Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Sorcerer's Hat, the icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Opened||May 1, 1989|
|Previous names||Disney-MGM Studios|
|Walt Disney World|
Disney's Hollywood Studios (originally Disney-MGM Studios until 2008), is the third of four theme parks built at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, opened on May 1, 1989. Spanning 135 acres (54.6 ha), it is dedicated to show business, drawing inspiration from the heyday of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. In 2011, the park hosted approximately 9.7 million guests, making it the fifth-most visited amusement park in the United States, and eighth-most visited in the world.
The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be.—Michael Eisner, May 1, 1989
A team of Disney Imagineers led by Marty Sklar and Randy Bright had been given an assignment to create two new pavilions for Epcot's Future World section. The fruits of the brainstorming sessions were the Wonders of Life and Great Movie Ride pavilions. The latter was to look like a soundstage backdrop, with a movie theater-style entrance in the middle, and would have sat between the Land and Journey Into Imagination pavilions. When newly appointed CEO Michael Eisner saw the plans for the pavilion, he requested that, instead of placing the ride in an already existing park, it should be surrounded by a new park themed with Hollywood, entertainment, and show business.
In 1985, Disney and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer entered into a licensing contract that gave Disney worldwide rights to use the MGM name and logo for what would become Disney-MGM Studios, which included working production facilities for movies and television shows and a satellite animation studio, which began operation prior to the park's debut. In 1988, MGM/UA responded by filing a lawsuit that claimed Disney violated the agreement by operating a working movie and television studio at the resort. On May 1, 1989, the theme park opened adjacent to the production facilities, with MGM's only affiliation being the original licensing agreement that allowed Disney to use the brand name and lion logo in marketing, and separate contracts that allowed specific MGM content to be used in The Great Movie Ride.
Disney later filed a countersuit, claiming that MGM/UA and MGM Grand, Inc. had conspired to violate Disney's worldwide rights to the MGM name in the theme park business and that MGM/UA would harm Disney's reputation by building its own theme park at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 23, 1992, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe ruled that Disney had the right to continue using the Disney-MGM Studios name on film product produced at the Florida facility, and that MGM Grand had the right to build a Las Vegas theme park using the MGM name and logo as long as it did not share the same studio backlot theme as Disney's property. The 33-acre (134,000 m2) MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park opened in 1993 at the Las Vegas site and closed permanently in 2000.
Disney was contractually prohibited from using the Disney-MGM Studios name in certain marketing contexts; in those instances, the park was called The Disney Studios.
On August 9, 2007, Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that Disney-MGM Studios would be re-branded as Disney's Hollywood Studios, effective January 7, 2008, saying, "the new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer—in music, television, movies and theater."
Disney's Hollywood Studios is divided into six themed areas. Unlike the other Walt Disney World parks, the park does not have a defined layout, resembling more of a mass of streets and buildings that blend into each other, much like a real motion picture studio. The plaza at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, however, featured a large Hidden Mickey, which was visible in aerial photographs of the park and on the park's early guide maps. Construction and other park changes have eliminated much of this image.
Hollywood Boulevard serves as the park's main entrance and is lined with themed streetscape facades and venues selling Disney merchandise and park services. Parades such as the Pixar Block Party Bash travel down Hollywood Boulevard on their route through the park, and live street entertainment can be found here throughout the day. Michael Eisner, who had a major part in the park's creation ever since the earliest development, demanded the opening land operate on the same principle as Main Street, U.S.A. but in a style more fitting to the Studios. At the far end of Hollywood Boulevard stands the Sorcerer's Hat, the park's landmark icon. Behind the structure, resides a replica landmark building of the The Chinese Theater which houses the The Great Movie Ride, a dark ride paying homage to several classic films, including Singing in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Within proximity to Hollywood Boulevard, near the entrance of Animation Courtyard, resides The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, a themed replica of the original Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, California.
Echo Lake is the park's small oval-shaped lagoon, which was designed to form one of the ears in the enormous Hidden Mickey from the park's original layout. Surrounding it are numerous attractions and services, some in structures designed to mimic the "California Crazy" form of architecture from Hollywood's Golden Age. At The American Idol Experience, park guests can audition and sing for live audiences, and potentially win a special front-of-the-line pass for the popular TV series' actual tryouts. Next door, the seasonal ABC Sound Studio pavilion is used for various Star Wars Weekends events. In between them is the A.T.A.S. Hall of Fame Plaza, a display of busts of past and present icons of the television era, such as Oprah Winfrey and Walt Disney.
Echo Lake includes three attractions based on characters and films created by George Lucas and produced by Disney's Lucasfilm studio. Star Tours—The Adventures Continue is a 3-D motion simulator ride set in the Star Wars universe. This attraction also exists at Disneyland Park. The Jedi Training Academy, a live-action stage show, invites children to become "padawan learners" and receive "lightsaber training" from a Jedi master. Lastly, the live-action Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! re-enacts various scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark while illustrating how movie stunts are performed.
On the far end of the Echo Lake area, near the entrance of Streets of America, resides the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant, a dinner theater with a retro-style theme featuring vintage car themed tables and a large movie screen featuring continuous clips of Sci-fi films from the 1950s.
Streets of America
Originally the New York street backlot set that was part of the park's original Backlot Studio Tour, the section was later opened to pedestrian traffic. Architectural treatments were later added to create street sets resembling San Francisco and New York. The current version of the Studio Backlot Tour features the American Film Institute Showcase, a rotating exhibit of movie props and memorabilia, and a tram ride through the backlot areas and through Catastrophe Canyon, an effects-laden "movie set". Muppet*Vision 3D is a 3-D film featuring Jim Henson's Muppets from the The Muppet Show. It utilizes multiple effects to display the characters inside the theater during the presentation. Younger guests can play amongst oversized plants and toys at the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure, based on the 1989 Disney film. Added in 2005, the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is a behind-the-scenes look at how vehicle action sequences are created for films, and was adapted from a similar show at Walt Disney Studios Park.
This section of the park originally was the starting point for the tours of the park's active production studios. Its entrance is marked by a square "studio arch," much like a real Hollywood studio lot entrance might be marked. The Animation Courtyard is home to a number of attractions based on Disney characters. The Magic of Disney Animation is an attraction that examines the development process of an animated character. It also includes interactive games and exhibits, along with meet-and-greet areas for Disney and Pixar characters.
When the park first opened in 1989, the Feature Animation pavilion of "The Magic of Disney Animation," designed originally by award winning experience designer Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, included four connected experiences which explored the legacy of Disney animation. The tour commenced with a short film, entitled "Back to Neverland," in which Veteran newscaster, Walter Cronkite and comedian Robin Williams described the animation process by turning Williams into an animated character in the form of one of the "Lost Boys" of Peter Pan. Following that introductory film, guest would witness the process of animation, first-hand, from elevated, glass-enclosed walkways within one of Disney's actual animation studios, located on the park grounds. The third segment of the animation tour was a short film in which Disney Animators described the joy of the art of animation. A finale film, entitled "Classic Disney" presented a montage of key moments from classic animated Disney films. 
Mickey Avenue, a sub-section of Animation Courtyard, is home to a walk-through exhibit, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, which explores the life and legacy of Walt Disney through photos, models, rare artifacts, and a short biographical film narrated by Julie Andrews. The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, is an immersive special effects attraction centered on the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The Courtyard section also hosts two live shows. Disney Junior Live on Stage! entertains guests with puppet characters from the "Disney Junior" block of programming on The Disney Channel, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, and Sofia the First. Across the plaza, Voyage of the Little Mermaid uses glow-in-the-dark puppets, lasers, music, projectors, human actors and water effects to re-create favorite scenes and songs from the animated Little Mermaid film.
The park's newest section includes many of the original soundstages used when the park hosted actual production facilities. Today, Pixar Place resembles the Emeryville, California campus of Pixar Animation Studios. Its sole attraction is Toy Story Midway Mania!, an interactive 3D attraction inspired by classic carnival midway games, each hosted by characters from the Toy Story film series. Pixar Place was also the home of Luxo Jr., a six-foot-tall audio-animatronics version of Pixar's desk-lamp mascot. The moving character performs periodic shows throughout the day and evening across from Toy Story Midway Mania.
Sunset Boulevard was the first expansion to Disney's Hollywood Studios, opening in July 1994. The visual focal point of Sunset Boulevard is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a thrill ride based on the classic television series. Located nearby is Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, an indoor roller coaster in the dark with three inversions and a high-speed launch.
Sunset Boulevard has two outdoor amphitheaters for live stage shows. The covered Theater of the Stars hosts Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, a stage show featuring highlights of the film. The open-air Hollywood Hills Amphitheater is the home of Fantasmic!, a nighttime show featuring Mickey Mouse and many other Disney characters in a story filled with fireworks, lasers and water effects.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has featured numerous forms of in-park entertainment throughout its history. During its early years, the park featured the "Star Today" program, with a daily celebrity guest. The celebrity would often be featured in a motorcade along Hollywood Boulevard, or would take part in a handprint ceremony at the Great Movie Ride's entrance, or even participate in an interview session.
At other times, Disney has imported characters that were not part of its own library of films and television shows. Some of these characters have included the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and characters from the Goosebumps series by author R. L. Stine. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers made appearances in the park during the first seasons of the television series, but then vanished. Disney had ownership of the Power Rangers franchise through its purchase of Saban Entertainment until May 2010 when Saban Entertainment purchased the franchise back, and were regular members of the park's cast of characters through that time.
Many of the park's costumed entertainers are not related to any particular film or TV show. Instead, they are live-action caricatures of figures from Hollywood's history. Originally dubbed "streetmosphere" by Disney and now called the "Citizens of Hollywood", they appear at regular intervals on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Some of these characters include directors, talent agents, starlets or hopefuls, and will often take part in streetside shows that will include audience participation.
Today, guests are treated to a wide array of characters and performers, many of which make their only Walt Disney World appearances at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Some examples include characters from JoJo's Circus, Little Einsteins and Kim Possible. Similarly, characters from new Disney and Pixar animated features will make their Walt Disney World debuts at the park, such as those from Bolt and Pixar's Ratatouille. Live musical acts, such as the cover band Mulch, Sweat and Shears and the a cappella quartet Four For a Dollar, will perform on the park streets or as pre-show entertainment at the larger shows.
Like the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom parks, Disney's Hollywood Studios also runs daily parades down Hollywood Boulevard. The "Pixar Block Party Bash" parade features Pixar film characters performing in a street party along Hollywood Boulevard and near Echo Lake. Several times each day, the "High School Musical 3 Senior Year : Right Here Right Now" show will travel Hollywood Boulevard before performing a live street show in front of the Sorcerer's Hat.
Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts a number of events during the year that often draw thousands of fans to the park.
- ESPN The Weekend (late winter) features commentators from the Disney-owned cable sports channels as well as sports celebrities.
- Star Wars Weekends (May - June) brings Star Wars fans and celebrities together for special park events. Running Fridays-Sundays throughout June, they feature the 501st Legion (a worldwide Star Wars costuming group) parading through the park in Stormtrooper costumes, several Star Wars actors appearing each weekend for photos and autographs, Jedi Training Academy classes for younger guests, and other activities.
- The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (November–January) take over the Streets of America during the Christmas season. The display features over five million Christmas lights on more than 350 miles (560 km) of wire.
One former event of note was the ABC Super Soap Weekend. Scheduled in November, the event paid tribute to the legions of fans of soap operas from ABC. Guests could meet stars from All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital. The event's final presentation was in November 2008, with ABC instead planning to schedule multiple, smaller regional events around the country for its fans.
The Walt Disney Company's original concept of the Disney-MGM Studios was to operate it as a full fledged television and motion picture production facility, not just a theme park. In 1988, among the first feature-length movies filmed at the facility, prior to its completion and opening as a theme park, were Ernest Saves Christmas and Newsies. When the park opened in 1989, the studio/production facilities housed two major components, the first of which was Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, where Disney produced a number of projects, including Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, and sequences from other 1990s-early 2000s Disney animated features. The second, larger component was Walt Disney Studios Florida, which consisted of three sound stages used for various Disney projects including The Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club, Teen Win, Lose or Draw and Adventures in Wonderland. Several third party productions also used the Studios, including Superboy (first season only, from 1988–1989), Thunder in Paradise, a revival of Let's Make a Deal, special broadcasts of Wheel of Fortune and airplane interior sequences for the feature film Passenger 57. In addition, a number of music videos and several tapings for World Championship Wrestling (as well as live broadcasts of WCW Monday Nitro) were also shot there. Even The Post Group had a Florida-based post-production facility located on the Studio lot throughout the 1990s. All these production and post-production facilities were constructed to be an integral part of the theme park's Backstage Studio Tour as well.
During the closing credits of the Mickey Mouse Club (later, MMC in its final seasons) and Adventures in Wonderland, the lit Disney-MGM water tower appeared on the screen and one of the cast said, "(insert show title here) was taped at the Disney-MGM Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida." Disney management (including CEO Michael Eisner) decided to downsize Disney's Florida operations by closing the animation studio, laying-off personnel and then moving the operations to the main animation studio in Burbank, California.
A radio studio is also located on the lot, appropriately behind "Sounds Dangerous". It originally housed the first children's radio network Radio Aahs which rented the studio. Later, Disney founded Radio Disney and essentially drove Radio Aahs out of business. Radio Disney decided it was no longer profitable to operate in Florida so they moved all of their shows from the Disney-MGM Studios to the Radio Disney headquarters in Dallas, Texas and the once bustling Disney Studios Florida radio studios are now used as remote studios for radio shows that are visiting Disney or the Orlando area and need a broadcast facility.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has a sister park at Disneyland Paris, named Walt Disney Studios Park. Originally, a Disney-MGM Studios Europe was to open in 1996. However, the plans were scrapped as a result of the resort's under-performance, though they were revived when the resort made a profit in 1995. Both are themed after show business, and have provided attractions to each other. The French park debuted with a Backlot Tour that included a version of Catastrophe Canyon, and a re-themed version of Florida's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. For the Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005, a state-side version of Walt Disney Studios' popular auto stunt show was built at the Florida park, known as Lights! Motors! Action!
The Hollywood Land district within Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is a condensed version of the two larger parks. It contains the Walt Disney World counterparts to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, The Magic of Disney Animation, and Muppet*Vision 3D, and formerly housed Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Play It!. In 2006, the area, then known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot, was given a facelift to match the red-and-black color scheme of the Florida and Paris parks, and was renamed as Hollywood Land in 2012 as part of the park's larger renovation project. It maintains some of its original backlot decor, but more closely resembles Hollywood as it appeared in its Golden Age, one of the original themes of the Florida park.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Disney's Hollywood Studios.|
- Official section within the Walt Disney World website
- Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Roller Coaster DataBase
- Disney's Hollywood Studios travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Conception of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Disney D23