As we go on to the second park of the wedding celebration, we went to what is possibly the most popular Disney World park of the time, Hollywood Studios. With the recent additions of Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, this park has certainly become a must visit park. Unlike Animal Kingdom, I have been here a few times since moving back to Washington from Florida, including this past March just after Chelsea and Jay's wedding on the Disney Dream. Since it had only been about seven months since my last visit, there weren't any new additions from the last visit, but this was an opportunity to go back to enjoy those that were added since my move along with some favorites, kicking off with our AWESOME luck with getting into the virtual queue of Rise of the Resistance in the first boarding group! So that was our first attraction of the day.
This has easily become one of the top attractions of the entire resort, and it's popularity is unquestionable on the basis of the need for a virtual queue system, even before there was a pandemic. While the theming is outstanding, and it is an excellent attraction, I still don't quite feel the same level of awe as others do with this attraction. It was a bit different with this time than it was in March, because I knew what to expect, and could find other details that I hadn't noticed before when riding in March, but one of the things that stood out to me this time was the pace of the ride. It is meant to be a bit quicker than some of the other trackless dark rides since you are trying to escape from the First Order, but in same cases, it felt like you would miss something because of that quicker pace as you couldn't really take things in before moving on into the next scene.
Of course, this is only a minor gripe of mine, and I'm not trying to make it out to be a bad attraction by any means. It is still easily in the top 5% of attractions like it worldwide in terms of quality, and I always get a kick out of the way the queue was designed to give the impression of going from one place to another with a sort of short motion simulator ride, and the way that the cast members who are part of the First Order interact with guests. I also still believe that my past experience with Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland took a bit of the "Wow!" factor that friends of mine experienced when they first rode Rise, so I'm not seeing it through the same lens they are.
That being said, I'll get into a bit of a hot take as we get into another attraction experienced later in the day and why I like it a bit better than Rise.
After our escape from the First Order and near encounter with Kylo Ren, we decided to head over to Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, and because of the park trying to add social distancing due to the pandemic, much of it's queue took up plaza space in front of the attraction, which gave us the ability to see another change during the pandemic, the mini-parades they were offering with various characters. This one was very Pixar heavy with those from the Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story.
One of the unfortunate downsides of the change to the queue was the park not currently showing the special Mickey short that was part of the pre-show for the attraction, rather you just walk right through the pre-show room into the final stretch of queue before boarding.
So when I look at Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway vs. Rise of the Resistance, this might be a bit of a hot take, but I actually enjoy the Runaway Railway more. The biggest thing for me is that I really enjoy the ability to take the scenes in a bit more as it doesn't move at as quick of a pace as Rise does. I also really enjoy the way that they use the multiple cars to give the train effect before they split off for the various scenes, and I also appreciate the way they can make a room feel completely different with a change of the projections and a quick rearrangement of the surfaces they project on. This ride probably also still benefits from my own personal viewpoint in that I didn't really know anything about it, and had a chance to ride it before many of my friends who still work at Disney or live in Florida had, so I could try it for myself before seeing all of the hype around it that Rise had before I had a chance the ride it.
The other big addition to the park from the time I lived here is the Toy Story Land area, which we didn't get to when I was here in March, but I had been here on another previous visit. I get a kick out of the theme of being in Andy's backyard with all of his toys, and how they included the decorations to give the impression based on the scale they were made. This continues while in line for one of the main attractions for the land, Slinky Dog Dash.
The joke among my friends is that this is a launched Wacky Worm coaster because of the one section of consecutive bunny hills after the second launch, but this is a far better coaster that could be considered a family ride. For this park specifically, it's a great step-up coaster for younger riders to experience a launch before they try out the faster version on Rock n' Roller Coaster since they both launch, and the layout of it is quite unique when compared to many other coasters out there, featuring neat set piece interactions. If this was part of a park like Cedar Point or a Six Flags park, it would probably be overshadowed quite a bit for it's smaller size and lower overall speed, but it fits in perfectly here at Hollywood Studios as it's right in line with Disney's attractions made to appeal to a wider audience.
Because of some great timing, we found Toy Story Mania with only a 20 minute line, which is usually unheard of, so we jumped on the chance to enjoy it. One of the things I kind of like about this attraction as opposed to other shooting dark rides is the way that depending on what object is being "thrown" in the various mini games, you have to take into account the actual physics of that object in how it would move in real life. Such as the ring toss portion, the ring's flight path wouldn't have a perfect line from your hand to whatever you were throwing it at, rather there would be a bit of an arch, and they show that in the pattern of which the ring flies on screen.
This is one attraction I'll get fairly competitive at, which can sometimes be detrimental to the well-being of my arm as I have made it quite sore because of the way you pull the cord as opposed to pulling a trigger like most shooting dark rides. I don't remember the exact scores, but I want to say Andrew came in first for our group while I got second.
Once we finished the newer attractions, we went over to Sunset Boulevard for the Tower of Terror and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. These were the two attractions I enjoyed the most when I worked for Disney as I would occasionally do multiple laps on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster taking advantage of the single rider line if I was just there to kill some time. Due to the pandemic, the single rider line isn't available, but that didn't really matter since I was with a group of friends for the day anyway.
We did Tower first, which I've enjoyed ever since the first time I rode it back in 2010. I've always loved the way that you go up several floors with stops along the way to the part of the ride where your car continues forward through the path into the main elevator shaft of the thrill portion of the ride. This also always offers some good airtime with the drops, and the mixture of sequences is great as even when you've ridden it multiple times, it doesn't always fee too predictable. In a way, I feel like this attraction kind of set up the disappointment I had with California's tower before it was given the Guardians re-theme a couple years ago, as the California one felt like a cheap knock-off.
As for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, it's a solid ride, and probably one of the better Vekoma coasters with the older style trains as it isn't are rough as others they have built over the years. I also dig Aerosmith, so the combination of their music with the ride is always fun. No pre-show in the recording studio at the time though because of the pandemic, so it's not the full experience, but they at least still have it going. With the recent re-theme of the one in Paris to Iron Man, I do wonder if there's a possibility of a re-theme coming to this one. While I like Aerosmith and several of their songs, I don't know if I would be as disappointed with them freshening up the ride.
Speaking of freshening up and rethemes, one of the ones done in California was a bit disappointing to me, and that was when they redid the Paradise Pier area into Pixar Pier. I was most disappointed in the retheme of California Screamin' to the Incredicoaster, as I loved the soundtrack of the older version, and it seems like the scenes in the new version pass to quickly to really catch them. So to see the billboard based on the older version of the area was a bit of a bummer, but at least I can count on YouTube to be able to enjoy the old soundtrack as Neil Patrick Harris counts down to the launch.
Before we left to complete our second day, several of us wanted to take another ride on Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which was just as fun as the previous times ridden. At this point, I think I would say it is my favorite attraction in the park, and a contender for favorite attraction at the resort.
While it was only the second day of parks, we had four more to go, and my feet were already sore from all of the walking (which I hadn't been doing as much of since I wasn't traveling nearly as much prior to this trip as I had been the couple years before), so it was nice to take advantage of the pool at the airbnb for a while, and just stick my feet in it to cool off, enjoying a beer at the same time!
The third day would be yet another day with a lot of walking, but it would also feature a lot of beer thanks to the modified version of it's popular festival it was hosting this year.