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How the other half tours

Every trip to the Studios I make, I always try to see if there's something new I can try. Something different from my previous trips to change things up a bit. That may take the form of trying a new restaurant or going in a shop I've never been in before or riding something I've skipped over. If there's been one constant for me at the Studios, it's been how I started my day at the Studios and that's walking up Hollywood Boulevard and making a right onto Sunset Boulevard. Since I started coming to the Studios, I've always geared up for going down Sunset Boulevard with the huge crowd at park opening. And on my last trip nothing was going to change. I walked up the sidewalk on the right side of Hollywood Boulevard, side stepped a few groups that had some room between them and was quite content with my spot to wait until the park opened at 9:00am.

As I stood there waiting for the Streetmosphere characters to open the park in their usual morning routine, my mind began to wander and ponder what I could do differently today in the Studios to change things up. I considered if there was a restaurant I missed that I could eat at for lunch or if there was an attraction I haven't experienced in ages. The more I thought about it, the more my mind explored different options until finally I reached an epiphany; I had never gone somewhere else for park opening. Going somewhere else for park opening was something I never considered. It had never occurred to me. The idea had never crossed my mind, kind of like considering to drive north on a highway when you really want to go south. The reality is although many, many folks do take that right turn onto Sunset, there is that "other half" of guests who don't and I decided I would be part of that other half for one day.

So I started making my way across Hollywood Boulevard (probably confusing some guests as to why this guy was giving up his prime spot to get to Tower of Terror or Rock 'n Roller Coaster) and waited for the rope drop...the other rope drop that is between Mickey's of Hollywood and Keystone Clothiers. I felt odd being there. The guests around me I could tell either had no idea of the benefit of going down Sunset first or had children who didn't want to ride one of the mega attractions on Sunset. Many families go to the Studios unwilling or unable to ride Tower of Terror or Rock 'n Roller Coaster and all together for go the experience. Today I would be part of that group. Of course, what else is open for park opening?

Well, there's the Great Movie Ride with a smattering of characters in the courtyard in front of it, Star Tours, Muppetvision 3D, the Backlot Tour and Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. I decided I would go for Star Tours first. It pained me because I knew getting there first had no real benefit for the rest of the day since waits for Star Tours are few and far between. But I wanted to really embrace "the other half" and see the first showing of Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage, which had just emerged from a rehab that resulted in a recasting of the show. I figured I'd be done with Star Tours with enough time to get over to Playhouse Disney for it's 9:40am show whereas I felt the Great Movie Ride would take longer. So my plan was set and as the rope dropped at 9:00am, I with about a dozen guests (if that) did a fast power walk past Echo Lake onto Star Tours. As we walked over there, I realized there were no Cast Members herding you or trying to control guests' speed like on Sunset Boulevard. I hadn't had an unescorted park opening in nearly a decade. I guess the folks who are going in this direction, the very young and those who can't tolerate the Sunset Boulevard attractions, don't need to be held back since they likely aren't the type to go into a sprint. And there was no reason to sprint as I had mentioned there was about a dozen people or so along for the walk. As I expected, I walked on Star Tours (even had an opportunity to snap a photo in the queue) and rode.

I made my way out of Star Tours and to Playhouse Disney and the path was nearly devoid of other human beings. Obviously the park isn't that crowded at 9:20am anywhere but on Sunset Boulevard I knew there was a growing swarm of folks but on this path were a few groups making their way to an attraction elsewhere. The Animation Courtyard was even emptier, with Voyage of the Little Mermaid not having it's first show until about 9:30 and Magic of Disney Animation not open until about 10am and of course Playhouse Disney opening at 9:40. As I made my way onto line for Playhouse Disney I noticed how "the other half" spends their morning in the Studios. No mass rush and elbow shoving for jockeying for position in line. Many had young children who were still technically asleep despite walking upright. It felt more...open; like there was no rush or adrenaline surge. It was calm. As I stood in line waiting for Playhouse Disney to open "Ooh & Aah" were entertaining guests on television sets throughout the queue and watching them with very few other people around and that sense of relaxation made me feel like it was Saturday morning in bed. It was that kind of a sedated atmosphere.

And you know what? It felt good. It was a welcome change of pace. I can't say I'll be doing this every time I go down to the Studios but taking a break from Sunset Boulevard and the rush from there made me feel like I could take things just a little bit easier. Many families who don't care for or can't ride Tower or Coaster do this sort of beginning of their day every trip. For families who want to do this, their mornings in the Studios are far easier and relaxed than I think any other park because many of the shows aren't open for park opening so there's much less of that need to commando tour the park. It allows guests to ease into their itinerary for the day. I spent the rest of my morning observing characters and then resuming a somewhat "normal" touring schedule given the time of day and trying to avoid the crowds. But if you're ever looking for a change of pace and want to try something different, skip Sunset Boulevard in the morning and join "the other half" on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 by