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Walt Disney World December 2016 Trip Report, Part Two - Hollywood Studios and Epcot
DisneyDan  Saturday, March 4, 2017 2:05:47 PM
Hello everyone,

In this second part of my Walt Disney World December trip report I am going to share you with your our adventures at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. In case you missed it, the first part of my report, which covers Disney's Animal Kingdom and the Disney resort hotels, can be found here.

Let's start with Hollywood Studios.

For whatever reason, we very rarely end up entering through what was once considered the main entrance to Hollywood Studios. In fact, in the many years we have been visiting I think this was possibly only the second time it had ever happened. The "back" entrance seems to be the one we always end up at. However, it was interesting this time to enter from the main entrance, as you can very clearly see all the construction for Star Wars Land.

In the first part of this report I mentioned the annual passholder entrances. We continued to use these at Hollywood Studios, and I am still not convinced they are any faster - I think it's more to just make a point about providing something to AP holders to appease them.

We met Donald Duck near the park entrance on Hollywood Boulevard. It's sad that Daisy Duck no longer meets with him, but it's always nice to see Donald nonetheless.

For the first part of our trip, Santa Claus was greeting guests in a new location inside Once Upon a Time on Sunset Boulevard. It was actually a really nice setup. After Christmas Eve, Santa of course had to go back to the North Pole, and Goofy came to step into his shoes for the remainder of the holiday season. We went back to meet Santa Goofy, too, of course.

Moana had recently started greeting wayfinders inside One Man's Dream just before our trip. We met her a couple of times, and I have to say, Disney did a good job of the setup inside the room.

This year Chip 'n' Dale had been given cute Christmas hats and scarves for the holiday season. The attire was actually different than similar ones we had previously seen at Animal Kingdom and the resort hotels in the past. It always amazes me how many variations of the same thing that Disney have in the characters' wardrobes! They're all quite the fashionistas!

Oddly enough, on select days Chip 'n' Dale were alternating their appearances and could also be found over at the Sunset Showcase building wearing their Club Disney attire. There was nobody there when we went in, and so we had some fun with those cheeky chipmunks and took some photos of them.

We tried a variety of holiday treats while at Hollywood Studios, including a cupcake and hot chocolate. They tasted good, and it was nice to have something especially for the festive season.

While I do share my opinions here on the blog, I generally avoid just outright bashing something, since one person's experience can greatly differ from another, however, we tried PizzeRizzo on this trip, which had just opened beforehand, and I am going to say quite bluntly, it was absolutely awful. I would not recommend this place to anyone. There is a serious lack of atmosphere and theming, and the food was worse than microwave quality. The only word I could conjure to describe how I felt about it is "soulless".

We watched Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away to take photos of the new AWR Troopers who were added to the show following the release of Rogue One. We also took a flight on Star Tours and took some respite inside Path of the Jedi.

Since the Osborne Lights will never return to the park, Disney had to come up with something really special to replace the adored spectacular, and their answer to this was Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! I have to say, while it was no Osborne Lights, it was an impressive display. The snowfall and lasers really made it for me. I would definitely wait to watch it again.

At the Sunset Ranch Market we had our usual fried green tomato sandwich. It is one of the few decent vegetarian options in the park.

Finally for Hollywood Studios, before I move on to Epcot, I'll share some photos of the Christmas decorations on Hollywood Boulevard by day and night. With the snowfall at night the street was really pretty.

Now we arrive at Epcot for their annual Holidays Around the World celebrations. Let's start at the front of the park, at Spaceship Earth.

We met Minnie Mouse and Pluto at the VISA card meet 'n' greet at the Imagination pavilion. It was a little sad actually going inside this "new" location, knowing that this is where Figment used to be. Perhaps someday the Imagination pavilion will return to its former glory in a new and exciting way.

We had dinner at the Coral Reef one evening, which was actually a first for us. They have a fairly decent vegetarian option on their menu, and of course it was neat to dine deep down under the sea.

We met Santa and Mrs Claus at their location in the American Adventure, and saw Sigrid and Julenissen tell their story in Norway.

Princess Elena of Avalor made a surprise appearance one day at the International Gateway, and we were lucky enough to catch up with her.

A relatively new concept before our trip was the Express bus service that connects the parks via backstage access. I am the first to usually frown upon Disney's ever-increasing trend of up-charging for every little thing, but I have to admit, I like this one. At the time we were there, it was $24 for an entire week (though it has now risen to $29, I believe), but for that money you get to avoid all the security lines and park entry lines at all four theme parks, and get to go directly into the heart of the parks. The only downside is that the buses are only ever half hour, but given that you save so much time waiting for the regular bus/monorail/boat, and you get to skip all security and entry lines, it isn't altogether bad.

You may have noticed that we didn't see too many of the Holidays Around the World characters/storytellers when I mentioned them above, for which there is a reason. While I absolutely love Holidays Around the World, they have been very static for a number of years now, and I watch them all every single year. This year the festival added a lot more festive dining options, and so we did fewer of the storytellers, and instead ate and drank ourselves through the holidays! We tried a variety of treats, including options from Morocco, France, and the Alpine Haus kiosk.

Another restaurant that was new to us this trip was the Rose and Crown in the UK pavilion. I enjoyed what I ordered, and the service was excellent, but I personally feel for the amount of food we got, it was a little expensive. The photos below make the portion sizes look a lot more generous than they really were, sadly.

Finally we come to New Year's Eve at Epcot. We staked out a spot for the fireworks earlier on in the evening, and it was worth it. Before we get to the fireworks, the park had anticipated the high crowds, and there was special backstage corridors set up for ease of access around the park. As the night fell, they opened up some of the grass areas for people to sit on, which I had never seen them do before.

IllumiNations is quite dated now, and while that wasn't really that inspiring to watch right before the dawn of a new year, the countdown that followed IllumiNations was definitely very cool. There was a short display over each country that earlier that day had already moved into 2017, and then when it was time for the US, Canada and Mexico, they set off the big finale as the minute turned 00:00. It was a great atmosphere, and there were a lot of DJs and other things going on around the park.

That's it for this part of my report. In the final two parts I'll share our adventures at the Magic Kingdom.

Have a great day everyone,

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