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My favorite places

As a ridiculously big fan (read: nerd) of the Studios, I enjoy the Studios for more than just the attractions that are in the park. The attractions are fun but there are certainly some areas of the park that I like to just be in to soak up the aura of the Studios. To me, the theme of the Studios, especially on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, is so well done that it really does emote that sense you are in a 1930's or 40's Hollywood. This sort of high level of theming is what seperates Disney parks from any other theme park out there and the distinct lack of this sort of theming is what Disney fans immediately realize first when they go to other parks. I remember going to a Six Flags park in New England and although I did enjoy many of the attractions, the cheezy theme that was sometimes there and the general lack of a theme really struck me more than anything and it's part of what compels me to return to the Studios and Walt Disney World in general. So when I take my trips to the Studios, I often enjoy taking some time to soak in the theme that Imagineers have gone to great pains to evoke.

By in large, the best level of theming has to be the Hollywood Boulevard area. Hollywood Boulevard was another attempt by Disney Imagineers to return to an idea that had been executed wonderfully on Main Street USA in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Hollywood Boulevard is sort of an update to Main Street USA, where Main Street USA is a turn-of-the-century (1900 that is) main street, Hollywood Boulevard fast forwards 30-40 years and moves into a more urban setting in Hollywood, California. Architectually, it's stunning and my favorite piece of architecture has to be the gates to the Studios, which is based on the Pan-Pacific Theater. I never thought so much teal could look so good. In the park though, I like to sit down on a bench on Hollywood Boulevard, preferably the ones near Mickey's of Hollywood where you can hear the terrific soundtrack playing in the background. Sooner or later a Streetmosphere troupe will show up, be it a police officer or talent agent or star(let) and it really sets the right mood and it is quintessentially what I think about when I'm not in the Studios. Being that I never lived through the time period this is set for, I obviously don't feel nostalgic for it, however I can't help but feel like being on Hollywood Boulevard is where I ought to be.

You may think Sunset Boulevard is the next logical place for me to say I like for its theme and for me to enjoy, however, that's not the case at all. Well, not exactly. Sunset Boulevard doesn't do much for me, mostly because it's basically Hollywood Boulevard part two. However, what I really do enjoy is the Tower of Terror area at the end of Sunset Boulevard. As you get closer to Tower, the high tempo, "life is good" 40's music of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards turns to slower and deeper music that can be heard outside the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Songs like "We'll meet again" and "When the sun sets down south" really set the tone for the area and almost have an aura of fordboding. Combine the music with the aesthetics of the area like the overgrown hedges, spanish moss drooping down and cracked and dilapidated exterior of the hotel and you have the perfect mood. It isn't frightening in the sense of the Haunted Mansion, rather it's just enough to give you that thought like "Something isn't right...". Getting that thought to go through your head is a fine line and Imagineers nailed it in my estimation. There's a terrific covered area across from the gift shop that has some concrete benches to sit on where you can really escape the crowds that are around the attraction and get a good sense of the theme. Nevermind the terrific attraction, just the beautiful theme really sets this area apart from other areas of any park in terms of a unique theme feel.

Cutting back across Hollywood Boulevard is another beautiful area to relax and enjoy and that's the Echo Lake area, on the Dinosaur Gertie side of the lake. From Dinosaur Gertie to 50's Prime Time Cafe to Keystone Clothiers is an area of the park with a great view and not so many crwods really. Echo Lake is the star here and Disney empties and cleans it every so often to keep the water and lake bottom clean and when you combine it with a nice geyser and the little islands inside the lake, it really sets a great scene. I really enjoy getting a drink (adult or otherwise) and sitting at the tables along the lake to take in the beauty of the area. If you happen to be in Florida during a time of year when it's not obscenely hot and humid, I recommend relaxing here to enjoy the beautiful weather, especially in the afternoon.

The last place I can honestly say I enjoy for it's level of theme isn't an open area of the park like the others I've mentioned or even near an attraction like Tower of Terror. It's tucked away, somewhat in the back of the park and believe it or not, it's a store. The Stage One Company store has in it a multitude of Muppets merchandise but besides some nice souvenirs, there's also a wealth of Muppets jokes and references to their films. It doesn't take a whole lot to be a fan of the Muppets, especially if you grew up with some of their classic films that came out in the 1980s, but I can (and have) spend hours in this store looking around. I'm sure the cast members had no idea why this guest isn't buying anything and just looking at the walls, but I can't help but enjoy the visual stimulation that this store has. Not to mention that there's a wonderful selection of Muppet music playing, many from the same films that are referenced in one way or another inside the store. Muppetvision 3D is a wonderful attraction that brings the Muppets to the park guests but I get a whole lot more of the Muppets' world inside this store.

If I rated my articles here on a scale of 1-10 for Studios nerdiness, this article would be a 10 but I'm not ashamed to share my love of the Studios beyond simply stating which attractions I enjoy or the best restaurant in the park. Fun attractions are always a source of great enjoyment for me and anyone but it's the great theme that I really enjoy on each of my visits and it's subtle yet like a delicious smell, one can't help but be drawn in and waters your pallete for what's to come inside.

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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, April 02, 2008 by