THE EVO­LU­TION OF DIS­NEY’S HOL­LY­WOOD STU­DIOS

WDW Magazine - - Disney's Hollywood Studios - BY COURT­NEY VIC­TOR RUSS

Over the years, I have heard many peo­ple say that Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios (for­merly named Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios) is their least fa­vorite of all the WDW parks, and while I can un­der­stand that, for me, it has al­ways held a spe­cial place in my heart.

So here is the story of Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios (DHS), as told from one of the park’s big­gest fans…

The work­ing stu­dio-park…

The orig­i­nal idea for the park wasn’t for a park at all, but rather for two new pavil­ions in Ep­cot’s Fu­ture World: Won­ders of Life (at Ep­cot) and The Great Movie Ride, which would even­tu­ally spark the idea for en en­tirely new park.

Look­ing to make waves and cre­ate a vi­able ad­ver­sary for the com­ing Univer­sal Stu­dios Florida, Dis­ney’s newly ap­pointed CEO, Michael Eis­ner, took Marty Sk­lar’s con­cept for The Great Movie Ride and ran with it—propos­ing that a third Hol­ly­wood-themed park be cre­ated in­stead. But this one would be dif­fer­ent from MK and Ep­cot, be­ing com­bined with fully func­tion­ing film and tele­vi­sion stu­dios.

Hav­ing al­ready en­tered into a li­cens­ing con­tract with MGM in 1985, Dis­ney cap­i­tal­ized on the name and soon came up with a plan to make Eis­ner’s stu­dio-park real, call­ing it Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios.

Open­ing its gates to the pub­lic on May 1, 1989, Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios had al­ready filmed its first full-length fea­tures, Ernest Saves Hol­ly­wood and Newsies, and con­tained Walt Dis­ney Fea­ture An­i­ma­tion Florida, which pro­duced a slew of pop­u­lar an­i­mated films through­out the 90s and early 2000s, as well as Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios Florida, made up of three sound stages pri­mar­ily used for Dis­ney Chan­nel pro­duc­tions, and a ra­dio stu­dio, which would later be­come home to Ra­dio Dis­ney.

Though Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios was im­pres­sive on the stu­dio-pro­duc­tion side, the theme park opened with only two rides: The Great Movie Ride and the Stu­dio Back­lot Tour, re­sult­ing in it be­ing la­beled WDW’S first “half-day” park.

Old Hol­ly­wood makes its de­but in Florida…

Much like Main Street U.S.A., DHS was de­signed to rep­re­sent the Golden Age of Hol­ly­wood the way we’d like to re­mem­ber it. And what rep­re­sents that bet­ter than a ro­man­ti­cized Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard? Serv­ing as the en­trance to the park; HB was built in ac­com­pa­ni­ment with The Great Movie Ride and its façade repli­cat­ing Grau­man’s Chi­nese The­ater.

The park only had two other ar­eas on open­ing day: the Back­lot An­nex and Lake­side Cir­cle (Echo Lake). The Back­lot An­nex con­sisted of street sets re­sem­bling New York (which was later ex­tended and named “The Streets of Amer­ica,” adding el­e­ments of San Fran­cisco) and a num­ber of stu­dios and sound stages, which could only be ac­cessed on trams dur­ing the Stu­dio Back­lot Tour—shortly af­ter the parks open­ing, New York Street, be­came open to pedes­tri­ans.

The park quickly ex­panded, within its first years a va­ri­ety of new and ex­cit­ing at­trac­tions be­gan pop­ping up! In 1989, the In­di­ana Jones Epic Stunt Spec­tac­u­lar and the mo­tion-sim­u­la­tor ride Star Tours were added. In 1990, Mup­pets Vision 3D and the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Play­ground opened. And in 1991, two hugely pop­u­lar stage shows de­buted: Beauty and The Beast Live on Stage and Voy­age of the Lit­tle Mer­maid.

You are about to dis­cover what lies be­yond the fifth di­men­sion…

Dur­ing the 90s the WDW Re­sort was look­ing to up the ante and give older visi­tors the thrill rides for which they were yearn­ing, while also try­ing to keep up with the many thrill rides found nearby at Univer­sal Stu­dios.

Though Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios was dubbed a half-day park, its pop­u­lar­ity still con­tin­ued to grow, so it only made sense that Dis­ney would want to ex­pand the park and cre­ate THE ul­ti­mate thrill ride—one that would last through the ages! Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion, Dis­ney Imag­i­neers landed on the con­cept for an el­e­va­tor drop ride with a 1930s haunted Hol­ly­wood ho­tel theme based on the Rod Ser­ling’s eerie tele­vi­sion fran­chise, The Twi­light Zone.

The Twi­light Zone Tower of Ter­ror was born. But be­ing Dis­ney, this couldn’t be any or­di­nary drop ride; it had to tell and a story, and it had to ac­com­mo­date a large ca­pac­ity, thus a whole new ride sys­tem needed to be de­vel­oped. Dis­ney em­ployed Eaton-ken­way and the Otis El­e­va­tor Com­pany to help make their vision a re­al­ity, creat­ing a unique ride sys­tem with ve­hi­cles that could move both hor­i­zon­tally (for the “Fifth Di­men­sion” se­quence) and ver­ti­cally (for the drop se­quence).

They came up with a sys­tem where the el­e­va­tor cabs could move in and out of, and lock into, the dif­fer­ent ver­ti­cal mo­tion shafts through­out the ride. The cabs are Au­to­mated Guided Ve­hi­cles (AGVS), us­ing sen­sors and wires un­der the floor to pro­pel and guide the cabs through the hor­i­zon­tal por­tion of the ride and into the el­e­va­tor drop shaft. Once in place, the drop shaft ca­bles are at­tached to the bot­tom of the cab, which pulls it down at a rate faster than the ac­cel­er­a­tion due to grav­ity. (This is why any un­se­cured items float on your de­scent!).

The Tower of Ter­ror opened in July of 1994 and WDW wanted the ap­proach to feel just as grand as the 199-foot ed­i­fice loom­ing in the dis­tance; devel­op­ment for the park’s first-ever ex­pan­sion be­gan, ul­ti­mately lead­ing to the con­struc­tion of Sun­set Boule­vard.

Sun­set Boule­vard opened with many of the Quick-ser­vice restau­rants and shops you see today, along with two out­door am­phithe­aters hous­ing Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and the night­time spec­tac­u­lar, Fan­tas­mic! In 1999 Dis­ney added an­other thrill ride to the end of the street with the high-speed, in­verted, dark coaster, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Star­ring Aero­smith.

Fun Fact: The voice of Rod Ser­ling heard on the ride is a tech­no­log­i­cally en­hanced remix of Ser­ling from the “It’s a G ood Life” episode, com­bined with a flaw­less im­per­son­ation pro­vided by voice ac­tor, Mark Sil­ver­man.

Fun Fact: The ex­te­rior of the Hol­ly­wood Tower Ho­tel uses Moroc­can ar­chi­tec­ture be­cause it can be seen from the Morocco Pavil­ion at Ep­cot.

Hats off to the mil­len­nium makeover…

The orig­i­nal icon for the park was the Earf­fel Tower, clev­erly named af­ter the Eif­fel Tower with a Mickey Ears twist. Though the tower has never ac­tu­ally held wa­ter, it was built to repli­cate the wa­ter tower found at the orig­i­nal Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios in Bur­bank. It re­mained the park icon un­til 2001, when the new mil­len­nium brought a mul­ti­tude of changes to the park.

The WDW Re­sort put on 100 Years of Magic, a year­long cel­e­bra­tion hon­or­ing the an­niver­sary of Walt Dis­ney’s birth be­gin­ning on Oc­to­ber 1, 2001 through the end of 2002.

Fun Fact: Walt Dis­ney’s ac­tual birth­day was De­cem­ber 5, 1901.

New pa­rades and shows de­buted across WDW but at Dis­ney-mgm Stu­dios the cel­e­bra­tion could not be ig­nored; to honor Walt’s clas­sic pas­sion-project, Fantasia, a colos­sal 122-foot tall Sorcerer’s Hat—com­plete with Mickey Ears and his icon glove—was built at the cen­ter of Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard, just out­side of The Great Movie Ride. And sud­denly the wa­ter tower be­came a thing of the past as Dis­ney branded The Sorcerer’s Hat the new park icon.

In 2003, Walt Dis­ney Fea­ture An­i­ma­tion closed in or­der to make room for new at­trac­tions and lands. This was the first of the even­tual clos­ing of all of the park’s work­ing stu­dios for the fu­ture ex­pan­sion of the park.

A new name for a new-age Hol­ly­wood…

The con­tract with MGM ex­pired in 2005 and, in ef­fort to shift the fo­cus of the park from the Golden Age to the mod­ern age, Dis­ney de­cided not to re­new it. With re­brand­ing came re­nam­ing and on Jan­uary 7, 2008, it of­fi­cially be­came Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios.

Since the name change DHS has seen the growth and ex­pan­sion of its most pop­u­lar sec­tions, such as Pixar Place—with the ad­di­tion of the in­sanely pop­u­lar 4-D Toy Story Mid­way Ma­nia! Ride—and the area sur­round­ing Star Tours—in­clud­ing Star Wars Launch Bay/the­ater, Star Wars: Path of the Jedi, and Ta­tooine Traders.

The pop­u­lar­ity of these ex­pan­sions mixed with the suc­cess of newer Dis­ney projects, specif­i­cally Pixar’s Toy Story films, and Lu­cas­film’s Star Wars, DHS was look­ing to ap­peal to a new gen­er­a­tion of movie-go­ers with huge new “lands” be­ing added to the park.

Though this is an ex­cit­ing time for DHS, a num­ber of park fa­vorites have un­for­tu­nately been cut to make-way for the tran­si­tion. In 2014, the Stu­dio Back­lot Tour and The Amer­i­can Idol Ex­pe­ri­ence both closed their doors for good. Fol­lowed by even more clos­ings in 2015, in­clud­ing the Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Lights, Mo­tors, Ac­tion! Ex­treme Stunt Show, and the an­nounce­ment that the parks orig­i­nal icon, Earf­fel Tower, would be re­moved.

And if you still weren’t clear that DHS was amidst some ma­jor changes, The Sorcerer’s Hat was of­fi­cial dis­man­tled on Jan­uary 7, 2015, leav­ing all of us won­der­ing: “What’s next for DHS?”

The fu­ture of Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios…

The D23 Expo was full of sur­prises on Au­gust 16, 2015, when Dis­ney CEO, Bob Iger (since 2000) re­vealed that a huge 11-acre “Toy Story Land” would be added to DHS, as well as a mas­sive ex­pan­sion of the Star Wars area to cre­ate an en­tirely new “Star Wars Land” at both WDW and Dis­ney­land.

Never- be­for­e­seen Star Wars Land con­cept images at the D23 key­note

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To Infinity and Be­yond…

Toy Story Land will be a giant re­pro­duc­tion of Andy’s back­yard, where guests will “shrink” down to toy-size and get to ex­plore the iconic Pixar spot. Though we will miss the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area, Toy Story Land will have the same sort of feel but be more ac­ces­si­ble to guests of all ages. Three at­trac­tions have been con­firmed for Toy Story Land:

Slinky Dog Coaster: A fam­ily-friendly roller­coaster that will “zip and zoom, plunge and coast” as it takes riders on an ad­ven­ture through Andy’s back­yard on the back of one of Toy Story’s most beloved char­ac­ters, Slink.

Fly­ing Saucer Ride: Guests will take a spin on the fly­ing saucers of ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite lit­tle green aliens from the hit films. Will we be search­ing for “the claw?”

Toy Story Mid­way Ma­nia!: An ex­pan­sion of the pop­u­lar at­trac­tion that al­ways needs a Fast­pass, with the ad­di­tion of an­other track com­plete with new games in this hands-on 3-D car­ni­val-themed ride!

Reignit­ing the ri­valry…

DHS was de­vel­oped, in large part, as a ri­val to Univer­sal Stu­dios. Though the in­ten­sity of this ri­valry has dwin­dled over the years, it is pretty safe to say that it’s back with a vengeance!

It’s no se­cret that US’S Wizard­ing World of Harry Potter was met with huge suc­cess; since its open­ing on June 18, 2010, US has re­ported an over 50% in­crease in park at­ten­dance (in­clud­ing the more re­cent ad­di­tion of Di­agon Al­ley and the Hog­warts Ex­press in 2014). Those are some se­ri­ous num­bers, and ones that Dis­ney couldn’t ig­nore.

The ac­qui­si­tion of Lu­cas­film in 2012 could not have come at a bet­ter time, open­ing new doors al­low­ing Dis­ney to con­tinue the nearly 4-decade-old fran­chise (Star Wars) and ap­peal to fans across gen­er­a­tions—some­thing the Harry Potter se­ries doesn’t have. Al­ready hav­ing a strong Star Wars pres­ence, DHS was the ob­vi­ous choice for WDW’S new ri­val land, which would co­in­cide per­fectly with the re­brand­ing of the park as set forth by Dis­ney CEO, Bob Iger.

The Harry Potter se­ries is young and has al­ready come to an end but Star Wars is a clas­sic, hav­ing not only a troop of die-hard fans but also an en­tirely new gen­er­a­tion of fans as the story con­tin­ues—which was made clear when Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens hit record-break­ing num­bers, at $248 mil­lion open­ing week­end and gross­ing over $2 bil­lion world­wide. You just can’t beat that kind of built-in fan base.

A Gal­axy Not So Far, Far Away…

El­e­ments of the new Star Wars Land have al­ready made their way into the park with up­dates to Star Tours – The Ad­ven­ture Con­tin­ues in­clud­ing new plan­ets and char­ac­ters from Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, the open­ing of Star Wars Launch Bay, and the re­vamp­ing of Jedi Train­ing: Tri­als of the Tem­ple fea­tur­ing the Sev­enth Sis­ter.

It’s clear that April 4, 2016 will be a big day for DHS, as that’s when Star Wars will re­ally be­gin its invasion of the park. Noth­ing says invasion quite like a pla­toon of First Or­der Stormtroop­ers, led by Cap­tain Phasma, march­ing from Star Wars Launch Bay to Cen­ter Stage.

An­other Star Wars at­trac­tion mak­ing its de­but April 4 is the Star Wars: A Gal­axy Far, Far Away show on Cen­ter Stage, in front of The Great Movie Ride. The show will reen­act iconic scenes from the Star Wars films. And a cast of vil­lains is con­firmed to make ap­pear­ances—so watch out! This show might just pull you to the dark side…

But what Star Wars and Dis­ney fans alike are re­ally abuzz about is the new Star Wars: A Ga­lac­tic Spec­tac­u­lar, fi­nally giv­ing DHS the long-awaited night­time spec­tac­u­lar it needs to bring it up to the sta­tus of MK and Ep­cot. This new show is said to be the most elab­o­rate fire­works dis­play to ever take place at the park, com­bin­ing fire­works, spe­cial ef­fects, py­rotech­nics, and video pro­jec­tions.

Star Wars: The Ex­pan­sion Con­tin­ues…

If you tuned in for the Dis­ney­land 60th An­niver­sary spe­cial on ABC on Fe­bru­ary 21, you got a glimpse at what we can be ex­pect­ing to see at the out-of-this-world new Star Wars Land com­ing to both coasts. In the video in­tro­duced by Har­ri­son Ford dur­ing the spe­cial, it be­came clear to ev­ery­one that the DHS ex­pan­sion will be noth­ing short of epic.

Toy Story Land at Dis­ney's Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios D23 Expo An­nounce­ment

Al­lears. net

Just like at US’S Wizard­ing World of Harry Potter, the fic­tional world of the Star Wars will come to life like never be­fore; visi­tors will step inside the films com­plete with alien ar­chi­tec­ture, cul­ture, char­ac­ters, and cui­sine. The video shows a mock-up of a Mar­ket­place sec­tion, where guests can leisurely shop and ex­plore the land.

The video also re­veals that shop­ping won’t be the only high­light of the Mar­ket­place, two new restau­rants have been con­firmed for the area. Not only will the cantina we’ve heard ru­mors about be mak­ing its de­but, as will a sit-down din­ner club-style eatery, where guests can en­joy sig­na­ture dishes from their fa­vorite Star Wars plan­ets, hav­ing an at­mos­phere fit for a Jedi!

While shop­ping, din­ing, and shows com­plete the land, no theme park would be com­plete with­out rides! The spe­cial fi­nally gave us some in­sight into what sort of at­trac­tions are planned for this new sec­tion of DHS.

The Mil­len­nium Fal­con Ride: Fans can re­joice over this in­ter­ac­tive sim­u­la­tion at­trac­tion, where they’ll ac­tu­ally be able to pi­lot the prodi­gious ship. De­tails have yet to be con­firmed but peo­ple have spec­u­lated that it will be sim­i­lar to Mis­sion: Space, sep­a­rat­ing groups into teams with dif­fer­ent sta­tions, but with new tech­nol­ogy and a Star Wars twist.

The First Or­der Ride: Dis­ney will take its go-to dark-ride to a new level in this thrilling at­trac­tion! Said to com­bine real-life phys­i­cal el­e­ments with huge pro­jec­tion screens; riders will be dipped, whipped, and dropped into a num­ber of scenes—sim­i­lar to the pop­u­lar US ride, The Amaz­ing Ad­ven­tures of Spi­der-man. The video sug­gests that it’ll have an in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ment as well, with riders ex­chang­ing fire with the Stormtroop­ers.

Though a ma­jor­ity of WDW fans have been up in arms about the dras­tic changes be­ing made across the Re­sort, and par­tic­u­larly at DHS (And I get it, the Earf­fel Tower an­nounce­ment floored me), but I am con­fi­dent that when all is said and done those fans will be blown away by the new DHS just as they have with New Fan­ta­sy­land and Dis­ney Springs. Bring­ing the fan­tas­ti­cal worlds of fic­tion to life is what Dis­ney does best and soon the WDW Re­sort will have a “land” for ev­ery guest—young and old, male and fe­male.

Like Walt said, his parks will never be com­pleted, and while it’s hard to say good­bye to the many at­trac­tions we’ve grown to love, we can’t wait to see DHS truly come into its own… Good­bye half-day park!

“Dis­ney­land will never be c om­pleted. It will con­tinue to grow as long as there is imag­i­na­tion le ft in the world.”

– Walt Dis­ney

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