It's easy to go to Hollywood Studios or any of the parks and ride the marquee attractions over and over again and many of us love to do that. After a lot of trips under your belt, you may be looking for something else. It's not like Tower of Terror or Toy Story Midway Mania are boring by any means, but it's always nice to try some new things and see what else is out there. Imagineers love to stock the parks not only with E-ticket attractions that everyone and their mother will enjoy, but also some lesser attractions that are "off the beaten path", so to speak.
At Hollywood Studios, you'll find a lot of these hidden gems that you definitely need to check out. All of these are free entertainment that vary in scope, size and duration, but each passes the litmus test of being hidden treasures that many do not stop to enjoy.
The Animation Academy is something I've talked about at length, but it continues to be a wonderful attraction that unfortunately many write off without ever trying it. Whenever someone asks me what is something to try at Hollywood Studios, Animation Academy is the first place I send them. The basic premise is you learn to draw Disney characters, and while that may not sound all that exciting, it is a lot of fun for both adults and kids. What I think makes it so fun is that you get to draw characters and it's remarkably easy! I've never had any real drawing talent at all in my life but when I sit there and after 20 minutes have drawn a pretty good Winnie the Pooh, I really feel a sense of accomplishment. And if it stinks, well, we all get a good laugh out of it.
The Animation Academy is located at the end of the Magic of Disney Animation and has shows throughout the day every 30 minutes. Try for the shows in the evening for less crowds.
For kids, this is the absolute must-do show to participate in. For adults, I love to watch because the humor often goes right over the kids heads and it's so funny. In the morning hours, the Green Army Men from Block Party Bash (the ones with faces that talk) perform a variety of shows on Pixar Place with kids as a means of letting everyone know about Block Party Bash and to also have some fun. They pick some kids and along with the 3 or 4 other Green Army Men, perform some Army drills with them and the Green Army Men are quite funny. They take their schtick of being the Green Army Men from the Toy Story films (very gung-ho and always about the mission) and mix it in with humorous antics.
There's usually two or three shows in the morning hours (10-11amish) on Pixar Place.
These two hidden treasures will take about 30 seconds or so to enjoy, but it's worth stopping and seeing them because they're fun. The Singing in the Rain umbrella is on the Streets of America, near Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and is an umbrella attached to a street pole. The idea is you go stand underneath it and as you do, water pours down around you. Sometimes the water effect doesn't work but if it does, it's kind of fun and I love to do because everyone around me pays no attention at first but when I'm done, there's a line of guests looking to try it out. It makes for some fun photos.
The well near Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular has a rope going down it and if you pull the rope, you'll hear some funny things from inside the well. If I'm with young children (under the age of 8 or so), I love to goof on them and pretend there is someone in the well and they laugh when they hear the things that happen once I pull the rope. I won't ruin the surprise but it's in good fun and you should try it out whenever you walk by.
I hope by now after reading this column each week, you've come to appreciate the Citizens of Hollywood (Streetmosphere) because they are so very talented at what they do. They have shows throughout the day and each is consistently funny and whenever you have a few minutes, stop by and enjoy the show. What makes it so funny is while the premise of the skits may be similar, each show ends up being so different because they rely on the guests around them for the show.
The Citizens of Hollywood perform on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards every day and throughout the day. If you only see one Citizens of Hollywood show, try for the "Funniest Citizen in Hollywood" skit, usually in the late afternoon at around 5 or 6pm.
A few months ago Disney rolled out one of the most interesting animatronics I've seen in a while. Sure, Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story Midway Mania queue is cool, but the Luxo Jr animatronic is cute and well thought out. Luxo comes out every twenty minutes and performs a daytime and nighttime show. Luxo, for those unaware, is that character that looks like a desk lamp, and he comes out to dance along to the music that is played. It's a wonderful touch by the Disney Imagineers and it's something that frankly isn't necessary (not like they have a problem drawing guests to Pixar Place), yet it's the sort of thing that separates Disney from other theme parks because it's that extra bit of "magic" that catches many guests by surprise and suddenly they stop where they are and watch this lamp dance. It's a great show and worth seeing.
Luxo's show can be seen on Pixar Place, across from the outdoor queue of Toy Story Midway Mania. Sometimes he suffers technical issues, so ask a Cast Member if Luxo has been out lately to ensure you aren't waiting around for nothing.
For Star Wars fans, I think this is a really neat special effect that can be found at Star Tours (at least until Star Tours 2 comes our way). In the evening, the Ewok Village (the tree houses above the FASTPASS machines at Star Tours) are lit up to look like the Ewoks are actually in there. In addition, you will hear music and the Ewoks "singing" (if you want to call it that), which is reminiscent of the scene from Return of the Jedi. It's something that only fans of the Star Wars films will really get, but it's another hidden gem.
It's been 20 years now since the Rocketeer film came out, so perhaps many of you reading this never saw it or don't remember the film, but over at Peevy's Polar Pipeline (back of Keystone Clothiers near Echo Lake) are props from the film and as someone who did like the film, I love to go over and see the jetpack or the newspaper that announces the Rocketeer that was in the film. Again, it's a quick 30 second stop but something fun to check out.
After you stop to see the Rocketeer stuff, head over Min and Bill's Dockside Diner and check out the crates in front of the diner. You may think they are just ordinary crates there to enhance the story of the restaurant, but if you look at each crate, they have names and addresses on them that reference famous Hollywood films. If you know enough about the movies, you'll "get it" and I think it's yet another fun homage to some classic films.
If you liked the Muppet movies, namely The Great Muppet Caper and the Muppets Take Manhattan, be sure to stop into the Muppets shop (officially known as the Stage One Company Store) and look around for lots of great visual jokes and gags. You have sets from the Happiness Hotel as well as the lockers the Muppets called home in Grand Central Station. In addition to just the sets being re-created, you'll see joke after joke after joke and they are all very funny. There are some classic jokes to be found here and I love to stop in and read them all because it's classic Muppets humor.