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
Welcome to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Here you will truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the golden age of Hollywood. From street performers to back stage tours to special effects shows to thrill rides – there is something here for everyone.
This park actually started out in a brainstorming session for a new pavilion at Epcot based on an attraction that eventually became The Great Movie Ride. As the ideas grew then CEO Michael Eisner decided there was enough here for a whole new theme park. Disney joined forces with MGM Studios and the concept for a Disney-MGM Studios theme park was born. During this partnership, not only was Disney MGM Studios a full theme park but it was also a fully functioning movie, animation and TV studio and several films and TV shows were shot and produced on site. In 2007 the two entertainment giants went their separate ways and the park was renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios. No longer a working studio, a back lot tour remains with many movie and TV props. The studio does still have areas that produce and provide costuming for many of the Walt Disney World resort productions. These areas can also be seen during the back lot tour.
An aerial view of MGM shows the layout to be a huge Hidden Mickey. It’s gotten harder to make out over the year with additions of buildings but if you look hard you can still see it.
Hollywood Boulevard serves the same purpose at the studios that Main Street USA serves at the Magic Kingdom. This is the guest welcome area lined with buildings setting the tone and at the end of the street is the park icon – a huge sorcerer’s hat from Fantasia. As in the Magic Kingdom, Disney uses the idea of “forced perspective” to make buildings appear taller than they actually are.
The Great Movie ride is located inside an exact replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. When visiting the Great Movie Ride take some time to walk slowly through the queue area. On display are actual props from famous movies. These are switched out every so often but you might see a carousel horse from Mary Poppins, a dress from Gone with the Wind and ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. You’ll see clips of many famous movies during the shows in this attraction but you won’t see any from Universal Studios. As you can guess there’s a bit of a competition here. Out in front of the attraction you’ll find handprints and signatures of many Disney characters from opening day as well as other celebrities who have visited the studios over the years.
At Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream in Animation Courtyard guests are treated to a walk through of Walt’s life. This building is full of Walt’s personal belongings including his school desk, his Burbank office and even his own mock ups of future Disney attractions. If you want a sense of who Walt Disney was as well as the magic he created take some time out of your day to visit this very special attraction. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant is a replica of the original restaurant in Los Angeles which no longer exists. All of the pictures in the Brown Derby that are in black frames are copies of the originals and the pictures in the gold frames are the originals from the original Brown Derby. This is the kind of restaurant in Hollywood where the movers and shakers would meet and even here you may see Disney executives meeting for lunch. You may even dine with a Disney Imagineer.
The Muppet area has hidden (and not so hidden) jokes all over the place. Look up and down as you walk through this area. When entering the queue area for the show look for the key under the doormat at the “security office” at Muppets 3D. Just after you go through the turnstile, go to your right and you’ll find a welcome mat. Take a peek underneath it.
On the street in the New York neighborhood, you can hear gangsters talking and gun shots inside the buildings.
The coaster for Rock n Roller Coaster was built first and then the building was built around it. In the queue for Rock n’ Roller Coaster, while waiting to tour Studio C, listen at the doors to Studio A and B. You will hear sounds from real recording sessions some of which came from Aerosmith’s rerecording for the attraction. Also notice the license plates on the limos: H8TRFFC, 1QKLIMO, 2FAST4U, UGOGIRL, BUHBYE. There are over 900 speakers in the attraction. As guests enter the first inversion on the ride they feel G forces between 4 and 5 – more than an astronaut feels at lift off.
The Tower of Terror is 199’ tall. It was supposed to be 200’, but for a structure 200’ tall, you need lights at the top for airplanes to see. So it is 199’ tall to keep the eerie feeling. The building not only needed to blend with its immediate surroundings, it also needed to blend in with World Showcase in Epcot. When crossing the bridge that leads from the Disney Traders Shop to Mexico, the hotel is clearly visible behind the Morocco pavilion. So the Tower was given a slightly Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate for its era just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot. The drop sequence that you experience on Tower of Terror is selected by a computer and each ride is unique and random.
Surprises pop up all over this park. Street performers vary from day to day and even the shows will be a bit different every time you see them. Just like a real Hollywood production during filming – you never know what you might experience!
It’s the stories and imagineering that makes Walt Disney World so special. My name is Susan Heidenrich and I am a travel professional with Travel with the Magic. I’ve visited Walt Disney World over 20 times and I would love to help you plan your next Disney vacation. Email me at SusanH@travelwiththemagic.com and follow me on facebook for tips, tricks and information on all things Disney!