Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 30: The Hollywood That Once Was

Today, Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates a landmark anniversary, marking thirty full years since the opening of the theme park. Opened on May 1, 1989, as Disney’s MGM Studios, the park represented a monumental turning point for The Walt Disney Company and themed entertainment. The park paid tribute to ‘the Hollywood that never was, and always will be’. A tribute to the art and magic of filmmaking, a testament to the golden age of Hollywood, and a celebration of innovation and collaboration of the film industry. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a monumental tribute to the magic and legacy of the industry that allowed Disney to become such a revered name in Hollywood. Sure, very little of the old park still remains as the park marks its 30th anniversary, but its origins will always represent the best of what Disney storytelling had to offer.

Disney’s MGM Studios was the tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, tied together by the iconic landmark attraction, The Great Movie Ride, an adventure that took guests into the world of some of the most classic movies. Elsewhere, the park boasted the Backlot Studio Tour and The Magic of Disney Animation (both now defunct) and various other attractions that paid tribute to the idea of taking you behind some of your favorite movies, to show the collaborative effort that goes into creating the visual effects or animation behind some of your favorite films. The park was a celebration of films and a celebration of the work that went into it.

Photo: Disney Parks

Several years ago, the direction of the park changed completely. No longer would the park take guests behind their favorite movies, it was going to take guests directly into the worlds of their favorite films. The Backlot Tour and Streets of America were closed to make way for the immersive lands of the Toy Story and Star Wars franchises, while Great Movie Ride closed for a Mickey Mouse themed attraction, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, set to open in 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is dedicated to creating intricate and detailed worlds from your favorite films, and it continues to mark the new era of this park with an uncertain theme.

There’s very little that resembles the former park anymore, with very few opening year attractions still standing, the exception being Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, while other classic staples, like Muppet-Vision 3D and The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror opening several years after opening. This makes the celebration of a thirtieth anniversary all the more interesting and saddening, but it does mark the start of a new era of (hopeful) creativity and innovation. This week, the park will debut an all-new nighttime spectacular, Wonderful World of Animation, a projection-based show that will celebrate the legacy of Disney animation. This summer, the park will open it’s impressive and immersive 14-acre wide Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and next year Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will finally open, all following the opening of Toy Story Land last year. Elsewhere, Rock N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror could be poised for re-imagining, and who knows what’s to happen to Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones, Star Tours, or Muppet-Vision 3D. It’s evident that this park is taking a giant leap forward in terms of the stories it wants to bring to life and the new unique opportunities that guests will find themselves immersed in, and we’re excited for what that future may hold going forward.

As Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates a major anniversary as it prepares to take one giant leap into the future of storytelling, we only hope that the park in its previous glorious form won’t be forgotten. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or Disney’s MGM Studios for that matter) celebrated the best of movies, the secret-sauce of how movies were made, and created an informative and entertaining experience for guests. Even in its unrecognizable form, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the Hollywood that never was, and always will be.