Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios.svg
Sorcerers Hat at Disneys Hollywood Studios by eddison moreno.jpg
The Sorcerer's Hat, the icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios
Location Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida, United States
Theme Show business
Website Disney's Hollywood Studios homepage
Owner The Walt Disney Company
Operated By Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Opened May 1, 1989
Walt Disney World Resort
Theme parks

Magic Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Other attractions

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon
Disney's Blizzard Beach
Downtown Disney
ESPN Wide World of Sports
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Walt Disney World resorts
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Disney's Hollywood Studios is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Spanning 135 acres (546,000 m²) in size, its theme is show business, drawing inspiration from the heyday of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. The third park built at the resort, it opened on May 1, 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios.

In 2010, the park hosted approximately 9.6 million guests, ranking it the fifth-most visited amusement park in the United States, and eighth-most visited in the world.[1]

The park is represented by The Sorcerer's Hat, a stylized version of the magical hat from Fantasia. It replaced the Earful Tower as the park's icon in 2001.



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

Park development

The idea that led to Disney’s Hollywood Studios began at its sister park, Epcot. A team of Imagineers led by Marty Sklar and Randy Bright had been given an assignment to create two new pavilions for the park's Future World section. The fruits of the brainstorming sessions were the Wonders of Life pavilion and the Great Movie Ride pavilion. The second of the two was to have sat between the Land pavilion and the Journey Into Imagination pavilion, and was to look like a soundstage backdrop, with a movie theater-style entrance in the middle. The actual attraction is very similar to the plans for the equivalent at Epcot, only, 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 brand new theme park which extended the showbiz, Hollywood and entertainment theme.


The park consists of six themed areas. Unlike the other Walt Disney World parks, Disney's Hollywood Studios does not have a defined layout; it is more a mass of streets and buildings that blend into each other, much like a real motion picture studio. The layout of the park, however, did have an interesting design characteristic. The plaza at the end of Hollywood Boulevard featured a large Hidden Mickey, which was visible in aerial photographs of the park and on the park's early guide maps. However, construction and other changes to the park have eliminated much of this image.

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard serves as the park's main entrance and is lined with venues selling Disney merchandise. 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 icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios. Behind it, inside a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater, is The Great Movie Ride, a dark ride paying homage to several classic films, including Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Echo Lake

Action on the set of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

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' real tryouts.[2] Next door, Sounds Dangerous! features a 3-D audio presentation starring comedian Drew Carey. 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 produced by George Lucas' 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.

Streets of America

Stunt man falling at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
Finale at LMA! Extreme Stunt Show

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. More recently, additional architectural treatments were 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. The attraction 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.

Animation Courtyard

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 of yesterday, today and tomorrow. 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.

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 Courtyard section also hosts two live shows. Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! entertains guests with puppet characters from the Playhouse Disney block of programming on The Disney Channel, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, and Little Einsteins. 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.

Pixar Place

Entrance to Pixar Place

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.[3] Pixar Place is also the home of Luxo Jr., a six-foot-tall audio-animatronics version of Pixar's desk-lamp mascot.[4] The moving character performs periodic shows throughout the day and evening across from Toy Story Midway Mania.[4]

Sunset Boulevard

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.

The Hollywood Tower Hotel overlooking Sunset Boulevard

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.

Live entertainment

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.[5]

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.

Annual events

Imperial Stormtroopers parade near the Sorcerer's Hat during Star Wars Weekends.

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.[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (November–January) take over the Streets of America during the Christmas season.[8] The display features over five million Christmas lights on more than 350 miles (560 km) of wire.[9]

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.[10]

Production history

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.

MGM litigation

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 a yet-to-be-built backlot studio theme park.

Disney's plans for what became the Disney-MGM Studios theme park at Walt Disney World Resort 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 1985 agreement by operating a working movie and television studio at the Florida resort.

In 1989, the theme park opened adjacent to the production facilities as the Disney-MGM Studios. The only affiliation MGM had to the park was the original licensing agreement that allowed Disney to use the MGM brand name and lion logo in marketing, plus 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.[11] The 33-acre (130,000 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 like the free Walt Disney World vacation-planning kit; in those instances the park was called The Disney Studios.

Name re-branding

Disney's Hollywood Studios Logo.
Disney-MGM Studios logo

On August 9, 2007, Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that the theme park would be re-branded as Disney's Hollywood Studios in January 2008.[12] In announcing the name change, Crofton said, "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."[13]

The Florida resort later announced that the new name would be effective January 7, 2008, adding that it would take several more months to change all affected signage.

Sister Parks

Disney's Hollywood Studios has a sister park at the Disneyland Resort Paris called Walt Disney Studios Park. Originally, a Disney-MGM Studios Europe was to open in 1996, but plans were scrapped when the resort underperformed.[citation needed] Plans for a film-themed park were revived when the resort finally made a profit in 1995.[citation needed]

The two parks share the same basic theme (the entertainment industry) 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, now known as Lights! Motors! Action!.

In addition, the Hollywood Pictures Backlot themed land inside Disney's California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is a condensed version of the two larger "studio parks" in the Disney empire. It contains the Disneyland 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 Hollywood Pictures Backlot was given a facelift to match the red-and-black color scheme of the Florida and Paris parks. Beginning in 2010, the Backlot will be reimagined into "Hollywoodland" as part of DCA's larger renovation project. The newly-themed land will maintain some of its original backlot decor, but will more closely resemble Hollywood as it appeared in the 1930s, which was one of the original themes of the Florida park.


Disney's Hollywood Studios park has had its share of controversy, including the hospitalization of some guests, and at least one death. See Incidents at Disney parks for more information.

See also


  1. ^ "TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2010". www.themeit.com. 2011-06-17. http://www.themeit.com/etea/2010Report.pdf. Retrieved 2011-06-17. 
  2. ^ ""American Idol Experience" to open in January at Disney Hollywood Studios". 2008-05-21. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20080616115456/http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_tv_tvblog/2008/05/american-idol-e.html. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  3. ^ "Official Toy Story Mania info page". http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/attractionDetail?id=TSMAttractionPage. 
  4. ^ a b Jason Garcia and Sara K. Clarke (2009-06-08). "Wait may be more fun at Disney's Space Mountain". Orlando Sentinel. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/orl-cfbtourism-disney-060809060809jun08,0,5876331.story. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  5. ^ Saban re-acquires rights to 'Rangers' http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118019212.html?categoryid=14&cs=1
  6. ^ "Official ESPN The Weekend Page". http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/specialEvents?id=ESPNSpecialEventPage. 
  7. ^ "Star Wars Weekends Page". http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/specialEvents?id=StarWarsWeekendsSpecialEventPage. 
  8. ^ "Event Home Page". http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/specialEvents?id=OsborneLightsSpecialEventPage. 
  9. ^ "Mickey Monitor" Passholder newsletter, October 2007, page 2
  10. ^ "Official Super Soap Weekend Page". http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/specialEvents?id=SuperSoapWeekendSpecialEventPage. 
  11. ^ Variety.com, Disney, MGM winners at trial's end, October 26, 1992
  12. ^ On With the (Even Bigger) Show! New Name, More Magic to Transform Disney Theme Park http://www.wdwnews.com/ViewPressRelease.aspx?PressReleaseID=107616
  13. ^ Disney Announces Name Change For MGM Studios http://www.cfnews13.com/News/Local/2007/8/9/mgm_studios_name_change.html

External links

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