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
as Disney-MGM Studios
In 2007, the park hosted approximately 9.51 million guests, ranking it the fourth-most visited amusement park in the United States, and seventh-most visited in the world.
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 would. The layout of the park, however, did have an interesting design characteristic. If you look at an older version of a park map and turn it upside down (or look at an old aerial photo oriented due north), you will see a Hidden Mickey in the overall layout of the park. Recent construction and changes to the park have eliminated much of this image.
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.
Echo Lake is the park's small oval-shaped lagoon. Surrounding it are numerous attractions and services, some in structures designed to mimic the "California Crazy" form of architecture from Hollywood's Golden Age.
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. More recently, additional architectural treatments were added to create street sets resembling San Francisco and Chicago.
- Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D, a 3-D movie experience featuring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and other Muppet characters.
- Studio Backlot Tour, showing how movie special effects are created. Guests see a movie scene set on the Special Effects Water Tank filmed using volunteers from the audience and various special effects. The audience sees this final sequence edited all together in an action sequence called Harbor Attack. Guests board trams and are taken through Catastrophe Canyon, to see fire and water effects, and are driven past large-scale movie props.
- Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, a behind-the-scenes look at how vehicle action sequences are created for films, adapted from a similar show at Walt Disney Studios Park.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, an oversized playground based on the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
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. In the spring of 2008, Animation Courtyard was expanded to include portions of the former Mickey Avenue section of the park.
- Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, a museum-like walkthrough attraction that explores the life of Walt Disney and his legacy through photos, models, rare artifacts and a short biographical film narrated by Julie Andrews as well as archival audio of Walt himself.
- Journey Into Narnia, a walk-through interactive attraction featuring props from the movie series. The attraction currently contains elements from the series' second film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
- The American Film Institute Showcase, a rotating exhibit of movie props and memorabilia.
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid, a live performance using puppets, lasers, movies, human actors, and water (mist) to re-create the animated Little Mermaid movie, in a condensed form.
- Playhouse Disney Live on Stage!, a live performance featuring puppet characters from the Playhouse Disney block of programming on The Disney Channel. Currently, this show features characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, and Little Einsteins.
- The Magic of Disney Animation, 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 the Disney and Pixar characters.
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
Sunset Boulevard was the first expansion to Disney's Hollywood Studios, opening in July 1994.
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 now owns the Power Rangers franchise through its purchase of Saban Entertainment, and are again regular members of the park's cast of characters, with characters from the more recent versions of the show, including the current edition, Power Rangers: Jungle Fury.
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 Meet the Robinsons 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 2 : School's Out!" 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 (June) bring 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, two (or more) Star Wars actors appearing each weekend for photos and autographs, Jedi Lightsaber Training classes for kids, and other activities.
- Night of Joy (September), a two-night after-hours celebration of contemporary Christian music, will move to Disney's Hollywood Studios from the nearby Magic Kingdom for its 26th annual visit in 2008. The next scheduled event is September 5-6, 2008.
- ABC Super Soap Weekend (November) pays tribute to the legions of fans of soap operas from ABC. Guests can meet stars from All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital. The next scheduled event is November 15-16, 2008.
- The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (November-January) take over the Streets of America during the holiday season. The display features over five million Christmas lights on more than of wire.
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
. 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
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 in Orlando, 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.
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. The 33 acre 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.
On August 9, 2007, Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that the theme park's name would be changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios in January 2008. 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."
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.
- Superstar Television was an interactive stage show where guests could re-enact famous scenes from television history. Using chroma-key technology, the on-stage guests would be shown on TV monitors in the theatre appearing opposite famous celebrities. For example, a female guest would play Ethel Mertz alongside Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo in the famous candy factory scene from I Love Lucy. In another example, a guest would appear on the set of The Tonight Show being interviewed by Johnny Carson. The theatre will be renovated to host a new live-action show inspired by the hit television series American Idol, set to open late in 2008.
- The Monster Sound Show was another interactive stage show, this time involving sound effects. Guests could become volunteer Foley artists and add various sound effects to a short comedy film starring Chevy Chase and Martin Short. "Sounds Dangerous" now uses this theatre.
- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Play It! became one of the first attractions to make use of the former production soundstages. During Star Wars Weekends, a Star Wars Edition of the game would be played. The game began with Greedo answering questions and a Gamorrean guard in the audience cheering him on, followed by a typically played game featuring all Star Wars questions. The attraction was closed in 2006, and its soundstages were renovated for Toy Story Midway Mania, which opened in 2008.
- The current Playhouse Disney Live On Stage theatre was formerly known as the Soundstage Restaurant, a counter-service establishment that, for a time, was designed to look like a "live set" for the animated feature films Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, and before that the live-action film Big Business.
- The Catwalk Bar was a cocktail bar located on catwalks above the seating and service areas for the Soundstage Restaurant. It was reached by a stairway and elevator between the Soundstage Restaurant and the Brown Derby.
- Aladdin's Royal Caravan was a parade to promote the release of Disney's Aladdin (film). It featured spitting camels that are now outside Aladdin's Magic Carpets at the Magic Kingdom
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical stage show, based on the 1996 animated musical film of the same name, was performed in the now-vacant Backlot Theatre, which is being renovated for an as-yet unannounced project.
- The Spirit of Pocahontas musical stage show, based on the 1995 animated film of the same name, was another performance located in the Backlot Theatre.
- Here Come The Muppets was a stage show where the Muppet characters were portrayed in life-size costumes and performed songs in a concert form. Voyage Of The Little Mermaid now performs in its place.
- Doug Live! was a stage show where Doug and his friends performed daily. Guests were selected to play some of the other roles in the show.
- Disney Stars and Motor Cars was a parade through the park featuring cars decorated to resemble various park characters, including those from Disney films and from the Star Wars film series.
Walt Disney Studios Park
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. Plans for a film-themed park were revived when the resort finally made a profit in 1995.
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!.
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.