Disney's Hollywood Studios


Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA


May 1, 1989




135 acres (546,000 m²)

Official Website

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a theme park in Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.


Already an entertainment master, Walt Disney wanted to expand the Disney name further. He accomplished this by opening Disney's California Adventure, Disney's -2nd-park in Anaheim, California in 2001. The park was divided into different themed 5 and 6 Themed Areas. to create the theme park environment. The park was a huge success, more so than Walt ever dreamed. It continued to grow but the growth was limited by the small amount of land the park sat on. Walt was determined a way to fix this.

The search for a new resort location began only four years after the opening of Disneyland. Initially a population survey was conducted to see where the best area of the United States would be to build this new resort. Early on, Walt decided that he wanted it to be located on the eastern end of the Mississippi River where the majority of the U.S. population was located. Many sites were flown over, but eventually land just outside Orlando, Florida was chosen. At the time it was mostly swampland but Walt favored the location due to its close proximity to major Florida highways and a nearby airport.

This time around Walt made sure that his new project would have plenty of leg room to avoid the “neon jungle” that had sprung up just outside the borders of Disneyland. Due to the area’s minimal usage the land rates were low, but they would have been jacked up if the owner found out who was buying the property. To avoid this, fake companies were invented to buy the land separately although they were all actually Walt Disney Company employees. The first land was bought in October 1964 by the Ayefour Corporation which is a gag on Interstate 4 which runs just outside of Walt Disney World. Land was bought by these fake companies for the cheap price of about $185 per acre.

This went on for a year before the information was leaked. Fortunately by this time most of the land had been bought. The prices spiked to a whopping $80,000 per acre. Soon after the incident Walt held a press conference to explain the new project. The Magic Kingdom was revealed along with EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Walt’s vision was a futuristic city where people lived and worked, however the plans would dramatically change after Walt’s death. The company had purchased so much land that their own district was formed, entitled Reedy Creek Improvement District. This allowed Disney to have their own “government” and weren't under the control of anyone but themselves. Later on two new cities would be formed, both within the Walt Disney World property. They were the City of Bay Lake and the City of Lake Buena Vista both named after artificial lakes constructed by Disney on the property.

On December 15, 1966 a wrench was thrown in the project and brought about the end of an era. Walter Elias Disney died of lung cancer at the age of sixty-five, five years before his Florida project would be completed. Roy Disney, his brother, canceled his retirement and went on to lead the project until its opening. In memory of his brother Roy officially gave the resort its name, Walt Disney World. Despite Walt’s death, construction officially began in 1967.

The Magic Kingdom was the complex’s first theme park and the only to open on the resort’s opening day, October 1, 1971. It featured a very similar layout to the original Disneyland, with some unique ideas to call its own. A system of utility corridors, coined utilidors, were made for cast members to get around the park without guests seeing them. Since nothing can be built very far underground in Florida these utilidors were built at ground level. The Magic Kingdom was then constructed on top of these, so the Magic Kingdom is actually built about twenty feet above sea level. When the property was bought, the only body of water on site was Bay Lake. Just next to it the 172 acre Seven Seas Lagoon was constructed by Disney. After it was filled over 70,000 fish were added.

For opening day, the Magic Kingdom would have a total of fourty-one attractions and nine themed lands. Of the fairly small number of attractions, twenty were copies of rides at Disneyland and only three were brand new, unique rides. It was a similar situation with the lands; five were from Disneyland and only one was new, Liberty Square. The park would expand rapidly over the next few years as guests continued to pour in. Things slowed down a bit as 1980 neared however, as a new construction project was underway.

The slow development of the late seventies was due to the planning and construction of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World’s second theme park. However, Walt Disney himself had not intended for EPCOT to be a theme park. It was originally designed as an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT). It would be an actual functioning city and was supposed to be the headline attraction of the entire Walt Disney World Resort. From the beginning Walt had a hard time convincing everyone else the idea would work. When Walt died, the original idea for EPCOT went to the grave with him.

Originally Walt Disney Imagineers were designing two separate theme park models, one of which focused on different nations of the world. The other was like a permanent World’s Fair, and explored all the ideas of the future. One day someone pushed the two models together, and EPCOT as we know it was created. When EPCOT Center was built it was the largest Disney theme park on Earth and would remain so until Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. The plans for EPCOT Center were revealed to the public in 1978, four years before the park would open. Like Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, the park needed an icon. Spaceship Earth was decided on and designed with the help of Ray Bradbury, a science fiction author. At the time, the construction of EPCOT Center was the largest construction project on Earth.

The park opened in 1982 and was divided into two main sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World consisted of multiple pavilions each exploring something different, and was sponsored by a different real-life corporation. World Showcase allowed guests to become world travelers in a just a few short hours, with pavilions hosted by a variety of countries from around the globe.

Amidst all of the changes being undergone at the Walt Disney World Resort, a new man stepped into the CEO position of the Walt Disney Company in 1984. When Michael Eisner first took control of the company, the parks progressed the same way as they had previously, with no noticeable difference from the change in management. However, this would drastically change beginning in the late 80s and continuing until his resignation. EPCOT Center was continually growing, and Disney executives requested two new pavilions to be drawn up for the park. One of these was Wonders of Life which would go on to open in 1989 in Future World. The second, called the Great Movie Ride pavilion was to explore the history and magic of the movies. Eventually, this idea would morph into the third Walt Disney World theme park, the Disney MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios).

Once again, Disney would break the mold with their theme park design by not only making it a place for thrills, but also making it a working movie studio. Multiple sound stages were constructed so movies could be made on-site. These buildings would also become part of a unique ride that would become synonymous with the Disney-MGM Studios, the Backlot Studio Tour. Separate buildings were constructed specifically for the use of animated movies. Instead of using a circular basis for design, the Studios were laid out in a sprawling fashion, with streets and avenues branching off in different directions. This awkward layout would be a point of criticism for the park at the beginning. Though on opening day, if a guest had an aerial view of the park, they would see it was in fact a giant hidden Mickey.

Hollywood Boulevard is the “Main Street” of the Disney-MGM Studios. This area, which serves as the entrance to the park, is filled with multiple shops and stores just like the Magic Kingdom. This area also serves as host to what was planned to be the park’s star attraction. The Great Movie Ride was advertised as a ride into the movies, and that’s exactly what it was. The facade of the building is a near identical replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, here called simply The Chinese Theater. The ride’s theme begins in the queue line where multiple props and costumes and other nostalgia from famous movies were put on display for all to see.

Riders are seated into a long theater-style car that travels along a track. At the front there is space for the ride’s narrator to stand, who is a Disney cast member. A key element of this ride is people interaction as there are multiple people-crossings throughout the ride where actual, live dialogue takes place. Obviously, the highlight of the twenty-plus minute ride is the movies. Guests will travel through several different movie scenes, representing multiple production companies, and watch a montage of brief clips from almost 100 movies.

The only other ride ready for opening day was the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour. This ride was both a tram ride and a walking tour that takes about thirty-five minutes. Throughout the tour many visual and special effects are shown and explained with trained actors and with the help of audience volunteers. Like The Great Movie Ride, there were props littered throughout the course of the ride. One of the highlights of the ride is Catastrophe Canyon. During this segment of the ride, the trams are nearly soaked with raging waters and scorched with vivid fires. After the ride, guests pass through a museum showcasing some of the greatest villains of all time.

A multitude of controversies arose with Walt Disney World’s third theme park. For one, there were only two rides available on May 1, opening day of the park. This led to outrageous queue times. A much more heated one, was a question of honesty and integrity. Universal Studios announced their new park in Florida around the same time as Disney, so the question was who came first? As soon as both companies found out about their opponent’s park, the race was on. Both wanted to be completed first so as to look like the original idea in the eye of the public. Disney-MGM Studios won this race, opening a full year earlier. However many say that this race was the reason the park opened with a minimal number of attractions.

There were other attractions at Disney MGM Studios that opened within a year of opening day. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! was a live-action stunt show featuring the legendary Indiana Jones movies, mostly Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Magic of Disney Animation gave everyone a glimpse into, well, the magic of Disney animation!

The 1990s were announced by CEO Michael Eisner to be known as the “Disney Decade.” The plan for this was to feature multiple new Disney parks across the world and greatly expand all of the existing properties. While some of these ideas never came through, such as a California version of EPCOT Center, the Walt Disney World Resort greatly benefited from these ten years. In fact they were among the most expansive in the resort’s history. One of the reasons for this was due to the Disney hotel boom. With Universal Studios Florida opening its gates, and SeaWorld Orlando not far behind, Disney knew there was a problem. Guests would stay at an Orlando-area hotel and split up their vacation time between the three entertainment venues. Disney wanted guests to be able to spend their whole time at Walt Disney World without leaving. The answer to their problem was to build hotels, an in-resort transportation system, and give Disney hotel guests benefits they wouldn’t enjoy anywhere else.

In the first year of the Disney Decade, two separate hotel complexes each opened on Disney property. Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin became the first hotels to open in celebration of the Disney Decade. The Yacht & Beach Club Resorts were actually two separate hotels, right next to each other. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort was styled after New England, and gave guests the impression that they actually were on board a luxurious resort. It was the more formal of the two resorts. Disney’s Beach Club Resort sat on the same lake as its sister resort, Crescent Lake. Both of these hotels share the largest and deepest pool in Walt Disney World. Along with this resort came the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin. Once again, these were two hotels that often acted as one and shared many facilities. These two hotels are officially Disney hotels, but are run by a third-party hotel company. The Swan & Dolphin share over 2,200 rooms.

In 1991, a multitude of new shows and parades premiered across the three theme parks to celebrate the resort’s twentieth anniversary. Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D opened at the Disney-MGM Studios. the next year, Voyage of the Little Mermaid opened at the Disney-MGM Studios in response to the critically-acclaimed animated film and added to the park’s growing attraction roster.

1994 became a major turn-around year for the Disney-MGM Studios. This was the year the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened, along with a new area named Sunset Boulevard. The opening of this ride would make the park’s attendance sky-rocket and help the fledgling park get on its feet. Instead of just adding a simple freefall attraction, Disney imagineers took the idea to the next level. Taking inspiration from the hit television series, The Twilight Zone, the ride takes place in the thirteen-story Hollywood Tower Hotel. However, many years ago a terrible accident happened and the hotel was abandoned. Now, brave guests are able to venture to the top of the 199 foot tall hotel, and then freefall reaching breakneck speeds. The elevator drops a completely random number of times during each run. To do this, the ride takes advantage cutting-edge technology pioneered by Disney Imagineers.

Just around the corner from Epcot, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn opened in 1996. This deluxe hotel features just under 300 rooms that, as the name implies, are located in an environment resembling the great era of boardwalks, from the 1920s to the 1940s. One of the many highlights of the resort is its free water transportation to Epcot and Disney’s MGM Studios, as well as the other hotels on the EPCOT-Studios waterway. Opened on the same day was Walt Disney World’s second Disney Vacation Club Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas.

In 1995 Walt Disney World had announced their fourth theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park was set to open sometime before 2000. On April 22, 1998 Disney’s Animal Kingdom officially became Walt Disney World’s fourth theme park. At the dedication Michal Eisner proclaimed, “Welcome to a kingdom of animals . . . real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama and learn.” Something along the lines of Disney’s Animal Kingdom had been something Walt himself envisioned in the distant future. He was very interested in animals and felt that humans could learn a lot from them as can be seen in one of his early attractions, the Jungle Cruise.

The park opened with six themed area spread out over 500 acres, which makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom the largest Disney theme park in the world. In fact, Kilimanjaro Safaris is larger than the entire Magic Kingdom. The first land of the park which acts as the entrance area is the Oasis. Immediately after the entrance gates is Walt Disney World Resort’s second Rainforest Café, the first being in the Marketplace of Downtown Disney. Throughout this area are multiple animal exhibits including giant anteaters, ducks, turtles, deer and more. Once through the Oasis, the path opens up to Discovery Island which acts as the hub of the park. In the heart of this land is the park’s icon, The Tree of Life.

Despite the fact that the Disney Decade was almost over, major additions took place throughout Walt Disney World. The Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster - Starring Aerosmith at the Disney-MGM Studios was one of those additions. This record-breaking thrill ride was the first roller coaster on Disney soil to turn guests upside-down, which happens three times. The Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster is also one of the fastest rides at any Disney theme park, reaching nearly sixty miles per hour in less than three seconds. As with all Disney attractions, this Vekoma roller coaster carries a theme. According to a pre-show movie that takes place in the G-Force Records building, Aerosmith is late for their next show, and the traffic in downtown Los Angeles is heavy. After guests are invited to join them on the ride, the manager warns riders that they’re in for a speedy ride through L.A. Although the ride is almost entirely dark, there are dozens of neon road signs that greatly enhance the experience. One of the most unique aspects of this ride is the audio system placed in all of the cars. Each limo, the mode of transportation on this roller coaster, is outfitted with five speakers per seat, which translates to 120 per limo. Each limo places a different Aerosmith song during the ride’s course. The Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster- Starring Aerosmith was the Disney-MGM Studios’ second major thrill ride, following 1994’s the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Just before the new millennium, Disney announced a breakthrough feature that would soon spread to many other parks around the world. Disney’s FASTPASS, which premiered in 1999, would allow guests to skip the line for some of the most popular attractions in each park. The system is free, and easy to use. Guests simply insert their admission ticket at the respective FASTPASS station for the attraction they desire. After a moment or two, a new ticket comes out at the bottom with the attraction’s name on it, and a one-hour time span, such as 1:00-2:00. After taking back their admission ticket, guests simply return during the given time to that attraction, present their ticket to a cast member, and cut a large portion of the line, drastically reducing the wait. This was one of the most successful ideas implanted by Walt Disney World, and continues to be one of the most popular services available at Disney theme parks worldwide.

And with that, the Disney Decade was over. Some of the highlights of the successful decade were Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Quest, Blizzard Beach, a plethora of hotels, dozens of new attractions and the innovative FASTPASS system. It was arguably the most expansive period in the resort’s history, and changed the map of Walt Disney World forever. The first year of the new millennium however, saw relatively few changes to the overall resort.

The Disney-MGM Studios received three new attractions in 2001, as a part of its ongoing expansion. Playhouse Disney- Live on Stage! opened as an ever-changing show to accommodate new programs appearing on the Disney Channel. It is located in Animation Courtyard. On Mickey Avenue, Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream opened its doors as a museum type of walk-through attraction. The third attraction to open was Who Wants to be a Millionaire- Play It! which was based on ABC’s successful game show hosted by Regis Philbin.

2005 brought another celebration to Disney parks worldwide. The Happiest Celebration on Earth was initiated to spread the festivities over Disneyland’s fiftieth anniversary. At Walt Disney World, each of the four theme parks received a new attraction from Disney parks around the world, along with updates and improvements to various existing rides.

At the Disney-MGM Studios, the new attraction was imported from Walt Disney Studios Park, a part of the Disneyland Paris Resort. Lights, Motors Action! Extreme Stunt Show is just that. The show focuses on the car stunts performed by daring drivers for dozens of films each year. The show is housed in an outdoor theater capable of holding 5,000 people. In total, the attraction lasts for just under forty minutes. There are more than forty vehicles used in the show, as well as motorcycles and jet skis. The arena is more than 177,000 square feet.

In January 2008, the Disney-MGM Studios officially became Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This was the result of contractual obligations with the movie studio they had previously been partnered with. As of mid-2008, most signage has been changed to reflect the new name. On May 31, 2008 Toy Story Midway Mania! took the place of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire- Play It!.

The ride is similar to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, in that guests shoot at targets in moving vehicles to score points. However, this new attraction uses advanced technology, including 3-D effects. The ride features five separate mini-games as well as a practice round, all of which occurs with guests wearing 3-D glasses. In the queue line, guests will find a large talking Mr. Potato Head, who interacts with patrons waiting to board the ride. The ride has a duration of five minutes and twenty-five seconds.

The Walt Disney World Resort has surpassed anything Walt Disney himself could ever have dreamed of. Encompassing four theme parks, two water parks, an entertainment complex, multiple golf courses, a massive sports arena, more than twenty hotels, and more, Walt Disney World is the largest theme park resort on Earth. With many announced additions and many more secretive additions waiting to be unveiled, the resort will only continue to grow, and make dreams come true.

Present Roller Coasters (1)Edit

Name Manufacturer Type Opened Status
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Vekoma Launched July 29, 1999 Operating

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