It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
With apologies to Charles Dickens, this can be a great way to describe touring Hollywood Studios in the month of September. Disney World has already transitioned from the peak season of summer to off season as of the last two weeks in August, but September is one of the least crowded months in Walt Disney World during the whole year, so I find off season touring during this time of year among the hardest because of the limited options.
Typically in September, you will find park hours where the park is open to 7pm and some of the slimmest offerings of Fantasmic! outside of January. This makes successful touring of the park difficult for even the most seasoned of park veterans. So how can you tackle the Studios in September and the fall in general while still seeing it all? Let's dive into off season touring.
Regardless of what time of the year you visit Hollywood Studios, arriving at the park before it opens is critical. By being in position for when the park opens in the morning, you will have a major edge over everyone else that comes to the park throughout the day. You'll maximize the time you have in the Studios which gives you the most time to see attractions. In short, be at the turnstiles between 8:30 and 8:45am.
Next, let's skip through the entire day to the evening to talk about Fantasmic!. I'm not going to sugar coat this, it's hard to see Fantasmic! when it's only being shown twice per week and just once per night. Sadly, this is the state of affairs, so no point in arguing the merits of the system now. If you want to see Fantasmic!, you're going to need to get to the Hollywood Hills Ampitheater well in advance of the showtime. I'm talking at least an hour before show time. If you want to play it safe, closer to 90 minutes. My best advice is get in there, grab a spot and then have someone go and bring back food to enjoy in the stadium while someone else guards your seats. Bring fully charged iPhones, Droids, DS's, Sega Game Gears, Atari Lynxs, whatever you need to get through the time sanely (because after 2 attempts at the wave, you will be done with it).
Back in the park, you need to give the stage shows the most priority in order to see them all. With the park hours of a 7 or 8pm close, you're going to be dealing with less show times than during other times of the year. With a good touring plan, it's definitely possible to make this work but I suggest catching Voyage of the Little Mermaid before 11am, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular before noon and Beauty and the Beast in early afternoon. The other shows can be worked in additionally at your discretion assuming they are of interest to you.
When it comes to rides, FASTPASS can be a good friend. You should get to Toy Story Midway Mania right when Hollywood Studios opens for the day and if you can, snag a FASTPASS if you want to ride it again. The standby line will still likely be way too long for it to be worth waiting without sacrificing some other attraction. New this year will be Star Tours will be closed so that shouldn't affect crowds terribly but it will be one less popular attraction open. I'd expect maybe a slightly higher wait for the Great Movie Ride but really, the difference won't be that large to really notice.
Other attractions worthy of your FASTPASS are Rock 'n Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. If available, you might consider a FASTPASS for Voyage of the Little Mermaid simply to cut down on a standby wait a little bit. Otherwise, utilize FASTPASS to re-ride your favorite attractions.
Touring Hollywood Studios in September can be a challenge, but it's still a viable option. Fantasmic! will be your biggest hurdle along with reduced park hours but if you plan your trip out right, I think you'll find success.