Lights, Camera, Roller Coasters!

21 at Disney: | day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 |

Just like a television or movie set, our day at Hollywood Studios was fast paced and exciting. Hollywood Studios opened at 9am on Monday morning. By 8:30am, we were in line behind more than one hundred people. Before the clock struck 9, we had FastPasses for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and were in line for Tower of Terror. The coaster was out of order at that moment, but we hoped that by the time our passes came due, it would be fixed.

We stood for perhaps five minutes before passing into the Twilight Zone, and settled into our seats. I, personally, was terrified while Rose was giddy and jumping around with excitement. At the first drop, we both screamed as loudly as we could. Strangely, it was cathartic. Even so, it wasn’t until the last drop that I was able to pry my hands from their grip on the seat handles to tentatively raise them. They reached about chest height before grabbing for Rose and the unfortunate man who sat on my right.

To pass the time before tackling the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, we went to the newest ride at Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Mania. Modeled after the similar game in Magic Kingdom, we swiveled and shot our toy guns as 3D targets jumped out from the screens. We had waited in line for nearly an hour, but the wait was made entertaining by a talking and singing Mr. Potato Head.


While Rose may have scored more points, I proudly hold the Most Accurate award. 37% accuracy might not be suitable for real life, but for a video game, it was top notch.

After celebrating our victory, the time had come for the big coaster. It wasn’t until we walked into the “pre-ride” briefing room that I made an important discovery. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster goes upside down.

Upside down. Against gravity. The only thing between you and the dark metal underbelly of the ride is a thin, padded bar. Upside down!

I had never ridden intense roller coasters before, let alone one that flipped me around! My only solace was that the ride was dark so I would only feel gravity lurching instead of seeing screaming people underneath me as I barreled toward them at exorbitant speeds.

We moved into the amazingly detailed alley where the limo waited for us. I watched, eyes wide and mouth open as limos shot into the black tunnel. By shot, I mean that the car was propelled from 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds putting 4.5Gs on the riders (x). Once again, I was terrified.


It was glorious. Walking outside into the bright sunlight, hair strewn six different ways, my voice was nearly exhausted from screaming so much. We snagged fast passes for the Tower of Terror, and walking to the Studio Backlot Tour, we made a pit stop for our first alcoholic purchase of the week: two Golden Margaritas. It may or may not have been before noon.

With devilish pleasure, I volunteered Rose to be cast in Hollywood Studio’s production of Harbor Attack. She walked to her position on the set while I waited just far enough away to avoid getting soaked with my camera. I will treasure that video for the rest of my life.


We crossed the park for the second time that day, and found ourselves a nice man in uniform who agreed to take a picture with us. He ignored our general wetness due to various rides, and even struck a pose after attempting to give Rose bunny ears.


We were a bit tired of standing and running around so we decided to take a break on The Great Movie Ride. This was one ride I had never been on the last time I was at Disney so it was a complete surprise to both of us. Of course, it did not go without a hitch. Still proudly wearing my birthday button, we were seated in the first row of the bus for the indoor ride. We were shocked when our bus was hijacked by none other than Billy the Kid! Seeing my button, he informed me that all of my gifts were now the property of Billy the Kid. He would split them with me 80-20 with the higher percentage going to him if I was nice. I was having none of that and counter-offered 60-40 to me. I do not think he has ever encountered that kind of resistance before because he looked at me with a blend of confusion, respect, and maybe a tad bit of fear. At least, that’s how I chose to interpret it. He was unable to come up with a reply other than huffing in indignation before the ride continued and he had to leave the tour bus to steal a jewel from the temple pulled from the Raiders of the Lost Ark. We were giggling for the rest of the ride. Hopefully that cast member now has a funny story to tell of the sassy birthday girl who was having none of his shenanigans.

Due to a technical issue, we had to go to card services before our Tower of Terror FastPasses were due. It started to pour, and we helped the cast members carry everything inside. As a thank you for our efforts and a present for my birthday, a cast member wrote us a free FastPass. Initially, he was making it out for Toy Story Mania when, in a quiet voice, we asked for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. His eyes widened slightly at the two young women in front of him, then he smiled and wrote a happy birthday note on the pass.

With a scheduled Tower of Terror FastPass in one hand and an anytime FastPass for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, we jogged down Sunset Boulevard toward the broken elevator. We waited a mere twenty minutes before we plummeted down the elevator shaft. We were granted brief views of the people outside, and they could hear our screams from hundreds of feet away.

Still feeling the adrenaline, we lined up for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster again. I’ll be honest with you. I still had a lot of butterflies as we waited our turn; however, the second time was even better than the first. We crossed the park again after careening around LA in a limo for the Auto Show. Sadly, we were only able to watch the first part of the show before it was cancelled due to lightning. The same happened with Indiana Jones. Those are my two favorite shows at Disney World so missing them was heartbreaking, but It just gave us more reason to return. To ease my aching heart, we took a space journey through the stars with C3PO.

Exhausted after our first full day, we dragged ourselves out of the park and headed back to the hotel. Our dinner reservations weren’t until 9 so we had a small snack and a nap before driving to Downtown Disney for dinner at the Raglan Irish Pub. I picked the restaurant for two specific reasons. The lesser was that I go to Notre Dame so of course I want to be a part of as many Irish-related things as possible. The far greater reason was because Rose had studied for a full year in Ireland. If there is one thing that Disney does best, it is authenticity. With beef stew and pie, we sipped Smithwick’s after sampling a flight of four Irish draughts. Even more than the delicious food, I smiled most at exclamations along the lines of “That’s real Guinness!” and “I missed this so much.” I knew that as soon as we hit Epcot and went through the Mexico pavilion, I would be doing the same thing.

Earlier in the day, we originally had our reservation scheduled for 6pm. We changed it to nine at the last minute, and nearly missed the later one due to the lack of parking spaces. Moving the reservation was one of the best decisions we made that night. Irish dancers kicked and twirled on the pub’s stage, and we moved to the bar after dinner to watch and finish our beers.

To our soon-to-be great pleasure, the dancers left and a band started to set up. I was entranced by their accents, and we decided to listen to a few songs before leaving. The turning point of the evening was when the lead singer finished an instrumental song, then leaned into the mic. He said that the band had a favorite artist that wasn’t Irish, but they still wanted to play some of their music. What artist, you ask quizzically? Mumford & Sons.

Rose and I screeched as we had screamed at the Tower of Terror. Only this time, it was from excitement rather than fear. We ordered another round and began singing the countermelodies and harmonies to each Mumford song they played. We even managed to get a song dedicated to us. I had grown slightly overexcited when they mentioned a song from Tennessee. They heard me and when I told them I was from Tennessee, they dedicated Rocky Top “to the girls at the bar,” Rose and I.

It was more morning than night when we left and went back to crash into our beds at the hotel. We had survived day one, but had so much more to do. Animal Kingdom was next up, and we had to get on the safari ride early to see the most animals. Our adventure had barely begun.


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