Piecing Together
Disney-MGM Studios

by Joshua Olive, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 10, 2006, Issue #329 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Of all the parks, my least favorite has always been Disney-MGM Studios. I don't know why. Something about it just didn't work as well for me as all the others. Lately, again for reasons unbeknownst to me, this park has found a higher place in my affections. So I've been giving this some thought, and I think I have a handle on why this park has become so much more attractive to me recently.

Don't get me wrong. There are aspects of the park I've always loved: the Tower of Terror, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular (I secretly always wanted to be chosen as the volunteer who gets beat up), the Backstage Tour, the old Animation tour, etc. Back when they were still doing 2-D animation, and doing it right there in the park, I got to watch as artists were putting together Pocahontas long before it was released, which was extremely cool. But the park itself just wasn't truly captivating. Somehow, this park never had the allure of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or Animal Kingdom. There wasn't quite enough to do, and the park was oddly laid out, with attractions often hidden in out of the way spots (One Man's Dream, anyone?), which forced you to a slower place as you went from attraction to attraction.

This park was like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together without knowing what kind of picture it was going to turn out to be. Then, recently, something changed. Somehow or other, I caught a glimpse of the picture -- and, as a result, my most recent visits have found me spending more and more time at the Disney-MGM Studios. The old favorites are still there, and tons of new things have piqued my interest, making me want to spend more time there; plus, I've grown to really appreciate the slower pace of this park.

Granted, Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is not one of the slower things about the park in any sense, but it's a fantastic ride and I love it! There's nothing like being launched out of an air cannon and going straight into a loop -- no painfully slow chugging up to the top of the hill on this coaster! This attraction definitely helped draw me to this park a few years ago, and it became a major piece of the Studios puzzle for me.

Then there was this past summer. I discovered something that had, somehow, eluded me for years: Fantasmic. How could I have missed this for so long?! Fantasmic is incredible. What an awesome spectacle! This great nightcap features lots of Mickey Mouse, lots of the villains that have made so many Disney movies so captivating, and lots of incredible special effects. The water screens are fascinating, and the stunts are great. The music is inspiring, and the mountain's transformation into an angry Maleficent (the dragon from Sleeping Beauty) is phenomenal. Then, when the good of imagination and dreams wins out over the evil and scary, when Steamboat Willie comes around the corner with his boat full of long-time favorite animated characters, it's hard not to cheer. It's always great when good triumphs over evil, but it's even better when you get to watch it happen!

But Fantasmic, though a critical piece in the Disney-MGM Studios puzzle, was still only one piece of the puzzle that I've grown to enjoy so much lately. Another of those pieces is the new Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show. Talk about an awesome display of stunt driving! This show is all kinds of fun; it's not every day you get to see this kind of action. It's just so much fun to be able to see the stunts up close and in person; there's nothing quite like it anywhere else.

The bigger attractions tend to make bigger puzzle pieces, it's true, and they always get the attention -- they're the first things I always think about too -- but there are also some smaller attractions that have become must-sees for me as well. MuppetVision 3-D is one of those. The indoor queue area alone is worth spending some time in just for its collection of wacky Muppet humor. Then you have inspirational attractions like One Man's Dream, a walk-through tour of the life of Walt Disney that no Disney fan should miss. It's a beautiful homage to one of the most influential people of the 20th Century.

And then there's the food. Ah, the food. You can't piece a puzzle together on an empty stomach! Yes, this means that I'm getting old. Kids don't care about the food at Disney World -- at least I didn't when I was a kid -- they care about the rides, the parades, the rides, the characters, the shows, and the rides. Now, I care about the food too, and Disney-MGM Studios has some of the best! It's not fancy or exotic like something you might find in the World Showcase at Epcot (unless you go to the Brown Derby, I suppose), but it's hard to beat the '50s Prime Time Diner for good home cooking and hilarious atmosphere. And, whether the meatloaf or the fried chicken is more up your alley, Dad's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sundae is for everybody. Just don't try to eat one by yourself! And the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre offers another unique atmosphere, along with good comfort food and really, really good milkshakes.

Participation is also key to enjoying this park -- you have to get in on the act and participate! They're always looking for volunteers for the different shows, so jump in and strut your stuff! If you want to be bombed in Pearl Harbor and fire torpedoes on the enemy (on the Backlot Tour), you can do that here -- and survive! You can be right in the thick of the action in the Cairo marketplace in Indiana Jones, or you can just be snagged on the street to participate in an impromptu movie shoot or to judge a beauty pageant. These are great ways to do something different and flex your acting muscles!

Then there are the big events in the Studios: the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights come Christmas time, Star Wars Weekends, Super Soap Weekend, you name it. You can spot celebrities, hang out with Luke Skywalker, or really get into the Christmas spirit -- depending on what time of year you come, of course!

After finally putting all the pieces together, I've come to enjoy Disney-MGM Studios a lot more than I ever have before. Of course, I had to find all the pieces first, and that was the hard part, but it was definitely worth it!

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Guest columnist Joshua Olive, 30, is a 6'6", 380-lb. man whose inner child is bigger yet. He's been a BIG fan of Walt Disney World since his first visit in 1979 and he's now a 15-trip veteran. A program manager for a robotics integrator by day, Josh was also a peer reviewer for PassPorter Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs, written by Allears.net's Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma.

Meet Joshua Olive and read his other columns: http://allears.net/btp/josho.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.