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Finding Disney: The Essence of “Disney’s Hollywood Studios®”

Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life


Mickey AvenueThis column is typically about finding those little glimpses of Disney magic in daily routines. For four weeks, though, we’re taking the phrase “Finding Disney” and turning it on its head by asking this question: How do you find Disney when you’re in Disney? Everything experienced on Walt Disney World® property has ties to Disney in some way, obviously, but some attractions, atmospheres, and elements permeate with a deeper sense of embodiment for what the Disney name truly means to all of us.

Today we’re exploring Disney’s Hollywood Studios® to find those special things that, in every way, stand testament to the essence of the park, and, by extension, the Disney name itself. Since magic is measured in different ways, we’ll have three categories: the grand magic (that pull-out-all-the-stops mega-production that Disney knows good and well is going to make you cry), the fun magic (that thrilling, throw-your-hands-up kind), and the simple magic (those overlooked happenstances that, small as they are, might be the best part of your day). They’re all so different, but they each serve their purpose as a beacon of what Disney magic is and the emotions it prompts.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios® is my second-favorite Disney playground, only behind Magic Kingdom® ParkTo me, DHS is a very special place, not because of any one specific attraction but because of the aura its attractions give off as a collective group. A day spent here means getting a complete view of all aspects of production. As the years have past, this mindset has shifted to become a celebration, rather than a demonstration, of Hollywood’s finest wizardry. From animation and stunts to glory days and new additions, the guest receives an appreciation of Tinseltown with the experience of being part of it. Admittedly many theme parks around the whole planet revolve around this same basic idea, though DHS does it different in that its heritage—that of The Walt Disney Company—is the momentum it harnesses to immerse the guest in the bells and whistles of Hollywood. Within it, we see traces of the legacy of Walt himself, making the tenants of this land profound and personal.

FantasmicGrand magic: Fantasmic!  This is it. The big finale. Fantasmic! is the king dog daddy of nighttime spectaculars. One time while waiting for the show to start, I got to talking to a nice man on the bench in front of me. He is a local and loves coming to see Fantasmic! regularly. He said friends and family come to town and always ask him why he loves it, and typically ask what it is: Parade? Stage show? Fireworks? Water presentation? His reply: Yes! And he’s right: Fantasmic! is a spectacle for the senses. It’s essentially Disney giving us all they’ve got, and what they’ve got is quite impressive. Mickey’s dream parallels the pursuit of any Hollywood dreamer, and its content is a jubilation of Disney animation’s greatest achievements.

The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorFun magic: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™. This attraction hits its beat on every level. Thrill, entertainment, story… everything is there, and it prompts arguably the most intense response from the guest of any Walt Disney World® attraction. The queue does its job flawlessly by beginning that spark of feeling that something’s not right. The anxiousness heightens as the elevator car inches forward ever so slightly, only to drop to the depths of the building. The multi-layered components presented here paired with the idealistic Hollywood setting make The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ truly the quintessential Disney’s Hollywood Studios® attraction.

Citizens of HollywoodSimple magic: Citizens of Hollywood. It’s easy to march on by the crazy people making commotion in the streets on the way to the next FastPass® reservation, but don’t. The Citizens of Hollywood are the lifeblood of this park, the people that bring it to an entirely new level by giving it living, breathing personalities. They are a troupe of performers made up of all sorts of characters: starlets, directors, police officers, aspiring actors, and everything in between. They romp all over Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, sometimes in an informal crowd gathering and other times just roaming individually, but always unscripted. The wacky nature of their antics and the spontaneity of their personalities have a distinct, fine art to them. Their immeasurable wit and uncanny improv have a unique impression almost similar to Saturday Night Live as the performers work in tandem with each other (and with guests). The Citizens of Hollywood used to be something I always overlooked, but now they are something I make a point to never miss.

Where do you find Disney most in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®? What experiences would you classify in grand magic, fun magic, and simple magic?  Share your memories below!

(Images belong to author’s personal collection.)

Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade in Frontierland and then sprint to Main Street in time to see it again. You can find him on Twitter @olddirtyblake or at BlakeOnline.com.