Star Wars and Toy Story lands announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Exciting news from the D23 Expo! No, I didn’t attend last weekend’s convention in Anaheim, California, but after following the announcements from several official sources (maybe in 2017 I can finally make it to California?), I am enthusiastic to share some news and links to recently unveiled concept artwork.

Some long-awaited announcements, specifically regarding the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, were made at the expo.

Concept artwork for the envisioned Star Wars and Toy Story lands were displayed to eager audiences at the semi-annual convention…wish I could have been there to see it first hand!

Two significant attractions will be included in Star Wars Land, in addition to merchandising and dining locations to enhance the experience for Star Wars fans.

No timelines were announced for the redevelopment–but given the level of detail that the Star Wars attractions will entail, it’s likely to take several years until completion–some are estimating a grand opening of 2021 to coincide with Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary.

In the meantime, fans will have some meet and greets and other exhibits to look forward to beginning at the end of this year. The Star Wars Launch Bay will be set up in the Animation Courtyard to showcase plans for this ambitious project (Disney’s answer to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter?), and highlight the upcoming film trilogy. Check out more details from the announcement here.

To bring some much needed child-friendly attractions to Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land will include a family coaster themed to Slinky Dog and a green alien saucer spinner. You can check out the official concept artwork here. I think the theming of Andy’s backyard adventures really has an opportunity to shine. 

I would expect Toy Story Land to open well before Star Wars Land, because despite the heavy theming, the new area’s attractions appear to be less complex.

Overall, this will be a welcome addition to a park that has been in need of some major improvements. I’m optimistic that further announcements will still be made. 

What do you want to see at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

Disney’s Hollywood Studios to receive a $3 billion makeover?

Changes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) have been a long time coming. Earlier this year one of the biggest changes to date took place–Mickey’s sorcerer hat was removed from Hollywood Boulevard–and the Earful Tower has once again claimed its place as park icon.

Now a new report is outlining just what changes are coming to DHS, and it has the internet buzzing.

Rumours have been swirling about DHS for years.

Rumours have been swirling about DHS upgrades for years. Photo circa 2013.

Rumour is that DHS will see a $3 billion investment, and that Disney will expand its Star Wars presence in the parks.

In addition to the long-awaited Star Wars expansion, an Indiana Jones themed area may be developed (hello, Lucas Land?)  along with an extension of Pixar Place. Construction of a third Toy Story Mania track has already been confirmed.

Many attractions have already closed–or are scheduled to be closed in coming weeks. The park, already branded by some as a “half-day park” is relying on Frozen Summer Fun to bring crowds during this transitional period.

It’s speculated that news on the park’s redevelopment will be shared at the upcoming D23 Expo, taking place in Anaheim from Aug. 14 to 16.

With all of these changes coming to DHS, a name change would seem appropriate given the theme of filmmaking and working film studios has all but diminished. Some say that all that will be left from the early DHS days will be the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, the Great Movie Ride and Star Tours.

The rumoured front runner for a new name? Disney’s Hollywood Adventure. That gives me optimism that Disney will keep the beautiful 30s-era theming, and work it into their new vision for the park.

Your thoughts?

Value, Moderate or Deluxe?

If you are heading to Orlando anytime soon, you will be faced with a few decisions to make about your accommodations.

Will you be staying at a Disney Resort, or off-site at a nearby vacation home or condo?

Now that I’ve had the experience of staying at a Disney resort, I’m not sure I could ever make the decision to stay offsite, unless the time I planned to spend is Disney was absolutely minimal.

People often ask me if staying onsite at Disney is worth the often-added expense. My answer is usually yes.

There are so many perks to staying at a Disney resort (free airport shuttle, transportation, access to dining plans), and luckily there are different accommodation levels that can help you budget the right resort for you. Don’t let the prices scare you from booking–while rack rates seem to be pretty high, you can usually get a great deal–sometimes up to 30 per cent off–during spring and fall months.

Can you find the hidden Tinkerbell?

Can you find the hidden Tinkerbell?

Disney resorts fall under three categories: value, moderate and deluxe.

Value resorts are made up of the smallest rooms of any Disney resort, and have limited amenities. They do, however, have a food court/quick service restaurant and pool areas for guests. It’s a great option if you plan on hitting the parks early in the morning and staying out until closing time. These resorts are typically farthest from Magic Kingdom.

Moderate resorts include enhanced amenities. This can include more dining options, upgraded pool and lounge areas and generally more recreational opportunities. Buses and boats transport guests to and from nearby resorts, Downtown Disney and the parks.

The Polynesian Resort: Home to Ohana, a volcanic pool, and the infamous Dole Whip!

The Polynesian Resort: Home to Ohana, a volcanic pool, and the infamous Dole Whip!

Deluxe resorts offer the best amenties–a great selection of restaurants (some that offer character dining!), elaborate pool settings, a variety of shops and usually more transportation options (especially true with the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian resort, which are on the monorail line). Deluxe resorts provide a great getaway from the parks, and offer some recreation opportunities as well. You could spend a whole day at some of these resorts without having to leave.

My three picks to try from each category?

Value–Art of Animation
Moderate–Port Orleans French Quarter
Deluxe–The Polynesian Resort

What are yours?

6 tips for enjoying WDW with young kids

Heading to Walt Disney World with young children can be both exciting and exhausting. The following tips should help make your trip more enjoyable for not just the kids, but parents too!

Gazing at Cinderella Castle

Gazing at Cinderella Castle

1. Plan to arrive at the parks early and return to your resort around lunch for a nap and swim. If you are up for it, return to one of the parks in the evening.

2. Protect yourself from the hot Florida sun: Bring hats, sunscreen and drink lots of water to keep hydrated. Pack a small cooler with water and snacks (you are allowed to bring food and drink into the parks!) to keep your energy levels up.

3. Bring a stroller. Even a five-year-old will be thankful to ride in one–it’s a lot of walking. Make sure you have plenty of storage room for carrying purchases and more. I would suggest bringing a stroller that is comfortable to push, as cheap umbrella strollers can wreak havoc on your back.

4. Make some character dining reservations–an easy, but sometimes expensive, way to meet characters without waiting in line ups. You can make dining reservations online 180 days prior to your trip. For more information on making your reservations, check out this handy article.

5. Bring an autograph book and a pen. For about $10 you can purchase an autograph book for characters to sign. Makes a wonderful and inexpensive souvenir!

6. Use a touring plan. It will help you determine which attractions you should head to first (according to wait times), and will help you save a lot of time. This is key with small children. Check out Touring Plans or Undercover Tourist for more information.

What other tips do you recommend?

 

When you’re not at the parks…

After a long day, or in our case a morning, at the park, it’s great to find a place to unwind. Luckily, there are many options to find an afternoon diversion, likely at your resort.

Poolside fun
Grab a bite to eat and watch your kids splash the day away. Disney is incredible at making everything fun for kids, and even a day away from the parks can be “the best day ever.” Cast members hang out poolside in the afternoons with a whole agenda of fun activities for young ones, including pool scavenger hunts and dance parties. Poolside bars offer interesting menus–I enjoyed a watermelon, feta and arugula salad one afternoon–yum!

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Water works
Rent a boat or catamaran to view the “World” from the water. You may find discounts on rentals if you purchase a Magic Your Way package (accomodations and tickets, with or without a Disney Dining Plan).

Unwind with a Disney flick
By night, catch a movie under the stars–by far one of my favourite ways to unwind after a long day at the parks. You can even view movie schedules of the various resort options online. I have to admit, I had the Grand Floridian’s week-long schedule printed out before we even arrived!

Lagoon with a view
If you happen to be on the Monorail line surrounding the Seven Seas Lagoon, you can catch the nightly Electrical Water Pageant. This quirky diversion is a sight to see, and as of last May, had an interesting soundtrack (think Casio keyboard meets The Little Mermaid).

What’s your favourite way to unwind after a long day at the parks?