchairs or b) the people driving those stupid electronic vehicles that were pushing the rest of us around. At one point today, when there were like a billion people in one street all slowly heading in one direction, some jerk on an electronic vehicle was honking his horn at the walkers to get them to part so that he might proceed. Right. I felt like going up to the guy and flipping his little scooter over. (No, I didn’t do it and it is really rather disturbing to me that you thought I did.) I mean, if you’re in a hurry, this is NOT the place to be, whether on foot or on one of these motorized, elitist machines. The dude who was honking was clearly annoyed that even though he got special treatment on each and every ride, as the electronic vehicle people got to use the wheelchair entrances for everything and the wheelchair folks all got to go right to the front of the lines… that wasn’t good enough for E.V. Man. He needed to make sure to rub salt in it by pushing the lowly walkers out of the way. Nice.
So, today was the last day of the last Star Wars weekend at Hollywood Studios (at least the last one for 2008). So, it was mobbed. There were Star Wars characters all over the place. I actually felt a little sorry for them. I mean, Darth Vader, who I say was framed by the right-wing conspirators of the rebellion, had to stand there in his black mask, cape, pants, long sleeves, etc. in the 90+ degree heat and humidity for hours on end.   As if that wasn’t enough, Lord Vader had to deal with us idiots all day long, too, begging for autographs and pictures and whatever else we demanded. There were storm troopers all over the place, too, but they at least were wearing white (which is acceptable because it is after Memorial Day).
Anyway, despite the fact that the kids had talked about coming here (I still think of this as MGM Studios, but they renamed it for some reason and I just can’t accept the new name due to my inexplicable hatred of and resistance to change), The Boy decided he didn’t actually want to be at the park and he didn’t want to do anything and wasn’t going to like anything.
So, we dragged him into our first show of the day, the Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular, right near the front of the Echo Lake area of the park. We had to stand in the back, since it was so crowded, but we got in and that was the point of the day – find things we could get into! So, in this adventure, we got to see how many of the stunts were done in the Indiana Jones movies. There were explosions and fire and fighting and explosions and gun shots and did I mention explosions? They called in like 13 “extras” from the audience who got to play the people in the streets of Cairo.  They interviewed some of the actors (stunt doubles for the real actors) and the stage crew. It was fun and funny. The Boy actually liked it, too, not that I was surprised. Did I mention that there were explosions?
From here we wandered to Streets of America. The soundtrack for the day largely resembled the end of “Hey Jude” in that it was simply a repeated chorus of “I want ice cream”, with a sprinkle of “I need a drink” and “I need to pee” mixed in from time to time. So, after we found the restroom near the entrance to the Streets of America section of the park, we headed to the Muppet Vision 3-D show, which I was informed by The Boy that he would not like. It was one of those 3-D shows where they spit water or acid or whatever at you from the ceiling and the back of the chairs and such. It was a good show, though I really didn’t like the weird animated bug creature they had throughout it. Just give me the Muppets, please, I don’t need silly 3-D animated bugs, too. The Muppets are all I need, thank you.
From the Muppets, we headed back out and went to play at the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. This was essentially a playground where everything was just huge. There was a tree to climb and it was like 20 times the size of a normal tree. There was a climbing net thing to wander around. There was the obligatory splash zone where water was shot out of cannons to get the unsuspecting kid or adult wet. There was even the obligatory kid who got hurt and just sat there crying, no parent in sight. Due to the extremely good job the schools are doing in terms of teaching about stranger danger, the kid wouldn’t talk to any of us who tried to help, wouldn’t point out where his parent was, wouldn’t do anything except lay there in a lump. Eventually somebody (my wife) got someone in uniform because the stranger danger teachings all say that you always talk to the person in uniform, and the kid pointed to his father, who was like 10 feet away but didn’t notice that the boy had fallen and spent several minutes crying. Good job of parenting, dude. It’s people like you that give all of us guys a bad name. Loser. Anyway, the dad came over when the uniformed guy went and got him, and the injured boy stood up and ran off to play. Great job of crying wolf, kid. Next time you fall and trip I won’t ask if you’re all right. So there.
After a few minutes on the playground, we headed back out and got into the Studio Backlot Tour. Despite the fact that there were millions of people in the park, somehow we timed it such that there was a 5 minute wait for this tour. We got in and watched an abbreviated demonstration of some water-based special effects. Essentially, my guess is that so many of the park’s actors had to be in Star Wars costumes that they couldn’t man all of the attractions, so for the Backlot tour, they couldn’t do the normal show. So, instead, my new girlfriend, Danni, demonstrated the water cannons, floods, bullets hitting the water, fire and sound effects. She really liked exploding things in the water. I really liked the water cannons. And Danni. Boom! It was just like explosions, only it was water that exploded, not fire. Danni, as I proclaimed loudly on our way out of the theater, I love you and you are my hero. She responded to my proclamation by smiling, waving and setting off the water cannons again, just for me.
After the water demonstrations, we walked through the prop room, where we saw old props and scenery from many movies. This was just a means of traffic control, really, as it fed out to a tram that would take us around for the majority of the rest of the tour. We got on the tram and it took us into different areas of the park, showing costume making areas, the giant Mickey Ear water tower which is filled with air, not water, props like airplanes, cars, cages made of the skeletons of the trapped person’s crew mates and the like. We stopped in a “movie scene” with a burned out fuel tanker and lots of water. Then we were hit with a flood and water was everywhere. I was in the “splash zone”, but once again I didn’t get wet. Sigh. All of the splash zones were drier than my dorm in college was supposed to be. Oh, well. At least there were more explosions, this time some were fiery explosions and some were watery explosions. Oh, Danni, I’m sure you planned this all out for me.
After the trip on the tram, we were dumped into another building, where we got to see an exhibit of all the villains we love to hate. Darth Vader, Darth Maul, the White Witch (Jadis) from The Chronicles of Narnia, the cat that lived next door to me when I was a kid and many others. There was a short video showing how they made the beautiful face of Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. There was a Top 100 villains of all time billboard, of which I think I knew like 1 of them. And of course, this dumped us into a shop so that Disney could play on the greediness of children to force the parents to buy the kids a bunch of crap that they didn’t need. I love my kids. They didn’t even really try to get us to buy anything, though that may have been due to the fact that they wanted ice cream more than something else to lug around all day.
From here we headed out to Pixar Place, to check in on the Toy Story Midway Mania attraction again, which had been posting a 40 minute wait when we arrived at the park. It was up to 90 minutes now and we actually saw it go up to 120 minutes at one point. Sorry, no ride or adventure is worth that kind of wait. So, we bought some frozen drink things at what must have been the slowest kiosk on the planet and wandered back to Streets of America, where Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. was scheduled to make an appearance. The line wasn’t too long so we got in it. As we got to the front, we were informed that Mike had to make a phone call, but he’d be back in about 10 minutes and he’d bring Sully with him. Since we were now first in line, we waited. Sully was great. When he came out, he came right over and hugged us, then the kids went with him to get a picture. Of course, my camera’s batteries decided that this was the right moment to die and so I had to do the quick change to new batteries. That bought Mike Wazowski the time he needed to finish his phone call to his bookie and return to the room so that the kids could get pictures with both.
Once the photo op was complete, we headed back through Pixar Place to the Animation Courtyard, where we found that the Journey into Narnia: Price Caspian experience had a short wait time. So, we went ahead and did it, but we chose the walking tour alone, rather than the option to meet the actor who played Prince Caspian. We were in a room where we saw brief excerpts from the movie and they gave away the ending. We then got released to a room where we saw some of the costumes from the movie. It was neat. No explosions, though.
We then went to the walking tour called Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, where we walked through a photographic retrospective of the man who made it all possible. It was supposed to end with a 15 minute film about Mr. Disney, but we didn’t see the film because we learned that there was a restroom we hadn’t visited yet and so we made a run for it.
After visiting another fine restroom in Central Florida, we debated whether to go to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a live musical theater show which had like a 10 minute wait, or if we should get ourselves into position to watch the High School Musical 2 travelling show that was performing in front of the giant Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat. The Girl finally chose High School Musical 2. A giant parade float glided up and came to rest in front of The Hat and then a cast of HSM wannabes came out to sing and dance and strut and belittle baseball. The show was high energy and they dragged kids out of the audience to dance with them. My kids chose that moment to be shy and wouldn’t go out, but that’s okay, I guess. This was the most High School Musical-related activity I’ve ever seen (I still haven’t seen the movies), though I’ve heard the soundtracks a bunch of times. They didn’t perform my favorite song from the second movie, “Fabulous”, and in fact they didn’t even have someone portraying that character. But still it was all right.

After this, we went back to check out the Little Mermaid attraction we had scorned moments before and it was now up to a 40 minute wait. Heading back to the Toy Story Mania ride, we found it still had a 90 minute wait. Since we had done everything we wanted to do by that point aside from the Toy Story ride, we decided that the day was done and headed back to the villa.  Besides, the rains had come rolling in, complete with thunder and lightning (yes, I wore sunscreen), and we felt that we’d done the thunderstorm attraction plenty of times already this week. Over dinner, we watched the Beatles in their “Hard Day’s Night” movie and planned out our trip to the Magic Kingdom.